3 days in Krakow might just take you by surprise! Here’s the perfect Krakow itinerary for your trip to the Polish capital…
Looking for an interesting Krakow itinerary? You’ve come to the right place.
Krakow really took me by surprise. I went with my twin sister and two friends and we’d booked it because it was cheap and there seemed like there was plenty to do. Don’t get me wrong, I thought we’d have a nice time, I didn’t think it was going to be one of those places that I’d tell people they had to visit.
How wrong I was! Note: I’m slowly learning that I’m wrong about a lot of things. Stay tuned on that.
Anyway, just in case you missed the memo too, Krakow is awesome. It’s not just your bog-standard city break or somewhere to go because the flights are cheaper than the three other city breaks you’re considering. It’s a really cool place that’s rich with history, amazing brunch spots, and one of the most terrifying escape rooms I’ve ever experienced in my life. But more on that later….
Is Krakow a good city break?
In a word: yes. In fact, I would go so far as to say Krakow is up there as a pretty perfect city break. It certainly ticked all the boxes for me. So what is that makes Krakow a good city break? Here are some quick-fire reasons below…
- It’s budget-friendly. It’s not somewhere where you need to splash the cash.
- It’s lively. If you want to have fun there are plenty of ways to do it here!
- It’s rich with history and has cobbled streets and castles galore. Sign me up!
Those are the main reasons that make Krakow a great trip. I’d say Krakow is a great city break for couples and at the same time it makes for an action-packed for a trip with friends. I’ll take a deeper dive into the rest over the rest of the post, but first off, let’s dive in to the absolute must-sees for your Krakow itinerary!
What should you include in your Krakow itinerary?
- Main Square
- Wieliczka Salt Mine
- The Jewish Quarter
- The former Jewish Ghetto
- Oskar Schindler’s Factory
- Lost Souls Alley
- River boat trip
How many days do you need in Krakow?
We spent three days in Krakow, which I think was pretty much perfect. Saying that, there was still plenty to see and do. We really had to choose what we wanted to do the most. If you’d prefer to soak up Krakow at leisure then maybe go for four or five nights. Slow travel is a thing these days and it definitely takes the pressure off simply ticking things off your list! Either way, there will be plenty to fill your Krakow itinerary.
When should you travel to Krakow?
This is an interesting question. We had booked to go to Krakow in March as a bit of a birthday celebration for my sister and I. However, a little-known weather phenomenon known as the Beast from the East decided to land on the UK on the date we were supposed to leave. It was a massive fricking storm, and it meant that flights were cancelled everywhere. I was gutted at the time, especially as it meant I had to go back to work.
However, it actually all worked out in the end. We rescheduled the trip for mid-April and somehow timed it to coincide with some of the most glorious sunny weather. Naturally, I’d packed the entirely wrong wardrobe. Being Scottish, there’s something in me that always doubts whether destinations will actually be as warm as the weather apps say they will, and so I’d packed lots of heavy coats and jumpers that I didn’t need. Lesson learned.
Weather in Krakow
What is the weather like in Krakow? Well, it might not be what you think. We travelled to Krakow in April, which is usually a month that’s pretty chilly. It can get to 3°C but you can also expect highs of 14°C, and that’s what it was like when we were there.
Don’t be like me and pack lots of warm clothes! Check the weather reports, because it may even be ice cream weather…
Where to eat in Krakow
There’s a huge variety of delicious things to eat in Krakow. There are hipster cafes, ice cream parlours, and so many brunch spots – the food in general really took me by surprise. Another discovery was piergoli, otherwise known as Polish dumplings!
If you’d like to find out more about the best places to eat in Krakow then read my post here:
Things to do in Krakow at night
Krakow nightlife is pretty legendary. There’s a good reason why it’s often one of the top destinations for stag and hen in Europe dos, right? It’s cheap, easy to get to, and there are plenty of places to drink… and mop up the hangover the next day. What’s not to like! Saying that, I wasn’t really going to Krakow to party. I always seem to turn into a granny on holiday and want to go to bed really early – sightseeing is pretty tiring if you do it right!
Saying that, we did enjoy some drinks at a couple of lovely pubs and bars during our trip. I wouldn’t say I was the expert on where the best nightlife is in Krakow, but if you want to read about where we went here are all the details below… bottoms up!
Located in the heart of Kracow’s Kazimierz district, Sababa in Krakow is the place to come to feel a little fancy. We chanced upon this bar having just had dinner in the Jewish District, and were immediately impressed by the sophisticated décor and cosy vibe. There’s a massive bar with stacked with pretty much every kind of alcohol you could imagine. Making a decision is hard, especially as the barmen will also make you any drink you fancy!
My biggest memory is that the drinks were delicious… but also incredibly strong. My cocktail even came with a piece of honeycomb clipped onto the side, which won me over purely from an aesthetic point of view. However, I don’t know if I could have had more than one and still want to go sightseeing the next day. That’s the granny in me! But if you’ve got more of an inner party animal then this is the perfect place to drink until the wee hours….
Sababa address: Szeroka 2, 31-056 Kraków, Poland
Other bars in Krakow
If you want to sample the nightlife you may like to include these other bars in your Krakow itinerary…
Movida Cocktail Bar – budget-friendly cocktails, stylish décor, and tasty nibbles
Alchemia – cellars, candlelight and a sepia tone, it’s one of Krakow’s oldest bars
Singer – located in Kazimierz, you’ll know it the rows of sewing machines outside
Where to stay in Krakow
Otium Old Town Zwierzyniecka Apartment No. 1
Krakow was my first experience of staying in an Airbnb abroad. So what was my review? Well, pretty much that an Airbnb stay is perfect for a trip with friends. During our last girls’ holiday in Milan we’d booked a hotel that didn’t end up being as nice as the photos online. We also ended up spending our down time split across two separate rooms with nowhere to sit but a bed. So definitely not exactly the most sociable of spaces for a group of friends.
An Airbnb was the complete opposite. There were a lot of gorgeous places to choose from but we ended up choosing this one in the old town – mostly because of this amazing exposed brick feature wall. There are two bedrooms, one with two twin beds, and one with a double on a gorgeous mezzanine level. I ended up on the sofa bed, which was fine for a couple of days. The apartment is also located centrally and close to everywhere you want to be – it’s only 500m from Main Square and there are also lots of shops and cafes just downstairs.
There was one negative about the apartment that I have to mention, and that was connected to the Beast from the East weather drama which led to us having to reschedule our trip. When I first emailed the Airbnb hosts they did want us to still pay in full, which was a bit disappointing. However, I went through Airbnb’s customer service support and in the end we did get a full refund and were able to reschedule. I would just double check the cancellation policy when you’re booking to stay on the safe side.
Pros of an Airbnb in Krakow
- Lots of gorgeous places to choose from
- Budget-friendly if you buy food for your meals
- Shared living space so you can hang out together
- You don’t have to get dressed for breakfast
- We also had a shared outside space to hang in
Cons of an Airbnb in Krakow
- The lock safe was a bit fiddly (but we managed it)
- The sofa bed wasn’t overly comfortable
- You’ll have to get dressed if you want a brunchy breakfast
- Can get messy if you don’t tidy up as you go
- Check the cancellation policy if you have to cancel
Three days in Krakow – my perfect Krakow itinerary
1) Soak up Main Square
It’s an obvious one, but it’s the perfect starting point for your Krakow itinerary
At 200 metres squared, Main Square in Krakow is the largest of its kind in Europe. It might not be a trading and commerce centre anymore but Main Square still feels like it’s got gravitational pull; there’s so much that goes on here. Aside from all the customers at the bars and restaurants that spill out on the square in the warmer weather there are also numerous famous landmarks that you won’t have to look too far to see…
- The Cloth Hall is in the centre of Main Square, which you’ll recognise by its stylish gothic arches. This used to be where the trading took place. Now you can wander underneath and check out the souvenirs and handicrafts for sale at the stalls. There’s also a museum on the upper level which I didn’t get a chance to see this time.
- On the other side you’ll see the Town Hall Tower. It’s the only remaining part of the old Krakow Town Hall, which was demolished in 1820. I was also interested to hear that there’s sculpture located near the bottom of the tower which is known to locals simply as ‘the head’. It’s the work of Polish artist Igor Mitoraj and is a large sculptural piece of a human head resting on its side. Definitely get your selfie with it!
- Take a horse and carriage ride. One of the first things we did in Krakow was get a horse and carriage ride in Main Square. I guess you’d normally thing of that as a romantic thing to do in Krakow, but who cares? It was a nice way to get our bearings and see some of the city without much exertion. I definitely enjoyed it!
- Drink it all in. And by that I mean – quite literally – grabbing a seat at one of the many tables and chairs and people watching to your heart’s content. There’s so much going on in this area and it was lovely just to catch a breath and soak it all up Of course the Aperol Spritzes and frozen daiquiris just fell onto the table.
- I should also mention Rynek Underground Museum, which is located directly underneath the Cloth Hall and Main Square. I thought it sounded pretty cool. What could be better than a subterranean museum, especially one with recently excavated medieval merchant stalls and the remains of an 11th century cemetery. However, I just wasn’t bowled over. It’s about the history of the city but it just didn’t speak to me in the way that some of the other places – like the Jewish Ghetto – did.
2) Explore the Jewish Quarter
Krakow’s Jewish Quarter is also known as the Kazimierz area, and it’s rich in history. The area definitely has its own off-beat vibe that feels distinct from the rest of the city. Definitely take some time to wander the streets because everywhere you look there are pieces of history waiting to be explored. Some people describe this area as the ‘real’ Krakow. I certainly feel that exploring this area was one of my favourite parts of the trip – and an essential part of any Krakow itinerary.
Plac Nowy flea market Krakow
One of the first things we did was stop off at the Plac Nowy flea market at in Kazimierz. We had a good wander around – you can expect to see a mix of antiques, jewellery, clothes, war memorabilia, craft work, and a good selection of vintage vinyl. I even clocked an Amy Winehouse Back to Back vinyl record, which I kind of wish I’d purchased now!
There’s also a rotunda in the centre of the square that sells the infamous cheese-topped Polish pizza. I unfortunately didn’t try this but the more I read about it the more I wish we had!
3) Explore the former Jewish Ghetto
Jewish Ghetto golf buggy tour
Take a private golf cart tour. I remember when we first arrived in Krakow we kind of did a double take at these and thought: no, definitely not. However, we ended up getting one to take us around the Jewish Ghetto in Krakow and it was brilliant. We got so much more out of it doing it with a tour guide who was able to bring all of the landmarks to life than if we’d just wandered around by ourselves. I would highly recommend adding a trip on these to your Krakow itinerary.
Below are just a few of the interesting landmarks we saw on our trip…
Fragments of the Jewish Ghetto wall
Before WWII the Jewish community in Krakow lived in the Kazimierz district. However, the Nazi regime changed all of that and in 1941 the Jews were forced from the homes and relocated to Podgórze, which become what was known as the Jewish Ghetto. The area was completely walled off from the rest of the city and it’s the area where Jews were murdered or taken from to their deaths in the concentration camps. Seeing the fragments of the wall still in place really brings that into focus. There’s a memorial on the fragment of the wall which reads, “Here they lived, suffered and died at the hands of the German torturers. From here they began their final journey to the death camps.” Don’t miss this.
Apteka Pod Orlem chemist shop
This pharmacy is of huge significance in the ghetto in Krakow, and that’s because it was the only one that wasn’t forced to close by the Nazis during the occupation. Instead they permitted it to stay open and, despite their intentions, it operated as an ally of the Jewish community. The hair dyes they stocked would enable Jews to disguise their appearance, tranquilisers would be used to keep children quiet, and it was also used as a base to hide.
The chemist is actually now a museum. It’s been restored to how it looked during the war with a large old-fashioned tiled and lots of glass bottles on rows of shelves behind the counter. Unfortunately, we were a little tight for time and didn’t go in but it looks fascinating; there are various artefacts, multimedia exhibits, and testimonials from war.
Empty Chairs Memorial
One of the most moving things we saw during our tour was the Empty Chairs Memorial in Ghetto Heroes Square in Krakow. There are 33 bronze chairs scattered across the square in total, each one representing 1000 lives that were lost. The chairs themselves are a nod to the hundreds of objects – not just chairs but other pieces of furniture, clothes, and suitcases – that were forced to be abandoned by the Jews in that square during the selection process.
The chairs stand stark and empty, with the most poignant message illustrated by the installation being one of absence. As this website puts it: following the huge loss of the Jewish community in Krakow following the war, the empty chairs define an empty city.
4) Boat ride in Krakow
Need a breather? Why not add a boat trip to your Krakow itinerary…
There are quite a lot of ‘heavy’ things to do in Krakow – such as exploring the memorials in the Jewish Ghetto, Schindler’s Factory, and of course travelling to Auschwitz. That meant that I was also keen to make sure we had some lighter things on our Krakow itinerary to mix it up. Taking a boat ride in Krakow was one of these things. You don’t have to read anything or do anything, all you have to do is sit on the boat and drink in the sights around you.
As I mentioned, the weather was glorious when we were in Krakow, so it was perfect for cruising on the water. Some of the boat trips offer audio guides in a variety of languages if you want to soak up some more information about the surrounding landmarks. For us, however, it was more of an opportunity just to enjoy the sunshine and some fresh air!
5) Schindler’s Factory
Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory was one of the things I was most looking forward to doing on our trip. It’s a sobering experience, yes, but it’s also an absolute must-see as part of your Krakow itinerary.
If you’ve seen the Spielberg movie Schindler’s List then you’ll know some of the background on the factory already. But if not, here’s a very brief history. Who was Oskar Schindler? Well, he was a German industrialist and member of the Nazi party who is credited as saving the lives of over 1200 Jews over the course of the Second World War. He did this by covering up their real identities and employing them in his factory, which prevented them from being sent to their death in the concentration camps nearby.
Overall, I loved the exhibition here. However, I would also say that museum wasn’t quite what was expected. It’s focused more of the overall history of WWII and the people in the city who lived through it, rather than on Oskar Schindler or the factory itself, which surprised me a little. That said, the focus on people-led story-telling is really powerful. The museum shares numerous stories of the ordinary people who lived through this time and in many ways, that makes you feel it even harder. All in all, it’s totally heart-wrenching.
You definitely don’t want to miss visiting Schindler’s Factory on your trip to Krakow. And good news: even if you’re on a really tight budget then the museum is free to visitors on Mondays. That said, there are a limited number of free tickets available and you have to pre-book them on the museum’s website – you can’t just rock up at the door.
Leave yourself two or three hours to see Schindler’s Factory properly.
Schindler’s Factory address: Lipowa 4, 30-702 Kraków, Poland
Schindler’s Factory opening hours: Monday 10-2pm, Tuesday-Sunday 10-6pm
Schindler’s Factory ticket price: free entry to the permanent exhibition
6) Wieliczka Salt Mine
The salt mine has definite Lord of the Ring vibes. You may not know the films as well as I do but if you cast your mind back to the dwarf mines they have to walk through in the first movie – where Gandalf utters the immortal line, ‘You shall not pass’ – then this is the vibe that you get at the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow. It’s also UNESCO-listed, which means it’s a pretty big deal and a must-see on your Krakow itinerary.
We visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine as part of a one-day trip with Auschwitz. That meant we had the morning at Auschwitz and Birkenau, a quick stop off for lunch, and then onto the Salt Mine. It was a pretty jam-packed day overall with lots to take in. In an ideal world, I think it would be great not to have to cram so much in. However, I know a lot of people will only be in Krakow for a couple of days and so will probably combine them like we did. My biggest takeaway is that there’s so much to see in Krakow!
The good news is there’s not lots of reading at the salt mine so you don’t have to worry about having to process lots of information. It’s more about the atmospheric experience of being in the mines. There is a fair bit of walking though! To reach the first level of the mine you have to go 64 metres underground and go down a staircase that has 378 stairs. It’s totally worth it when you get to explore all the salt-chiselled chambers, which even includes a chapel. All in all, I really enjoyed this experience!
Wieliczka Salt Mine address: Daniłowicza 10, 32-020 Wieliczka, Poland
Wieliczka Salt Mine opening hours: Monday-Sunday, 8-5pm
Wieliczka Salt Mine ticket price: 66,00 Polish Zloty – which is around £1.20
You can’t have a Krakow itinerary without including a trip to Auschwitz.
It’s the largest of the Nazi death camps and was the location where over 1.1 million Jews were brutally murdered between 1941-1945. The experience of visiting Auschwitz is haunting, evocative, and powerful, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice to come to Krakow and not see it. I hope I can share how you can you can make the most of your experience here…
There are a number of options to choose from when it comes to visiting here. You can basically choose to do the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum Guided Tour over one full day – or you can split it with the Wieliczka Salt Mine. That means visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau in the morning, a quick pitstop for lunch, and then onto the Salt Mine in the PM.
We went for the latter and tour we did was door to door. You’re picked up by a coach at your hotel and then driven to Auschwitz. You can then skip the queue and go straight through for your tour of Auschwitz. It was incredibly busy at the entrance so I’d recommend doing this.
I’m writing a separate blog post to cover visiting Auschwitz in detail so stay tuned on that.
8) Lost Souls Alley
Like a scare? This creepy escape room is the perfect addition to any Krakow itinerary.
This won’t be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of horror movies then it could be right up your street. So what exactly is Lost Souls Alley? Well, it’s an escape room, with a horror twist. Each room has a different horror movie theme, and when I say that it’s important to stress that it’s not just a 2-dimensional theme.
What I mean by that is that the rooms all include actors playing the roles of the characters in those films – Hannibal from the Silence of the Lambs, the woman from The Grudge, and Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Me: you’ll scream like your life depends on it and have to apologise for practically trampling your friends out the way in your desperation to get to the next room. Also me: it will be the best thing you do. Lost Souls Alley in Krakow will definitely make a memorable experience… if you’re brave enough. Add it to your Krakow itinerary right now.
Even if you don’t visit you may still have to keep your wits about you in you’re in the vicinity of Lost Souls Allery. The actors wander the streets outside and terrify tourists with their costumes in order to recruit people to visit. So keep your eyes peeled!
Lost Souls Alley address: Floriańska 6, 31-021 Kraków, Poland
Lost Souls Alley ticket price: 35 zloty per person