Krakow | Poland : A Quick Guide to Planning Your Adventure

The railroad tracks that lead to the Auschwitz II-Birkenau grounds. As “prisoners” departed the train, the Nazi officers separated the adults by gender  [children went with the women]. They were then examined to determine their ability to work. If deemed unable to work, they were immediately sent to the gas chambers, children included. – Oswiecim, Poland

Don’t miss it

A tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp. Everyone experiences Auschwitz differently, and everyone walks away changed. It is free to visit the grounds of both Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau after 3:00PM [ 15:00 hours ], but I strongly recommend taking a guided tour. The tour is educational, depressing, maddening, and frankly, necessary. By walking around solo, you miss the educational aspect and personal stories that the guides share. I know of two options for booking a guided tour:

  1. Reserve a ticket through the museum’s website far in advance of your visit. You will be responsible for your own transportation from Kraków to Oświęcim, the town where Auschwitz is located.
  2. Book through an organized tour company, which will transport you from Kraków to Oświęcim and arrange the guided tour at Auschwitz.

I recommend the second option because it requires the least effort while also being affordable. All you need to do is arrive at the pick-up location in Kraków, and the tour company organizes the rest. I suggest booking the “basic ticket” with Escape to Poland, as the tour was a small group of about 15 people. The tour of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau lasts 3.5 hours in total, and transport is one hour each way. The company also plays a documentary about the Holocaust and World War II on the way to Auschwitz. It is a powerful experience.

Pretty cool

Head over to the Kazimierz neighborhood, the former Jewish district, and check out Singer and Alchemia, two of many cool bars and cafes in this hopping neighborhood. Pop in the nearby Galicia Jewish Museum while in the area. It is unique in that it shares stories, through photography, of Jewish Poles throughout World War II and the Holocaust. Grab a cup of coffee from the museum’s cafe before wandering through the exhibits. There’s wifi, too!

Must try food/drink

Pierogi … for every dang meal. You can bake it, fry it, boil it, steam it. The types of fillings are endless. There are pierogi with beef, pierogi with cheese, pierogi with potatoes, pierogi with fried onions, pierogi with spinach and mushrooms. [Writer’s note: Reread this in Bubba’s voice from Forrest Gump.]

Here’s a hint

It is nearly impossible to visit Kraków and not stumble into the Main Market Square [Rynek Główny in Polish], one of the largest squares in Europe. It is the perfect spot for a cup of coffee or glass of wine. From the square, you will see St Mary’s Church. Every hour on the hour, a trumpeter appears in the church’s tower to play a melody [called a hejnał]. The melody ends abruptly, honoring a former trumpeter who was killed by an arrow from afar in the 13th century [so the legend says]. While unlikely a true story, it is neat to watch the trumpeter and hear the melody, which was traditionally used as a warning call.

Wish I had more time for

Similar to Prague, Kraków is extremely affordable and just as charming as other popular European destinations. Spend several days in Kraków and then venture to other Polish cities, such as Warsaw, Poznan and Wrocław. I wish I had made time for that.


A two-bedroom, one-bathroom Airbnb apartment about a 10 minute walk from the Main Market Square and a 15-minute walk from Kazimierz.

Next stop

Boarded an overnight train to Budapest, Hungary. Spend the extra money on a sleeper car.

Additional resources for planning your adventure

[ Main Market Square – Krakow, Poland ]
[ The Wawel Castle grounds. Pop your head in the church, which is free to enter. – Krakow, Poland ]
[ Interior courtyard in the Wawel Castle complex. – Krakow, Poland ]
[ Few lived to tell the detailed stories of what happened inside the fences of Auschwitz II-Birkenau – Oswiecim, Poland ]
[ The entrance to Auschwitz II-Birkenau – Oswiecim, Poland ]
[ View of the Auschwitz II-Birkenau grounds from a watch tower – Oswiecim, Poland ]
[ Vistula River – Krakow, Poland ]
[  A mural found in the Kazimierz neighborhood, which depicts life during post-WWII communist rule – Krakow, Poland ]
[ Ghetto Heroes Square is a memorial with 70 empty bronze chairs representing the lost possessions and absence of Jewish men, women and children who were deported from Krakow in this exact location, a former Jewish “ghetto.”  – Krakow, Poland ]
[ St Mary’s Church in the Main Market Square – Krakow, Poland ]
[ Main Market Square – Krakow, Poland ]

[ An event held in the Main Market Square that commemorated the 25th anniversary of establishing the Krakow police force. – Krakow, Poland ]

[ The Town Hall tower, which can be climbed for a small admission fee, sits in the middle of the Main Market Square. – Krakow, Poland ]
[ A sampler of Polish favorites deemed the “crazy dish.” – Krakow, Poland ]

Do you have other suggestions for Kraków? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Ready to plan your adventure? Here are a few more posts to help you get started.

Next Up: Follow the adventure to Budapest, Hungary.


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Planning a trip to Krakow, Poland? Start here.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Mel & Suan says:

    Krakow is indeed wonderful. We recounted a story about the trumpeter in St Mary’s church. The bugle is suppose to end abruptly. Did you know why?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The legend says that a trumpeter was killed by an arrow from afar in the 13th century. While playing the bugle in the tower, the arrow hit him, causing the music to end abruptly. To honor the former trumpeter, the music always ends at the same point that it ended when he was shot. However, our tour guide told us the arrow was shot from the city’s gates, which is very far from the tower. It is very unlikely an arrow could have made it from the gate all the way up to the tower. But sometimes its fun to believe the old stories 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mel & Suan says:

        Hmm, yep our guide said it was the mongols that shot the bugle…! True, technically its just too far…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am heading to Krakow at the beginning of April and this post has been incredibly useful! I was debating whther the Auschwitz trip was too far away?


    1. Definitely not too far. Only 45 mins to an hour. It is an absolute must-do. The tour is such a powerful experience that will shape your beliefs and thoughts moving forward. I recommend taking a tour bus because they will purchase your admission ticket, help you bypass the lines and transport you from Kraków to Auschwitz (and back). I promise you won’t regret it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Brilliant thank you! I definately will!! P

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Absolutely! Let me know if you need any more recommendations. It was an amazing city 🙂 Have fun!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Cath&Andy says:

    Thanks for this post – really informative with great photos. We are heading to Krakow for Christmas so are looking forward to doing some serious exploring (and eating!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sure Krakow will be beautiful in the winter! I hope you share photos! The food is certainly a great part of the visit. Enjoy 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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