If you are looking for a destination to spend a weekend full of culture and fun, and you have already visited the main European cities, Krakow is the destination for you.
Why do we recommend Krakow? Because it’s beautiful, cheap and has yet to be bombarded by the large tourist crowds. The quaint destination is the most visited city in Poland and trust us, it will not disappoint you.
Visitors going on holiday will surely be enchanted by the city’s medieval architecture, moved by its artistic and cultural heritage, and impressed by the taste-tantalizing gastronomy, which is sure to be the source of most cravings, after trying it. Populated by many students and teachers, this city houses as many as 23 prestigious universities.
Take the journey with eDreams and explore 25 things to do in Krakow, Poland’s cultural capital.
1. Main Square
Main Square is in the heart of Krakow and is the largest medieval square in Europe. Dating back to the 13th century, the square is approximately 40,000 m² and has been home to commerce and markets.
Visit the square in the daytime and in the evening to appreciate all of its beautiful splendor.
2. St. Mary’s Basilica
Also in Main Square is the St. Mary’s Basilica, where at the stroke of every hour (day and night), a man looks out through each of the four towers of the basilica to play the characteristic sound “Hejnal Mariacki” in commemoration of the first bugler who spotted the Tartars who were about to attack the city in the thirteenth century. This bugler managed to announce the attack, but was inevitably pierced by an arrow and killed.
3. Wawel Castle
Built on a hill on the left bank of the Vistula River, the Wawel Castle boasts an amazing view…
When you visit, you’ll be able to view the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine“, which has been housed in the castle since 2012.
4. Wawel Hill Dragon’s Den
A popular destination for the visitors is Dragon’s Den, where tourists crawl inside the dragon’s cave, which is also called Smocza Jama in Polish. This limestone cave is located in Wawel Hill, and once on the other side of it, will lead to a spectacular structure of the imposing statue of the mythological animal. Bonus: It actually spits fire!
Here, you can also discover the legend of the humble shoemaker who, thanks to a clever ploy, managed to kill the dreaded monster and thus save the fate of the city.
5. Jagiellonian University
Jagiellonian University is the oldest university in Poland and a landmark worth visiting. The University, which was founded in 1364, is where the likes of Nicolaus Copernicus, Karol Wojtyla and Nawojka, the legendary first woman to attend school in the fifteenth century, attended.
6. Schindler’s Factory
Head to Schindler’s Factory, which is now a museum. This personality was made famous by director Steven Spielberg’s movie “Schindler’s List” based on the thousands of Jews saved during World War II. This factory was used for the production of enamelled objects for the army, including pots and lids.
7. Ghetto Heroes Square
Take a moment to stop and think amidst the 70 metal chairs placed in the Ghetto Heroes Square to symbolize the dark period in which 15,000 Jews were crammed into this corner of the city to be killed, deported or left to die in concentration camps. The lights beneath each chair give the square a charming appeal when visited in the evening.
8. Underground Museum of Krakow
Enter the Underground Museum of Krakow, which is located just below Main Square, and enjoy their display of interactive installations and archaeological finds, from the discovery of the footsteps of the first urban settlements to artifacts dating back to the medieval times and the building of the square.
9. Eat Pierogi
Give yourself a break during the sights-filled journey by tasting one of the most popular dishes of the Polish tradition, the Pierogi.
Resembling the Italian ravioli, it is stuffed with various ingredients and can be served boiled or fried. Enjoy them with a good Polish beer; it is the best option.
10. Street Art in Kazimierz
Lose yourself in the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, a young and alternative area, where you can find real works of street art around every corner.
If you are looking for restaurants, bars and a cheap atmosphere, this is also the neighborhood for you to check out.
11. Indulge in Zapiekanka
Once you devour a “zapiekanka“, a sort of amazing bruschetta the shape of a half baguette, you’ll realize why it is such a loved snack.
You won’t have to go too far to try one – they are on sale in Plac Nowy, in the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz. A central kiosk called “Points” will have these delicious sandwiches available.
12. Nowa Huta
Take a detour outside of the city center and visit the district of Nowa Huta.
Nowa Huta is located in the easternmost area of Krakow and its name means the New Steel Mill, because it was built for the steel mill workers that inhabited the area in the 1950s. The town’s architectural style was imported from the Soviet Union. When you go, visit the Arka Pana church, which was erected in 1977 and historically was a source of conflict between the communist authorities and the Polish workers backed by Karol Wojtyla.
13. Sigismund Bell
The Sigismund Bell, is the largest of the five bells located in the Wawel Cathedral, and it only tolls on the most important occasions or holidays.
This bell is considered one of Poland’s national symbols and requires at least eight bell ringers to move it!
14. Church of St. Francis of Assisi
One of the more beautiful details of this church is the stained-glass windows. Visit in the early hours of the afternoon when the light brings out the colors of the stained glass windows, creating an impressive game of lights.
The entire church was decorated in the art Deco style by artist Stanisław Wyspiański.
15. Air Balloon
Fly over the city in a balloon and experience a beautiful aerial view that will truly be unforgettable. The balloon rises from the opposite bank of the river from Wawel.
If you aren’t afraid of heights this is an experience you should definitely try!
16. Statue of Karol Wojtyla
Look for this statue dedicated to Karol Wojtyla, the Polish pope who was born in Wadowice, near Krakow. This statue was erected in the 70s.
17. The Forum
Krakow at night can be as entertaining as the sights you’ll see during the day. Visitors wanting to retreat to an evening in a location that is a bit alternative with the qualities of a bar, event locations and a club, visit the Forum.
Located in the district of Kazimierz, tourists can enjoy the Forum with great company among the hipsters of Krakow. Bonus: It is also open during the day.
18. Christmas Markets
If you are in Krakow during Christmas, you must go to one of the traditional markets located throughout the city.
The most famous is located in the Main Market Square and offers handicrafts and jewelry. Baltic amber is popular and so is their array of delicious dishes, including soups, stews and sausages.
19. Salt mines of Wieliczka
Located out of town, the salt mines of Wieliczka are worth a trip. Here, visitors can walk in tunnels dug into the rocks that transport tourists up to 150 meters deep into the mines.
Visitors will also be surprised by the large chapel of St. Kinga, with its huge chandeliers which are also made of salt and one of the more scenic parts of the tour.
20. Cheers with Polish Vodka
To get the evening off to a great start, take a shot of the very famous Polish vodka.
The vodka is available in many brands and flavors, and can be enjoyed in locations called “Pijalnia wódki I Piwa” which literally means “place where you can drink beer and drink Polish vodka.” Here, you can drink well and eat some traditional dishes you are sure to love as well.
21. Check out the Nativity Scenes
Nativities have been created and displayed in this region since 1937. Tiny multi-storey buildings are adorned with pinnacle, stained glass windows and towers in order to recreate a kind of elaborate Nativity, and in Krakow, the representation of the Nativity becomes a work of craftsmanship so accurate to finish exhibited in a museum.
Every year, the makers of these nativity scenes gather at the Adam Mickiewicz monument to display their works.
22. Eat a Obwarzanek donut
Try Obwarzanek, delicious salted donuts. These lovelies are sold in street carts throughout the city.
So, what makes it so special and tasty? They are covered with salt, poppy seeds and sesame!
23. Jazz at Piec Art
If you love Jazz, you’ll love the chance to enjoy a live performance at Piec Art, where every Wednesday night at 20:30, admission is free.
24. Concentration Camps
Visit the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau to experience the conditions in which Jews lived and were imprisoned. A trip to this place is about 70km west of Krakow and requires at least a half day to travel.
25. Theatre Slowacki
Take a ride to the area of Theatre Slowacki. It is reminiscnet of the Paris Opera and at night it seems even more stately. This architecture represents a symbol of the more flourishing times of Poland, the 1800s.