Home TravelType of tripCity trip Charming Krakow: perfect cheap city trip with culture, history and pierogi!

Charming Krakow: perfect cheap city trip with culture, history and pierogi!

by Flitter Fever
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Looking for a city trip destination that does not cost you an arm and a leg? Go to Krakow in southeast Poland! I have been to Poland many times and out of all Polish cities, Krakow is definitely my favorite. Especially the Old Town of Krakow is in my opinion one of Europe’s most beautiful places, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I hope this article will inspire you to discover charming Krakow. It will be cheap!

Horse and carriage in front of colorful houses at Rynek Główny Krakow
Horse and carriage in front of colorful houses at Rynek Główny

Old town

Rynek Główny, Krakow’s main market square, is surrounded by historic townhouses, restaurants and bars. St. Mary’s Basilica, the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice), Town Hall Tower (Wieża Ratuszowa), Church of St. Adalbert are the most outstanding buildings on the square. In winter time Rynek Główny square is full of festive Christmas stalls.

Sunny terraces of Rynek Główny Krakow
Sunny terraces of Rynek Główny
Rynek Glowny at night with Cloth Hall on the background
Rynek Główny at night with the Cloth Hall on the back

Wawel Castle & Cathedral

You have not been to Krakow if you did not visit the gorgeous Wawel Royal Castle and Wawel Cathedral, next to the Vistula River (Wisla). To most Polish, the Wawel is a sanctuary and every Polish person must at least make one pilgrimage to Wawel. The opulent Wawel Cathedral is the last resting place of at least twenty Polish Kings. The Renaissance courtyard is surrounded by tiered arcades. And don’t miss the dragon!

Wawel Castle and Cathedral in Krakow
Wawel Castle and Cathedral
Wawel Castle courtyard
Wawel Castle courtyard

Kazimierz

During the Second World War, Krakow suffered a lot, especially the large Jewish population, which was forced to live in a walled zone known as the Kraków Ghetto. The famous Schindler’s Factory has been transformed into an impressive museum. Or visit the Galicia Jewish Museum.

Schindler’s Factory Museum in Krakow
Schindler’s Factory Museum
Galicia Jewish Museum Krakow
Galicia Jewish Museum

If I had to put a poster up for every seven Poles shot, the forests in Poland would not be sufficient to manufacture the paper – Hans Frank, Krakow, Feb 1940

Nowadays the Jewish quarter called Kazimierz is one of the highlights of the city, a must visit with a special atmosphere, good museums and restaurants. The small Remuh synagogue with its Wailing Wall made of broken gravestones.

Remuh Synagoge Krakow
Remuh Synagoge entrance arch
Wailing Wall from broken grave stones at Remuh Cemetery, Kazimierz, Krakow
Wailing Wall from broken grave stones at Remuh Cemetery

Other places not to miss in Krakow

  • Plac Wszystkich Świętych (All Saints Square)
  • Brama Floriańska (St. Florian’s Gate)
  • Barbakan Krakowski
  • Czartoryski Museum
Barbakan Krakowski just outside the old town walls
Barbakan Krakowski just outside the old town walls
Czartoryski Palace Museum Krakow
Czartoryski Palace Museum
  • Church of Saints Peter and Paul (Kościół Świętych Apostołów Piotra i Pawła)
  • Kanonicza street and Gozdka street
  • Planty (park around Old Town)
  • Collegium Maius and Collegium Novum
Church of Saints Peter and Paul Krakow
Church of Saints Peter and Paul
Grodzka street Krakow
Grodzka street
  • Lord’s Transfiguration Church
  • Teatr im. Juliusza Slowackiego
  • Plac Szczepański
  • Lost Souls Alley
Me at the Lord's Transfiguration Church in Krakow
Me at the Lord’s Transfiguration Church
Krakow street view
Krakow street view

I keep discovering new places in Krakow, even after at least five visits.

On walking distance from Old Town

  • Rakowicki Cementary
  • Kościuszko Mound
  • Botanical Garden Jagiellonian University
  • Akademia Górniczo-Hutnicza
Eros Bendato (Eros Bound) big bronze head statue at Rynek Główny Krakow
Eros Bendato big bronze head statue at Rynek Główny
Roof of Teatr im. Juliusza Slowackiego in Krakow
Roof of Teatr im. Juliusza Slowackiego

Should you want to go to Camaldolese Hermit Monastery, I’d suggest to take a taxi or Uber ride since the bus is irregular. For women the monastery is open only 12 days per year.

Tours Krakow

Local guides can show and tell you more than you would on your own. For Dutchies among you I would highly recommend Mijn Krakau Tours, who offer various fantastic tours by bicycle and on foot. Guides Brian and Nikki will definitely make sure you will have a great time! Please tell them I said hi 🙂

Mijn Krakau Tours
Mijn Krakau Tours

If you are not Dutch and/or looking for something else, then check out the tours and activities on Get Your Guide and Viator.

Late afternoon sun at Rynek Główny, Krakow
Late afternoon sun at Rynek Główny

Map Krakow

Auschwitz

For those interested in World War II and not afraid to get confronted with the dark side of human history, a visit to concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau cannot be missed. Ironically, Auschwitz is only one hour drive west of Krakow. A visit you will never forget.

Every cell block has its own disgusting story. Chills run up and down my spine. How can people do this to each other?

For more details please read my earlier blog Visit Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland and value your freedom more. Many people combine a visit to Auschwitz with the Wieliczka Salt Mine on the same day, but personally I could not do this.

Arbeit Macht Frei Auschwitz camp 1 entrance Krakow
Arbeit Macht Frei Auschwitz camp 1 entrance Krakow
Auschwitz is one of the most well-known World War 2 Museums world-wide
Entrance of Auschwitz concentration camp II Krakow

Coming back from Auschwitz, you may feel like getting a drink, to let it all sink in. The terraces of Rynek Główny can get pretty sunny already in March. Krakow’s underground cellar bars are cool places to visit as well. I also love sipping a warm cup of tea with a bonbon, to watch people from behind the window of Karmello on the corner at the tram stop.

Day trips from Krakow

If you are staying longer in the Krakow area, the following places out of the city are worth a daytrip:

  • Wolski forest (with zoo)
  • Kalwaria Zebrzydowska
  • Tyniec
  • National Park Ojcow
  • National Park Pieninski
  • Tarnow
  • Olympic ski village Zakopane and mountain Kasprowy Wierch 
  • Dunajec River Gorge (rafting)

On the way back to Krakow, make a pit-stop at Karczma Pod Wielka Sola, the restaurant that will make you understand where the connection in my memory between Poland and a grandma’s kitchen comes from. The ribs with mustard are to die for.

Ribs with mustard at Karczma Pod Wielka Sola in Wieliczka Poland great food
Ribs with mustard at Karczma Pod Wielka Sola in Wieliczka
Wooden building in central street of Zakopane
Wooden building in central street of Zakopane

Where to eat & drink

There are lots of nice restaurants at Rynek Główny and the rest of Krakow’s Old Town. I like going for lunch at Charlotte near the main square. There are several excellent Polish restaurants in Krakow. Eat pierogi (Polish dumplings) and/or other Polish deliciousness at my top 8: The Black Duck, Pod Aniolami, Piwnica Pod Zlota Pipa, Miod Malina, Galicyjska, Pierozki u Vincenta, Kuchnia Polska Gaska and/or Piwnica Wolnica.

Krakow is a city where you can still have a decent dinner for two for less than EUR 25.

Israeli/Jewish restaurants in Kazimierz such as Chamjim Kohan, Ester, Hamsa and Ariel are definitely worth a visit, often including live music. Some of them have very cute old plates with flower print and red-white checkered curtains like your (great)grandmother may have.

Ariel Restaurant in Kazimierz
Ariel Restaurant in Kazimierz
Chajim Kohan in Kazimierz, Krakow
Chajim Kohan in Kazimierz

Know that in Poland there are still restaurants that only accept cash payment (Zloty that is).

Have a drink and some Polish pub food at Pod Wawelem. Bars like Klub Pod Jaszczurami, Vis-A-Vis and House of Beer are good fun too (in the evening).

Where to stay

 If you can afford it, try to stay within or on walking distance of Krakow’s Old Town since most attractions and restaurants are there. For those who prefer to stay in a hotel, I can personally recommend the following three hotels in Krakow, which I visited several times myself:

Hotel Polski Pod Białym Orłem Krakow
Hotel Polski Pod Białym Orłem
Indoor swimming pool of Novotel Krakow Centrum
Indoor swimming pool of Novotel Krakow Centrum

There are also a number of very nice, stylish renovated apartments in Krakow that can be booked for a very affordable price. Breakfast not included! My favorites are:

When to visit Krakow

Obviously spring and summer offer the best weather for a sunny city trip. In March it can already be very pleasant, catching the first sunrays on a terrace. In winter it can snow a lot. If you plan to combine Krakow with a visit to Auschwitz, I would suggest to go between November and March to avoid the big crowds. In November and December there is a nice Christmas Market on Rynek Główny where you can buy handcrafted and local souvenirs, kitchen ware, jams, woolen house shoes, etc.

Snow is falling - Saint Adalbert Church, Rynek Glowny Krakow
Snow is falling – Saint Adalbert Church, Rynek Główny
Pierogi stall at Christmas Market on Rynek Glowny Krakow
Pierogi stall at Christmas Market on Rynek Główny

How to get to Krakow

Krakow is easy to visit by car from surrounding countries Czech Republic and Slovakia. Krakow can also be reached by train or bus from many other big cities in Eastern Europe, such as Vienna, Budapest, Prague and Bratislava.

If you plan to fly in, check prices to Krakow Balice Airport (KRK) on Skyscanner for example. From most western European airports such as London, Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt this should not cost you more than EUR 150-200. If flying from smaller airports such as Eindhoven with Ryan Air, tickets will be usually cheaper, between EUR 30-120. Flights with Poland’s national airline LOT go via Warsaw.

Pink sky above Krakow old town, seen from Novotel Krakow Centrum
Pink sky above Krakow, seen from Novotel Krakow Centrum
Ryan Air flight to Krakow
Ryan Air flight to Krakow

Train or bus to/from Krakow

Some may decide to fly to Katowice or Warsaw instead of Krakow Airport and travel further over land. From Warsaw you can take the train to Krakow Central Station. From Katowice you can reach Krakow by bus. Count on EUR 8 from Katowice Airport and EUR 3-6 from Katowice bus station to Krakow Bus Station with Flixbus (duration app. 2 hours). Wizz Air also runs a coach service between the cities but it’s more expensive than Flixbus.

Luchthavenbus 300x250

Alternatively you can take the bus from Katowice Airport to Katowice Train Station and then further to Krakow by train, however this is more expensive and inefficient. There for example are also direct connections by Flixbus between Berlin and Krakow.

In any ways, by public transport is much cheaper than by taxi. Uber costs between EUR 60-100, a regular taxi easily charges EUR 85-130 for a ride between Katowice and Krakow. Between Krakow and Auschwitz we did hire a private taxi, see my blog post specifically about Auschwitz.

Within Krakow centre you will mostly walk, or otherwise take the tram, a taxi or Uber.

Explore Central & Eastern Europe

Check out my other articles of Central & Eastern European cities:


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Have you ever been to Krakow? Or planning to go there? Please let me know in a comment below if you find this article helpful, or post a question should you have any.

Last Updated on 04/05/2021 by Flitter Fever

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