Kraków's extraordinary medieval centre and the rest of its attractions make it worth a visit no matter when. It is important, however, to consider when you want to travel in order to plan your stay and make the most of it.
Among the most important aspects in deciding when to go is the weather. Kraków, because of its geographical location, has very cold winters and very few daylight hours. For this reason, it is generally better to travel at other times to make the most of the days you spend there.
When is the best time to visit Krakow?
There are two interrelated factors that will determine the best time to visit Krakow: temperature and daylight hours. Taking both into account, along with the number of tourists, it's clear that the best months to visit are between April and October. If you have the opportunity, you can narrow it down even further to spring or early autumn.
In the case of summer, the main problem is the large number of tourists who come to visit the main monuments, so it's good to know the opening hours and type of guided tours at Krakow Castle, for example. You will also notice it when strolling through the streets of the historic centre, the Stare Miasto.
Flight and accommodation prices also increase significantly. In favour of this season is the good temperature, without it ever getting stiflingly hot, and the hours of daylight.
Winter, on the other hand, is characterised by low temperatures that can make walking in the streets quite unpleasant. In addition, the hours of daylight get much shorter as the season progresses, to the point that by the end of December it is dark before 16:00. However, as you can see in this article on what to do in Krakow at Christmas, this period can be very interesting if you plan your stay well.
Spring and early autumn, more specifically April, May, September and October have much milder temperatures and the influx of tourists is also much lower.
In all seasons there will be some chance of rain, so check the weather forecast before you set off to get an idea of what to expect.
Travelling to Croatia in spring is the best way to travel
Regardless of what the calendar says, spring in Kraków doesn't really begin in terms of temperature until April, as March is usually still quite cold. From that month onwards, temperatures begin to ease, although mornings and evenings can still be unpleasant.
According to averages, minimum temperatures during this season are around 7ºC, while maximum temperatures (in May) are around 20ºC. However, the chances of precipitation are quite high.
One of the effects of these temperatures is that Kraków is full of colour, and not just because of the flowers and leaves in its various parks. The city hosts numerous celebrations in which locals and visitors can take part.
The days are also great for strolling, including on the promenade along the river. It is also a great time to take advantage of the Krakow sightseeing bus to explore the city.
Finally, spring is a time when Kraków' s nightlife is at its peak, with thousands of students flocking to the venues around the Jewish quarter.
Most interesting activities if you travel in spring
One of the most striking festivities during this time of year is Passover. On this holiday it is traditional to decorate the famous Easter eggs, as well as to make palm trees woven with flowers.
The Catholic tradition of the country makes itself felt at Easter. In addition to the usual attractions on Kraków's Market Square, there are many stalls of Polish, Slovak, Hungarian and Ukrainian craftsmen and craftswomen. Here you will find some of the best gifts in the city.
Alongside these craft stalls, there are also stalls dedicated to gastronomy where you can try some of the country's main dishes. Another interesting celebration, especially because it is so different, is the pagan festival The Drowning of Marzanna.
Apart from these festivities, April and May are full of sporting activities, such as the Kraków Marathon, cinema, with the film festival, and others with different themes.
Travelling to Krakow in summer: the best temperature but with lots of sightseeing
The high season in Krakow lasts from mid-June to the first half of September. The best thing about Kraków in summer is that the weather will be more pleasant, with average temperatures ranging from the mid-20s to the mid-30s. The average minimum temperature is not too low either, at 12.7°C.
Another positive aspect is the number of daylight hours. During these months it gets dark at around 21:00, which gives you more time for sightseeing and excursions like the one to Auschwitz
However, Krakow's summer also has some downsides for travellers. For a start, this is the busiest time of year for tourists. The crowds in some places will be constant and, for example, will make it difficult to see the fabulous sights of the Market Square or to see Krakow's best churches in peace and quiet.
Of course, the high season also brings with it a significant increase in prices, both for flights and accommodation.
What to do in summer
Summer is a good time to wander around Kraków in search of tourist attractions, despite the inconvenience of large groups in many parts of the city.
I recommend that you decide to explore some of the city's lesser-known neighbourhoods. In many of them you will find interesting places without the same crowds.
Among the most important summer celebrations is the Wianki, also known as the Flower Garland Festival, which is held along the Vistula River. Another highlight is the Festival of Jewish Culture, where you can listen to music, dance and other activities in the Jewish quarter.
If you like jazz, there is a jazz festival in July, while theatre lovers can enjoy the plays taking part in the Festival of Travelling Theatres.
Travelling to Kraków in autumn - a great time to visit the city
Autumn in Kraków climatologically only lasts until the beginning of November. This season is one of the best times to visit the city, as the weather has not yet reached the low temperatures of winter and there is less chance of rain.
The maximum temperatures range from an average of 19°C in September to 13°C in October, while in November they drop to 7°C. The minimum temperatures range from 19°C in September to 13°C in October. Minimum temperatures, on the other hand, stay around 6ºC, with the exception of the cold 0ºC reached at the end of the season.
On the other hand, the city is noticing the drop in tourist arrivals. The streets are much clearer and the queues to enter the most important monuments are much shorter.
In addition, the lower number of tourists makes this season the perfect time to take a trip to the spectacular salt mines of Wieliczka or to escape for a day (and night) to the beautiful town of Wroclaw.
More interesting activities when travelling in autumn
Although there are fewer events than in summer, autumn in Kraków offers visitors some interesting attractions, such as the famous Zaduszki Jazz Festival.
With the start of the university year, the city's local nightlife returns and, when the weather is good, it is even difficult to find a free place to eat in the interesting Plac Nowy in the Jewish quarter.
Food is also one of the protagonists of autumn in the city. During this season, some of the country's most typical dishes are traditional, such as hunter's stew or its best-known soup, zurek, which you will no doubt have tried if you have taken one of the highly recommended gastronomic tours featured in this article.
Winter travel in Kraków: bitterly cold and dark, but with a different kind of charm
If the facts are anything to go by, winter is by far the least favourable time to visit Kraków. Temperatures are very low, with highs of 2 or 3°C, while lows hover around minus 5 or 6°C. Snow often makes its presence felt. In addition, snow often falls and daylight hours are so short that in December it gets dark before 4pm.
However, as I wrote in my article on the best things to do in Krakow in winter, the city also has a special charm at this time of year, at least from mid-December onwards. With the arrival of Christmas, Krakow dresses up with its Christmas lights and decorations. The Christmas market on the Market Square is really impressive, and if you wander around a bit, you can find smaller ones in the neighbourhoods.
There are few things more pleasant, at least for me, than ordering a mulled wine in the winter cold and sipping it as you walk among the market stalls. Another possibility is to try mulled beer with spices, which has a rather curious taste.
On the other hand, many Krakowers take advantage of the winter weekends to go on one of the best excursions you can make from Krakow: to visit Zakopane, the so-called winter capital of Poland. Unlike in spring and summer, these trips are not for hiking in the forests surrounding the city, but mainly for skiing.
If you decide to visit Kraków in this season, it is essential to pack your luggage well. You should pack warm clothing, a hat, gloves and a good coat.
The most interesting things to do in winter
The main thing to do in Krakow in December is to visit the Christmas market. Despite the cold, the atmosphere in the Market Square and the stalls selling handicrafts, Christmas decorations and food will make you forget about the cold temperatures and enjoy yourself like a child.
Among the Christmas traditions (especially if you're travelling to Kraków with children), the unique nativity scenes on display in some parts of the city are particularly striking. Unlike the Spanish ones, these represent small buildings inspired by the city's most important monuments.
Comparative table on the best time to travel to Krakow
So that you can access at a glance the most important information for deciding when to travel to Krakow, here is a table with information about the different seasons.
- High 17º C
- Low 6º C
- The best: the weather is improving and there are no crowds yet.
- Worst: it tends to rain a lot
- High 23º C
- Low 12º C
- The best thing: more daylight hours and good weather.
- Worst: crowds and the possibility of rain.
- High 13º C
- Low 4º C
- The best thing: fewer tourists and more peace and quiet for strolling.
- The worst: in November it starts to get quite cold.
- Maximum 2º C
- Low -5º C
- The best: Christmas and seeing the city under the snow.
- Worst: the cold and the short daylight hours
Best time to go to Auschwitz
A visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp (actually the two that were built in the area) is almost a must for anyone travelling to Kraków. As with the city itself, the best months to visit are May to September.
In winter, on the other hand, the cold weather can make the visit too uncomfortable and the camp may even be snowed in. It should also be borne in mind that the tour of Auschwitz II takes place entirely in the open air, so low temperatures are not the best way to get to know the site.
Another important aspect of this visit is that from April to the end of October, as you can see in the information on the opening hours of the Austchwitz complex, you can only enter Auschwitz I without a guide (on your own) first thing in the morning (before 10:00) and during the last opening hours (from approximately 15:00). The rest of the year, the timetable for visits without a guide is between 10:00 and 13:00.
If you go in summer, don't forget to book your Auschwitz tour in advance, which is necessary even if you want to enter on your own. Due to high demand, you may arrive and not be able to buy a ticket. The best way to avoid this is to book a tour from Krakow.
It's also advisable to bring a hat and water, as you'll need them to be able to walk for so long in the sun.