5 Must Things to do in Krakow

Krakow is a fantastic city filled with wonderful food, architecture and history. If you have a few days in Krakow and somehow manage to get bored, please clobber yourself in the head to reset your brain cells. An added bonus of Krakow is that prices are generally cheaper than Prague and Budapest. With that, here are 5 must things to do in Krakow.

1)  Sit out for a meal in the main market square – Krakow has one of the best squares in Europe for eating out on a balmy evening. There simply aren’t a lot of places in the world where you can chow down on a delicious main for as little as 25 zloty ($8 US) with a view of Cinderella style horse and carriages parked right in front of you. Watch menus closely but there are good deals to be found. I found a fantastic table right near the fairy tale carriages at a restaurant called Virtuoso. A tip is to ask for the Polish menu of the restaurant next door which is cheaper and features local dishes, rather than pizzas and pastas. The service is slow but the food is good and the ambiance is fantastic.

Old Town (Stare Miastro), things to do in Krakow
Elegant horse and carriages are in abundance in Krakow’s Old Town (Stare Miastro), adding a fairy tale element for a truly memorable dinner in the Main Market Square.

2)  Drinks and a stroll through Kazimierz The old Jewish quarter boasts great restaurants and perhaps the greatest quantity of hip little pubs I’ve ever seen jammed so close together. I enjoyed a couple beers at a funky decored pub called Propaganda. Right next door is a Che Guevara pub and a few pubs down is a place called Ak-47. You get the drift. The area is tourist friendly but is surprisingly not overrun with out of towners like the Stare Maistro district. Kazimierz mostly caters to a hip local crowd and I highly recommend drinks in most places there over almost any pub in the Old Town. In terms of nightlife, this is one of the best things to do in Krakow. The area also houses many memorials and places of interest pertaining to the Holocaust that are well worth checking out.

Kazimierz communist pub, things to do in Krakow
A communist themed pub in Kazimierz called Propaganda.

3)   Wander the Old Town and visit St. Mary’s Cathedral– Just don’t do this late at night! Once restaurants in the main square start closing down it’s best to make your way out of this area. Also around Florianska Gate, there might be just as many dodgy people as during the day, but they stand out a whole lot more when there are less tourists and honest locals walking among them. The architectural highlight of the Old Town would be St. Mary’s Cathedral in the main square. It doesn’t matter how many cathedrals you’ve seen in Europe, you will not be jaded by the stunning beauty of this place! It’s well worth the small admission, or cheekily sneak in during mass like I did.

St. Mary's Cathedral in Stare Miastro, things to do in Krakow
St. Mary’s Cathedral in the Main Market Square
Inside St. Mary's Cathedral, things to do in Krakow
Intricate woodwork, beautiful stain glassed windows and ornate chandeliers in St. Mary’s Cathedral are almost enough to make even the Pope envious.

4)  Explore Wawel Royal Castle (Zamek Krolewski) – This grand medieval castle rests along the Vistula River and is jam packed with things to do. If it’s a nice day join the locals by lounging in the grass along the river near the foot of the castle. Climb up and explore inside the courtyard which includes a fantastic cathedral and several great exhibitions including an armory and palace tour. The castle offers stunning views of the Old Town and Vistula River at no cost (there is a cost for the exhibitions, but not the church).

 

Wawel Castle, things to do in Krakow
The Wawel Cathedral is just one of several great sights at Wawel Castle.
Zamek Krolewski, things to do in Krakow
Wawel Castle on the Vistula River.

5)  Eat at a Bar Mleczny (Milk Bar)– A great way to sample tasty local food for very cheap. Established during communist days for laborers to eat lunch cheaply, these have remained and are still subsidized by the government. Albeit because of government cuts and fast food chains, their numbers are dwindling. The typical bar mleczny is a pretty nondescript cafeteria with a blackboard menu listing tasty Polish dishes for between 5-12 zloty ($1.25-$3.80 US) per plate. They can be a little difficult to navigate due to lack of English by staff so try your luck pointing at something tasty looking or bring a translator. Another option is to eat at the appropriately named Milk Bar Tomasza, which is more tourist friendly. The menu is in English, the staff speak English, the décor is more trendy café style and the prices are only slightly more expensive to their traditional counterparts. I enjoyed a huge plate of delicious fried mushroom pierogis for 13 zloty ($4 US). They practically had to wheel me out of the place. For an authentic Polish experience, this is one of the best things to do in Krakow.

Pierogi at a Polish Milk Bar, things to do in Krakow
The pierogis at Milk Bar Tomasza are filling even without the sour cream they are usually doused with (which I asked to have held because I am lactose intolerant).

Where to Stay in Krakow?

Update, June 2017: Look for apartments with good reviews in areas like Stare Miastro and Kazimierz. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, sign up here for free, and receive $40 off your first stay over $75! Apartment rental sites offer better value compared to hotels in Krakow.

Also, consider using Uber in Krakow. If you don’t like arguing about where you’re going with taxi drivers, Uber is definitely the way to go. It’s cheaper and more convenient. Sign up here for free and receive $20 off your first ride.

Tourism in Krakow is beginning to flourish and maybe one day soon people will be talking about “the next Krakow” along with “the next Prague.”

9 thoughts on “5 Must Things to do in Krakow

  1. Really want to visit Krakow. Going to have to go there before somewhere else is referred to the “next Krakow” because the means the place will be overrun with tourists!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Dan! Great point, haha, yeah go soon if you can! I visited end of this past April and got very lucky with the weather- most of the days it was sunny and in the 80’s Fahrenheit. Summer would be busier, more expensive and too hot if you hit a heat wave. Go early fall or mid spring if you can swing it!

  2. we are going to Krakow in may 2014
    my wife is dairy and soya intolerant

    do you think she will be able to eat out at many local restaurants

    we are staying at an apartment so we can cook for ourselves if we can buy food and understand the labels

    thanks for any advice

    kenny

    1. Hi Kenny,

      Poland is tough, for this we asked a very good Polish friend what she would recommend, initially she said vodka! But in all seriousness she recommended bigos (a heart stew) and pierogi (dumplings) with cabbage and mushroom. You’re wife should be fine with meats, but be sure to ask them not to put sauces on things as most of those will have cream, this is also true with the pierogi, just ask them to put the sauce in a side dish. Her advice was to ask ask ask, but you shouldn’t worry about soya as it’s not really used there, cream and butter are going to be the problem.

      We hope this helps and have a fantastic time in Krakow!

  3. thanks again

    we have emailed a few restaurants close to where we are staying to see if they can cater for us with their menu
    so far http://www.podnorenami.pl have responded and say they can prepare food without dairy and soya
    if I get anymore options I can let you know

    kenny

    1. Hi Kenny, thanks for the recommendation! If we get back to Krakow we will certainly check this place out. Your wife can indeed also enjoy many pierogis, without the sour cream sauce, out and about town. I certainly did (though I wish I could have eaten the sauce too!). Again, have a wonderful time in Krakow! 🙂

  4. In my opinion you should also visit Wieliczka Salt Mine. It’s a completely stunning place that you will love for sure. In Krakow there are so many magic places. I like also Botanical Garden and ZOO.

    1. Thanks for the great tips, Tomek! I heard great things about the Wieliczka Salt Mine and wish I would have had time to make it out there. Next time!

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