Weekend in Krakow| Itinerary for First-Time Visitors to Poland
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Plan your weekend in Krakow itinerary using my tried-and-tested guide. Find things to do, where to stay, where to eat, and more important information for your travels to Krakow, Poland.
To be honest, I had never really thought of Poland as I place I would visit for a weekend trip.
For some reason, I had it in my head that spending holidays in Krakow would be filled with tours of outdated, large unkempt European palaces that were ghosts of their former selves.
But, oh, how wrong I was…
On my recent weekend in Krakow, for a friend’s 30th birthday celebrations, I got to see that Krakow was not just a place for stag weekends (even though such a group was on our flight). But that it’s also a city which boasts unrivalled European architecture.
So, I’ve prepared a 3 day Krakow itinerary, to help you get the most out of your time spent in this city.
In this travel guide, I will break down the top things to do and see, and how to make the most of spending a weekend in Krakow, Poland.
What to See on Your City Break to Krakow
Krakow attractions include sights like the Rynek Główny (main market square), the main stage of St. Mary’s Church with its soaring bell towers bathed in natural sunlight, medieval palaces, and a buzzing night-life.
Poland’s former capital and second city, Krakow, along with its worldly charm, has a sad past, including the Holocaust and the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Although heartbreaking to see, it is worth the visit; it is a lasting reminder of the Nazi’s wickedness for the vast extermination of the Jewish population in and around Poland.
I recommend visiting the Auschwitz camps as it is important that we never forget what happened so that it never happens again.
This Krakow weekend guide will give you a glimpse into one of Poland’s most historic and cultural cities.
A Weekend in Krakow Guide for First-Time Visitors
Krakow is full of undiscovered wonder, perfect for travellers looking for something different.
Don’t fret if you’ve never thought of spending a weekend in Krakow, Poland – there’s no better time than now.
This guide should answer any questions you may have about this captivating city and how best to spend your vacation.
Asking yourself: where is Krakow?
Krakow (also spelt Cracow) is one of the oldest cities in Poland and located on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region.
How to get to Krakow, Poland from London?
Poland is relatively easy to get to, with its established network of flights, particularly if you’re in Europe. Flights from London Gatwick are relatively cheap and can be found for as little as £50 on EasyJet.
(This EasyJet flight price only allows you to carry one piece of hand luggage—no purses or laptop bags, those must be checked in).
Within around 2.5 hours, you’ll be at the Krakow airport named the John Paul II International Airport, Krakow-Balice.
Where to Stay on a Krakow Weekend
There are hundreds of hotels in Krakow Poland for every budget, however going for a quick city break, we didn’t want to spend a lot on accommodation.
We stayed at Tutti Frutti Apartments in Krakow Poland, which was cheap at £55 for the weekend and included basic breakfast (cereal, toast and jam). This was a relatively inexpensive, centrally-located Krakow hotel.
The apartment was not fancy, it was clean, with the bare essentials, and a secured communal entrance to the apartments.
It is centrally located on Florianska Street, a five-minute walk to the Rynek Glowny (supposedly Europe’s largest medieval city square).
Arriving on the Friday evening, we had enough time to drop off our bags and head to a bar just off the main market square to grab a drink and some food.
I quickly noticed that Krakow has a large student population by the countless girls wearing booty shorts and doing lines of shots at 8 pm (I guess the Polish like to get things started early). And at £1 a shot, we joined in too!
If you are the fancy type, then there are plenty of medieval buildings in which you can spend a long weekend in Krakow. I would suggest you check Airbnb as there are some great options available.
You’ll find that many places to stay in Krakow are located on Florianska Street. This is one of the most famous streets in the city and not a bad place to be staying during your Krakow weekend trip.
Transport for Your Krakow Weekend Away
After our first evening in Krakow, we soon realised how walkable the city was. Everything can be accessed on foot with no fear of ever getting lost, as most streets guide you back to the market square.
Public transport is inexpensive and easy to find, as the Krakow trams whizz up and down the street.
Krakow Weekend Itinerary Guide
This three days in Krakow itinerary provides you with an extensive guide on what to do and where to visit during your stay.
So, with this travel planner in hand, you won’t need to ask ‘what to do in Krakow?‘.
Day 1 in Krakow – Sightsee Across the City
There are so many gorgeous spots to be found in Krakow city. It would be a shame to miss any of them. Luckily, most of them are near enough to each other to be enjoyed on a single day’s walking tour.
Here’s the best way to spend your first day in the city.
Tour of Krakow Old Town – Main Market Square
Start your weekend off with a walk around Main Square, or Rynek Główny, and take in the splendour of this 13th-century plaza. It’s the largest medieval town square in Europe.
Krakow Main Square is the sight of St. Mary’s Basilica, Town Hall Tower and the Cloth Hall. During the evenings the square is transformed into a melee of activity with street performers, horse-drawn carriages, and locals galore.
St Mary’s Basilica
The Main Market Square’s centrepiece is the 14th-century, Gothic-style St. Mary’s Basilica, featuring stained glass windows and gilded interiors. The church serves as one of the best examples of Polish Gothic architecture.
St. Mary’s Church, is also known for the Hejnał Mariacki (the bugle call), which is played every hour.
Standing at 80 m tall, the church is famous for its wooden altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz). In 1978 the Church became a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside the Historic Centre of Kraków.
Across the square, in the 14th-century Cloth Hall, is an old gallery, that now hosts a fantastic craft market with a variety of 19th-century Polish jewels, souvenirs and art creations.
The building was originally a major centre for the city’s international trade. It was also once a prime spot for fancy balls and grand events. It has seen many monarchs, dignitaries, and other people of note come through its doors.
The Cloth Hall is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday, and regular entrance costs 25 PLN (£6 / 7 USD). Entrance to permanent exhibitions is free on Sundays.
Rynek Underground Museum
Under the Cloth Hall gallery, you’ll find the Rynek Underground Museum. Where you can explore the history of the Cloth Hall and admire a fantastic collection of Polish art at the Art Gallery.
Wawel Castle and Wale Hill
Head south of Old Town to Wawel Hill, where the Royal Castle and Wawel Cathedral overlook the city.
This has been the seat of Polish kings for over 500 years. Since then, the Royal Castle has been built and rebuilt in Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance styles, featuring grand murals, gilded walls, and expansive courtyards.
You can spend a few hours exploring the castle’s intricate tapestries, art collections and ornate staterooms. Poland’s most treasured work of art, Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine is also on display here.
You will need one ticket for the Royal Castle. Tickets are sold for the individual exhibition.
You need to purchase another ticket for the Cathedral, which costs 12 PILN (£2 / 3 USD). Admission to Wawel Hill and the Arcaded Courtyard is free.
If you’re short on time, or simply wanting some help, you can opt for a guided tour of the castle.
LEARN HOW TO SPEND A WEEKEND IN PORTO PORTUGAL
Krakow Sightseeing – Golf Cart Tours of Krakow
If you explore the Jewish quarters of Krakow I recommend doing an eco-vehicles (like a golf cart) tour of Krakow.
You get to whizz around the various districts of Krakow as trams, bikes and cars tailgate you.
Meanwhile, the driver points out the various historical buildings around the city, just like the hop-on-hop-off bus tours only better, with the driver stopping to let you ‘make photos’.
Our driver was very knowledgeable, stopping to tell us about some of the more important parts of the city, and driving down smaller roads that cars are unable to use.
During the one-and-a-half-hour tour, we visited the old town, Kazimierz (Jewish district), and we also passed by the Krakow castle.
You can choose the districts you would like to visit, and if you choose two or more you can get a discount.
The tour took in the following sights:
Cloth Hall (Sukiennice)
Oskar Schindler’s Factory
Galicia Jewish Museum
Jewish District (Kazimierz)
In the Jewish District (Kazimierz) we explored Wolnica Square, Church on the Rock, Temple Synagogue, Old Synagogue, Szeroka Street, Nowy Square and Synagogue Remuh.
Then we passed the former Jewish ghetto area, with the airy monument in Ghetto Heroes Square, the Eagle Pharmacy Museum and Oskar Schindler’s Factory, made famous in Spielberg’s masterpiece ‘Schindler’s List’, and the remains of the Ghetto wall.
Check here for the latest prices for the Krakow sightseeing tour.
Day 2 in Krakow – Day Trips to Auschwitz and Wieliczka Salt Mine Tours
This tour covers both UNESCO sites and includes tickets, guide, transport for the day and lunch. During the bus ride to Auschwitz I, we watched a documentary about the history of the Nazi concentration camps.
Auschwitz I & II
We arrived at Auschwitz I and were guided around the camp.
Touring Auschwitz was extremely disturbing, as you come face-to-face with the horrors that human beings can inflict upon each other, driven by a set of beliefs.
I have seen more than my fair share of movies and documentaries about the Holocaust, but we were presented with areas in which there was hair by the tonne.
The shoes from every man, woman and child, as well as pots and pans, where mothers thought they would be cooking for their family piled in a heap. These were the only sign of these individual’s existence, and that made all the horror you read and watch even more real.
After touring Auschwitz I, we were then transferred to Auschwitz II- Birkenau, a five-minute car ride away.
This was the larger more horrible death camp built so that trains filled with people could arrive and be sorted into groups.
Where the elderly and young (the ones deemed unable to work) would be sent to their death.
At Auschwitz II- Birkenau, we toured the camps and the remains of the gas chambers and crematoriums before the camps were liberated.
Wieliczka Salt Mines in Krakow Poland
After the saddening tour of Auschwitz, we were taken to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Which is a thing of wonder, with its underground labyrinths, lakes and chambers; there’s even a ballroom.
The salt mine has been in operation since the 19th century and is one of the world’s oldest working salt mines.
Nine centuries of mining in Wieliczka has produced a total of some 200 kilometres of passages, as well as 2,040 caverns of various sizes.
The tour route starts 64 metres deep, with an initial descent down 378 wooden stairs.
It includes twenty chambers and ends 135 metres below the surface, where the world’s largest museum of mining is located, with centuries-old equipment among its exhibition route.
Hands down the best sight on this tour was the ballroom, with its impressive salt chandelier dangling like an actual diamond in the sky.
We were guided through numerous drifts, galleries and chambers with sculptures in the crystalline salt, and lavish ornamentation carved in the rock salt.
Occasionally concerts and other events take place in the Wieliczka mine’s biggest chambers. Our guide told us that the microclimate of the tunnel could help asthma and allergy sufferers.
We arrived back at the Krakow Market Square with enough time to have a few drinks and enjoy some local Polish cuisine.
Krakow tours to Auschwitz – this is a full-day tour to Auschwitz and Wieliczka salt mine and includes private air-conditioned transport, skip the line tickets, and pick up in Krakow or your hotel.
Check the latest prices for this full-day tour here.
Both Auschwitz and the Wieliczka salt mine are Krakow points of interest and are a must-see if you are visiting Krakow.
Bonus Tour | Krakow Tour to Czestochowa Black Madonna
Again, we booked our tours through getyourguide.com and were picked up by our driver (Konrad) being finer than a crisp £50 note, with ice blue eyes like the ocean.
I tried not to stare too long at them as it would have me making plans to move to Poland.
This was my favourite tour by far, and it offered so much.
Hilarious Tour Guide
No one tells you monks are funny as hell. The tour was given by an 80 something-year-old Monk dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi and was sharper than a butcher’s knife.
Father (Simson) was a stickler for people trying to queue jump during mass (I guess no one can wait to see God).
And as the line slowly snaked its way up to pass by the Black Madonna. There were more than a few little old ladies that he told off, telling them to join the back of the line for mass. This is something you don’t see every day.
Black Madonna Painting and Jasna Góra Monastery
We made the pilgrimage from Krakow to Czestochowa, home to one of Poland’s most acclaimed sights, the Black Madonna painting.
We then had a private tour of the Jasna Góra monastery by Monk/Father Simson.
We learned about the history of the sacred site, the legends and miracles associated with the Black Madonna, and we saw the historic defensive walls that famously survived a Swedish invasion.
The monastery was founded by Pauline monks, who emigrated from Hungary in the 14th century.
It has been recognised by three different popes thanks to its resilient story and sacred Black Madonna painting.
Touring the ground with Father Simon\ Obi-Wan Kenobi was like being escorted around by one of the 12 apostles.
People moved out of the way, you got a very informative and, at times, downright hilarious account of the history of the Black Madonna, from a person who speaks up to five languages.
The Monk did this all while walking around telling stories, pointing out various artefacts that are worth millions, and asking questions about where you’re from (he was really fascinated when I told him I was Jamaican), even stopping another monk on his way to mass to tell him, he has a tour with a Jamaican.
I don’t think a Jamaican had ever made it that far into Poland.
I would 100% recommended this day tour if only for our wonderful, handsome and prompt driver Konrad, and the coolest Monk you’ll ever meet, Father Simson.
Where to Eat on Krakow City Breaks
Here are some of the best restaurants in Krakow to try, whether you need a quick snack, a caffeine boost, or a full and hearty meal.
If you’re looking for something upscale in the Main Square visit Wesele for dinner, where you’ll have a prime view of the bustling square while dining on Polish specialities.
These include pork chops with sauerkraut and fried potatoes, and żurek, a tangy rye soup with sausages or Pierogi (dumplings stuffed with veal, topped with butter and sage).
Cyrano de Bergerac
On Slawkowska Street, you can find Cyrano de Bergerac an absolute gem, serving up some great French food. The restaurant is located in a cellar; it has a unique, mysterious and intimate vibe.
Polakowski is a self-service canteen-style restaurant in the Jewish Quarter, where you can get authentic Polish cuisine at unbeatable prices.
Morskie Oko Kraków
Looking to try out regional Polish cuisine, then look no further than Morskie Oko. Where you’ll be served massive bowls of soup, tasty Pierogi, potato pancakes and breaded pork cutlet, veal.
For traditional polish food visit Pierogarnia Krakowiacy, it’s open year-round and is one of the top places to stuff your face with Pierogies.
Located on Szewska Street and Westerplatte Street, it’s a budget-friendly option – you’ll pay around 15PLN (£3 / 4 USD) for a meal.
Karma Cafe Krakow
For undeniable good cafe then visit Karma for your caffeine fix.
Krakow weekend guide | FAQS
Your very first weekend trip to Krakow may seem a bit daunting, but it’s truly a mesmerising experience.
Which is why I’ve gathered a list of the most frequently asked questions and answered them.
With this, plus my itinerary suggestions and travel tips, you have nothing to worry about.
How Many Days Do You Need in Krakow?
I decided to do 3 days in Krakow because that is enough time to see the most important sights. As well as doing a day trip to Auschwitz concentration camp and the salt mines.
The day trip was one of the top things I wanted to do while visiting Krakow. And is something I think everyone should do.
Three-day holidays to Krakow are usually more than enough.
Is Krakow a Walkable City?
Krakow is a very walkable city, especially the Old Town and Wawel Hill areas. Most streets in the Old Town lead back to the main square so you won’t get lost either.
However, the Jewish Quarter and Ghetto are farther out and will take around 20 minutes from the main square.
For short breaks to Krakow, you’ll likely find most of the attractions you want to visit close enough to walk between.
Is Krakow a Good City Break Destination?
I think Krakow is a great choice for a city break. The city is small enough that you can explore the main sights and attractions. Yet it’s large enough that you’ll never be bored on your Krakow breaks.
The food is amazing and less expensive than in other European cities. Plus, there are so many sights to take in that you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
If you’re looking for the best place to spend Poland weekend breaks, this is unquestionably it.
Facts About Poland for First-Time Visitors
Language: The language spoken in Krakow is Polish
Krakow currency: The currency used is in Krakow is the Polish zloty (zl)
Local Time: Krakow is one hour ahead of GMT/UK time
Airport: John Paul II International Airport Krakow-Balice, approximately 11km from central Krakow
Flights from London: 2.5 hours
Tourist Information: Can be found at www.poland.travel/en-gb/
Buses/trams: run from 5 am to 11 pm and are very reliable. Some buses run later into the night. Single tickets are available at street kiosks.
Car\Taxi: The old town is a car-free zone so driving around can be a bit of a hassle.
Weekend Breaks to Krakow Summary
There you have it – a fully-planned 3 day Krakow itinerary. With these helpful suggestions and a good attitude, I have no doubt that you will love a weekend in Krakow as much as I did.
Hopefully, this weekend itinerary will help you plan your next trip and has convinced you that Krakow holidays really are fantastic. This underrated city should definitely be on your city break bucket list.