The Krakow Christmas Markets are renowned for being among the most beautiful in Europe, and this comes as no surprise, given their wonderful location within the fabulous Main Market Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In this practical guide to the Krakow Christmas Markets 2023, you will find advice from locals on what to do and see, as well as other attractions in the surrounding area. Additionally, we provide practical information such as the dates of the Christmas markets and details about other beautiful markets in the vicinity, including some hidden gems!
Christmas in Krakow offers a truly unique experience. This charming city, with its quaint old town, lively Christmas market in the main square, and picturesque horse-drawn carriages, seems tailor-made for celebrating this holiday. In Poland, Christmas holds deep religious significance and is one of the most important holidays of the year. Krakow is a must-visit destination at any time of the year, but during the Christmas holidays it transforms into one of the best cities in Europe to experience this magical atmosphere. The short days and cold nights provide the perfect excuse to warm up with a cup of mulled wine and savor the hearty dishes of local cuisine, which are abundant in the picturesque Christmas markets.
The Krakow’s Old Town, with its castle profile and cobblestone streets, becomes an enchanting Christmas scene, especially when covered by a light blanket of snow. The Christmas spirit in Krakow is a time of great beauty and sharing, embraced with enthusiasm by the locals who wholeheartedly dedicate themselves to turning the city into an enchanting place. Throughout December, the streets of the historic center are adorned with sparkling lights and Christmas decorations, creating a magical atmosphere that draws tourists from all corners of the world. It’s the perfect destination for an authentic and welcoming holiday escape.
What you will find in this guide to the Krakow Christmas Markets 2023:
Krakow Christmas Markets in Rynek Główny (Main Market Square)
The Krakow Christmas Markets are among the most anticipated and fascinating events of the year, held right in the heart of Stare Miasto, the medieval old town. The majestic Rynek Główny, also known as the Main Market Square, transforms into a magical place nestled in the heart of the city center. In fact, this is the idyllic setting of the Krakow Christmas Markets, locally known as Jarmark Bożonarodzeniowy. They typically run from the end of November to December 26, but sometimes the organizers decide to extend them until the first few days of January, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the magical Christmas atmosphere of Krakow, well beyond New Year’s Eve.
Rynek Główny is transformed into an authentic Christmas village with around 80 wooden huts, housing a wide range of products mainly from Poland and Northern Europe. Here, Christmas enthusiasts can shop for unique handcrafted items, traditional Christmas decorations, handmade toys and local gastronomic delicacies. It’s a perfect place to find special gifts for friends and family or simply soak up the Christmas atmosphere.
One of the most irresistible attractions of the Krakow Christmas Markets is undoubtedly the local cuisine. The huts offer a wide selection of warm and nutritious dishes, perfect for warming up during the cold winter days. Among the culinary specialties to try are the warm local soups and grilled sausages, in addition to the inevitable mulled wine, a hot drink flavored with spices that envelops visitors with its delightful aroma.
However, the Krakow Christmas Markets are not limited to just shopping and food. Free entertainment shows are a significant part of the experience. Groups of children and local artists perform regularly, providing moments of joy and tradition. Christmas carols fill the air, creating a warm and festive atmosphere that envelops all those who participate in the event.
Krakow Christmas Markets 2023 Dates
The Krakow Christmas Markets 2023 will be held from 24 November 2023 to 1 January 2024 in the Main Market Square (Rynek Główny). Opening hours are from 10 am to 8 pm, but some stalls stay open until late, especially the food stalls which continue to serve until at least 10 pm.
So, this year too, the markets will be open after Christmas. This is great news if you are planning your Christmas holidays in Krakow, as you will be able to fully enjoy their food and craft offerings and also experience the fantastic festive atmosphere of New Year’s Eve in Krakow.
Krakow Christmas Markets: What to Expect
The Krakow Christmas Markets attract sellers, artisans, and farmers from across the region, as well as from some neighboring countries. In addition to being the epicenter of the Christmas celebrations, with rides, carousels, entertainment for children, lights and decorations, concerts and Christmas carols, the square is lively and crowded all day. There are dozens of craft and souvenir stalls and a selection of food stalls serving local specialties, soups and tasty grilled meat until late.
Furthermore, you should not miss the opportunity to admire the traditional exhibition of artisan nativity scenes, a centuries-old custom known as Kraków Szopki, which is inscribed on the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. So, book one of the fabulous hotels in the heart of the Old Town and enjoy the magical atmosphere of Christmas in Krakow. Most attractions and museums are within walking distance, and there are countless things to do and see! But what can one expect to find at the Krakow Christmas Markets? Let’s go find out!
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Here are our guides to the best accommodations in town:
☞ Best SPA Hotels in Krakow
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☞ Best Hotels and Apartments IN Krakow Main Square
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Traditional Craft Stalls
At the Krakow Christmas Market, local Polish craftsmanship takes pride of place. Here, you will find handmade items such as ceramics, embroidered tablecloths, wood carvings, glass paintings, textiles, jewelry, and traditional musical instruments. Many of these items are crafted by local artists who specialize in preserving ancient craft techniques. Furthermore, you can immerse yourself in the enchanting atmosphere of the Christmas holidays and discover a myriad of nativity scenes, painted baubles, Christmas decorations, ceramic products, and wooden toys, all made with passion and craftsmanship.
In particular, the Christmas decorations on sale here are a tribute to Polish tradition. The beautifully colored glass baubles, hand-painted in an antique style, are one-of-a-kind specialties. You can take home a piece of authentic Polish art to adorn your Christmas tree. But don’t worry if you’re looking for something more modern! You will also find flashing electronic gadgets that will add a modern touch to your Christmas decoration. The variety of choices is endless!
There is no shortage of beautiful Bohemian glass jewelry, along with a vast selection of necklaces, bracelets, and stones from Baltic Sea amber, all featuring excellent craftsmanship. This year, in addition to Polish craftsmanship, there will also be products from other countries such as Italy, Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovakia, and Hungary. You can delight in international delicacies, fabric and wood jewelry, linen and wool crafts, various types of ceramics, and one-of-a-kind gift items.
Among the stalls, you can observe skilled local artisans, such as blacksmiths and carvers, as they dedicate themselves to creating unique works of art. Among these, the Szopki stand out, the local traditional nativity scenes, often inspired by the most famous monuments of the city. On the first Thursday of December, an exciting competition is held in the Market Square to determine the best Szopki, and subsequently, the winners are proudly displayed in the History Museum of Krakow.
If you’re seeking a classic souvenir that captures the essence of Krakow, you’ll discover a wide array of options, including magnets, mugs and T-shirts to suit all tastes. Be sure to explore items adorned with the Krakow Dragon, a legendary figure deeply ingrained in the city’s identity. For a delectable souvenir, consider local gingerbread, typically shaped like hearts and adorned with traditional colored icing.
At the Christmas Markets in Krakow, the stalls selling woolen clothes are a real delight for lovers of fashion and warmth! Here, you will find a large selection of unique clothing that you would hardly find elsewhere. If you are looking for authentic and quaint wool slippers, big hats, fur scarves or leather gloves, you are in the right place. Local vendors showcase their craftsmanship, offering high-quality garments to help you brave the Polish winter cold.
And speaking of cold, be aware that temperatures in Poland can drop significantly during the Christmas season. So, imagine wearing one of these delicious garments to combat the cold! The quality of the clothes varies, but in the stalls of the winter markets, you can discover authentic treasures that could become the perfect gift for a loved one or, why not, for yourself. We can’t help but mention the incredibly warm and comfortable wool socks. When the thermometer drops, these socks will be your faithful companions, keeping you warm while exploring Krakow’s magnificent Christmas markets.
Krakow Christmas Markets Food Stalls
The Krakow Christmas Markets are also the perfect place to enjoy authentic Polish cuisine. For many, the biggest attraction is the incredible range of food and drink. You’ll smell the market before you see it.
Tip: Come hungry; you won’t be disappointed.
When talking about Polish cuisine, it is impossible not to mention the delicious pierogi, those stuffed dumplings that have become one of the most popular and traditional dishes in Poland. These tasty morsels, loved by locals and visitors around the world, represent an authentic gastronomic experience worth exploring.
The history of pierogies is shrouded in mystery, as no one truly knows where they originated. However, there are several legends surrounding this delicacy. Some suggest that pierogies were a food eaten during ancient pagan festivals, symbolizing prosperity and abundance. Others believe that Saint Hyacinth brought this delicacy to Poland in the 13th century, introducing it to the local population. There is even a legend that credits Marco Polo with discovering dumplings during his journey on the Silk Road, introducing them to Italy and subsequently spreading them throughout Europe. Regardless of their origin, pierogies are now a beloved and iconic dish of Polish cuisine.
What makes pierogies so special is their incredible variety of fillings. The most traditional is the Pierogi Ruskie, which features a delicious combination of potatoes, onions and cheese. For those who love protein, pierogies filled with ground or shredded meat are an excellent choice. On the other hand, for those with a sweet tooth, there are sweet pierogies, filled with seasonal fruit or even delicious dessert-like fillings such as white chocolate. Regardless of the filling you choose, pierogies are usually cooked in boiling water and served with toppings such as melted butter, sour cream, or crispy onions.
Traditional Polish Soups
Don’t forget to enjoy the rich and tasty Polish soups. One of the most iconic soups you can taste is Zurek. This soup, prepared with fermented rye flour known as the Zakwas culture, is a real treat for lovers of unique flavors. Zurek is often enriched with kielbasa sausages, crispy bacon, potatoes, and hard-boiled eggs.
During holidays, such as Christmas, the undisputed star is Red Borsch. The bright red color of this soup is obtained thanks to beets, an ingredient that defines its character. Red Borsch is a vegetarian soup, and is often served with small mushroom-filled dumplings called uszka. Finally, we cannot forget the famous Pomidorowa. This flavorful tomato soup is made with leftover chicken broth, fresh tomatoes or tomato puree, grated greens, sour cream and herbs like parsley. The result is a rich, creamy soup that enchants the senses with its delicious flavor.
Pork shank is a true culinary masterpiece and a paradise for carnivores. This substantial, juicy piece of meat offers a taste experience like no other. Its preparation begins with charring over embers, imparting a smoky and irresistible flavor to the meat. However, the secret to its success lies in slow, loving cooking in a beer-based sauce, which renders it incredibly tender and bursting with flavor.
You can enjoy it with a side of mushrooms; their earthy flavor pairs perfectly with the juicy meat. Alternatively, if you prefer a touch of sweetness and crunch, onion crisps make an ideal accompaniment. The stalls offer a variety of accompaniments, allowing you to experiment with sauces, grilled vegetables, or any other inspirations. Shacks that serve pork shank often offer an assortment of other grilled delicacies. You might find crispy roast potatoes, which complement the meal perfectly, or even bigos, a Polish specialty made with sauerkraut and meat that offers a robust, mouth-filling flavor.
As soon as you arrive at the Krakow Christmas Market, you’ll be greeted by piles of Oscypek, a traditional Polish smoked cheese. It can be enjoyed in several ways: cold, fried, or, without a doubt, in the best way possible—grilled for a few minutes until it’s juicy and golden, then served with a generous spoonful of cranberry sauce! In one of the kiosks, you can even find cheese prepared this way, wrapped in bacon and topped with a dried plum (I highly recommend it). The cheese also has a good shelf life, so you can buy a pack to take home in your luggage.
Giant sandwiches are an unmissable culinary attraction at the Krakow Christmas Market. Freshly baked sourdough loaves are used to create huge rolls, which are then freshly cut and filled. These sandwiches are a delight for the palate and a true feast for street food lovers. The generous slices of bread are generously spread with bacon, lard, or garlic butter. Next, they’re topped with your choice of grilled kielbasa sausage or seasoned ground beef, and then finished with fried onions and/or pickles.
Smoked and cured sausages are a Polish tradition, and at the Krakow Christmas Market, you can savor a variety of these delicacies from different regions of the country. Don’t miss the Kiełbaski Myśliwska, a smoked pork sausage with chopped juniper berries, or the juicy Kiełbasa Czosnkowa, a garlic sausage that will satisfy your gastronomic senses.
Chocolate is an undisputed star of the holidays, and at the Krakow Christmas Market, vendors love to experiment. Here, you will find chocolate in incredible forms: there are tools for working with chocolate, teapots made of chocolate, Belgian waffles covered in delicious chocolate, and churros. For those who adore chocolate, there’s even the opportunity to discover chocolate-filled pierogi (a delectable chocolaty twist on traditional Polish dumplings). You can’t miss the pink, lavender-covered “chocolate” bar made with chestnuts – an edible work of art that’s almost too pretty to eat.
Jam and sweets
Whether you’re savoring Oscypek or exploring other delicacies, jam is an essential accompaniment. The stalls are brimming with jars of high-quality jam, ranging from classic cranberry and blood orange jams to peach and strawberry preserves, as well as surprising rose or plum jams that enhance the delicious Pączki (Polish donuts). To satisfy your sweet tooth, there are numerous delicacies including toasted caramel nuts, gingerbread, waffles, homemade cakes, tarts and Hungarian puff pastry (kurtoskalacs). Allow yourself to be tempted by these traditional Polish desserts that are sure to delight your palate. Of course, baked chestnuts will also be in abundance.
Grzane Piwo (Warm Beer) and mulled wine
This is an authentic local drink: essentially a pint of sparkling lager beer (usually Tyskie or Żywiec) flavored with artificial ginger or raspberry syrup, cloves, cinnamon, and other spices similar to those used for mulled wine, the traditional hot beverage of the Christmas Markets. The exact recipe of these hot drink is a closely guarded secret, but you can expect heartwarming aromas of cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Enjoy it from a stand that resembles a giant barrel, which will perfectly complement your evenings spent admiring the market’s lights and indulging in culinary delights.
Other Christmas Markets in Krakow You Shouldn’t Miss
The Dworzec Market
Located near the Krakow train station, the Dworzec Market offers a picturesque winter atmosphere that captures the hearts of visitors. This charming corner of the city comes alive, especially during the Christmas season when the wooden houses decorated with twinkling lights and Christmas decorations are filled with festive colors and scents.
The real jewel of the Dworzec market is the large ice skating rink at Galeria Krakowska, open from the end of November to March. Here, visitors can rent skates directly on site and skate on the rink, creating magical and fun moments for friends and families. After a skating session, you can relax inside Galeria Krakowska, a huge shopping center offering a wide range of shops and cafes. It’s the ideal place to warm up with a hot drink and perhaps enjoy a local delicacy. During the Christmas period, Galeria Krakowska often organizes free concerts and events, adding to the overall festive atmosphere.
The Old Cloth Market (Sukiennice)
The Cloth Market Hall, known as Sukiennice, is one of the most iconic places in Krakow and is located right next to Rynek Glowny, the city’s main square. While it’s not exactly a Christmas market, it still offers a unique experience for visitors looking for authentic Polish crafts and souvenirs. Inside the Sukiennice, dozens of shops are arranged in two rows, offering a vast selection of local handicrafts, including lace, embroidery, and amber artifacts. It’s a great place to find unique souvenirs to take home or to discover traditional Polish craftsmanship.
After browsing the shops, you can take a break at Café Noworolski, right inside the Sukiennice. This café, one of the oldest in the city, has been a meeting point for artists, intellectuals and writers over the years. Its elegant rooms with a flavor of times gone by offer a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. You can enjoy a delicious hot chocolate and a slice of cake on the beautiful red velvet sofas, immersing yourself in the historic atmosphere of this enchanting place.
Worth the Trip: Christmas Markets in Zakopane
Christmas in Zakopane is a unique and enchanting experience! Located about 100 km south of Krakow, along the border with Slovakia and among the majestic Tatra Mountains, in the southern part of the country, this pretty mountain town is known as the “Winter Capital of Poland” and is a magical place during the Christmas holidays. Zakopane offers a perfect combination of tradition, culture and natural beauty, as well as boasting a tasty and renowned mountain cuisine, being also the original place of production of Oscypek and other handmade cheeses with the milk of native sheep, of the Polska Owca Górska (Polish Mountain Sheep) breed.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Zakopane during the Christmas period is its traditional Christmas market. The streets of the city center are filled with glittering stalls, offering a wide range of handcrafted delicacies, unique gifts, and souvenirs with traditional motifs from the Tatra Mountains. It’s the ideal place to soak up the festive atmosphere, do some Christmas shopping, and admire local craftsmanship.
The city is renowned for its unique architectural style, known as the Zakopane Style, which is reflected in the traditional wooden houses decorated with typical motifs and Art Nouveau elements. As you stroll along the main street, Koscieliska Street, you will be able to admire these fascinating structures, including the Old Church, ending at the Zakopane Style Museum. Traditional Polish cuisine is another unmissable feature during Christmas in Zakopane. The market stalls offer delicious delicacies such as pierogies, grilled sausages and mulled wine, perfect for warming up on cold winter evenings. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste the local cheese Oscypek, traditional soups, and the meat specialty Golonka.
In the Christmas atmosphere, the entire city lights up with twinkling lights and festive decorations, culminating in a towering Christmas tree in the center of the main square. It’s a perfect place to take photos and get into the Christmas spirit. For those who love outdoor activities, Zakopane offers the opportunity to hike in the beautiful winter nature of the Tatra Mountains. You can opt for a walk in the snow, ski on the wonderful slopes suitable for skiers of all levels, or even follow hiking trails that will take you to the top of the mountains.
Furthermore, just a few kilometers from Zakopane, you will find the Chocholow Thermal Baths, an ideal destination for relaxation during the holidays. This spa offers both indoor and outdoor thermal pools, a sauna, a spa and a fitness center, allowing you to pamper yourself and rejuvenate during the Christmas period.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to CHRISTMAS IN ZAKOPANE
Other Unmissable Things to Do at Christmas in Krakow
Explore the Krakow Old Town
The Krakow Old Town offers an enchanting and unique atmosphere during the Christmas period. In addition to the evocative Christmas markets, the city boasts a rich cultural heritage waiting to be explored. A leisurely walk through the ancient streets is an absolute must. In the heart of the Main Market Square, you can marvel at the majestic St. Mary’s Church. This iconic symbol of the city features a neo-Gothic interior, the famous altarpiece by Veit Stoss, and intricately frescoed vaults. Adjacent to the square, you will discover the impressive Krakow Cloth Hall, which houses a museum dedicated to the city’s history and its commercial development over the centuries in its basement.
Following your visit to Stare Miasto, the Wawel Castle is another unmissable stop in Krakow. Perched atop a hill over 200 meters above sea level, the castle encompasses various buildings of profound historical and religious significance. Even if you’re not an avid art or museum enthusiast, a leisurely stroll through the picturesque courtyard and gardens of the Royal Castle is an experience that should not be missed. As you bid farewell, take a moment to savor the splendid panorama of the city and the Vistula River, a final touch of beauty and tranquility that will perfectly conclude your visit to Krakow.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to CHRISTMAS IN KRAKOW
Visit the Krakow Christmas Markets with a Local Guide
While entry to these markets is free, there is an option that can make your experience even more special: a tour with a local guide. Christmas markets are a charming tradition in many cities and towns around the world. However, to fully immerse yourself in the magic of these events, discover their history, and be guided through local crafts and food, it can be useful to have an expert guide by your side. That’s why many visitors choose to take a market tour during their visit.
Local guides are passionate experts in the culture and traditions of the city and they will not only take you around the stalls but also share stories and anecdotes about the history of the markets and the community that supports them. You will learn why certain local traditions have evolved into specific products or why certain Christmas decorations hold special significance in the area. This in-depth information will allow you to fully appreciate the experience.
Read More: Everything You Need to Know about KRAKOW FREE TOURS
Marvel at the Wieliczka Mine
The Wieliczka Salt Mine, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, is located just 10 kilometers from Krakow and stands as an extraordinary testament to the rich history of this Polish region, where the salt industry has contributed to centuries of prosperity and well-being. The Wieliczka Salt Mines represent a remarkable blend of ingenuity, artistry, and creativity, unparalleled anywhere else in the world.
This mining complex has long been the cornerstone of Poland’s opulence, serving as the oldest industry under royal patronage. From medieval times until the late 19th century, the Wieliczka Salt Mines operated at full capacity, employing thousands of miners and even utilizing animals such as donkeys and horses to perform work deep underground. Over the centuries, they excavated approximately 300 kilometers of tunnels, horizontal passages, and chambers, descending to a depth of 327 meters into the heart of the Earth.
A visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mine promises a captivating and astonishing experience. Within the salt walls, miners crafted astonishing works of art, including statues, chandeliers, cathedrals, and chapels. The Chapel of St. Kinga stands as the epitome of salt artistry, where even the candelabras are expertly carved from the salt itself.
To fully explore this unique underground world, it is advisable to pre-book a guided tour. These tours are available in multiple languages, providing an informative and engaging way to delve into the history and beauty of this remarkable place. Many of these guided tours also include transportation to and from central Krakow, enhancing the accessibility of this underground wonder. The Wieliczka Mine is indeed a historical and cultural treasure that should not be missed when visiting Poland.
Visit the Auschwitz Concentration Camp
The Auschwitz concentration camp is situated approximately 60 kilometers from Krakow, covering an extensive area of around 190 hectares. This profoundly somber historical site is located in close proximity to the small town of Oświęcim, where, between 1940 and 1945, more than 1.5 million people met their tragic fate. Auschwitz-Birkenau stands as the largest concentration camp and represents an essential day trip from Krakow that should not be missed.
Today, the camp serves as a memorial to the horrendous crimes committed against Jews and other minority groups during World War II. It offers an opportunity for reflection and a comprehensive understanding of the atrocities that transpired during this dark chapter in history. The Auschwitz Museum recounts the harrowing story of the concentration camp and serves as a poignant testament to the horrors that unfolded within its walls. Within the exhibition, one can see objects that once belonged to Auschwitz prisoners and the SS, intensifying the resonance of the tragedy experienced at this site.
While it is possible to visit Auschwitz independently, we strongly recommend opting for a guided tour. When you book a guided tour from Krakow, you will get round-trip transportation, tickets and a guided tour in your language, led by official Auschwitz Memorial guides. Participating in the guided tour is highly recommended, as the guides can offer profound insights into the history and stories related to this horrific period in human history, providing you with a better understanding of your visit.
5 OVERALL Best Things to Do During the Christmas Season in Krakow
⓵ – Krakow Guided Tour and Visit to the Ghetto and Schindler’s Factory
⓶ – Visit the Wieliczka Salt Mines (☞ Guided Tour from Krakow)
⓷ – Visit Auschwitz and Birkenau (☞ Guided Tour from Krakow)
⓸ – Sightseeing Cruise on the Vistula River
⓹ – Discover Krakow’s Old Town on a FREE Walking Tour
3 Unusual Things to Do During the Christmas Season in Krakow
⓵ – Discover the Soviet bunkers in the Nowa Huta district
⓶ – Experience the thrill of the Krakow Shooting Range
⓷ – Chopin Piano Recital at Chopin Concert Hall
Are you planning your Christmas holidays in Krakow?
Then you’re in the right place! Here, you will find all the advice and secrets from the locals on the best things to do and see, the top day trips, and plenty of practical tips to help you plan your trip effectively. It will be like having a local friend to guide you on what not to miss, what to avoid, the finest dining spots and the hotels offering the best value for your money.
Take a look at our ultimate guide to CHRISTMAS IN KRAKOW, which contains everything you need to know for better holiday planning. Also, check out our guides on the best THINGS TO DO IN KRAKOW and HOW TO VISIT AUSCHWITZ and the WIELICZKA SALT MINE.
Here, you will also find a practical guide on HOW TO GET FROM KRAKOW AIRPORT TO THE CITY CENTER. For hundreds of other useful tips and information, explore our comprehensive guides: KRAKOW TRAVEL GUIDE and KRAKOW TRAVEL TIPS.