Kraków, and Poland in general, is a place that has been on my radar for a long time, but never at the top of my list. I knew it with be beautiful, full of history, and affordable – but for some reason (that I can’t pinpoint) it was never a top priority to visit. After spending three days here, and a day in Warsaw, I can’t believe I waited so long experience Poland. If it’s not on your radar, or priority list, it should be. And I”m going to tell you all the reasons why you need to visit Kraków, why I wish I hadn’t waited so long to go, and why I already can’t wait to go back!
GETTING TO KRAKÓW
Kraków sits in a very accessible location and is connected to many other major European hubs by plane or train.
Kraków Airport: The most convenient location to fly into is Kraków Airport, located just 30 minutes from Kraków’s city centre by car. From there, you can easily reach the city centre by shuttle, cab, or Uber.
Katowice Airport: Katowice is a city located roughly an hour and a half from Kraków by car. We chose to fly to this airport because they were a Wizz Air hub and we were able to find a cheap direct flight from Malmö to Katowice. I was skeptical at first given the distance from the city, however it was very painless and I would absolutely recommend it if you can get cheap flights (I’m talking less than 20 euros one way). You can also book an affordable shuttle from Katowice to Kraków (as low as 3 euros per person).
Warsaw Airport: If your local airport doesn’t fly directly to Kraków or Katowice, Warsaw is a fantastic alternative option. The high speed train that connects Warsaw to Kraków can transport you between the two cities in about 2.5 hours. And the best part – it’ll give you an opportunity to stay a night in Warsaw and explore the Polish capital like we did.
WHERE TO STAY IN KRAKÓW
There aren’t very many hotels in Kraków, but there are plenty of apartment rentals.
We loved our stay at Boom Apartments, which offers five modern and clean apartments in the heart of the city. We stayed in “Moneyless,” which had all the amenities you could ask for – fresh towels, a coffee maker with coffee pods, complementary water, extra bed linens, a small kitchenette with dining area, and more.
And, with affordable apartments in a variety of sizes, there is an offering for every budget!
Planning a trip through eastern Europe? See Also: A Guide to the Perfect 3 Days in Budapest.
THINGS TO DO IN KRAKÓW
VISIT THE OLD TOWN
Kraków’s Old Town is super pretty, and definitely worth roaming around. Unlike many other parts of Poland, Kraków wasn’t destroyed during WWII and maintains its old world charm. St Mary’s Basilica stands tall in the square and I’ve been told the interior is beautiful! Unfortunately, we ran out of time and didn’t manage to see it – but I plan to next time I visit Kraków.
WANDER AROUND WAWEL CASTLE
Wawel Castle is another landmark in the city that deserves a visit. You can do a tour of the inside of the castle, but it was such a nice day we just decided to explore the castle grounds. It is absolutely beautiful – you can wander around the gardens, visit the popular fire breathing dragon, and just enjoy the views of the city.
EXPLORE KAZIMIERZ (THE JEWISH QUARTERS)
Kazimierz was easily my favourite area in Kraków. It is the perfect place to roam around, and is home to some of the best food and drink spots in the city (see all my recos below!). Make sure you visit both of Kazimierz’s lovely squares: Plac Nowy and Plac Wolnica. I particularly loved the patios along Plac Wolnica.
HUNT FOR STREET ART
Street art is everywhere in Kraków – you’ll find yourself constantly stumbling upon it. Here’s some of my favourites:
I am not going to say much about Auschwitz-Birkenau, because quite frankly there is nothing I can say to describe this experience or do it justice. It is easily one of the most sobering experiences of my life. I think it is incredibly important for anyone visiting Kraków to take a day trip to honour the victims to make sure that this horrible event is never forgotten, or repeated.
If you’re looking for the best Auschwitz-Birkenau tour, we visited with Get Your Guide, specifically on this tour. I would highly recommend the early morning option, because it minimizes the number of crowds (we left Kraków at 6:30 am and it took just over an hour to get to the camp). I believe that although it felt a bit rushed at times, Auschwitz-Birkenau is best visited with a guide to truly make the most of your time there.
BIKE TO BENEDICTINE ABBEY IN TYNIEC
This was one of my favourite things we did during our time in Kraków. Benedictine Abbey, a lovely abbey tucked into the side of a hill in the Polish countryside, is located roughly 45 minutes away from Kraków by bike.
We rented bikes from Starbikes, which is located near the beginning of the beginning of the bike path. I can’t stress enough how important it is to go to a rental location near the start of the river-side bike path, because Kraków is not bike-friendly. Thankfully, we only had to bike a couple blocks through the city.
The Polish countryside was beautiful, and easy to navigate. There is a bike path alongside the river that leads to Tyniec and the views are spectacular! Once you arrive in Tyniec, there is an option to take a boat tour on the river. This is the best way to get views of Benedictine Abbey (and something I wish we had time to do).
WHERE TO EAT IN KRAKÓW
Kraków is a foodie paradise. It offers a range of choices from local Polish cuisine, to modern Western dishes, and virtually everything in between. It is also incredibly affordable, which means it’s a great opportunity to indulge in those “splurge” meals for only a fraction of the price that they would be at home.
He’s some of my favourite spots and must-tries in Kraków.
Premium Dining: Restauracja Pod Baranum
The perfect date night spot if you’re looking for traditional Polish fare. Restauracja Pod Baranum was the most “premium” meal we had in Kraków, at a “whopping” 60 euro price tag. This included appetizers, mains, dessert, and a bottle of wine.
Must-Try: I highly recommend the cabbage roll appetizer and Sebastian loved the beef strogonoff with dumplings.
Mid-Range: Old Town Restaurant and Wine Bar
This restaurant was recommended by friends, and it absolutely lived up to the hype. Also serving Polish food, however with a bit of a modern twist. This is your spot for the perfect mid-range meal.
Must-Try: The spinach-stuffed pierogi appetizer. OMG.
Chances are if you have done any Kraków, you’ve heard of the famous Polish milk bars. Essentially, these milk bars are ex-socialist era canteens that were established as government-subsidized restaurants in the late 1800s where workers could purchase affordable Polish food. If you’re interested, you can read more about the history of Polish milk bars here.
We visited two of the best milk bars in Kraków: Milkbar Tomasza, which is near the city centre and very popular with tourists. And Bar Mleczny “Pod Temidą,” which was a bit more traditional and authentic.
We ate pierogi at both milk bars, and both were great (I mean, how can you go wrong?). These spots serve as the perfect spot for a really cheap lunch (a huge place of pierogi is around 3-4 euros).
Fun fact: Did you know that “pierogi” is already plural? I learned that calling them “pierogis” is a western thing, and something I’ve been saying incorrectly for years.
Cafe: Via Caffe
This is the best cafe in Kraków. Located in Plac Wolnica in Kazimierz, this spot has a perfect little patio and is a great spot to stop for a coffee pick-me-up.
Must-Try: The lavender latte is incredible.
A local favourite, Handelek has the best brunch in Kraków. The restaurant uses all locally-sourced ingredients, specializing in an array of spreads in so many different flavours.
Must-Try: If you’re fan of rose (which just so happens to be my favourite flavour), the Cravcovian plait served with rose jam is to die for.
Food Trucks: Skwer Judah
Located in Kazimierz, this is your spot for all the best food truck eats in Kraków. With seven or eight trucks serving a variety of food and plenty of outdoor patio seating, we opted for this spot as a quick and cheap dinner option on our last night in Kraków.
Must-Try: The baked potato food truck! *insert heart eyes*
Ice Cream: Good Lood
Good Lood is a small local chain of locally-sourced, 100% natural ice cream. They have a few locations scattered through the city and is easily the best ice cream in Kraków.
Must-Try: I’m still dreaming about the Polish Strawberry flavour.
BEST BARS IN KRAKÓW
There is no shortage of drink spots in Kraków. Just wander around and you’ll find so many patios to grab some of the cheapest beers in Europe. If you’re on a budget, venture away from the old town and drink where the locals do. Here are some of my favourite spots:
The Cutest Patio: Eszeweria
Looking for cheap drinks and the cutest little courtyard patio in the heart of Kazimierz? This is your spot!
The Best Outdoor Drink Spot: Club Re
This massive outdoor green space is a great spot if you’re looking for a patio drink. It’s located close to the Old Town and is very popular, especially in the evening.
The Best Hidden Cocktail Bars: Mercy Brown and Z Ust do Ust
Have you heard of Kraków’s hidden bar scene? Well, there are a number of bars scattered through the city that are not advertised and operate on the “if you know, you know” principle. We scouted out, and successfully located, two of them – I really couldn’t recommend these spots more if you’re looking for a really unique cocktail experience.
Mercy Brown: When you arrive at the address, you’ll be welcomed into what seems to be a typical restaurant – this is not the bar. You’ll notice a man sitting at a concierge desk – Ask him to take you to Mercy Brown. He’ll walk you through a dark hallway, up a random set of stairs and through a door that looks like a janitor’s closet. On the other side: a REALLY COOL speakeasy-inspired cocktail bar. The drinks were great, the staff offered us so many suggestions of things to see and do in Kraków (including tips on how to get to the second cocktail bar we visited). I would highly recommend visiting, just make sure you make a reservation if you go on the weekend – this place is small and I was told it can get very busy.
Z Ust do Ust: The following evening, we went on another adventure to find this cocktail bar, which proved to be a bit trickier than the first one. We arrived at the address, and tried to locate the entrance. After wandering around, we made our way up a stairwell to a billiards club. At the top of the stairs, at the entrance of the billiards club, there was a bathroom with an “out of service” sign. We went in, pulled the flush string on the toilet, which activated a door to open. There, we were welcomed into a tiny 70s-inspired bar. To make the whole experience even cooler, the drink menu featured pictures from local artists, and you picked your drink based on the picture that resonated with you (they had a menu too in case you aren’t feeling brave). Needless to say, this experience was just plain cool and should be at the top of your list for a night out in Kraków.
WHEN TO VISIT KRAKÓW
Our trip to Kraków in early June was perfect. The weather was warm, the sun was shining, and it wasn’t too busy yet with summer travellers. With that being said, shoulder season is always my favourite time to travel in general, and I am confident that Kraków would be lovely in May or September.
I’ve also heard that they have some pretty epic Christmas markets, if you happen to be travelling during the holidays.
UNTIL NEXT TIME, KRAKÓW
I mean it when I say that I will absolutely be back, because there are still so many things I want to see, do and eat in this city. And I hope I’ve made it clear why you need to visit Kraków too.
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