Kraków is an enchanting city in the south of Poland, full of history and entertainment. This article holds the 20 best things to do in Kraków, although there are certainly dozens of amazing things to do in Kraków. While Kraków may not be the largest city you will visit in Europe, there is a reason it is called the “new Prague” of Europe. Beautiful architecture from the middle of the last millennium is everywhere, especially in the historic center of the city, with this architecture having survived many centuries of wars fought against Poland, for which Kraków once served as national capital.
Millions of tourists choose to visit Kraków every year, with Kraków being the most visited city in all of Poland. While most of those tourists are domestic, there are increasing numbers from around Europe and the Middle East, drawn by low prices, bustling nightlife, and all the great things to do. I figure that is why you might be reading this list right now. As someone who has been to Kraków three times, each an entirely different experience, I am glad to supply my expertise for this list.
The 20 best things to do in Kraków are split into two separate parts. The first 10 cover the most important sights of the city, all in the historic center, where the average tourists spend most of their time. For those of you looking for further adventure, the next 10 on the list cover those in the other parts of Kraków, where not as many tourists choose to venture. Finally, I have dedicated a short bit of this article to day trips that can be taken but are better explained fully in another article. Additionally, I have supplied the basics for everything you need to know before you visit Kraków.
So, read on to learn about these best things to do in Kraków, and I hope they provide you with inspiration for your future trip to Kraków!
The Touristic Center of Kraków
This first set of activities centers around the most popular parts of the city. This is typically where many tourists spend all their time when arriving in Kraków, and thus you will find that it can get quite crowded. While I believe that there are many worthwhile parts of Kraków away from the center, the attractions here are certainly among the best things to do in Kraków, and you should center your time around visiting quite a few of these.
This entire area is extremely walkable, so if you plan to explore this area only, you should not ever rent a car, or even use public transportation. Thus, there will not be a section for each entry about public transportation, as it all involves walking certain distances. Also, since there are many good hotels directly in the center, you can come to Kraków without ever leaving this center. Again, I do not recommend this, but if you only have a limited amount of time, staying in the touristic center is the way to go. Read on to find out more.
1. Explore the Old Town Market Square
Description: What list of the best things to do in Kraków could not start with the Kraków Old Town Market Square? It is perhaps one of the most famous locations in all of Poland, a true landmark of Poland, and almost all the millions of tourists who arrive in Poland will walk through this storied location. This Market Square has served as a center for commerce since the 13th century, and due to it being the only place allowed for commerce back in the day, it is the largest medieval town square in existence today in Europe. Here you will find statues, museums, historic buildings, restaurants, and a massive pack of greedy pigeons.
The main landmarks you will see in the town center include the Cloth Hall and the Town Hall Tower. The Cloth Hall is the distinctive building directly in the center of the square, with its beautiful columns. Inside, you will find stalls selling “traditional” souvenirs (take that with a grain of salt), and other nice things to buy. You will also, if you choose to look up, find the painted symbols of the many places of Poland that came to trade here. Walking outside, you will find the Town Hall Tower, which you can summit for a mediocre view of the Old Town, or just enter the history museum inside.
Around the outside of the Market Square are many restaurants, museums, and the beautiful St. Mary’s Church (which gets its own entry on this list). Hence, most people here are going to take dozens of pictures or take part in the occasional festivities. One of these is the top-ranked Kraków Christmas Market, a Polish Christmas tradition and one of the best Kraków winter activities. Here you can try some traditional Polish Christmas food or find a nice souvenir for a Christmas gift. In other parts of the year, you will find fairs for Easter, concerts, and other major civic activities.
All in all, it seems unlikely that you will miss the Kraków Old Town Market Square when on a visit. There is much more to be said about this location but consider visiting the museum later this list to learn more about its history. Otherwise, just appreciate the beauty of this, one of the best things to do in Kraków.
Hours: The Market Square is, of course, open at all times of the day. During the day, it is a bustling center for all tourists, coming to see the sights or enjoy a meal. At night, however, the Market Square becomes the center of the famous Kraków nightlife. So, it may become less family friendly than during the day, especially once the stag parties start roaming. For some more information about this, look for the special section at the end of this blog!
Costs: Any costs of the Market Square are associated with any foods, souvenirs, or experiences you choose to buy, otherwise this is the quintessential free place in Kraków!
A side note about travel is related to the horse-carriage rides you will find in the center of Kraków. In my opinion, they are most definitely not worth it. There is no set price for using them, the owners will decide based on whatever factors they choose. You can bet with high certainty that not speaking Polish will raise the price significantly. Additionally, there are issues with animal welfare that must be considered. Overall, I would recommend just walking the streets of the area yourself, it is completely flat and safe, and you will save so much money.
2. Visit Wawel Castle and Cathedral
Description: Wawel Castle is one of the most important historic sites in all of Poland. For centuries, it was the seat of power of Poland, with a long line of kings and queens of Poland and Lithuania, as well as other surrounding countries, living and ruling from the top of Wawel Hill. It is no surprise that Wawel Castle is one of the most visited attractions in all of Poland. Today, it houses a variety of museums dedicated to the history of the site, as well as Poland in general. It can be hard to choose which to visit, so find a brief description of the important ones (in my opinion) below:
- State Rooms: The historic rooms that housed the main rooms of Poland’s early government. The king ruled from here, and early version of the Polish Sejm also met here. You will find gaudy interiors and artwork here.
- Crown Treasury: This holds much of the treasures that was owned by the very wealthy Polish royal family throughout history. Unfortunately, much of Wawel housed was stolen during WWII, but some was preserved or recovered. Here, you can see it all.
- Armoury: Here you can see a massive collection of medieval weapons, shields, armor, and more. The collection of early guns and crossbows is especially cool.
- The Lost Wawel: This exhibit combines archaeology with history, showing you parts of the castle that have become hidden over time, as well as the remains of some early settlements on Wawel Hill.
- Art of the Orient: Poland and the Ottoman Empire had much contact throughout history. In this exhibit, you can see many of the items bought through trade with the Ottomans, with much of this from China and the orient.
- Temporary Exhibitions: Wawel Castle usually has a variety of temporary exhibits available to see throughout the year. Check the website for details on what you can see when you plan to visit.
Also, on Wawel Hill is the historic Wawel Cathedral, which although attached to the castle, is run separately, with a separate ticket office and hours. This is perhaps the best thing to choose to visit. Inside, you will find a beautiful cathedral, but of the highest interest are the very famous Poles buried in the cathedral. Many of Poland’s kings and queens lie here, as well as famous military men, and a former president and his wife who died tragically in a plane crash. So, for lots of history, the Wawel Cathedral is a good choice.
Hours: The hours for the castle vary throughout the year, and completely depend on which of the many attractions you want to visit. So, please check the castle’s website, linked above, for more information. The same applies for the cathedral, whose website is also linked above.
Costs: With so many exhibits to choose from, it is a shame that there is no combined ticket to choose to visit everything. Rather, you must pick and choose which to visit before coming and pay separately for each. However, if you want to avoid this cost-benefit decision, consider visiting on Mondays, when admission to some of the important parts of the castle is entirely free. However, hours are much shorter, and tickets are limited and often sell out, so make sure to show up early! Visit the website for more information. For the Cathedral, tickets always cost 22 PLN/15 PLN.
3. Admire St. Mary’s Church
Description: This beautiful brick Gothic church is east of the Old Town Market Square, making it one of the most popular and best things to do in Kraków. It is part of the UNESCO complex of the Old Town. From the outside, you can admire the two distinct towers. From the inside, you can see the beautiful altar, as well as the other artwork of Polish masters. There is also a side basilica just for people to pray. While you cannot take pictures inside, it is fun to admire the beauty inside.
If you do not want to go inside, you can stay outside for some good pictures. Additionally, every hour on the hour, there is a traditional trumpet call. History states that the hourly bugle call was given from the town tower, or to give warning of impending attacks. This was done until the bugler was shot in the throat while warning of a Mongol attack. Now, the trumpet call is done to commemorate this legend, and is even broadcast on Polish radio every day at noon. So, inside or out, St. Mary’s Basilica is one of the best things to do in Kraków.
Hours: The inside is open every day. From Monday to Saturday, it is open from 11:30 AM to 6 PM, and on Sundays and holidays from 2 PM to 6 PM. The church is also closed to visitors on major holidays
Costs: Entry inside is not free, unlike most churches. A ticket costs 15 PLN/8 PLN reduced. Children under 8 or disabled persons are free.
4. Walk up Ulica Floriańska
Description: While not the longest street in the Kraków Old Town, it is perhaps the most famous and packed city street you will find anywhere in Kraków, and even Poland. Ulica Floriańska, one of the city’s oldest streets, stretches from the beautiful and famous Floriańska Gate, one of the main entrances to medieval Kraków, until St. Mary’s Church. Thus, as you walk down the street, you will be treated to spectacular views of one of the icons of the city. Additionally, you will find many restaurants, bars, shops, and tourist agencies along the way.
Along the way, consider looking at some of the buildings. The houses here are in the traditional tenement house style from centuries ago. Some host beautiful reliefs and artwork, some have major history behind them. You can sit and imagine the lives of the people who used to live in these buildings. Otherwise, just enjoy the commerce and views along the way. This is certainly one of the best things to do in Kraków.
Hours: As a public street, you can visit anytime. Starting from lunchtime until after dinner time will be the busiest time to visit, but even at night Ulica Floriańska can be quite busy with people searching for a bar, or a late-night snack after a night at the bars.
Costs: This is a completely free activity, but I am certain you will buy something along the way.
|Alternative: Of course, walking up any of the streets of the Old Town is highly recommended. Some will be less busy than others. One unique feature of Kraków is the alleyways hidden between buildings that connect the main roads of Kraków. One such example is Pasaż Bielaka, which on a busy Friday had only two other people walking down, and a few customers in the restaurants and shops. It’s a bit hard to find, but the adventure is worth it for some surprising peace and quiet!
5. Visit the Princes Czartoryski Museum
Description: Did you know that there is a museum with a Da Vinci in Poland? You did not? This would make you like most foreign tourists that come to Kraków. While the Princes Czartoryski Museum often shows up on lists of the best things to do in Kraków, I don’t think people take it seriously that there is a Da Vinci painting in Kraków!
Not only is this painting a Da Vinci, but it is also one of four existing Da Vinci paintings of a women, with one of the other examples being that famous painting over in France that everyone talks about. Well, you can talk about Lady with an Ermine, and get a picture without fighting through a hoard of people.
Otherwise, this museum also has a nice collection of artworks to explore and admire. The Princes Czartoryski holds art that was preserved by the wealthy former royal families of Poland during the erasure of Poland from the map during the partition by other forces in Europe. Today, you can see everything they saved and learn about this family. All in all, a top-notch museum that many people miss, even though it is on a prominent corner in the Old Town.
If you are looking for another art museum that is even less busy, consider the National Museum in Kraków. While I was not super impressed by the collection inside, especially based on the price you would have to pay, the art collection upstairs, which has art from the 19th century to the present, is good fun if you enjoy that sort of thing. Also, even on a busy Friday night the museum was quiet, making it worth a visit if the Princes Czartoryski Museum is too busy the day you want to go.
Hours: The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 6 PM. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Costs: Tickets to the museum are quite expensive, but this is to reduce the demand for people visiting, to ensure a nice experience when seeing the Da Vinci painting. Tickets cost 60 PLN/45 PLN, or even 1 PLN if you have a Polish student card. I would recommend buying your tickets in advance. Also, visiting on Tuesdays is free, and tickets are available on a first come, first served basis.
6. Stroll through Planty
Description: Do you want a little bit of a breather from the hustle and bustle of the Old Town and its many attractions? Surrounding the Old Town is the beautiful Planty, a park that sits today where the city walls of Kraków, as well as the intricate system of moats, used to exist. It acts as a green oasis, blocking out the sound of the Old Town from the rest of the city, while also serving as an amazing place to take a walk. The big leafy trees are especially beautiful in the fall, or after the leaves have fallen, fresh snowfall makes this a perfect place to enjoy a romantic stroll or start a snowball fight.
You can probably spend an hour just walking around Planty if you really wanted to. There are many benches to choose from along the way. Some sights you will see while taking a stroll include the Barbican, part of the former fortifications of the city, and the main entrance to the medieval city of Kraków. You can also see some remnants of the city walls along the way, although most were torn down centuries ago. Otherwise, just enjoy the sights and sounds of this beautiful park, one of the best things to do in Kraków!
Hours: Planty, as a public un-gated park, is open at all hours. The least busy time is earlier in the morning, around sunrise, which can be quite early in the summer. Otherwise, do expect there to be plenty of people here still. The least busy park is probably the part of Planty on the western side of the Old Town, where instead you will find the university students of Jagiellonian University, Poland’s oldest institution of higher education.
Costs: Enjoying Planty is also 100% free.
7. Explore Kazimierz and Plac Nowy
Description: Kazimierz is often viewed as the trendy area of Kraków to visit and is thus one of the best things to do in Kraków. Kazimierz is a small district found next to Wawel Castle and the Vistula River, full of narrow streets and beautiful buildings. Kazimierz used to be a separate city in a different place in the world. In Kazimierz, one of the largest Jewish populations in the world thrived for many centuries, with Jews trading and practicing their religion freely under mandate by the Polish monarchs who ruled at Wawel. Today, the district shifted to its current location, and still houses places of importance to Jewish history in Poland.
Perhaps the most important place in Kazimierz is Plac Nowy. Plac Nowy is a small square in the center of Kazimierz, where you are sure to find a buzzing bar or place to grab a bite to eat. Central to the culinary experience of Kraków is the zapiekanka, one of the best Polish foods to try. Zapiekanki (the plural version) were created during the communist days of Poland, when the government had thawed a bit and allowed in outside materials, such as French baguettes. Combining the baguettes with mozzarella, mushrooms, and other toppings created this icon of Kraków. In Plac Nowy, you can get zapiekanki at any of the places in the center, with mushrooms or without.
Other than Plac Nowy, just make sure to walk around a bit. There is lots to do in Kazimierz. You can visit the Stara Synagoga, a museum for Jewish culture, or the impressive Corpus Christi Basilica. Or you can visit the fantastic Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków, full of historical artifacts from Kraków, including from the Jewish population of years past. And once the night hits, party it up with a mix of tourists and locals. All in all, Kazimierz is a must-see when visiting Kraków.
Hours: Kazimierz is of course open any time. If you want to buy a zapiekanka, the stalls in Plac Nowy are usually open until quite late, some are open until 2 AM for example. Other attractions in Kazimierz are open based on their schedules, so check out the websites of any individual place you want to go.
Costs: Exploring Kazimierz is of course entirely free. If you want to buy a zapiekanka, a small one (which will be half of a baguette) will cost between 10-15 PLN, and a full one (the whole baguette) will cost between 20-30 PLN.
8. Walk along the Vistula River
Description: The Vistula River is one of the Poland’s most important rivers, flowing through the most important cities of Poland today and in the past, including Warsaw, Gdańsk, and Toruń. In Kraków, it served as a natural barrier between the Old Town, and the rest of the city, including the original location of Kazimierz. Today, there is a set of boulevards along the river, where you can walk or bike, admiring views along the way. The most prominent view will be that of the Wawel Castle, sitting on the hill above the river. But you can also see the underrated Podgórze district across the river. Make sure to cross one of the bridges for a cool experience!
Additionally, there are two attractions along the Vistula Boulevards that make a walk here one of the best things to do in Kraków. The first is Smok Wawelski. This is a famous dragon statue, with the dragon being a symbol of Kraków, as Kraków is allegedly named after Krakus, a tribal leader who slayed a dragon. This statue is famous for breathing fire! Yes, real flames come out of the dragon every few minutes, taking a great photo opportunity. Otherwise, take a walk down the Kraków Avenue of Stars, and see some of the seemingly random famous people such as Benedict Cumberbatch, who have been enshrined here.
(Do note that one of the names is of a less than popular Polish film director that could be controversial and triggering to some)
Hours: You can walk along the banks of the river at any time of day. I would recommend visiting just before sunset. You can sit on the seats or steps just east of Most Dębnicki w Krakowie and watch the sunset. Then, you can walk east along the river, and see the flames of the Smok Wawelski in full effect under the night sky.
Costs: As per the other walks on this list so far, walking along the Vistula is entirely free.
9. Visit the Rynek Underground Museum
Description: This cool museum is a result of some excavations done on the Old Town Market Square at the beginning of this century. While doing this, remains of the original Cloth Hall were found underneath the square and some interesting graves. Because of this, the area under the Market Square was developed as a museum that today attracts thousands of tourists. You will learn about the history of the Market Square in its entirety, while walking below ground.
Some exhibits of note are that describing the burials of suspected vampires. While you will not see actual skeletons today, when excavating, skeletons tied individually in bundles were discovered. This was supposedly done because those that had died were accused of being vampires. Maybe this is because they looked different or died of something mysterious. But either way, it today makes for an interesting learning experience. Additionally, you can see, and walk, some of the original market stalls of the Market Square. All in all, the Rynek Underground Museum is an interesting place to visit!
Hours: The Museum is open every day, except for the second Monday of the month, as well as major holidays. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, the museum is open from 10 AM to 7 PM. From Friday to Sunday, the museum is open from 10 AM to 8 PM. Finally, on Tuesdays, the hours are shortened to just 10 AM to 2 PM.
Costs: A ticket for admission costs 32 PLN/28 PLN reduced. Children under 7 can visit for free. You can book tickets online ahead of time, or on the day at the ticket office. Visiting on Tuesday is also free. On these days, you cannot book tickets ahead of time. From what I have heard, getting to the ticket office before opening times is recommended, so that you do not have to wait in a long line. However, this might only be necessary on busy weekends or holidays.
10. Visit Stary Kleparz, a traditional marketplace
Description: While commerce in Kraków’s past was limited to the Old Town Market Square, today it branches out into the city. For a traditional experience, that is amongst the best things to do in Kraków, visit the Stary Kleparz. Located just north of the center of the Old Town, here you will find dozens of stalls selling everything you could possibly need. From fresh fruits and vegetables, to bread, dairy, sweets, fish, and even a few household products, local Cracovians, especially older ones, come here to shop. When I visited on a cold Saturday morning, I did not hear a single word of English the whole time I was there. So, this is a true immersive experience!
Additionally, the Stary Kleparz typically hosts various culinary events throughout the year. For 2023, the market hosted an Art & Food Bazaar themed around Mediterranean markets, with this bazaar happening once a month from March through December. If you get tired of the Stary Kleparz, not far away is the Nowy Kleparz, another popular market center for locals to buy goods. Here you will also find some good restaurants with Polish and international food (such as some of the best Mexican food I have had in Poland). Overall, I recommend a trip to a traditional marketplace in Kraków for a look into the lives of locals, or to practice your Polish and make friends.
Hours: The Stary Kleparz is open from Monday to Saturday. From Monday to Friday, it is open from 6 AM to 6 PM, and on Saturdays from 6 AM to 3 PM. The earlier you go increases the likeliness of there being more locals there.
Costs: It is free to walk around the marketplace, but if you choose to buy something, make sure you have some cash on hand, as many of the vendors, for food especially, will only accept cash. There are ATMs nearby, as well as a paid bathroom.
Outside the Touristic Center of Kraków
Venturing outside the center is good for many reasons. Firstly, Kraków has much more to offer in terms of history and adventure outside the center, from famous historical sites to beautiful parks and lakes. Additionally, an overwhelming majority of tourists, especially the many that arrive from outside of Poland, rarely venture to these parts of the cities. While there certainly may be tourists in some parts, you might find yourself in a beautiful spot with only some locals walking around! Thus, if you want to get a true feel for the city of Kraków, visiting one of these following things on the list is recommended.
To visit these best things to do in Kraków, you will likely need to use public transportation, or a car that you may choose to rent. Most of these attractions can be reached in a maximum of 30 minutes. I would recommend using trams as much as possible, as traffic in Kraków can get quite bad, and trams are the only guaranteed method of public transportation that you will not get stuck in traffic. Read on to learn more!
11. Visit Schindler’s Factory
Description: While Schindler’s Factory is found outside the touristic center of Kraków, it is still one of the most popular and best things to do in Kraków and will be one of the few places where you will find a larger number of tourists away from the center. This is due to the history and international knowledge about former factory owner Oskar Schindler, whose story was portrayed in the famous film Schindler’s List. However, when you come to visit the factory, do not expect a museum dedicated to the movie. Rather, expect a wonderfully comprehensive look into the realities of WWII for the people of Kraków, especially the sizable Jewish population.
The museum takes you through multiple floors of information, starting from the beginning. You will find interactive video boards, audio recreations, billboards, small activities, short films, and other mediums to tell the entire story. You will also find many things saved from the terrible events of WWII and the Holocaust, including handwritten letters and toys. All in all, the museum is very solemn, but very informative. Do note that lots of tours tend to go through the museum at a slower pace. Do not be afraid to walk through the groups so that you can see the museum at your preferred pace.
Hours: The factory is open from 9 AM to 6 PM from Tuesday to Sunday, and for shortened hours from 10 AM to 2 PM on Mondays. Additionally, the museum is closed on the first Tuesday of every month. Please note you must arrive a minimum of 90 minutes before closing to be admitted.
Costs: Ticket prices are 32 PLN/28 PLN. Renting a tour guide will cost a lot more money but might be worth it if you are really interested in history. Additionally, you can get a 4-person family ticket for 64 PLN. Admission is free on Mondays. I would highly recommend getting your ticket in advance online, as tickets are usually sold out before the day starts. On Mondays, get there early to ensure you do not have to wait for a long time.
Travel Information: The cheapest way to get to Schindler’s Factory is to arrive at the Plac Bohaterów Getta tram stop. Tram 3 and Tram 24 take you directly to this stop from the Old Town, or Tram 17 takes you there from underneath the central train station. After arriving, you then take a short 7-minute walk to the museum, underneath the train tracks. Parking is very limited, there is usually only street parking, so taking public transportation is the way to go.
12. Summit Kościuszko Mound
Description: Kościuszko Mound is one of the most prominent monuments you can find in Kraków. This mound lies over 130 meters (426 feet) above the Vistula River, with the mound itself being 36 meters (118 feet) tall. The mound was built to commemorate the famous Polish war hero and citizen of Kraków Tadeusz Kościuszko. Kościuszko fought in many Polish battles, including as part of the Kościuszko Uprising, an attempt to wrest control back from the Russian forces. Perhaps more famously, he fought in the American Revolutionary War, and is also consider a hero in the United States.
Today, this mound serves as a memorial to Kościuszko, with information about his life and death. But there are also exhibits about Polish history, especially related to wars, and exhibits of historical artifacts. Check their website for up-to-date info on the exhibits. But the most popular reason to visit, making Kościuszko Mound one of the best things to do in Kraków, is the amazing 360-degree view of Kraków the mound provides. You can clearly see the beautiful Old Town, Vistula River, Wawel Castle, and even the Tatra Mountains on a clear day, making the view from Kościuszko Mound the best view you can get in Kraków. Give it a visit, you will not be disappointed!
Hours: The hours to visit the mound are traditionally from 9 AM to 3:30 PM every day, except some major holidays. However, during the summer, the hours may be extended for the ability to watch the beautiful sunsets from the mound.
Costs: As of writing, a ticket to the mound costs 24 PLN/18 PLN. You can also get family tickets for 4 or 6 people for 48/72 PLN. There is free entry three times per year related to important days in Kościuszko’s life. His birthday (February 4th) and death day (October 15th) are two of the days, with the other being March 24th, a date on which he made an oath and starting a famous Polish uprising.
Travel Information: There are two buses directly to the top of the hill where the mound starts. Both Bus 100 and Bus 101 leave from near the ICE Kraków Congress Centre across the river from Wawel Castle to get you there. From the Old Town, you must take Bus 152 to the Przegon stop and walk about 25 minutes from there or take Bus 192 to the same stop from the central train station. Otherwise, there is a limited amount of parking at the top.
13. Explore Podgórze
Description: Podgórze is a former city of Poland, that eventually merged with neighboring Kraków at the beginning of the 20th century. Because it developed as its own city separated from Kraków, it has its own distinct character. However, many people skip visiting this area, even though it is a short walk from the more-famous Kazimierz district. But there is so much to do in Podgórze. Many of the entries on this list, including Schindler’s Factory, Krakus Mound, and Płaszów Concentration Camp are found within Podgórze. You should visit just to try a meal, or walk along the Vistula at the minimum, but there are other activities that make visiting it one of the best things to do in Kraków.
You should start in the Podgórze Market Square, a much quieter alternative to the Old Town Market Square. It also has its own beautiful church, St. Joseph’s Church, that serves as a counterpart to St. Mary’s Church in the Old Town. The style of this church is more modern Gothic and has a beautiful exterior. Then, you can head up the hill behind the church into Park Wojciecha Bednarskiego for a great view of Podgórze. Other than walking the streets, consider a trip to Plac Bohaterów Getta, a square in commemoration of the Kraków Ghetto, and some history museums. All in all, Podgórze is quirky and full of history.
Hours: Podgórze, as an entire neighborhood, can be explored at any time of the day. During the daytime is the best, as this is when the activities are open.
Costs: Unsurprisingly, exploring Podgórze is also entirely free, except for any activities you might take part in.
Travel Information: Since Podgórze is a very large area, there are many bus and tram options. If you want to start with the Podgórze Market Square, a good central starting point, you can take Tram 8 or Tram 10 from near the Old Town to the Korona tram stop and walk from there. Tram 13 and Tram 72 take you through other parts of the city (although note that Tram 72 may stop running at any time due to its temporary nature, keep an eye on Jakdojade for update transit information). Any parking would be paid street parking found throughout the city.
14. Visit Henryk Jordan Park
Description: If you are looking for a nice park to explore close to the center, but still far enough away that it will mostly be inhabited by locals, consider visiting Henryk Jordan Park. These English-style gardens are full of monuments and grottos for sculptures, but also lots to do, especially for kids. There are multiple big playgrounds, bike paths, a skatepark, basketball courts, and more. Also, in the winter, there is a large hill perfect for sledding, and a seasonal ice park that is one of the best (but still very quiet) places to ice skate during the winter. Or just take a walk or have a picnic on one of the many large fields.
If this is not enough, right across the street from the park is Błonia w Krakówie, a massive set of fields that stretches for the equivalent of 5 tram stops. While there is nothing exactly here, that is what can make the experience fun. Here you can take your dog, or child, and run around, throw a frisbee, play some football, or have a nice picnic, all in relative quiet. During the summer, there may be major festivals and events here as well. All in all, this field, combined with Henryk Jordan Park, is one of the best outdoors spots amongst the best things to do in Kraków.
Hours: Henryk Jordan Park is a gate park, so it has hours. These are from 6 AM to 10 PM every day, no matter the season. The fields across the street are accessible at any time.
Costs: Visiting Henryk Jordan Park is entirely free.
Travel Information: There are two trams that go directly to the Park Jordana tram stop at the southern end of the park. These are Tram 1 and Tram 20, both of which go to the northern and southern part of the Old Town. There is no direct public parking for this park, but there is street parking and some paid lots nearby.
15. Explore the beautiful Park Zakrzówek
Description: Park Zakrzówek is a unique park that you would have a hard time finding anywhere else in Europe, nevertheless Poland. It is an old limestone quarry flooded in the early 1990s as a reservoir for the city. It was used during WWII as a work camp for forced labor and remained in this use after the war for some time, but today serves as a central recreation point for the city. Especially in the summer, local Cracovians crowd its narrow shores to admire the clear water of the lake, limestone cliffs, and leafy green trees on top of the cliffs.
As a center of recreation, a visit to the summer gives you the opportunity for lots of activities. There are places where diving and jumping is safe from shorter cliffs. You can also swim or sun-tan. Boats are not allowed, and this combined with good water clarity makes this a perfect place for SCUBA diving, and this is an allowed activity. Below the water, you can find cars, buses, boats, and other places to explore. However today, it serves mostly as a recreational point. Even in the winter you can take a nice walk here, although swimming would not be advised. So, check out Park Zakrzówek for a really cool and unique experience!
Hours: As an ungated natural area, you can visit Park Zakrzówek anytime. However, I would only recommend visiting during daylight hours and good weather conditions, as the cliffs can be dangerous if you are not careful.
Costs: The cost of using this area is free, the swimming area is public and free to use, and walking around is of course also free.
Travel Information: The best way to get to Park Zakrzówek, especially if you want to swim, is to drive. There is parking right by the lake, or at various dirt roads along the way. But it is possible to get to the park by public transportation as well. The most direct way is to take Tram 52 from the eastern side of the Old Town to the Kapelanka tram stop and walk about 30 minutes from there (but the walk is very scenic, and part of the experience).
16. Take in the view from Krakus Mound
Description: While the earlier mound on this list is more popular to visit, Krakus Mound is perhaps more famous, and has the advantage of being free to explore! Krakus Mound is the oldest man-made structure in existence in the city, and one of two prehistoric mounds in Kraków. While there is no clear consensus on the mound’s origin, this is an entirely wooden structure covered in grass, and on first look you would think it was a natural hill! The mound may have been used for burial or memorial purposes, perhaps to commemorate Krakus, the alleged namesake of Kraków (who may or may not have existed).
Now, you have the chance to explore this mound at your own pace! Located on the top of another hill, the view from the top is 16 meters (52 feet) above the hill below it and supplies one of the best views in all of Kraków. On a clear day, you will get a great view of Wawel Castle, Podgórze, and the rest of Kraków. And like I said before, it is free, and relatively free of tourists, so you can enjoy this area in peace! I really believe this is one of the best things to do in Kraków, and worth the journey out of your way to visit!
Hours: As part of public green spaces, you can visit Krakus Mound anytime you would like. However, the best time to visit would certainly be to watch the sunset, for the most beautiful experience.
Costs: Krakus mound is 100% free!
Travel Information: The closest tram stop is Podgórze SKA, which is served by Tram 3, Tram 13 and Tram 24 from the Old Town. This will be the fastest way. Parking is sparse, and limited to hilly street parking, although there is some paid parking available at Kraków Podgórze Train Station, although I imagine it is meant for people using the station for train travel, not for the mound.
17. Explore the remnants of Płaszów Concentration Camp
Description: Once you leave Krakus Mound, there is another area of historical importance to explore right next door. Płaszów Concentration Camp is a work camp made famous by Schindler’s List. Those liquidated from the Kraków Ghetto were first sent here, and eventually it became one of the largest work camps throughout the region. While not a death camp, many people in this camp were eventually sent to death camps, and still conditions were extremely harsh here, and many died from the work conditions, for example working in the next door Liban Quarry.
Today, the sight of the camp is mostly empty fields and new-growth forests. This area is quiet, and a perfect place for a contemplative walk. You can start from Krakus Mound by exploring the abandoned quarry, which is now protected as an environmental spot, and is free to explore! You can then walk upwards into the area where the concentration camp once was, and explore the monuments, plaques, and cemetery. Towards the eastern end, you can also see the Grey House, where the terrible Amon Göth lived. So, this area is full of history, but often missed by tourists, which is a mistake in my opinion.
Hours: You can explore this area anytime you want! For safety reasons, especially if you are venturing into the Quarry, visiting during the daylight hours is highly advisable, good visibility is important, so you do not accidentally fall off a cliff.
Costs: Visiting this area is also 100% free.
Travel Information: This area is massive. Thus, to explore it fully, you will have to walk quite a bit for the full experience. There are some streets that run through the area where you can park for free without any trouble. If you want to use public transportation, you can follow the advice for Krakus Mound in the earlier entry on the list, as Krakus Mound is just north of Plaszow and next to the Quarry. Tram 13 and Tram 24 from the Old Town also go further to Dworcowa tram stop, which is closer to the Szary Dom if you want to start from there.
18. Visit the Nowa Huta District
Description: Nowa Huta is a large district in the east of the city that serves as one of the most populated parts of the city today. What makes Nowa Huta unique is that it was a project of the communist Polish government that ended up being one of the largest socialist realist districts ever created throughout the Soviet sphere of influence. The city was designed deliberately, with wide boulevards full of trees, many green spaces, uniform buildings of moderate height with columns out front, and good public transportation via tram networks. Today, the district has been connected to the city, and is an opportunity to see how Soviets imagined Paris or London to look.
While walking around Nowa Huta is quite fun, for a full experience, consider visiting the Nowa Huta Museum. This museum does not focus on the history of Nowa Huta and how it was built, but rather focuses on the people who lived in Nowa Huta. The ground floor is an exhibition full of children’s toys and games. The exhibit uses them to describe the lives of both children and adults in Nowa Huta, while also giving your children a chance to even play some of the games.
But heading downstairs is where you feel connected to the Cold War history, as you walk through the former bunker and tunnel network found under the city and learn about the darker stuff of the day. Overall, this museum, and Nowa Huta, is an interesting area you should consider exploring for a couple of hours.
Hours: You can walk around Nowa Huta anytime you like. The Nowa Huta Museum is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM, and on weekends from 10 AM to 6 PM. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Costs: Walking around Nowa Huta is free. To visit the Nowa Huta Museum, a ticket costs 16 PLN/12 PLN reduced. Entry into the museum is free on Wednesdays.
Travel Information: Getting to Nowa Huta will take you about 30 minutes by tram, but the journey is part of the adventure. Your best bet is taking Tram 4 from the north of the Old Town to the Plac Centralny im. R. Reagana tram stop. Tram 18 or Tram 50 arrives at the same stop from the central train station. Any car park will be street-based.
19. Brave the Balon Widokowy
Description: Are you looking for a terrifying, but unique experience? Consider embarking on the Balon Widokowy, a viewpoint balloon that takes you high above the city. I can say quite frankly that if you can deal with the heights, you will not find a better view anywhere in Kraków of the city. Located near Wawel Castle, this balloon takes you 150 meters (almost 500 ft) into the air. For 10 minutes or more (depending on the weather or if anyone on board gets scared), you will be the king of Kraków! So, for thrill seekers, consider this activity one of the best activities in Kraków that you must try!
Hours: The balloon flies 7 days per week, from between 8 AM and 10 PM, depending on the season and weather. It is recommended to check the website, linked above, to make sure the balloon is running before arriving to save yourself some trouble.
Costs: Given the unique experience, it is not a surprise doing this is quite expensive. Hence, buying the tickets when you arrive, while maybe forcing you to wait in line for a bit, will save you some money. Tickets cost 99 PLN for adults, 65 PLN for children between 4 and 12, and 79 PLN for all other students. Children under 4 are not allowed to take part for safety reasons.
Travel Information: The balloon embarks just across the Vistula River from Wawel Castle. You could take Tram 18 or Tram 52 from the Old Town to Rondo Grunwaldzkie and walk from there. Or take a nice, leisurely walk from the Old Town, past many of the important sights of Kraków. If you would like to park, the nearby Forum Przestrzenie has paid and guarded parking available.
20. Visit the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology
Description: While there are many great museums in Kraków, many of which are not on this list, the most unique is the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology. The famous Polish director Andrzej Wada was fascinated by Japanese culture and art, and upon winning the Kyoto Prize (from Japan), he donated his winnings to open a museum dedicated to showcasing Japanese culture. As such, it is a recognized cultural institution by the Polish government. This museum, one of the best things to do in Kraków, houses all the Japanese art you could want to see, and is worth a visit if you have the time!
Hours: The museum is open every day except Mondays. The opening hours are from 10 AM to 6 PM. The museum is also closed on important holidays but check the website for full information.
Costs: A ticket costs 30 PLN/20 PLN reduced. You can also get family tickets for 45 PLN. Children between 7-16 cost 1 PLN with identification proof. On Tuesdays, admission is free of charge.
Travel Information: Following the instructions for the Balon Widokowy will get you to the Manggha Museum just as fast, as the museum is just north of the Plac Grunwaldzkie tram stop. Check the earlier entry for complete information.
Kraków is not just a great place to visit, but it also serves as a great jumping off point for exploring other parts of Poland! While these next entries are technically not amongst the best things to do in Kraków, it would be a mistake not to include them in this list, as most tourists coming to Kraków choose to visit 1, 2, or more places outside the direct city. An entire list in the future will be dedicated to day trips, so keep an eye out for that list. For now, enjoy these 5 best choices.
- Auschwitz-Birkenau: This is easily one of the most popular places to visit in all of Poland, especially for people coming to Kraków. It is the sight of one of the most tragic places in Polish history. You can visit for free to reflect on the horrors of the holocaust, and the continued horrors of the world. Getting to Auschwitz-Birkenau takes about 1 hour from Kraków and can be done via bus or train.
- Wieliczka Salt Mine: The other popular day trip from Kraków is a visit below the ground to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Salt was something that helped make Poland rich, and these mines played a part in it. Today, you can walk through the mine halls with a tour guide, admiring the salt sculptures, getting a taste yourself, and the impressive underground chapel made entirely of salt, complete with a replica of The Last Supper. It takes about 30 minutes to get to Wieliczka by train or bus from the center of Kraków.
- Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec: This abbey was founded in 1044 and, while far from the city center of Kraków, is still within the city limits. This abbey is on the top of an impressive limestone cliff, making it a beautiful sight to behold. Upon visiting, you can learn about the history of the area’s human settlement, as well as the abbey itself, although some parts are only reserved to monks. You can also enjoy a walk along the Vistula, or the serene village of Tyniec.
- Zakopane: Zakopane is one of the most popular cities to visit amongst Polish tourists and is becoming increasingly popular amongst foreign tourists due to its relatively low prices as a winter resort destination compared to other resort cities throughout Europe. Located in the beautiful highland region of Poland in the Tatras, people come here in the summer to hike, such as at Morskie Oko, and in the winter to ski and snowboard. Zakopane has something for everyone, and would serve as a long day trip, or even an overnight trip if you want.
- Ojcowski National Park: An often-skipped destination near to Kraków, this national park, Poland’s smallest, is stunningly beautiful. For a small park, it is extremely biodiverse, with over 5000 species living in the forests of the park, including a large population of butterflies. You will also find a sprawling network of limestone caves, cliffs, and other cool rock formations to explore (seasonally). There are also a few Gothic castles to be found, and dozens of other hiking trails to explore. So, if you like nature, and do not want to go all the way to Zakopane, this place is for you!
A Quick List of Important Things to Know about Kraków
While there are certainly going to be other blogs on this site dedicated to all the information about Kraków you could possibly want to know, I have summarized some important things below that every person visiting Kraków should know. Read on to find out some of the important things from A to Z to know about Kraków.
- Airport: The Kraków Airport, named after Pope John Paul II, is found just outside the city to the west. There is a consistent train service from the airport that will get you to the city center at a low cost. There is also a bus service, including at night, in case your bus arrives late. Unless you have a lot of suitcases, you should not need a taxi to get to and from the airport. But if you must, use a trusted app like Uber of Bolt. Also, if you take public transportation, make sure to validate your ticket so you do not get a huge fine as your welcome gift to Poland!
- Bus & Train Station: The Kraków Main Station for both buses and trains is about 15 minutes from the center of the Old Town. It is next to a big mall, Galeria Krakowska. There is every amenity you need, from restaurants to cafes to luggage storage for a fee, as well as quick and easy access to public transportation. If you plan to take day trips, you will also likely leave here. My recommendation is to always get your tickets in advance! Tickets for trains and buses to and from Kraków often sell out, especially on weekends and during busy parts of the year, and they are also cheaper if you buy in advance. Purchasing train tickets is easy from the PKP website, and bus tickets depend on the provider you use.
- Currency: Except for some of the stalls in the Cloth Hall, or maybe the Christmas Market, if visited in the winter, everywhere in Kraków will accept payment by card. You should not need to wait in any of the crazy long lines to exchange currency. In fact, I would recommend, if your card has good rates for it, just withdrawing money from a local bank’s ATM once you arrive. Make sure to not accept their exchange rate, and let your bank decide. But you really should not need cash.
- Food: There is lots of good food in Kraków, both local and international. A tip for finding the best deal is to either ask for the lunch menu if eating at lunch (or going to a place that has one). Or, if you are in the city center, walk down one of the less busy streets to look for a restaurant. There will be good restaurants here too with usually lower prices! Even further, leaving the city center will find you amazing restaurants with more local prices, and you will still be able to get English-language service.
- Language: Do not worry about speaking Polish when visiting! Everyone in the tourist center will speak English. However, for a better experience, knowing a few words of Polish, like how to greet and say thank you, is recommended, as this gives locals a bit of extra happiness.
- Nightlife: If you are considering going out for the night, watch out for the following things.
- Strip Clubs: Just do not go. There are too many bad stories involving people losing thousands of dollars or more, getting beat up, drugged, and more to make a trip to one of these places worth it. And you will find the local police unsympathetic, and your credit card company will also not likely be sympathetic. If you must go, leave your cards behind and only bring cash, you at least minimize the risk of losing lots of money.
- Bar scam: Especially if you are a solo guy traveler like me, or with a group of guys, watch out for this one. Two usually conventionally attractive girls will invite you out for drinks at a place. If you say yes, you will never see a menu,
- Menu scam: Be careful when ordering drinks at some place! Many places will not list cocktail prices, and when you ask for the cocktail, they will use the most expensive liquor they have even if that’s not what you want. If you enter a bar and it does not have clear prices, leave, and find a better place.
- Otherwise, the nightlife in Kraków is very good! Just be careful, as unfortunately unsavory types having chosen Kraków as their place to target foreign tourists especially. If there are no locals inside a certain place (so if you hear no Polish), that should be a huge red flag.
- Public Transportation Tickets: All buses and trams should have the ability to buy tickets on board, paying by card or cash. But, if you want a longer-term ticket, you will need to find a ticket machine off a bus or tram to buy such a ticket. These machines can be found at most major destinations throughout the city. Another choice is using Jakdojade, where you can buy tickets through bank transfer or Apple pay. One downside of this is that you can only buy one ticket at a time per account, so everyone in your group would need to download it, but for solo travelers or couples this is quite convenient.
- Restrooms: Unlike Warsaw, there are no free restrooms in Kraków. So, use the restroom when you are eating at a restaurant, or visiting a museum. Otherwise, you will pay between 3-5 PLN per person at some of the restrooms throughout the city. The same can be said at the main train and bus station, and even the mall next door. Other malls in the city should be free, but it is unlikely you will be near any of them. Having a place in the center becomes an advantage in this case.
- Safety: Kraków is a very safe city as far as European cities go. Rates of violent or petty crime are both low. Of course, there are the previously mentioned issues with the nightlife, and the people asking for money can be a bit aggressive. But, if you just ignore such people, they will leave you alone after a short second. Kraków is safe, and do not let any pre-conceived notions you have about Poland dissuade you from visiting!
- Scams: Do not donate money to people asking for money for charity in the city center. The cause may seem good, but the money will not go to that good cause. I recommend doing your own research and donating online later. Personally, just don’t engage with the people asking, so that there will be no chance for the people talking you into giving a donation to a “worthy cause.” I feel bad saying that, but it is unfortunately true, and the local police do not care to do anything about it.
- Tourist Traps: If a museum or attraction can pay for people to dress up in costumes and hand out flyers enticing you to go, it is not worth it. It will be overpriced, and typically a tourist trap, such as the poorly rated Wax Museum. The good museums are going to be state-run. In this case, these museums are counting on you not knowing how bad reviews their place gets. This can be the same with some restaurants. So, cross-reference with Google or other websites before visiting any place in Kraków, so you spend your money wisely.
Conclusions about the Best Things to do in Kraków
So, all in all, Kraków is a great place to explore, no matter the season. There is a reason that millions of people from Poland and from abroad visit Kraków every year, and I hope this list of best things to do in Kraków helped show why this is the case. From stunning buildings and important historic sites to beautiful parks and interesting museums, Kraków truly has it all. I would recommend spending at a minimum of 2 nights in Kraków, although having 3 full days is recommended. Or, if you can stay longer, and entire week to explore Kraków and the surrounding areas can really open your eyes to Poland!
Look out in the future for many more blogs about Kraków, including related to safety, restaurants, hotels, day trips, and more! As I get to explore Kraków more, you too will get to learn more from my experiences! I hope you will be reading in the future, and for now, safe travels as you head to Kraków, and Poland!