Despite not being the capital of Poland, Krakow is one of the most visited cities in the country due to its importance during the 20th century and its enormous historical legacy during the Second World War. Moreover, its architecture and aesthetics have made it one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
If you have always wanted to visit Krakow and its emblematic places such as Auswitch or the Salt Mines, then I am going to propose a 7-day itinerary around Krakow so that you don't miss anything of this incredible city.
1. Day Tour Krakow's Old Town
You have a week ahead of you to get to know Krakow. That's why on this first day one of the best things to do is to get a taste of the city by getting to know the Old Town and soaking up the atmosphere.
The Old Town of Krakow is not only undeniably beautiful, but also contains some of the oldest buildings as it was one of the few areas to survive World War II. I suggest a tour of its main attractions and a tasty lunch to sample Polish cuisine.
Visit the Barbican
Built in 1498, this former medieval fortress is one of the most important sights in Kraków's Old Town. To get there, head to the tram stop called Teatr Słowackiego, just a few steps from the entrance to the site. From there, you will also have access to the entire Old Town to continue the rest of the day on foot.
In the Barbican fortress you can walk through its network of passages and nooks and crannies for less than 2 euros and also enjoy some of the temporary exhibitions it houses. Without a doubt, it's a trip back in time to the city's past.
Basilica of Santa Maria
Just two streets to the south, you will find another of the highlights of Kraków's city centre: St. Mary's Basilica. This impressive landmark is one of the most important monuments and has two tall towers, one of which, the taller Hejnalica, now rings every hour.
Visiting the interior costs between €3 and €5 but getting to see the spectacular wooden altarpiece up close is an experience not to be missed. Take advantage of the location to book a tour of Krakow's Old Town.
Lunch at the Market Square
At this point, it's time to stop to recharge your batteries and sample the local cuisine. One of the most popular places, just a few steps away from where you are, is the Market Square, where you will find different stalls and restaurants.
One of them is the Hawelka, a typical Polish restaurant that for a very affordable price will offer you the best delicacies of the city and in a privileged location from where you can continue your visit.
Afternoon at Wawel Castle
To continue the day, I suggest you book a guided tour of Wawel Castle. This place is located in a strategic point of the city and over the centuries has passed from owner to owner, becoming the first residence of the kings of Poland.
Nowadays, this castle is full of attractions to visit and has become one of the most visited places by tourists. Inside, you can visit the different sections of the castle throughout the afternoon, among which the following stand out:
- Wawel Cathedral.
- The John Paul I Cathedral Museum.
- The Dragon Cave.
- The Royal Palace.
Put the final touch with a Chopin concert
If you are a music lover, don't hesitate to book your ticket for a Chopin piano concert and put a magnificent finishing touch to your first day in Krakow.
The concert, which lasts approximately 1 hour, is performed by young and renowned pianists. In addition, you will be treated to a complimentary glass of wine.
The concert will take place in the Chopin Gallery, located in the Bonerowski Palace, a 15th century building.
2. Jewish Quarter Day
Much of Kraków's attraction lies in all the historical weight that was carried by the Jewish population at the end of the 20th century. However, it was centuries ago that Kraków's Jewish Quarter was formed, what was once known as a separate village of the city.
On this second day, I suggest you spend it getting to know in depth the Jewish Quarter of Krakow, a place full of history and key places for its culture and spirituality.
This square is one of the most central places in Kraków's Jewish Quarter and, although it may not seem like it now, centuries ago it was the main beach of the town of Kazimierz. To get there you can take tram lines 1,2,3,4 or 6 to the Plac Walnica stop.
Today it is one of the most popular starting points in the quarter and is notable for its large white building in the centre which has been converted into an Ethnographic Museum.
Visit to the synagogues
Within the Kazimierz quarter, you will quickly realise the great importance of the Jewish religion and culture. One of the most attractive plans you can make during the tour of the Jewish quarter is to visit the two large synagogues that it has and which can be reached perfectly on foot during the morning. These are:
- Isaac's Synagogue.
- Remuh Synagogue.
Lunch in the Jewish Quarter
To recharge your batteries after a morning on your feet, there is nothing better than stopping at one of the restaurants in the Jewish Quarter to recharge your batteries and try some typical dishes.
I recommend you to try Starka restaurant, one of the most famous restaurants in the Jewish Quarter with traditional Polish food and a gourmet touch that makes it very popular. You may need to book a reservation the day before, so I recommend you to book well in advance. Another ideal option is to book a food tour of Krakow's Jewish Quarter.
Visit the Remuh Cemetery
After lunch, I suggest an almost obligatory visit to the Jewish Quarter due to its historical importance; the Remuh Cemetery. This place is one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Poland, with graves dating back to the 16th century.
During the Second World War, many of them were destroyed and, after reconstruction, the entire space was rearranged and, with the remains of tombstones, they recreated a "Wailing Wall" which is one of the highlights of the cemetery.
Walk around the Mural of Illustrious Persons
To end the day, you can walk through another of the most photographed areas of the Jewish Quarter of Krakow. It is a mural with the faces of the most illustrious people in the city and is displayed as a street aesthetic in the middle of the quarter. It is located at Jozefa 17, outside the Wrega Pub.
Get a taste of Polish culture with a Jewish music concert
Did you know that Yiddish is the language spoken by Jews of German origin? If you want to get to know this language, don't hesitate to book your ticket for a concert of Jewish music, performed by a band of professional musicians with more than 20 years of experience, in a traditional 15th century Polish house.
The pieces performed by musicians with more than two decades of experience are related to the folklore of Reform Judaism, which has its starting point in the 19th century.
Moreover, it is a double experience because the venue is the Dębinskim or Under Barrel, a dazzling classical building dating back to the 15th century with only one floor, the structure of which was completely renovated in the mid-16th century.
3. Day Delve into Podgórze, the Jewish Ghetto
Now that you've got a taste of Kraków's history, it's time to take a closer look at the enormous impact that the Second World War had on the city of Kraków. At that time, the Jews were driven into a ghetto where the tragedy of the Holocaust began to unfold.
Despite the harshness of history, Krakow still has much to tell and that is why, for this third day, I have reserved for you Podgórze, the Jewish ghetto that still today holds memories of those tragic days. To get to know it in depth, book a private tour of the Jewish Quarter.
Start at Bohaterow Getta Square
Bohaterow Square is one of the most emblematic starting points in this part of the city where all Jews were interned after the Nazi occupation. It was here that the fate of millions of citizens and their distribution to the concentration camps was decided.
Now, in their place, 60 empty chairs are scattered throughout the square in recognition of all the victims. To get there, take the tram to Limanowskiego station by tram.
Visit the Oskar Schindler Factory
Inside the Jewish ghetto of Krakow there is an unmissable stop that has an incredible history behind it. Oskar Schindler's pot factory was founded in Krakow and started by cheap Jewish labour. However, during World War II, its owner Mr. Schindler used it to save the lives of a total of 1,200 people by giving them work.
Today the factory is a must-see museum of memory that you can visit for around 15 euros and I promise you it will be worth the enormous historical value.
Tour the MOCAK
Very close to the factory is the most important contemporary art museum in the city, MOCAK. I suggest you visit it after lunch and give it the time it deserves because it is full of works of all kinds and, if you like art and culture, for less than 5 euros you will feel at home.
See the remains of the Ghetto Wall
The Krakow ghetto was for many years separated from the rest of the city by a wall that enclosed the Jews. Today only a few remnants remain at 62 Limanowskiego Street, but it is interesting to visit them to learn more about what the ghetto was like at that time and to get an idea of the city's recent history.
Be dazzled by a cruise on the Vistula River
Enjoy a cruise on the Vistula River in Kraków, another not-to-be-missed activity on your trip to Kraków.
On this route, which lasts about an hour, you will have the best views of Wawel Castle, the Bernatka Bridge, the Manggha and Cricoteka Museums, the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz and the Church on the Rock. And you won't miss a single detail thanks to the audio guide you'll be provided with.
A tip: don't leave your camera behind.
4. Day Visit Auschwitz-Birkenau in one day
Auschwitz is one of the most important and most visited concentration camps still standing in the world. Within its walls the most brutal contemporary crimes in history were committed. Today it is a place of remembrance that is visited by millions of onlookers and a trip to Auschwitz is a must.
A visit to Auschwitz is one of the must-do's on your trip to Krakow and that's why you will spend a whole day visiting Auschwitz and its neighbouring camp in a solemn visit that will not leave you indifferent.
Morning visit to Auschwitz
Auschwitz is located 70 kilometres west of Kraków, so you'll spend the whole day touring it on the way there and back. To get there, you can choose to take one of the organised tours that pick you up from the centre of Krakow, or go on your own on a bus that takes about an hour to get there.
Once at the camp, you'll need to get your ticket for about €25 to enter the camp and tour the various hair-raising rooms, from the barracks to the gas chambers.
Rest and lunch in the area
You may not have much of an appetite when you leave Auschwitz, but to recharge your batteries I recommend going to some of the nearby restaurants such as Portobello to unwind and continue your afternoon visit to Auschwitz II.
Finish at Auschwitz II-Birkenau
To end the day, you should visit Auschwitz II-Birkenau, one of the largest concentration camps still standing and containing the most chilling rooms of the Jewish Holocaust.
These types of tours are not recommended for children under the age of 14 because of the harshness of the history. I also recommend you hire a guided tour so that you don't miss anything.
5. Day Go to the Wieliczka Salt Mines
By now you've already seen most of Kraków's must-see sights and its history, but there's still more to see. You can't leave this city without making one of the most famous visits in the whole country: the Wieliczka Salt Mines.
Proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, these mines are made up of a multitude of chambers and even have an underground chapel that will leave you open-mouthed. Due to its location and its immensity, you will spend a whole day visiting it.
Tour the salt mines
This spectacular site is located just 15 kilometres from Krakow and can be reached either by bus on the 304 line, by car or by an excursion to the Salt Mines from Krakow. When you get there, you will find yourself in huge underground galleries more than 300 kilometres long with all kinds of sculptures and passages carved out of salt. Without a doubt a marvel to visit.
Entrance to the salt mines usually costs around 50 euros and I recommend that you take an organised tour so that you can be guided through the different rooms and learn a little more about the history of these impressive mines.
St. Kinga's Chapel
One of the most incredible highlights of your visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mines is the underground chapel of St. Kinga, built entirely of salt and so big you'll forget you're underground.
6. Day Archaeological Visit to Krakow Mounds and Nowa Huta
You're nearing the end of your week in Kraków and this time I've booked you a day dedicated to two attractive places to see which, interestingly enough, are very close to each other.
On the one hand, you will visit one of the five mounds or "kopiec" that are scattered throughout the city and have been places of worship for centuries. On the other hand, you will enter the Soviet quarter of Nowa Huta, the Soviet quarter. Let's get started!
Get to know the Wanda Mound
To get to this curious construction, you will have to go to the Kopiec Wandy station on tram lines 21 or 22, which will leave you next to the entrance. This mound, along with its four other siblings scattered around the city, are funerary places of worship that have been standing for centuries and are shaped like hills.
It is estimated that the daughter of the founder of Kraków was buried on the Wanda mound between the 7th and 8th centuries. Admission is completely free and it is an ideal place to visit with children as it is a natural environment like no other.
Lunch at Nowa Huta
Next, I recommend a tour of Nowa Huta, the Soviet quarter. But before getting to know it in depth, I recommend you to recharge your batteries in a restaurant in the area, such as Stylowa, where you will get a better taste of Polish gastronomy.
Tour Krakow's Communist Quarter
After the tour of the Nowa Huta neighbourhood, created by the Soviets in the second half of the 20th century, where you will visit landmarks such as the Centralny Square, the Nowa Huta Museum, the Soviet tank or the Ark of the Lord Church, I recommend you to book a communism tour of Krakow.
7. Day Trip to Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains
Visiting Krakow is a real treat as you will see and after seeing first hand all the highlights of Krakow, I suggest you finish your trip in this amazing place. For this, I have prepared a farewell excursion for you to spend the day just 2 hours from here, in mountains that will conquer your heart: the excursion to Zakopane and Tatra.
The day will start in Zakopane and will take you through the most idyllic mountain scenery of the country, ending in the Tatra Mountains and the surrounding villages.
Gubałówka and Butorowy Wierch Mountains by funicular railway
The Tatra Mountains is a natural park that you should not miss as a farewell to your trip to Kraków. You can get there by car, but the best option is to hire a guided tour that picks you up in the centre of Kraków and guides you through the day so you don't miss anything.
One of the highlights when you arrive in Zakopane is to take one of the funiculars up to the main mountains of the reserve, where you can enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery.
Zakopane City Centre and Tatra Museum
On your way back to the centre of the small town of Zakopane, you will have the opportunity to see the picturesque houses and stroll through the colourfully decorated streets. You can also take the opportunity to have a bite to eat in one of the local restaurants and visit the Tatra Museum, which tells the history of the area.
Stop in Chochołów
On the way back to the city and to end this incredible trip through Kraków, you will have the opportunity to stop in a picturesque village called Chocholów, with typical wooden houses of the southern part of the country and where you can buy some handicraft souvenirs.