Krakow, Poland: A Travel Guide to Planning Your Trip

poland7
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.

Day Trip from Krakow

Take a day trip from Kraków to visit 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:

poland8
View of the Auschwitz II-Birkenau grounds from a watch tower.
  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.

poland6
Few lived to tell the detailed stories of what happened inside the fences of Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

What to do in Krakow

Kazimierz Neighborhood

Spend some time in the Kazimierz neighborhood, which is the former Jewish district. It is now a trendy neighborhood filled with cool cafes and hopping bars. Check out Singer and Alchemia – both awesome places to grab a drink.

poland11
A mural found in the Kazimierz neighborhood, which depicts life during post-WWII communist rule.

Visit the Galicia Jewish Museum while in the neighborhood. 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 in the cafe, too!

poland12
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.” 

Main Market Square

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. You may just stumble upon a festival or event in the square – like we did (twice).

poland2
An event held in the Main Market Square that commemorated the 25th anniversary of establishing the Krakow police force.

The Town Hall tower sits in the middle of the Main Market Square. It can be climbed for a small admission fee. And it offers views over the city!

poland-13
Main Market Square

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.

poland14
St Mary’s Church in the Main Market Square.

Wawel Castle

Wander through the Wawel Castle grounds. Be sure to walk through the church, which is free to enter. If the weather is nice, it’s a great place for a picnic or nap. Wawel Castle is also a great thing to do in Kraków with kids!

poland3
Wawel Castle … the perfect place for a picnic!

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.)

poland40
A sampler of Polish favorites deemed the “crazy dish.”

Travel Tips for Krakow

Similar to traveling to nearby Prague, Kraków is extremely affordable and just as charming as other popular European destinations (such as Florence, Berlin and Amsterdam). Even better, there are so many free things to do in Kraków. Wandering through the Kazimierz neighborhood, Wawel Castle, Jagiellonian University (the local university), and along the Vistula River is not only fun, but it’s also free!

When creating your travel itinerary, I recommend spending at least three days in Kraków and then venture to other Polish cities, such as Warsaw, Poznan and Wrocław. The public transportation in the county and region is fantastic! Check out transportation options and schedules on booking sites, such as OMIO and RailEurope.

poland10
Take a stroll along the Vistula River. You can walk over the “love bridge,” which is filled with locks. Couples place a lock on the bridge and toss the key in the water to show their love is forever. Ps. Don’t do this – or at least don’t throw the key in the water!

Accommodation

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

poland15
Main Market Square.

There you go! I hope this Kraków travel blog post gives you an idea of what to do in the city!

Disclaimer: There’s a high chance that this post contains affiliate links to products and services I love. If you make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (and at no extra cost to you!). Anchored Adventure Blog is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. When you make a purchase from the links above (at no additional cost to you), I earn a small commission.

Other resources and travel guides you may enjoy:

•••

If you like this guide, pin it to your Pinterest board. Just click the photo below.

Planning a trip to Krakow, Poland? Start here.
Pin it!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. 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!).

    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 🙂

  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!

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

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

  3. 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?

    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 🙂

      1. Mel & Suan says:

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

Share your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.