A GUIDE TO KRAKOW, POLAND
Krakow will always hold a special place in my heart. I come from a town that’s about an hour and a half away from Krakow, so this place is really special to me. Every time I was on summer holiday as a little girl I loved coming here. There’s just something about this place that has always made me feel warm and at home. As I grew into an adult I appreciated this place so much more for its rich history, delicious food, and stunning views.
Today the former royal capital of Poland attracts nearly 2 million international visitors a year. With history, beautiful art and an amazing pub scene it really is a place that anyone can enjoy. Here are my recommendations on things to do in Krakow.
Things to do in Krakow:
Royalty and Dragons:
Wawel Hill is located just at the end of Old Town on the left bank of the Vistula river. Once you come here you will feel like you walked into another century. There is so much history on Wawel Hill that you will automatically feel immersed in it.
Wawel Castle is the home of royalty in Poland. This is where all the royal crownings used to happen. Today there is no royalty living there except for old dead kings (sorry). There is a museum that showcases the tombs of these kings that you can see as well.
But my favorite (and a favorite of many children) is the fire-breathing Dragon. YEP! Krakow has a fire-breathing dragon. There is a legend about the dragon that used to live underneath Wawel Hill that terrorized the Krakow residence. Be sure to check out the Dragons Den too, which is a pretty incredible cave where said dragon used to live, or maybe he still does?
Walk across Wisla (Vistula) River:
After you’ve explored Wawel Hill/Castle/Dragons Den visit the Vistula River. The Vistula River is the longest river in Poland, running from the very south of Poland (near the Tatry Mountains) into the Baltic Sea. The river runs for miles across the entire city and it’s a lovely place to walk, bike, or enjoy a picnic.
Insiders Tip: Take the bridges and walk along both sides, some of the bridges are beautiful with some very interesting sculptures
Visit and spend an entire day at Rynek Glowny (Main Square)
I have to say that I think Krakow has the most beautiful Main Square in all of Poland. And you might agree with me once you come here. It’s a huge 10-acre square with beautiful ornate Medieval and Renaissance architecture. The square houses a lot of the tourist attractions in Krakow like St. Marys Church and Sukiennice (Cloth Hall)
The beautiful cobble stoned square is a UNESCO world heritage site and is filled with tons of history. I strongly suggest doing a guided tour of the square as you can learn so much about the history that happened here.
Immerse yourself in art at Mocak Contemporary Art Museum
I know that anyone going to this part of town is going to Schindlers Factory but the Mocak museum is located next door to the factory and should not be overlooked. I am a huge fan of contemporary art and love going to different art museums throughout the world. MOMA’s and Contemporary Art Museums are always my favorite though. This museum has a few exhibits, a rotating exhibit, and a still exhibit. Both were great! I went to the museum with a few friends that didn’t have the patience to sit and look at art all day like I do. And even they thought that the art was easy to understand with their explanations and displays. We were all moved by certain pieces and though the museum was exceptional.
Day trips from Krakow:
Reflect on the horrors of the Holocaust
It’s no secret that Krakow and Poland have had a brutal history before. Just a couple hours away from Krakow you can visit the most famous of the Concentration Camps: Auschwitz and Birkenau where 1.5 million Jews were mass murdered. I suggest you do a guided group tour, you can learn so much more about the history of Krakow and World War II than from reading the signs. Throughout the entire camp, there is a feeling of death lingering and you can’t help but to feel for everyone involved. This is really a once in a lifetime experience that will leave you shaken up and emotional for days.
Get Salty at Wieliczka Salt Mines
Wieliczka Salt Mine is a 700 years old salt mile that goes over 1000 feet underground. It is filled with pits and chambers, there are sculptures, paintings, even a cathedral with chandeliers all made out of natural mineral salt. I dare you to lick a wall.
Where to Eat & Drink
We stumbled across this place for breakfast as we were staying in the Kazimierz neighborhood and this place was open. It is a place mostly known for their poached eggs but they have a few other breakfast options available (great for veggies). I personally wasn’t too hungry that morning and ordered a delicious parfait but from the looks of it, all of the poached eggs were delicious. They also had a great selection of fresh coffees. The staff was super friendly, but slightly slow and the food was delicious.
Address: Estery 5, 31-056 Kraków
I’ve heard wonderful things about this place for dinner but I only experienced it for breakfast. They have a big menu that can satisfy anyone with different drink options as well. The décor inside is beautiful and it’s a great spot to sit down relax a bit and drink a coffee or an afternoon cocktail. The food was a bit expensive for the area that it’s in, but super tasty so it didn’t matter.
Address: Estery 22, 33-332 Kraków
Located in the Jewish district, this is one of my favorite vegan restaurants in all of Krakow. Their service is quick and the food is great. They have an amazing selection of veggie burgers, salads, and soups. Also, serve various smoothies and teas. Great spot for lunch and the staff all speaks English.
Address: Plac Wolnica 12, 33-332 Kraków
Most European cities have really good kebabs, no matter where you are in Europe. Krakow is no different, what makes the kebabs in Krakow special though is that they have a few restaurants throughout the city that serve veggie kebabs. So if you don’t eat much meat like me this is a special treat that you can enjoy as well.
Address: Starowiślna 6, 31-038 Kraków
Probably the best zapiekanki in all of Poland, you have to have one in Krakow. Zapiekanki are essentially Polish pizzas made on open face bread, with cheese, mushrooms, and ketchup. There are tons of different shops and restaurants that serve zapiekanki in Krakow, you have to try one you won’t be disappointed if you do.
Address: Pl Nowy 4B, 33-332 Kraków
One of my favorite speakeasy/cocktail lounges I’ve ever been to. The entrance to this place is a bit selective and you pretty much need reservations to get it. But once you get upstairs it’s like walking into another decade. The style, décor, and atmosphere are simply amazing. The bartenders and waiters were brilliant and they really know how to craft a delicious cocktail. Prices are a bit high for Polish prices, but you won’t be disappointed. Try the fig and whiskey cocktail.
Address: Straszewskiego 28, 31-153 Kraków
Where to stay:
I’ve stayed at a few hostels before in Krakow that all turned out to be party hostels (a lot of fun, but not what I was looking for on my last trip). This was a great hotel/hostel. I really liked that it was treated more like a hotel at a hostel price. Located between the Vistula and the Jewish quarter this was the perfect location. Close to all the nightlife, but still in a quiet spot where you can sleep at night. There are tons of pubs and restaurants nearby that you can go to or relax on their beautiful gated patio. They have a big kitchen/dining area with a great breakfast and serve tea and coffee all day. Their rooms and bathrooms are also really big which made you feel more like you were in a hotel environment. The front desk was really helpful with giving us recommendations as well able to book any trips you wanted.
Address: Skawińska 7, 31-066 Kraków
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xoxo Ania Travels 💜
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Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Secret Garden Hostel. All opinions are my own. This post contains some affiliate links which will earn me a few cents to contribute to the running of this site if you make a qualifying purchase at no extra cost to you.