33 Must-Visit Attractions in Krakow

Igor Mitorajs huge hollow statue of Eross head rests in Krakows Market Square
Igor Mitoraj's huge hollow statue of Eros's head rests in Krakow's Market Square | © Egil Korsnes / Alamy Stock Photo
Joseph Francis

Krakow, the second largest city in Poland, delivers fairytale views, with the towering Wawel Castle, as well as people-watching meccas such as Florianska Street and the Market Square. Dark times in the city’s recent history are evident in the Jewish ghetto memorial and Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and green spaces such as Planty Park offer plenty of headspace. Get some inspiration with our guide to things to do in Krakow before planning a trip with Culture Trip to these amazing destinations.

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1. Market Square

Market

Krakow, Poland : People walks towards the Cloth hall building and old Town Hall Tower at the center of the main market square in the Krakow Old Town (
© Luis Dafos / Alamy Stock Photo
The buzzing heart of the Unesco-attested Krakow Old Town, the Market Square, is where all the action has played out since the Middle Ages. Come here for bars packed into the cellars of Medieval buildings, on-street cafes and restaurants, and landmarks including the central renaissance Sukiennice, or Cloth Hall, and Town Hall Tower (the hall itself was demolished in 1820).

2. Wawel Castle

Building

Krakow - Wawel castle at day
© TTstudio / Alamy Stock Photo
You can’t visit Krakow without exploring the medley of gothic, renaissance, rococo and romanesque architecture that is the great Wawel Castle. The muddle of buildings is on a high point in the city, giving it an imposing presence. It was the home of the Polish kings and queens until the 1600s, and has also been used as a barracks, a military hospital and the official residence of the state governor following World War I.

3. Planty Park

Park

Summer morning in Planty Park, Krakow, Poland.
© Slawek Staszczuk / Alamy Stock Photo
The green belt Planty Park rings the whole area of Krakow’s historic Old Town. Pathways weave this way and that past sculptures, babbling fountains and brick towers, while locals walk their dogs and cafes spill on to the surrounding streets. It’s filled with life in the summer and a veritable winter wonderland during the colder months.

4. Barbican

Building, Museum

The Barbican in Krakow is the largest extant Barbican in Europe, built from 1498 to 1499, Lesser Poland, Poland, Europe
© Gunter Kirsch / Alamy Stock Photo
The Barbican is the only remaining gatehouse of the Medieval fortifications that once encircled the whole city. Its redbrick bulwarks and formidable turrets helped to fend off the Mongol hordes during the 13th century and its circular design was on the cutting edge of engineering at the time. Today, occasional theatre productions and other art shows are hosted inside.

5. St Florian's Gate

Building

Florian Gate Brama Florianska ul. Florianska street Cracow Krakow Stare Miasto Old Town Poland tourism travel
© Slawek Koziol / Alamy Stock Photo
Looking wonderful in its Polish gothic shell, St Florian’s Gate marks the start of the so-called Royal Route. Pass through and listen to buskers play everything from highlander folk to Dylan-esque country in the echoing tunnel, before heading into the Old Town in the footsteps of the erstwhile Polish kings.

6. Ko?ciuszko Mound

Building

Kosciuszko Mound (Kopiec Kosciuszki). Krakow landmark, Poland. Erected in 1823 to commemorate Tadedeusz Kosciuszko, and the chapel of St. Bronislawa.
© Krzysztof Nahlik / Alamy Stock Photo
Built in the image of the prehistoric mounds of Krakus and Wanda, the soaring hill of Ko?ciuszko was raised in 1823 to honour its namesake national hero, Tadeusz Ko?ciuszko, who fought for Poland against the Russians and the Prussians in the 18th century. From the top, travellers enjoy sweeping panoramas of the city, while clear days even reveal the Tatra Mountains to the south.

7. Florianska Street

Architectural Landmark

Krakow, Poland - July 29th 2018: Tourists walking down Florianska street in the old town of Krakow, Poland, near St.Florians Gate
© SnapTPhotography / Alamy Stock Photo

Cutting through the very heart of the northern half of the Old Town district, the bustling drag that is Florianska Street hosts craft beer bars, souvenir emporiums and vodka tasting joints. You’ll need to be in the mood for ambling and taking in the atmosphere during the high season, as it’s often packed with tourists making their way from St Florian’s gate to the Market Square.

8. The Sukiennice

Building

Sukiennice aka The Cloth Hall or Drapers Hall in the main Market Square of Krakow, Poland, Europe
© Sergio Azenha / Alamy Stock Photo
Hailed as the world’s oldest shopping centre, the Sukiennice, or Cloth Hall, has stood in the middle of Krakow Market Square for centuries. It was once full of international traders, selling silk, spices, leather and wax during its heyday in the 15th century – not just cloth. Even if rummaging through souvenir and food stands is not on your list of what to do in Krakow, pause outside to wonder at the handsome renaissance architecture.

9. St Mary's Basilica

Church

A part of Adam Mickiewicz Monument and Church, St. Marys Church, Krakow (Cracow), Poland, Europe (UNESCO)
© Mark Delete / Alamy Stock Photo
The redbrick facade and great twin spires of St Mary’s Basilica have become symbols of the city. The Basilica was founded in the 13th century, but was destroyed during a Mongol invasion, and its various replacements have been through a lot, including an earthquake, which hit the presbytery in the 1400s. It still hosts the hourly bugle call – the Hejna? Mariacki.

10. The Jewish Quarter

Architectural Landmark

Kazimierz Jewish Quarter Krakow,Poland, Europe.
© jozef mikietyn / Alamy Stock Photo

Set within walking distance of the Old Town, the historic Jewish Quarter (also known as Kazimierz) was once a separate city in its own right, founded in the 15th century, and considered a model Jewish community. Jews were forcibly moved to a ghetto shut off from the rest of the city in 1941. Today, it retains a unique vibe with its crumbling tenement blocks, great synagogues and cool bohemian beer joints.

11. The Dragon's Den

Natural Feature

Dragons Den (Smocza Jama) - a limestone cave in the Wawel Hill where the legendary dragon resided, Krakow, Poland
© Nathaniel Noir / Alamy Stock Photo
Touring a dragon’s den is one of the quirkier activities in Krakow. Legend has it that the Smok Wawelski dragon used to live beneath the mound of Wawel Castle and terrorise the city’s residents, before coming to a grizzly end thanks to a shoemaker and a sheep stuffed with sulphur. There is also a statue of the dragon that breathes real fire.

12. Vistulan Boulevards

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark

Cracow. Krakow. Poland. Vistula River waterfront boulevard. Barge restaurant
© Grzegorz Kozakiewicz / Alamy Stock Photo

As the winding courses of the Vistula River snake through the heart of Krakow, its banks host wide spaces of greenery, ad hoc summertime markets, beer bars and bobbing boat cafes. Hire a bike or go jogging, stop and watch passing boats on the river, or stroll along as you decide what to see in Krakow next.

13. Slowacki Chamber, Wieliczka Salt Mines

Natural Feature

Wieliczka Salt Mine, The Chapel of St. Kinga, Cracow, Poland UNESCO. Image shot 2016. Exact date unknown.
© Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo
For hundreds of years, the miners of the Wieliczka tunnels fuelled Krakow’s growth, pulling tonnes of valuable rock salt from the earth below the city. Today, their gift continues in the form of sculptures carved in subterranean passages and St Kinga’s Chapel – a spectacular underground cathedral made of salt.

14. Auschwitz-Birkenau

Memorial, Museum

The railway track and main SS guard house at the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz Birkenau.. Image shot 06/2007. Exact date unknown.
© Maurice Savage / Alamy Stock Photo
Dark, emotional, moving and sobering in the extreme, there’s really nowhere in Europe quite like Auschwitz-Birkenau. It remains one of the most important things to see in and near Krakow, offering an informative and sensitive insight into the horrors of the Holocaust and the destruction wrought by the Nazis on the Jews and other minority groups. The memorial and museum are around an hour from the city centre.

15. Wawel Cathedral

Cathedral, Church

Wawel Cathedral, the part of Wawel Castle complex in Krakow, Poland
© Olena Buyskykh / Alamy Stock Photo
Hidden behind the old walls of Wawel Castle, arguably the most important church in Poland can be found looming high with its baroque and gothic frontispieces. There is so much to see, from the soaring lookouts of the belfry to the national crypts under the main basilica.

16. Cmentarz Rakowicki

Cemetery

Rakowicki Cemetery (Polish: Cmentarz Rakowicki) in Krakow, Poland
© Endless Travel / Alamy Stock Photo
Packed to bursting with the graves and grand sepulchres of Polish artists, politicians, poets, film actors, generals and more, the sprawling grounds of the Rakowicki Cemetery are Krakow’s answer to Paris’s Père Lachaise. Head down on All Saints’ Day, November 1, to see thousands of twinkling candles in honour of the dead.

17. Ojców National Park

Forest, Park, Ruins

© Mark Delete / Alamy Stock Photo
The bulbous stone peaks and forest-clad valleys of the Ojców National Park can be found just 20 minutes by car outside of Krakow. Criss-crossed by walking trails and peppered with deep caves, they also boast allegedly haunted castle ruins and traditional country taverns. If you’re visiting Krakow for more than a long weekend, the park is a great choice for a day away from the city.

18. B?onia

Park

Krakow, Poland. 10th Oct, 2018. A woman seen roller skating between Autumnal trees at Blonia Park. Credit: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News
© ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo
The great wedge of a green space that is the B?onia meadow sits on the western haunch of the city. It’s not much to look at in the winter, when it becomes caked in ice and snow, but summertime brings runners, dog walkers, roller-skaters, cyclists and open-air music festivals.

19. Plac Bohaterów Getta

Building

Mahnmal, Platz der Ghettohelden, Krakau, Polen, Memorial, place of the ghetto heroes, Cracow, Poland
© Bildagentur-online/Schoening / Alamy Stock Photo
Cut through by rattling tram lines and fringed with shops and cafes, this central square of the Podgórze district is home to one of the most sobering memorials in the city. A series of large and small chairs have been placed in a grid across the cobbles, designed as a memorial to the people of the Jewish ghetto in Krakow, which was once located here. There is also a plaque marking the meeting place of the Jewish Combat Organization, a resistance unit that staged acts of sabotage against the Nazis.

20. Market Hall Unitarg

Market, Polish

Krakow, Poland - September 21, 2018: Polish looking for Cheap second hand Books at Krakows Unitarg plac targowy flea market
© Thiago Figueredo Lopes / Alamy Stock Photo
Hit the lively Unitarg on the weekends to experience a bona fide Polish flea market. Ramshackle stalls overladen with everything from band patches to age-stained metal tankards await. Haggle for everything, of course, and be sure to get in early for the best deals.

21. Oskar Schindler’s Factory

Museum

This immersive reconstruction of war-time Krakow goes far beyond the scope of what visitors might expect of the Oskar Schindler Factory of Spielberg fame. Ignoring the expectations of the Hollywood-jaded many in favor of a series of fantastic exhibitions dedicated to chronicling the story of the city under Nazi rule, the center focuses on lifestyle, politics and the hardships faced by the Podgórze Jews and the Polish people more generally. There are, of course, rooms dedicated to telling the story of Oskar Schindler too, and the factory itself once stood right next door.

22. Museum of Stained Glass

Museum

Krakow’s Stained Glass Museum is a testimony to the magnificent processes behind creating stained glass, examining everything from conception to assembly under the gaze of qualified craftsmen and apprentices. Both a museum and a workshop for contemporary artists, visitors can undertake tours that tell the story of the most significant Polish stained glass masterpieces while watching contemporary artists working in the medium. Since its opening in 1902, the collection has also exhibited international pieces from right across the globe.

23. Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow

Museum, Shop

Marina Abramovi?, Ai Weiwei, Trevor Gould and Edward Dwurnik are just some of the incredible artists of international repute on offer at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow – MOCAK. Designed by Claudio Nardi and Leonard Maria Proli, the museum sits in a curious post-industrial setting, on the former site of the enamel factory that belonged to Oskar Schindler. Controversial but authentic at the same time, the art exhibitions here, both permanent and temporary, showcase historical, social and cultural discourses from the past two decades, with a heavy focus on emerging Polish and Eastern European artists.

24. Lost Souls Alley

Museum

Pumping with adrenaline and horror at every turn, this terrifying tour takes place in an old building, just behind the market square of Krakow. It plunges visitors into the most macabre and spooky aspects of the city, offering a heart-thumping journey through one of the nation’s first truly interactive museums, all inspired by Hollywood horror and the city’s shadowy Slavic past alike.

25. Lovers' Bridge

Bridge

Colorful, lovable and entertaining all at once, Krakow’s version of the so-called Lovers’ Bridge (a phenomenon that has spread right across the continent since first being coined in Paris) finds its home on Father Bernard’s Footbridge. Everyone knows how it works: couples come to attach a padlock on the bridge and throw the key into the Vistula below in the hope that it will cast their union in iron. A little soppy? Perhaps, but just check out the views of the river and Podgórze district across the water. Oh, and Forum Przestrzenie is always close by for an al fresco beer.

26. Wódka Café Bar

Bar, Cafe, Beer, Polish, Coffee

A haven for advanced liquor adventurers and curious vodka tasters alike, Wódka Café Bar is a petite but potent little spot that touts an encyclopaedia of Polish vodka styles. With an assortment of more than 100 flavored options and incredible combinations, from sweetened to herb-infused, colored, spiced, and straight, this one elevates this ubiquitous Eastern European tipple to the level of art. There’s also a great atmosphere to chill in and plenty of locals on hand for advice on which shots to opt for.

27. Pharmacy Museum

Museum

Museum of Pharmacy, Krakow, Poland
© mararie/Flickr
A chemical odyssey, the Pharmacy Museum in Krakow is a journey through the medicinal past of the town and nation. Founded in 1946, the exhibition rooms here are spread over five floors from the penthouse to the basement of the building on bustling Basztowa Street and contain oodles of old drug containers, medical implements, curious busts and inscriptions. In short, this one is an immersive journey back in time!

28. Rynek Underground

Market, Museum

© Jorge Láscar/Flickr
1,000 years of history is showcased in the underground vaults of the Main Square, where the turbulent past of the Old Town of Krakow is unraveled. Covering 4,000 square meters of archaeological findings made between 2005 and 2010, this museum is one of the most immersive on offer in town. The connection of Poland with the Hanseatic League is one of the most intriguing parts of the exhibition, while the objects on display include old weapons and trading goods found in the mud.

Galeria Plakatu

A Haven for graphic designers, art lovers and culture buffs alike, the Polish Poster Gallery is a fantastic place to get inspired. Hosting over 2,500 Polish posters and promoting the culture around them, the petite gallery is a grass-roots organization dedicated to understanding the graphic history of the city. Covering areas like painting, theater, cinema, literature and food, the posters here are all-encompassing in their artistic merits!

Bania-Luka

Nothing short of an institution on the Krakow nightlife scene, this almost all-night watering hole is always packed out with locals, visitors and students alike. Some of the city’s cheapest vodka and beer flows from behind the bar, while plates of hearty pierogi dumplings and tartar offer some welcome late-night indulgence. Just don’t expect a smile at the bar!

29. Alchemia

Bar, Polish

Bursting at its rickety wooden seams with over-dripped candles and haunting portraiture, Alchemia has long been hailed as the coolest bar in Krakow. Its dose of mystique evokes the former Jewish district, both during the day – when it’s a bohemian cafe – and by night, when bands play in the basement and Czech beer flows. It’s also renowned for its veggie food, halloumi burgers and hummus platters.

30. Shop for antiques at Plac Nowy

Market, Polish

Plac Nowy has been at the heart of the Kazimierz neighbourhood since its inauguration in the early 1900s. A Jewish kosher market in the pre-war days, now you’ll find trinket, craft and antique stalls throughout the week, plus a farmer’s market every weekend. Don’t miss the chance to dine on traditional zapiekanki (pizza breads laden with toppings) from the holes-in-the-wall in the middle – they’re hailed as the finest in all of Poland.

31. Church of Corpus Christi

Church, Monastery

This elegant, brick-built marvel has six centuries of history behind it – culminating in a dazzling combination of romanesque, gothic and baroque designs. Every section of this soaring church features something beautiful to behold – from the vaulted ceilings to the boat-shaped pulpit and the soaring gothic tower outside. Its crowning glory is the gold-gilded, 15th-century altarpiece, as tall as the cathedral itself.

Additional words by Eliza Marin.

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