Krakow is a city full of history, art and culture and one of the best ways to explore it is by participating in a Krakow Free Walking Tour. More and more cities in Europe are offering the chance to discover the city with an expert guide for a few bucks. This meets the needs of budget travelers, young travelers and backpackers. It is no mystery that the first to offer free walking tours were the hostels. But nowadays, adults and seniors also participate in these tours, because it is often a light and fun way to visit the city, less demanding than a real cultural visit with a professional guide.
In this guide to the best Krakow Free Walking Tours, I will try to answer all common questions about it.
Best Krakow Free Walking Tours
Free Walking Tour of Krakow
The Free Walking Tour of Krakow is the most popular free tour in town, and allows you to discover the main attractions of the old town, such as the ancient royal streets and the remains of the mighty medieval fortifications, such as St. Florian’s Gate and the Barbican, and then explore the wonders of the Main Market Square, with St Mary’s Church and the iconic Cloth Hall. You will explore the Wawel Hill where the fabulous Castle and its Cathedral are located.
You will visit hidden courtyards, quaint alleys, and your guide will tell you several stories about the history of the city, especially the tragic events of WWII and life during the communist regime. You will discover many interesting things about the monuments and buildings you see, their history and their curious facts.
The Free Walking Tour of Krakow is held in English, Spanish and Italian and lasts 2.5 hours. Tours run daily, and are held in small groups, so places are limited. If you visit Krakow in the summer or during the Christmas period, it is recommended to book well in advance.
Free Walking Tour of the Krakow Jewish Quarter
The Free Walking Tour of the Krakow Jewish Quarter is another very popular free tour in Krakow and is the perfect complement to the previous one. In fact, this allows you to visit the other most important district of Krakow: the Kazimierz, the former Jewish quarter.
This is the most significant place in the recent history of the city, as this was once one of the most important and prestigious neighborhoods in the city. You will discover its history, its fabulous synagogues that are over 500 years old, and then head to the former Krakow Ghetto, in the current Podgorze district.
This free tour will allow you to discover the most picturesque and significant corners of the district, which today is the heart of the artistic and cultural life of Krakow (as well as nightlife!), The places where the Oscar winning film Schindler’s List was shot and many of the places where the tragic history of the Ghetto took place.
The Free Walking Tour of the Krakow Jewish Quarter is held in English, Spanish and Italian and lasts 2 hours. Here too, only small groups are allowed and the tour is usually in high demand, so book early! Usually people take both the Free Walking Tour of Krakow (Old Town) and this one, because they take place at different times, so you can see the Old Town in the morning and Kazimierz in the afternoon, for example.
Free Walking Tour of the Old Town & Jewish Quarter
The Free Walking Tour of the Old Town & Jewish Quarter is the condensed version of the previous two tours. This tour lasts 3 hours, so it could be a decent solution for those short on time and want to visit all the highlights of the city in just a few hours.
It is held in English and Spanish, but only a few days a week (usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday). If you have enough time, I recommend that you take the two separate tours in order to enjoy a more complete and relaxed visit.
Nazi & Communist History Free Tour
This is one of the most interesting free tours in Krakow, but unfortunately it is not held every day (usually only once a week). This tour is held in small groups and the guides will take you to discover the recent past of the city: the Nazi occupation and the Communist regime.
You will visit the key places of these events that marked Krakow’s past, discover many interesting curiosities and historical facts, see several emblematic buildings and discover their dark past. Finally, you will be able to get an overview of local life during communism, discovering some places that have survived the time, such as the milk bars and the headquarters of the Solidarność union, which was one of the main proponents of the collapse of the regime.
The tour is held in English and Spanish and lasts 2.5 hours.
Nowa Huta Free Tour
One of the must-dos in Krakow is to visit the Nowa Huta district. Although a little off the beaten track, this is one of the best places to discover the recent past of the city: a suburb born around a huge steel mill built at the behest of Stalin. Nowa Huta is the symbol of the communist utopia, a neighborhood built for the workers according to the highest standards of socialist architecture.
Visiting Nowa Huta is like stepping into a time machine: there are old restaurants, bars and shops that have remained untouched since communism, underground bunkers and a museum dedicated to its compelling history. The best way to explore the neighborhood and its attractions is with a guided tour of Nowa Huta by local guides who live right in the neighborhood, which includes round-trip transportation from Krakow city center in a vintage Communist-era car.
Otherwise, if you just want to have a quick look around the neighborhood, you can get there on your own and join the interesting Nowa Huta Free Tour. A local guide will led you through the highlights of Nowa Huta, showing you the socialist boulevards, the huge steel mill that it was once named after Lenin, and some of the most characteristic places.
The tour is held in English and lasts 2.5 hours.
Vistula River Free Bike Tour
One of the most fun Krakow free tours is the Vistula River Free Bike Tour, which will allow you to discover the wonderful surroundings of Krakow. This tour will allow you to cycle along the beautiful cycle paths that flank the Vistula, from Wawel Hill along some of the most remarkable buildings in the city.
From here continue to one of the most important shrines in Krakow, the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, and along the way you will see some iconic buildings in the style of Soviet realism. You will continue on to the fabulous Camaldolese Hermit Monastery and finally cross the countryside around Krakow until you reach the Tyniec fortress-monastery, one of the most hidden gems of the city.
The tour is held in English, lasts 3.5 hours and runs only a few days a week. Bike and helmet rental is not included, so you will need to rent it at your hostel or hotel, or you can rent it for a few bucks here.
What is a Krakow Free Walking Tour?
A Krakow Free Walking Tour is essentially a guided tour of some districts of the city, for example there is a Free Walking Tour of Krakow’s Old Town, one of the Krakow Jewish Quarter, but there are also thematic tours, such as the Nazi & Communist History Free Tour.
It is a walking tour, therefore an easy stroll through the streets of the city, led by passionate and expert guides. The guides are mostly students, boys and girls who do it for passion and to earn some extra money. The great thing about free walking tours is that there are no boring and monotonous guides, because they love what they do!
During a walking tour you visit the highlights of the city, for example the most famous monuments, and you get many interesting explanations and information about their history and local culture. Plus, the guides are usually super friendly, and willingly answer questions about what to see, where to eat etc.
In Krakow there is a wide offer of free walking tours: it will not be uncommon to see small groups following guides with colored umbrellas. How to choose the best one? Many tours also make money by promoting shops, restaurants etc, which is something I personally really hate. When I choose a free tour, I want to enjoy the visit, get curious facts, learn something more.
This is why you should avoid tourist traps and join tours offered by reputable agencies, with honest and knowledgeable guides. For example I love the tours offered by Civitatis, which are led by experienced and super-friendly local guides. This is a brand active throughout Europe, which collaborates ethically and directly with local guides, promoting their services. It is a guarantee of honesty and good service.
Are Krakow Free Walking Tours really FREE?
Yes, the best Krakow Free Walking Tours – which means those offered by reputable and honest agencies and guides – are really and totally free. Guides earn from tips, but no one is required to tip the guide. However, if you enjoyed the tour, it is ethical and fair to give your guide a small tip.
How Much to Tip on a Krakow Free Walking Tour?
It’s up to you! Sincerely! No one will force you to tip your guide, although it is fair to tip if you enjoyed the tour. For these people this is a job, as well as a passion. And these are real tours, not just a promotion of a more comprehensive paid tour.
People usually give a small tip based on their budget. You have a small budget, give a small tip. Some just give a few coins for a coffee or a beer, others give 5 or 10 €. Did you really enjoy the tour? Then give a € 10 or € 20 tip. You’re rich? Then give a big tip! Really, it’s up to you.
There are people who simply don’t tip, because they travel on an extremely tight budget. Or, if you didn’t like the tour, you can just say bye and walk away. No problem! Anyway, what will continue to make these great free walking tours available in the future is the fact that someone tips the guides.
What is the difference between a Krakow Free Walking Tour and a Paid Tour?
The main difference, besides the fact that paid tours have a fixed price to pay in advance, is in the type of experience. Krakow free walking tours are basic tours, which allow you to explore the city with a local guide, see the most important things and get a brief overview of the local culture.
A paid tour is led by a professional guide, who has an in-depth background in medieval and contemporary history, art history and local culture. This guide is a local, who has lived in the city for years. He speaks several languages perfectly, and has passed strict certification exams, for example the licensed guides for Wawel Castle tours require a special license. This is why the tour is more comprehensive, more in-depth. You will have tons of notions, historical facts, details about the art, architecture and history of what you see. To make the most of a paid tour, you should know how to appreciate all that in-depth information, otherwise you risk getting bored.
Should I choose a Krakow Free Walking Tour or a Paid Tour?
If you just want to get an overview of the city, its main monuments, essential historical facts, as well as some info on the local culture, then a Krakow Free Walking Tour is the right choice for you.
If you’re traveling on a budget and don’t want to spend money on an expensive paid tour, then a Krakow Free Walking Tour is the right choice for you.
If you want a less demanding and more informal experience than the classic professional guided tour, with friendly guides, and small groups (10-20 people) with an average age under 35, then the Krakow Free Walking Tours is the right choice for you.
If you want to visit the interiors of monuments, churches, synagogues, palaces and museums, get in-depth information on what you see and accurate historical, artistic, architectural details, then it is better to join a specific paid tour, with a professional guide. However, do not rely on improvised guides, but only on tours offered by official agencies and guides.
Planning your trip to Krakow?
Here you will find plenty of in-depth guides to better plan your trip to Krakow: