The 15 greatest issues to do in Kraków: historic websites, nice nightlife and engaging road meals

Topped with a formidable royal fort and dotted with church spires and world-class museums, Kraków combines the historic with the cosmopolitan.

The streets of former Jewish quarter Kazimierz and close by Auschwitz are sobering reminders of Twentieth-century tragedy, whereas the crowds thronging Kraków’s major sq. and the eating places lining photogenic Outdated City lanes buzz with Twenty first-century joie de vivre. Alongside heavy-hitting points of interest exist easier native pleasures: strolling alongside the Vistula River, eating on hearty home-style cooking in a retro bar mleczny (cafeteria), catching a neighborhood band at a legendary dive bar, having fun with a espresso in hipster enclave Tytano. Listed here are the very best issues to do in Kraków.

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Wawel Cathedral holds the tombs of lots of Poland’s kings and queens © iStockphoto / Getty Photos

Go to Wawel Royal Fort and Wawel Cathedral

Overlooking Outdated City from its Wawel Hill perch, the seat of Polish royalty for hundreds of years is the town’s most spectacular sight, to not point out the image of Poland and the supply of native pleasure. Crimson-roofed, turreted, and ringed by a red-brick wall, this Sixteenth-century Renaissance palace is merely the most recent incarnation: royal residences on this very spot have come and gone (burned down, prolonged, vandalized by Swedish and Prussian armies…) for the reason that Eleventh-century.

Highlights embody the Sixteenth-century tapestries and carved picket heads within the grand State Rooms, the Royal Personal Flats that offer you an intimate glimpse into the monarchs’ personal lives, the Crown Jewels within the Treasury and the Szczerbiec (Jagged Sword) that’s performed an important function in Polish coronations from 1320 onwards – discover it contained in the vaulted Gothic armory. 

Give your self loads of time to go to the adjoining Wawel Cathedral, the place lots of Poland’s kings and queens are seeing out eternity in elaborate tombs, alongside the bones allegedly belonging to the legendary Wawel dragon. The grounds are free to go to, however it’s a very good thought to ebook tickets for reveals you need to see not less than two weeks forward because of their monumental recognition.

Discover Główny Rynek above and under the bottom

Surrounded by eating places and ignored by good-looking centuries-old buildings, Główny Rynek (Major Market Sq.) is the focus of Outdated City, in addition to Europe’s largest medieval city sq.. After you’re accomplished looking the wares contained in the market constructing, return to the Center Ages by descending to the medieval-meets-the-21st-century museum beneath the sq..

Intelligent multimedia shows, holograms and animated puppets present you medieval markets stalls and educate you about vampire prevention burials. Purchase your timed ticket on-line upfront. Free entry on Tuesdays; closed second Monday of every month.

 The entrance of the notorious Auschwitz, a former Nazi extermination camp and now a museum. Above the gate are the words arbeit macht frei ('Work sets you free')
Visiting Auschwitz is a really shifting expertise © Getty Photos

Pay your respects at Auschwitz-Birkenau

You don’t know what is going to contact you significantly deeply till you get there. For some, it’s the “Loss of life Block” with its torture cells and its crematorium. For others, it’s the fuel chambers and the limitless rows of crematoria chimneys at Birkenau, the place many of the mass killings occurred. For others nonetheless, it’s the mountains of eyeglasses and prosthetic limbs, the mass of human hair collected from victims for use in textile manufacturing, and piles of battered suitcases with dwelling addresses written on them by these for whom this Nazi extermination camp turned their ultimate vacation spot. 

In any case, Auschwitz is unlikely to go away you unmoved. Greater than one million Jews, in addition to quite a few Poles and Roma, had been systematically killed right here between 1940 and 1945, and the dying camps have been preserved as a brutal, important historical past lesson.  

Auschwitz is reachable by bus, prepare and arranged day tour from Kraków. Whereas solo vacationers can go to the location with out a information, it’s properly value becoming a member of a tour to get essentially the most out of it, from the screening of the graphic 1945 documentary movie by the Soviet liberators to the exhibitions within the barracks.

Take a stroll via Kazimierz

Southeast of Outdated City, Kazimierz neighborhood had been Poland’s most necessary middle of Jewish tradition for 500 years, till mass deportation and extermination of Kraków’s Jews by the Nazis destroyed it. Largely rundown in the course of the Communist period, Kazimierz has bounced again in recent times. 

A stroll via its streets is a superb solution to get to know its historic sights, from the restored Outdated Synagogue and a Nineteenth-century Jewish cemetery with surviving tombstones, to the Moorish-style Temple Synagogue and the sobering Galicia Jewish Museum that traces the historical past of Jews in Kraków. Browse the flea markets on Plac Nowy on the weekends, or attend a movie screening or live performance at Cheder in the course of the Jewish Tradition Competition.

Wooden stairways and pillars in a passageway in a salt mine
Guests have been coming to Wieliczka Salt Mine for over 300 years © iStockphoto / Getty Photos

Head underground into the Wieliczka Salt Mine

One other massively common attraction that’s not really in Kraków correct however is well reachable from the town, this Unesco-certified subterranean labyrinth of passages and chambers has been drawing guests for the reason that 1720s. It’s not for the claustrophobic: as a part of a “vacationer” tour, first-timers descend not less than 125m (410ft) under the bottom and spend two hours within the depths of the previous mine, whereas return guests can go for a extra immersive miners’ tour. 

Highlights embody an underground lake, chapels adorned with statues carved from the white stuff, and a salt cathedral with chandeliers. And sure, every part round you is carved from salt; we licked the wall so that you just wouldn’t need to. Wieliczka is well reached from Kraków by bus, prepare or tour. Pack a sweater.

Go to Schindler’s manufacturing unit

You’re prone to have heard of Oscar Schindler, the German industrialist immortalized in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 movie Schindler’s Checklist. Throughout WWII, Schindler saved greater than a thousand Jewish inhabitants of the Podgorzé ghetto from deportation to the dying camps by using them at his enamel manufacturing unit. This factory-turned-museum, which was a part of the Schindler’s Checklist movie set, was given a significant face carry in 2010 and have become considered one of Kraków’s must-visit museums. Ebook your timed slot on-line not less than three days upfront (it’s vastly common!), and don’t miss the very good everlasting exhibition Kraków Throughout Nazi Occupation 1939-1945 that tells the story of on a regular basis life, underground resistance, and anti-Semitic repressions within the metropolis throughout WWII.  

Chefs cooking and serving traditional Polish hot food at a market in Krakow
Attempt some signature Polish sausage © Getty Photos

Chow down on road meals

Many cities have signature road meals. Paris has its croissants, Hanoi has its banh mi, Vienna has its käsekrainer, and Kraków has its obwarzanek. Chewy, moreish, and topped both with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, Kraków’s bagels are discovered at stalls on each nook in Outdated City, and locals will let you know which stall is prone to have the brisker lot. 

However there’s extra to Kraków’s road eating than bagels. For the very best kielbasa (signature Polish sausage) on the town, head for the Kiełbaski z Niebieskiej Nyski van in entrance of the Hala Targowa market on ul. Grzegorzecka. Then there’s zapiekanka – half a baguette topped with melted cheese, mushrooms, and a squirt of ketchup. Poland’s reply to pizza was invented within the Nineteen Seventies, when primary substances had been all you may get, however now variations with fancier toppings are ubiquitous at quick meals stands. For quite a few zapiekanka sellers underneath one roof, strive the Okrąglak meals courtroom at Plac Nowy in Kazimierz.

Go Communist in Nowa Huta

If you wish to see how metal employees lived within the Nineteen Fifties, catch a tram #4 or #10 from central Kraków to this masterpiece of socialist-realist city planning and Communist structure within the east of the town. If wandering across the uniformly gray, an identical blocks of flats is not sufficient of a draw, take a tour of Nowa Huta in a classic, Communist-era Trabant with Crazy Guides, who’ll take you down into the outdated nuclear-fallout shelters and ply you with vodka.

Rock out with Kraków’s greatest nightlife at Klub Awaria 

Klub Awaria is the type of dingy dive bar that your mom warned you about: a sticky-floored, vaulted-ceilinged saloon the place the carpe-diem clientele will gladly press a drink right into a sober stranger’s hand to assist them take part within the mildly anarchic nightly revelry. Up-and-coming native blues and rock bands carry out on the little stage most nights and after the band is finished, there’s occasional dancing on the tables and on the bar itself by regulars to Tina Turner classics.

Stroll or cruise alongside the Vistula

The slow-flowing Vistula River bisects the town. Be a part of locals throughout their morning runs alongside the footpaths that run alongside the river banks for a number of kilometers from close to Wawel Royal Fort to the town’s japanese suburbs, skirting Kazimierz on the best way. Alternatively, in case you have native mates, you is perhaps invited aboard a celebration boat with a full bar and music system; these can be found for rent by teams and are primarily floating nightclubs. Extra simply accessible are hour-long cruises that depart under Wawel Fort Hill, that exhibit the town’s necessary landmarks, such because the Dębnicki Bridge, the Norbertine Monastery, the Manggha Museum of Japanese Artwork and Expertise, and the Piłsudski Bridge.

People relax around the edges of a lagoon with some swimmers in it
Zakrzowek is a former quarry turned swim spot © Getty Photos

Go for a swim in Zakrzowek

Tall limestone cliffs and dense pine forest encompass this lagoon with its clear, turquoise waters that feels one million miles away from city life, despite the fact that it’s solely a brief tram journey (#1; #4) to Kapelanka, southwest of Outdated City. The lagoon started its life as a limestone quarry however it was intentionally flooded in 1990 after falling into disuse. It then turned a preferred swimming and picnicking spot for locals. It is at the moment present process renovations that will not be full till 2023, so you’ll be able to’t swim or dive right here in the mean time, however it’s good for a scenic picnic and a few actually pretty out-of-town mountain climbing.

Dine out at a bar mleczny

Low-cost, cheerful, and with significantly retro decor, a bar mleczny is a time-warp step behind the Iron Curtain into Eighties Poland – in a great way. Dotted across the metropolis, bar melczny are dirt-cheap cafeteria, the place you’ll be rubbing shoulders with locals whilst you load up your tray with soup, pierogi (stuffed dumplings), placki ziemniaczane (potato pancakes), and different hearty, belly-warming staples – all with out dropping greater than 10zl (round US$2). There’s a department at Grodzka 43 in Outdated City and one other at Starowiślna 29 in Kazimierz.

Summit Kopiec Kościuszki 

Whenever you’re standing on Wawel Hill, you might discover lump-like inexperienced hills surrounding Kraków. The origins of Kraków Mounds are misplaced within the mists of time, however it’s believed that the oldest – Kopiec Krakusa and Wandy – had been constructed by pagan tribes a number of millennia in the past as a part of some photo voltaic calendar: in the course of the summer time solstice, the solar rises at Wandy and units at Krakusa. Kopiec Kościuszki is a more recent mound, accomplished in 1823 to commemorate a fallen Polish normal. Catch bus #100 to the mound for improbable views of Wawel Fort, St Mary’s Basilica, and Główny Rynek.

Spend your night time out discovering a “misplaced bar”

Different cities have speakeasies, whereas Kraków has its “misplaced bars”. It’s the identical thought, despite the fact that Kraków’s hidden consuming dens are a current growth. Head to the Smakolyki restaurant on Floriana Straszewskiego, discover your solution to the cloakroom and go via to a hidden courtyard from which you enter Mercy Brown. It’s Twenties Kraków – all velvet couches, temper lighting, chandeliers, and cocktails from a bygone period (gin with jasmine tea cordial, anybody?). Leisure contains burlesque exhibits.

Mingle with native hipsters in Tytano

Simply west of Outdated City, a decrepit former tobacco manufacturing unit has been remodeled right into a pocket of hipsterdom, full with artwork studios, exhibitions areas, beer gardens, and brunch cafes that entice Kraków’s younger and funky contingent. Try the most recent pictures exhibition or trend occasion, then seize a espresso from Kraków’s speciality roasters at Bonjour Cava.