The Best Things To Do In Krakow
One of Poland’s oldest cities, Kraków the second largest metropolis in the country and the hub for all things culture, art and academics. The majestic city, which dates all the way to the seven century, is located close to the Czech Republic border and still maintains an interesting array of architecture and neighborhoods — especially the medieval remnants and Jewish quarter. As you walk around Kraków, you’ll notice many pieces of medieval architecture still intact, especially near the market square. Exploring the city will also enlighten you to a number of other architectural styles, including Renaissance and Gothic influences.
The expansive Polish city has something for everyone — whether you want to get out and explore the surrounding parks and nature reserves or you want to learn more about region through its art and history museums, Kraków beautifully blends old and new together in one fascinating destination. Even beyond Kraków city limits, you’ll find interesting activities and day trips to round out your trek through Poland. The Wieliczka Salt Mine, located within the city limits, is hundreds of years old and features an astonishing array of underground tunnels, complete with various chambers and saline lakes — interesting for visitors of all ages. If you’re interested in soaking up the history of Kraków, the Main Square is the place to go. Dating back to the 13th century, this medieval square is surrounded by beautiful churches and palaces that are all worth exploring on their own. It’s one of the largest town squares in Europe and is a place where the locals still go to relax and socialize.
After visiting the numerous cathedrals and historical buildings, soak in the natural beauty of Kraków by strolling through Planty Park. This urban park stretches around the old city of Kraków and features a vast number of gardens, complete with beautifully manicured lawns, walkways and historic trees. As one of the largest public parks in Kraków, Planty Park was once the site of the medieval city walls that stood in place until the 19th century. There is no end to the interesting aspects of Kraków and all of the history this Polish city contains!
HERE ARE OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN KRAKOW…
Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial & Museum
What is known to most as the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, is actually a network of concentration and extermination camps, established in the early 1940’s. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum remembers the 1.6-million people murdered during that infamous period. Visit the memorial – on the outskirts of Krakow – where thirteen of the original thirty prison blocks have been converted into museums, which explain the dark history and remember the murdered.
On the southern border of Poland, you will find the magnificent Tatra Mountains; three-hundred square miles of natural beauty that provide a fascinating experience all year round. In the winter there is amazing skiing, and in summer you can enjoy the 150-miles of beautiful hiking tracks. With spectacular views, and lakes that will hold you in awe, enjoy the beautiful flowers on display and catch glimpses of the majestic local wildlife!
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Take a fascinating tour of a 700-year-old salt mine, just fourteen-kilometres from the centre of Krakow. Head underground with your guide – to a depth of 135-metres – and learn about the mine’s fascinating history. You will explore chambers and tunnels that were chiselled from the solid blocks of salt, and see the various tools that were used over the centuries. Complemented by displays and music, you will travel underground for 1.5 kilometres before taking a lift back to the surface. It’s a marvellous tour that will not be forgotten!
Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny)
When you visit Krakow, you are sure to come across the Rynek Glowny (Main Market Square), the central hub of the city for over 700-years. Spread over nine-acres, admire the fascinating architecture and the marvellous history of the surrounding buildings, including the Cloth Hall, and the Gothic Town Hall. Take in the stalls selling artworks and souvenirs, and people-watch as the locals go about their day.
The magnificent Mount Gubalowka is arguably one of the most popular tourist regions in all of Poland. With a huge range of outdoor activities on offer – all year round – people flock here from all over the world. Take the Funicular to the top and enjoy the magnificent views of the Tantra Mountains, then grab a drink and a traditional Polish meal in the restaurant, before making the trip back down.
Follow the laneways to Wawel Hill and explore the seat of Poland’s political history, where rulers have governed for over five-centuries. The hill is a complex of beautiful and important buildings, so explore the Cathedral and the Castle, and take in the grandeur of the architecture and the interiors. With so much history on display throughout the many museums here, you’ll need to allow several hours to really appreciate what is on offer.
Ghetto Heroes Square
Originally a marketplace in the 1800’s, Ghetto Heroes Square is now the location where the city’s Jewish citizens were incarcerated in WWII, and the place where so many were ultimately murdered. The memorial commemorates those Jewish deportees who suffered throughout the war, and the chair sculptures – which are positioned throughout the square – symbolise their plight. Stay for a while and contemplate the suffering of so many, and the bravery of those who strived to help them.
Back in the sixteenth-century, Krakow maintained a series of defences against threats from the Ottomans; the Great Barbican is a magnificent example of such an outpost. Beautifully preserved, admire the fascinating architecture and imagine the relief on the face of travellers as they finally reached this safe haven. Explore its Gothic style, and the strategic positioning of the turrets, as well as the 130 defensive slots used by archers!
Pieskowa Skala Castle
Dating back to the fourteenth-century, the fortress of Pieskowa Skala Castle has evolved over the years to become one of the most beautiful examples of Renaissance architecture in the country. As you approach the grand entrance and the surrounding gardens, admire the steepled tower and explore the permanent exhibits that take you through the history of the castle.
Krakow Old Town
As you tour the city, make sure you spend some time in Krakow Old Town and take a trip back to a bygone era. Stroll the cobbled laneways and absorb the magnificent history, as you admire a smorgasbord of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, and soak up the past with visits to the wide variety of museums that have made the Old Town their home.
Wawel Royal Castle (Zamek Wawelski)
Look up from the left bank of the Vistula River, and you will see the imposing architecture of the Wawel Royal Castle (Zamek Wawelski). The castle dates to the fourteenth-century and displays a mix of Renaissance, Gothic and Romanesque architecture. Enjoy the gardens, and wander through the indoor galleries of what is now an outstanding museum, with artefacts and art from the centuries past.
Dunajec River Gorge
Combine fun and beauty with a boat trip along the mighty Dunajec River Gorge. Enjoy magnificent scenery, with 300-metre cliffs towering over you as you glide along the river, through the Pieniny Mountains. If travelling the river is not for you, there are plenty of hiking options too, where you can take in the spectacular views and see castles along the way.
Niedzica Castle (Dunajec Castle)
Originally a border post with Hungary in the fourteenth-century, Niedzica Castle (Dunajec Castle) is now a museum full of treasures and artefacts, which will take you back in time to learn about the history of the castle and the surrounding region. While some of the castle is now in ruins, visit the dungeons and the remaining rooms that have been preserved, and enjoy the spectacular views of the river and lake from the towers.
Oskar Schindler’s Factory
Oskar Schindler was famous for his bravery in saving many of the Jewish community throughout WWII. Today, that bravery – and the plight of so many Jewish citizens – is commemorated at Oskar Schindler’s Factory. Your visit will take you through the museum – full of pictures and artefacts – that will give you a true feel for life in Krakow during the war. You will be presented with many images of the harsh reality of that time, and the visit will no doubt move you.
In the Polish resort town of Zakopane, serious fun is a year-round activity! Nestled in the foothills of the picturesque Tatra Mountains, this increasingly popular tourist destination draws its crowds with spectacular skiing throughout the winter, and magnificent hiking routes and mountain-biking trails throughout the summer. As you explore this small but magical town, you will discover the beautiful wooden chalets that line its streets, and experience the laid back charm of its local residents. And with this whimsical atmosphere in mind, it’s hard not to want to stay just that little bit longer!
Cities & Towns