Welcome to our travel guide to the great Polish city of Kraków. We have tried to write this to be as complete as possible, but at the same time short enough that you can easily read it! If you have any questions, give us a message!
Krakow City Guide Table of Contents
It isn't the most popular tourist destination in the world, but almost everyone who visits Kraków really loves the city (we have heard time and time again that Kraków was the highlight of peoples backpacking trip through Europe).
(But less tourists can be a good thing - no massively inflated tourist prices, less queues. Although, year round there are more than enough tourists - walking in the main square you always hear English, Irish, German and Spanish accents talking!)
It is the perfect mix of:
Plus, if you are a guy - Polish girls are often regarded as some of the most beautiful looking in the world (See here for some responses on reddit).
If you want to see some pretty photos of Kraków, check out our Kraków 'Inspire me' page.
Most tourists come in the summer. It might surprise you, but in the summer it is common for very high temperatures (very often 30+C, sometimes even closer to 35C).
If you decide to come in winter then you can do a trip down to the mountains in Zakopane. Or come for Christmas and check out the Christmas Markets in the main square.
Compared to other tourist hotspots in Europe? Kraków is very cheap!.
As of Early 2016, £1 = 5.7zł, €1 = 4.4zł, $1 = 3.9zł. Please check todays rates, and the estimates below are just very rough estimates.
Yes! Many tourists (and expats living in Kraków) agree that is feels much safer than most parts of Europe.
Of course there are bad neighbourhoods - but no tourists would be visiting these areas as they are just residential and it takes 20+ minutes by bus to get there.
Check out Poland's ratings here (and bear in mind that Kraków is one of Poland's safest cities)
If you live here you will think that Kraków has manu districts. But tourists only need to know about 3 main areas (they are all within walking distance)
It takes around 15 minutes to walk from the old town (main square), past the castle (near the river) and to Plac Nowy in Kazimierz. Or a tram will take around 5 minutes (if that!)
The train station / coach station (they are next to each other), which is next to a huge shopping mall is a 5 minute walk to the main square in Old town.
The three most famous tourist attractions that people also visit are Auschwitz, the Kraków Salt Mines and Zakopane, but these are all in different towns a coach journey away (see section below).
The main Kraków airport is about 25-30 minute journey away (quicker if you use a taxi than a bus, but not much quicker).
There are plenty of flights to and from Kraków every day. Ryanair is one of the most popular.
An alternative airport is Katowice Airport, which is around 40-50 minutes away by coach.
Kraków has good connections with many surrounding cities and countries.
The coach/bus station is 5-10 min walk from the main square area. It is behind the train station. Find its website here
One of the most loved coach companies is Polski Bus. They offer many routes (to Polish cities and neighbouring countries) on large, comfortable coaches that have Wifi.
The train station (their official site) is in front of the coach station (around 5 minute walk from the main square).
The train station is pretty big, with plenty of platforms - and many routes every day. Tickets are generally quite cheap (and with a valid student ID you can get upto 51% off).
Kraków is a touristy city, so there is plenty to do and see. Of course, if you are going to Kraków just for the nightlife then you will have fun too!
Every city has the tourist hotspots that everyone comes and sees. These are some of the most famous sights and attractions that most visitors to Kraków see.
Wawel Castle is in between the Old Town's main square and the Wisła (Vistula) river. It was originally built in the 14th century, but has been preserved very well.
Almost all tourists that visit Krakow end up seeing the castle. It is right next to the river, so you can get some awesome views of the river and the south side of the city of Kraków when you go up to the Castle and take a look over its walls.
It is free to walk around, but you can pay to go inside some of the buildings.
The main square (known as the Rynek Główny in Polish) is the heart of Krakow. It is right in the middle of the old town area, and is one of the largest medieval town squares in Europe (at 40,000 square meters).
You can often find street performers, musicians and more performing in the square. There is also a well known and well loved Christmas market here every year.
In the middle of the square is the cloth hall ("Sukiennice" in Polish). There is also the big "Town Hall Tower" ("Wieża ratuszowa"), the huge St. Mary's Basilica, a central Adam Micklewicz Monument, and the old 10th century Church of St. Adalbert.
Wieliczka Salt Mine (known in Polish as "Kopalnia soli Wieliczka", but very often referred to as Krakow's Salt Mine) is a mine dating back to the 13th century in the town of Wielczka that produced table salt.
It produced table salt until 2007. Now it is a hugely popular tourist attraction, attracting over 1 million visitors per year.
You can do guided tours to the salt mine - and it is really impressive seeing these massive 'rooms' built in the salt mine - and everything (walls/statues/docorations/etc) is made from salt. If you want to risk it, you can try licking the walls!
The Nazi German WWII concentration camp was very close to Kraków - only around 60km away.
Now it is an important and very popular tourist attraction.
There are plenty of tour companies (you can find them in the main square) offering day tours to Auschwitz, or you can just hop on a coach to the Polish city of Oświęcim (Auschwitz was the Nazi city name for Oświęcim).
There are plenty of other tourist attractions (but maybe not as worldwide-famous as the salt mines or Auschwitz).
You can find this church on one of the corners of the main square (it is hard to miss - it is massive!).
It dates back to the 13th century but is still in great shape. Every hour (even through the night) a trumpet tune is played from the taller of the two towers. It cuts out half way through the tune, in memory of a famous 13th century trumpeter who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongols attacked the city.
If you are stood in the main square at 59 minutes past the hour, head to the church area and look up - you will see a trumpeter play.
The Kraków Barbican ('barbakan krakowski' in Polish) is a fortified outpost that dates back to 1498. It in the old town area of Kraków, just past in front of Florian's Gate.
It used to be connected to the city walls, but now it stands a few meters away from the (existing) walls. It is a nice tourist attraction that is only a 2 minute walk from the main square.
Kraków has several mounds, but one of the most popular ones is called Krakus Mound.
It is just south of the river, free to go to the top of, and you get some great views of the city and surrounding areas.
A fun way to spend a bit of time, trying to work your way around the mirror maze.
It is really close to the main square, and is a great place for you and your friends to take some selfies.
It really can be deceptive - you'll think someone is straight ahead but then once you get close you realise its a mirror image...
Find the guy in Grodzka street dressed up with a mirror costume (it is easy to spot!) - he'll show you where to go!
Kocia Kawiarnia Kociarnia opened a while ago, but it is quite popular in Kraków.
It is a 10 minute walk from the old town area (or maybe 10-13zł in a taxi), and it is best to make a reservation (message them on Facebook), but if you like cats its a cool concept and worth visiting.
You can get (non alcoholic) drinks and coffee, and play with their cats.
There are some rules (like you can't pick the cats up) - but that is for the cats to not be pestered.
This is not for the faint hearted. We have visited and we were running from room to room to get out. This will really scare you - but its all in good fun and once you are out of the final room (~20 minutes after entering) you will have had fun. Probably!
(Honestly, it is scarier than you would imagine, but a lot more fun than you would imagine)
If you walk down Floriańska street (on the corner of the main square) you will often see someone dressed up as Freddy Krueger. This guy is promoting Lost Souls Alley. Find building number 6 and go to the very back (past the strip club), up the stairs on the left and you will see the entrance. If you can't find it just listen for people screaming!
The Liban Quarry is an old and abandoned quarry just south of the river.
It used to be a WWII Nazi labour camp, and more recently the quarry area was used to film the 1993 film "Schindler's List".
It is a little hard to find, and not the safest of walks (it is abandoned, after all) but it is still quite cool to see.
It is very close to Krakus Mound (see above).
If you like exploring abandoned and off the usual track places, then you should read about it here.
Zakrzówek lake was created in 1990, after the limestone quarry there flooded.
Nowadays it is a popular tourist attraction (mostly with locals), but officially it isn't really open to the public. It is fenced off, but there are many holes in the fence and on a hot summer's day you will see plenty of other people there.
It is common to have BBQs or drink alcohol, but the police don't really tolerate this, so do so at your own risk.
Prague has a famous one, you can find them in Amsterdam, and many other cities. So it shouldn'be be a surprise to you that there is one on Kraków!
The love bridge is a pedestrian only bridge, and if you need a drink afterwards there is a nice pub nearby called Kładka Cafe, so check it out! (If you have troubles finding the bridge, just look for this bar.)
Go prepared with a padlock and stick it to the bridge. Unlike a lot of other big cities the bridge isn't too busy with other couples locking their padlocks and throwing away the keys.
In the middle of old town (just behind the main square) is a pub called Cybermachina, but everyone knows it as the Gaming Pub.
They have a nice selection of beer (at reasonable prices), but the real appeal is the 8 or 9 video game consoles (mostly Xbox 360) that are free to play.
As well as typical video games they also have a selection of board games - again all free to use. (To use these you must leave some form of ID with the bar staff).
They have themed the pub with many video game related items - even if you don't get to play on a console it is cool to check out and have a beer (or Nintendo themed shots...).
They also do pizza, which is nice as it isn't super common to find any kind of food at pubs in Kraków...
Find more details about it here.
Kraków is a fun city with much to explore, but you might want to get out of the city and see what is close by.
Zakopane is known in Poland as the 'Winter City', as it is a popular tourist destination in the winter.
When you walk around the town you will see all the houses and buildings look so different than Krakóws buildings: most building are wooden, and look really cool!
It is a town that attracts many hikers/skiers, but you can still enjoy a day there without hiking or skiing, just in the town and checking out Gubałówka.
It is famous for its beautiful mountain views and great hiking trails. The town of Zakopane is much smaller than Kraków but there is still plenty to see and do there. But most people go to Zakopane to go to the various mountains and hiking trails.
One really cool thing to go and see is Morski Oko. You have to take a bus (15-20min) from near Zakopane train station, then you have a 2 hour walk (it is a very slight incline - horses take lazy people in carriages up and down it) to the lake of "Morskie Oko". If you go in the winter time it is often frozen over, and the whole walk looks amazing covered in snow.
It takes about 2 hours to get to Zakopane from Krakow by coach (and bizarrely, about 3 hours on a train). It is easy to get a coach from Kraków's coach station to Zakopane - they go every 15 or 20 minutes and normally costs 15zł each way.
If you are going to do a lot of hiking or skiing, you are probably best staying a night or two. But if you leave Kraków in the morning it is enough to see Zakopane all day then get a coach back to Kraków in the early evening.
Wrocław is about 3 hours away by coach, and is a beautiful Polish city.
They have a really nice market square, and the whole city is filled with dwarf statues on the pavement/sidewalk. There are so many of them in the city! It is definitely a fun city to spend a day or two in, and isn't too far from Kraków
Wrocław also has a set of small islands ("Cathedral Island" and "Sand Island" - connected by Tumski Bridge, which is also known as the love bridge thanks to all the 'love' padlocks on it), which can be especially fun and interesting to wander around in at summer.
Make a reservation at the Sky Tower to go to the very top and get some great views.
It costs around 30zł each way normally on coaches, but if you book far in advance you can get it cheaper. We recommend Polski Bus as they have an easy to use website for booking tickets (it is recommended to book tickets when going to Wrocław) and comfortable coaches with wifi.
Warsaw ('Warszawa' in Polish) is the capital of Poland, and is 2.5-4 hours away by coach or train.
As it is the capital of Poland there are plenty of things to see and do, including seeing the very Soviet-era looking "Palace of Culture and Science" (see photo above). This dominates the skyline, and isn't very popular with most Polish people. In fact, it is common to hear that the best place to see Warsaw is from the top of the tower, but only because then you aren't looking at the towner...
It is a bit of a long trip from Kraków (from 2.5hours to 4 hours, depending on the train or coach route), but it is a fascinating city with tons of history.
Kraków is world famous for its nightlife. The city center is quite small, so you can easily go from pub to pub (...to pub, to pub, to pub!) in a matter of minutes. The booze is cheap, there is always great atmosphere (even middle of the week) and it is always busy.
This is easy! In Kraków there are two main drinking areas -
It takes just over 10 minutes to walk from the main square (in Old Town) to Kazimierz, or a few minutes in a taxi (around 10zł).
If you want to go to clubs, then go to Old Town - there are many more clubs there. But that doesn't mean Kazimierz doesn't have any clubs - but if you are in Kraków just for a weekend then stick to Old town clubs.
A lot of locals would recommend starting your evening off in Kazimierz (and drinking on/near Plac Nowy) then heading up to Old Town later in the night.
A normal beer in a normal pub would be around 7-9zł for 0.5l (around a pint). But there are quite a lot of really popular bars that sell beer for 4zł (normally for 0.3l - not quite 0.5!) and shots for 4zł. They often do small snacks for 8zł.
There are a few main ones that have several bars in Kraków:
If you are out one evening and not much is going on, head to a Pijalnia or Bania Luka. They are guaranteed to be busy.
This is the busier area, because it is in the heart of the center of Kraków.
On all four sides of the main square you can find bars and restaurants, but they are typically just for tourists (and more expensive). Go onto the streets leading off the main square though and you can find the best bars and clubs in Kraków.
A lot of the pubs and clubs in Old Town are in basements - the city is so old there isn't anywhere else to build! This can make finding some pubs hard (even if you know the road and building number, they don't always have an obvious sign with the pub name).
(Clubs are always easy to find - they normally have promoters trying to get you in!)
Some of the best streets (all of these are 1-3 minute walk from the main square) are:
Plac Nowy (Find it on a map here) is a small square that is famous in Kraków for two things: lots of bars (on the square and nearby) and in the center of the square where they sell (what is claimed to be) the best Zapiekankis (pizzas on a bagette).
As there are lots of bars on all four sides of this square you can easily bar-hop. The bars might be a bit small on the square, but there are enough of them that you can just walk around until you find some seats.
It takes 10-15 min to walk from Old Town to Plac Nowy (or a short taxi ride).
Kraków is a small city (especially for tourists, who won't be staying in the residential suburbs of Kraków). But sometimes it can be easier to hop on a bus, tram or in a taxi than walk around!
There are bus and tram stops everywhere in the city, and generally places have good connections. The hardest part is knowing what tram or bus to catch. We recommend getting the Jak Dojade app on your phone (Android or iOS), or just using their site. You can enter your start and end location and it'll tell you what the closest tram/bus stops are and what routes to take.
One of the most central tram stops in Kraków's Old Town is Plac Wszystkich Świętych. Go to the Polish Wikipedia to see a map of it. It is a 1 minute walk from the main square.
See our guide below on how to validate bus / tram tickets.
Taxis in Kraków range from cheap to a complete rip off. If you see a taxi that has the words "Nightclub Taxi" on it you should avoid it at all costs!
We recommend getting Uber on your phone and just finding somewhere with wifi (it is everywhere in Kraków). Uber drivers tend to speak English (more often than normal taxis), and less likely to rip you off.
The best taxi companies are:
But even with these recommendations you should always check for a price estimate first. Insist that they put the taxi meter on before the car starts moving.
When you are on a bus or tram you must buy a ticket.
Once you have your ticket, you must also validate it (put it into the yellow machines on the busses and trams).
If you don't do this, you can get a big fine!
There is almost always a ticket machine on the bus/tram. At major bus/tram stops there is sometimes a big machine that you can buy tickets from.
If the ticket machine is not working you can buy a ticket from the driver, but they will only accept 5zł coins and give you a 5zł ticket that lasts an hour.
The prices (as of Early 2016), for Zone I (city center) are 2.80zł for 20 minutes and 3.80zł for 40 minutes. It is unlikely you will be travelling for more than 40 minutes.
If you get a bus to the airport you need to get a Zone II ticket, which is 4zł.
Once you validate a ticket, it is valid for all trams/busses (in that zone!), so you can hop on and hop off.
There are 24 hour, 7 day etc. tickets, but for tourists we don't recommend it. Unless you are staying far away (in which case you might only use the bus/tram twice a day anyway!) you probably won't use them much!
It is always important to not get scammed in taxis. As a tourist, taxi drivers (in any city of the world) know they can go a longer route (for a higher charge) and you would be none the wiser.
If you are going between Old Town and Kazimierz it shouldn't be more than 10-15zl if you use a decent company.
Most hotels are very central (so you wouldn't need a taxi!) but if you are staying a few tram stops from the city center it shouldn't be more than 20zł. We recommend asking in your hotel/accomodation how much taxis should be from the city center.
If you get a taxi from/to the salt mines or Auschwitz then expect very high charges!
A taxi from outside of the airport will cost close to 100zł to old town. But if you call up a taxi company and don't use the proper airport taxis, it should cost around 30-40zł.
Because of Kraków's small size we would recommend styaing in two main areas:
Old Town - this is close to the main square (Rynek Głowny) and everything will be within walking distance. The train/coach station is very close (5 min walk from the main square)
Plac Nowy / Kazimierz - a short walk from the main square (and an even shorter walk from the Wawel Castle), the Plac Nowy / Kazimierz area is a bit more quiet but you would still have everything you need within walking distance.
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants (and bars!) in Kraków. There are restaurants to suit every taste and need.
Restaurants are very cheap in Kraków when compared to most other tourist destinations, so you can really go and treat yourselves!
The following restaurants are quite touristy, so more expensive than a 'typical' restaurant, but the level of service is great, the food is fantastic and every tourist who eats at these places seems to love them.
Pod Wawelem is located very close to the castle and is well known for huge, meaty portions in a really cool themed restaurant. All the staff are dressed up in what could only be called an over the top costume, often they have a small band moving around the huge restaurant playing music, and you will never leave this place hungry. But the best thing is the food is really delicious.
There is also a Pod Wawelem in the main square (in Cloth Hall (Sukiennice)), but the one by the castle is better!
If you are here for one night, and want an awsome meal - check out Pod Wawelem by the castle.
Everyone in the world knows about Hard Rock Cafe. They might be over priced, a tourist trap and full of only foreigners but if you like their food you'll love the Hard Rock Cafe in Kraków. You can get some excellent ribs, burgers and other classic Hard Rock Cafe food here.
You won't find many locals in here - for a Kraków restaurant it is quite expensive. But much cheaper than almost any other Hard Rock Cafe you've been to in the world! And the food is really tasty, especially if you like that style of American food.
If you like meaty dishes then you will love Sphinx. There are quiet a few Sphinx restaurants in Kraków (at our last count we found 8), but most are in shopping malls. There are two in the Old Town area (one on the main square, and one on Grodzka street).
These are recommended restaurants, but they cater less to tourists. But they are definitely worth checking out, and if you want to save a bit of money then they are perfect!
Famous for their huge burger portions, Moa Burger is always a popular place to get a burger from. It is close to the main square, so if you need a quick burger fix then check them out!
Another burger place, and in our opinion much tastier than Moa. This is a proper restaurant, and we have never heard anyone say a bad thing about Moo Moo. It might just be the best tasting burger you will ever have!
Kuchnia U Babci Maliny ("Grannies Raspberry Kitchen") is a unique restaurant very close to the main square, and we really recommend you check it out. If you want traditional Polish food in a really cool and unique restaurant then check it out! It is a minute or two walk from the main square.
Jeff's is a restaurant in the Galeria Kazimierz shopping mall. It is sometimes called the Polish version of Hooters, but it is much more tasteful.
The food is fantastic, especially if you like American style food. Big portions, great level of service from the waiting staff, and they do lots of promotions and daily offers.
Poland is famous for its "Milk Bars", which are cheap restaurants (more like a cafe). But the Milk Bar on Tomasza street (in Old Town, close to main square) is really high quality food for nice cheap prices.
They also do the best English fry up breakfast (actually, it is an Irish breakfast) in Kraków - so if you are looking for an Full English or Irish Fry Up Breakfast, then go there!
There are foreign money exchange offices everywhere in Kraków.
Avoid the money exchange offices at the airport or close to the train/coach station. (The ones inside the shopping mall next to the train/coach station normally has decent rates).
We recommend checking the best rates on this website. Normally Karmelicka 1 (next to Bagatela Theater) has the best rates, and is very close to the main square. Also, they are more than happy to speak English.
Kraków isn't home to many scam artists, and it is rare to hear from a tourist that they got scammed. But scammers are known to do the following tricks:
Drinks Scam - If you are male and a couple of girls (not necessarily hot!) start speaking to you, they might get you to go and explore Kraków with them. They will take you to certain bars (who employ these girls), you will then offer to buy them drinks and you will be faced with a bill of 500+zł. Big bouncers will not let you out without paying, or they will drag you to an ATM machine to withdraw money. Be very cautious of this scam! Read more about it here.
Awful Exchange Rates - some of the money exchange offices will show only one price, which looks great but it is the 'we sell at' rate, not the 'we buy at' rate. By the time you have given them your money it is too late as they will insist on no refunds. Always get them to clarify exactly how much PLN/złoty you will be getting.
And of course pickpocketing, taxis over charging etc goes on in Kraków as much as any other city.
And finally, here are some general tips:
Kraków is a safe city and you will generally face no problems. But here are some general tips and tricks to help your stay:
Because of the extra amount of fuels being burned in winter to warm up houses, Kraków suffers from awful smog in winter months.
If you want only clean air, come in the summer!
Some bars have jars with the English words "For Tips" (and nothing in Polish). There is no reason to tip in bars/pubs! They only have it only in English because no Polish person will tip!
A few restaurants/bars on the main square will have two prices for beers - one by itself, and a cheaper price if you order some popcorn. This is due to some tax reason, if they offer food they can offer the beer for a cheaper price.
Planty Park (the park that circles Old Town) is safe during the day, but in the summer at night time it can attract drunks and homeless - so it is best to avoid it.
See our section above on where to exchange money. A lot of the money exchange offices give awful rates. If they advertise only one number for each currency you should avoid them! They should show the buy and sell rate for each currency, and they should differ by around 3%. If they differ by more than 5% then you should avoid it! Luckily, there are plenty of reputable money exchange offices!
Most museums have one day of the week where they are open for free. This is an outdated list (but it is still valid in 2016 for most museums).
You occasionally get beggers, homeless etc come up to you and beg for money. Saying a firm 'no' and ignoring them makes them move on to the next person/table. If you are sat outside on the main square they often work their way around every table... You just have to get used to it...
If you give them some coins they will never be happy and claim it isn't enough, and they won't leave you alone.
There are two football teams in Kraków - Cracovia and Wisła Kraków. And they hate each other. It is really rare to see Polish people wear football tshirts (unless they are going to watch a match at one of the stadiums).
If you wear either teams colours you may get stopped by some football hooligans who want to check you're not wearing either of the Kraków team tshirts.
(and definitely don't risk buying a Cracovia or Wisła tshirt and wearing it in public in Kraków).
And that is Religion. Polish people are generally very passionate about their religion.
And definitely don't say bad things about Pope John Paul II, unless you want to offend most Polish people.
Sometimes is isn't clear which toilets are the ladies and which are the gents. That is, of course, if they even have seperate toilets. A lot of pubs and restaurants in Kraków have cubicles that are shared by men and women.
But the confusing part is when you see a circle and a triangle (not the usual ♂ / ♀ symbols). You just have to remember that the triangle one (pointing up or down) is the mens!
Also it is somewhat common to have to pay around 0.50zł to use toilets, even in restaurants like McDonalds (although they rarely enforce this).
The fines are pretty big, the ticket inspectors are sometimes in plain clothes, and they have heard the "I'm a foreigners, I didn't know what to do" excuse too many times...
A Polish vodka shot is almost always 40ml (sometimes more). UK, for example, has the standard size of 20ml. So be wary of ordering double shots in your drinks.
Also be wary about getting into drinking competitions with Poles. While you might be able to drink a lot of pints of beer at home, you probably won't be able to keep up with a Polish man doing shots.
People in Poland (women especially) often drink beer with a straw. They also like to add a fruity syrup to the beer.
There are always two Policemen guarding the US Consulate in Kraków, which is located one street behind the main square (behind the St. Mary's Church). As for how much English they will want to speak, well that is a different story...
Just like the rest of the EU, dial 112 for emergencies. You can also call the following numbers for direct access:
999 - ambulance,
998 - fire brigade,
997 - police.
If you say "thank you" as your waiter/waitress takes your bill/money, don't expect any change. This is interpreteed in Poland as you saying "keep the change as a tip". Resist the urge to say "thanks", and leave an appropriate tip once they return with the change.
If you are at a pedestrian crossing with red/green lights (indicating that you can cross) and you cross on red you can get a massive fine. It is common to see people wait on a road completely free of cars while they wait for the green man light!
Kraków isn't designed for wheelchairs, unfortunately. A lot of bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants have step-only access, and it is rare to see a wheelchair ramp in Kraków.
Read about exploring the abandoned Liban Quarry (and ex Nazi labour work camp)