Top Things To Do In Krakow
Krakow has quite a lot to offer and I had fun exploring around. These are my absolute favourite things to do.
Krakow Travel VLOG
Take a Free Walking Tour
Walkative offers a few free walking tours in the city, I opted for the Old Town Free Walking Tour which was great. Our guide was quite fun and knowledgable. I got to know the thousand years of Polish history in cosy 2.5 hours in a fun way and a lot of detail about Krakow. She also provided me with some recommendations about food and drinking especially local favourites, which was amazing. Thanks, Ana! You can book the tour here.
Explore the Old town and Old Market Square
The Old Town of Krakow is beautiful and quite big. There are plenty of gorgeous churches and nice architecture. There are many cobbled streets with small squares lined with colourful mansions.
Fun Fact: The Old Town if Krakow is the best preserved in Poland. While the rest of Old towns and market squares were almost razed to the ground during WWII bombings, this one remains standing in original condition.
Don’t miss these spots:
Barbican and St Florián’s Gate
The Barbican and St Florian’s gate are the only two remnants of the original wall that surrounded medieval Krakow. Both are lined with a pro on left and right which replaced the city walls and the moats around the walls. It is a great place to enter the city.
Old Market Square
The biggest medieval old market square in Poland and Europe. It has the old cloth hall in the middle with town hall at the back as well as the tower of the town hall in the square. It is not as colourful and glamorous as other old market squares but it is the epicentre of life in Krakow.
St. Mary’s Church
If you want to visit the only church in Krakow, make it this one! This gothic and neo-gothic building has a beautiful interior and a very beautifully painted ceiling. From outside it offers the unique composition of two different towers, the tallest one being the highest point in the city historically. You can also climb this tower for great views if you don’t mind the 300 stairs. I didn’t go up because I saw the view from Krakus Mound and also through my drone.
Fun Fact: Every hour, a trumpeter plays a tune in all four directions, it is called the Call of Krakow and it plays day and night at every hour. It is a bit of a soothing g voice when you wake up.
The museum of the old university of Krakow has a gorgeous Cloister courtyard. It is a beautiful red brick building it is the oldest university in Poland.
I’d recommend going after lunch when all the tours have finished.
Basílica of St Francis
Another stunning church with a very beautiful recently renovated interior. It is also free to enter. Sadly, it is not very well lit but the ceiling is spectacular.
St Mary Magdalene Square
This little square is opposite the church of Sts Peter and Paul. Every time I stopped here it passed by someone was playing music here. It was a small but very beautiful square, perhaps the most beautiful square in the entire old town.
Visit the Original Krakow on Wawel Hill
Wawel Hill is the spot where Krakow started as a city and that’s the 1st ever mention of the city in written records.It is not a residential area and only hosts the Cathedral of Krakow as well as the Royal castle. There is a beautiful square with the chapels of the cathedral, the entrance to Castle and the museums on the other side. The not-to-miss spots at Wawel Hill are below.
Cathedral of Krakow
The cathedral is one of the most beautiful buildings with a grand tower and multiple chapels. the entrance is 14 PLN and the reason I would really recommend visiting the building is due to its stunning chapels. The central naive of the building is quite simple but the chapels on the side are absolutely marvellous. From the ceilings to the wall, each one of them is worth a visit.
The basements hold the crypts and Royal tomb which had some beautiful sarcophagi.
We also climbed the tower of the cathedral which wasn’t as beautiful as I’d thought. The way to the tower is through very narrow stairs and at one point you physically cannot pass even if you are a little overweight due to wooden obstructions. The view is one-sided and pretty alright, you could get the same view from the hill itself.
The Royal Castle
The former Royal castle is a giant courtyard with multiple entrances to different exhibitions. The scale is quite grand but the building itself has been ruined over time. My lack of interest in museums really stopped me from visiting any exhibition.
River Viewing Platform
Towards the other end of Wawel Hill opposite the Castle is a viewing platform which is the best spot to watch the sunset as well as views of the Vistula River. You can also go down to the park via the dragon’s den. (I won’t tell you the story you will find out when you take the tour, all I will say is, it has an interesting moral.)
Take In The Former Jewish District Of Kazimierz
Kazimierz is the favourite area and hotpot for locals when it comes to eating, drinking and partying. There are hundreds of restaurants, cafes and bars in this one small area and a lot of them are great. The prices are also more reasonable here and the area still retains some of the old charm. You can also visit the synagogues here. The main spots here are:
This is the central street with some of the best restaurants located here. It is very lively in the evenings.
The new square is a roundabout with lots of street food stalls at the fraction of the price of restaurants. It also gets quite busy in the evenings. Buying a Zapiekanka (a half baguette open pizza sandwich) and eating it on the steps was perhaps the most local I felt in Krakow and even in Poland.
This footbridge connects Podgorze and Kazimierz. There are a few riverside bars with lounge chairs for a great evening drink. The bridge is nicely lot in the night. It also offers great views of the river when crossing.
Visit The Former Jewish Ghetto In Podgorze
Podgorze wasn’t the original Jewish quarter of Krakow but it was later converted into the ghetto to keep the Jewish population away from the main city. It is now a normal neighbourhood with a few remnants of the horrors that people suffered when it was a ghetto. There are three main spots here:
Church of St Joseph
The square and the church both are grand. It is a typical Polish Catholic Church so nothing different inside though.
Heroes of Ghetto Square
This square is dedicated to all the brave people who suffered during the horrible years when this place was crammed with more than 200,000 people where previously only 3000 people used to live. These 33 chairs represent their loneliness in the face of German calamity.
I was a little surprised to find that a small section of the ghetto wall still survives. It is a non-imposing and fairly ordinary-looking piece of wall I would never have guessed about. This grey unimpressive piece when connected with other similar pieces led to unimaginable suffering. You could almost feel all the suffering it had seen and absorbed. A sobering spot!
Enjoy The View Of Krakow From Krakus Mound
Krakus mound is essentially a mound but one that offers some interesting views of the city.
After a quick visit to the Podgorze, we walked about 20 more minutes. The walk up is pretty easy, much too easy for the views it offers.
Take A Dip In The Zakrzowek Quarry
Not far from the Old City, located within Zakrzowek Park is an old quarry. With time, it was filled with fresh rainwater. It is now the best spot to spend a nice warm day in Krakow. The walk from the road to the quarry was fairly straightforward. I really let out a wow when I eventually got there. Do bring a towel and swimming trunks. It was quite crowded when we arrived but there was still space to sit and chill. It was my favourite thing to do in the entire Krakow trip.
The water is gorgeous, clear and warm enough for a perfect swim. To get to the quarry take the tram and then it is a 15 minutes walk.
Auschwitz is the most notorious Nazi concentration camp located just a few km from Krakow and while it isn’t a thing you want to see on a holiday, I really recommend a visit. you can find out full details of the visit including practical information here.
Be prepared for an intense, heartbreaking day but it is a place of reflection and catharsis.
If you’d like to visit, I’d recommend booking a tour and heading there yourself instead of a tour, you can find complete details in my article about Day Trip To Auschwitz From Krakow.