Traveling Poland on a Budget in Krakow

How Long Should I Stay in Kraków? 4 Best Options for Every Traveler

For many reasons, Kraków has become the most popular tourist destination in all of Poland, seeing an increasing number of foreign tourists every year. For this reason, as you plan your trip, you may ask “how long should I stay in Kraków?” This question has many different answers and is dependent on some of your own personal preferences, including how many things you want to see, how much money you are willing to stay, and how many vacation days your work is willing to give you. As a result, this article could be extremely long, but I am choosing to keep it simple. 

Firstly, this article will not consider monetary constraints. This is because Kraków, and Poland in general, can be done on both a budget, and you can really splurge if you want to. I fully believe that you can afford a trip to Kraków no matter how long you stay, especially if you use the tips and tricks in this article. Secondly, the assumption is that you have a bank of vacation of days that you are looking to spend in Poland. However, you will find answers to the question “how long should I stay in Kraków” of various lengths. Overall, I focus on what attractions a future tourist might want to see while visiting Kraków, including in the surrounding areas. 

With these things in mind, I have created 4 categories of tourists who want to visit Kraków: The Typical Tourist, the Full Experience Seeker, the Day Trip Specialist, and the Adventurous Backpacker. Thus, you will find the short answer to the question this article is based on is from as little as 1 night, to as long as an entire week. It all depends on you. Read on to learn about my 4 categories and figure out which one fits you best. 

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Option 1: 3 Days – The Typical Tourist

Of the millions of tourists who come to Kraków every year, this category probably suits about 90% of them, and will probably suit you. The assumption with a 3-day trip is that you are arriving in Kraków by plane, train, or bus by the early afternoon of one day (which might be a Friday) and planning to leave sometime later Sunday. Thus, like the typical Kraków tourist, you will stay in Kraków for 3 days and 2 nights. This is the common choice because it limits the amount of money spent on lodging in Kraków (although there are many budget options), and because it fits into a three-day weekend using one work vacation day nicely. 

Jeremy in Krakow
Poland Insiders writer Jeremy in Krakow.

These three days allow the typical tourist enough time to see the main sights of Kraków. Most tourists who come to Kraków are going to want to spend a significant amount of time exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site Kraków Old Town & Market Square, as well as the surrounding sights such as St Mary’s Church, Planty, and the many restaurants and shops on the cobbled Cracovian streets.

A tourist will also probably choose to explore part, or all, of the Wawel Castle & Cathedral, and walk for a little bit along the Vistula River to the vibrant Kazimierz District. Additionally, tourists may choose to take a day trip, with the most popular being Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp or the Wieliczka Salt Mines

All the above attractions are easily doable within a 3-day trip. However, the 3-day trip may not allow you enough time to visit many museums, such as the fabulous Princes Czartoryski Museum (with a DaVinci surprise inside), or the National Museum in Kraków. But you could visit a few museums by sacrificing some time in the town center. What will be harder to manage in this schedule is trips to the other amazing neighborhoods of Kraków, such as Nowa Huta or Podgórze.

Also, you will probably only be able to pick ONE day trip of the two most popular (or another one). You also would not have time to go take a trip to another city in Poland, as you will miss out too much in Kraków. 

So, the typical tourist overall will have plenty of time to see the main attractions in Kraków (along with the thousands of other tourists and locals) but will not be able to venture too far from the city center of Kraków, except for taking some day trips. Overall, the 3-day Kraków trip is perfect for the average person looking for a nice weekend trip. Kraków is affordable, and has a lot to do, and 3 days allows you to take advantage of these benefits of Kraków. So, an answer to the question “how long should I spend in Kraków” is three days.  

Sample Itinerary 

– Day 1: Arrival to Kraków, Old Town and Rynek, St. Mary’s Church, 1 Kraków Museum, shopping in the Old Town (Depends on how early you arrive) 

– Day 2: Day trip to Auschwitz or Wieliczka OR further exploring of the historic city center, as well as a trip to an additional museum or two 

– Day 3: Wawel Castle, Vistula River and Kazimierz District, departure from Kraków in evening 

Option 2: 5 Days – The Full Experience Seeker

This choice is perfect for the person looking for a wonderful full experience of a classic European city. There is more than enough to do in Kraków to take up 5 days. Or, if you prefer to take things slowly, 5 days allows you to fully appreciate every aspect of the museums, historic sites, and wonderful restaurants you may choose to visit. This choice also might be a great one for children. It would allow parents to spend some time on the trip going to a more kid-friendly activity in Kraków, such as swimming in the amazing Zakrzówek Lake (part of a former quarry) or visiting the child-friendly Kraków Pinball Museum or the Nowa Huta Museum.  

5 days will allow you to see everything the 3-day trip does, but also allows you to go see both Auschwitz and Wieliczka, although I would recommend spending only a half-day at Wielickza to ensure you do make the most of your time (this is extremely easy and possible). You can also fully explore the city, including other districts of the city that require more transport time to get to and from.

Schindler’s Factory in Krakow
Schindler’s Factory in Krakow. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

These include districts such as Nowa Huta and Podgórze, and can also see some more far-flung attractions, such as the Schindler Factory, Kościuszko Mound, or the site of the former Płaszów Concentration Camp. You should also easily be able to visit a few more museums beyond the essentials, or even see every part of Wawel Castle & Cathedral (although this can be an expensive undertaking).  

There is very little that a 5-day trip will not allow you to see. You will not be able to take further trips to such popular destinations as Zakopane, unless you are willing to sacrifice much of what the city of Kraków has to offer. You can do this however, if you choose, to complete your full 5-day experience in Kraków. So, overall, another possible answer to the question “how long should I spend in Kraków” is 5 days, with this allowing you to see much of the city and some major surrounding attractions.  

Sample Itinerary: 

– Day 1: Arrival to Kraków, Old Town & St. Mary’s Church, 1 Kraków Museum 

– Day 2: Half-Day trip to Wielickza, Wawel Castle/Vistula River/Kazimierz 

– Day 3: Nowa Huta/Płaszów/Podgórze, and all their museums and attractions 

– Day 4: Auschwitz Day trip, more Kraków Old Town 

– Day 5: Museum or side trip (such as Kościuszko Mound) in the morning, departure from Kraków 

Option 3: 7 Days – The Day Trip Specialist

Let’s say you are not satisfied with what you can see in the above very-detailed itinerary. Let’s say you want Kraków to be the center of your exploration of Poland, or let’s say you really want to see (at least briefly) the beautiful Tatra Mountains on the Poland-Slovakia border. Or let’s say you are the ultimate thrill seeker and want to conquer the roller coasters of the fantastic Energylandia. Or maybe you want to visit the charming Polish towns of Sandomierz and Zalipie. Without some extra time in your itinerary, you will not be able to see any of the above listed attractions, unless you really want to cut your time short  

A view of the Slovakian side of the Tatra mountains. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

While seeing one or more of the above can be achieved through the 2 extra days, I will say this involves a lot of traveling. If you are up for it, it is more than achievable. But be aware you WILL spend many hours on buses and trains to achieve this. This can be exhausting for some. So, do not do this if you will not enjoy your trip because of this, and instead appreciate the many things there are to do in Kraków!  

You can also spend 7 days just exploring Kraków if you want to, although by the end you may get a little bored unless you are a thorough or slower visitor. All in all, know your limits, and if they allow for extra day trips, Zakopane is more than worth it

With this length of trip, you should be able to see everything Kraków has to offer, and much else. It can be a rewarding experience, there is a reason Poland is becoming such a popular destination for foreign travelers. So, depending on your desire to see a lot, and your stamina to sit in buses, the answer to the question “how long should I stay in Kraków” can be a full week! 

Sample Itinerary: 

– Day 1: Arrival to Kraków, Old Town/St. Mary’s Church, Kraków Museum 

– Day 2: Auschwitz Day trip, more Kraków Old Town 

– Day 3: Overnight trip to Zakopane OR other day trip such as Zalipie or Sandomierz or Energylandia 

– Day 4: Either return from Zakopane & some more Old Town exploration OR another day trip other than Zakopane & some more Old Town exploration 

– Day 5: Nowa Huta/Płaszów/Podgórze, and all their museums and attractions 

– Day 6: Half-Day trip to Wieliczka, Wawel Castle/Vistula River/Kazimierz 

– Day 7: Museum or side trip (such as Kościuszko Mound) in the morning, departure from Kraków 

Option 4: 1 Night – The Adventurous Backpacker

This is basically a bonus choice. I include it because I have achieved it before, although in a much worse way than I propose. But, while Kraków is a grand city with much to do, if you are backpacking your way across Europe and just trying to see as many of the most important places in Europe as you can along the way, it is certainly possible to do this in Kraków.  

I assume that you will spend parts of 2 days in Kraków, arriving earlier in the morning, either on an early train or from some overnight bus, and leaving late on the second day, once again taking a late train or bus to the next place in Poland or Europe you plan to travel to. You can spend a shorter time, but what you will be able to see will mostly be limited to a brief tour of the Old Town, and maybe another attraction. 

The market square of Krakow with horses
The market square of Krakow with horses. Taken by Poland Insiders writer Jeremy.

With this amount of time, you should be able to see the Old Town via a self-guided walking tour or exploration. Additionally, if you are up for it, you can allot 4 hours of your day to go visit Wielickza, with this being the smallest amount of time you need for using public transport to get there, do the guided tour, and return. Then, you would have time to explore some of the restaurants and night life of Poland, whether in the Old Town or Kazimierz. On the second day, you would have time to explore Wawel Castle and some other central sites of the city.  

This choice allows you only to see the MOST important sights of Kraków, with the possibility of a small excursion to somewhere farther from the center. In a way, it is like a small cup of coffee to start your day. There is much more to see in Kraków, or the surrounding area than 1 night will allow, but if you are exploring quickly, or on budget or time constraints, the answer to the question “how long should I spend in Kraków” can be just 1 night.  

Sample Itinerary: 

– Day 1: Arrival to Kraków, Old Town, quick Wieliczka Day trip or other Kraków exploration,  

– Day 2: Wawel Castle, 1 Kraków Museum, a bit more of the Old Town, departure from Kraków 

Some Tips for Making the Most of Your Time

  • Use planned trips wisely. Third party services offer many excursions to Wieliczka and Auschwitz, and other places nearby to Kraków including Zalipie and Zakopane. These trips can serve as the most efficient way to see these places, with set departure and arrival times, and less worrying about possible train delays or cancellations. However, if you are shorter on time, using these trips may not be the best, as they sometime spend TOO much time in one place, more time than you might need, and time you might better spend in another location. However, some places are just easier to reach with a guided bus or car tour, so consider it wisely. 
  • Take advantage of the Jakdojade transit app. This will save you time you may waste on public transportation. Jakdojade is no different than Google Maps, except that it supplies more up-to-date information about tram or bus delays, closures, or accidents. Using it can allow you to micro-manage your time to the absolute maximum, for example by learning that a bus may only leave every 90 minutes, so you should only spend 90 minutes at an attraction. You can also buy tickets on this app to avoid waiting time in lines for the ticket machines that sell multiple-day passes. Most locals use it, and as it is available in English, you should too. 
  • If you can spend more time on your trip, do so! It is easy to get burned out while exploring, and Kraków is no exception. If you get tired on trips easily or want to be able to relax a bit more, consider extending your trip 1 or 2 days so you can fully relax. While you will undoubtedly spend a bit more on your hotel and meals, it is worth it if you value relaxation. The itineraries I list above should be comfortable days (although the day trip adventurer should have plenty of stamina) but do what makes you comfortable! 
  • Book train or bus tickets in advance for any of the day trips you want. I can tell you from seeing it, that people who choose to book their train ticket to Auschwitz or Wieliczka on the same day end up waiting in a long line, especially on a weekend or during the summer. The same goes with bus tickets anywhere. Plus, trains and buses are often already sold-out in advance, so if you have a specific time you want to visit any place, book in advance!  

Conclusions about How Long Should I Stay in Kraków

So, there are many answers to the question “how long should I stay in Kraków.” It all depends on what you want to see, and how much time you must see it. While a three-day weekend trip is certainly the most popular choice for seeing Kraków, spending more time allows for a fuller experience with exploration of Kraków outside of the center of the city, and some day trip to the many popular destinations surrounding Kraków.

Adding day trips may extend your trip to 5 to 7 days long. Finally, with a bit of courage and motivation, you can see the most important sights in Kraków in only 1 night, but it will be a long and exhausting day! I hope this article answered this very important travel question, and I wish you safe travels to Kraków! 

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