Planning a trip to Krakow? Here’s everything you need to know before you go. Below are the top 10 best things to do in Krakow Poland. If this is your first time to visit Krakow, these are the things you definitely don’t want to miss!!
Last summer I spent a month in Europe visiting 5 countries and 24 cities. I started in Krakow because I am interested in World War II history, and I wanted to visit a city that had such a meaningful historical impact. I had no idea how beautiful and unique Krakow would be.
Krakow is one of the oldest cities in Poland and is often noted as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. It’s filled with history, breathtaking architecture, beautiful churches, and friendly people.
Krakow is Safe and Affordable
The city is clean and easy to navigate. For instance, you don’t need a car or to worry about taxis as you can walk everywhere in the city. And even though we were two girls traveling alone, I felt very safe walking everywhere, even at night.
Krakow is very affordable and un-crowded, so even during the middle of summer, in peak tourist season, the main attractions did not feel too crowded.
Top 10 Best Things To Do in Krakow
If this is your first time to Krakow, here’s what you’ll definitely want to see:
1. Wawel Royal Castle
First of all, one of the most iconic landmarks in Krakow is the nearly 1000-year-old Wawel Royal Castle and Cathedral.
The Wawel Royal Castle is a unique mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, because it grew and expanded over the years, with each addition highlighting Krakow’s cultural heritage at the time.
Krakow’s most famous citizen was the archbishop of Wawel Cathedral. He lived in Krakow for 40 years, until he moved to the Vatican. After that he became Pope John Paul II!
Pope John Paul II made history as the first Slavic pope ever, and he was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.
The bell tower of Wawel Cathedral has beautiful panoramic views over the city.
Be sure to touch the bells on your way up and make a wish!
2. Wawel Dragon
There’s a legend that dates all the way back to the 1200s of an evil dragon named Smok. He lived in a limestone cave beneath Wawel Hill. (You can actually visit the caves!) According to the legend, a Polish prince named Krakus defeat the dragon and built his palace over the slain dragon’s lair.
As a result of the legend, today there’s a statue of a dragon outside the castle commemorating the defeat and the founding of Krakow.
3.Town Hall Tower
Near Old Town Square in Krakow is the Town Hall Tower. The cellars in this tower were once a prison with a Medieval torture chamber!
You can climb the Town Hall Tower for a breathtaking birds-eye view of the Old Town Square.
Krakow’s Old Town Square dates back to the 1200s, and is one of the largest medieval town squares in Europe.
4. St. Mary’s Basilica
One of the main focal points in the square is St. Mary’s Basilica. It was completed over 600 years ago, in 1397.
The church’s two towers were added in the 1400s and are noticeably different heights. This is because according to legend, the towers were built by two brothers, each trying to out-do the other. Eventually one brother grew jealous and killed the other!
Inside St. Mary’s Basilica
The inside of the St. Mary’s Basilica is stunning. The wooden altarpiece pictured above is the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world. It was carved between 1477 and 1484 by the German sculptor Veit Stoss.
In 1941, during the German occupation, the dismantled altarpiece was shipped to the Third Reich. It was recovered in 1946, hidden in the basement of Nuremberg Castle. The altar underwent major restoration work in Poland and was put back in its place at the Basilica 10 years later.
How gorgeous is this blue ceiling!
5. Explore Old Town Square
Krakow’s Old Town Square is surrounded by small shops and charming cafes. It’s the perfect spot for people-watching!
One of my favorite cafes near the square was Cafe Mimi. They had seriously one of the most gorgeous bakery cases I’ve ever seen!
Of course we had to try something. ;)
Read More: Where to Eat in Krakow Poland
6. Kazimierz — The Jewish District
Another important area in Krakow is Kazimierz, the historical Jewish district.
After the invasion of Poland at the start of World War II, Hitler made Krakow the capital of Germany’s General Government due to its prime central location in Europe. The Jewish population of the city was forced into a walled zone known as the Krakow Ghetto. From here they were sent to Auschwitz and other nearby German extermination camps.
These stairs, located near Stajnia Pub in Kazimierz, were featured in a pivotal scene in the movie Schindler’s List.
Now Kazimierz has a hip, thriving, vibrant community of young folks. It’s filled with cool restaurants and pubs like the Singer Cafe, where every table (inside and out!) is an antique Singer sewing machine!
7. Florianska Street
Florianska Street is a beautiful pedestrian shopping street that starts at St. Florian’s Gate and goes directly to the Old Town Square.
8. Oskar Schindler’s Factory
If you’ve heard of the Academy Award winning movie Schindler’s List, you may know that Oskar Schindler’s metal factory was in Krakow. The factory is now a historical museum with installations showing Krakow during the time of occupation. For example, in the museum you can see the basement where Jews were hidden, Oskar Schindler’s desk, and a reconstruction of an apartment in the Krakow ghetto.
9. Day Trip to Auschwitz from Krakow
If you’re interested in World War II history, visiting Auschwitz can be a very meaningful, eye-opening experience.
Read More: My experience visiting Auschwitz
10. Wieliczka Salt Mine
Many day tours to Auschwitz also include a visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. The Wieliczka Salt Mine is a huge complex with underground tunnels, chambers, lakes, and even chapels made entirely out of salt. Everything is salt! The floors, the walls, the ceilings, the altars, the benches, and more. You can buy table salt here that makes a great souvenir!
While we were in Krakow, we stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Krakow. I loved how spacious the rooms were.
They even left brand new bottles of water and chocolates in the room every night!
How fun is this world clock in the lobby?? I seriously want one in my house!
The breakfast at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Krakow was amazing! I highly recommend the Radisson Blu if you’re looking for a great place to stay in Krakow that’s walking distance to everything.
Like this post? Save it on Pinterest!
Thank you again Amanda !
You’re my favourite travel agent. I don’t plan a trip now without looking at your blog first.
Thanks for this wonderful post about Cracow!
Thanks for informative sharing,
Even people in Poland didn’t discover Katowice yet! It was nice to read something like that about My City! I was in many beautiful places around the world and I’m proud of Poland and way it change.
Hi – I know this is an older post, but it was so helpful to us on our recent visit to Krakow that I wanted to let you know. Thank you so much for all the information. In celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary, this was a special trip for my husband and I. We have been fortunate enough to visit Europe on different occasion, but this was our first visit to Krakow and Prague. Your information on both was so helpful. The picture you show on Florianska Street was the view from my hotel room. It was a dream location. Everything was so affordable and the local people were just wonderful and friendly. They tried very hard to speak in English. I think La Campana will remain one of my favorite restaurants. The garden was just beautiful and the food wonderful. We went to Auschwitz and Birkenau. It’s hard to put what you see there into words, but we are glad we went. Prague was also fabulous. Yes, we ate a Trdelnik, of course. You were right about the views at Starbucks Prague Castle, they were great. So in closing thanks again for all the information and time you spent putting it together. Loved your pictures of Peru, hopefully get there one day.
Loving this thank you, we are off to Krakow on Sunday and I have made a few notes of places to go from here.
My friends are going to Auschwitz while we are there to show their respect … I have bottled out as I just can not face it.
Krakow definitely looks beautiful … I cant wait
Hi! I’m going to Krakow in May. I found Hotel in the centre – rooms look good, the location is great, near Rynek Glowny – I hope it will be fine :) I will use your tips, beautiful photos. I have heard a lot of good things about Kazimierz. I will definitely visit more than one restaurant in this area :)
Krakow is absolutely stunning! I love the Old Town and Kazimierz – especially by night! Jewish Square is the most atmospheric place in my opinion ;)
Lovely to hear that you liked my country so much :) I could read your blog for hours, yout trips are fascinating! There’s only one small thing I wanted to correct – the dragon in Kraków doesn’t go by the name Smok, smok simply means a dragon in Polish ;)
Beautiful pictures and memories of Kraków! I’m so glad you had a wonderful time in our picturesque country and discovered some interesting places. Hope to see more enthusiastic tourists eager to sightsee and not just those hen/stag parties who come to cheap drink and mess about in the city. I highly recommend our seaside, white, sandy beaches and the amazing dunes in Leba. Proud to be Polish:)
Great informative post! I lived in Krakow back in college and visit frequently. Looking forward to reading more, especially about the food!
My day to day life gets very busy – with working, and day-caring my delightful 3-year-old grandson on the days I don’t “work”. (3-year olds are more work than real work!) :) …………. Anyway, I sometimes forget that you and your delightful blog are here. Tonight I dropped by for a little read! Your words and your photography are as delightful, as they’ve always been, since I first “met” you, quite a number of years ago, now!
I’ll be back to visit again soon! ((hugs))
I spent 6 weeks twice in Krakow getting dental work done. I’m 74. My son is working in Germany so I decided, while visiting him, to drive the first time and then fly the second. I also stayed for a month in Jelenia Gora for follow-up dental work. In any case, I felt fairly safe in Krakow, but one day I went to the ATM to get cash I had to have to check out. They didn’t take CC or checks. I saw an older man with several young men hanging around so I waited. When they were gone I sent up to the ATM and withdrew the money. Just as I was pulling out, they came marching toward my car. The bottom line is I ended up getting punched in the face through the window. they tried to get in my car I presume to grab my purse on the seat but I had locked the doors. They were blocking my car so I gunned it and decided if they are that stupid I’m taking the chance. I got out, down the drive and onto the main street and checked out the next day. I hid my car and left early. Those thugs know everyone. I also lived in Vilnius, Lithuania and that atmosphere of no stable system of law and order pervaded there as well. Here, we may get attacked, but we can still go to the police and most likely get some help. If you go, go in a group. don’t go out at night or alone.
Sorry to hear about your experience!
What makes you think you can’t go to the police in Poland and get help?
(You’d be surprised how many people consider pretty much anywhere in the US an unsafe place to go… ;) It’s all about what you’re used to.)
This was so awesome to see, thank you! You’ve done Philly, where I live, and now Poland, where my ancestors are from! So fun to share in your journeys!
As always , a wonderful post with great info and beautiful pictures although maybe a bit over saturated. And yes, I would love to read about Auschwitz.
Poland is on my “next trip” list and I may go next year so I would love to read about all the places you visited including Auschwitz. Love all your photos !
Always a pleasure and so informative to read about your travels. I swear your blog practically guided me through Europe last summer. Krakow, as well as Auschwitz, among other places are on my to-do list for a trip back to Europe next fall. I look forward to reading more about your experience there, especially about your “go-to” spots for pierogi, YUM.
I would be most interested in your visit to Auschwitz; your thoughts and your photos. As hard as it would be to see, I think we need to be reminded from time to time. It hurts my heart so much to watch documentaries on it, but still I think it is important. I watched the movie Life is Beautiful and it took me 4 different days to watch it because of crying. Please do share your experience with us.
I am so glad you loved Poland as much as I did. It is a beautiful & friendly place with rich history. Auschwitz is too important not to report on, I was humbled to the core by what people endured. Looking forward to reading about your whole journey to this incredible land. Oh, the Salt Mine, what a surprise!
These pictures are beautiful. Had no idea Poland was so colorful. I would definitely be interested in Auschwitz. I have read many books on the Holocaust. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be there.
Thanks for sharing.
These photos and explanation of them was jaw dropping!! I never thought about it being so very colorful…..and it looks very clean……I don’t know really what I was expecting to see but this certainly was not it!! I also love love history and as sad to the heart as it is I would so enjoy hearing about Auchwitz. I can travel there and hear about it through you! Thank you so very much for letting us see this fascinating place!! I LOVED it! I bet your scrapbooks are full of photos and information about all of your travels. Blessings to you all! Thank you again!
I’m completely fascinated about how someone plans and executes such an extensive trip. Please write a blog on this topic!!!
Yes, please share about Auschwitz. I too am an avid WW2 history buff and would love to see and hear about your views.
I would like to read about your thoughts and experience at Auschwitz, although I would not enhance or alter your pictures at all, rather leave them as you took them.
I loved Krakow! Seeing your pictures brought back lots of great memories for me. Definitely a city I would visit again.
As for Auschwitz, if you feel you can, you should write about it. I found it to be a very sobering, moving site to experience. For those who are unable to travel there, a first person account from a friend is the next best thing. Looking forward to more posts and hopefully more Polish cities. Poland is one of my favorite European countries to visit!
i would love to get your perspective on your experience in Auschwitz. Loved when you wrote about Israel!
I always enjoy reading about your travels. You do such an excellent job of making me feel like I am there with you. I would be interested in reading about your visit to Aushwitz. It’s an area of history I have always been interested in and would like to see a first hand account of the camp and your thoughts while there.
Beautiful photos. I think you should definitely post about Auschwitz. History is not covered nearly as in-depth in schools today as it was when I was a child, and I fear today’s younger people have lost the significance of what happened during the holocaust. Those who don’t know our history are doomed to repeat it.
Welcome to Poland! It`s such a pleasure to know you were having a great time in our country :)
Welcome to Poland! It`s such a pleasure to know that you were having a good time in our country :)
Thank you for sharing. Your pictures are beautiful and I appreciated learning a bit of history too!
Thanks for the beautiful pictures which brought back wonderful memories of my visit in 2014. The trip to Auschwitz still haunts me and I would like to read your thoughts and feelings.
I’d definitely be interested in seeing the Auschwitz. While I adore your photo actions, raw photos might be more appropriate for Auschwitz.
I went to Dachau. It was torn down immediately after the war. The residents of the town didn’t want it there. I’m not sure what remains of Auschwitz. It would be better to see the authentic camp. I didn’t go, just because I can’t stand for a long time and there were long lines. I believe there were hundreds of these camps. I never knew that. There is no limit on the cruelty of human beings and if this doesn’t scare you, nothing will.
Such a beautiful city! So glad you’re home now, but I’m looking forward to reading about the rest of your adventure. Kisses to M, H and W!