Located in Southern Poland, Kraków isn’t what often comes to mind for those looking to take a trip to Europe. While it’s a popular destination for a stop from Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, and more; Kraków isn’t typically thought of a destination on its own. However, I beg to differ.
Founded in the 4th-century and what was once the capital of Poland, Kraków has managed to maintain its old town charm while having established itself as a city that has reconstructed and rebuilt itself after WWII devastated Poland. Since the ending of the war, Kraków has increased its population x4 and in these days, is infamously known as being located close to the extermination camp, Auschwitz.
A City Seeped in History
Kraków was the last city of my solo European adventure and when I arrived from Prague, I felt a bit burned out. Upon arrival, originally planning to cozy up inside, the city had different plans in store. I stepped off the train into the cold, crisp air, and felt a renewed sense of energy. My heart beat a little faster, feet moved a little quicker, and butterflies formed in my stomach. Here I was, in the middle of history, enjoying a leisurely stroll through what is now a free and beautiful city. Cobblestone streets to walk through, old buildings to awe at, and a Christmas market meeting me in the square; the energy coming from Kraków was unlike anywhere I’d previously been. I spent five days wandering around, taking my time getting to know the city, and leisurely drinking an espresso here, glass of wine there. It was the perfect ending to my solo European winter escapade.
After spending five days in this Polish city, I was able to put together a complete guide of where to eat, where to drink, and what to fill your days doing and and seeing in Kraków. Visit in the summer for warmer weather, but more tourists. Or the winter when the weather is colder, for the enchanting Christmas markets and less crowded streets. The choice is yours to make, and I don’t think you can go wrong.
A polish restaurant in the heart of the old town. Try the mouthwatering duck stuffed dumplings or opt for a rich flourless chocolate cake. With an upbeat atmosphere, and indoor/outdoor seating, Zalipianki is a good choice to slow down, take your time, and enjoy delicious, more upscale, polish food.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Saturday 0900-2345
A small and intimate brunch spot on the outskirts of old town. Perfect for a leisurely meal complete with coffee or a milkshake. Desserts adorn the insides of the glass box at the register, and people idly chat at the community table.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Saturday 0730-1700
A cheap and quick option for delicious handmade pierogi’s. Here you’ll find a self-service restaurant on the outskirts of old town that hasn’t sacrificed on taste. The pierogi’s being just as good as any sit down restaurant I had been to. Plus with many different stuffings, there’s lots of options to choose from.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Thursday 1200-2200; Friday-Saturday 1200-2300
Bacowka u Kazka Oscypki
A place to stop for a cheap, Polish snack – baked cheese. This hole in the wall stand in the heart of old town outside of the main square, serves the traditional baked cheese snack topped with a sweet cranberry sauce. Stop by to watch the cheese bake atop the fire and to curb your appetite before dinner.
For a break from traditional Polish food, Moo Moo is an upscale restaurant located in the heart of old town, offering quality steaks and burgers.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Thursday 1200-2300; Friday-Saturday 1200-2400
A French restaurant to curb your sweet tooth, located in the heart of old town. Charlotte serves a variety of French wines, breads, baguettes, and macarons. Perfect for a light meal or a piece of cake on your way to dinner.
Hours of operation: Monday-Thursday 0700-2400; Friday 0700-0100; Saturday 0800-0100; Sunday 0800-2200
A hidden wine bar in the heart of old town, Zakatek is the perfect, intimate escape from the hustle and bustle of the city streets.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Thursday 0930-2200; Friday-Saturday 0930-2300
A diverse restaurant in the heart of old town close to Florian’s Gate; Cafe Camelot is a good option for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Sit with an espresso during the day, or come late at night for a glass of wine. A cozy and intimate setting for any affair. Note that they do not accept credit cards, cash only.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Saturday 0900-2400
With mediocre food, Café Tektura stands out more for its coffee drinks and workspaces. On the outskirts of old town, and nearby Gossip Café, grab a coffee to go from Tektura and slowly make your way back to the streets of old town Kraków. If you’re looking for a space to get some work done, stay and sit at a community table or your own table.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Saturday 0800-2100
To See and Do
Auschwitz-Birkenau was a former nazi and extermination camp, built in 1940 by Nazi Germany. It is located approximately 40 miles west of Kraków in Oswiecim. By 1942 Auschwitz became the largest death camp and in this day is open as a museum to visit.
You can arrive to Auschwitz by train, bus or tour bus. I recommend arriving early, especially if you’re on your own, because the lines can be hours long to enter. Make sure to prebook your spot beforehand, it is the only way you’ll be guaranteed entrance. Only bring a small bag, anything bigger than 30x20x10 cm is not allowed. The camp is broken into Auschwitz I and II, driving distance apart.
If you arrive by train, entrance to the museum is over a mile away, and you’ll need to take a bus. Arrival by bus will drop you at the Dworzec MDA, a 10 minute walk will bring you to the main entrance. If you choose to book a tour from Kraków, you won’t need to worry about transportation.
Hours of operation: Open every day (besides New Years Day, Easter Sunday, and Christmas Day) at 0730, closing depends on the month of the year
You can find all information for visiting Auschwitz, here
St. Florian’s Gate
Built in the 14th-century, St. Florian’s Gate was once the main entryway into town. It served as a defense mechanism so that anyone coming in to Kraków would have to cross through the gate first.
Built upon Wawel Hill, Kraków’s castle is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the biggest castles in Europe. Free entrance up the hill, you can choose to pay a fee for entrance into the Cathedral, or walk the castle grounds for free views of Kraków.
Hours of operation: Closed Monday; Tuesday-Friday 0930-1700; Saturday-Sunday 1000-1700
The best way to get to know a city? By foot, for free. Take the free tour put on by Walkative, for information on Kraków’s history and present day. You’ll walk by all the main attractions in town to see what made Krawków great in the past, and today.
If you find yourself lucky enough to be visiting central Europe, make sure to make a stop in Kraków. Full of things to see and do, a cheap city, and still a bit under the radar. Here you’ll be able to slow down, relax, and not worry about breaking the bank.