The Perfect Weekend Guide to Kraków, Poland – Top Things to See, Do & Eat
Explore the beautiful city of Kraków with our Kraków weekend guide!
Kraków is one of those cities I’ve always wanted to visit – rich in history, culture, charm, full of architecture and friendly people! With Ian’s birthday coming up, spending the weekend in Kraków was the perfect way to celebrate his birthday. I do love organising birthday trips away for Ian! Kraków is Poland’s cultural capital where past and present meet perfectly. Here you will find beautiful architecture, numerous theatres, churches, museums, galleries and a big jazz scene. Many famous artists, poets, Nobel and Oscar prize winners also live or have lived and worked in this wonderful city.
I had timed the trip to coincide with the opening of the Christmas markets. Oh we do love wandering around the Christmas markets, finding what gifts we can take home but most importantly … sampling the delicious food from the various stalls.
We spent three nights in Kraków and took our time taking in the sights. Let us show you what hidden treasures you will find in our weekend guide to Kraków.
Where to stay in Kraków
Luxury Mondrian Apartments, Old Town, Kraków
The Luxury Mondrian Apartments are an ideal place to stay being less than 10 minutes to Rynek Główny (Main Square) and 10 minutes to reach Kaźmierz. We avoided staying near the Main Square in case it was too noisy at night. These modern apartments are very comfortable with luxurious furnishings from floor to ceiling. We booked into a one bedroom apartment which had a spacious living area, dining area and a kitchen. It was great to have a kitchen so we could make our coffee/tea during the day and offering the opportunity to cook our own meals if we didn’t fancy eating out. Food and drinks can be purchased from the supermarket that is just over the road and less than a minute walk away. How handy is that!
Did I mention that there’s a balcony? Sit outside and chill out with a cup of coffee (or even a glass of wine!). It was a little cold when we visited Kraków in December (around -5C), so we didn’t get the chance to make a lot of use of the balcony but it would be perfect during the Summer months.
Alex, the concierge who checked us in was super helpful and was very quick to respond to any messages/queries. If you’re looking for somewhere that’s easily accessible to the sights, still want the home comforts and with fantastic reviews on Tripadvisor, then stay here!
Tip: Alex can arrange your taxi pick up from the airport. Or you can arrange a private airport transfer.
Where to eat in Kraków
There are so many good restaurants and little food spots to choose from, we just couldn’t visit them all. The food in Kraków is very diverse, but with the Polish cuisine expect a lot of meat.
So here’s a couple of restaurants we suggest.
Gąska Restaurant is located in Kaźmierz and specialises in goose. That’s right … goose. When we dined here on the first night, the restaurant was filled with locals. To me, this was a good sign! Gąska has a very relaxed vibe and the food served was delicious.
Of course, I tried the Polish classic Borscht with traditional dumplings filled with goose. This was absolutely divine. Seeing this restaurant specialises in goose, Ian and I both chose goose as our main courses. Dessert was scrummy too!
Tip: We highly recommend reserving a table at Gąska.
Art Restaurant is just off the Main Square and offers a contemporary take on Polish cuisine. I booked a table here as it was a special occasion. We were so hungry that we went for the 9 course menu.
Majority of the dishes were very good, except Ian found small bones in every mouthful in his fish course. The service was very slow on the night supposedly due to a new menu. A total of almost 5 hours for the food to be served…
This restaurant is more expensive compared to the other restaurants in the city. For us, the service was slow and the problem with the fish course was handled very badly.
Food at the Christmas Market
Since it was the start of the Christmas markets, we decided to see what yummy food was on offer on our final night. There was a fair amount of meat ranging from big long sausages, pork knuckles to half chicken and steak. Sides of vegetables can be bought with the meat from potatoes, fries to sauerkraut.
After feasting on the meat, head to the stalls that sell churros and chimney cakes for an extra treat. The chimney cakes brought back memories for us! The first time we had chimney cakes was in Budapest! Go for the cinnamon sugar … it’s our favourite!
What to See and Do in Kraków
Rynek Glówny (Main Market)
Rynek Glówny is the beautiful market square in Kraków and a great central point to see the main sights of the city. It’s the heartbeat of Kraków covering ten acres, making this largest square in Europe. The square is surrounded with numerous restaurants, bars, shops, cafés and the main attractions include the Cloth Hall, St. Mary’s Basilica and the Town Hall Tower. Standing in the middle of the main square, you can see how vast the square is and watch everyone toing and froing from place to place.
It was a little too cold for us to sit out in a café, but I can imagine during the Summer months it would be perfect to watch the live artists and buskers entertaining the crowd.
Find ‘The Head’ on the western side of the market square, near the Town Hall Tower. This hollow bronze statue of the head (also known as Eros Bendato) is a famous landmark in Kraków, created and donated to the city by Igor Mitoraj.
Visit the famous St. Mary’s Basilica
St. Mary’s Basilica also sits in the market square with the two towers easily seen from a distance. The magnificent St. Mary’s Basilica is famous for its gothic architecture and also for the Altarpiece, created by Veit Stoss. The Altarpiece is a truly impressive Gothic masterpiece, made out of three types of wood and took 12 years to complete.
For spectacular views across the city visiting the towers is a must. Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t visit the Bugle tower as the tickets were all sold out and we didn’t realise that only a maximum of 10 people are allowed to enter every 30 minutes. We will definitely visit the towers next time for sure!
Oh, and don’t forget to listen out for the bugle. The bugle plays every hour on the hour daily. It is played in the higher north tower of St. Mary’s Basilica starting from the west window, then the east, south and finally the north. Back in the Middle Ages, the bugle signal was used to inform the public of fires, enemies and also the opening and closing of the city gates. You’ll notice that the music ends abruptly, which is used to commemorate the guard who alerted the city and was shot in the throat by a Tatar archer when the city was besieged.
- Entrance to the church is free with the Kraków Card
- Check the opening times to visit the Bugle Tower. Opening times and prices can be found here. A maximum of 10 people only can enter every 30 minutes, therefore we suggest you book tickets to avoid disappointment.
- Check the opening times to visit the Bell Tower. Opening times can be found here. Maximum of 6 people only can visit the tower.
- For tours of the Basilica, opening times and prices can be here.
Town Hall Tower
The Town Hall Tower stands 70 m high next to the Cloth Hall in the market square. Did you know that that this tower leans? The gothic tower leans at 55cm, which might have been due to strong winds back in 1703! Climb the 100 steep steps up the tower for views over the city. Visit the tower’s cellar which used to be a torture chamber and prison, but is now a theatre and café.
Tip: The views at the top might be restricted. You might have to lean out of the open windows to get good pictures, but remember … always be careful.
In the 15th century, the Jews were resettled in this part of Kraków which was an independent town until the 19th century when the authorities demolished the walls and allowed the Jews to settle anywhere in the city. However, in 1941 the Jews were forced to resettle in the ghetto in the Podgóze district.
Nowadays, Kaźmierz, is a bustling city packed with restaurants, bars, art galleries and many historical sites. You can reach Kaźmierz in ten minutes from the Luxury Mondrian Apartments. Wander along the streets in Kaźmierz and you’ll notice the difference in the atmosphere compared to the Old Town. This is where Steven Spielberg shot the film ‘Schindler’s List’.
Whilst exploring Kaźmierz, spot the street art and the many murals dotted around; some represent the protest against the communist regime.
Plac Nowy also known as the New Square is located in Kaźmierz. During the weekend, there’s a flea market where you can buy clothes, jewellery, antiques and bags at great prices (although you may have to haggle a bit). Another reason to visit Plac Nowy is for the Zapiekanka, which is basically a pizza baguette!
This cheap snack is super yummy and well worth the wait! Try to get the zapiekanka at the popular stand U Endziora. Expect to queue for the Zapiekanka. Literally we must have queued for almost an hour on Sunday. But boy they were goooood!!!
Tip: Try to arrive at the flea market early, as the stalls seem to start closing around 2pm.
Try the mouthwatering Pierogies
One thing you must try when in Poland and that’s the amazing Pierogies! We found a little corner shop Przystanek Pierogarnia, a mere 5 minutes away from where we were staying. It was tiny inside with 5 stools available for eating in. It was so crowded when we arrived, so we decided to take away. Here you have the option to order a mixture of pierogi flavours and that’s exactly what we did; Ruskie (potatoes and cottage cheese), pork meat, sauerkraut and mushrooms and spinach and cottage cheese. We also had the pierogies served with stewed onions. Mmmmm super tasty!
They also serve sweet pierogies too!
Tip: You can eat in or take-away. We were charged an extra 0.5 zł for the take-away box.
Stroll along Kanonicza Street
From the Main Square, walk up this picturesque street to take you to Wawel Castle. As you stroll along the cobbled street, you’ll see many Renaissance houses, quiet courtyards and the Baroque Church of St. Peter and St. Paul.
Explore Wawel Royal Castle
Wawel Royal Castle is perched on a hill, made up of a complex of buildings with a majestic arcade courtyard. It was built in the Renaissance style and was the residence of Polish kings. The castle was reconstructed in Baroque style when the building was destroyed by the fire. Now it’s a museum, where you can admire beautiful paintings, statues and tapestries.
According to legend, the dragon lived beneath Wawel and would devour local maidens and sheep. The town ran out of maidens and the King promised his daughter’s hand to the knight would could kill the dragon. A cobbler called Krak filled the sheep with sulphur and tricked the dragon to eat it. The dragon died and Krak married the King’s daughter.
To reach the Dragon’s Cave, descend 135 steep steps from Wawel Hill down to the caverns. Don’t miss out on the fire breathing bronze sculpture of the dragon by the exit.
Tip: Check opening times for the Dragon’s Cave. The cave was closed when we tried to visit. Closed October-April.
Cloth Hall (Sukiennice)
Visit this 700 year old shopping centre! The Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) lies in the centre of the Market Square and is listed as one of the World’s UNESCO Heritage Sites. In the 14th century, Sukiennice traded textiles and all types of fabric, leather, silks and salt from the Wieliczka mines. The Cloth Hall is still filled with numerous stalls selling jewellery, arts and leather goods all on the ground floor. It’s the oldest shopping centre in Europe! Beneath the shops, visit the Rynek Podziemny (Underground Market Square Museum) and learn about the discoveries during excavations and the history of the Market Square.
Tip: Visit Café Szat for views of St. Mary’s Basilica. Admission is free for the Undeground Market Square Museum on Tuesdays.
Floriańska Gate is the entrance to the Old Town, that leads from the train station to the market square via Floriańska Street. The gate consists of a 34.5m high gothic tower which once served as the city’s defence against invasions. Floriańska Gate is one of many towers in Kraków.
Outside the tower, you’ll find local artists selling their beautiful paintings. You might even be able to find a colourful painting to take back with you.
Tip: Visit the tower from April to October, closed every second Monday of the month.
Try Grilled Oscypek
Whilst browsing the market stall in the Christmas market, we noticed a bit of a queue and wondered what everyone was waiting for. It was Grilled Oscypek! This is a local delicacy of grilled sheep cheese served with a dollop of cranberry sauce. Well we had to try it! The cheese had a smoky and salty flavour and a bit of a rubbery texture. Wasn’t sure if I liked it but managed to eat it all anyway! Give it a try!
Take in the city views from the Mounds
For panoramic views of the city, head to either of the four artificial hills in Kraków; Kościuszko Mound, Krakus Mound, Piłsudski Mound or Wanda’s Mound. Wanda’s Mound in Nowa Huta and Krakus Mound in Podgórze are both pre-Christian burial mounds. Krakus mound is the oldest mound and is 16 m tall.
Tip: Visit Krakus mound during sunset for those stunning photos of Old Town. It’s free to visit the mounds.
Indulge on the yummy doughnuts
Have you heard of Fat Thursday? On Fat Thursday you can indulge on any sweet treats – oh my idea of heaven! Queues are lining out of the door from bakeries and pastry shops. One sweet treat to try is pączki. Imagine a big fat deep fried doughnut filled with jam or other fillings. Unfortunately we arrived on Saturday and missed Fat Thursday (much to Ian’s delight ha ha).
We managed to find the shop (Gorące Pączki) which sells pączki … it would be rude not to try one right?! I went for the the doughnut filled with jam and Ian had the Ferrero Rocher. Yes, I did have doughnut envy! Ian is a sharer and allowed me to have a small bite of his.
Watch the sunset from Bernatek Footbridge
We actually stumbled across this footbridge when walking to Gąska Restaurant from our apartment. At night it was lit up with beautiful purple lights highlighting these wonderful suspended statues on the struts of the footbridge.
This is the green belt of avenues and parks that surrounds the Old Town. During the Spring and Summer, walk under the shady trees and watch the world go by. Take a romantic stroll along the many avenues, past the pretty flower beds and lush green trees, which brings this city to life. Why not sit on a bench, read a book and sip on coffee. If you’re feeling energetic, slip on your trainers and jog along the Planty.
Ghettos Heroes Square
Ghettos Heroes Square consists of oversized bronze chairs as a memorial to the victims of the Kraków ghetto. The Jews in Kraków were all forced into the ghetto located south of Kaźmierz in March 1941. In 1943, 17,000 of the Jews in the ghetto were sent to the Nazi concentration camps.
Sample Polish Food in the Milk Bars
Milk bars are all over Poland and are great if you’re on a budget and fancy sampling some true Polish cuisine. Food served in the milk bars are less than a quarter of the price compared to high end restaurants and is a must do experience when in Kraków. The milk bars are workers’ canteens dating back to the communist era; previously run by the government, the food was subsidised, in order to provide the workers a quick and affordable meal. With meat being rationed during the post war period, the meals were usually vegetarian. The Milk Bars got their name due to the menu being heavily dairy based.
Nowadays, you’ll find pierogies, borscht soups, Placki ziemniaczane (potato pancakes) and Gołąbki (cabbage rolls with various fillings). Alcohol is not served in the milk bars which are usually self-service.
Tip: Pop into Bar Tomasza and Bar Mleczny. Expect the bars to be busy during lunch time with locals. Maybe best to avoid the bars during this time.
Browse Kraków’s Christmas Markets
If you happen to visit Kraków in December, you must wander around the stalls. Even if you don’t buy any gifts, then try the food there. Super affordable with many tasty foods to try. Pick up a cup of mulled wine and browse the numerous stalls to see the goodies you fancy buying.
Tour the city on a Horse Drawn Carriage
How about a a tour of the city in a romantic horse drawn carriage? You’ll see the beautiful white carriages lined up in the Market Square. We decided not to take a horse drawn carriage to see the city and ended up walking to the main sights, seeing as everything was very accessible by foot. Each horse drawn carriage is operated by different companies. You can hire them out for 30 minutes for around 200zł and they will even take you up to Wawel Castle.
Tip: Ask the driver to find out what sights you will see during the ride and to take your picture.
Bite into a Polish pretzel
An obwarzanek krakowski is similar to a pretzel – super cheap and a great snack. They are popular in Kraków and can be bought from the little stands around the Market Square. Unlike American pretzels, these are not salty but soft, sweet and chewy. They come in three types: poppy seed, sesame seed and plain.
Visit the Cool Jazz Bars
Did you know that Kraków is famous for its Jazz? Boogie the night away in one of the many jazz bars in Kraków. The famous violinist Nigel Kennedy has often played in the jazz clubs here. Soak up the live jazz atmosphere in one of the medieval cellars. One of the most popular bars is Harris Piano Jazz Bar – pop in here to enjoy the music and get served a drink on one of the longest bars in town!
Suggested day trips & other things to see/do
We didn’t get the chance to see everything during our Kraków weekend trip, so here’s a few places we would visit/do on our next visit:
- Escape the Old Town and explore Nowa Huta
- Spend a day discovering the undergrounds of the Wieliczka Salt Mines, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Visit Auschwitz-Birkenau
- Explore the mountains in Zakopane
- Hike the Tatra Mountain National Park
- Go on a local food tour.
- Try various vodkas on a Vodka Tasting Tour
- Visit Schindler’s Factory
Getting to Kraków
Kraków can be reached from the UK and Europe with many airlines. We flew with Easyjet from the UK which had a flight time of two hours.
For the best prices on flights, search here.
What to bring to Kraków during Winter
We spent our weekend in Kraków in early December and it was pretty chilly. Some days it was below zero during the day. We suggest you bring the following if you’re travelling during the Winter months:
- Warm jacket (His/Hers)
- Warm boots
- Rucksack for snacks and flask (for hot or cold drinks)
We had such an amazing weekend in Kraków and thoroughly enjoyed our time trying Polish cuisine, seeing the main sights and experiencing the culture and meeting the friendly locals. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading our tips on what to see, do and where to eat.
Have you been to Kraków? Suggest other sights for us to see next time?
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