Winter in Krakow is undoubtedly the most evocative time to visit the city. The magical Christmas atmosphere, the many stalls serving delicious local food at every corner of the Old Town, the vibrant nightlife and the breathtaking view of the iconic Main Market Square.
Winter in Krakow is also one of the most popular seasons for tourists, so we are in high season, hotel rates are slightly higher than in other months of the year (but they are still quite cheap compared to other top destinations in Europe), and attractions, experiences and tours must be booked well in advance.
Planning your winter trip to Krakow? In this guide you will find all the information you need on things to do and see and all the best tips from the locals for an unforgettable trip:
- Winter in Krakow: Temperatures and What to Expect
- How to dress for a winter trip to Krakow
- The Best Things to Do and See in Winter in Krakow
- Discover Krakow’s Christmas Markets
- Taste delicious local specialties
- Visit the Wonderful Krakow’s Old Town (UNESCO)
- See the famous Krakow Nativity Scenes (UNESCO)
- Explore the former Jewish Quarter and the Krakow Ghetto
- Discover the best museums in Krakow
- Take a romantic ride on one of the historic carriages
- Relax in one of Krakow’s amazing spa hotels
- Spend fun-filled days with your family
- Discover the breathtaking Wieliczka Salt Mines (UNESCO)
- Visit the Auschwitz Birkenau Concentration Camps (UNESCO)
- Explore the picturesque mountain village of Zakopane
Winter in Krakow: Temperatures and What to Expect
Winter in Krakow is the coldest season of the year, especially in the months from December to February, when temperatures are usually around 0 °C during the day, while at night they can drop as low as 10 °C below zero.
Snowfalls are frequent especially in December and January, however they are usually not very abundant, so it can be very pleasant and suggestive to visit Krakow in the snow.
Krakow in winter is often shrouded in mist and the days are quite short: it starts to get dark at 4pm, so it is advisable to plan your visits to make the most of the morning hours. In any case, Krakow in Winter is delightful even at night, when the city is beautifully illuminated.
How to dress for a winter trip to Krakow
If you are planning your winter trip to Krakow, then you should pack something warm in your suitcase.
We recommend that you bring some woolen sweaters, a good winter coat, a warm hat that will keep your head and ears out of the cold wind, and a pair of gloves, which will prevent your hands from freezing while walking the streets of the city.
Don’t forget to bring good shoes, Krakow is a city that deserves to be explored on foot, so bring comfortable and warm shoes.
The Best Things to Do and See in Winter in Krakow
Discover Krakow’s Christmas Markets
Krakow’s Christmas Markets stand as one of the city’s most cherished traditions. From the end of November through December 26th (often extended until January 6th), these festive markets transform the splendid Krakow Main Market Square into a captivating hub of holiday spirit.
The square comes alive with a bustling array of more than 80 charming wooden stalls, each offering an enticing variety of products. Against the backdrop of the square, the adjacent St. Mary Basilica, and the iconic Kraków Cloth Hall, the scene is aglow with enchanting decorations, creating a magical atmosphere. Christmas in Krakow is truly a must-experience, especially for couples and families.
Local artisans primarily operate these stalls, showcasing and selling an eclectic assortment of goods crafted from wood and leather. Among the offerings, you’ll discover hand-painted ceramics, intricate embroidery, artisanal jewelry, scented candles and delightful souvenirs. Beyond these crafts, there is a treasure trove of Christmas decorations to explore, including the renowned hand-painted glass ornaments. However, the highlight undoubtedly lies in the food stalls. Here, you can savor a wide array of traditional specialties, from succulent grilled meats to hearty soups and steaming hot beverages.
Taste delicious local specialties
Polish cuisine is full of hearty dishes, made of simple and tasty ingredients: soups, meat and carbohydrates, perfect for warming up from the cold winter temperatures.
During Christmas, the ideal place to taste traditional dishes is certainly the Main Market Square. Check out the many food stalls of the Christmas Markets, the locals love to come here to eat and drink.
The stalls serve excellent simple meals, including pierogi, soups, including the famous zurek (with legumes, potatoes and meat) and borsch (beetroot soup).
If you like meat, then you can’t miss the many grilled meat specialties, such as pork shank, and excellent stews. Also very famous is the smoked sheep cheese called Oscypek, produced by shepherds in the mountains of Zakopane, served with or without jam.
For lovers of sweets, the gingerbread, homemade cakes and spiced nuts are worth trying. To warm up, the locals come here to drink mulled wine or hot beer.
Visit the Wonderful Krakow’s Old Town
Krakow in Winter is definitely magical. Although it could be quite cold, you will love wandering the streets of the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Its historic buildings are excellent examples of Gothic and Renaissance styles, many of which date back to the Middle Ages. Krakow’s Old Town is easily explored on foot, is quite concentrated and the attractions are close to each other.
The Market Square is the main square of the city. It is the largest medieval square in Europe and is characterized by the iconic Kraków Cloth Hall, the former textile market, which now houses a local handicraft market and an important Polish Art Gallery, a branch of the Krakow National Museum.
In the center of the square you can also visit the Town Hall Tower: climbing to the top you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city.
On the square is another iconic building, St. Mary’s Basilica, which is the symbol of the city. Every hour from its highest tower a trumpeter plays the Hejnał Mariacki, an ancient traditional hymn.
With a short and pleasant walk along ulica Grodzka, which together with ulica Florianska forms the main street of Krakow, called the Royal Route, you reach the Vistula River and the Wawel Hill, on top of which there is the Royal Castle of Wawel, a former residence of the Polish royal families, with the wonderful Wawel Royal Cathedral.
The castle and the cathedral can be visited, as well as the gardens from which you have a beautiful view of the Vistula river and the city.
See the famous Krakow Nativity Scenes
On the first Thursday of December, the traditional Krakow Szopka, Poland’s most famous nativity scene contest, takes place in the Main Market Square.
According to tradition, the nativity scenes, built with tinfoil and wood, represent the nativity of Jesus with the historical buildings of Krakow in the background.
The first competition took place in 1937 and was established by the municipal administration when the artisans began to sell their works during Christmas and began to attract the attention of many important families who were even willing to pay just to admire the works.
Since then, the competition has been held every year, with the participation of local and national artisans, who create beautiful works of art, colorful and rich in detail.
The best nativity scenes are then exhibited for the following months at the National Museum in Krakow. Since 2018, the event has also been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Explore the former Jewish Quarter and the Krakow Ghetto
From Krakow’s Old Town, a short walk south takes you to Kazimierz, the former Jewish quarter of Krakow.
If you travel to Krakow in winter, you cannot miss a visit to Kazimierz, which in this period has a really suggestive atmosphere.
Kazimierz is famous for being the liveliest in the city and for being full of typical bars and restaurants offering traditional Jewish and Polish dishes. Most are located around the ancient market square, ulica Szeroka, which is the heart of the neighborhood.
Continuing the walk, the wonderful synagogues are also worth a visit, such as the Tempel Synagogue, the largest in the city, or the Old Synagogue which is the oldest.
Crossing one of the bridges over the Vistula River, you enter the Podgòrze district which was once the Krakow Ghetto.
During the Nazi occupation, Jews were locked up in the ghetto and deported to concentration camps. Today it is possible to see a small piece of the ghetto wall, while in the main square there is a memorial to the holocaust.
These places were made famous by the film Schindler’s List. To better understand the history of the Krakow Ghetto and the Nazi occupation, a visit to Schindler’s Factory, which is now one of the most important museums in Krakow, is a must.
Discover the best museums in Krakow
Winter in Krakow is characterized by cold, short days, perfect for staying in the warmth of some museum, discovering the hidden wonders in the over 40 interesting museums of the city.
Most of the museums can be visited for free with the City Pass Krakow Card, which in addition to free admission to museums, includes unlimited rides on city trams and buses.
One of the most visited museums is the Czartoryski Museum, where the famous painting “Lady with an Ermine” by Leonardo Da Vinci is exhibited.
For those who want to learn about Polish art, we recommend the Polish National Museum, which boasts a rich collection of Polish works of art and an interesting exhibition of archaeological finds.
Also dedicated to Polish art is the Art Gallery inside the Kraków Cloth Hall, in the Market Square. Polish works of art from the 19th century are exhibited here, including the famous works of Jan Matejko, one of the nation’s most famous painters.
For contemporary art lovers, there is the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, which is located next to another famous museum, the Schindler Factory Museum.
Schindler’s Factory, which became famous thanks to Steven Spielberg’s beautiful film “Schindler’s List”, now hosts a permanent exhibition that traces the history of Oskar Schindler and the Nazi occupation of Krakow. It is advisable to book the guided tour in order to enjoy the visit to the fullest.
For those who want to go back in time and relive the Krakow of the Middle Ages, there is the Rynek Underground Museum, just below the Market Square, where you can discover what the city was like in the Middle Ages.
With its many interactive installations, it is also suitable for children who certainly won’t be bored.
Among the most famous museums in Krakow, the Manggha, dedicated to Japanese art and oriental culture, is worth a visit.
Take a romantic ride on one of the historic carriages
Around the Market Square, there are many horse-drawn carriages, which are now a symbol of the city.
These beautiful carriages are a centuries-old tradition, and today they are quite popular among tourists, especially in the cold days of winter in Krakow.
Taking a carriage ride through the cobbled streets of Krakow’s Old Town, covered by heavy blankets, is an experience you should try.
Relax in one of Krakow’s amazing spa hotels
Winter in Krakow is the best season to enjoy a relaxing stay in one of the city’s excellent spa hotels.
Krakow is now a popular destination, especially for couples, for a relaxing holiday in one of the most pleasant, romantic and down-to-earth European cities.
You have a wide choice of spa hotels, often located in the heart of the city, within walking distance of all major attractions, as well as excellent apartments equipped with every comfort, such as jacuzzi and sauna.
The best spa hotels in Krakow have beautiful heated indoor pools and wellness centers with world-class saunas, treatments and massages. It is a great pleasure to spend a few hours here during the cold winter days of Krakow.
Many hotels also boast excellent restaurants (some are even recommended by the Michelin Guide), allowing you to enjoy an unforgettable gastronomic experience, tasting the best of local cuisine.
What about the prices? One of the reasons why Krakow has become one of the most popular winter holiday destinations in Europe is precisely because of its prices, which compared to other top European destinations, are much cheaper and offer unbeatable value for money.
Among the best hotels to stay in Winter in Krakow is the Hotel Copernicus, located in the heart of the Old Town, just a few steps from the Wawel Royal Castle, and boasts an excellent spa and a restaurant serving delicious local specialties, recommended from the Michelin Guide.
Other noteworthy addresses is the Bachleda Luxury Hotel, located within walking distance of all major attractions, the Hotel Unicus Palace, located on Ulica Florianska, the main street of the Old Town, which boasts an excellent spa, a good restaurant and an amazing rooftop terrace.
Another excellent spa hotel is the Hotel Stary, located right in the heart of the Old Town, which boasts one of the most beautiful spas in the city and an excellent restaurant, the Michelin-recommended Trzy Rybki.
Spend fun-filled days with your family
For those traveling with kids, Krakow in winter offers many fun activities, capable of entertaining the whole family.
One of the favorite things that locals love to do in winter in Krakow is ice skating: from December to March, several ice skating rinks are set up in the city, the most famous being Dworzec Glowny, near the Central Station.
This ice skating rink is open from the end of November to March and it is possible to rent skates there.
After skating, you can relax in Galeria Krakowska, a huge shopping center full of shops and cafes, where you can go shopping, enjoy a hot chocolate, or attend one of the many free concerts and events that are often held here in winter.
Among the best museums to visit with kids is the Aviation Museum, which exhibits a large number of historic military and civil aircraft and the Pinball Museum, dedicated to the iconic game of the 80s. The entrance ticket allows you to play all video games for free, such as from Spider Man, Pac-Man, Star Wars or Super Mario.
Discover the breathtaking Wieliczka Salt Mines
These mines are among the largest and oldest salt mines in the world, and are the reason why the city of Krakow managed to become so powerful and beautiful during the Middle Ages.
Visited over the centuries by kings, popes, presidents and great scientists (such as Copernicus), the Krakow Salt Mines are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and amaze visitors with their enormous halls decorated with salt sculptures, underground cathedrals, underground lakes of salt water and many other wonders.
Visit the Auschwitz Birkenau Concentration Camps
Winter in Krakow is a very cold season, often with a lot of snow. This is why it is also the best season to better understand how terrible it was to be detained in the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, located in the middle of the countryside about 1 hour from Krakow.
Winter is undoubtedly the most evocative season to visit Auschwitz, often shrouded in fog or covered by snow. The visit to the concentration camps is the most important cultural experience to do in Poland, which each of us should do at least once in his life.
The Auschwitz and Birkenau Concentration Camps can be visited easily with a guided day tour from Krakow, which includes the very interesting guided tour led by one of the official Auschwitz guides (the so-called educators). Tours are available in many languages.
Explore the picturesque mountain village of Zakopane
If you are planning your winter trip to Krakow, then you should consider making a trip to Zakopane, Poland’s most famous winter destination.
Zakopane is a small town located at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, just 120 km from Krakow. It is famous for being the “winter capital of Poland” and the locals love to come here to ski, relax in the warm thermal waters and feast on delicious mountain cuisine.
Even if it is cold and there is a lot of snow, the locals love to spend their winter holidays in this small town because it offers a lot of winter activities, from skiing, to snowmobiling to ice skating.
In recent years, Zakopane is becoming more and more popular in international tourism as well. It is in fact an excellent destination for skiing and hiking and is also the ideal place to relax and enjoy the mountain atmosphere.
And it is considerably cheaper than the more famous European winter resorts, but offers top notch entertainment, hotels and food.
The traditional wooden houses of Zakopane are completely immersed in nature, surrounded by mountains, forests and lakes.
In the winter months, the ski lifts are in operation every day from morning to evening. There are also ski instructors available for private or group lessons, for both children and adults.
Ice skating rinks are also always open, while for walkers there are hundreds of kilometers of mountain trails that are accessible even in winter and allow you to explore the area. It is also possible to take trips on horse-drawn sleighs or snowmobiles.
The city center is full of local craft shops and interesting museums on local culture. There are plenty of restaurants serving delicious local cuisine and several cafes where you can enjoy a hot drink.
For Christmas the village becomes even more beautiful, wonderfully decorated and covered with snow. The best restaurants in Zakopane organize delicious dinners for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and in the little churches of the village the evocative midnight mass is celebrated, which the locals call Pasterka.
The most characteristic church is the Church of Wiktorówki Glade, within the Tatra National Park.
New Year’s is also a great time to spend a few days in Zakopane. Traditional celebrations, dinners, dances and New Year’s concerts are organized. For the more adventurous there are night snowmobile excursions, or you can participate in the Kuling, the famous horse sleigh race.
Zakopane can be visited on convenient day tours from Krakow, or you may choose to spend a few days there. In that case you should take a look at this guide with all the information you need for your trip to Zakopane.
Other interesting tips for your trip to Krakow
Here you will find lots of resources and advice from the locals that will surely come in handy.
Planning your trip to Krakow? These are our in-depth guides with everything you need to know to plan an amazing trip to Krakow:
- Krakow Travel Guide: Things to do in and around Krakow
- All You Need to Know Before Going to Krakow (Best Tips for Planning Your Trip)
If you are looking for a good place to stay, you may want to take a look at the guide on the best cheap hotels and apartments in Krakow, or on the best spa hotels.
Are you looking for something more exclusive? Then take a look at the best 5-star hotels in the city, you will be surprised by the unbeatable value for money.
If you’re an old-school backpacker, then you should definitely check out our guide to the best hostels in Krakow.