Krakow was another of my 2016 adventures, and it was an unexpected gem of a destination and definitely high up of my list of places to travel to again. I was recommended by a friend to visit, and it was so budget friendly that I combined it with my trip to Prague, via a bumpy sleeper train.

If you are looking for an extremely friendly city to visit, that has both good food and vodka, and so much interesting culture and history to explore, Krakow is your destination. As with many Eastern European cities, there is a lot of WWII historical places to see, a thriving Jewish community and the most beautiful architecture and buildings you’ll ever experience.

What are we waiting for?! Let’s jump straight in.

Krakow City Guide

Getting Around

As per usual, we flew with Ryanair (commission now please Mr O’Leary?) from Stansted into Krakow for mega cheap. The flight is pretty quick, and because of that we pre-booked a taxi transfer via Krakow Shuttle for 18 euros. Our driver was super chirpy, and talked to us about his recommendations for the area and best places to try some vodka!

As an aside, every single person we came across in Krakow was outrageous friendly and helpful. We had a completely different experience in Prague (we travelled between these two countries in the same trip), and honestly I don’t think I’ve met a more friendly bunch of people than I did in Poland. It’s why I’m desperate to go back!

Flights and transfers aside, we did the entire trip on foot. Genuinely, Krakow is so small that you really will not require public transport or taxis so save your pennies for pierogi or schnitzel. Taxis are cheap, so if you are going further afield to say Auschwitz or the Salt Mines, get your hotel to book in advance for you. You can go to these places via bus, but in height of season these can be packed.

Where To Stay

After our Airbnb fell through last minute (grrr), I headed quickly across the Booking.com to try and find a place to lay our heads for a couple of nights. The week before we were due to fly I found the Art + Garden Residence, located just 10 minutes from the centre of the Old Town and only £97 for a two night stay with breakfast. Bargain.

Krakow City Guide

Stylishly finished (and relatively new when we stayed last year), they have a restaurant on site with a pretty garden, free WiFi and an extremely helpful front desk who happily arranged our taxis to Auschwitz for us last minute. Whilst you can get rooms right in the heart of the Old Town, they are more expensive so I’d totally recommend staying just 10 minutes out for the best value deals.

Looking for a super cheap city break with awesome history and sweet cuisine? Krakow is the one!Click To Tweet

Top Attractions

For a small city, there really is a fair amount to do, both in Krakow itself and a short journey away. By taking a day outside of main Krakow there were things we missed off our list (like the Salt Mines, exploring inside Wawel Castle and Schindler’s Factory) but if you plan your time carefully you can see much of what Krakow has to offer in 3 short days.

One for the history buffs – Krakow is definitely a city where WWII historical chat is in abundance. Depending on your viewpoint this can be a good or a bad thing – personally, I loved finding out more about Krakow’s role in the war and Polish modern history more generally.

Krakow City Guide

We started off with a Old Town free walking tour via Cracow Free Tours. It was absolutely brilliant and our guide, Ela took us from St Mary’s Basilica all the way to  Wawel Castle. I’d highly recommend that, and the free tour of Kazimierz that they also offer (more details below).

Auschwitz-Birkenau

There’s no getting away from it. If you are visiting Krakow, in my opinion there is no excuse not to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the most important locations in modern European history. I won’t lie, it was a sobering, heart-wrenching experience that I cannot truly put into words, and I didn’t take any photos for obvious reasons. But it had a profound impact on me, and I’d recommend visiting these two concentration camps, located very close together (you get to go to both on a guided tour ticket, which again I’d suggest is the best way of doing it).

We pre-booked a timed entrance, guided tour which I believe is the best way of truly understanding these locations. General entrance is free, but you should “book” your entry time.

Cost: Free (but recommended to book), or  45 PLN per person for a 3.5 hour tour with a guide. Tours available in various laguages.

St Mary’s Basilica

Honestly one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen, and that’s from someone who has seen gothic cathedrals in Prague, Brussels, Lisbon and Paris. A firm fixture on the market square, this is the beacon of Krakow’s Old Town, and is absolutely worth the small cost to see inside.

Krakow City Guide

As well as being a beautiful building, its history is fascinating too. From the slightly taller of the two towers, the hejnał mariacki (the city’s famous bugle call), is played every hour and you can watch it happen. The tune at one point breaks off mid-song to honour the trumpeter who was shot in the neck while belatedly warning the city of invaders. It’s a wonderful tradition, and one not to miss.

Cost: 10 PLN per adult to visit inside, and if you visit from April – October you can climb the tower  for an additional 15 PLN per adult.

Wawel Castle

Unlike any castle I’d ever seen before, Wawel is in fact a series of buildings and structures arranged around a central courtyard up on Wawel Hill. It’s an extremely important building in Krakow, and as well as giving you great views over the Vistula River it’s been the location of royalty and is now a premier art museum.

Krakow City Guide

We didn’t have time to visit inside on this short trip, but if you are into art I’ve heard it’s an amazing location to explore.

An interesting folklore tale is the dragon of Wawel Hill, who had its cave at the foot of the hill. The legend goes that a Polish prince defeated this dragon, founded the city of Krakow and built his palace over the slain dragon’s lair. There is now a monument there if a dragon that you can visit.

Krakow City Guide

Cost:  Range of prices depending what parts you visit, starting from 10 PLN per adult.

Jewish Quarter (Kazimierz)

As mentioned above, we did another walking tour of this area with the fabulous Filip from Cracow Free Tours, and it was an afternoon well spent. Wandering through this area gives you a totally different feel to the old town, especially seeing the contrast of synagogues versus St Mary’s Basilica. The real highlight of this area however is the Holocaust Memorial, which is an incredibly interesting installation of lots of empty chairs in the square.

Krakow City Guide

The square, known as Ghetto Heroes Square, is of historical importance. Located in the heart of the Jewish Ghetto where Jews were forced, in poor conditions, to live during WWII. In March 1943 this Ghetto was effectively cleared, with inhabitants sent to concentration camps or murdered, and the Empty Chairs Memorial commemorates this important part of Polish and European history.

We finished our walk here, just across the road from Schindler’s Factory so you can absolute combine the two if you have time.

Other highlights were seeing where Helena Rubenstein originally lived (one for the beauty junkies out there!) and finding out more about Jewish life during WW2. You can explore yourself of course, but the information and history we got from the tour was worth it.

Krakow City Guide

Cost: Free

Planty Park

Running in a ring around the old town, this unusual park is an awesome place to stroll when you’ve had your fill of buildings and WWII history. I don’t think I’d come across a city that was surrounded by a park like this before, and as we had to cross it from our hotel each day, we always had the opportunity to have a bit of a wander!

Cost: Free

Where To Eat + Drink

I feel like many people don’t talk much about Polish cuisine or the food vibe in Krakow, but honestly we have never ate so well and so cheaply in any other place in the world. If you want warming food and epic flavour, all washed down with a vodka chaser, you’ll be totally fine in Krakow.

Wodka

Pretty much does what it says on the tin. Just off the beaten track of the main market square, we popped in here before heading to catch our sleeper train to Prague in the hopes that some curated Polish vodka would send us off soundly to sleep.

Krakow City Guide

Every flavour of vodka exists here, and if you don’t know what you want, ask for the trademark tasting menu and you’ll be served up 6 large shots of vodka on a paddle to try. The interior is tiny and cosy and you’ll definitely end up talking to everyone in the bar.

Dawno Temu na Kazimierz

Based in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, Dawno Temu Na Kazimierz is an example of amazing Jewish-Polish cuisine and a cosy atmosphere. Hearty lamb and duck dishes feature on the menu, and klezmer music plays in the background. Perfection.

Scandale Royal

We stumbled upon this place by accident, but it was probably our greatest find. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner it’s also a cocktail bar and that’s exactly where we found ourselves, mid afternoon. Inside the opulent restaurant, supping on some of the most inventive cocktails we’d tasted.

Krakow City Guide
Restauracja Sukiennice

Many people say that restaurants close to the tourist spots are tourists traps and no good. In many places that may be true, but Sukiennice was the perfect place to try out some Polish and Eastern European classics.

I opted to start with pierogi, meat filled dumplings that are a staple in Poland (Krakow was full of pierogi restaurants), and then on to their giant pork schnitzel. Giant was the word, it was almost as big as the table! They have us an aperitif and only slightly raised their eyebrows when we ordered and giant schnitzel in one meal.

Krakow City Guide

In Conclusion

I freaking adored Krakow! It was quaint, it was beautiful and it was small enough not to be overwhelming for a quick visiting. The food was brilliant, everyone was friendly and best of all it was absolutely dirt cheap. Because of my penchant for WWII history, it was the perfect place to visit and because of it’s unspoilt nature, with some of the oldest architecture in Eastern Europe, it was unusual too.

I’d love to go back and finish off some of the stuff I missed, and to see some of my old favourites like the Cloth Hall and Market Square again – but actually this has made me want to visit more of Poland as a whole. Gdansk and Warsaw are now firmly on my European hit list, so if you have recommendations for these places, comment below!

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Krakow | Poland Holidays | European City Breaks | Travel Tips

Krakow | Poland Holidays | European City Breaks | Travel Tips
Krakow | Poland Holidays | European City Breaks | Travel Tips
Krakow | Poland Holidays | European City Breaks | Travel Tips

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  • Debra Schroeder

    Thanks for the tip about Krakow being budget friendly. I’m a big fan of saving money on travel. Bummer that you’re Airbnb booking canceled but the Art + Garden Residence sounds like it was a better deal. Great score on the free tours! I’m adding Krakow to my list, now I just need to find a cheap flight.

    • I hope you manage to find a cheap flight – Krakow truly is a wonderful, historical city! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  • Krakow looks absolutely gorgeous but I am actually more interested on the history of the place. I don’t know why but I am suddenly really interested about World War II history. I’ve been reading books and watching documentaries about it recently. The memorial for the Holocaust victims is very moving in my opinion. It saddened me seeing those empty chairs even on photos.

    Your hotel is lovely! Airbnb cancelling on you is a blessing in disguise!

    • Honestly if you are in to WW2 history this is a great place for you! I hope you manage to visit someday. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  • I have been in Krakow and I felt in love immediately. But now after seeing your pics I really want to go back. Did you enjoy the food?

    • I really did love the food – lots of really hearty eastern european dishes as well as Austrian influenced schnitzel – and the Polish pierogi are delicious! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  • The Art and Garden residence seems to be a bargain at $97 for 2 nights after the airbnb fell through. You can get some cheap last minute deals on booking! The Auschwitz-Birkenau and free walking tours sounds like a must as well as a night of drinking!

    • I’d definitely say you could easily do a night of drinking is some wonderful (and cheap) bars here – just avoid the British stag parties! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  • It looks like you fell on your feet with your accommodation – that looks nicer than any AirBnB! And I totally agree that you can’t visit Krakow without going to Auschwitz-Birkineau. And the guided tour is totally worth it. The personal touch is so much more powerful and meaningful.

    • I completely agree on the guided tour. It was truly personal and it felt truly humbling – most guides there have some family connection to the place. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  • Mel

    I would love to get to Krakow and your post makes it even more intriguing to me. Glad the accommodations worked out so well in the end. The city is so beautiful and a guided tour sounds like just the way to explore it.

    • I would definitely recommend the walking tours, they were really great. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • sophie

    I would love to go Krakow someday! The city is so beautiful and i think that guided tour is just the perfect way to explore it. The place has such power that you fall in love with it immediately. Thanks for sharing your experience! Lovely! 🙂

    • I hope you make it there – it truly is amazing. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • Nastja

    I just love your articles! I love the way you write and you really gave good informations about Krakow. It’s on my bucket list already for a long time! I also pinned your post to my board! Great job girl!

  • NowThatsAHoneymoon

    Krakow is in our bucket list! Thanks for all the tips. Plus I love the hotel where you stayed at, looks lovely!

    • The hotel was great I really would recommend. I hope you make it there!

  • Gareth Thompson

    God bless Ryanair! I mean, I can put up with the less-that-stellar service when they are enabling virtually the entirety of Europe to be accessible from the UK affordably and quickly. And Krakow is a really awesome spot which you did a great job in capturing with your photos and your write-up, the Old Quarter is just so beautiful

  • Thank you for sharing. Hope go to there one day. =)

  • Glimpses of The World

    Hey, that’s a good tip – to combine it with Prague, thanks! Wouldn’t think of it. Your pics are great! Old town looks amazing, didn’t even know how charming Krakow is. Well, it’s going up on my bucket list, thanks! 🙂

    • I hope you make it there one day – combining with Prague or Budapest is so easy! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • jacklyn.

    I’ve had Krakow on my sights for a while now but it just bumped up a few spaces on my bucket list thanks to you! I love hearing about stories when air b&bs fall through and then something else works out. That place totally was a bargain and was also so cute! I’m also not a huge drinker but with vodka in every flavor I might have to try a few out!

    • I would definitely suggested trying at least one vodka whilst there is a good thing! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • Erica Coffman

    “So much good food and vodka…” You’re speaking my language! 😉 And the fact that it has incredible history and beautiful architecture doesn’t hurt either. Good idea to combine the trip with Prague. I’ll definitely add Krakow to my Eastern Europe list!

    • I hope you get there! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • Riely Mills

    I now need to add Krakow to my list of places to see. I too am fond of WWII history. Auschwitz would be a must while in Krakow as well as the Holocaust Memorial. Although heart wrenching to experience, it’s one part of modern European history you can’t just forget. A friendly city makes all the difference as well while travelling. I wonder if the rest of Poland is that friendly.

    • Completely agree that you have to see these things to understand them. I’ve heard the rest of Poland is very good too! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • The Zapiekanka is totally the best!! I really want to visit Gdansk next. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • Gareth Thompson

    This is a really thorough write-up of a short visit to Krakow and you did a really nice job capturing at least some of the huge amounts of charm there, both with your photos and your words. It’s incredible to think of all the history, some of it very dark, that took place in Krakow while the architecture really does make it wonderfully atmospheric. A great post, thoroughly enjoyed

    • Thanks so much for your comment – I hope you get to visit one day 🙂

  • Luxurybackpacking

    I personally think Poland is such an underrated European country, many people overlook it but some of the cities architecture is stunning! I’ve never actually visited Krakow, but wow I love great food and vodka so I guess this is my dream destination!
    However, the dark history from WWII must be so insightful and heart-wrenching, it’s hard to put into words Im sure.

    • Poland is such a great place to visit – I’ll definitely be exploring more. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • MelBTravel

    I love Krakow it is one of those places you can go back to time and time again. This is a great detailed write for a 3 day weekend and I love some of your tips. I definitely love your accommodation at Art + Garden Residence, it looks beautiful and I can’t believe it cost you under £100.

    • Krakow will long be one of my favourite cities. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • Torgeir Wigum Lindland

    Never been to krakow before. in Poland I have only visited Gdansk and Sopot. But I have always wanted to og and Your post only increased my desire to visit the city. I am sure the visit to Auschwitz was a somber experience. I remember being quite moved when visiting Hiroshima a few years ago. So much evil and destruction exists in this world. Great post. Thank you for the tips!

    • I’d really love to see Gdansk – do you have any blogs on that? Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • Clare Colley

    I really loved Krakow when I visited there, it is a great city. The buildings are beautiful and there is so much to see. I did a vodka tasting tour which was great fun, can’t remember much towards the end though!!

    • I would have loved to do a proper tasting tour – sounds like it was really fun. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • businesstravelerswife

    I haven’t heard of this place before so thank you for putting it in my radar. 🙂 Your accommodation looks amazing! It’s a good thing that your Airbnb didn’t push through. I would love to see the inside of the castle. Too bad you missed that out!

    • Yes, it gives us an excuse to go bad! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • Kristine AARSHEIM

    Poland, my mother’s country! I love it there, and I always make sure to visit at least once or twice a year 🙂 Auschwitz is a must-do when in Kraków, I totally agree. Although it’s devastating, it’s an important part of history. I love the old town in Kraków as well. The marketplace, the buildings, the restaurants (mmmm pierogi).

    • Yes the pierogi – honestly the best! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • I visited Krakow last month and I totally love it! Krakow is my favorite city in Poland. I love the beauty of Wawel Castle and I saw the dragon as well.

    • I’m so glad you had a good time! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • A Woman Afoot

    I am not surprised you liked Krakow! I am lucky to spent some 6 years studying there 😉 It looked quite different back there, though… in the middle ages 😉

    What I would love to suggest everyone visiting is to go and see the Underground Museum, located right opposite the St.Mary’s Church. It’s an absolutely must for all archaeology and history fans, but also fun even for kids! The museum is the size of the whole market square on the side of St.Mary’s church, underground. Absolutely mind-blowing!

    You might also want to check the both of the Jewish cemeteries (Remuh on Szeroka Str. and the “New One” on Miodowa Str.) – beautiful, ancient and fascinating.

    • Yes we did see both cemeteries, so interesting but we missed the undergound tour – next time! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • I would definitely try the vodka – it’s wonderful! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • It looks like a town taken straight out of a fairytale. I definitely want yo visit more places in East Europe. All that beautiful architecture

    • A lot of eastern Europe really does feel very fairytale-esque! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • David Smith

    Great post. I travel to Poland quite often, but I usually stay in Warsaw, next time I definitely need to at least visit Krakow too. I really like Poland, and Warsaw is a beautiful city worth visiting too. I really like exploring it and discovering new places every time I am there. My last, and I think the best, discovery is a restaurant with Polish food called the Akademia (http://akademiarestaurant.com/). They serve delicious Polish food combined with modern, unexpected flavour. As I am a huge foodie, I will for sure visit them many times in the future 🙂

  • I went to Poland last summer, over the August bank holiday for a friend’s wedding. Unfortunately I flew into Warsaw, and was on such a tight schedule I didn’t get to go to Krakow, so it’s still on my “to visit” list! Hopefully I get there soon x

    • I haven’t visited Warsaw yet and I’m desperate to! Krakow is definitely incredible, so I hope you get there soon 🙂

  • Maya Hagen

    Amazing guide! I have been to Poland few times, but never actually got to know Krakow better. I will save your recommendations and visit it next time for sure 🙂 I have some friends in Warsaw, so that is usually my destination in Poland. It is also amazing and worth visiting, and there are tens of amazing places. One of my favorite is actually a small cozy bar, that I went for my friend’s birthday. It was called Bubbles and it was of the nicest bars I’ve been to. They had so many delicious champagnes and wines, but also incredibly delicious food. I can’t wait to go there again. And this time I need to stop in Krakow for few days too!

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