Krakow, Poland’s student city, is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the country. Everyone comes here for the beautiful medieval architecture, castles, good food and cheap booze! This city is beautiful, inexpensive, and is filled with plenty to do. I personally like Warsaw better simply because it’s less of a “tourist scene” but you can’t deny Krakow is one truly amazing city (and far more beautiful). No visit to the country would be complete without a visit to this city.
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Krakow
1. Walk the entire Royal Road
2. Visit Auschwitz
3. Explore Wawel Castle
4. Tour Schindler’s Factory
5. Visit the Underground Museum
Other Things to See and Do
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1. Visit the District of Kazimierz
South of the center of town is the former Jewish ghetto. It was forgotten for many years but now is the center of a vibrant artist and student population. You can vist the Jewish cemetery or go on a free walking tours of the neighborhood. While it’s a great place for a bite to eat, the real flavor of Kazimierz comes alive at night — check out the 4zl/8zl vodka bar or Alchemia around Plac Nowy for a guaranteed good time.
2. Visit the Salt Mines
The Wieliczka Salt Mines have been used since the Middle Ages to produce table salt, one of the city’s largest industries, but has been maintained as a museum since 2007. It’s pretty amazing down there as miners created statues, chandeliers, cathedrals and chapels carved from salt! Admission is 84 PLN for foreign visitors, with discounts available for families. A four-hour guided tour will cost in the neighborhood of 200 PLN with transportation to and from Krakow, as well as English speaking guide.
3. Shop at the flea markets
Go shopping early on Sundays at the open-air flea markets at Plac Nowy in Kazimierz or in the Jewish Quarter. If you go there on Saturday, expect an assortment of antiques. On Sunday there are mostly clothes for sale.
4. Go to mass at St. Mary’s Church
As the home parish of Pope John Paul II, this is a landmark of Krakow and the faith of believers here will give you a renewed understanding of the importance of the religion in Polish society.
5. Stroll through Nowa Huta
Lose yourself in the forgotten communist era apartment blocks as you try to imagine what would have been if this Soviet town experiment had succeeded. In the years following the war, Nowa Huta was established as a separate town filled with industry workers and propaganda. Now, as an undeveloped neighborhood outside the center, it’s interesting to see how much of the socialist influence remains.
6. Visit the MOCAK
The Museum of Contemporary Art is one of Krakow’s most recent additions and has a collection of contemporary art. Admission is 14 PLN per person, with discounts available for students and seniors.
7. Visit Poland’s oldest university building
Located in Jagiellonian University, the Collegium Maius has been a scientific hub for research and discovery for centuries. Copernicus was a student here and the museum has a vast collection of scientific instruments from the 16th century. Admission is free on Tuesdays between 3-6pm, otherwise, a single-entry ticket is 12 PLN.
8. Walk around The Planty
The Planty is a large park that surrounds the entire Old Town. It was once the moat encircling the medieval city walls but now a beautiful 4km park! It’s a great escape from the busy center, and home to the location of one of our favorite restaurants, Pod Wawalem, serving up hearty, boisterous Polish cuisine.
They arrange great “Polish parties” each week with plenty of free food and drink. For those traveling with a tent, there are a few campsite outside the city. Expect to pay around 30 PLN for a basic plot.
Budget hotel prices – Your budget will stretch quite far in Krakow, with basic hotel rooms beginning at 120 PLN per night for a twin or double. These generally include WiFi, but not always. For a hotel with WiFi and free breakfast, expect to pay closer to 180 PLN per night. Airbnb is available in the city, with shared accommodation costing around 95 PLN per night. For an entire home or apartment, expect to pay closer to 220 PLN per night.
Average cost of food – If you want to try Polish cuisine for outstanding prices, then find a ‘Bar Mleczny’ (or Milk Bar) where a big lunch for one person is under 20 PLN. Expect cafeteria-style options from pierogies and meat to homemade soups and pickled salads. For a casual meal, expect to pay 20-30 PLN. For a midrange meal with table service, expect to pay closer to 50 PLN. Fast food (think McDonald’s) can be found for around 18 PLN. If you plan on cooking your own food, a week’s worth of groceries will cost between 80-100 PLN.
Transportation costs – You can see the whole of the city center without needing any transport — the walk across town takes 15 minutes. To get somewhere in a pinch, the tram is the way to go. One of the oldest tram lines in Europe, a one-way ticket costs less than 4 PLN, and the system is easy to navigate as the tracks encircle the city center. Grab your ticket at the tobacco stand or on the machine on board with change. Taxis are cheap enough during the day, with prices starting at 6 PLN. Expect prices to rise late at night and if you want to head to the suburbs. For inter-city travel, trains are a cheap, fast option. A ticket to Warsaw can be found for as little as 45 PLN, while a ticket to Gdansk can be found for around 75 PLN.
Suggested daily budget
120 – 180 PLN (30-45 USD) (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, limiting your adventure activities, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. Remember, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect your budget to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Visit the Kielbasa Van – Two gruff Polish men set up a fire grill outside their van each night from 8PM-3AM while parked in front of the market east of the Old Town near the train bridge and grill kielbasa. For 10 PLN, you get a sausage, roll, and a squirt of mustard. Stand at the perch nearby and chow down with the locals in-the-know. There are plenty of cheap eats around town though — a zapiekanke pizza flatbread from Plac Nowy, Pizzeria Pronto on Grodska for a calzone, or 24-hour pierogies for 10 PLN at Zapiecek are just the beginning.
- Take the free walking tour – There are a couple of companies that offer free walking tours (like Free Walking Tours Poland) in Krakow and gather each morning at St. Mary’s church for an Old Town tour, then again in the afternoon for a Jewish Quarter walk. These are a wonderful way to get to know the sights and history of the city with great local guides. Just be sure to tip!
- Eat and drink for free – Many hostels offer free breakfast or dinner as well as free nightly drinks. Take advantage of these. Not only is this a great way to save money, it’s a perfect opportunity to meet and interact with new people!
- Bundle Tours – If you’re interested in visiting Auschwitz/Birkenau and the Salt Mines it’s a good idea to book both with the same company to save some cash. See Krakow is a great option with English guides and transfer to and from your accommodation.
- Use ridesharing apps – Ridesharing apps (like BlaBlaCar) are a great way to get around the country for cheap. Simply download the app, find someone looking for passengers, and go! Everyone is rated and verified, and it’s usually more convenient (and cheaper) than other forms of transportation.
- Stay with a local – Couchsurfing is a great way to lower your accommodation costs in Poland. It’s a great way to save money on accommodation, and you’ll be able to get detailed insight into the country from a local.
- Save money on rideshares – Uber is way cheaper than taxis and are the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to wait for a bus or pay for a taxi. The Uber Pool option is where can you share a ride to get even better savings (though you can get your own car too). You can save $15 off your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v.
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