Kraków, like many other Eastern European cities, is brimming with history and charm. Every turn I took, I stumbled upon an almost idyllic-looking city street. Everything has a story here, and Poland has gone to great lengths to preserve it. Visiting Kraków will feel like diving headfirst into history. The good, the bad, the ugly, it’s all there on full display.
You’ll note in this guide that I don’t mention Auschwitz. I don’t consider this place a tourist destination so much as a place to learn. I’ve written a separate post so you can decide if a visit is right for you and how to behave in the space if you choose to go.
How to Spend 2 Days in Kraków
Introduction to Kraków
Official Language(s): Polish
Emergency phone number: 112
When to Go to Kraków
March – May or September – October
Both spring and fall guarantee pleasant weather and smaller crowds. If you can, I’d visit in the fall. I was there in the middle of October and it is a stunning place to be. Public parks are scattered throughout the area, and I feel like the gardens of Wawel Hill are meant to be seen as the trees change colors.
Where to Stay in Kraków
I so enjoyed my stay in Hotel Wyspiański. It’s a short walk to the city center, and was located just outside a public park (which, during the fall, was gorgeous). It’s a 3-star accommodation, and definitely feels luxurious.
They have a fabulous free breakfast available. I ended up dining in their restaurant for dinner one night and thoroughly enjoyed my meal.
How to Get Around in Kraków
For the most part, you can easily get around Kraków using the city’s transportation. Like most European cities, it’s a got a fabulous design.
I would however, recommend planning for outside help when making the trip from the main city area to Kościuszko Mound and the Wieliczka Salt Mine. There’s no public transportation route there (yet) and an Uber or taxi will remove the headache of trying to figure out otherwise.
Where to Eat in Kraków
Pod Słońcem is a 13th century restaurant that I especially enjoyed. It’s located underground and serves delicious Polish fare. The staff are especially kind, they gave me recommendations when I was a little unsure about what to order.
I hate saying this since it’s so “Americanized,” but I got a serious sweets craving and Cupcake Corner did the trick.They have so many delicious looking flavors that I couldn’t decide which one to get… so I got four. It tasted like home.
Czerwone Korale is where I first tasted pierogis and it was such an experience. The setting of the restaurant is designed to recreate a classic Polish restaurant. You can even get a seat by the window and people watch. The pierogis themselves were absolutely delicious. I easily could’ve eaten another plate.
One aspect of Kraków’s culture I was completely unaware of while visiting was the existence of milk bars. During the Communist regime, the government had an oversupply of milk and a major problem with moonshine. So they subsidized dairy-based foods for the extent of the Communist era.
Milkbar Tomasza is one such place still alive and kicking. Milk bars are something that you now do for the experience as well as the food; a communal gathering with simple foods is a great way to meet and mingle.
Day 1 of 2 Days in Kraków
The Main Square of Old Town
The Main Square of Old Town is one of the largest medieval town squares in Europe. There’s so much to see, it’s only right that your day begins here. It’s such a lively area, there’s always something going on. Have fun!
The Cloth Hall
The Cloth Hall is an old Renaissance building that’s one of the first things you’ll see when you enter the Main Square.
The second floor houses the Sukiennice Museum, which contains Polish artwork. The main floor is a gallery area where vendors set up shop. There was so much jewelry and I was so tempted to go all, “Shut up and take my zlotys!”
There’s even an underground area where you can tour old chambers and medieval markets.
St. Mary’s Basilica
St. Mary’s Basilica is maybe the biggest case of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” I’ve ever seen. Outside is a brick Gothic style just casually chilling in the middle of the square.
But walk inside and it’s like a whole new world! It genuinely took my breath away.
You’ll also want to stick around for the famous bugle call, played every hour on the hour from all four sides of the tower.
Wawel Royal Castle
Wawel Royal Castle follows the train of thought that much of Eastern Europe had when building a royal building, “Why stop at a building? Let’s make it an entire courtyard!”*
While it’s not quite as large as Budapest’s Castle District, Wawel Hill has so much to see and do. I did the Wawel Architecture and Gardens tour (and, weather permitting, you absolutely should too), and even then I didn’t hit everything on the massive list of attractions. If you do decide to visit, go inside the Castle as well. The history it holds is astounding.
*not an actual quote and probably not historically accurate as to how it all went down
Kazimierz Historical Mural
Kraków is quickly becoming huge in the world of street art. A great example of this is Kazimierz Historical Mural, a free, open air museum full of murals left and right.
This museum doesn’t just tell you about the suffering of the Jews at the ghetto and the effects of the war on Poland… it shows you. I walked through tall ghetto walls that looked like tombstones. I saw a typical apartment building and personal items that had been discarded. At the desk of of Oskar Schindler is a list of Jews he saved.
The last exhibition is an art installation which prompts you to wonder, “If the punishment was certain death, would I risk my life to save the Jews under attack?” It’s powerful. Book in advance and budget at least 2 hours.
Day 2 of 2 Days in Kraków
Reserve your second day in Kraków to visit sights that are both far out of the city center but an absolute delight to see.
I wish I’d had the time to stop by Kościuszko Mound. It looks breathtaking. An artificial mound created in commemoration of Polish national leader Tadeusz Kościuszko, the area is always open from 9 a.m. to sunset. To my untrained eye, it looks like the best place to get a full view of the city. Will y’all check on that and get back to me, please? Thanks.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is a UNESCO World Heritage site that lets visitors explore it’s extensive underground. It’s so much cooler than anything I was expecting.
I took the Tourist Route and was treated to more than I ever thought could exist in a salt mine; 20 chambers with varying exhibitions.
You’ll see everything from the Chapel of St. King, a music and light show along a salt lake, and a whole bunch of salt sculptures.
Then you’ll have to restrain yourself from buying everything at the gift shop (they ship internationally, don’t worry).
You can also lick the walls to see if they taste salty. Germs aren’t a fear so much as disrupting social norms. What I’m trying to say is, I definitely licked a wall.
Know Before You Go
Drinking in public is against the law, so resist the urge to crack open a beer in Main Square of Old Town. (Don’t worry about beer gardens, though. Those are fine!)
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