11 Things to Do in Krakow in January

Some places are at their best when the temperatures drop, and the Polish city belongs to this guild. Its cosy bars will surprise you

Matteo Gramegna

Matteo Gramegna

10 min read

11 Things to Do in Krakow in January

Krakow | ©Maïté De Seranno

Of course, Kraków's offerings are not limited to its establishments. The capital of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship will surprise you with its gems, including the splendid Market Square and the amazing Wieliczka salt mines just a few kilometres from the Old Town.

1. Celebrate the New Year on the Market Square

Market Square in Winter| ©Tomasz Bobrzynski
Market Square in Winter| ©Tomasz Bobrzynski

New Year's Eve is one of the most important festive nights in Kraków. On this date, the heart of the celebrations is the Market Square (Rynek Glowny) which you will get to know if you book a tour of Krakow's Old Town and for the occasion hosts a laser screen and a free music festival with both national and international artists. The concert usually starts at 20:30 and ends at midnight.

If you don't want to get cold, you can wait for the New Year in a restaurant. Most establishments have a New Year's Eve menu that ends at midnight with a glass of champagne. Some outstanding options are:

If you feel like letting off steam on the slopes, there's nothing to worry about - Kraków's centre is packed with nightlife! Some of the most sought-after options are the Cuban Theatre, the Alchemia and the Propaganda Pub. Please note that most bars and clubs operate on a reservation basis. On New Year's Eve you'll need to book in advance. Tickets usually go on sale in early November.

Book a tour of Krakow's Old Town

2. Explore the depths of the earth at the Wieliczka Salt Mine

Salt Mine Extraction Gallery| ©Aleksandr Zykov
Salt Mine Extraction Gallery| ©Aleksandr Zykov

14 kilometres southeast of Kraków lies the Wieliczka Salt Mine, an underground labyrinth of tunnels and chambers spread over nine levels that has been attracting tourists since the mid-19th century. Nicolaus Copernicus, Fryderyk Chopin and Goethe succumbed to its charms, but they were not the only ones. In fact, in a survey, the inhabitants of Kraków indicated that it was their favourite attraction. In the belly of the earth, the temperature is almost always constant, so a visit in January is a good idea.

Check out how to get to Wieliczka but my recommendation is to book an excursion to the Wieliczka Mines, as an expert guide will accompany you all the way, explaining the historical anecdotes. In addition, you will see sights that cannot be found above ground: salt lakes and beautiful underground chambers, including the unique St. Kinga's Chapel, the largest church in the world built 101 metres underground made exclusively of rock salt.

This place of worship is dedicated to St. Kinga, the patron saint of miners. Tomasz Markowski sculpted the main altar, whose panels depict the figures of St Joseph, St Clement and St Kinga. The Polish artist also sculpted the side altars depicting Herod's decree, the massacre of the Innocents and a statue of the Virgin of Lourdes.

Book a trip to the Wieliczka Mines

3. Admire Krakow from a different perspective

Skalka| ©Mach240390
Skalka| ©Mach240390

When the temperatures drop, there is a good alternative to seeing the city's sights in the cold. Naturally, we're talking about booking a cruise on the Vistula River, which will give you the chance to see Kraków's skyline from comfortable seats. The cruises depart from the river port of bulwar Czerwieński and after an hour on the Vistula, return to the starting point. On the way you can see the following attractions:

  • Skalka, a Baroque church in the vicinity of the Kazimierz district.
  • Wawel Hill with its castle and cathedral.
  • The Monastery of the Norbertine Sisters, the largest religious complex in Krakow. If you are interested in religious architecture, I recommend the post about 10 must-see churches in Krakow.
  • The Cricoteka Museum, an art documentation centre founded by Tadeusz Kantor in 1980.
  • Dębniki, a peaceful neighbourhood on the banks of the Vistula.
  • The futuristic Manggha Museum which houses an immense collection of Japanese art.
  • Kosciuszko Mound, an artificial hill commemorating the national hero Tadeusz Koszciuszko.

Book a cruise on the Vistula River

4. Test yourself on the slopes of Zakopane

Zakopane Sky Slopes| ©Sende
Zakopane Sky Slopes| ©Sende

In recent years, Poland has become a popular destination for skiing enthusiasts. Resorts and slopes are much improved and the price of a day pass is less than half of what you'd pay in Austria or France. Forget the long Alpine and Pyrenean slopes - they tend to be shorter here, but this weakness can be a strength, especially if you're learning to ski.

If you're staying in Kraków, the nearest destination is Zakopane, a village in the foothills of the Tatra Mountains. The first travellers began arriving in the late 18th century and the construction of a railway in 1898 accelerated the conversion of this small mountain town into a renowned tourist destination. Today, it is the winter capital of Poland and has three ski areas:

  • Kasprowy Wierch (alpine high altitude skiing 3 km from the centre).
  • Nosal (with a slope for Special Slalom and Giant Slalom).
  • Gubalowka hill. After a day in the snow, you can go shopping on Krupowki Street or try a typical grzaniec, mulled wine with spices and honey.

Book an excursion to Zakopane. It is about 85 kilometres from Kraków and is the most convenient way to get there and make the most of the day. For more details, I recommend reading the article the best tours and excursions from Krakow.

Book an excursion to Zakopane

5. Take a break in a traditional coffee house

Café Noworolski| ©Cancre
Café Noworolski| ©Cancre

Visiting Northern Europe in winter is a great way to get an insight into local customs and traditions. In Poland, for example, people like to spend their afternoons in cafés drinking hot chocolate or a cup of tea, perhaps with a slice of cake.

In Kraków, the café culture dates back to the 19th century when the city was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Viennese-style establishments were frequented by the intellectual elite. This custom survived communism and is still alive today. If you are interested in gastronomy, I recommend you to read the post about the best restaurants in Krakow or even book a gastronomic tour of Krakow.

There are dozens of bars in Krakow where you can warm up after a stroll through the centre. Read on, we have prepared a short list of the best options available:


Opened in 1910, Café Noworolski has witnessed some of Kraków's most important historical landmarks. The young Lenin used to read newspapers in its art nouveau salons and during the Second World War it was used as headquarters by German troops. If you close your eyes you can imagine a picture of the Polish city during the Belle Époque.

  • Address: ul. Rynek Glowny 1 Sukiennice.
  • Recommended for a slice of cake with a view of the Main Square and St. Mary's Basilica.

Nowa Prowincja

The favourite place of poets and composers. It's worth a stop at Nowa Prowincja for its thick hot chocolate. You can also opt for a glass of spiced wine.

  • Address: Bracka 3, do 5.
  • Recommended for dessert lovers. Besides chocolate, Nowa Prowincja is known for its lemon meringue pie, szarlotka (apple pie) and cheesecake.

Jama Michalika

The oldest café in Kraków. Founded in 1895, the Jama Michalika still offers a traditional menu covering all meals of the day, from breakfast to dinner. Although frequented by many tourists, it is still a must-visit stop.

  • Address: ul. Florianska 45.
  • Recommended for lovers of Modernism. Młoda Polska, the Art Nouveau movement in Poland, was born in this very establishment. Leading artists of the time placed their creations on the walls.

Book a gastronomic tour of Kraków

6. Enjoy a carriage ride

Carriage ride in Krakow| ©Buffy1982
Carriage ride in Krakow| ©Buffy1982

When snow covers trees and meadows, nature takes on a magical touch. Around Kraków, the forests turn white every winter and a good way to enjoy this scenery is with a horse-drawn carriage ride. An interesting option is the Ojców National Park, the smallest natural area in the country and yet one of the best.

If you book an excursion to the Ojców National Park, you will get to know a territory characterised by steep slopes, rock formations and, above all, 400 caves. Horseback riding tours take you to the most beautiful spots in the National Park, such as the ruins of Kazimierz Castle. At the end of the ride, most experiences end with a bonfire where kielbasa, Polish sausages flavoured with garlic, juniper and marjoram, are roasted.

The walks last about an hour and prices depend on the number of people in the group. These tours are very popular with tourists and locals, so the organisers speak English and, in some cases, other languages as well.

Book a trip to Ojców National Park

7. Escape the cold in a museum

Visiting the Lotnictwa Polskiego Aviation Museum| ©Daniel Delimata
Visiting the Lotnictwa Polskiego Aviation Museum| ©Daniel Delimata

A visit to a museum is always a good option.

  • If you like planes, the Museum of Polish Aviation (Al. Jana Pawła II 39) is located on the outskirts of Kraków and is a must for any aviation enthusiast.
  • Closer to the centre, another recommended option is MOCAK, Kraków's museum of contemporary art. Founded in 2011 in the post-industrial district of Zablocie, it has become the city's main centre of contemporary culture and is visited by more than 120,000 people every year.
  • And finally, a very interesting proposal is to take a guided tour of Krakow's Rynek underground museum, where you will discover what life was like in an ancient medieval city with a tour guide. To do so, you will walk through no less than 4,000 square metres underground.

Book a visit to the Rynek Underground Museum in Kraków

8. Head to Krzysztofory Palace and enjoy the szopki

Krzysztofory Palace| ©Zetpe0202
Krzysztofory Palace| ©Zetpe0202

One of the most typical Christmas traditions in Kraków is the creation of szopki, unique Christmas cribs. Instead of depicting a typical picture with a grotto, ox, donkey and the family of Jesus, these constructions are inspired by local palaces and churches and often contain the figures of important Polish personalities.

The szopki first appeared in the 13th century and initially served as portable decorations for the jaselka, a medieval puppet theatre. Over time, these plays began to be used for political satire, so much so that in the 18th century they were banned. Fortunately, after a century they were brought out of oblivion.

The szopki are usually made of wood or plywood, while the smaller parts are usually made of cardboard. Nowadays, Cracovians compete with each other to create the most beautiful szopki. If you want to see their creations, the Krzysztofory Palace hosts the best of them. The exhibition starts at the beginning of December and ends at the end of February.

9. Treat yourself to a night at the theatre

Juliusz Słowacki Theatre| ©Jakub Hałun
Juliusz Słowacki Theatre| ©Jakub Hałun

The Juliusz Słowacki Theatre was opened in 1893 and is located in the central Świętego Ducha Square. Designed by Jan Zawiejski, it is one of the most valuable examples of theatre architecture in Europe. Outside, you can appreciate its eclectic style that fuses neo-Renaissance and neo-Baroque elements, while the interiors are decorated with frescoes by the Viennese artist Anton Tuch. Not for nothing was it declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

Tours of the interior only take place in the summer months, but if you travel to the Polish city in January, you can discover it by buying a ticket for the site. The programme is very varied and ranges from traditional to avant-garde performances. If you are interested, you can find all the performances on the official website.

I recommend you buy your tickets well in advance. Spending a night in the theatre is the ideal way to take shelter from the January cold.

10. Mingle with the locals on the ice rinks

Ice skating| ©RichardBH
Ice skating| ©RichardBH

Kraków's ice rinks open in mid-December and close at the end of February.

  • The main one is erected each year in Blonia Park, a vast 48-hectare meadow between the Old Town and the park dedicated to Polish philanthropist Henryk Jordan. Kraków's best ice rink has 1,200 metres of ice, a 360-metre ice path and a space for children to learn how to skate.
  • Outside the centre, you can opt for the ice rink located directly opposite the Nowa Huta Cultural Centre. It has an area of 23 x 35 metres and is open from 1 December until the end of February.

At both rinks, you can rent skates and helmets on site. There are also bars and food trucks with food and hot drinks.

11. Warm up like a real lumberjack

Visiting Axe Nation| ©Rafael Wagner
Visiting Axe Nation| ©Rafael Wagner

Are you familiar with axe throwing? Axe throwing is a sport in which the competitor throws an axe at a target. The discipline was born across the pond and was first cemented by the Canadians. Today, the sport has crossed the ocean and Poland is one of the European countries with the longest tradition.

In Krakow, the axe-throwing venue is called Axe Nation and was born out of the intuition of three enthusiasts: Kacper Jurasz, Karolina Pach and Tomek Pietraszko. The establishment is located at Grodzka Street 46, a five-minute walk from the central Market Square.

Axe Nation was born in 2016 and since then hosts a league that follows the original Canadian rules. The establishment is housed in a 13th-century basement and has three halls and five courts. Upon entering, a coach will explain the basic rules of the sport and give you helpful tips on how to properly throw the weapons.

What to pack for a visit to Krakow in January

Packing| ©Ketut Subiyanto
Packing| ©Ketut Subiyanto

January is usually the coldest month of the year. During the day, the temperature is around 0 degrees Celsius, while at night it can easily reach -7/-10 degrees Celsius. So what should you pack? First of all, it's best to dress in layers. Since you'll have to do some walking, take a warm jumper, a heavy jacket and a winter hat.

Bear in mind that it could snow, so it is advisable to wear waterproof clothing. For more information, I recommend reading the post 10 things to do in Krakow in winter.

Book a tour of Krakow's Old Town