Krakow is undoubtedly one of the most authentic and picturesque cities in Poland, a real gem able to surprise and amaze travelers.
Its lively atmosphere, the small typical restaurants where you can taste excellent food and good beer, and the many traces of its troubled past and its culture, make this city able to delight even the most experienced travelers. But what are the best things to do in Krakow?
What you will find in this guide about the best things to do and see in Krakow:
- Top 10 Attractions and Things to See in Krakow
- Top 15 Things to Do in Krakow
- Top 10 Places to Visit near Krakow
- Top 5 Typical Foods to Try in Krakow
- Top 5 Best Guided Tours you shouldn’t miss in Krakow
Top 10 Attractions and Things to See in Krakow
Krakow was for many centuries the most important city in Poland. During its heyday, between the 1300s and 1600s, it was the seat of the royal court of Casimir III the Great, and has become one of the most beautiful and flourishing medieval cities.
Its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first in the world to obtain this recognition, and preserves almost intact the old market square, the royal castle on Wawel Hill and the Kazimierz district, which for centuries was home of one of the largest and most important Jewish communities in Europe.
After the tragic events of World War II, Krakow and Poland came under the influence of the Soviet Union and experienced communism until 1990.
Today it is a lively and trendy city, a destination for travelers from all over the world, attracted by the many things to do in Krakow, including 2 other must-see UNESCO sites: the Wieliczka and Bochnia Salt Mines and the tragic site of Auschwitz concentration camp.
Krakow Main Market Square (Rynek Główny)
The huge Krakow Main Market Square, is a main point of reference for visitors: it measures 200 x 200 meters, making it the largest medieval square in Europe, and is located right in the heart of Stare Miasto (the historic center).
From here begin the two main streets of Krakow, Ulica Florianska (towards the Krakow Barbican and the Central Railway Station) and Ulica Grodzka (towards the Royal Wawel Castle) which together form the so-called Royal Route.
Krakow Main Market Square dates back to the 14th century when it was crowded with merchants, cattle sellers and farmers. Today it is the heart of the city, surrounded by ancient and charming town houses, each with its own story to tell. A walking tour with a local guide is undoubtedly the best way to visit this UNESCO-listed square.
The square is lined with cafes, pubs and restaurants, and it buzzes with life at any time of day or night. Don’t miss the opportunity to see the Krakow Christmas Markets held here between the first days of December and the first days of January, when the square is filled with stalls and kiosks serving delicious grilled meat, soups and irresistible typical street food specialties.
In the middle of the square is the ancient Krakow Cloth Hall (Sukiennice), once a textile market, today it houses souvenir shops and an art gallery. You will also see a lonely tower, the Town Hall Tower (Wieża ratuszowa), the only remnant of the old town hall: you can climb to the top for a nice view of the square.
St. Mary’s Basilica, with its Gothic towers, is one of the symbols of the city and overlooks the square. Don’t miss the trumpet player who every hour plays St. Mary’s Trumpet Call (Hejnał mariacki), an ancient five-note hymn belonging to the Polish tradition, from the tallest tower of St. Mary’s Basilica.
Wawel Royal Castle
Wawel Royal Castle was the residence of the Polish kings for many centuries and is located on top of Wawel Hill, with magnificent views of the Vistula River and the city.
Wawel Royal Castle is a huge complex of buildings and fortifications dating back to the 16th century. You can visit over 71 enchanting rooms, divided into 5 different sections, such as the Crown Treasury and Armory, the State Rooms and the Royal Private Apartments.
You will be able to see the ancient charm of the rooms where the most important people of the time were received, fine paintings, ancient tapestries and jewels and collections of oriental art.
The first palatial building you come across after entering the gate is Wawel Cathedral, and it is the place where Polish kings were crowned and its underground crypts hide the tombs of kings and their families.
It is also possible to visit the Wawel Dragon’s Den, caves where there are the fossil remains of a dragon (in reality it could be a whale, or something like that) and a statue with a dragon that breathes real fire.
The best way to visit Wawel Royal Castle is on a private guided tour, as there are so many stories and anecdotes to learn. But if visiting castles isn’t your thing, it is definitely worth going up Wawel Hill to see (for free) the royal courtyard and gardens, from which you can get a nice view of the Vistula.
Kazimierz: the old Jewish quarter of Krakow
One of the unmissable things to do in Krakow is a nice stroll through the narrow streets of Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter.
The village of Kazimierz was founded by King Casimir III the Great in the 14th century, and one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe settled here in the following centuries.
With the invasion by Nazi Germany, most of Krakow’s Jews were forced to move away from the city while those who remained, about 15,000, were forced to move to the ghetto, created in 1941 in the nearby village of Podgórze, which today is the district located exactly on the opposite bank of the Vistula.
The Krakow Ghetto was actually a sorting place for Jews to extermination camps. It was finally liquidated in 1943, with the killing of almost all of its inhabitants. Today it is still possible to see a small section of the ghetto wall, the main square (where there is a monument to the holocaust) and the Eagle Pharmacy of Dr. Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Pole who helped many Jews and whose story is told in the book “The Krakow Ghetto Pharmacy”.
Today Kazimiers is one of the liveliest districts, full of restaurants serving delicious Polish Jewish specialties, pubs and shops, most of them around Szeroka Street, an old market square that is currently one of the most picturesque spots in Krakow.
In nearby Plac Nowy you will find an authentic local market, where you can taste delicious “zapiekanki” and also there are dozens of excellent eateries, beer houses and trendy places. This is also where locals, students and tourists love to spend the evening.
It is also worth visiting the ancient synagogues of Kazimierz, such as the Old Synagogue, the Remuh Synagogue (with the Old Jewish Cemetery where some tombstones date back to the 16th century) and the Tempel Synagogue.
Kazimierz has so many hidden gems to discover and tons of stories to be told. For this it could be a great idea to join one of the FREE walking tours, a pleasant 2-hour walk led by excellent local guides.
Auschwitz and Birkenau
No visit to Krakow is complete without visiting Auschwitz. The largest and most atrocious Nazi concentration camp is only 1 hour from the city center, and anyone should visit it at least once in their lifetime.
The Auschwitz Concentration Camp consisted of 3 main camps:
- Auschwitz I: with dozens of blocks that can be visited, the gas chambers, crematoria and various structures still well preserved.
- Auschwitz II, also called Birkenau: the real extermination camp, today appears as a huge expanse of wooden barracks, and here you can also see the infamous railway entrance gate and the ruins of the crematoria.
- Auschwitz III, also called Monowitz: today it cannot be visited because practically nothing remains of it.
You can visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, reaching the village of Oświęcim by bus, train or with the guided tours that depart from Krakow.
It is definitely worth going there with the guide, because they are really experienced and know how to tell very well the history of the camp and all the anecdotes of the survivors.
There is a lot to see and there are many stories to hear: it would be advisable to reserve a full day for the visit. The ticket reservation for Auschwitz must be done online well in advance. You can, however, check the availability of guided tours from Krakow, which include round-trip transport and visiting Auscwhitz and Birkenau with an official guide (available in several languages).
Wieliczka Salt Mines
One of the things to see in Krakow that you absolutely cannot miss are the Wieliczka Salt Mines, located just 12 km from the city center.
Active since the Middle Ages, these mines have been continuously expanded since the 13th century, to become the largest industry in Poland, together with the nearby Bochnia Salt Mines.
The importance of Krakow’s mines was enormous for Poland as salt was once considered to be very valuable, and this was crucial to the thriving development of the city and its economy.
The Wieliczka Salt Mines have been exploited for over 750 years, and consist of over 300 km of tunnels, over 3,000 caves, underground lakes and huge halls arranged over 9 levels, the deepest at 327 meters underground.
Over the centuries miners have decorated the rooms in which they spent most of their time, creating a masterpiece that is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The rooms are full of sculptures and creations made in salt and rock.
The visit route winds along a couple of kilometers, walking in the large tunnels dug by miners many centuries ago.
You can visit wonderful halls, see the underground lake, reach the deepest point of the mine and visit the breathtaking Chapel of Saint Kinga, a real cathedral carved into the rock hundreds of meters underground, capable of accommodating up to 500 people.
You can visit the Wieliczka Salt Mines on a guided tour only (there are tours at different times of the day and different languages), and the visit is safe and comfortable (the halls and galleries are really large). There is even a restaurant where you can eat in the depths of the earth!
There are tours every day that depart from Krakow and include a guided tour and round-trip transport.
Stare Miasto (Krakow Old Town)
The picturesque Krakow Old Town (Stare Miasto, in Polish) is a true jewel of medieval and Renaissance architecture, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
It was once surrounded by mighty city walls and bastions (still partially visible and open to visitors). Most of the fortifications were demolished in the early 1800s at the behest of Franz I Emperor of Austro-Hungary, and where once the city walls were, today stands the Planty Park, the beautiful park that surrounds the old town with its 4 kilometers and more of lush green gardens.
Start your visit from St. Florian’s Gate, located near the Krakow Barbican, not so far from the Central Station. St. Florian’s Gate is an ancient city gate, dating back to the Middle Ages, and was the main access point to the city.
From here continue to Floriańska Street, along what is also called the Royal Route because it connects the main entrance of Krakow with the Wawel Royal Castle, and military parades and processions were held here.
Floriańska Street with its pastel-colored town houses is considered the main street in Krakow, and bustles with tourists, shops and street performers. This is also one of the main nightlife spots, full of bars, clubs and restaurants.
After visiting the Market Square, you can continue along Grodzka Street, which is practically the continuation of Floriańska Street and leads to Wawel Hill, the Vistula River and Kazimierz.
Don’t miss the chance to taste an obwarzanek, the typical snack of Krakow, you could even participate in a workshop to learn how to do it. You could join a Krakow Food Tour to discover the most authentic local food, visit farmers’ markets, fabulous bakeries and bakeries, explore local favorite places to eat and sample dozens of delicious regional specialties.
The best way to discover all the secrets of Krakow’s old town is to join one of the FREE walking tours with a local guide: they are held every morning and last about 2.5 hours. Book well in advance!
Oskar Schindler’s Factory
A movie you should see before going to Krakow is “Schindler’s List“, a real masterpiece directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German entrepreneur who did his utmost to save over 1000 Jews from Nazi extermination.
During the German occupation of Krakow, Schindler had set up an enameled pot (and later ammunition) factory in a suburb adjacent to the ghetto and the Kazimierz district. In those years he saw the Nazi horrors, and decided to help the Jews.
He stopped hiring Poles, starting to use the abundant Jewish workforce from the nearby Kraków-Płaszów Concentration Camp, thus saving them from their cruel destiny. Over the years he compiled a list of his Jewish workers, in order to prevent their deportation, and made every effort to save as many lives as possible from extermination.
Today it is possible to visit Schindler’s Factory administration building, where you can see his office, his original list, and find out much more about his history.
In addition, Schindler’s Factory houses an interesting museum on the history of the Nazi occupation of Poland, where you can learn more about how the Jews of the ghetto lived, how people lived in Krakow in those years, and see the reconstructions of a typical ghetto apartment or a cellars where Jews were hidden.
There are great guided tours every day, but remember to book ahead as availability is quite limited. If you are a history buff, then you should check out this tour with an expert guide, which besides Schindler’s Factory also allows you to visit and learn much more about the Kraków-Płaszów Concentration Camp and the most significant places in the ghetto.
Leave the busy Krakow Old Town for a while, and enjoy an unforgettable and authentic experience discovering the city’s recent communist past, a little offbeat, but absolutely one of the best things to do in Krakow.
Go to Nowa Huta, whose name means New Steelworks, a neighborhood built in the early 1950s at the behest of Stalin, who wanted Poland to have a strong and huge steel industry.
Nowa Huta is a huge planned city, built by Soviet architects who managed to design a jewel of socialist realism, the regime’s official architectural style.
It is built around what were once among the largest steelworks in the world, and which, despite the will of the regime, became a den of rebels of the “Solidarność” movement, which played an important role in the collapse of communism.
Today, the working-class neighborhood of Nowa Huta still retains the charm of the old days, and you can visit underground nuclear bunkers, apartments and restaurants where time seems to have stood still.
But remember to go there with a local expert guide, this is the real experience! The tours start in Krakow, you will board your time machine, an authentic Polish car from the old days, and your passionate guide (member of a non-profit cultural association of Nowa Huta) will take you to discover the wonders of the Workers’ Paradise!
Krakow Museums and Exhibitions
Krakow boasts an interesting artistic and cultural heritage, dozens of museums, concert halls and exhibitions. The most famous museum in Krakow is probably the Czartoryski Museum, which houses Leonardo Da Vinci’s renowned painting Lady with an Ermine.
Also of interest is the Polish National Museum, which boasts a large collection of works by Polish artists, weapons, uniforms and archaeological finds. For contemporary art lovers, a visit to the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, located right next to Schindler’s Factory Museum is worthwhile.
Manggha is a museum dedicated entirely to Japanese art, while nostalgic people will love the Pinball Museum, dedicated to the game that has thrilled generations (and yes, you can play it for free). Also interesting is the Aviation Museum, where you can see hundreds of old military planes and helicopters (mainly from World War I and II and the Soviet Union).
Also very popular is the new museum which is located just below the Market Square, the Underground Museum, where you can discover the history of the square and the city. A few steps away you can also visit the Collegium Maius, the historical seat of the Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest in the world (Copernicus studied here). About half an hour’s walk from the center is the small Gestapo Museum, where you can see the old cells and find out more about what used to be the Gestapo headquarters in Krakow.
Most of Krakow’s museums are quite small and can be visited with little time. With the City Pass Krakow Card you can enter over 40 museums for free and enjoy free unlimited rides on Krakow’s buses and trams.
Here you will find the guide to the 25 best museums to see in Krakow.
Krakow has an ancient religious tradition, and here Christians and Jews lived side by side peacefully for many centuries.
So, among the things to see in Krakow, its beautiful churches and ancient synagogues cannot be missed. St Mary’s Basilica located right on Krakow’s Main Market Square is a Gothic masterpiece, defined as the eighth wonder of the world by Pablo Picasso, but the small and delightful St. Barbara’s Church, located a short distance away, is also worth a visit.
The tiny Church of St. Adalbert located right in the middle of the Market Square was built over 1000 years ago, and from the same period is also the Church of St. Andrew, a beautiful fortified church, which in the past was one of the most important in Krakow, also due to its defensive role in case of enemy attacks.
Along the Grodzka street you can visit two other important churches in Krakow, the sixteenth-century Saints Peter and Paul Church and the beautiful Church of St. Francis of Assisi, part of a Franciscan monastery, which preserves precious artistic stained glass windows in Art Nouveau style and a beautiful gothic cloister.
In the Kazimierz district, don’t miss the majestic St. Catherine Church, dating from the 14th century, and the Corpus Christi Basilica, a Gothic masterpiece founded by King Casimir III the Great in 1335.
Top 10 Things to Do in Krakow
Discover the wonders of Krakow’s Old Town on a free walking tour
Discovering the most hidden gems of the Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is definitely a must-do in Krakow. And the best and most fun way is definitely to join a free walking tour. Local guides, usually students or Krakow residents, will show you the most interesting and authentic side of the city, and give you a nice overview of all the main attractions.
You can join two types of free walking tours in Krakow (both are worthwhile):
☞ Read our guide to the Best Free Tours in Krakow
Take an evening tour to discover the legends and mysteries of Krakow
As the sun goes down, the Old Town has a mysterious charm, and holds dozens of ancient legends and creepy stories of serial killers and ghosts.
To discover them take part in one of the evening walking tours, the local expert guides lead small groups to visit the city from a different perspective, telling ancient legends, anecdotes and mysteries that really happened. You will discover a side of Krakow that is decidedly exciting, and that you would hardly be able to discover in any other way.
Polish cuisine is a surprising mix of simplicity and tradition and boasts hundreds of regional specialties made with the finest locally grown ingredients. Among the most famous dishes of Polish cuisine are pierogi, but locals love soups, meat and vegetable specialties and many other things that you will hardly find on tourist menus.
Also you should try the desserts from the renowned Polish pastry, as well as the delicious cakes and donuts. Krakow’s food culture is one of the most authentic and interesting in Europe, as are its most famous drinks: excellent beers and vodkas.
When in Krakow you should explore the local food culture to the fullest, sample as many specialties as possible and learn more about Polish cuisine. An excellent choice could be to participate in a Krakow Food Tour: a walking tour among the farmers’ markets, bakeries, pastry shops, stalls and the most authentic restaurants in the city, which will allow you to taste dozens of the best local specialties.
☞ Here you will find a comprehensive guide to the best Krakow Food Tours.
Enjoy a traditional dinner (with unlimited food and drinks)
Krakow is full of good restaurants and, especially during the Christmas season, it also boasts an excellent range of local street food.
But if you want to have a truly memorable experience, then you could book a table at Karczma Skansen Smaków, a beautiful traditional restaurant located on Lake Kryspinów, in a village just outside Krakow. Here every night is the traditional dinner, enlivened by musicians and folk dances.
Better come very hungry, because dinner includes soups, a main course of meat and an unlimited buffet of many different typical specialties. You will also enjoy unlimited drinks, including wine and beer.
This traditional wooden restaurant is located along the banks of a pond, and if you book a table online you can enjoy free return transport from Krakow city center to the restaurant. It is recommended to book ahead of time, as it is quite popular.
Visit the birthplace of Pope John Paul II
Krakow was also made famous by the great Pope John Paul II, whose name was Karol Wojtyła, born in 1920 in Wadowice, a town located about 50 km from Krakow.
If you want to learn more about his life and visit the places where he was born, you can book a private day tour to Wadowice. You will depart from Krakow (round-trip transport is included) and a professional guide will show you the most significant sights of Wadowice, such as Karol Wojtyła’s birthplace, the Museum of John Paul II, and the church where little Karol was baptized.
After tasting John Paul II’s favorite cake (the delicious kremowka) you will continue your tour to the important sanctuary of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will be able to visit the beautiful basilica and the ancient convent, surrounded by a breathtaking natural landscape.
Later, you can visit another place that was very dear to John Paul II, the small town of Lagiewniki, where you can visit the Divine Mercy Monastery, one of the most famous shrines in Poland.
You will be able to visit the chapel that houses the miraculous painting of Merciful Jesus and, guided by a nun of the monastery, you will learn a lot about the life of Sister Faustina Kowalska, canonized as a saint in 2000 by Pope John Paul II, and who is venerated here.
Visit to the Shrine of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa
Alternatively, you could choose this private tour which after visiting Wadowice allows you to visit the town of Czestochowa, where the famous Jasna Gora monastery is located, visited by over 4 million people a year. This sanctuary built in the 14th century at the behest of Louis I of Hungary, is inhabited by Pauline monks, who here venerate the famous Black Madonna of Czestochowa.
Discover wonderful UNESCO Wooden Churches
The Malopolska countryside, the region around Krakow, hides some true gems: old wooden churches surrounded by enchanting bucolic landscapes.
There are now over a hundred of these small picturesque wooden churches (125 Catholic churches and 49 Orthodox churches), of which 6 have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can visit some of the most beautiful by booking a guided tour from Krakow, which allows you to visit dozens of tiny villages where time seems to have stopped, such as Lipnica Murowana where St. Leonard’s Church is located, built at the end of the 15th century and which it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You will also visit St. Michael Archangel’s Church in Binarowa, Saints Philip and James Church in Sękowa and the Orthodox Protection of Our Most Holy Lady Church in Owczary, excellent examples of wooden Gothic architecture, all recognized by UNESCO.
If you prefer to travel on your own, you could hire a car and explore other churches and villages. The entire tourist route is over 1000 km long!
Get on top of the Kościuszko Mound to enjoy the city view
Among the weirdest things to do in Krakow, there is a visit to the various mounds that can be found around the city.
Their origin is shrouded in mystery. The oldest, Krakus Mound, dates back to prehistoric times, and its original purpose remains a mystery. You can visit it with an easy walk from the Podgórze district. If the sky is clear you may have a breathtaking view over the city!
The most famous of these cone-shaped mounds is the 326-meter-high Kościuszko Mound, built by the people of Krakow in 1823 in honor of the Polish national hero Tadeusz Kościuszko.
In the mid-19th century the Austrians built a fortified citadel at the base of the Kościuszko Mound. The entire complex is enclosed by fortified walls and also boasts a beautiful church, the neo-Gothic Blessed Bronisława Chapel. Today it is a good spot to enjoy a nice view of the city and to spend time outdoors.
A few kilometers away, reachable with a short walk from the Krakow Zoo, you can visit Piłsudski’s Mound, built in 1934 to celebrate the re-establishment of Poland’s independence, and named after Marshal Józef Piłsudski. This mound was built with soil from World War I battlefields where the Poles fought.
Learn how to make pierogi: cooking class in a local family home
If you love food and cuisine, this is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Krakow.
A cooking class with locals, in your host’s family home, to learn how to cook the famous pierogi just like the locals do. Your host will take you with him to the local market, where you will learn about the best ingredients and the most delicious typical specialties, as well as learn how to buy ingredients in Polish.
Once you arrive at your host’s house, you will cook delicious traditional pierogi together, and you will be able to discover many things about Polish culture. Of course you will then enjoy a hearty and delicious lunch, and you can taste pierogi, as well as various local snacks and regional beer. It will be like cooking with your Polish grandmother!
Take a tasting tour to taste the best Polish vodka
Vodka is the Polish national drink, and its history goes back a long way. Even today, the question is whether vodka was invented in Russia or Poland, and a good way to find out would be to go on a fun tasting tour.
The tasting tours have nothing to do with a pub crawl, they are a cultural and fun experience at the same time, and you can learn a lot about the history of vodka, the different types and methods of production and much more.
The tour is a pleasant walk in some of Krakow Old Town’s best places where you can taste 7 different types of excellent local vodka, accompanied by snacks and the ubiquitous pierogi (great for working off the vodka!). Absolutely a must!
Sample renowned Polish beers on a guided tasting tour
Besides vodka, the favorite drink of the Poles is undoubtedly beer. Around Krakow are some of the best breweries and microbreweries in Poland, so a good beer tasting is a must.
Tasting tours are held every evening in the Kazimierz district, and consist of a nice walk led by an expert local guide. You’ll visit some of the best breweries in Krakow, and enjoy 11 excellent regional craft beers, as well as local appetizers.
Explore the wonderful Tyniec Abbey and the countryside around Krakow by bicycle
The ancient Tyniec Abbey, founded in 1044, is located about 14 km from Krakow, well connected by a cycle path and country roads surrounded by nature.
This wonderful Benedictine abbey is located on a hill, along the Vistula River, and is one of the oldest in Poland. It is located along one of the most important ancient routes of pilgrims and merchants traveling through Poland and the historical regions of Bohemia and Moravia.
If you want to enjoy it to the fullest, you should go there by bike: guided bike tours last around 4 hours and depart from Krakow’s Old Town. Bike, helmet and local guide included.
Try odd hobbies from the locals, like firing powerful weapons at the shooting range or throwing axes
Among the things to do in Krakow that are very popular with the locals, the shooting range experience is something you will hardly be able to do elsewhere.
What makes it so unique? Well, here you can fire real weapons from the Red Army, like the PPŠ-41, Tokarev TT-33 and the famous AK47 Kalashnikov. Or the powerful weapons of the US military, such as the M16, M4 and a sniper rifle.
You can also try other very powerful weapons, such as the CZ Scorpion Evo 3 machine gun, James Bond’s Walther PPK, the Israeli IMI Uzi and the iconic Magnum. All under the supervision of an expert instructor, for 3 hours of total fun. You can check out our guide to the best shooting range experiences in Krakow here.
While if you want to feel just like a Viking, you might want to try ax throwing! A very fun activity, especially if you are a group of friends! It could also be a fun thing to do in Krakow in case of rain.
Attend a piano recital at the Chopin Concert Hall
For classical music fans, a trip to Poland is also a unique opportunity to learn more about the most famous Polish musician, Fryderyk Chopin.
At the Chopin Concert Hall, located in the heart of Stare Miasto, every evening you can attend piano concerts where talented local pianists perform some of Chopin’s greatest piano compositions.
Have a fun night out on a crazy pub and club crawl
Krakow nightlife can be insanely great! In recent years it has established itself as a popular destination among young people, thanks to the many things to do, the relaxed lifestyle, and the rather affordable cost of living.
If you want to fully experience Krakow’s nightlife and meet lots of people from all over the world, then you should definitely go to a pub crawl!
The pub crawl is basically a guided tour of some of Krakow’s best bars, pubs and clubs. You have 1 hour of unlimited drinks in the first venue, just to fuel a little, and then you will move to other bars and clubs, where you will have a free welcome shot and free VIP entry (so without having to queue to enter). The last place you will visit is a famous club, where you can enjoy many more hours of crazy fun!
Spend a relaxing day at the Chocholow Thermal Baths
If you want to spend a day in total relaxation just like the locals love to do, you may go to Chocholow Thermal Baths, located about 100 km south of Krakow.
This large spa is set in a wonderful natural setting. The village of Chochołów, with its traditional wooden houses, is located along the border with Slovakia, at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, probably the most beautiful nature park and ski resort in Poland.
The Chocholow Thermal Baths boast over 30 heated pools, both indoor and outdoor, saunas and relaxation areas. You can go there both in winter and in summer, in winter it is wonderful to bathe in warm water surrounded by a wonderful snowy landscape.
To get to the Chocholow Thermal Baths you will have approximately 2 hours of driving through the wonderful landscapes of this beautiful region. You could rent a car and drive there on your own, or book an all-inclusive experience, with round-trip transportation from Krakow.
Top 10 Places to Visit near Krakow
Tyskie Brewery in Tychy
Tyskie is one of the best-known Polish beer brands, and is one of the oldest breweries in the region, founded in Tychy in 1629.
Tychy is a nice town located about 80 km from Krakow, not very far from Katowice, in one of the most beautiful parts of Silesia. Its main attraction is the Tyskie Brewing Museum, where you can visit the ancient brewery and discover the secrets that have made it legendary.
Trail of the Eagle’s Nests
The Trail of the Eagle’s Nests is a tourist trail that crosses the breathtaking landscape between Krakow and Częstochowa, along the ancient border between the Małopolska region (also known as Lesser Poland) and Silesia, once belonging to the Kingdom of Bohemia.
Here you can see 25 medieval castles, built in the 14th century at the behest of King Casimir the Great. Today some of these are just ruins, but others have been well restored and can be visited.
The most beautiful is Pieskowa Skała Castle, which is also called Little Wawel, due to its resemblance to the Royal Castle in Krakow. It is well preserved and its wonderful interiors and gardens can be visited.
Very impressive is the Ogrodzieniec Castle, where the Netflix series “The Witcher” was filmed. Also worth seeing are Rabsztyn Castle, Mirów Castle and the reconstructed Korzkiew and Bobolice castles.
Along the way, don’t miss the chance to take a look at the Bledow Desert, the only desert in Europe!
There are guided day tours that depart from Krakow and allow you to visit all the most beautiful castles and also include a short visit to the Bledow Desert.
Moszna Castle and Plawniowice Palace
The castles of Moszna and Plawniowice are located over 130 km from Krakow, in the surroundings of Katowice, but they are undoubtedly the most beautiful palaces in the region, and if you have enough time they are worth a visit.
Moszna Castle has been recognized as one of the most beautiful castles in the world, although it is actually more of a palace than a fortress. Built in the 17th century it was the residence of a wealthy local family.
The Pławniowice Palace is located in the middle of a beautiful park, in a village located along the banks of a pretty pond. It was built in the second half of the 19th century as the residence of a wealthy local family, who lived there until the end of WWII, when it was conquered by the Red Army.
It could be a nice stop on a road trip to southern Poland, or you could visit them on a comfortable guided day tour from Krakow.
Zalipie is a tiny rural village, located about 80km from Krakow. Its peculiarity is that it is considered the most beautiful village in Poland.
For centuries this ancient village has been characterized by the bright decorations of the houses, and today it appears to visitors as a graceful ensemble of colorful houses, with facades richly decorated with floral motifs.
Some of the most beautiful houses in Zalipie are now a museum, others house handicraft shops perfect for buying some truly original souvenirs. Guided day tours from Krakow lead to Zalipie and allow you to visit the most hidden gems of this beautiful village.
Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains
Zakopane is a delightful mountain town, located at the foot of the Tatra Mountains. Also known as “the winter capital of Poland”, Zakopane is a favorite city for locals to spend their winter holidays.
This paradise is worth a visit, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, forests and lakes. The traditional wooden houses of Zakopane today house local craft shops, good restaurants and even some interesting museums.
Zakopane is located about 120 km from Krakow, and can be reached easily by car or on a guided day tour from Krakow.
For breathtaking views, take the cable car up to Gubałówka Hill. From Zakopane you could enjoy a half-day excursion to Morskie Oko, an impressive lake with turquoise waters. Or take the cable car that goes up to Kasprowy Wierch, a peak of over 1900 meters located on the border between Poland and Slovakia.
Slovakia is very close from here, and it can be nice to visit some of its most beautiful landscapes: on a day trip from Krakow you could see both Zakopane and the breathtaking Oravsky Castle.
Morskie Oko is known as “the most beautiful lake in Poland” and is a wonderful alpine lake nestled between the high peaks of the Tatra Mountains, right at the foot of Rysy, the highest mountain in Poland (2499 m).
Its crystal clear waters, which are a beautiful turquoise color on clear days, are a popular destination for thousands of hikers. According to local legends, there would be an underground channel that connects the lake directly with the sea, hence its name, which means eye of the sea. But it’s just a legend.
From Zakopane the Morskie Oko can be reached on foot in about 2 hours. The trail is about 9 km long and is quite easy and suitable for everyone. Guided tours depart from Krakow and include round-trip transport.
Dunajec Gorge and Niedzica Castle
The Dunajec Gorge is one of the most beautiful landscapes to see around Krakow: the Dunajec River runs through an unspoiled natural landscape, surrounded by tiny villages and fairy castles.
You can travel the tranquil waters of the river aboard a traditional wooden raft, passing through stunning gorges in the heart of Pieniny National Park.
Here you can also admire the picturesque Niedzica Castle, an ancient border outpost built in the 14th century overlooking Lake Czorsztyn.
There are day tours that depart from Krakow and allow you to enjoy the raft cruise and castle visit.
Bochnia Salt Mines (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Certainly less famous than the nearby Wieliczka Salt Mines, the Bochnia Salt Mines are undoubtedly one of the most interesting things to see in Krakow.
They are the oldest salt mines in Poland and date back to the 12th century. Similar to the nearby Wieliczka Salt Mines, these have been richly decorated by miners, who have created underground halls adorned with sculptures, chapels, churches and even a basketball court.
By visiting the Bochnia Salt Mines you can explore the secrets of this amazing masterpiece built in the heart of the earth, which has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013.
The visit lasts about 3 and a half hours, and includes a part aboard an old miners’ train. Best of all, you can even cruise an underground lake by boat!
If this is your first time, and you have not yet seen the Wieliczka Salt Mines, then I recommend that you see the ones first, which are certainly more spectacular and impressive! If you have already visited Wieliczka then you could go deeper and visit the wonderful Bochnia Salt Mines.
There are guided tours that depart from Krakow and include a visit to the mine and round-trip transport.
Ojców National Park
Ojców National Park is the smallest of the Polish national parks, and is the ideal place to spend a day outdoors, surrounded by nature.
It is located about 20 km from Krakow, on a plateau dating back to the Jurassic period, covered with lush forests, huge limestone rock formations, suggestive ravines and over 400 caves, of which at least a couple of which are worth visiting, such as the Grota Lokietka.
In the park you can also visit a quaint little church on the water, the ruins of Ojców Castle and the wonderful Pieskowa Skała Castle, both located along the Trail of the Eagles Nest route.
You can get there easily by car or with one of the convenient day tours from Krakow, which also include a guided tour of the castles.
Sandomierz is a pretty town located about 160 km from Krakow, overlooking the Vistula.
It was once called the Royal City of Sandomierz, and for many centuries it was one of the most important cities in Poland, comparable to Krakow or Wroclaw.
Visiting it you can admire the well-preserved old town, with a beautiful medieval market square, the Sandomierz Royal Castle, dating back to the 14th century and several churches. Also interesting is the small museum that allows you to take a look at the medieval underground.
Sandomierz is a nice destination for a day trip, you can get there by car or by booking a guided tour from Krakow. The area is also famous for its good wineries.
Top 5 Typical Foods to Try in Krakow
One of the main things to do in Krakow is to taste as many local specialties as possible, as this city is a food lover’s paradise!
If this is your first time in Poland, you should definitely try some iconic dishes of Polish cuisine, as well as some typical Krakow specialties.
Pierogi are probably the most famous specialty of Polish cuisine, and are a kind of stuffed dumplings, quite common in Eastern Europe (with different names).
There are several varieties, both sweet and savory, usually served with smoked bacon, lard and caramelized onion. The most popular variety is called Pierogi Ruskie (Russian style), filled with cream cheese, potatoes and herbs.
In Krakow there are restaurants that specialize in pierogi (pierogarnia) where you can taste different variations.
Obwarzanek is a type of donut-shaped bread, and is a typical Krakow specialty.
It is sold on the street from the early hours of the morning by street vendors. You can find them along the road and near the bus and train stations. Otherwise you can also find it in local bakeries and markets.
Oscypek is a delicious smoked sheep cheese, typical of Silesia and Małopolska, the region of Krakow.
It is obtained from a particular breed of mountain sheep, which lives only here, and is handcrafted by shepherds from the mountains around Krakow. For some of the best quality, pop into the local markets of the city.
Zapiekanka is the most popular Polish street food. It might look similar to pizza, but it’s actually a half baguette filled with melted cheese, mushrooms, ketchup and so on and so forth.
Placki Ziemniaczane (Potato Pancake)
Potato pancakes are one of the most popular dishes in the local cuisine. They are simple and tasty and are usually served with just a little sour cream, but there are more elaborate versions, such as those with meat sauce, goulash, or mushrooms on top.
In addition, the Polish cuisine boasts excellent soups, it is worth trying Żurek (rye flour, potatoes, legumes and meat), Barszcz (beet soup similar to Russian and Ukrainian borsch) and Zupa Pomidorowa (with tomato and sour cream). Also try some stews, such as Bigos (meat and sauerkraut).
Worth the trip: Eat in an old fashioned “Bar Mleczny” (Milk Bar)
In the old town there are many good restaurants where you can taste elaborate dishes, find waiters who speak several languages, and translated menus.
But if you want to have a truly authentic experience, then you should have lunch in a “Bar Mleczny“, which translated means Milk Bar, a kind of canteens dating back to the years of communism. Here some local “grandmothers” are busy cooking the most classic Polish poor cuisine specialties. Simple dishes, cooked just like at home.
Some of these amazing places have survived to this day, serving cheap meals mainly to students, workers, poor people and travelers. Don’t expect to find translated menus or someone who speaks English. This is undoubtedly one of the most authentic things to do in Krakow.
Top 5 Best Guided Tours you shouldn’t miss in Krakow
These are 5 things to do in Krakow that you just can’t miss and that you can easily visit with one of the convenient day tours organized by expert local guides.
Guided Tour to Auschwitz
It would be advisable to dedicate the whole day to visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau. There are excellent guided tours from Krakow that include visiting with an official guide (in the language of your choice) and round-trip transport.
However, if you are short on time, there are also tours that allow you to easily visit Auschwitz, Birkenau and the Wieliczka Salt Mines on the same day.
Guided Tour to the Wieliczka Salt Mine
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is undoubtedly one of the most amazing things to see in Krakow. The visit is suitable for everyone, it takes place with an official guide (in the language of your choice) and the tours start at set times.
Guided Tour to Nowa Huta (in an old vintage car)
Visiting the working-class district of Nowa Huta is one of the most unusual and interesting things to do in Krakow. The guided tour from Krakow that allows you to reach Nowa Huta aboard a vintage car is simply not to be missed!
Free Tours of Krakow’s Old Town
Free walking tours are an unmissable opportunity to see the city’s most hidden gems. Friendly local guides love to show the best of Krakow to visitors from all over the world. Tours run in several languages, do not miss the free walking tour of Stare Miasto (Old Town) and the free walking tour of Kazimierz (the old Jewish district).
Spend at least one day exploring the surroundings of Krakow
No trip to Krakow is complete without having explored its beautiful surroundings. Very beautiful are the castles along the famous Trail of the Eagle’s Nests, which can be visited on a day trip from Krakow.
Useful Tips for Your Trip to Krakow
Planning your trip to Krakow? These are our in-depth guides with everything you need to know to plan an amazing trip to Krakow: