Kraków is one of the oldest and second-largest cities in Poland. The city once held the title as Poland’s capital and is such an easy city to fall in love with. With a rich history both profound and infamous there are so many stories that lie within the walls of this city. With tasty food on every corner and beautiful architecture its not a city to be missed! I know I was instantly captured by the city’s beauty and how clean and pristine it was. We were lucky enough to spend 3 days in this amazing city last year. We managed to cram all of the top things to do in Kraków city into that time! ( my feet were so tired afterwards!) No matter what you are into there is something for everyone in this beautiful city. So lets jump right into it!
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OLD TOWN – MARKET SQUARE
This beautiful open space is the heart of kraków with its world-famous cloth hall. This once was the hub for trading in eastern Europe. Today this is home to market stalls and craftsmen selling cloth products and traditional items. This imitates the hustle and bustle which once took place here. Not only is the shopping fantastic but it’s just fantastic to walk around. The perfect place to pick up a souvenir! (We all know how much I love a good souvenir… as seen in my previous trips)
Everything You Can Imagine
This is not all there is on offer in the market square! This is the tip of the iceberg. Once you enter the square you are overwhelmed by its beauty. The architecture is stunning so its the perfect photo op. there are reams of cafes and restaurants that surround the square. The cafes all have heated outdoor seating making them super cosy on those cold nights. We sat outside of costa one the night, fire roaring big cup of tea enjoying the hustle and bustle of the square and dreaming over the horse-drawn carriage. It was perfect!
Some of the best pubs, clubs, restaurants, bars and historical landmarks also call market square home. It’s a great spot to visit day and night as the atmosphere is very different at each point in the day. It’s not a spot to be missed making it the first point on the top things to do in kraków city.
Top tip: Remember, set some time aside when visiting the square as some hidden gems lie in the surrounding streets. There are also some major attractions here too such as museums and St. Mary’s Basilica so remember to add on some time for these attractions! I have linked some of the cool kraków tours below!
ST MARY’S BASILICA
There are an astounding 120 churches in Kraków alone! Now it is for sure had to walk or drive anywhere without spotting one. The most renowned church has to be St Marys Basilica. This is a 13th-century gothic church and one of krakóws best examples of the polish gothic architecture. This is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.
The stain-glass windows alone are a sight to behold. With each panel telling a story the exquisite detail will leave you in amazement as you walk towards the alter. Every inch of this church is caked in bright colours and amazing detail. You could spend an eternity just trying to see every detail. For me the ceiling was my favourite part as it was so grand, It was like looking into a stary sky. Every hour on the hour the famous bugle called: Hejnał Mariacki plays form the towers being heard all across the square. Ticket prices are around £3 or 10 Zł.
Top tip: The main entrance of the church is open for worship without a fee whereas tourists are asked to enter via the side door- except during services where you can not visit. So remember where to head when you are entering to church.
THE “WIELICZKA” SALT MINES
Hidden from the world 327 meters deep lie the unbelievable beauty of the polish salt mines. This hidden gem continued to produce table salt up until 1996 making it one of the oldest operating salt mines. Now I know what you are thinking… right a salt mine… doesn’t sound overly captivating… Wrong! With over a million tourists per year, Its a very popular tour! This is an experience I would never have pictured myself doing either however, wow what an amazing experience this was!
The labyrinth of tunnels that run beneath the round hold so many secrets and so much history. Now you will need to bring your walking shoes as there are a lot of stairs… I mean there are over 800 alone just on the tour! As you make your way through the tunnels and down the wiggly staircases you will see the thick sodium chloride ( more commonly known as table salt) This is a sight to behold as so different to anything you will see above ground!
The tour guide will unfold all sorts of stories and facts as you make your way deeper and deeper underground. You will learn about mining tools to salt extraction which is interesting as you can still see some of the mechanics they used during there process. There is so much to see. From statues, carving, hidden tunnels even to the glowing saline lakes that lay deep beneath rightfully earning its place on the top things to do in Kraków city list!
St Kinga’s Chapel
My favourite part of the tour was walking into St Kinga’s Chapel. This is the largest underground chapel and is carved entirely with the natural salts. The first things that catches your eye is the amazing chandeliers.
these again are made entirely of salt! So incredible. As you head deeper into the chapel you see the amazing carvings and artwork that cover the walls. Even the last supper makes an appearance. It is a beautiful sight and like nothing I have ever seen before. The whole experience is around 4.5 hours long so remember to plan enough time for this trip! Ticket prices start at £20.50 or 100 Zł. I have listed some of the salt mine tours below! check them our for more details about the tour!
Now I’m sure he needs no introduction. In case you don’t know Oskar Schindler was a member of the Nazi party,who famously saved the lives of 1200 Jews during the holocaust. Schindler employed these Jews in his enamel and ammunition factories throughout the war. He was applauded for his determination and courage in doing so.
Now, Schindlers Factory museum. Located on the former enamel factory in which Schindler occupied during the ruling of the Nazi’s and has many amazing artefacts on display. There are several permanent exhibitions and some temporary. As you make your way through the museum, you will be overpowered with the amount of artefacts and stories you can see and read about that lay within these walls. You will learn about both Polish, Jewish, German, Nazi personal and their accounts and the effects the war had on these citizens.
The museum is very interactive with photo books, walkthroughs, voice-overs and movies playing on repeat. With reams of artefacts, letters, stories and photos this is a hard-hitting emotional tour which will leave you speechless at the horror that happened during this period. That being said, I found this tour – as well as heartbreaking- extremely interesting and informative as I learnt so much more about kraków in the war and some of the horror that went on during this period. I enjoyed being up close and personal with so many amazing accounts of the war which gave me a deeper understanding of the sadness and loss but also made me feel so grateful we are here today.
I would highly recommend this tour and would rate it as the top things to do in kraków city without a doubt. It is a great experience as a build-up to visiting Auschwitz too, as you will have a deeper understanding and more emotionally prepared before visiting.
Entry is free on a Monday otherwise tickets start from £6 each or 26 Zł. Check out some different types of the tours below! We always book with getyourguide!
KRAKÓW GHETTO BUGGY TOUR
The kraków ghetto was one of the major “ghettos” created but the Nazis to enforce terror and exploitation of the Jewish community. The kraków ghetto was ultimately used to divide the Jews – Those who contributed to the economy and those the Nazis viewed as being unworthy of life. Closing the Jews into this area made it easier for the Nazis to control them and ultimately organise their tragic deaths. This is such a sad and haunting place to visit but so important in understanding a deeper meaning of Poland’s history.
We stumbled across this tour outside of Schindlers factory as the buggies were lined up outside. We had no plans on taking this tour so it was a surprise entry for the top thing to do in Kraków city. Thinking this looked interesting and a quick way to get around the city as we were on a tight timeframe we decided to give it a shot! The buggy had audio description playing as we made our way on our route so we were learning new things about Kraków the whole tour.
We started by enjoying the views of the city as we pass down cobbled streets and graffitied walls, learning about points of interest on the way, I was pointing out all the quaint cafes I wanted to try before we left as we headed around the streets. The first stop is the Ghetto. Once you arrive you are given free time to explore the ghetto. You can use the information booklet provided to find points of interest. The main point of interest being the empty iron and bronze chairs that are scattered across the ghetto square. These chairs represent the loss and tragedy that happened here as well as the belongings that were left behind. This is very powerful but also eerie to see.
After visiting the ghetto you make way around the city crossing over the Most Kotlarski bridge crossing the Vistula river towards the Jewish quarter. This is an olde worlde part of the city with cobbled roads and tiny cafes. I loved this area as it was so picturesque. The cafes were quaint and undisturbed by modern fittings which was nice to see. it’s a beautiful square to walk around. We took the time to talk a walk over to ” The old Synagogue” which is the oldest synagogue still standing in Poland. It was nice to take some time out and just explore here before moving onto the next top. This stop alone could have its own place on the list of top things to do in Kraków city just for its beauty.
Finally, we finished our tour with a trip to the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel. Also known as Skalka Church – The church on the rock. We made our way through the enormous intercut gates before exploring the huge grounds then finally the church itself. The grounds were the most extravagant grounds I have seen for a church like this with vast amounts of statues including the three millennia. We wandered up the steps towards the church doors. Inside the church were reams of marble from floor to ceiling. It’s such a beautiful church with amazing intercut sculptures on every archway.
After we had the chance to explore the church and its grounds, We headed back to our buggy and made our way back through the city. We finished our tour back in Oldtown ready to find a cute spot for lunch. This was a great way to see the parts of the city we would not have had time to if we were exploring by foot. The fact that we had audio the whole time we were driving around was a bonus too. This is a really fun and informative tour that I would highly recommend. We were lucky enough to have our buggy to ourselves but they can get very cramped so be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment. Prices start from as little as £15 or 73 Zł depending on which points of interest you wish to visit.
Not your cup of tea? see below for different ghetto tours!
And There We Have It Folks
And that concludes my top things to do in kraków city. Amazingly, we managed to cram all of these amazing experiences into 3 days in the city. I would love to visit Poland again sometime and explore the more rural areas and attractions it has to offer. Kraków is a beautiful city and has so much to offer at great exchange rates! What would be the first thing you would do when you visit Kraków? Is there anything that you have seen in Poland that’s not on the list? What were your top things to do in Kraków city when you visited? Let me know in the comments below and see you on the next one!
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