12 Reasons Why You Should Visit Krakow Over Warsaw

Bikes in Krakow | © JRF
Bikes in Krakow | © JRF
Forget navigating the traffic-choked streets of Poland’s capital and opt to join the tourists who head for the historical second city of Krakow instead. 1,200 years of history, totemic UNESCO sites and more bars than you can shake a bubbling bowl of zurek soup at can’t be wrong…

Krakow’s got the historic architecture

Whether it’s the cobbles of the Old Town Market Square or the soaring Gothic spires of the Wawel Castle, Poland’s second city is bursting at the UNESCO-attested seams with historic architecture. Unfortunately, all of Warsaw’s was destroyed in the tumult of WWII, while Krakow’s emerged virtually unscathed.

Krakow’s got the grub

Warsaw can try, but it will really never reach the same culinary heights as Krakow. What with smoky sheep’s cheese courtesy of the Zakopane folk, red blood sausage and filling zapiekanki breads on the menu, most of the locals here reckon the capital can keep its fancy fine dining!

Sheep’s Cheese © Monica Kelly/Flickr

Krakow’s got the nightlife

From the acclaimed Krakow pub crawl to the smoky cellar bars of Kazimierz district, nightlife in the second city of Poland does more than enough to stare down its compadre in the capital to the north. In fact, one urban myth has it that there’s more bars per square meter in Krakow’s Old Town than in any other town in Europe.

You can ski in the Tatras

When the winter snows begin to fall and the High Tatra Mountains get caked in ice, the ski fields of Zakopane, Kasprowy Wierch and Bialka Tatrzanska all open. Not only do these resorts offer the best skiing in Poland, but they also do it for darn cheap!

Skiing in Zakopane, close to Krakow © JRF

You can hike the Tatras

The High Tatras aren’t just an awesome skiing destination in the winter, they are also a year-round hiking hot spot. The best months to hit the trails are between June and September, when the chiselled peak of Rysy and the Giewont shimmer in the sun, alpine meadows come into bloom, and the forests are at their greenest.

Tatra mountains panorama, Zakopane, Poland © PIVISO/Flickr/Public Domain

It’s microbrews and craft galore

Krakow is leading the pack when it comes to Poland’s all-new obsession with microbrew beers. Check out the subterranean drinking hall of C.K. Browar for some of the top home-crafted ales and dunkels. Or, taste the interesting concoctions of Browar Twigg in acclaimed Tea Time Pub, sat right on the edge of the Vistula River.

Beer Truck, Krakow © Chris Brown/Flickr

It’s your chance to see Auschwitz

Auschwitz might just be the most iconic UNESCO site in all of Europe. Made infamous by the horrors and atrocities of the Nazis, an estimated 1.1 million people were exterminated there during WWII. Today’s monument and museum complex fuses history with memorials, to help chronicle what happened and honour the victims at the same time.

Auschwitz © Rodrigo Paredes/Flickr

Krakow is the city of Polish kings and queens

Krakow was actually the capital of Poland until as late as 1569, which means it reigned over the nation during its glorious golden age. The result is a city that oozes regal elegance. Just look up to the gilded towers of the great Wawel, or check out the prestigious Royal Way!

Wawel 5, 31-001 Kraków, Poland

Krakow is easier to navigate

It’s no secret that Warsaw is much bigger than Krakow. It’s also sprawling and ever-expanding, meaning only this southern gem can promise walkable neighborhoods and easy-to-navigate historic districts. Yep, you don’t even have to ride the rattling trams to the Wawel or enchanting Kazimierz area here.

Krakow's got the Wieliczka Salt Mines

Archaeological site, Cemetery, Church
St. Kinga's Chapel, Wieliczka | © Cezary p / WikiCommons
St. Kinga's Chapel, Wieliczka | © Cezary p / WikiCommons
Another of the major UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the menu for visitors to Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mines can be found carved deep into the underground of Lesser Poland within the city limits. They are awash with mystical carvings from centuries gone by, and even host a complete underground cathedral carved from sodium rock!
More Info

Krakow the fairy tale city

There’s nothing quite like delving into the twinkling lights of the Krakow Christmas market, or wandering the empty cobbled lanes of the Old Town area when a low mist has set in. Sometimes the Gothic turrets poke out of the clouds, other times the smell of sizzling blood sausage wafts between the medieval facades and arcades. It’s hard to deny this is Poland’s fairy tale city – not Warsaw!

Snowing in Kraków © Lauri Heikkinen/Flickr

Krakow has Kazimierz

Kazimierz is the old Jewish Quarter of Krakow. A place steeped in history and heritage, it’s now one of the most boho neighborhoods in all of central-eastern Europe. Think cool hummus joints and Middle Eastern restaurants, thumping all-nighter bars and some of the best coffee joints in Poland (sorry, W).

Kazimierz © JRF