20 x highlights in Cracow: Citytrip travel tips + hidden spots
What are some must do's in Cracow? What is the best place to stay overnight? How to save money on a citytrip?
Cracow is praised by UNESCO as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The sights compete with those of Prague or Vienna when it comes to beauty and refinement.
In this article are our 20 favorite sights in Cracow to visit during your citytrip. Of course we implemented places to taste the local specialties!
Tickets and tours in Cracow and surroundings
Want to visit the most beautiful sights in Cracow? Here are the best things to do during your citytrip. If you would like to know more about the city and its surroundings, then be sure to book a guided tour, so you can find out even more.
Arrange a tour from Cracow to Auschwitz or the Wieliczka salt mines? Take a quick look at GetYourGuide for more guided tours.
The Wawel Castle in the heart of Cracow
The Wawel Castle, situated on a rocky slope in the heart of Cracow, was once the place of Polish kings.
At the time of the Polish Divisions, Cracow fell into the hands of the Austrians. After the restoration of Polish independence (after WWI) the Wawel Castle became the seat of the Polish presidents. Currently it is a national museum. Want to visit the castle? Order your tickets online.
Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau camp
Auschwitz was the first concentration and extermination centre built by the Nazis in this region. More than 1.1 million men, women and children lost their lives here. Auschwitz became the largest death camp of the Holocaust. All over the world, this place is a symbol of terror and genocide, a grim reminder of what people are capable of. Auschwitz is divided into the main camp, Auschwitz I, and the Birkenau camp, Auschwitz II.
You can visit Auschwitz by yourself from Cracow or with an organized day-trip. Read more about visiting Auschwitz in our separate blog.
De Wieliczka Salt Mine
The Wieliczka Salt Mine offers a fascinating insight into the lives of miners throughout history. It is one of the most impressive tourist attractions in this part of Poland and you should definitely take a visit!
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is visited by more than 1 million people every year, certainly a to-do on your citytrip to Cracow. The human history of the mine goes back more than 700 years, but the geological/mineral history goes back even further in time. Also read our blog article about Wieliczka.
Book your ticket online and skip the queues, or book your organized tour with a pick-up service at your hotel.
Oskar Schindlers Enamelware Factory
If you've seen Spielberg's famous film Schinder's List, you won't be unfamiliar with the story of factory owner Oskar Schindler and his employees. The film was almost entirely shot in Cracow. On the site of Oskar Schindler's Enamel Factory, stands not only the MOCAK, but also a historical museum.
Oskar Schindler was a German industrialist and a member of the Nazi party. He had many Jews working in his factory. Initially he only did this for profit (cheap labour), but in the end he saved the lives of almost all his Jewish workers.
Oskar Schindlers Email Factory visit? Book your tickets for the museum online and skip the queues.
The largest medieval town-square in Europe
Cracow's main marketplace (Rynek Główny) is the largest medieval town-square in Europe. This large 13th century space in the heart of the city is surrounded by palaces and churches. It is a good place to start exploring the city. The place of honor in the square is reserved for the Cloth Hall, which is described below.
Cloth hall (Sukiennice) and the Town Hall Tower
The Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) dates from the Renaissance and is one of the most recognizable structures in the city. The Polish name of the Cloth Hall, Sukiennice, refers specifically to trade in fabrics and textiles, but many other goods were also traded: leather and silk, wax, spices, lead and salt from the nearby mines of Wieliczka.
The Town Hall Tower (Wieża ratuszowa) is a restored tower that originally dates back to the 14th century and was built as part of the Town Hall. From the windows (you are not allowed on the balconies) you have a beautiful view. The tower is 70 m high and is about 55 cm crooked. Legend has it that this was due to an enormous strong wind that blew the tower out of position in 1703.
St. Florian's Gate (Brama Floriańska)
The St. Florian's Gate (Brama Floriańska) is a Gothic tower originally built in the 14th century as part of the defensive structure against Turkish attacks. It is the only one of the 8 original gates that was not demolished during the "modernization" of Cracow in the 19th century.
The tower gate is 33.5 m high, was crowned with a metal 'helmet' in 1660 and was already renovated in 1694.
The Kraków Barbican
The Kraków Barbican (Barbakan) is a circular stone fortress and was once connected to the defensive walls of the city by the bridge of the Florian's Gate. It is one of the only three remaining barbicans in Europe, and is by far the best preserved. The walled, brick building has a courtyard of 24 meters in diameter and has 7 turrets, a must-see on your Krakow city trip.
Church after church
9.1. Saint Mary’s Basilica (Kościół Mariacki)
A Roman Catholic church with an 80 meter gothic watchtower. The wooden altarpiece was carved by the sculptor Veit Stoss in the late 15th century and is truly breathtaking, as are the stained glass windows and the blue, star studded ceiling.
Every hour on the hour bells are ringing (the Hejnał Mariacki). The melody is traditionally broken halfway through, in memory of a legendary trumpeter who was shot in the neck when he wanted to warn for Mongolian invaders.
9.2.The Church of St. Adalbert (Kościół św. Wojciecha)
The church is at the corner of the Main Square and dates from the 11th century and has a baroque dome. It is older than the square, which explains its peculiar position. The floor inside is about 2 meters lower than the square.
9.3. The Franciscan Church (Kościół Franciszkanów)
The church is known for her stained glass windows, murals and her copy of the shroud of Turin. This restored Gothic church is the most colorful one in the city.
9.4. The Church of Saints Peter and Paul and his Foucault pendulum
It was the first building in Cracow, and perhaps even in the whole of Poland, to be built entirely in Baroque style. Every Thursday, the longest pendulum of Foucault (46.5 m) in Poland is demonstrated here. This shows the rotation of the earth. (The explanation is in Polish).
Pinball Museum of Cracow
The small Pinball Museum (Pinball Museum), hidden in an inner cellar next to the Atlantic Squash Club, is an old-school arcade, with more than 50 original pinball machines and many other old arcade games.
Maybe a nostalgic experience for pinball lovers, but also fun for families looking for something different during their city trip in Krakow.
The trendy Kazimierz district
Kazimierz is a lively, cultural district with an enticing jumble of galleries, unusual shops, vintage clothes shops, trendy bars and eateries.
Download our city walk which will take you past all the important sights in this former Jewish area. It is also worthwhile simply wandering around, discovering hidden gems and soaking up the atmosphere. Would you like to explore the district in a special way?
Another interesting highlight in Cracow is the small but active Remuh (or Remah) Synagogue (Synagoga Remuh) which dates from 1553. It was founded by the family of the famous 16th century Polish rabbi, Moses Isserles, who was better known as 'the Rema'. The synagogue is located next to an old Jewish cemetery that was used until 1800.
Today, the synagogue and the associated cemetery are an important place of pilgrimage for Jews from all over the world. The restored ceiling of the synagogue and the modest interior decorations are definitely worth a visit during your citytrip Krakow.
Kościuszko is an artificial burial mound built in honour of Tadeusz Kościuszko, who lived between 1746 and 1817. He fought in the American War of Independence, after which he started a revolt against foreign domination in Poland.
Friends, dignitaries and officials dumped the first wheelbarrows of land here and during the next 3 years people from all over Poland came to bring the land of their villages. The hill, which was officially finished in 1823, is 34 m high. On a clear day you can see the Tatra Mountains from the top.
The beautiful village and monastery of Tyniec
The beautiful village of Tyniec is home to a famous monastery, which stands on a limestone cliff high above the river. The best way to reach this picturesque location is to rent a bike in Cracow and cycle along the winding Wisła. Or maybe you prefer a river cruise?
The monastery is a fascinating destination and is still inhabited by Benedictine monks. They were once famous for brewing beer.
The Polish Aviation Museum
The Polish Aviation Museum (Muzeum Lotnictwa Polskiego) has a large collection of old aircraft and aircraft engines. This museum, is located in one of the oldest military airports in Europe. A must-see for anyone with any interest in the history of aviation.
The hill of Krakus (or Krak) is the oldest structure in Cracow. This is one of the two prehistoric hills in the city and is also one of its highest points, giving you panoramic views of the surrounding area from the 16 m high tower. The place is said to have been built in honor of the mythical founder of the city, King Krak (or Krakus).
Be aware: since 2 August 2019 closed for renovation works, these will take about 2 years according to the city council.
Looking for refreshment during the hot summer months? Then hidden lagoon Zakrzówek is the place.
About 20 minutes from the city center of Cracow you can find this hidden piece of nature. Ideal for swimming in crystal clear water between steep rocks and lots of greenery. Take the tram to the Norymberska stop and walk via Ulica Wyłom to the entrance.
You can get there from June to August between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. (paid entrance). Look for the location on Google maps.
Save money with the Krakow City Card
Do you want to see a lot and save money on your city trip to Krakow? Consider buying the Krakow City Card. With this card you can take an unlimited number of tram and bus rides, as well as access to 40 museums.
Elderly people over 70 and children under 4 years drive for free anyway, and there are discounts for students under 26 with an ISIC (International Student Identity Card). Buy your Krakow City Card online.
Where and what to eat in Cracow?
1. What is the best place to eat in Cracow?
On a city trip in Cracow and you want to enjoy traditional Polish food at ridiculously low prices, explore the local neighborhoods and don't stay too long at the tourist spots.
A restaurant in the city centre highly recommended by locals is Gospoda Koko, in the Old Town on Ul Golebia 8. The restaurant is open until 3am.
2. Street food in Cracow
One of the most popular street food dishes in Poland is the zapiekanka, an open toasted sandwich of long bread that resembles French baguette. In addition to the zapiekanka sandwich you'll also find obwarzanek (a woven, ring-shaped bread that you can buy on the corner of just about every street) and kielbasa (a traditional sausage). The most famous kielbasa is served between 20h-3h, in a van east of the Old Town, near the train bridge (junction ul. Grzegórzecka with ul. Blich).
3. Pierogi: traditional Polish dumplings
These traditional dumplings are the real Polish cuisine, and you can get them with a whole range of different fillings. The most popular are probably the pierogi ruskie dumplings (dumplings in Russian style with cream cheese and spices), although the pierogi with meat or with fruit for dessert are also very popular.
4. Bigos: traditional Polish stew
You might want to taste this old Polish favorite when you're in town. Bigos is an iconic dish, also known as 'hunter's stew' because of its raw and earthy ingredients, and is available everywhere in the city. The stew can consist of a variety of meats, from venison to veal, smoked sausage or bacon.
Where to stay in Cracow?
Would you like a budget or luxury stay in Cracow, there is are many possibilities regarding hotels. An overview + prices here.
A Hotel? We stayed at INX Design Hotel (4*), in the trendy, old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz with AIRCO and free WiFi. Delicious breakfast with local products, neat rooms and friendly staff! They will be happy to help you plan out your day. More info and prices.
An apartment? Then be sure to book Aparthotel Stare Miasto in the historic centre of Cracow, just 120 meters from the Grand Place. More info and prices.
Download our free travel guide Cracow, don't miss out on anything
Like most of us, you don't want to miss out on anything during your city trip in Cracow. Well, we have some good news, because we already did the research for you! Buy our travel guide Cracow with 2 city walks, tourist info, practical info + all day-trips. Want to try it out first? Download your free preview city guide Cracow!