Krakow is undoubtedly a gem and one of the most representative cities in Poland. We love Krakow and if it weren’t for the bad access from Łódź, we would probably be here much more often. After all, it is in Krakow that you will find the dragon – one of the better-known symbols of the city, the Wawel Castle – the former seat of rulers and one of the most visited castles in Poland, and the Old Town Square with Planty Gardens, Cloth Hall, charming tenement houses and St. Mary’s Church.
Even if you are not the type of person who wants to visit all the most important monuments, you will surely find something for yourself in Krakow. This city is just full of life. Here are plenty of great restaurants (you can try cuisine from all over the world!), cafes, bars and clubs for party folks, cool places in the open air to admire the sunset or panoramas, cultural events, boutiques with a unique assortment or hipster spots. To sum up – something great for everyone!
In this post, we’ve listed the attractions for newbies. However, we plan to create a more out of the box guide and this is where your help would be appreciated. Let us know in the comments your favourite places in the city, and we will try to collect them in a constructive blog post 🙂
Here are the top attractions for the weekend in Krakow!
How to get here
Krakow is located approx. 300 km from Warsaw, 220 km from Łódź, 280 km from Wrocław, 450 km from Poznań and approx. 600 km from Gdańsk. Access by car may, unfortunately, be hindered by constructions on roads.
Of course, you can also decide to travel by train, which will take you to Krakow Głowny, or even take a flight from Warsaw or Gdańsk and landing at the International Airport.
In Krakow, as in other large Polish cities, there is no shortage of good hotels, but we always recommend using Airbnb or booking.com. You can find, for example, such a cozy studio in the heart of Krakow with free Wifi or a slightly more expensive, spacious apartment close to the Wawel Castle.
In Krakow, you need to remember about a fairly extensive paid parking zone. The parking fee must be paid at one of the many parking meters (youj can pay with Paypass and Paywave], contactless payment cards, BLIK system and coins (from 10 groszy to 5 zlotys). The SkyCash mobile application is also a good alternative. It is quite difficult to find a parking space in the city, so be prepared for a patient search. You can check the paid parking zone here.
Krakow’s Old Town
The Old Town in Krakow is probably the most obvious choice, but we cannot imagine visiting Krakow without losing ourselves among its charming streets.
It is worth taking a walk through Planty, the City Park surrounding the Old Town. Planty was built on the site of the fortifications and cover the area of 21 ha and is 4 km long.
Walking around Planty Gardens, you will undoubtedly come across the Barbacan – the northernmost part of Krakow’s city fortifications. It is located in front of the Florian Gate, on the south side of Basztowa street. The Barbican can be visited inside, the cost of admission is PLN 12 and you can also visit the other buildings that make up the Trasa Obronności, i.e. the branch of the Celestat Barbican (Kraków, ul. Basztowa) and the branch of the Defense Walls (Kraków, ul. Pijarska) – within 7 days of its purchase. You can find more information here.
You enter the Old Town through the Florian Gate. This medieval gate with a tower is a remnant of the old walls and is also one of the eight defensive gates in Krakow. Above the entrance to the Gate (from the Planty side), there is a bas-relief with the Piast eagle made by Zygmunt Langman, designed by Jan Matejko. Inside the gate, there is a classicist altar from the beginning of the 19th century with a late Baroque copy of the miraculous painting of Piaskowa Madonna.
St. Mary’s Basilica
Leaving the Florian Gate, we enter Florianska Street, which will lead us to the Market Square, right next to the St. Mary’s Basilica. This Gothic church, built in the 14th and 15th centuries, is one of the most famous monuments in Krakow. Its characteristic element are the two towers. The taller tower, St. Mary’s Tower, is 82 meters high. The bugle call is played every hour from this tower. Krakow is the only city in the world where the medieval tradition of playing the bugle call every hour has survived to this day! You can enter St. Mary’s Tower by climbing 271 stairs to see the beautiful panorama of the city from the perspective of the Old Market Square. The cost of admission is PLN 15, but remember that a limited number of tickets are available for sale, so it is worth buing them in the morning. The lower tower, 69 meters high, houses church bells.
Let us not forget about the interior of St. Mary’s Basilica, whose unique monument is the work of Veit Stoss – The Main Altar. Currently, technical work is underway on the main stage of the St. Mary’s altar. Entry to the basilica is possible after purchasing a ticket, and the price is PLN 10.
The Cloth Hall
In the central part of the Market Square, there is the Cloth Hall, i.e. a large shopping hall built in the 13th century in the centre of the Main Square. The Cloth Hall was expanded in the 14th century in the Gothic style, and then thoroughly transformed in the mid-16th century in the Renaissance style. Due to their location and character, the halls of the first floor of the Cloth Hall building became the first seat of the National Museum in Krakow. In the Cloth Hall, there is one of the largest permanent exhibitions of 19th-century Polish painting and sculpture. You can find more information about tickets here.
Wawel Castle is one of the most important tourist attractions in Poland. The castle located on the Wawel Hill has been rebuilt many times, which is clearly visible on its walls.
Two independent institutions operate within the hill: the Wawel Royal Castle and the Cathedral, and the castle itself is divided into several exhibitions: permanent and seasonal. In our opinion, while visiting Wawel, in addition to the more famous exhibitions, such as Representative Royal Chambers, Private Royal Apartments, the Crown Treasury and Armory, or the Sandomierz Tower, it is also worth visiting the Royal Gardens. The gardens consist of two terraces: upper and lower, and a small vineyard. They have been recreated in line with the Renaissance traditions, with the use of various plants, and even herb beds have been put on the main terrace. It is from the Royal Gardens that there is a beautiful view of Krakow’s Old Town.
Entering the Dragon’s Den is very popular, mainly among… children! However, you must see the Wawel Dragon, and then it’s best to walk for a while along the Vistula river.
We must emphasize at this point that entering the exhibitions is quite tricky. Tickets are not available online and there usually is a long line at the ticket office. While waiting, it may turn out that the tickets for the exhibition of your choice have already been sold out. Combined tickets are also not available and each exhibition must be paid separately, except for the #visitKrakow program, under which the 1+1 promotion applies and when purchasing a ticket for one of the permanent exhibitions: Royal Royal Rooms, Royal Private Apartments, Crown Treasury and The Armory will receive free entry to the Sandomierz Tower or the Royal Gardens (the promotion lasts until October 31, 2020). In general, be prepared to spend a lot of money here and wake up early to get in line as early as possible. A detailed price list and all the necessary information can be found here.
However, the Wawel Castle is a “classic” and you have to visit it at least once. The architecture is beautiful and the collections impressive.
Kazimierz in Krakow was established by King Casimir the Great himself in the 14th century. For many centuries it was a separate royal city. Kazimierz is a special place, shaped by it’s the close neighbours – Christians and Jews. This district, teeming with cultural and artistic life, especially attracts those who want to feel the spirit of Krakow’s bohemia. Here you will find numerous restaurants, cafes, art studios and art galleries, as well as synagogues, including the Old Synagogue.
Old Synagogue is one of the oldest preserved synagogues in Poland and one of the most valuable monuments of Jewish religious architecture in Europe. The admission fee is PLN 14. While in Kazimierz, it is also worth walking towards the Vistula River and crossing it along the Father Bernatek footbridge.
The National Museum has one of the most important and interesting collections not only in Poland but also in the world. There are three galleries in the Main Building: “Weapons and Colors in Poland”, Decorative Arts and The Situation Has Changed. In the branch of the National Museum, the Princes Czartoryski Museum, you can also see Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting “Lady with an Ermine”, which we adore. Temporary exhibitions are also very popular, including the collection of works of art by Stanisław Wyspiański and the “Drawer of Szymborska.” A one-day ticket for all permanent and temporary exhibitions costs PLN 50. Tickets can be purchased online.
Another great place to see the panorama of Krakow is the Kościuszko Mound. When the visibility is good, you can even see the Tatra Mountains! It is one of the 5 mounds in Krakow, created to commemorate Tadeusz Kościuszko. The admission fee is PLN 14.
The Zakrzówek Lagoon
Officially, it is not permitted to enter the area of Zakrzówek. It is surrounded by a fence in which the holes made by enthusiasts of this place are successively patched. However, if you really want it, you can find your way in! The Zakrzówek Lagoon was built in place of the old quarry. The limestone deposits that were once mined here are responsible for the unusual colour of the water, which is clear and turquoise. Although we would advise you not to swim in Zakrzówek, because its area is rather dangerous, a walk around the lagoon is a great way to spend your time.
Where to eat?
KU KU Taiwanese Food & Bubble tea
In KuKu you will eat delicious Taiwanese soups. The portions are huge, the broth is full of flavour, the toppings are tasty and the noodles are just perfect. There are meat and vegetarian options to choose from. We like the food so much that we even took takeaway soups to Łódź several times, so as you can expect, we recommend it!
Boccanera is an Italian restaurant with an impressive interior. You can choose from interesting starters, tasty pasta and pizza, of course! But there is also a large selection of main courses. You should consider pizza with burrata, zander from the oven with roasted vegetables, mussels and lime sauce, penne alla norma with eggplant, ricotta and tomato sauce, as well as mussels in wine and butter sauce with cream, leek and pimento. Prices go hand in hand with quality, and the restaurant is hidden in a quieter nook.
“Zielona Kuchnia or everything that is associated with green – balance, harmony, nature and a sense of fulfilment.” – you can read this sentence on the restaurant’s website. And we must admit it is just like that! The attention to every detail and the constant search for new flavours means that here you can expect a real revolution on the plate.
This is the place where I ate the thinnest fish in my life – Atlantic cod on mashed celery puree with vanilla butter, marinated fennel, grapefruit and roasted pistachios. I have to admit that I even tried to recreate this dish at home! A brilliant combination of flavours and textures. There are also meats waiting for you (e.g. duck breast or rib-eye steak) as well as homemade gnocchi or vegetarian portobello mushroom with couscous, zucchini julienne, avocado salsa and marinated beetroot. It is worth mentioning that pavlova meringue with lemon cream and mango is a blast! It’s more expensive but definitely worth it.
Finally, we mention Krowarzywa. This is not a place reserved for Krakow, because Krowarzywa is already in every major city in Poland. However, when sudden hunger hits you, you want to eat something quick and cheap, and also close to the Market Square, Krowarzywa is a great option. And totally vegan! But! Their vegan pastrami attracts even the biggest meat lovers! You can choose from various burgers, wraps, the famous vegan kebab and sweet potato fries. A burger or a wrap costs around PLN 20 and you will no longer be hungry.
Let us know in the comments what attractions and restaurants you would us to add to our list. We are very curious!
Experience with us!
Brought to you by: Julia & Przemyslaw