Krakow main square rynek

48 Hours In Krakow, Poland

There’s a ton of reasons to visit Krakow, Poland. The Polish city has architecture as stunning as Vienna, food as delicious as Barcelona, medieval monuments to rival Paris, history as rich and unique as Berlin, and a damn good night life. Best of all? It’s comes at a fraction of the cost of most of Europe’s capitals.

What to do in Krakow

Krakow is a small city, even when compared to other European towns. The old town and the Jewish Quarter were the main areas I hung out around. Getting around by foot is the easiest method and likely the only method needed.

Rynek Glowny (MARKET SQUARE)

At 40,000m2 it is one of the biggest medieval squares in Europe, and THE central space in Krakow. Home to both the Cloth Hall (see below) and minutes from St Mary’s Basilica (picture below) it is a great place to start the day. It’s certainly the most picturesque area of Krakow with stunning buildings and endless amounts of quaint European charm. It’s a bit crazy at times as this is the also the main tourist square but is nevertheless most likely where a trip to Krakow first starts.

market square krakow
The Main Market square of Krakow

There are Free Walking Tours that meets in front of the twin spires of St Mary’s Basilica each morning. I highly recommend going on one of these two hour tours as it really gives an intro to the ins and outs of Krakow’s history, Polish culture, and the rich legends that surround the founding of the town.

Krakow main square rynek
More photos of the main square

In the main open square, there are countless cafes and restaurants in the market square with big outdoor seating areas. It’s the perfect place to grab some beer and pierogies (not sure if this is a Polish thing or not but I enjoyed it) and people watch. Most of the restaurants here are catered towards tourists so I wouldn’t recommend anything more than just drinks in this area. The best restaurants are nearby, but away from the chaos.


A defining characteristic of Krakow’s Main Square, this beautiful building is home to a bustling market. Arguably the oldest market in Europe – having been in business for 700 years!! – you are sure to find something to tickle your fancy at the stalls within.

Cloth Hall krakow
Cloth Hall in Krakow

Wawel Castle/Cathedral

The Wawel Castle can’t be missed, literally and figuratively. It is one of the highest structures in Krakow even to this day. It’s an incredibly important monument to Polish history and was once the home of Polish monarchy. It changed hands in management throughout the years and was transformed into a military base while Poland was under Austrian control. This likely explains why the exterior of the castle is so inconsistent in its design.

Wawel Castle
Walking up to Wawel Castle

Nowadays, it’s a large art museum, cathedral, and viewing point for some of the best views of Krakow. One can easily spend a few hours photographing away. Walking around the base of the castle is free but you’ll need to buy tickets (there are multiple locations within the castle to buy tickets) to see any of the exhibits within the castle. Admission is cheap (15-25ZL) per exhibit.

Wawel Castle Krakow
More of Wawel Castle

Kazimerz – The Jewish Quarter.

Kazimerz is a historically significant area of Krakow, separated from the old town by the Wisla river which is now a key attraction in Krakow. Following the decimation of the Nazi invasion, this part of town has witnessed a Renaissance of sorts, where the Jewish and Christian influences are ripe and their is a resurgence of youth, art and culture. Make sure you take a wander through the district – or better still – join in a walking tour.

A day trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau

No trip to Krakow is complete without a visit to perhaps one of modern humanity’s most darkest places. Prepare to enter with a heavy heart and leave with an even heavier one. This is not a place for the faint of heart and will almost certainly leave you with some somber feelings.

Auschwitz entrance
The iconic fences at the entrance of Auschwitz

We’ve all learned about the atrocities Nazi’s committed atrocities in WWII in a book. This is the real deal, and where it all happened only 70 years ago. A slaughterhouse and the grave site of countless Jews. It was a bit surreal just setting foot on the premise. Nowadays, it sees thousands of visitors a day from all over the world learning perhaps one of history’s most important lessons. I would highly recommend taking a guided tour of Auschwitz. This is not a museum where you can just follow the signs. There is so much to know about this place that a guide really is necessary to understand the history. Thankfully, my guide Michal was absolutely amazing. Even after giving the same tour hundreds of times, he spoke with such emotion and that it added to the already harrowing experience I was having.

Auschwitz guided tour
With our guide Michal, walking through the haunting buildings of Auschwitz
The multiple buildings of Auschwitz
Shoes from auschwitz
Shoes of some of the deceased women and children.


The tour includes guided visits to the Auschwitz internment camp, as well as the much larger Birkenau site. Birkenau really blew my mind. I’ve long remembered black and white pictures of long railroads entering the iconic gate of death but seeing it in person was something else. This place was a stable for horses but the Nazi’s needed more space as Auschwitz was too small. This is where the infamous gas chambers lie.

Standing at the top of the Gate of Death, the views of Birkenau

I never knew that the people brought into this camp thought they were being resettled to new and perhaps even better lands. They had no idea they were being led to their graves in the form of gas chambers. In fact, when they arrived, they were sorted in lines and a “doctor” would decide who would live and die. The “die” line was told they were being taken to offices to “check in” when they were really being led to the gas chambers. It was not until the last minute when they entered those small rooms that they knew. Horrible.

birkenau living conditions
Living conditions in Birkenau for the ones that weren’t’ already gassed.

Getting to Auschwitz

So after reading the above, if you’re still keen on going to Auschwitz, it is in fact very easy and accessible from Krakow. From the city, go to the Krakow Glowny train/bus station. From here, take the bus as the trains are much longer and further away from Auschwitz. Take the bus to Oświęcim. The bus leaves every half hour or so and costs 15ZL one way. The bus ride is 1.5 hours.

Ticket booth at Auschwitz. 45ZL for a guided tour

Alternatively, there are many full service tours that leave from Krakow. Make sure to book these tours well in advance as they get full. I was hoping to book a tour with but they were already booked. The full cost of these trips are 150-160ZL which include round trip transport, entrance tickets, and guide. It’s totally worth it in my opinion as round trip bus tickets + entrance fees still costs ~90 ZL.

More photos

Wieliczka Salt Mines

A (much) lighter, and altogether fascinating  day trip from Krakow is the Wieliczka Salt Mine. It’s home to the worlds ‘lowest’ religiously dedicated site where they have an Underground Cathedral (Chapel of St Kinga) carved into the rocksalt. Dating back to the 13th century, the World Heritage Listed mine has a labyrinth of tunnels over 300 kilometres across nine different levels going down 327 metres underground. The guided tour is a requirement to see the salt mines and English tours are available every half hour. Cost of entrance is 84 ZL.

krakow salt mine wieliczka
The main hall of the Salt mines. Amazing artistry

The tour will take you down 800 steps along three kilometres of meandering corridors, around underground lakes and through magnificent chambers with statues and chandeliers carved out of rock salt. It was fascinating to me that this salt mine has been in operation since the medieval age and that the technology of that era could even allow this place to run for so long. The carvings and and art present throughout the salt mine are really something to behold.


Getting Around Krakow

Krakow is a small city, even when compared to other European towns. The old town and the Jewish Quarter were the main areas I hung out around. Getting around by foot is the easiest method and likely the only method needed.

Uber in Krakow

Uber is a total game changer that has changed the way I travel around the world. It is readily available in Krakow and it was my main mode of transport. I didn’t have to use it much because everything is so close except for a visit to the Wieliczka salt mine and the airport. From Krakow Airport to the old town, the Uber fair is ~25-35ZL ($7-$10). By comparison, the M1 train is 9ZL ($2.50) so the difference in fare is so small. Ubers within the city center cost 8-12 ZL. If you’re with at least 1 more person, whip out the phone and Uber away because it doesn’t get much better than this.

Where to eat

Polish food is surprisingly delicious. I only knew of kielbasa and pierogies before I arrived and although both things are delicious, there is so much more to eat. Krakow boasts some amazing restaurants with world class chefs. There are heaps of top notch restaurants in the city center offering the best in Polish cuisine. Whether you like the food or not, one thing is for certain and that is your wallet will not be empty after the experience. No meal cost me more than 100 ZL ($25) and that included wine, appetizers, and main course.

Anywhere on the market square

But really only for lunch or a drink. Most places here are very touristy and prices reflect it. If anything, this is a good place to people watch and enjoy a Polish beer or two before heading to another restaurant. At the recommendation of a friend, I went to Staropolska Karczma, among the sea of restaurants. I ordered the meat pierogies with mushroom and it was actually quite delicious. The pierogies were tender and the gravy with mushroom was the perfect complement to it.

Przystanek Pierogarnia

Polish dumplings, or Pierogies are one of the most commonly found foods in Poland. Dumplings of course originated in China, but it’s fascinating that it made its way to Poland (probably through Russia) and is a mainstay of Polish cuisine. Even more fascinating is how different pierogies are versus a China style dumpling. Pierogies come in many different varieties: meats, cheese, vegetables, and even fruits are commonly found.

Pierogies in Krakow
Pierogies of all different sorts. Mushroom + Cottage Cheese, Pork, and Strawberry. All delicious.

There are probably a thousand places in Krakow to get pierogies but upon the recommendation of a friend, I came to Pyzystanek Pierogarnia. It’s a tiny tiny place in a residential area but its pierogies are absolutely delicious. For 8ZL, you get 9 dumplings which is incredibly filling and ridiculously cheap. I tried everything: meat pierogies, cheese and mushroom (amazing), and the strawberry. Make sure to ask for grilled onions.

Pod Aniolami

Pod Aniolami serves traditional polish food in a rustic and beautiful underground setting. I had Zurek soup and pierogies to start (I pretty much had pierogies everywhere), and finished with a shashlik entree that featured tender and juicy pork. Easily one of the best meals I had in Poland. With two glasses of wine, I paid 90 ZL.

Pod Aniolami
Super cool underground setting at Pod Aniolami.

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  1. Amazing blog about amazing city! Kraków is really world-class travel destination. However it is kind of sad that most of the tourist stays only there, when Poland has so many other interesting cities to offer, like for example Warsaw.. It has atmosphere like nothing else in the world and nightlife which really stands out.My favorite nightclub there is New Orleans Club, it is elegant place where you can watch gorgeous pole dancers and just have fun.