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10 things to do and see in Kracow

A complete and detailed guide about 10 things to do and see in Kracow in 1, 2 or 3 days

More than 100,000 students of the ancient Krakow’s universities, after their lessons go out in clubs, pubs, and nightclubs, especially in winter when it’s very cold for weeks. This constant presence of students (and their professors) makes Krakow (since few centuries) the true cultural capital of Poland.

Krakow will not disappoint you in any case. The Old Town is intact with its large medieval square. From the top of Wavel (Hill), the Castle guards the city. In the city center there is also a small but interesting museum with the beautiful painting of the Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci while the surrounding area include the salt mines and the NowaHuta district. Karol Wojtylalived in Krakow performing its dual function as a bishop becoming pope and going to Rome. A tour through the places of his activity is one of the most popular routes.

In this page we suggest you 10 things to do and see absolutely during your holiday in Krakow.

If you are looking for a hotel in Krakow, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 400 hotels with prices, pictures and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com

The Krakow Castle

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If you like the legends, the Krakow castle (Wavel) is just the place for you: once upon a time there was a dragon living there that terrorized the city.

The Krakow Castle
The Krakow Castle

The king promised to those who had killed him, half the kingdom and the daughter in marriage: a shoemaker made him eat a stuffed sulfur sheep which forced him to drink the whole Krakow river (Vistula) and burst! The dragon, is waiting for you at the entrance of the Wavel in the form of monuments. Beyond the legends, the Castle of Kracow is a symbolic place for the whole of Poland: here lived and were crowned kings of the Kingdom before it became the capital Warsaw. Many rooms can be visited along with the Chapel Royal, the royal treasury and Medieval armory.

Where: in the upper side of the city
How to get there: by feet from the old town centre
When: every day, Monday excluded
Ticket: 17 zl (€ 3,85)

Old Town in Krakow

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Perfectly preserved, with few cars, many cafés and restaurants, the Old Town of Krakow (Stare Miasto) is considered World Heritage by UNESCO.

Old Town in Krakow
Old Town in Krakow

The heart of the Old Town is the Rynek, the Market Square (the Poles say it is the largest  square in Europe). At the center of the Rynekthere is the Clothes market  (Sukiennice) the Church of Santa Maria with the two towers of different heights. The Old Town is attached to another historic district of Krakow, Kazimierz, named after its founder, King Casimir the Great. For about 600 years it has hosted the large Jewish community of Krakow, until it was exterminated by the Nazis. After decades of neglect it has started a new life thanks to the attention brought by the movie  Schindler’s List (the place is located just 20 minutes outside the center). Do not miss the synagogues and old shops with original written.

The Lady with an Ermine in Kracow

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There is a long story behind how a masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci arrived  in the Czartoryski Museum, but maybe it is not interesting.

The Lady with an Ermine in Kracow
The Lady with an Ermine in Kracow

Much more interesting is the story of the “Lady” portrayed: it seems that Leonardo met Cecilia GalleraniinMilan in 1494 while he was a guest at the Castello Sforzesco in Milan. Leonardo was commissioned to paint Cecilia who was then only 15 years old but she was already famous for her sensitive soul. The ermine was the symbol of Ludovico il Moro, but in Leonardo’s intention was to draw the roots of Cecilia’s name (Ermine in greek is said Galle). After a tour in Europe  including Poland, Italy and France, the Lady with an Ermine has stopped at the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow with a Rembrandt, a Mantegna and some other important works.

Where: old town
How to get there: by feet
When: every day, Monday excluded
Ticket: 9zl (€ 2,50)

Pope Wojtyla Tour in Krakow

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Even if you are not religious and you are not interested about the Pope, one way or another you will feel the spirit of Pope Wojtyla above Krakow. Before becoming Pope, in fact, Karol Wojtyla has been bishop of the city for about 15 years.

Pope Wojtyla Tour in Krakow
Pope Wojtyla Tour in Krakow

The tour goes through the Debnikineighborhood where he lived on his arrival in Krakow, the ancient Jagiellonian University where he studied and taught philosophy, the Rynek, the Bishops’ Palace in Rynek, where he lived as bishop of Krakow. In all the churches of the city, the future Pope prayed and held Mass and a church with a strong symbolic value is that of the suburb of NowaHuta, just outside Krakow. Wojtyla put the first stone of the church (the Ark of the Lord) in 1967 but only after 20 years of struggle with the communist government the workers had the permission to complete it.

Nova Huta in Krakow

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We suggest you to take a ride in this neighbourhood, especially if you are interested in architecture or history. Here lived the 40,000 workers of the steelworks with their families. According to the socialist regime it was to be the ideal city, with wide avenues, green spaces and a very intense collective life.

Nova Huta in Krakow
Nova Huta in Krakow

NowaHuta, istead, was a bad place polluted by steelworks where people lived in a state of deprivation in all the same apartment buildings. Today you can visit the neighbourhood with a tour on an old Trabant, the car par excellence of the regimes in Eastern Europe. At NowaHuta there is the Ark of the Lord, an ugly church with a strong symbolic value: it was Karol Wojtyla, then bishop of Krakow, to put the first stone. But only after 20 years of struggle the workers were able to obtain permission to build it.

Salt Mines in Krakow

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Just 13 km outside the center of Krakow  there is an extraordinary spectacle not to be missed: the salt mines  of Wieliczka, which for centuries have provided salt and wealth to Poland.

Salt Mines in Krakow
Salt Mines in Krakow

After the end of production, fortunately, they have not been abandoned but revived  to make it a tourist destination of excellence. You will be amazed by the “Salt Cathedral”, a true church of 54 x 12 meters dedicated to the Blessed Kinga, the patron of Polish miners. But there is much more to discover: nearly 300 km of tunnels with bas-reliefs, decorations, ponds and even a space to make salt inhalations: the mines, in fact, are a blessing for those suffering from allergies, thanks to stable microclimate and the purity of the air.

Where: outside the old town centre
How to get there: from Krakow station by train
When: every day, excluded: 1st January, Easter, 1st November, 24th and 25th December
Ticket: 50 zl (€ 12,50)

Auscwitz in Krakow

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It is the place of the tragedy par excellence and not everyone knows that Auschwitz is a Polish town not far from Krakow.

Auscwitz in Krakow
Auscwitz in Krakow

Definitely not a place to gofor a relaxing holiday, but if a trip is essentially the pleasure of discovering new cultures and learn something, then Auschwitz is an inevitable stop. More than 1.5 million people, including Jews, homosexuals, political opponents, gypsies, disable people, were exterminated in this place designed to make murders as a non-stop industrial chain. Go through the gate with the famous and mocking inscription ArbeitMacht Frei (“Work makes you free”) and you will be in an horrible place with gas chambers, personal objects, photographs and documentaries about the extermination.

Where: outside the old town centre
How to get there: from Krakow station by train
When: every day, excluded: 1st January, Easter, 25th December
Ticket: free entrance

Nightlife in Krakow

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Krakow is a university town: this would be enough, then, to let you imagine the movement that there is in the city and the entertainment places  of all kinds in the city center.

Nightlife in Krakow
Nightlife in Krakow

Every night, nearly 100,000 students, use to meet in pubs, discos, clubs with all kinds of music. Nightlife in Krakow is very exciting and you won’t spend so much money because the prices are very affordable.

Things to eat in Kracow

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The best way to enjoy the cuisine of Krakow is to go into a Jadłodajnia, a kind of restaurant that offers traditional food and very low prices.

Things to eat in Kracow
Things to eat in Kracow

Or you can go ina Mlecny Bar, memories of the old communist regime where the food is self-service with prices lower than € 5. They are scattered all over the town. The variety of dishes is quite limited, and after a few days you might not want to see meat and potatoes for some  months. However we suggest you to taste Piroghi (ravioli stuffed with cheese, meat or other) barszcz (beetroot soup and ravioli) the chlodnik (a cold soupofcurdr milk) and bigos, meat stew. Do not forget a ride in the Jewish Ghetto where you can find the street food at a low price. All this, of course, with the excellent Polish beer.

Where to sleep in Kracow

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Krakow has an excellent offer of hotels, hostels and apartments with affordable prices.

Where to sleep in Kracow
Where to sleep in Kracow

The massive presence of students  has some effects on the availability of cheap accommodations. For tourists, therefore, there is a wide selection, but if you decide to go to the city in the spring you need to book in advance. Nowadays the prices have increased, but they are still affordable. For a double room in the historic center in a 3-star hotel prices vary from 40 to 80 Euros per night.

If you are looking for a hotel in Krakow, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 400 hotels with prices, pictures and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com