There’s no denying that Krakow is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland or really anywhere. Coming up with a list of must do things was easy, trying to pare it down was the hard part. But here’s our take on 10 must visit destinations in Krakow.
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Market Square is the bustling heart of the UNESCO designated old town, filled with restaurants, bars, and cafes. It’s a great place to go people watching at one of the many cafes that line the square. Be sure also to check out the Tourist Info center in the Cloth Hall in the center or the various other places along its borders.
Located prominently in the center of Market Square, Cloth Hall (known locally as Sukiennice) is one of the oldest and most beautiful markets in the country. Once a major center of international trade, the market now is more known for tourist trinkets than bolts of silk and mounds of leather. Be sure to check out the upstairs museum and stop at the tourist info booth as well for more ideas for your visit to town.
Seen towering over the many parts of the city, Wawel castle is worth a look in its own right. Once the home to Polish Kings and Queens you can have a look into this beautiful hodgepodge of architectures. Such interesting history from a long ago time.
The Jewish Quarter is a beautiful array of streets filled with old shops and the historic Jewish areas of Krakow. While certainly different than it was many decades ago, it has still held onto a very distinct character from the rest of Krakow. Also where to see Schindler’s Factory detailed below.
Known mostly in the west because of the movie Schindler’s list, you can come and see the factory where Oskar Schindler saved many people from certain death. The factory is an fascinating tour and especially the film that featured workers from the factory. One thing though I wish the museum included more on the actual factory and history therein.
St. Mary’s Basilica
It’s hard to miss St. Mary’s Basilica with its beautiful red brick exterior on the edge of the Market Square. The current gothic church dates from the 14th century (completed in 1347) after the original was destroyed by Mongol Invasion.
Slay the Wawel Dragon
Smok Wawelski or the Wawel Dragon is the stuff of legend and folklore. Visited as part of the tour to Wawel Castle the dragon statue and nearby cave’s legend goes back to the early mythology of Krakow. The cave itself is less interesting than the legend and you can get some cool photos with the statue as well.
Visit a Milk Bar
This is more than just for the meal, but visiting a Milk Bar was definitely a look more into the local culture of the place. Milk bars rose up after the war as an affordable restaurant for Polish workers. This is a great place to both see a bit of Polish history and culture, sample great Polish food, and possibly get to know some locals.
Visit Nowa Huta
The brutalist architecture of Nowa Huta is so very different from the classical architecture of Krakow that you will wonder if you are still in the same city let alone same country! The architecture of this planned town came about during the communist Soviet Era of Poland as a more planned community. There’s a lot of beauty though in this sort of architecture I believe and it is certainly one of the more fascinating areas of the city.
Wander down Florianska Street
One of the main thoroughfares and one of its most famous streets, Florianska Street is packed full of shops as well as tourists. But don’t let that discourage you, there is more than just the flashy signs of international brands on this street if you dig deeper. We love the pedestrian friendly avenue as well as the many historic places that intersperse with all the international brands. Be sure to take a lot at St. Florian’s gate at the end of the Street.
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Further Day Trips
Auschwitz: I’m always a bit torn on Dark Tourism, however Auschwitz is certainly popular to visit and important if you go there understanding the tragic history of the place. No amount of reading before hand however truly prepared me for visiting it myself.
Wieliczka Salt Mine: Probably the other most visited day trip from Krakow. While no longer in operation as a mine (as of 2007 ish), the Salt Mines are worth visiting for the various different rooms and carvings throughout. Possible to combine with Auschwitz but recommended to do on another day (Auschwitz is a full day affair)
If you have more time, you can explore further afield and add in some mountains and nature with a trip to Zakopane which is about 2hrs outside of Krakow. You could do it in a day or spend more time as the post suggests.
Where to Stay
Apartments Rynek Glowny – Certainly not cheap, but in terms of location and convenience it is hard to beat. Great for longer stays where having an apartment is nice or for families who need the extra room. Unfortunately, breakfast is not free but apartments come with a kitchen/kitchenette so you can prepare things yourself too if you want. If you want to be in the center of the action and are willing to pay the price for that, this is a fantastic option.
Hotel Santi – Another mid to higher end option of places to stay in the city. Located close to the market square and itself close to many things, this is a great option with beautiful rooms and good service. The one issue though is that due to the location there is a lot of noise from the street and tram depending on which room you are in. Breakfast is also included and is actually quite good. Parking is not free, however.
Art Hostel – For the backpacker, this is a great option and a great hostel. The location is fine, and it’s located near a lot of activities as well as a short walk from the market square as well. The crowd is young and fun, and the hostel is well decorated, clean, and well maintained. In terms of hostels, this is one of the best you can find in the area. This hostel only has dorm rooms; no private rooms.
Lemon Tree Hostel – Another hostel with a great location, good staff, and great price. Like Art Hostel, this hostel only has dorm rooms available too. The area it is located is a bit quieter too if that is something you are looking for as well. It’s a bit further to some of the attractions and the train/bus station than some of the other listed options but not adversely so.