Visiting Krakow, Poland – Discover Krakow in 3-5 Days: A Krakow Itinerary

Krakow beautiful streets

Visiting Krakow, Poland was one of the single most surprisingly delightful experiences in Europe I’ve ever had. I hope this post can help you discover Krakow and plan the best possible Krakow itinerary.

My ideal European city would combine medieval history, culture, affordability, friendly people, and great food. There is no place that embodies this atmosphere for me more than Krakow, Poland with its cobblestone streets, colorful medieval buildings, and quaint cafes. And although there are crowds, I feel as though the masses have yet to discover Krakow as a major European hot spot.

beautiful buildings of krakow

Discover Krakow

Visiting Krakow, Poland requires a fair bit of time because of the unique neighborhoods and variety of experiences the area has to offer. I would suggest a minimum of 3 days visiting Krakow and two more days to visit the mountainous region of Zakopane in the south, for a total of 5 days around Krakow.

With 5 days in Krakow minimum, you can see the highlights of the old city, take a couple of unique tours to learn more about the culture of Poland and this region, and take an overnight trip to the Zakopane region. 

wawel cathedral bell tower

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Krakow transports its visitors to another era with its historical authenticity and architecture depicting Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles because it was uniquely undamaged during German occupation in WW2. The old market square is bustling with vibrancy and perhaps a surprising number of tourists during the high season.

Krakow market square horse carriages

I fell in love immediately visiting Krakow in the spring. So much so that I returned again in the fall. Both times, the fairytale city blew me away. The following are some of the more popular (along with a few other less popular but equally marvelous) things to do to get the most out of visiting Krakow in 3 to 5 days.

Krakow beautiful streets

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Things To Do When Visiting Krakow

  • Visit the Market Square

Krakow Market Square is quite large. One of the largest in Europe, in fact. Two sides are divided by Cloth Hall, an old market for stalls, which still serves to sell souvenirs and trinkets. St. Mary’s Basilica towers over the square from where a trumpeter plays on every hour. Restaurants line the square, we even discovered one with a unique underground piano bar. See Piano Rouge on TripAdvisor

Krakow market squareKrakow Square

  • Visit Wawel Hill

Truly one of the most impressive castles there is, Wawel Castle on Wawel Hill is a must when visiting Krakow. The exterior of the castle and cathedral is just stunning and the inside of the cathedral, as you might expect, does not disappoint. It is free to visit the outside, but you must buy a ticket to see the inside areas. Wawel Hill is open at 6 am year round, so you can be the first one there for sunrise if you’d like. Entrance to most attractions start at 9 am and you must buy separate tickets for each.

Wawel Castle Krakow

  • Visit Kazimierz

One of the most remarkable neighborhoods in Krakow is Kazimierz and its 14th century Jewish quarter. Jewish residents were evacuated to the ghetto during WW2 and then on to Auschwitz or other horrific fates. As with all of Europe’s Jewish population, very few survived to return to their neighborhood.

Jewish cemetery Kazimierz Krakow

Old Jewish Cemetery

The neighborhood lost all remnants of its past for decades until a revitalization began partially due to the filming of Schindler’s List in 1993 in this neighborhood. You can even take a tour of Schindler’s Factory. Today, Kazimierz is trendy and dynamic with Jewish synagogues, shops, and cafes. You cannot miss this neighborhood.

Jewish Quarter Kazimierz Krakow

You can walk or take public transportation here from the town square (Kazimierz is technically considered part of the old town) and explore on your own, take one of the many electric cart tours around Krakow, or take a guided walking tour like THIS HIGHLY RATED ONE.

  • Take an Electric Cart Tour Around Krakow

This one is purely if you want a quick and chill way to see lots of the city quickly. There are lots of electric carts cruising around the streets of Krakow offering tours of the neighborhoods. They can be expensive if you don’t have a group to split the costs or find a partially full cart to join. But you can choose which areas to visit (including Kazimierz) and an audio guide tells stories and gives the history of the area as you drive. It’s really quite a relaxing and fun way to learn a bit about Krakow, especially if your feet are tired from walking a lot. CLICK HERE for cart tours.

Electric cart tours krakow

  • Make Pierogi

The first time I visited Krakow was for a travel bloggers conference and we participated in 3 different tours in Krakow. One of my favorites ended up being a cooking class with Urban Adventures. This is the tour I did and it was AWESOME. We met our guide then went to the 13th century stary kleparz traditional market not far from the Krakow main square. We had to learn our ingredients and how to request them in Polish to the stall owners. It was hilarious but fun. I remember how to say hello and thank you in Polish today, thanks to that tour.

stary kleparz krakow market

Next, we went to the guide’s grandmother’s apartment and made pierogi and ate together. It was so much fun and his grandmother was adorable. She helped us cook then rated the quality of our pierogi. Of course when in Krakow, you must have this traditional dish.

pierogi poland

  • Visit Nowa Huta

You’ve probably heard about Poland’s communist time. Poland was “liberated” from the Germans by the Soviet Union in WW2 and hence became a communist country until 1989. Because of this, the communist era is very evident in all parts of Poland. A very interesting tour to take is in a vintage car to the socially engineered communist community of Nowa Huta. It’s fascinating to see what an ideal communist neighborhood looked like and hear about what life was like. Try THIS ONE.

nowa huta communism tour krakow

Things to do Near Krakow

  • Visit Auschwitz – Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Auschwitz concentration camp

There’s nothing fun about visiting an extermination camp. But I believe it’s important to see and better understand what happened in history. When we better grasp the reality of human suffering, we are more likely to prevent it. If you’re in Krakow, take the time to visit this historical and tragic site.

Auschwitz concentration camp

For getting to Auschwitz from Krakow, you can take a tour, hire a driver, or take public transportation. (Try this bestselling tour to Auschwitz)

The drive can take approximately 1.5 hours to get there and different tours are available in different languages throughout the day, but you should book ahead. Expect it to take a few hours for the tour. Read the Auschwitz website for information about tours, times, and rules HERE. 

  • Visit Wieliczka Salt Mine

This unique salt mine from the 13th century was in operation producing table salt until 2007 and listed as a UNESCO site since 1978. It is 178 miles long! Today, the mine has a route for tourists, salt sculptures and chapels, and makes for an interesting attraction. BOOK A TOUR.

To visit, you must drive approximately 20 minutes outside of Krakow. Ticket prices include the guide fee and can be purchased online ahead of time. On average, it takes about 3 hours to complete the tourist route of the salt mine. Be sure to bring warm clothes as it is brisk in the mine. Read more on their website: Wieliczka Salt Mine. If you’re ambitious and want to combine Auschwitz and the salt mine in one day, there are tours that do that.

krakow Wieliczka salt mine

Zakopane is a town about 2 hours south of Krakow at the base of the Tartra Mountains. This small town is lovely to visit any time of year. If you have the time, there are varying lengths of hikes in the Tatra Mountains, you can take the funicular, Kasprowy Wierch, up the mountain for great views (if it’s clear) and even step into Slovakia. Walking round Zakopane, you’ll have the opportunity to see traditional wooden houses from that region and maybe even catch a glimpse of a sheepherder and his sheep. Day Trip to Tatra Mountains and Zakopane

Read my guide on Things to do in Zakopane

zakopane townkaspowry wierch cable car tatra mountain views

Where to Stay in Krakow

The best area to stay in Krakow is the old town. And although the two neighborhoods I recommend are both considered to make up the old town, I’m going to distinguish them as the Old Town (section of medieval Krakow encircled by a 4 km stretch of park which used to be the medieval city walls) and Kazimierz. You can see in the map above, within the highlighted Stare Miasto (entire Old Town), there is a smaller ring of a green park (see pic below), which is considered the true old town which was enclosed by walls and a moat.

Krakow Barbicankrakow planty parkst florians gate krakow

You’ll get a more medieval European old town feeling within the Krakow Old Town borders, or a little trendier, rough around the edges hipster vibe in Kazimierz. Both have tons of restaurants, cafes, and shopping.

  • Where to Stay in Krakow Old Town

This is the historical center of Krakow, a ring in the center surrounded by green space that use to make up the fortress wall. There are a number of lovely hotels, and prices are relatively affordable compared to other cities in Europe.

cobblestone streets of krakow

Luxury

Hotel Copernicus – My personal favorite, I toured this hotel on my fist visit and fell in love with it. To save money, I decided not to stay here on my second visit to Krakow, and I’m kind of kicking myself. If you’re into historical authenticity, unique charm, and the WOW factor, this hotel has it. Plus, it’s on my favorite street in Krakow and close to Wawel Hill.

Hotel Copernicus pool Krakow

Grand Hotel – Want to feel like royalty? This has the elegant charm you’re looking for.

Bonerowski Palace – This fantastic old building is right on the old square and has an elegant interior.

Keep in the mind, the price for luxury in Poland is quite a bit less than other places.

Midrange

Hotel Imperial – Affordable class right by the market square. Great reviews.

Hotel Polski Pod Bialym Orlem – Location. Location. Location. If you like the renaissance this ones for you. You can get a very simple twin room or spring for a more elegant suite.

Hotel Senacki – Very neat classic interior and close to Wawel Castle.

Hotel Indigo – Eclectic art and industrial modern vibe, this place has rave reviews. It’s obvious why. This one is just outside the old town borders, however the location is still great.

Hotel Unicus  – Amazing location, really neat indoor pool.

Queen Boutique Hotel – Elegant and unique with views of Wawel Castle. Just barely outside the old town walls.

Budget

Hotel Lavender – Not hostel prices but still a beautiful hotel for budget prices. Just a hop outside the central old town.

Antique Apartments – Looking for the comforts of home like a kitchenette and washer? This is perfect.

Krakow City Apartments – 4 minute walk from the market square with a fully equipped kitchen.

Hostel u Amity – For single beds for around $12/night, this is still a very nice hostel right in the old town.

  • Where to Stay in Kazimierz

Residents of Krakow have flocked to this area to get away from the tourist scene in the Old Town and it’s become hip and trendy (and touristy now) over the years. There are tons of cafes, shops, hotels, and cool apartments.

main street of Kazimierz

Luxury

Hotel Metropolitan – Not necessarily luxury based on price, but very modern and beautiful.

Condo Hotel Privilege Suites – Again, not the typical price of luxury, but these apartments are seriously gorgeous.

MidRange

Puro Krakow Kazimierz – Has ridiculously good reviews and major swag factor.

Dada Boutique Home Hotel – Modern, clean, with great reviews.

Golden Tulip – Modern, clean, and centrally located.

Hotel Eden – A unique and stunning 15th century building in an amazing location in the Jewish quarter.

David Boutique Hotel – Location and price make this a great option.

Budget

Dream Hostel and Apartments – Great reviews and location and different room options. I like to think you, my readers, trust me to do the research for them and pick the best hotels with the most charm, character, and best overall value, so please give me feedback if you stay at any of these hotels.

Where to Eat in Krakow

krakow beautiful restaurants

Ahh, most everyone’s favorite activity, isn’t it? And Krakow has no shortage of places to do it. I’m a sucker for dining “experiences” so the atmosphere of a place is almost as important as the quality of the food. I want to LOVE being there. I certainly haven’t tried them all, so I don’t consider myself an expert on Krakow restaurants, but I can vouch for the following. Here are my favorites, in no particular order. Cafe Camelot – probably the prettiest pink cafe with chandeliers I’ve ever seen, and the prettiest outdoor dining area on the loveliest street. Plus, I have never been disappointed by anything there. They have a delicious french toast breakfast and pasta dinners. The desserts are heavenly. 

cafe camelot krakowCafe Camelot breakfast Krakow

Plus, Cafe Camelot has one of the prettiest streets and outdoor areas too.

cafe camelot krakow

Gossip Cafe – a very cute cafe perfect for coffee or breakfast with a rustic urban vibe, also the top rated cafe on TripAdvisor.

krakow gossip cafe

Bistro Bene – Have the waffles with fruit. Droooooooool…

krakow bistro bene waffles

Big Hat of Coffee – Number one reviewed place for coffee (per TripAdvisor). Need I say more?

Boscaiola – My favorite for Italian. The calzone is huge! Lovely little cozy place.

Piano Rouge – Possibly the most unique atmosphere I’ve had the pleasure of dining in. The lights are colored and the rock walls sparkle with glitter. The ceiling billows with draped sheets and a singer croons in the downstairs underground lounge. And this restaurant is right in the market square!

Klimaty Poludnia – This is a total hidden gem. This restaurant you find at the back of an little alley just outside the old town. The atmosphere is fabulous and apparently it can be hard to get in without reservations.

Szara Ges – Located in the main square, this restaurant has an elegant atmosphere without being snobby. A great place for an artistic meal and some vodka tasting.

Mr. Pancake – I’m recommending this place purely on the basis of novelty, not quality of food. If you want to make yourself sick with the sweetest, most over-the-top pancakes, this place is for you.

krakow mr pancake

There are plenty of other things to do and eat in Krakow, depending on your interests. If museums interest you, you’ll have a plethora to keep you occupied. If churches are your thing, well, I can assure you there are an abundance. 3 days in Krakow won’t be enough time to see everything, but you’ll be able to pick and choose a few highlights to really get a sense for what an incredible city it is and see why visiting Krakow was a great choice.

Krakow square architecture cathedral in krakow

With 5 days in Krakow, you’ll be able to see even more of what makes this region special and beautiful. Discover Krakow’s surroundings even more in depth and get a glimpse of the mountain region and more traditional highland life.

zakopane cabinZakopane carriage ridezakopane mountain views

Ahhh, Poland. You had me from the moment I stepped foot there. Visiting Krakow has been one of the most infatuating and inspiring experiences I’ve had in Europe.

Discover Krakow

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30 thoughts on “Visiting Krakow, Poland – Discover Krakow in 3-5 Days: A Krakow Itinerary

  1. Ray

    Oh this is so brilliant article! I am saving it for later, when going to Krakow. Have several friends there, so it’s on my list now and especially with your post it will be amazing! :))))
    Poland always has been one of those undervalued places of visit, but with every visit i have been there i love it even more!
    Thnx for sharing!

    Reply
  2. Heather

    I haven’t been to Krakow yet and am dying to go. The city looks so colorful and those are usually the cities I enjoy most! Good to know that I will need at least 3 days there, but 5 does sound better! You visited during my two favorite times to travel (spring and fall). Which one did you like Krakow better in? I guess now all you have left is to go at Christmas for the Christmas markets?? One of the biggest things I want to do is visit Auschwitz! I like how you’ve organized your post with all of the recommendations. It’s easy to follow and very informative!

    Reply
    1. Jessica Carpenter Post author

      Spring and fall are my favorite times to travel too! I honestly loved both seasons in Poland, but I’d probably pick spring. Although I got veeeery lucky with summer-like weather in April. Christmas would be amazing! I’m obsessed with Europe during Christmas. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  3. kenan

    Wow, Poland looks beautiful and I cant Wait to go there. Really want to stay at that hotel that has the swimming pool in the basement?dungeon? Krakow is definitely on my list!

    Reply
  4. Candy

    Poland looks so beautiful and even better the people are so friendly. I love the cobblestone streets and the various tours that shed so much light on the history of Poland. You’ve made me want to visit Poland!

    Reply
    1. Jessica Carpenter Post author

      It really is eye candy! I haven’t been to Prague but I’m dying to go. Pierogi certainly looks like ravioli, but I think they taste quite different. Typically the fillings are more like onions and potatoes, and I feel like Polish cheese has a different flavor. Not as good as Italian ravioli, in my opinion 🙂

      Reply
  5. Lara Dunning

    I would love to visit Krakow! Looks like such a charming city and I’m all about historic sites and good food. Making pierogi would be such a fun way to experience Polish culture. I’m a huge fan of small towns so I’d definitely spend some time in Zakopane.

    Reply
  6. Jenn and Ed Coleman

    Making pierogi in Krakow sounds cracking good. Sorry about that. I crack myself up. Seriously though, I love learning about a culture from their food and love making pasta too. This is like two loves in one. Dynomite.

    Reply
  7. Janiel Green

    This was such a useful post for me! I am planning on visiting Poland, especially Krakow this next spring so I’m actively looking for flights right now. I am definitely going to look into staying at Hotel Copernicus — that pool looks soooooo nice & I love that it’s inside.

    Reply
  8. Susanne

    Krakow is just beautiful! We were there in summer 2017 and enjoyed the time. Walking on the river, delicious food and good craft beer – Krakow could really appeal to us as a second home.
    We were also in the salt mine – is that impressive ?! These huge underground caves and the salt art shown there.

    Reply
  9. Mei and Kerstin

    We must admit that we had never really considered visiting Krakow before, but your post has definitely convinced us to add it to our bucket list! It seems like this city is really charming and quaint! We’d love to visit the Wawel Castle (yep, we’re true castle lovers!), as well as the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Thanks a lot for listing so many hotels of different price range, as well as all the delicious restaurants and cafés! We can’t wait to taste that yummy pancake topped with barbe-à-papa!

    Reply
  10. lizzie

    Ok so you totally had me at Pierogi. Would definitely love to do a tour to brush up on my pierogi making skills. I keep seeing flights to Krakow come up and this post and made me want to book one asap!

    Reply
  11. Daisy Li

    Such an incredibly informative piece! I’ve yet to visit Poland and this has me wanting to go asap. And ditto to friendly people and great food. My first job was working at a Polish deli in Toronto and I still remember how great the people were. Not to mention the perogies!

    Reply

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