Kraków is a fabulous city to visit anytime of the year, but Kraków in the winter is extra magical. With fresh snowfall on top of the beautiful architecture that entices millions of people to Kraków every year, Kraków in the winter is a place for romance, for families, or for the solo traveler. Special activities, such as the magical Christmas Fair in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Kraków Main Square, one of Poland’s top landmarks, makes Kraków in the winter worth a trip.
In this article, you will find a comprehensive guide about how to do Kraków right in the winter. The article will start with information about the previously mentioned Christmas Fair and then continue to a list of 8 other activities necessities if you visit Kraków in the winter. Then, I will supply some information on the frigid Polish winter, and which winter months are the best to visit. Finally, I will supply important information about what to pack, and what to know, especially about Kraków in the winter.
Overall, I hope you find something interesting in this article as you plan your trip to Kraków in the winter, and I hope that this winter you will take a chance on an underrated winter destination in all of Europe!
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Best Things To Do in Krakow in Winter
Kraków Christmas Fair: #1 Winter Activity in Kraków
The best activity for Kraków in the winter is a visit to the Kraków Christmas Fair. An event that has happened every year for decades (unless due to a major health crisis), it has been voted one of the best Christmas markets in all of Europe. This year, the market is planned to take place from November 24th, 2023, until December 26th, 2023, with some vendors staying upon beyond this date until the new year, and many being closed on holidays. Read on to find out even more about this amazing event!
The Kraków Christmas Fair takes place in the magnificent Old Town Main Square, surrounded by the most beautiful buildings in the Old Town, and nestled next to the Cloth Hall. Here, you will find close to 100 booths selling all sorts of Christmas fare! But the main attraction is certainly the beautiful lights strewn up throughout the square, as well as the central Christmas tree. With a little bit of snow on the ground, the environment becomes even better, and becomes a place you could easily spend all day admiring.
At the booths, you can buy many gifts to bring home, including baubles, ornaments, candles, jewelry, toys, magnets, and more! Of course, you can also get some delicious Polish food, such as a body-warming soup, with soups being a Polish specialty to cope with the harsh winters. You can also try the famous oscypek cheese of Zakopane, and pair that with some cranberry sauce, while sipping on grzaniec, or mulled wine.
Additionally, there are many special events that happen each year at the fair. First, you can see all the results of the Competition of Kraków Nativity Scenes. Each year, many Cracovians build up beautiful nativity scenes that represent the biblical story of Christmas, but also replicate important moments and places in the history of Kraków.
Each year, on the first year of December, you can view all the entries for two hours for free in the main square. The famous bugle call in St. Mary’s Church will show that it is time to move the nativities, and they are moved to nearby Krzysztofory Palace, where you can view them for a fee. The winners will eventually be moved to public spaces in Kraków for the rest of the winter, so if you cannot be in Kraków at the time of the competition, you can still see the results!
Other Polish traditions are also celebrated, such as Dzien Świętego Mikołaja, on December 6th, when traditionally St. Nicholas comes and brings presents to children. There will be chances to write letters to him, as well as meet him on the day of the holiday itself. On Christmas Eve, you can take part in a special tradition related to Opłatek, a special wafer which is slowly torn apart as people bless and give good wishes to those around them.
All in all, the Kraków Christmas Fair is a chance to experience some of the amazing winter culture of Poland and admire the beauty of Kraków in the winter. You can also buy some amazing gifts and enjoy some delicious food and drink. Thus, I recommend coming to Kraków in December if you can make it, but I will say it will be quite busy here, especially on the weekends.
What else are the best things to do in Kraków in the winter?
Other than the Christmas Fair, Kraków has a variety of activities that are worthwhile. From good day trips to splendid museums and natural beauty, Kraków has a lot to offer. Read on to find out about the other 8 best things to do in Kraków in the winter.
2. Take a Day Trip to Zakopane
Description: Okay, this is a bit of a cop out, considering that Zakopane is approximately 2 hours away from Kraków. However, there is no denying that Zakopane is the premier winter destination in Poland, and that many people who choose to travel to Kraków in the winter do so to use Kraków as a jumping off point to travel to Zakopane. So, an ideal winter trip to Kraków in the winter might include a couple of days in Kraków, and one full day in Zakopane.
Why is Zakopane so popular? First, the beautiful Tatra Mountains supply an awesome backdrop to the rustic town. The town is full of intricate wooden buildings in the special Zakopane-style buildings. With lots of snow on the ground throughout the winter, you can get those winter vibes you are chasing! With beautiful booths with souvenirs, oscypek, and other delicacies, Zakopane is simply superb! Leaving the town, you can explore the winter wonderland that is the Tatras, for example by taking the Kasprowy Wierch cable car. Or you can hike to Poland’s most popular hike, Morskie Oko.
It is not surprising that millions of people make it to this small town every year. I highly recommend that you become one of these people if you are taking a trip to Kraków in the winter.
Opening Hours: In the winter, most attractions should be open, with shortened hours. Google the attraction you are interested in and look for more information. Or, alternatively, check out my blog on Zakopane, which has some more detailed information on opening hours for some top attractions in Zakopane.
Costs: A nice hotel in the city will probably cost between 400-600 PLN per night. A bus or train ticket to the city will probably run between 50-100 PLN each direction. Attractions will probably cost between 15-30 PLN per person, with more costly attractions like Kasprowy Wierch costing around 100 PLN. Food is also slightly more expensive, so overall, do not expect this day trip to be an inexpensive one, although prices are still cheaper than, say, Switzerland.
Directions: Zakopane is approximately 2 hours south of Kraków. It is reachable by bus or train. You could also drive, but the road is a bit perilous if you are not careful, and then you will have to pay for parking on top of the high gas prices in Poland. By train is probably the best way to guarantee less delay, but it is also a sluggishly slow train. No matter the way you look at it, plan out at least 3 hours each way for a trip to Zakopane. It could take less time, but it is better safe than sorry!
3. Visit Wieliczka Salt Mines
Description: If you are looking for a chance to warm up, the Wieliczka Salt Mines are a great place to do this! This amazing landmark in Poland is a great attraction to visit in Kraków in the winter. Salt helped make Poland rich centuries ago, and these mines were some of the most productive. You can find in these mines amazing monuments made entirely of salt, including an entire chapel made of salt, including a relief of the Last Supper. Tours can be taken in a variety of languages every hour!
The best part for Kraków in the winter is that the temperature instead stays a comfortable 17-18 C (63-64 F) year-round! So, not only will you benefit from the minerals in the air, but you can also warm up on a bitter cold day. I would still recommend wearing a coat, as it can get drafty down below, and no sun makes those temperatures feel a bit colder than they are. But there is no denying that a visit to the Salt Mines is an essential part of Kraków, and a wonderful trip to Kraków in the winter.
Opening Hours: The Tourists’ Route is open from 8 AM to 7 PM every day except some holidays. The Miners’ Route is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM.
Costs: The regular ticket for the Polish tour of the Tourists’ Route or the Miners’ Route costs 92 PLN. Tours in Polish are every hour, while other languages leave at different times, and are also more expensive, with the English ticket costing 126 PLN per person. It is a costly endeavor, but I found it worth it. There are student discounts, and family tickets available. Buying tickets online is recommended.
Directions: Once in Kraków, there is a regular bus and train service to Wieliczka from the city center, but of course parking is also available for a fee. The trains leave from the main Kraków station quite often, take around 25 minutes, and cost between 8 and 11 PLN per person. Or you can take the very popular 304 bus, which takes about an hour to get near the train station, but also makes many stops near the Old Town to the west, and near Wawel Castle. The bus costs between 3 and 5 PLN each way.
4. Take a Romantic Walk Through the Old Town
Description: For Kraków in the winter, there might not be a better activity within the main city than taking a winter walk through the Old Town. Quite simply, the Old Town’s beauty is indescribable. The beautiful colored buildings, tiled roofs, and cobblestone streets make for a perfect romantic walk, or just a family walk too. With Christmas lights in many places, and some snow on the ground, it is easy to imagine that the place you are walking around is like the inside of a snow globe.
You can start your walk in Planty, the circle of trees, paths, and benches that surrounds the walls of the Old Town. Then, you can enter the Old Town through St. Florian’s Gate by the Barbican, and walk down Florianska Street, finding a place to eat or buying a souvenir along the way. It is also easy to see the other sights of the Old Town, including St. Mary’s Church, and the historic campus of Jagiellonian University. All in all, a walk through the Old Town is an activity you do not want to skip!
Opening Hours: This is open 24/7. During the winter, a night-time walk might be extra romantic. On a rare sunny day, you should walk here!
Costs: There is no cost, except for what you choose to buy.
Directions: The Old Town is at the center of everything. You will likely stay at a hotel or Airbnb within 10-15 minutes on foot from the Old Town. Or you might even be staying in the Old Town yourself. Naturally, there is also a lot of transit to the Old Town, whether by tram or bus, and it is affordable. Parking is sparse, so having lodgings with parking and using public transport would be my recommendation.
5. Explore Wawel Hill
Description: Wawel Hill is perhaps the place of most historical significance in the long history of the Polish people. Kraków was previously the royal capital of Poland, and thus, many kings have lived on this hill overlooking the Vistula River, and the rest of the city. Today, you can walk through many royal buildings, see some of what remains of the royal vaults, or admire the view.
Exploring Wawel Hill becomes a top-notch activity for Kraków in the winter when there is snow on the ground, as you can get the closest and most convenient view of the city from the walls and ramparts of the castle. It is also a way to warm up, by exploring the toasty interior. All in all, Wawel Hill is a top destination year-round, and Kraków in the winter too.
Opening Hours: The museums and rooms open to the public on Wawel Hill all have differing hours. I would recommend checking out the website for more information.
Costs: Each separate room or building has its own ticket. So, I would recommend visiting on Monday, when some of the rooms are free admission. On these days, you pick up the tickets at the ticket office on the hill. Otherwise, a ticket to an exhibition or room costs on average between 15 and 35 PLN per person at regular prices, and less if eligible for reduced prices. However, you can walk around most of the castle grounds for free if you just want to get a good view of the Vistula or admire the buildings. Purchasing tickets online is definitely recommended.
Directions: Wawel Hill is right next to the Vistula River Promenade and the fire breathing Smok Wawelski statue. It is only a short 10–15-minute walk from the Old Town, but there are also some nearby buses and trams to take as well if you struggle with mobility. Also note that you will have to walk up a decently steep hill to get inside, with cobblestone roads and no super accessible ramps, so be warned of that too if you have mobility issues.
6. Warm up in one of Kraków’s Fabulous Museums
Description: Kraków, as a city with lots of history, has many amazing museums. On a cold day in Kraków in the winter, going to one of these museums might be what you need to warm up. From art, to history, or playing games, there are many museums to explore. Find a short list of some of the best in Kraków below:
- The Princes Czartoryski Museum: A non-descript museum full of the art collection of a former upper-class family. Included in the collection is Lady with an Ermine, one of four remaining paintings of women done by the famous polymath Leonardo Da Vinci. (This painting stays somewhat a secret, as when I visited Kraków on a holiday weekend, it was surprisingly not busy). Visit their website for more info.
- The Rynek Underground Museum: This museum is found under the Main Square. It shows you the old remnants of the former city streets of Kraków through a wide variety of highly interactive exhibits. You also learn about the daily lives of Cracovians in the past. For more info, visit their website.
- National Museum in Kraków: A sister branch of one of the best museums in Warsaw, the National Museum in Kraków displays artwork from Poland, and around Europe. Much of this artwork has been collected overtime by royal families, or the elite of Poland. I highly recommend visiting any branch of the National Museum no matter what the city. For more information, visit their website.
- Kraków Pinball Museum: For a more interactive experience that would be especially entertaining if you have kids, visit the Kraków Pinball Museum. Here, you will find a large array of arcade games that can be played, with some dating back to the 1950s. A ticket lets you freely play all the games for an unlimited amount of time. For more information, visit their website.
Opening Hours: Check the museums’ websites linked with each museum for the opening hours.
Costs: Each of these museum’s ranges between 15 and 30 PLN for entry.
Directions: All these museums are found within a 15–20-minute radius of the Old Town, so you do not have to go far to warm up and learn something new or appreciate the work of a master.
7. Have a Warm Zapiekanki in Plac Nowy
Description: A zapiekanka (the plural form is zapiekanki) is the most popular Polish street food. It originated in the 1970s during communism as a cheap and easy-to-make food choice for Poles. Zapiekanki are open-faced sandwiches, with the traditional one having just grilled mushrooms and cheese, with generous helpings of a tomato sauce or ketchup on top. Many also come with other fancy toppings, including meat, other cheese, other vegetables, and beyond!
Perhaps the most famous place in Poland to buy some zapiekanki is Plac Nowy in Kraków. This is a small square found in the historic Jewish neighborhood of Kazimierz. Here, many Polish people every day buy a sandwich, and sit and socialize, surrounded by beautiful old buildings. For Kraków in the winter, a zapiekanka is a nice warm food choice to enjoy. After you eat, take a walk in the surrounding streets for the full experience. All in all, eating a zapiekanka in Plac Nowy is an essential activity for Kraków in the winter.
Opening Hours: Like kebab, zapiekanki are popular drunk food, many of the vendors in Plac Nowy are open as late as 2 AM most days. But the vendors are not open for breakfast, usually opening around 12 PM. The best time to visit would be between mealtimes, although the popularity of this spot ensures there will be a decent number of people all the time.
Costs: From what I could find, you can get a zapiekanka for as low as 10 PLN for the basic version. Fancier versions can cost 20-25 PLN. At some places you can also buy only half of one, although the cost is not usually half of the cost of the full one. All in all, they are very cheap, and a Polish classic, so if you want to try a couple of them, I recommend!
Directions: Plac Nowy is about a 20-minute walk from the center of the Old Town. Alternatively, you can take Tram 6, 8, 13, or 18 a few stops from the tram station south of the Old Town to Plac Wolnica and walk from there.
8. Summit Kościuszko Mound
Description: Kościuszko Mound is a monument found west of central Kraków. It is an artificial mound named after the Polish war hero Tadeusz Kościuszko. Here, you can find a museum dedicated to him, and Polish history around the time, as well as various other exhibits about Polish history, and some historical artifacts. Visit their website for more information on what exhibits are currently available.
However, the main draw for Kraków in the winter is certainly the mound itself. Climbing to the top supplies the best 360-degree view in all Kraków. On a snowy day, you can admire the snow-filled trees to the west, and the blanket of white covering the city itself to the east. You might also be able to see the Tatra Mountains on a clearer day, but at the minimum you can see the foothills. The beautiful surrounding environment, and the stellar views certainly make a trip to Kościuszko Mound a must for Kraków in the winter.
Opening Hours: The mound is open daily from 9 AM to 7 PM.
Costs: A normal ticket costs 24 PLN, and a reduced ticket costs 18 PLN. There are also family and group tickets available.
Directions: The mound is a bit outside of the main city. It takes about 30 minutes by public transport, using at least two different buses or trams. Driving takes 15 minutes, and some limited parking is available.
9. Go ice skating in Henryk Jordan Park
Description: Henryk Jordan Park is a beautiful park found just west of the historic Old Town of Kraków. For Kraków in the winter, it is the top destination if you enjoy ice skating! Every winter, a huge ice park is built up in the beautifully manicured lawns and forests of this British-style public park, with many locals and tourists alike coming here to skate for a few hours, or just enjoy a warm drink and the nice lights strung up.
There are three zones at this ice rink. Firstly, there is a main large ice rink for general skating around. Additionally, there is also a kid’s rink for those who might be skating for the first time, or at a slower pace, with aids for kids also available to be rented. But the largest attraction is the ice alley. This is a wide track of ice that winds its way through the trees of the park, allowing you to explore the park in style! This to me is the best part of this attraction and makes it a place to visit in Kraków in the winter.
Opening Hours: Check the website for information closer to the season, as no information has been published yet. However, it is likely to be open for long hours from late November to late February.
Costs: Prices will be published on their website closer to the start of the season. One thing to note is that they require deposits in cash only for rental, although it looks like you can also give up your passport or other ID document instead. Also, admission is such that you receive a card and pay for the time between getting it and returning it to the ticket office.
Directions: Henryk Jordan Park is about a 20-minute walk from the center of the Old Town. Alternatively, you can take Tram 6 or 20 there in about 10 minutes.
Kraków in the Winter: Weather
Overall, Kraków has typical Polish winter weather, as described in my guide to Poland in the winter. The winter season is from November to March every year. During this time, you can expect chilly temperatures, with lows below freezing most nights, a small amount of precipitation that will often show up as snowfall, and very little sunlight. These weather statistics can be seen in the table below.
|40 mm (1.6″)
|35 mm (1.4″)
|40 mm (1.6″)
|30 mm (1.2″)
|40 mm (1.6″)
While there is not solid data available in English on snowfall for Kraków, you can expect that there might be snow on the ground from the middle of November to the middle of March on average. You should expect no more than 25-50 mm (1-2″) on the ground at any given time, with higher amounts directly after periods of snowfall.
You should also expect there to be a lot of wind as well, that will make the actual feel outside much colder than the actual temperature. Polish winters are frigid, and Kraków in the winter is no exception. Additionally, weather events could be pushed to Kraków from the nearby Tatra Mountains in rare cases, so keep an eye out on the forecast before you travel so that you are ready to go for anything! Poland knows how to survive during extreme winter weather, so you should have nothing to worry about.
When is the best time to visit Kraków in the winter?
The best time to visit Kraków in the winter depends on your personal preferences. Perhaps the best time to visit is December. This is of course due to the previously mentioned Christmas Fair that mostly happens through December. In the middle of December, Poland often gets a decent amount of snowfall, so the fair will be extra magical, covered in snow, with the beautiful lights and delicious food waiting for you.
December is, or course, also a bit busier than other winter months, as Poles and foreign tourists alike delight in the beautiful atmosphere of Kraków in the winter. If you want to beat the crowds, January is the best month for you. January is the coldest month of the year in Poland, with very short days, so Poles tend not to travel as much. While the atmosphere of the Christmas Fair will be gone, you should still have some snow, and you will save on everything from airfare to hotels!
If you want the lower costs the Polish off-season brings without less frigid temperatures, November or March would be great months to visit Kraków in the winter. The temperatures are warmer, and in March at least, the days are on average very long, even if they are still cold. This is great if you want to spend more time outside exploring all Kraków has to offer.
So, while I cannot tell you which month to visit, just know that no matter the month, Kraków in the winter is a lovely place to visit. But, depending on your preferences, you might find one month more enjoyable than another. Look for YouTube videos online that were posted in a month you are interested in, as that can give you an idea of what the atmosphere and weather is like during that given month (a trick I use sometimes for my personal travel).
Also know that whatever month you travel in the winter, travel can be a bit difficult. If you are traveling by train, trains can become delayed due to winter weather. Overall, though, I have found Polish trains to be reliable most of the time. The same can be said for planes, heavy snowfall may delay landings and take-off due to de-icing or having to clear the runway. Also, driving can be more dangerous, as Polish drivers are already a little bit dangerous when driving and combining that with worse road conditions can lead to disaster. So, be careful, but overall, you should be fine!
What might be different for Kraków in the winter than in the summer?
One thing that might be different that has been mentioned is that Kraków in the winter will have fewer crowds! Kraków can get extremely crowded in the summer, due to its popularity as a budget travel or party destination. Cheap alcohol and cheap clubs entice travelers to have bachelor or bachelorette parties in Kraków, and it can be hard to avoid them at night. In the winter, you can enjoy the amazing nightlife of Kraków without having to deal with the same number of crowds, and the prices are still cheap!
Regarding the clubs, please be careful! Poland is a very safe country, but some instances of dishonest clubs robbing tourists in Kraków have been known to happen. Especially if you are traveling solo, you might run into attractive girls inviting you for a drink at a local club. However, these girls know the owner, and have been tasked to take you in and have you buy them drinks that will be charged a “tourist prices.” To avoid this, just say no to strangers asking you for a drink, or always ask to see the menu before ordering drinks to avoid a nasty surprise.
Other than that, the only thing to note is that the opening hours for many attractions could be much shorter, as you might have noticed in the list of best winter activities. The closing hours of many attractions in Kraków in the winter often match when the sun sets, which is earlier than 4 PM on many days in the winter. So, check those hours! Get an early start in the winter to see all those museums you might want to see, and enjoy some time in a cozy restaurant, café, or bar after sunset, or take a nighttime walk around the beautiful streets.
What should I pack with me for Kraków in the winter?
When it comes to visiting Kraków in the winter, you should pack for cold weather, as discussed previously. Thus, you should bring everything you need to stay warm. At the bare minimum, a warm winter coat, sweatshirts or sweaters for a second layer, gloves, and a hat are necessary. For extra comfort, you might also want thermal underwear, earmuffs, scarves, and other winter accessories that you might want.
Perhaps the most important item to bring is a good pair of waterproof shoes. You do not need big heavy winter boots, but having waterproof shoes is good because there is often water on the ground. Whether from snowfall that stays for long periods of time without melting, or puddles of melted snow that have nowhere to go in some of the cities due to cobblestoned streets with poor drainage, you will want these shoes. Having wet feet as you walk around the very walkable city of Kraków in the winter is not desirable, so come prepared.
Other than that, pack as you normally would. If you are a photography aficionado, bringing all your gear for photos might be worthwhile, as the many beautiful buildings of Kraków wait for you, as well as the beautiful atmosphere of the Christmas Fair.
Conclusions: Kraków in the Winter
In conclusion, Kraków in the winter is a top-notch destination for your Polish winters. Kraków itself has a lot to offer, but you can also take an adventure to nearby Zakopane, Poland’s top winter destination. You can enjoy delicious winter specialties, enjoy some unique artwork in the city, and enjoy the history and architecture of the historic Old Town. That, and the low costs of travel, all add up to a place you should add to your travel plans for this coming winter.
If you are interested about learning more about Poland in the winter, consider reading a few other articles I have written on the topic. First, read this general article about Poland in the winter, that lists some other cities that you might want to visit on top of Kraków in the winter. You can easily make a 1-2 week itinerary if you have the time! Additionally, I have written an article that takes a deeper dive into Zakopane in the winter, which you might find especially useful if you choose to take a day trip from Kraków.
Overall, I wish you safe travels, and stay warm as you explore the beauty that Kraków in the winter has to offer!