Kraków is fast becoming one of Europe’s most sought after city break destinations. While similar in looks to its neighbour Prague, Kraków offers a much richer history, so much so that in 1978 the old town of Kraków was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
During World War II, the Nazi’s occupied Kraków making it one of the most important habitations of Nazi state rulers. Whilst turning Kraków into an entire German city, the residing Jewish population were forced into makeshift ghettos, before being deported to concentration camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau. Auschwitz-Birkenau still stands today and serves as a worldwide reminder of the devastation the holocaust caused. While the city holds such a sombre past, its beauty still remains with large parts of the old town unchanged since before the war.
Aside from the immense history the city has to offer, there are plenty of wonderful places to see, eat and drink. Kraków is incredibly cheap compared to the likes of the UK. We tend to work out how cheap a country is by the price of a beer or wine! An average pint in Kraków is £1.60.
We spent just over four days in Kraków and here’s our rough itinerary!
Oskar Schindlers Factory (Fabryka Schindlera)
Easily one of the most popular attractions to visit in Kraków. We spent the morning here delving into the history of Oskar Schindler and his efforts in saving over 1200 Jews by secretly employing them in his factory. Each room in the exhibition is home to archival radio broadcasts, newspapers, period artefacts and real life experiences of the nazi rule in Kraków. It is located in the Zablocie district, around a 10 minute Uber from the main square. We paid 13 PLN which is around £2.60. The exhibition is free on Monday’s but there are limited tickets available. Its 26 PLN on a normal day = £5.20. I recommend booking the tickets in advance – we were unable to pre-buy online as they’d sold out and by a strike of luck managed to get some on the day as a party didn’t turn up. Prepare in advance!
Right next door to the museum is Krako Slow Wines. The emphasis is mainly on the array of wines which were around £1.20 a glass, but the food was lovely and was the perfect place to stop after a morning in the museum.
In the afternoon we explored Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter. This was the main hub for Jewish life for over 500 years and many of its oldest buildings still stand. Now its main square Plac Nowy is bustling with indie art galleries, alternative cafes/restaurants and quirky shops, making it a must see for all visitors. Kazimierz is easily walkable and is the best way to see everything it has to offer. Spend a couple of hours getting lost in the cobbled streets before its time for some polish Vodka!
This place is a must do whilst in Kraków! Its pretty small though and getting a table was a bit of a task, but well worth the wait. They have a huge list of flavoured vodkas to try and wether or not vodka is your thing, its an experience not to be missed!
Our Air BnB was located a two minute walk from the main market square so this was a perfect place to start day two. First up was breakfast at Urban Garden. It was a real mix of traditional polish and European dining. The portion sizes were great and each dish was around £8 with free juice, tea and coffee.
The main market square is full of outdoor restaurants and food vendors, but is also home to the Cloth Hall, St Marys Basilica and the Town Hall Tower.
The cloth hall is huge and used to be a traditional market place for locals. Its still open today but mostly selling souvenirs and other little gifts. Take some time to walk around the outdoor market stalls, they’re packed with fresh breads and meats! We tried a few traditional polish sausages which were around £1 each!
You have to pay to enter St Marys Basilica – around £3 each and the inside is beautiful. Both towers require separate tickets as well as the bugle tower. As we were visiting in peak season, we missed out on tickets to one of the towers, so best to go early in the morning to secure the tickets for the day. Every hour on the hour a bugler plays out of one of the basilica windows – this is one of the city oldest traditions and a real treat to witness.
Through our Air BnB host we booked a guided tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau. By car, Auschwitz-Birkenau is around 1hr from the centre of Kraków and at certain times of the year it is mandatory to join an organised tour group. Even if you travel at a time when its not mandatory, i would thoroughly recommend using one. Our guide was fantastic and we learnt so much more this way. Having someone so engaging and informative really adds another layer to the experience.
While undoubtedly visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau was one of the most sobering experiences I’ve had to date, it is a must do while in Kraków. It is vital that we as a human race never forget the tragedy of the holocaust and use it as reminder to never let it happen again.
As a bit of a history geek, this was one of the main reasons for our trip to Kraków and its an experience i’ll remember for a long time.
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”George Santayana
Our last day in Kraków was spent exploring Wawel Castle, Florianska Street & Florian’s Gate. Breakfast was at Milkbar Tomasza. Breakfast dishes were around 16 PLN = £3 and were super filling. Definitely check it out if you’re nearby.
From breakfast it was a short walk to Florianska street. The street is named after St Florian and is part of the ‘Royal Road’ which runs all the way to Wawel Castle. At the top of Florianska Street sits Florian’s gate. The gate has been in the city since the 14th century and remains the entry point to the main market square.
A short walk from Florian’s gate finds you at the foot of Wawel Castle. There is so much to see and do surrounding the castle and the castle grounds and the ticketing systems works on a ‘pay what you want to see’ basis. The grounds are expertly manicured and there is lots of historical buildings to wander around. It can get very busy so if you want unobstructed views – get here early. The grounds open at 6am in the summer months! Inside the castle grounds is the piéce de résistance; Wawel Cathedral. The architecture of all the buildings here is gorgeous and definitely worth visiting. You can enter the cathedral for free but there are some other sights which you have to pay for.
Our last meal was at Boscaiola, a short walk out of the main square. The main portion of the restaurant is underground and decorated with original brickwork and large stunning fireplaces. A secret find but one i would absolutely recommend!
There is plenty of great places to visit in Krakow and you could definitely spend more than four days exploring this great city and getting lost in its history.
I’ve linked a custom map below which has all the best sights and my favourite bars and restaurants.