Planning a trip to Krakow, Poland? Check out this blog post for the top things to do in Krakow. These include the famous salt mines in Krakow, Auschwitz and Wawel Castle. This blog post has got it all.
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Well hello there and welcome back to my little corner on the internet!
As you might have correctly guessed from the title, in today’s blog post I am going to be talking about my little solo adventure in Krakow.
Krakow has been on my list for years. As a college major in history, I always found World War 2 very interesting.
It has always been a dream of mine to visit Auschwitz and then one day, out of the blue, I purchased two tickets and in less than a week, I was in Poland!
In this blog post, I will go in great detail about the top things to do in Krakow, provide as many links as I can and give you an account of what I did.
Let us begin!
PS: at the end of this post there is a map with all the places I mentioned in this blog post.
HOW TO GET TO KRAKOW:
✈ Flights from Frankfurt International to Krakow:
I flew from Frankfurt International into Krakow’s main airport with Ryanair. There was a flash sale going on and I bought my tickets for €32.
KRAKOW’S MAIN AIRPORT IS John Paul II Kraków-Balice International Airport
Ryanair can be sneaky sometimes because yes, prices of flights might be cheap but then you’d have to add extras such as this thing called ‘priority’ where you pay extra to board first and add a carry on luggage. I decided not to pay for priority and just use a backpack instead.
PRO TIP: IF YOU’RE ONLY GOING FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS LIKE I DID, STUFF ALL YOUR BELONGINGS IN A BACKPACK.
✈ Trains to Krakow:
If you live in mainland Europe, you can access Krakow by train from all major European cities. I live in Germany there are trains to Krakow. They take longer than flights but sometimes, they are cheaper than buying actual flights.
The main train station in Krakow is called Kraków Główny railway station.
Driving is also an option if you live in mainland Europe. Even though Poland is in the EU, you might still need to present your passport when crossing border so make sure you have that and a valid drivers license.
If you are military, make sure you have your leave orders with you.
✈ Flix Bus:
FlixBus is another great option but it takes longer than using a train. If time is not an issue for you but want the best deal, Flix bus is worth checking out.
✈ Krakow Airport Shuttles:
You can book a private shuttle to pick you up the airport and take you to your hotel/apartment and vice-versa. I opted for that service and was not disappointed! All you have to do is book online and submit an online payment and you’re good to go.
KRAKOW: THINGS TO KNOW
Before I get on with the rest of my post, I thought I’d give you some basic, yet helpful information to make your trip a lot more easier.
- Poland has its own currency and they do not accept the Euro. The only place where I saw they accepted Euro was Auschwitz.
- I recommend taking some cash with you! A little goes a long way in Poland. 100PLN (€25) was enough for four days. Crazy, I know.
- The peak season in Krakow is during Summer and the weather does get pretty warm! Plan ahead and pack lots of water.
- Credit cards are accepted everywhere. You will find the odd place here and there where they only accept cash but 99.9% of the places in Krakow accept credit cards.
- Grocery stores in Poland are called Delikatesy.
- There are money exchange places at every corner. They’re called Kantor.
- I used Bolt to get around in Krakow, especially when it was raining. There is also Uber and UberEats!
- English is widely spoken. I never had any trouble with speaking English to the locals.
- Krakow has it’s very own mobile app. On this app, you can find all the information you need from emergency telephone numbers, tourist information points, Krakow’s major sights and opening hours of local museums and attractions. I highly recommend you download this app!
- Krakow is a very safe city. I felt very at ease walking around the Old Town. There are some neighbourhoods that are a little bit sketchy, but the Old Town area is very safe.
- Plugs/electric outlets in Poland are the same as the ones in Germany and mainland Europe.
- From my experience, I can say that the weather is very predictable.
WEATHER IN KRAKOW IS PRETTY MUCH THE SAME AS MAINLAND EUROPE. HOT DURING THE SUMMER, COLD DURING THE WINTER 🤷🏻♀️
HOTELS IN KRAKOW:
Just like any other major European city, there is an abundance of AirBnB’s and hotels in Krakow. From my point of view, Krakow has cheaper rates than any other country I’ve visited in Europe.
This time around, I opted for Airbnb and stayed at this lovely apartment. It was located 10 minutes away from the main square, super clean and the host was friendly.
Other options to find a place to stay in Krakow are HostelWorld and Booking.
TOURS IN KRAKOW:
I pre-booked two tours, one to Auschwitz and the other to Oskar Schindler’s factory before coming to Krakow. Some places like Auschwitz you can go by yourself however you need to pay for transport. Personally, I am glad I booked the tour because I got a lot of new information about the place that I didn’t know before. However, it was a little rushed.
As for Oskar Schindler’s factory, I really did enjoy the tour and our tour guide was fantastic! I will go into more detail about the tour later on in this post.
Unfortunately, I did not have the time to go to the Salt Mines. However, I highly recommend you making the time to go! I heard they’re stunning and worth the visit.
Is Krakow safe for solo female travellers?
Krakow is a very safe place and I have never felt threatened as a solo female traveller. I never went out late at night by myself and always stayed in touristy areas. Krakow is listed as one of the safest cities in Europe! There are some neighbourhoods that are a bit more dangerous than others. Petty crime is common so keep a keen eye on your belongings, don’t trust anyone and listen to your instinct.
MUST EAT IN KRAKOW:
For the best Pierogis in town, definitely give this place a try. It is a small family-owned business but the food is amazing! They have other foods but the bulk of the menu is pierogis. For €3, you can eat a delicious filling meal. They also do takeaways! I highly recommend this place for the most delicious pierogis in the Old Town area.
I loved the cute interior details they have as well!
I found this place by accident on my first day when I went down the road by mistake. The next day, I decided to give it a try and I am so glad I did! Their cupcakes are very delicious and they also serve other foods such as bagels. I would have loved to take a picture of the cupcakes but I made the dumb mistake of carrying the box sideways and ruined all of the cupcakes 🤦🏻♀️
Located only 15 mins away from Old Town, this Soviet model van serves up the best sausages in Poland. It has become a staple in Krakow and I definitely recommend checking it out!
🥯 Polish bagel or an Obwarzanek from the market square:
You will see small stands selling them. They are a Polish staple and also, they are very chewy and delicious. I opted for the poppy seed one and it only cost me 1PLN (€23c).
🧀 An Oyspeck!
I had one for breakfast (yes, for breakfast but they are very small). It is basically sheep cheese with cranberry sauce. It was so delicious!
THINGS TO DO IN KRAKOW:
▷ Walk around Old Town:
Old Town was honestly my favourite part in Krakow. In order for me to get to the main square, I had to walk down a side street and then I was directly in the middle of the square. I am not lying nor exaggerating when I tell you that I fell in love with it instantly. There is something about it that completely captured my heart!
As expected, you can find a number of restaurants and shops in Old Town! Make sure to grab some lunch in the Polish sun! The main square dates back to the 13th century and was once a commercial hub where merchants from all over the world traded their goods!
Fact: Under the Nazi occupation, the main square was known as Adolf Hitler Platz. Krakow was a very important city for the Nazis and they protected it from being bombed, unlike Warsaw that was destroyed during the War.
▷ Check out St Mary’s Basilica:
Located on the other side of the main square, this Basilica became a landmark. It dates back to the 13th century and serves as a classic example of Polish Gothic architecture.
▷ Town Hall Tower:
The Town Hall Tower was the first thing I saw when I stepped into the main square. I was so fascinated by it & every time I went to Old Town, which was every day, I marvelled at it. The tower serves as a history museum & you can purchase tickets to go inside and get a pretty good view of Krakow! More info here.
▷ The Head Sculpture:
This sculpture is located exactly by the Town Hall Tower and it is one of Krakow’s most known landmarks. This bronze sculpture is officially titled as ‘Eros Bendato’ and it is the work of Polish artist Igor Mitoraj. For more information, click here.
swipe to see images.
▷ Go to the Cloth Hall:
The Cloth Hall is one of the city’s most recognizable icons. You cannot miss it as you’ll see two huge arches and then you’re in there! Here you can find stands selling all kinds of products ranging from souvenirs, jewellery & even clothes!
Fun fact: the Cloth Hall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was once a centre of international trade.
Back in the day, merchants used to come from all over Poland and nearby countries to sell and trade their products. The items sold included spices, clothes and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine which was like gold to the Poles back in the day.
What I found interesting is these coats of arms of different cities in Poland painted all over the Cloth Hall! I thought it was a very unique detail and it represents all the merchants and goods traded and sold here from all over Poland.
▷ Marvel at the beauty of the Wawel Royal Castle:
Just an easy 10-minute walk from the main square you can find Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral. The grounds are huge and you also get a pretty stunning view of Krakow from there and the Vistula River. Wawel is one of Europe’s largest castles and was the residence of the Polish royal family. Nowadays, it is an art museum.
TIP: On Mondays, between April and October, entry to some parts of the castle is free until 12 PM. More information here.
Attached to the castle there is a small cathedral which is honestly one of the most beautiful ones I have ever been to. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside but I highly recommend you check it out!
You can purchase tickets to the castle by clicking here.
PS: Do not forget to check out the fire breathing dragon when you’re there!
▷ Buy a flower crown from the main square:
Flower crowns are a symbol of tradition all over Poland. The flower crown is used to symbolise purity in females and is usually worn on Dyngus Day which happens at the end of Lent. Traditionally, poppies were used. Nowadays, the crowns have become heavily commercialised. It still connects with Polish traditions but has become more Westernized. Almost every stand sold these crowns for not more than 25PLN. I got mine for 15PLN which is equivalent to €3.44
Fun Fact: Dyngus Day is also known as Fat Tuesday!
▷ Take a tour of Oskar Schindler’s Factory:
If you don’t know who Oskar Schindler is, he was basically a Nazi German businessman who purchased a factory in wartime Krakow and saved around 1,200 Jews from being sent to the extermination camps. The movie called Schindler’s List will give you some information on who he was and what he did to save them. It is not the most historically accurate movie but still a good movie!
The factory, which is the original factory he once owned, was turned into a museum. Please keep in mind that this tour is not an autobiography of his life but it is focused on Krakow during WW2. His work in saving the life of the Jews is of course mentioned but it is not the highlight. If you would like a tour of the life of Schindler, there is another museum in the Czech Republic, which is where he was born.
The tour lasted around 2 hours and it was very interesting! The way the museum is designed is very interactive and the tour guides are highly knowledgable in the subject. You are given a headset and you can take pictures freely around the museum. There are original letters displayed from Nazi commanders and Schindler himself. I highly suggest you take two hours out of your day in Krakow and go to the factory!
Swipe to see images.
My favourite room was Schindler’s office and the secretary’s office! It was so cool stepping in the same room that Oskar once worked from!
TIP: The museum is a bit far from Old Town (around 30 minutes). I suggest you take a taxi! That is what I did as it was raining that day.
▷ Go to Auschwitz Birkenau:
Before we get started, I barely took any pictures while on the tour & I didn’t apply filters to the pictures like my other ones.
As a history buff, I was very much looking forward to finally go to Auschwitz! We met with our tour guide Thomas, in the main square at around 6:15 am. I was happy it was that early because I thought there wouldn’t be many tourists around. Nope, I was wrong! The drive to Auschwitz from Old Town is around an hour. We got there around 7:30 am and it was already packed!
Scroll up to book the exact same tour I did.
PRO TIP: big handbags, luggage and backpacks are not allowed in the museum. You will have to go through a security scanning before entering the museum and if the bag is too big, they will not let you take in the museum. It is also not recommended for small children to attend and make sure you get a bottle of water with you!
The whole tour lasted seven hours. First, you are led to Auschwitz 1. You are given a headset and then walk around the memorial museum were original pictures and documents are shown. In one particular room, you’ll see the hair of female prisoners (the female’s hair was shaven off and then sent to Germany as it was an important part of the German economy), glasses, luggage, cooking pots and the one which made my stomach turn the most: baby clothes.
As soon as I saw those baby clothes, I felt sick to my stomach and walked out of the room. I couldn’t handle it. I already knew what happened there in great detail as I firstly, majored in history and secondly, spent hours looking up articles and watching documentaries. However, when you are in the museum and see the personal belongings of millions of innocent people, it doesn’t matter how much information you know and how mentally prepared you think you are. It hits you very hard.
Swipe to see images.
After walking around the memorial museum, you are then taken to the gas chambers. Here, prisoners selected to die, which were usually pregnant women, women with kids and elderly people, were asked to take their clothes off under the pretence that they were going to take a shower.
Hundreds of people were put in one room and a gas poison was dropped from the roof. In those showers, people choked to death. The tour guide, before entering the room told us that people climbed upon each other trying to get a breath of fresh air to live. The time it took to kill everyone was 20 minutes. Imagine being stuck in that room unable to breathe for 2o minutes. It is horrible.
Next, their bodies are taken to an oven, which they show you during the tour and they are burned.
In these two rooms, a moment of silence is given as respect to the victims. Not even the tour guides talk. It was one of those moments where I will never, ever forget. Also, pictures can be taken but they are not recommended. No one in my group did take pictures however, there was this one lady that pushed everyone out of the way to take pictures. And also had the audacity to yell at us to move. I was so mad & upset at her! To anyone visiting, please keep in mind that this is a very bleak and dark place where millions of innocent people were tortured and murdered. Respect comes before your Instagram feed.
After completing the tour of Auschwitz I, we drove for another 10 minutes to Auschwitz II. Here is where the cattle train stopped and prisoners were selected to die or to work. It was unbelievable standing in the same spot as the victims as they were thrown out of the tiny cattle car and their faith decided by drunken SS officers.
In this tiny box you can see in the image, hundreds of people were crammed in there. The journey could take days. There was no room to sit down, no ventilation and no food nor water. Some prisoners came from Greece and the journey took weeks. A huge number of people died on the way there.
After my tour ended and we were dropped off in Old Town once again, I walked straight home. The experience was overall very overwhelming and I didn’t feel like doing anything afterwards.
The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again - George Sinatra Click To Tweet
▷ Attend a Pierogi cooking class:
As soon as you have that first bite of that delicious Pierogi, you will be hooked. Not only they’re delicious (scroll up to see the best place to have them at in Krakow), they are also very easy to make! I found Karina’s cooking class through Airbnb and immediately reserved a place.
Click here to book the exact same cooking class!
The day came and I walked to the Jewish Quarter which her apartment is located at. Five more people from all over the world joined us and we sat down by the table with a glass of infused tea as Karina told us a brief history of Krakow and Pierogi!
After that, we went to the table and started making Pierogi! It was so much fun and Karina was very helpful. She is truly the Pierogi saint!
The ingredients to make them and vodka (of course) are included in the price. Afterwards, once they were done cooking, we all sat by the table and ate our delicious creations!
Before we left, Karina gave us a certificate for our efforts! I thought it was so cute and fun. This experience has honestly been the highlight of my holiday and I cannot recommend it enough!
▷ Visit a Milk Bar:
Milk Bars “Mleczny Bar” date back to the Soviet Era. It is a form of a Polish cafeteria and they were once public kitchens. They offered cheap but nutritious food and became very popular in the 1930s. Nowadays, most of these milk bars are still open and you can find a cute Polish grandma serving you food 😊
If you want an authentic experience, check out ‘Pod Temida’. The interior has been untouched and the menu remained relatively the same. Furthermore, the food is extremely cheap!
▷ Walk around the Jewish quarter, also known as Kazimierz:
Kazimierz is one of the safest areas in Krakow. After my Pierogi class (scroll up), I walked around the neighbourhood and felt like I was transported back in time.
FUN FACT: THE APARTMENT COMPLEX WHERE THE COOKING CLASS WAS HELD BELONGED TO A JEWISH FAMILY. THEY ALSO HAD A BAKERY IN IT! WHEN THE NAZIS OCCUPIED POLAND, THEY WERE KICKED OUT BUT THANKFULLY, A MEMBER OF THAT FAMILY SURVIVED THE HOLOCAUST AND REGAINED OWNERSHIP OF THE BUILDING.
Kazimierz looks a bit different from the rest of the city. Make sure to check out the Old Synagogue when in Kazimierz! Jews settled in Poland around the 15th century and this neighbourhood was where most them lived. It is sad to think that this once bustling and thriving neighbourhood was destroyed in a matter of years.
PRO TIP: IF YOU WANT TO EXPERIENCE ANOTHER SIDE OF POLAND, MAKE SURE TO ATTEND THE KRAKOW CHRISTMAS MARKET. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED ✨
▷ Wieliczka Salt Mine:
I regret not booking a tour to go there but I absolutely had no time and the dates and times of the tours conflicted with my other pre-booked tours! I highly recommend you going to the mines! They are the most beautiful in Europe! These mines date back to Neolithic times and are a very popular tourist attraction. Make sure to take a long-sleeved shirt or a cardigan with you as it gets pretty cold in there!
▷ Shop till you drop at Galeria Krakowska Shopping Mall.
This shopping mall is huge and has a huge variety of stores from H&M to Lacotse to Bath and Body Works.
It is only a 10-minute walk and I recommend walking it there as you’ll pass some pretty sights such as these!
Do you have any more questions about Krakow?
Not only Krakow is insanely cheap but it is also beautiful, rich in history and with lots of things to do! If Krakow is not on your list, I highly suggest you add it.
Don’t forget to read this guide again before you go 😉
Have a good time exploring!