Kraków is a city of history and modernity. It is the second largest city in Poland and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From visiting Oskar Schindler' s factory to taking a gastronomic tour to explore Polish flavours, Krakow offers you the chance to re-encounter history at every turn. Read more about what to see and do in Krakow.
1. Plan your transfer to Krakow from the airport
Airport transfers between the airport and Krakow are a key aspect when arriving in any city, as in some cases local airports are moderate distances from the centre.
In the case of Krakow the distance from the historic centre to John Paul II Krakow-Balice International Airport is approximately 11 kilometres.
You have several alternatives depending on your budget and preferences. If you want to go more comfortably and can afford to pay a little more, opt for private transport that you can use on your own or share with other travellers, public transport or hire your own car on arrival at the terminal.
2. Find accommodation in the historical centre
Krakow is situated in the south of Poland, close to the border with the Czech Republic and has more than 750,000 inhabitants. The heart of the city will be the best place to stay during your trip. Not only will you be closer to the main attractions, such as the Jewish Quarter of Krakow, but you will also be able to enjoy the wonderful architecture.
For despite being the centre of a European city, its architectural organisation makes it an easy city to navigate without the typical chaos of a large metropolis.
3. Choose the best time to visit Krakow
Of course this depends on your availability, but it is always advisable to adjust your schedule to make the most of your destination.
- High season: although you will meet many other travellers, the period from May to September. An ideal time of year, as temperatures are quite pleasant.
- Mid-season: the months of March, April and October offer good weather. In addition, the city will not be so crowded with tourists, so it will be a good time to enjoy it more calmly.
- Low season: November to February. This is a good time to travel if you enjoy the cold, which can be extreme, or if you want to experience Christmas in the Polish style.
Choose your travel season also based on different festivities that connect you to the local culture. June, for example, is the time for Wianki, a colourful event that welcomes summer, when Krakowers gather on the banks of the Vistula River to celebrate the shortest night of the year.
4. Get familiar with the local currency: the złoty.
It is important to take this point into account so that you can easily find your way around Kraków's local shops.
Although Poland is a member of the European Union, its currency is not the euro, but the national currency is the złoty (PLN), with an approximate conversion of 1 euro = 4.54 złoty.
The best advice I can give you, then, is that if you have a travel itinerary already established, take the change in cash for the basic expenses during your stay such as drinks, meals and tips, and pay the rest with a card. But always check with your bank about commissions so you don't get any surprises.
5. Download an app or take a good dictionary with you to help you communicate
Unless you speak Polish and can communicate without a problem, be prepared for some interaction in Kraków. If you speak English, you won't have much trouble, as most of the population is fluent in the language.
Take a dictionary and a translation app with you to help you get by. However, it doesn't hurt to learn a few basic Polish words, which will also be seen as a great gesture of kindness on your part. Here are a few.
- Good morning/afternoon = Dzień dobry
- Good evening = Dobry wieczór
- Please = Proszę
- Thank you = Dziękuję
6. A bit of history before your visit to Kraków
One of the exciting things about cities like Krakow is how inspiring it is to see how they have rebuilt and changed after one of the most harrowing chapters in our history.
For this reason, I believe that visiting Krakow is also a learning experience where you need to show respect and empathy, beyond just enjoying a trendy European destination. So if you visit the city and decide to visit places like the Auschwitz concentration camps, it would be ideal to document what you will see here, because beyond a sightseeing tour, it is an exercise in memory.
Keep in mind that it is not a suitable visit if you are travelling with children or very sensitive people. In this article I tell you more about what to see at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
7. Opt for a guided tour
Krakow is a city with a strong historical background and it is to be expected that you will want to get to know every detail hidden in its streets. For this reason, I advise you to opt for expert guided tours that will give you a deeper insight into the city and its corners.
A guided tour offers you benefits such as:
- Better organise your daily schedule.
- Get to know more details of places that you might miss on your own.
- Meet and connect with other travellers.
In Krakow you can take guided walking tours, best by bike or by electric car. Some of the places you can visit in this alternative are Heroes' Square, Wawel Cathedral, the University of Poland or Sukiennice, the oldest shopping centre in the city.
8. Taste the flavours of the local cuisine
One piece of advice I always like to give travellers is not to be afraid to try the food of the destination they are visiting. Sometimes we are a bit sceptical and prefer to go for what is simple, commercial or what we feel safe with.
But there is nothing more exciting than trying new things and discovering what is behind the gastronomic tradition of the city you are visiting. In Krakow you will find a mix of cultures and flavours such as Slavic, Turkish, Jewish and French gastronomy.
Visit the local market and venture out on a gastronomic tour of the city to try some of the more traditional dishes. Find out more about the best food tours in Krakow here.
9. Organise a daily schedule and don't miss a thing
A recurring question from travellers is how much time they need to get to know Kraków in detail. There are several answers to this question, as it all depends on how much time you have in the city.
My advice is that with a minimum of three days you can discover the city in a comfortable and unhurried way.
In three days and depending on your interests, you can do different things, but I recommend three essential things to do.
- Visit the Wieliczka Salt Mines.
- Take the excursion to Auschwitz.
- Visit Oskar Schindler's factory.
- Visit the Krakow market on a tour of the old town.
In this article you will find more details of an Itinerary to see Krakow in 3 days.
10. Don't forget to visit the attractive surroundings of Kraków
Sometimes we focus on the city and forget about the places that are in the surroundings and that we can visit easily and in a short time. My recommendation is to start in Krakow and leave some time to visit some places with great attractions such as Wroclaw, the Tatra Mountain s or the Ojców National Park.
Find out more about what to see and do around Krakow here.
11. Take advantage of Krakow's free events calendar
Sometimes we focus only on plans created purely for tourists and forget that we are in a city where culture is our daily bread.
Krakow is no exception and with its wealth of history and culture, it won't be difficult to find additional events for you to enjoy the city like a local. A good place for this are the public libraries, where you can find announcements of the cultural agenda, which can include concerts, exhibitions and other free activities to enjoy alone or with the family.
If you're travelling with children, ask about children's events so they can have a great time too and take home a nice souvenir of Kraków.
Here are 10 things to do in Krakow with kids in Krakow.
12. Find out about local ways and customs before your trip
It never hurts to know a little bit about the way of interacting in the place you are visiting. For the sake of respect and travelling camaraderie.
If you arrive from Spain, for example, and are introduced to new people, you're likely to give the traditional two kisses on the cheek. But be careful, as Poles are not used to it and will find it a bit strange.
Just shake their hand and be very friendly. Once you get the hang of it, in Poland you can kiss three times to say hello, as in some parts of Switzerland and France.
Kraków's climate throughout the year
In addition to these tips I've shared with you to help you enjoy your visit to Krakow, it's also important to have some basic facts about the cities you want to visit, such as what weather to expect throughout the year.
Maximum temperatures in Kraków can averageup to 14°C throughout the year, with peaks of up to 26°C in August, so you can expect a very pleasant summer. If you like snow, the snowy season runs from mid-November to mid-March. The snowiest month is January.
Safety in Krakow
Generally speaking, Krakow is a fairly safe city, where you can walk around late at night. I recommend the basics and that is not to fall into the traps designed to deceive tourists.
If you are going to visit museums or specific sites such as the famous Wieliczka Salt Mines, try to book in advance and only through official sites.
I hope this guide will be of great help to you in preparing your trip to this city that will leave you wanting to come back. And if after visiting Krakow, you feel like continuing to explore the magic of Poland, here are the details of how to get from Krakow to Warsaw.