When you think of Poland, what is the first thing/place/person that you think of? For me, it’s pretty easy. I think of Zapiekanka, Żubrówka and of course Krakow!
So when my new friend from Poland ask me if I want to join her in Krakow, I said YES! Poland was on my list of places to for at least ten years. Ever since our family friend moved there, so I finally got chance to see him after 10+ years.
Besides meeting my long lost family friend, I finally got a chance to eat Zapiekanka, the real one! It’s typical for Krakow and it’s so delicious.
Okay, let’s just start with a list of Top things to do in Krakow, especially in winter!
Top things to do in Krakow
Check out main attractions on Main Square – Rynek Główny
The main square of the Old Town of Krakow is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe. It dates back to 13th century. In the center of the square, you can find Cloth Hall (Sukiennice), surrounded by Town Hall Tower on one side and Church of St. Adalbert on the other side. Make sure you also visit St. Mary’s Basilica and take tons of photos of colorful townhouses.
Get lost in Old Town
Take a stroll down Grodzka Street, stop at one of many restaurants and shops, or get lost in smaller cobblestone streets! Everyone can find something for themselves here. Either smoking shisha in on of the bars or eat potato pancakes or maybe even shop for some souvenirs.
Explore Wawel Royal Castle
Settled on a little hill right on the border of the Old Town, you sure can get some nice view from the top. Walk all around castle grounds to get views of different parts of the city and if you fancy it, go and see some exhibitions. Wawel Cathedral is a true architectural masterpiece. Just sit down in the courtyard and admire buildings around you. Make sure to check out Monument of the Wawel Dragon that breathes fire every few minutes.
Go back in time at Jagiellonian University
Take a guided tour to learn all about this oldest university in Poland. Most notable alumni of Jagiellonian University is definitely mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. The architecture of this place is just extraordinary, admire it from outside as well as from inside!
Take a stroll in Planty Park
Planty Park is one of the biggest parks in the city of Krakow. You don’t often find parks like this in big cities. It encircles Old Town where medieval walls used to stand until the early 19th century.
Learn about the history of Jewish District – Kazimierz
Kazimierz used to be a town on its own, but nowadays it’s part of Krakow. Most people know it because of Second World War when its Jewish inhabitants were forcibly relocated into Krakow Ghetto. Here you can find multiple Synagogues, restaurants with middle eastern food and of course Zapiekanka.
Liban Quarry and the history around it
Some people think of it as a creepy place, but it’s definitely a place of horrifying history. During WW II this limestone quarry was a place of the Nazi labor camp. Nowadays is mostly overgrown by vegetation and muddy. But back in 1993, when Steven Spielberg was filming his movie Schindler’s List, he used Liban Quarry for all the scenes that took place in Płaszów concentration camp. Make sure to check for directions before you head out there.
Try traditional Polish food.
I’m sure you heard about famous Polish Perogies or even tried them before. But what about their Barszcz, Bigos, Gołąbki or Placki Ziemniaczane? There is so much to try. I love mushrooms and I was so happy to find that Polish people love them too. You can find mushrooms in so many of their dishes, perfect cuisine for me! Make sure you try famous Zapiekanki on Plac Nowy in Kazimierz. It’s their version of fast food and it’s my absolute favorite! Also, don’t forget to try their cheese called Oszczypek and one of many varieties of Kielbasa.
Drink, drank, drunk
Polish people can definitely hold their liquor! Don’t try to outdrink them. Since the first time I tried Żubrówka, I was sold. Żubrówka with Bison grass is my absolute favorite. Try mixing it with apple juice, it’s delicious! Also if you prefer something sweeter there are flavored vodkas called Soplica. I especially like hazelnut flavored one, then you add some milk and it tastes like Monte pudding. But there is something for everyone, so make sure you try some of their alcoholic drinks! BaniaLuka bar is a great place to try some of these shots/drinks!
Combine visit of Oskar Schindler’s Factory and MOCAK
If you like history and you want to know a bit more about the history leading up to and during the occupation, you have to stop at Oskar Schindler’s Factory. This museum will take you few hours for sure. You can also combine the two visits – factory and MOCAK since they are one next to other, you can even buy joint tickets. Make sure you book your visit few days in advance! MOCAK is Museum of Contemporary art, everyone is gonna find some piece of art fascinating here that’s for sure!
Walk to The Ghetto Heroes Square
Climb on top of Kopiec Kosciuszki for the view of Krakow
To get a view of Krakow and it’s suburbs climb to the top of Kosciuszko’s Mound. Everyone raves about the view from here, which didn’t really convince me, but if you have some extra time you should check it out. Especially if it’s nice sunny and clear day.
Visit Skałka and learn about its history
Skałka is Poland’s second holiest sanctuary and its name means small rock in Polish. But it’s full name is much longer, Church of St Michael the Archangel and St Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr and Pauline Fathers Monastery. That’s definitely the longest name for any kind of sanctuary I heard of. On this very same place back in 1079, King Boleslav II the Bold sentenced to death Krakow Bishop Stanislaus of Szczepanów. After that king was exiled and the late bishop was worshiped as a martyr and later in 1252 he was canonized to become the chief patron saint of Poland.
+ Krakow Christmas Market on Main Square
So I was in Krakow right after New Years and luckily Christmas Market was still on. As I read online sometimes they keep it going until 6th of January, and that’s what happened. But usually, it starts in November and goes until 26th of December. It’s definitely a nice Christmas Market so you should definitely visit if you are there during that time. There is tons of food to try and local products to buy. You can also see Christmas creches, called szopka around the city. A very impressive piece of art!
+ But there is always something happening in Krakow. No matter which season of the year you are there. Two big celebrations are also Easter and Wianki. Just make sure you search or ask about events that are happening during your visit! Here is a list of some most important events!
Ok so I think this is it for Top things to do in Krakow itself, but then people usually always visit 2 other places while in Krakow. They are just a short ride outside of the city.
Memorial and Museum Auschwitz – Birkenau
While visiting Krakow, you definitely have to visit Auschwitz – Birkenau concentration camps. You learn about it at school, but it’s totally different when you see it in person. It’s a place of great sadness, but it teaches you a lot. Take few hours to explore it and read all about it. Make sure you do a guided tour so that you make the most out of it. Let’s hope something like this doesn’t happen again.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Salt mine lies in the town of Wieliczka, within Krakow metropolitan area. It’s been established back in 13th century and it has been producing table salt continuously until 2007. The salt mine is also one of Poland’s Historical Monuments and is protected by UNESCO. Inside you can see a reconstruction of how they used to get salt, lakes, chapels and different carvings in rock salt. Most impressive is Chapel of St. Kinga, but there is also carving of Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper.
So here is my list of Top things to do in Krakow! Every city has something for everyone, especially city like Krakow. I would love to hear about your favorite places in Krakow in comments.