When I first traveled to Kraków (and actually every time since then), the city made me feel like I belonged there. Even though I had never laid eyes on the charming Old Town before, it triggered a deep emotional response in me, and continues to do so every time I return.
As the former royal capital, Kraków is knee-deep in history, with a well-preserved medieval town and Jewish Quarter right at the center of it. With history and culture coursing through its streets, it’s hard not to be charmed by this simply magical place.
If you find the time to visit Kraków, you’ll be happily surprised by the amount that there is to do here. From historic sights and quaint squares to traditional restaurants and a lively night scene, every type of traveler will be satisfied.
To give you an insight into why this southern Polish city holds a special place in my heart, here is a list of my favorite things to do in Kraków.
- Admire the impressive Wawel Castle
- Pop your head inside the Wawel Cathedral
- Go underground in the Wieliczka Salt Mine
- Stand in the center of the Main Square
- Wander inside the Kraków Cloth Hall
- Hike the breathtaking Tatra Mountains
- Drink your weight in beer with a craft beer tour
- Gaze at the beauty of St Joseph’s Church
- Explore the streets of the Old Town
- Save some bucks by lodging in Bubble Hostel
- Visit the incredible Kazimierz neighborhood
- Be inspired at Oskar Schindler’s former factory
- Climb the Kościuszko Mound
- Drink in nature at Ojców National Park
- Stroll through Planty Park
- Treat yourself with a stay at Hotel Copernicus
- Fall in love with St Francis’ Basilica
- Shoot some targets at a shooting range
- Book a unique stay at Hotel Stary
- Pass through the Barbican and St Florian’s Gate
- Learn some Polish history at the National Museum
- Eat cheesecake in Kraków
- Eat your fill of dumplings from the Robimy Pierogi food truck
- Walk along the Vistula Boulevard
- Risk your life at the Dragon’s Den
- Stand in front of St Mary’s Basilica
- Experience the (in)famous Kraków nightlife
- Get the best Zapiekankas at Bar Namaxa
- Take a day trip to Auschwitz concentration camp
- Be amazed by St Benedict’s Fort
- Eat at a milk bar
Admire the impressive Wawel Castle
It’s hard to miss Wawel Castle as it towers over the whole city of Kraków. An impressive blend of Gothic, Renaissance, Rococo, and Romanesque architecture, this former residence of the Polish Kings and Queens is a must-see in Poland.
Wawel Castle should definitely be on your list of things to do in Kraków; it is absolutely worth a visit to see it in all its glory!
Pop your head inside the Wawel Cathedral
While you’re in the castle compounds, don’t miss this next site!
Hidden behind the old walls of Wawel Castle is a place that holds significant importance: Wawel Cathedral. Looming high with its Baroque and Gothic frontispieces, you can admire its exterior features before venturing inside and exploring its interior beauty.
Go underground in the Wieliczka Salt Mine
One of the most popular things to do in Kraków is to visit the magnificent underground cathedral made totally of salt. This is the Wieliczka Salt Mine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of carved artistry, chandeliers and even an underground lake.
It is believed that a salty and damp micro-climate is good for your health — yet another reason to delve underground!
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Stand in the center of the Main Square
The main square, market square, Rynek Główny… whatever you want to call it, just make sure that you visit it!
A buzzing, bar-packed, café-lined, UNESCO-attested square in the heart of the Old Town, you will find history, beautiful architecture, main sights, amazing food, and more here.
Wander inside the Kraków Cloth Hall
Sitting proudly bang in the center of the main square in Kraków is the Renaissance-style market arcade or cloth hall.
An iconic image of the city, wander through its arches and take in all the details that speak of its 13th-century origins while seeing what the modern day stalls are selling.
Hike the breathtaking Tatra Mountains
Need a break from city life? This outdoor activity is a fun thing to do in Kraków. Less than 2 hours away from Kraków’s center is an awe-inspiring place with breathtaking views: the Tatra Mountains.
Known as the “Polish Alps,” these mountains are the perfect place for hiking, camping, and admiring the many lakes and rolling hills that you can see for miles around. It’s worth a visit to see the pretty little town of Zakopane. I taught English here with Premier TEFL, and it’s a stunning mountainous region.
Drink your weight in beer with a craft beer tour
Craft beer is very popular in Kraków, so join one of their tours and bar-hop your way through the city!
From pale ales and lager to the hardcore stuff, you can experience the city while drinking beer and learning about the best local spots around.
Gaze at the beauty of St Joseph’s Church
Kraków has many imposingly beautiful churches that you can feast your eyes on, and St Joseph’s Church is one you shouldn’t miss. Situated in the Podgórze neighbourhood, this beauty is a sight to admire, both inside and out.
Explore the streets of the Old Town
Walking around the Old Town is akin to stepping into a real-life fairytale.
Full of cobbled-streets lined with colorful and simply stunning architecture, you can spend hours getting lost here and discovering all kinds of wonders. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old Town is the main reason that people from all over the globe fall in love with Kraków.
Save some bucks by lodging in Bubble Hostel
I actually stayed in Bubble Hostel and it was one of the best hostel experiences that I’ve had both in Poland, and in general.
Boasting a prime location a stone’s throw away from the Barbican, Bubble Hostel is comfortable, affordable and is situated above some of the best restaurants and cafes in the area. What more could you want?
Visit the incredible Kazimierz neighborhood
Take a short walk from the Old Town, and pay a visit to the historic Jewish Quarter. Once a separate city in its own right, and now a designated UNESCO site, this neighborhood is a buzzing and thriving place that still retains its Jewish culture.
Full of colorful street art, cool art galleries, interesting museums, impressive synagogues, and oodles of bohemian beer joints, you’ll be glad that you ventured here when you enter the quarter that you wouldn’t have been able to explore in the past.
Be inspired at Oskar Schindler’s former factory
If the film Schindler’s List is one of your favorites (and even if it’s not!), you should put this next visit on your list of things to do in Krakow.
Learn all about the incredible story of Oskar Schindler and how he saved thousands of Jewish lives in WWII. This former factory was where he employed most of the Jewish people that he saved, and it has since been turned into a museum to share his story.
There’s a daily limit on the number of visitors, so don’t forget to book your tickets online!
Climb the Kościuszko Mound
Built in the image of the primeval Pagan mounds that surround the city at various points, this particular mound commemorates Tadeusz Kościuszko, the leader of an uprising against foreign rule in Poland.
Standing at 34 meters high and surrounded by red-brick walls, this is a great sight to see. And if you can make the climb to the top, you will be rewarded with sweeping views of the whole city.
Drink in nature at Ojców National Park
If you have the time to spare, take a day away from the city and discover the stone peaks and forest-clad valleys that make up Ojców National Park.
Just 20 minutes by car from the center, you can immerse yourself in forest trails and deep caves where you can discover many beautiful castle ruins and traditional country taverns.
Stroll through Planty Park
Want a short nature retreat within the city? Surround yourself with tranquil gardens, babbling fountains, and weaving paths, and spend the afternoon breathing in the fresh air at Planty Park. Here, you’ll find many locals walking their dogs and just having a relaxing time with friends and family.
With a variety of cafes spilling onto the sidewalk, it is worth a visit when you’re feeling hungry or in need of a break.
Treat yourself with a stay at Hotel Copernicus
Situated on Kraków’s oldest street is Hotel Copernicus, a place fit for presidents and royalty.
Book a courtyard room and you will be transformed back in time while you enjoy your breakfast with the sounds of horses trotting by and people going about their business. With premier service and first-rate comfort, this historical treasure will make your visit to Kraków extra special.
Fall in love with St Francis’ Basilica
There’s so much color and history in this Art Nouveau church!
Built in the 13th-century, the Basilica was the only brick building in Kraków when it was erected, so as you can imagine, it has now become a very special place. The church is known for its stunning stained glass windows, so pop in and see them for yourself.
Shoot some targets at a shooting range
Have a different kind of fun while visiting the city by heading to a shooting range.
With over 100 types of weapons, you can have some hardcore entertainment for an evening by feeling the weight of and firing some real badass guns that you’ve only seen in movies.
Book a unique stay at Hotel Stary
Another popular luxury stay in Kraków is at Hotel Stary, a stunningly elegant 19th-century palace. With fascinating interiors, luxury facilities, and a prime location, you really can’t get much better than this.
Pass through the Barbican and St Florian’s Gate
The Barbican is a 15th-century fortified gateway that once linked to the city walls while St Florian’s Gate is a Gothic 14th-century city gate tower. Walk through both of these medieval wonders, and imagine what it would have been like entering the city of Kraków back in the day.
Learn some Polish history at the National Museum
Full of art and historical artifacts from Poland and all over Europe, this National Museum is worth a visit. Who knows, you might even learn something new!
Eat cheesecake in Kraków
I still don’t know why, but Kraków is known for its cheesecake.
Recognizable by the lattice pattern layered over the sweet cheese on the top, the cheesecake here has been touted as the best that people have ever had on numerous occasions. I have tried it, and it is the same for me too!
Eat your fill of dumplings from the Robimy Pierogi food truck
Food is amazing almost anywhere you go in Poland, but in Kraków, there is a simple place that prepares some of the best dumplings. A small gastronomic food truck called Robimy Pierogi has locals lining up for their high-quality and traditional dumplings, so they must be good!
Walk along the Vistula Boulevard
The winding Vistula River makes its way through the heart of the city, and with it comes many green banks full of summertime markets, beer bars, and bobbing cafes.
These boulevards are not only simply beautiful to see but they are also the perfect places to people watch, stroll around, cycle along, or hang out with friends in the evening.
Risk your life at the Dragon’s Den
Okay, so you’re not really risking your life but legend has it that a formidable dragon called Smok Wawelski used to live deep in a cave at the foot of Wawel Hill. Visit its lair and you’ll see a statue of the fire-breathing legend himself.
Stand in front of St Mary’s Basilica
An iconic symbol of Kraków, the great twin spires of St Mary’s Basilica stand proudly at one of the corners of the Main Square. Towering over the cloth hall, you can admire its redbrick façade, and listen to its hourly trumpet call.
Experience the (in)famous Kraków nightlife
Kraków is known for its nightlife, so much so that you will see many hen and stag parties while you are here.
With many pubs, bars, and clubs lining the streets, you can just get some drinks in a lively atmosphere or party all night long. If you’re looking for a full crazy night, start with a vodka tour and the night will make itself.
Get the best Zapiekankas at Bar Namaxa
Zapiekankas are famous Polish street food, and I can attest to how amazing they are!
Half-cut baguettes baked with vegetables, meat, mushrooms and melted cheese, these bad boys are a local favorite for a reason. The best around are supposedly at Bar Namaxa so try them for yourself and you be the judge.
Take a day trip to Auschwitz concentration camp
Although not an activity for everybody, a visit to Auschwitz is one that will never be forgotten.
Just a short drive from the city, you can see the largest of the German Nazi concentration camps in German-occupied Poland during WWII. Learn about the painful experiences Polish Jews endured during this dark time of human history.
A visit to Auschwitz is difficult experience but an extremely important and eye-opening one.
Be amazed by St Benedict’s Fort
Built in the 19th-century. this incredible redbrick monolith takes its name from St Benedict’s Church that stands nearby. The fortress has been abandoned for many decades, so if you’re looking for off-the-beaten-track things to do in Kraków, venture inside if you dare.
Eat at a milk bar
A bar mleczny (or “milk bar”) is very common in Poland, offering a cafeteria type experience and simple, affordable meals. Don’t be fooled by the prices, however, as you can’t get food more traditional or delicious than this.
Out of the limited number of milk bars left in Poland after the end of communist-rule, U Babci Maliny is said to be the best in Kraków.
For such a small city, there are surprisingly plenty of great things to do and see while in Kraków. Prepare to fall in love with this historic beauty — you won’t be surprised when you keep going back for more!
If you’d prefer to explore Kraków’s sights with a local guide, check out the Kraków tours offered by GetYourGuide.
What are your favorite things to do in Kraków? Share with us in the comments.
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