Autumn is the last useful season to visit Auschwitz. A few weeks later, the rigid temperatures can make this excursion a mission impossible. However, Krakow has much more to offer! November is one of the country's most important holidays: Independence Day. Read on to find out what to do in autumn.
1. Join the Independence Day celebrations
Independence Day is celebrated on 11 November, a very important date for the Polish people. In 1918, after the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany, Poland regained its independence after 123 years! In this long century, the country had literally disappeared from the map and was divided between three foreign powers: the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Russia and the German Empire.
Unfortunately, the recurrence could only be celebrated very rarely because the country was taken over by Germany in 1939 and subsequently came under the Soviet yoke. The Poles had to wait for the fall of the Berlin Wall to celebrate it again!
For these reasons, Independence Day is very meaningful. On this date, a mass is held in the morning in Wawel Cathedral and after it is over, a military par ade leaves Wawel Hill, walks along the Royal Road (Droga Królewska), crosses Florianska Street and ends at Matejko Square. The army band accompanies the infantry platoons and mounted troops. In the evening, the crowd gathers on the Market Square (Rynek Główny) to sing patriotic songs.
2. Enjoy the magic of foliage
In autumn, the leaves turn red, yellow and orange, turning every park into a magical place. Krakow has a number of green areas where you can admire the phenomenon. Read on, in the list below I list the must-see destinations:
- Zakrzowek, a park just a short distance from the centre. It is characterised by the blue lake that occupies the hollow of an old stone quarry. It is very popular with the locals who come here for barbecues or walks in the woods surrounding the lake (Salezjańska 19). To get here from the centre, just take the tram (line 52, stop Poczta Główna).
- Planty, a green ring around Kraków. At the end of the 18th century, the old city walls were demolished and the space once occupied by the walls was gradually transformed into a garden. In autumn, there is nothing better than strolling among the English gardens and Belle Époque buildings.
- Jagiellonian University Botanical Garden (Mikołaja Kopernika 27), the oldest in Poland. To escape the cold, you can see the tropical spices growing in its greenhouses. For more information, I recommend you visit the official website.
- Wolski, a forest that stretches over some hills. It is located 8 km from the old town and has marked trails for hikers and cyclists. There is also a horse riding trail and a cross-country skiing track. In addition to the trees, with a bit of luck you will see deer, badgers, foxes and other wildlife. If you are interested in this one, I recommend reading the post about the best hikes from Krakow.
3. Pick some mushrooms in the forests around Kraków
Poland is famous for its mushrooms to the extent that its most famous epic poem, "Pan Tadeusz", contains a famous mushroom picking scene. However, this practice is much older and revives every year in one season: autumn.
From the second half of October onwards, the people of Kraków set out early in the morning to get to the forests surrounding the city. Mushrooms taste better if you cook them on the day of picking, which is why it is so important to sift through the undergrowth without too many people around.
In Kraków, you can try tasty mushroom recipes at Pod Aniołami, a restaurant housed in a 13th century building that was the residence of Kraków's goldsmiths for more than 300 years.
In autumn, the chefs recommend two specialities: boletus soup with noodles and white mushroom soup with noodles. In both recipes, the mushrooms used by the chefs have been picked in the Gorce National Park.
4. Take part in Central Europe's largest literary festival
The Conrad Festival is the city's most important literary event. The event is named after Józef Teodor Konrad, better known as Joseph Conrad. The author of "Heart of Darkness" was born in Berdyczów (then part of the Russian Empire) on 3 December 1857 into a family involved in the Polish nationalist movement.
Orphaned at an early age, he had to leave the country and ended up on a ship in Marseilles. This event changed his life as it motivated him to write adventure novels.
After his death, the Cracovians paid tribute to him by instituting a festival in his honour. The aim of the kermesse is to present the most important works of world literature and to hold artistic and social discussions. Polish and international writers take part in this event, which each year investigates a specific theme. On the last day, the Conrad Prize (a statuette in the form of a telescope) is awarded to the author of the best first prose work.
5. Follow your literary journey at the Book Fair
The Kraków Book Fair is held on the same dates as the festival. During these days, the Polish city is an ideal destination for all those who are passionate about novels.
The event is held at Expo Krakow (9 Galicyjska Street) and brings together publishers, authors, translators and literature enthusiasts. The venue is located on the outskirts of the city but is easy to get to. You can take the bus (lines 174 and 178) or the tram (lines 1, 14 and 22).
6. Experience the All Saints' Day tradition
In Poland, Halloween is overshadowed by the celebrations of All Saints' Day (Dzień Wszystkich Świętych, 1 November) and All Souls ' Day (Dzień Zaduszny, 2 November). On these days, Polish families gather to clean the graves of relatives, lay wreaths and light candles.
The result is very evocative and it is worth visiting a cemetery to understand this page of local culture. This activity should be done with due respect but, if you have this in mind, you will have no problem.
In Krakow, I recommend a visit to the Rakowicki Cemetery, the largest and most important cemetery in the city. The cemetery is located at 26 Rakowiecka Street and covers an area of 43 hectares. It is famous for its sepulchral art and for housing the tombs of some of the country's most famous personalities.
In one area, there are also the graves of British soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Rhine. The leaflet at the entrance will explain the most important information. Don't worry, there is an English version.
To get here from the centre, you can take the tram (line 2 from Teatr Bagatela) and get off at the last stop (Cmentarz Rakowicki). If you like these visits, I recommend you to read the post about the best churches in Krakow.
7. Listen to gospel music
Did you know that gospel and Kraków are linked by a double thread? The genre derives from the songs that black slaves used to sing on the plantations in the south of the United States. In the 1930s, gospel music boomed in America and gradually spread to other parts of the world.
Since 2006, it has found a niche in the Polish city which hosts 7xGospel every autumn, a curious and undoubtedly interesting festival. The events usually take place in the Kärcher Hala concert hall (Aleja Marszałka Ferdynanda Focha 40), which is just a stone's throw from the Błonia Meadow, a very popular area in the summer months in Kraków.
8. Take a break in a traditional tea shop
Herbaciarnia Czajownia is a must for tea lovers and a warm place to warm up after a walk. The establishment is located in Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter and is characterised by its cosy atmosphere that invites you to spend some time within its walls. It has a good Wi-Fi connection, which is why it is not uncommon to see freelancers and digital nomads.
If you have a real passion for tea, you'll find a wide variety of fragrances. See the list below for some of the more unusual ones:
- Bai Mao Houe, a white tea originating from the Taimu Mountains in Fujian Province, China. Also known as "White Monkey", it is characterised by its strong grassy aroma.
- Darjeeling, a black tea grown on the slopes of the Himalayas. Like Champagne, this variety can also only be grown in a single area.
- Gyokuro, a Japanese green tea with a high level of antioxidants. Its sweet fragrance underlines the vegetal notes.
- Chi Tse Bing Cha, a tea from southern China that is often given as a wedding gift.
- Yogi Masala Chai, a blend of honey, ginger, cardamom, white pepper, anise, cloves and other spices.
9. Listen to Europe's best pianists
The International Piano Festival is the only cultural event in Krakow that is entirely dedicated to music. According to the organisers themselves, this kermesse aims to invite the world's piano elite to the city.
In order to ensure high quality standards, artists who have competed in international competitions in Warsaw (Frederic Chopin), Fort Worth (Van Cliburn) and Moscow (Tchaikovsky) take part in the event. The festival is held in various venues around the city. If you want to continue listening to music once you've left, I recommend the Harris Bar (Rynek Główny 28), an establishment that has hosted some of the biggest names in international jazz.
10. Be captivated by musical contaminations
Another musical kermesse in Krakow is the Sacrum Profanum Festival, which combines the masterpieces of classical music with jazz and other genres. The first edition was held in 2003 and in just a few years it has become an unmissable event for lovers of artistic contamination. The event usually comes to the city between the end of September and the first half of October. The concerts are hosted in various venues:
- Congress Palace (Marii Konopnickiej 17).
- Theatre Łaźnia Nowa ( O
siedle Szkolne 25)
- Florianka Hall (Sereno Fenn'a 15)
The influx of tourists in Krakow in autumn
The inhabitants of Kraków often refer to autumn as "Zlota Polska Jesień", which translates as "Poland's golden autumn". At this time of year, the trees turn orange and red and temperatures hardly reach the negative peaks of winter. Therefore, visiting Krakow in autumn is ideal! If you want more info, I recommend you to read the post 10 tips for travelling to Krakow.
Prices in Krakow in autumn
If you are looking for a cheap getaway, Krakow is your ideal destination. At this time of year, you can book a hotel room or a holiday home at very affordable prices. Moreover, during autumn, the city does not receive a large number of tourists, so you can visit the main attractions without the crowds.