With its distinct architecture, rich history, and unique flavors, Krakow is any traveler’s dream. Despite being an ancient city having records as far back as the 7th century, Krakow is anything but outdated. The masterful craftsmanship of its buildings give it a sense of timelessness as you stand in what appears to be the best of both the past and the present. Whether you enjoy history, photography, food, or culture, this city in Poland offers a truly captivating experience for everyone. It’s no wonder that Krakow remains to be considered as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. If you have a bad case of wanderlust, Krakow definitely deserves to be on your bucket-list!
1.The Market Square
© Sergii Figurnyi/stock.adobe.com
A common feature of medieval cities is the centrality of the market square to the whole township. What distinguishes the Main Market Square from other cities is it’s uncommon beauty. This being the most iconic and important point of reference for anyone within the city, it is the seat of Krakow’s social and cultural life. You will find the Market Square to be the stage of many traditions of the city, from the procession of the Lajkonik — which is a depiction of triumph in a historical battle— to the yearly competition of the most beautiful nativity scene in December. The Main Market Square was so significant in it contributions to European culture that it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978, being one of the first 12 sites ever listed.
Stare Miasto, Krakow, Poland
Wawel Castle stands as the city’s epicenter of world-class preserved art, history, and culture. First built as a cathedral in 1000 A.D., the castle underwent several renovations before it came to be known as the Wawel Castle we know today. Currently, it features permanent exhibits that recreate rooms from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Boasting a vast collection of paintings, sculptures, military artifacts, tapestries, and furniture, what is equally impressive is this institution’s diligence in preserving these treasures. Offering something for the artist within all of us, Wawel Castle also hosts concerts ranging from full symphonies to quartets and other chamber music configurations as well as cultural dances and operas.
Wawel 5, 31-001 Krakow, Poland, Phone: +12-422-4155
One of the largest parks in the city, aptly named Planty Park, is the home of a myriad of trees and flowers. It provides the most scenic views of nature that Krakow has to offer. Wide paved roads wind their way around tall green chestnuts and stone benches, leading to ponds where ducks and rooks play with visitors. In the summer, flowers from warmer climate countries bloom and add an exotic flare to the park. Planty is an ideal place for nature lovers, and it serves as a refreshing contrast from the elegant stone buildings that surround it. Also decorating the park are monuments erected to honor significant figures of Krakow, which provides information on the city as you enjoy the warm sun and fresh air.
31-041 Krakow, Poland
The Barbican is one of the more imposing features of the city. Built in 1499 as a defensible structure against the Turks and Tartars, the Barbican still remains to be seen as a great accomplishment in martial architecture. With its seven towers standing proudly around the structure, it gives a sense of both majesty and dread. It’s edifice effectively conceals arrow slits and openings that are strategically placed for archers to have an advantage should the building come under siege. The halls within the Barbican itself are wide enough for soldiers to pass one another with ease, and sufficient and cleverly carved hiding places can be found as well. The building as a whole is appears deceptively smaller than it actually is. This would serve to confuse any army attempting to assess the strength of the garrison within. Today, the Barbican hosts jousting tournaments, mock battles, and feasts complete with dancing that was popular at the time of its establishment. Anyone interested in medieval warfare and the like should definitely stop by the Barbican to get a taste of ancient war in a safer setting.
Nowomiejska 15/17, 00-257 Warszawa, Poland, Phone: +48-22-277-4402
5.St. Florian's Gate
Out of the eight gates built during the Middle Ages, only one has stood against the test of time.
St. Florian’s Gate stands 34.5 meters high and features a relief of St. Florian on one side, and a stone eagle on the other. The eagle was added in 1820 and designed by the local treasured artist Jan Matejko. Its medieval construction is complemented by Baroque elements, namely the structures that decorate the top or “helmet” of the gate, as well as an altar to the Virgin Mary inside the gate. St. Florian’s gate remains the main entrance to the Old Town and was once connected to the defensive structure in Krakow known as the Barbican.
30-001 Krakow, Poland
The Kosciuszko Mound provides easily the most panoramic view of Krakow in the whole city. From here you can see the iconic landscapes of Krakow, including Wawel, St. Mary's Basilica, Sukiennice and the Main Square. Visiting the mound is also an opportunity to explore the Krakow Fortress that surrounds it. Buying a ticket to the top of the Kosciuszko Mound also permits entry to the other exhibitions in the Fort, which would be a treat for military enthusiasts and aspiring photographers alike as the entire structure is prized for its defensive and artistic architecture. Your money will be well spent as all proceeds from the tickets go to maintaining this national treasure.
Al. Waszyngtona 1, 30-204, Krakow, Poland, Phone: +48-12-425-1116
When nobles of old would visit the city of Krakow, they would traverse the streets most befitting their majestic status. With its wide cobbled road and unique mixture of modern and venerable establishments, Florianska Street is an attraction still fit for a king. It holds an extensive variety of stores, restaurants, and even night clubs. You could check out the local wares and then grab lunch at McDonald's, or do some shopping after picking up your favorite brew at the local Starbucks. For those more interested in sight-seeing, the street features the house of famous local designer Jan Matejko who is known for his paintings. His house was converted to a museum and is the oldest biographical museum in the whole country. Additionally, the street is also home to the grand Pod Róza renaissance hotel, yet another timeless structure meticulously preserved. There certainly is something for everyone here.
Florianska Street, Krakow, Poland
Also known as the Krakow Cloth Hall, Sukiennice was once the center for international trade. In addition to trading textiles, one could find wax, spices, leather and many more exotic goods. No wonder it was able to be built and rebuilt into the truly breath-taking structure it’s known as today. Its regal design makes it ideal for entertaining monarchs and ambassadors, and it still serves that purpose today. A must see when visiting Sukiennice is the museum on the upper floor which contains the largest permanent exhibition of Polish paintings and sculptures, which are displayed in the order of their historical periods and divided into four luxurious halls. Presenting styles of Pre-Romanticism, Impressionism, Classicist, and Baroque works to name a few, it is any art lovers dream.
Rynek Glowny ?, 31-042, Krakow, Poland, Phone: +48-12-433-5400
9.St. Mary’s Basilica
Second only to Wawel Cathedral, St. Mary’s Basilica is the most significant religious building in Krakow. Having been graced by the hands of skilled craftsmen over the centuries, St. Mary’s Basilica is composed of a distinct blend of Gothic and Baroque styles. Its high ceilings, intricate sculptures and reliefs, along with the colorful stained glass windows is an awe-inspiring sight. The overall air of solemnity is a refreshing change of pace from the busyness of the streets without. One of its notable features is the Altar of the Holy Cross, an impressive work of black and pink marble displaying an intricately carved stone cross depicting the suffering of Jesus Christ.
Plac Mariacki 5, 31-042, Krakow, Poland, Phone: +48-12-422-0521
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10.The Jewish Quarter
Krakow is a city rich in history, and the Jewish Quarter is no exception. Established when Jews began moving into Krakow in the 12th century, this district sets itself apart from the others in styles, smells, and overall atmosphere. In the Jewish Quarter, you may find the oldest Jewish synagogue, the Galicia Museum (which displays over 140 pictures tracing the history and lifestyle of the Jews over the centuries in Krakow, and the Museum of Municipal Engineering. But the district is much more than the sum of its parts as it is almost a city within a city. Here you can find a variety of bars, cafes, and restaurants each with their distinct themes and personalities. Visiting the Jewish Quarter is a special experience for tourists and local alike.
30-001 Krakow, Poland
11.The Dragon's Den
Fear not, the only dragons that live here are mere sculptures. However, that doesn’t take anything away from the magic that exists in the Dragon’s Den located on Wawel Hill. This location is ideal for children as it inspires the imagination and can provoke an interest in the natural world. The legends as well as the true to life tales that surround it are also incredible enough to pique the interests of any adult willing to hear the story of the Den. Exploring this site is a part of most of the tours on Wawel Hill, but the exhibit is only open from April to October.
Wielopole 11/2, 31-072 Krakow, Poland: Phone: +48-883-319-444
Following the gentle bend of the river are the Vistula Boulevards. These wide picturesque streets are perfect for those who enjoy long walks, bike rides, or relaxing by blue waters. The boulevards have gazebos and seasonal clubs that give the street another dimension at night. Whether you’re reading a book on one of the sun loungers or enjoying a drink by the riverside, the Vistula Boulevards are there for you. Along the streets are statues and fountains that make for great photo opportunities with the family, most notably the statue known as The Mermaid. If you visit during the summer, be sure to drop by the Multimedia Fountain Park at sunset for a performance you will never forget!
Vistula Boulevards, Warsaw, Krakow, Poland
13.Wieliczka Salt Mines
Are you looking for an adventure? Take the descent of 135 meters, comprised of a total of 800 steps and winding corridors, embark on an expedition into the famed Wieliczka Salt Mines. Every year, over one million tourists take this journey to witness exquisite salt sculptures, chambers shaped by artisans, and hear the story of St. Kinga. Of the 20 chapels to visit in these mines the Chapel of St. Kinga is said to be the most exquisite one. Adventurers can choose between two routes, one known as the Tourist route which features things previously mentioned, and the second route is known as the Miner’s route which is an active participatory experience where you can learn about miner’s, their tools, and their lives by walking a mile in their shoes. Both are guided tours and are child friendly!
Danilowicza 10, 32-020 Wieliczka, Poland, Phone: +48-12-278-7302
Auschwitz is a place that needs no introduction. It once served as a concentration and extermination camp for the Jews during World War II. One of the most unspeakable acts of human cruelty were committed here, and yet today it stands as a symbol of hope and the indefatigability of the human spirit. There is still so much to learn in the historical site, and admission is free. In order to better understand the meaning and weight of this place it is highly recommended that you engage a guide or individuals can join a guided tour group. Visitors are exhorted to behave in a way that respects the nature of the location and the things that transpired therein.
Chances are you heard the cathedral before seeing it. Known for its 5 bells and towers, Wawel Cathedral has been ringing since time immemorial. Most majestic and recognizable of the five is Sigismund Tower. Each bell is a masterpiece of wood and metal work as the supporting structures are an intricate inlay of carpentry that has served the towers for decades, and the bells themselves have their own distinct sound and design. Not forsaking function for form, one of the bells, the Clock bell situated in the Clock tower, still rings today every hour and quarter hour. It goes without saying that the interior and ground floors of the cathedral match the bells in majesty and prestige as the craftsmanship of the building is consistent from the moment you enter to the top of its towers.
Wawel 3, 31-001 Krakow, Poland, Phone: +48-12-429-9516
It is no small feat to draw beauty from the grim reality of death, yet this feat is accomplished nonetheless in Rakowicki Cemetery. This place was once considered to be a state-of-the-art feature of the modern city during the Enlightenment as the former churchyard graves at the center of the city proved to be ideal for spreading diseases. Today, you can find miniature works of art in the monuments, sculptures, and artistic crafts that populate the cemetery. Rakowicki is considered to be an open-air museum, needing no guide as the contrast between the excellent artistry and its inevitable end is apparent to all.
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17.Ojców National Park
Calling all nature-lovers! Do you long to be immersed in the natural beauty of the world? Ojców National Park is the place for you. Only 24 kilometers from the city and easily accessible, this national park is home to over 150 species of bird and 1000 kinds of flowering plants. Decorated with high hills of gray, yellow, and slate colored limestone contrasted by the trees, Ojców is full of awe-inspiring vistas. Although, this park is not completely isolated from civilization. Weary travellers can find refuge in Kawiarnia Niezapominajka, a small cafe located within the park where one can enjoy hot coffee, a hearty meal, and polish sweets. If the cafe doesn’t suit your lavish taste, you can always visit the Pieskowa Skala castle nearby. These wonders you must simply see for yourself! Admission is free.
Rakowicka 26, 31-510 Krakow, Poland, Phone: +48-12-619-9900
© Krzysztof Tabor/stock.adobe.com
Blonia park is a long stretch of meadow known for its peacefulness. Over the years it has been used as a meeting place for the masses in celebrating cultural events such as concerts, masses, and exhibitions. The park has hosted celebrities the likes of Pope John Paul II and Celine Dion. When not in use it is a slice of serenity in the midst of the bustling metropolis. If you plan on having a laid back day on your vacation, this is an ideal place for jogging, cycling or rollerblading. Getting the most out of this place is as easy as a walk in the park.
Blonia, Warsaw West County, Masovian Voivodeship, Poland
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19.Plac Bohaterow Getta
This square is the largest open space in the Krakow Ghetto, the living quarter of the Jews. It has a complex history; at one time it symbolized freedom and socialization as it was a place for the inhabitants to get away from the confined space of the tenements, then during the Nazi occupation it became the stage where families were torn apart, deported, or even executed. Today, it exhibits the permanent placement of 70 giant chairs, evenly spaced, to convey the feeling of absence and departure. This serves as a place of reflection and remembrance of what transpired here. Every Sunday a remembrance parade is held in this square to honor the victims, the parade beginning in the square and ending in the Holocaust memorial.
Plac Bohaterow getta 30-001, 30-547 Krakow, Poland
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20.Market Hall Unitarg
The flea market of the first world, this is the largest and best outdoor market. It is open everyday with each vendor dictating their own hours. All sorts of items can be found here, one man’s trash being another man’s treasure and all. They sell anything from fruit, to mismatched shoes, to catholic icons. It is the garage sale to end all garage sales, and anyone who enjoys the thrill of rummaging through a variety of wares in search of the Holy Grail equivalent in a flea market will surely enjoy their time in what the locals call “Hala Targowa”. Food stalls and alcohol shops are also readily found nearby.
Grzegorzecka 3, 31-532 Krakow, Poland, Phone: +48-12-429-6155
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For a sumptuous meal enjoyed in an elegant atmosphere you must visit Restaurant Sasiedzi. Established in 2010 in underground of XIXth century apartment house, this restaurant delivers a fanciful experience for their diners. The tasteful decor would make any meal feel special, whether it be a graduation, a birthday celebration, or a date. They have various chambers to choose from that can better reflect the occasion, each chamber with a unique decoration and interior with food matching their design in taste and presentation. They offer a taste of classic Polish cuisine with a modern twist and a meticulously curated selection of wine for those who have a taste for the fruit of the vine.
Miodowa 25, 31-055 Krakow, Poland, Phone: +48-12-654-8553
22.Alchemia od Kuchni
© Maksim Toome/stock.adobe.com
Alchemia od Kuchni sells great food in a casual atmosphere. It’s bare brick, semi-industrial aesthetic is reminiscent of the meatpacking districts in New York City, giving it a down to earth vibe. They offer classic comfort food, and they do simple dishes exceptionally well. Though their selection may be more limited compared to other restaurants, they do offer a vegan and vegetarian options which are quite hard to find in Krakow. This restaurant takes pride in serving food made from only the freshest, locally sourced ingredients. It’s arguably the best place to enjoy the local street food indoors and sitting down.
Estery 5, 31-056 Krakow, Poland, Phone: +48-88-204-4299
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Dynia just might be literally the most down-to-earth restaurant you can find in Krakow. Located a few steps away from the Planty Gardens and with its rustic garden seating option, it is the perfect place for diners who prefer to be close to nature. Serving predominantly European cuisine, they offer a diversity of flavors for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, although most highly recommended from their menu are their pasta and meat dishes. They are also one of the uncommon establishments that offer vegan and vegetarian options. Also on the menu is a creative assortment of drinks, from mulled wine and other unique alcoholic beverages to coffee, teas and juices. Dynia is a feast for the senses and variety is its dominant spice.
Krupnicza 20, 31-123, Krakow, Poland, Phone: +48-12-430-0838
© Pub Wrega
If you fancy a pint and enjoy the open air to the tunes of a live band, Pub Wrega is the place to be. Quite literally an oversized beer garden, it is a welcome change of ambience from the ostentatious architecture and extravagant views found in the rest of the city. The artistic flair of Krakow did rub off on the pub as seen in the two large murals that decorate its entrance. It’s plain yet pleasant surroundings allow one to enjoy the simple pleasures the pub has to offer: a cool breeze, live music, cheerful crowds, hot food, and fine cold beer. This is pub is satisfying place to delight in the things that are good wherever you are in the world.
Jozefa 17, 31-055 Krakow, Poland, Phone: +48-57-579-7737
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25.Moment Resto Bar
© Moment Resto Bar
The Moment Resto Bar sets itself apart from other establishments with its cozy and quaint interiors. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with the option to sit indoors or in a lovely outdoor area. Boasting in their coffee and dinner experience but also offering tasteful alcoholic beverages, this resto bar is a fitting place for a meal and drinks with your group of friends. Having been recently renovated in 2016, the establishment has felt more homey than ever. It is tastefully and elegantly decorated without pretension, allowing friendship and far to be the main attraction. If you find yourself in the Jewish district, hungry for food or company, you should stop by the Moment Resto Bar.
Estery 22, 31-056 Krakow, Poland, Phone: +48-66-803-4000
25 Best Things to Do in Krakow, Poland
- The Market Square, Photo: Sergii Figurnyi/stock.adobe.com
- Wawel Castle, Photo: JulietPhotography/stock.adobe.com
- Planty Park, Photo: agneskantaruk/stock.adobe.com
- Barbican, Photo: badahos/stock.adobe.com
- St. Florian's Gate, Photo: Bence/stock.adobe.com
- Kosciuszko Mound, Photo: kilhan/stock.adobe.com
- Florianska Street, Photo: kosmos111/stock.adobe.com
- Sukiennice, Photo: bzyxx/stock.adobe.com
- St. Mary’s Basilica, Photo: suronin/stock.adobe.com
- The Jewish Quarter, Photo: agneskantaruk/stock.adobe.com
- The Dragon's Den, Photo: kosmos111/stock.adobe.com
- Vistula Boulevards, Photo: dziewul/stock.adobe.com
- Wieliczka Salt Mines, Photo: Nightman1965/stock.adobe.com
- Auschwitz-Birkenau, Photo: alipko/stock.adobe.com
- Wawel Cathedral, Photo: equos/stock.adobe.com
- Rakowicki Cemetery, Photo: agneskantaruk/stock.adobe.com
- Ojców National Park, Photo: stepmar/stock.adobe.com
- Blonia, Photo: Krzysztof Tabor/stock.adobe.com
- Plac Bohaterow Getta, Photo: MangAllyPop/stock.adobe.com
- Market Hall Unitarg, Photo: luckybusiness/stock.adobe.com
- Sasiedzi, Photo: Sasiedzi
- Alchemia od Kuchni, Photo: Maksim Toome/stock.adobe.com
- Dynia, Photo: Dynia
- Pub Wrega, Photo: Pub Wrega
- Moment Resto Bar, Photo: Moment Resto Bar
- Cover Photo: pkazmierczak/stock.adobe.com