Best Things To Do in Krakow
From shopping to sightseeing, Kraków has a wide range of daytime activities. However, the main draws of this European city are its historic attractions and its Old World architecture. History buffs will appreciate seeing the planes displayed at the Polish Aviation Museum and walking around World War II-affiliated locales like Oskar Schindler's Factory and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, while architecture enthusiasts will love gazing at Wawel Cathedral and St. Mary's Basilica. When you're in need of a break from sightseeing, people-watch at a cafe or grab a bite to eat in the Main Market Square. Then, check out the city's pulsing nightlife in the Old Town and Kazimierz neighborhoods.
Updated January 27, 2018
- #1View all Photos#1 in KrakowMonuments and Memorials, Museums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, Museums, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
A 42-mile trip west of Kraków, the brutal, crushing concentration and extermination camps of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau are located in the city of Oswiecim. More than 1.1 million people died in these camps' barracks, hospitals, gas chambers and labor fields.
Travelers say the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum is one of Europe's best preserved concentration camps. These camps, many add, are an important piece of history, although you'll feel emotional during your tour. As such, this locale is not ideal for younger children. Plan on bringing water and wearing comfortable walking shoes since you'll cover a lot of ground here. Also, reserve your timed entry passes and guided tours on the property's booking page well in advance.
- #2View all Photos#2 in KrakowCafes, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDCafes, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
The Main Market Square (or Rynek Glówny, as it's known locally) is the world's largest medieval market square and the highlight of any trip to Kraków. It is the geographic center of the Old Town, the symbolic center of the city and, more than likely, the center of most of your trip plans.
The square is mostly about atmosphere – it is alive and bustling with locals and travelers alike, coming and going. You'll also notice the unsymmetrical towers of St. Mary's Basilica nearby, which are a great escape from the square's activity. If you'd rather buy some souvenirs, peruse the stalls at Cloth Hall.
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Sitting on the eastern corner of the Main Market Square, St. Mary's Basilica is a Gothic-style church that was originally built in the 13th century. It was destroyed by the Tatars and then rebuilt in the 14th century. It features two towers that have different styles, as well as different heights. But the basilica's highlight is a wooden altarpiece found on the wall near the visitor's entrance. It consists of a series of panels that depict biblical scenes such as the ascension of Jesus.
Past visitors suggest arranging your visit to St. Mary's around the turn of the hour. That's when a trumpeter sounds his horn from the taller of the towers. Many also said you should try arriving at opening so you can see nuns unveiling the church's beautiful altar. Keep in mind, though, that visits here are only free for worshippers. Exploring the basilica will set you back 10 Polish zloty (less than $3), while climbing up the tower will cost an additional 15 Polish zloty ($4). You'll also be charged 5 Polish zloty (approximately $1.50) if you wish to take photos inside.
- #4View all PhotosfreeWawel Cathedral#4 in KrakowChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
Wawel Cathedral – situated in the Wawel Hill neighborhood – is one of Poland's most important places of worship. For centuries, this church hosted Saint Stanislaus, who advocated for Polish independence. He is buried in the church's burial chambers alongside an array of Polish monarchs and other famous Poles. It is hardly surprising, then, that this part of the site is one of its most popular to visit.
According to past travelers, the striking Wawel Cathedral is the unmistakable highlight of Wawel Hill and one of Kraków's can't-miss attractions. Though you'll have to pay an extra 12 Polish zloty ($3) to check out the property's Sigismund Bell, Royal Tombs and museum, many said the extra sights are worth seeing. Renting an audio guide for 7 Polish zloty (less than $2) is also recommended since there's a lot of history to take in.
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If you've seen the movie "Schindler's List," then you'll recognize Oskar Schindler's Factory. This former enamel factory, which fell into the hands of former Nazi sympathizer Oskar Schindler during World War II, once employed and imprisoned approximately 1,200 Jews. As the Nazis began sending Jews to labor camps around Poland, Schindler, in an effort to keep his workforce, obtained permission to turn an adjacent plot of land into a sub-camp of the Plaszów labor camp, where conditions were less harsh. Schindler eventually moved his factory to Brünnlitz, a village in the Czech Republic, but the former site has since reopened as a museum.
Though some past visitors were disappointed with the museum's lack of information about Oskar Schindler, many said its displays about the Nazi occupation in Kraków were worth checking out. But if you're traveling with younger children, plan on skipping this attraction. The museum cautions that the information provided inside is not appropriate for kids ages 13 and younger. Also, consider purchasing your tickets on the property's online ticket reservation page before arriving since a limited number of passes are available.
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The "Wieliczka" Salt Mine, a UNESCO World Heritage site, stopped churning out salt in 2007 after centuries of production, but it continues to be a major draw for visitors due to its collection of meticulously carved statues.
The mine's unquestioned highlight is St. Kinga's Chapel, a full-scale underground temple made out of salt. But be prepared for a walk. During a standard tour of the property, you'll traverse 800 steps, 350 of which are part of your initial descent. Travelers also caution that upon completing your tour, you'll face an additional trek to reach the elevator to the exit.
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Located less than 3 miles northeast of the city center, the Polish Aviation Museum appeals to aviation enthusiasts. Spread across the Rakowice-Czyzny airfield, one of Europe's oldest landing strips for military aircraft, the museum features airplanes, helicopters and more, including a Russian Grigorovich M-15 from World War I and the world's only surviving airplane by German designer Dr. Waldemar Geest. A collection with various aircraft engines is also available in one of the airstrip's hangars.
Recent travelers said this attraction's plethora of planes makes it "aerospace heaven," though some cautioned that outdoor exhibits are in poor condition. Signs at the exhibits are mostly in Polish, but several noted that enough English is provided to get a sense of each display. Many also recommend visiting on a Tuesday when entrance fees are waived.
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