The city of Krakow is a beautiful mix of old and new, as well as history and culture. If you only have one day to discover this fascinating Polish city, make the most of it with these local tips from our Krakow tour guides, packed full of adventure and local know-how for making the most of a mere 24 hours in Krakow.
Start the day early and walk along the Vistula River, taking in the views (be sure to snap a classic photo at the monument of the Dragon, which is the beloved symbol for the city of Krakow). In the mornings, there are practically no people here, which means the beautiful view is all for you. You can grab a nice and reasonably cheap Polish-style breakfast in the Pod Wawelem hotel, which has a small restaurant and terrace with a panoramic view.
After you’ve eaten, climb nearby Wawel Hill, and visit the romantic courtyard of Wawel Castle. Enter the Wawel Cathedral as close to 9am as possible, just as it opens — that way you’ll beat the tourist groups that flood here each day.
Walk down Wawel Hill towards the Kazimierz district (it’ll take you about 15 minutes). In the past this was a separated part of the city, but now is a popular district with both Catholic and Jewish monuments (it’s also the site of our Changing Faces of Kazimierz private tour, if you wanted to hop on that later in the day!). See the beautiful Temple Synagogue at 24 Miodowa Street, then walk another five minutes to 12 Josef Street, to see the place when Spielberg filmed some scenes from Schindler’s List.
Grab a fresh coffee and something sweet in the courtyard of Mleczarnia Garden or walk a bit further for a short break in one of hundreds of spots around Plac Nowy (New Square). For some suggestions, try French-style Kolory or mysterious Alchemia — you will not be disappointed as they both have interesting interiors and good coffee.
Walk towards Szeroka Street, heart of the old Jewish Quarter, which is full of historical buildings and Jewish-style restaurants. Make sure that while you’re here you visit the renaissance Remuh synagogue and cemetery, and you stop to contemplate the story of Helena Rubinstein, the famous Queen of Cosmetics and Lady of Beauty who was born in a small green building situated just in front of the synagogue.
Take a short walk towards Wolnica Square to see a hidden monument of three musicians and have a typical Polish lunch in the local restaurant Marchewka z Groszkiem (Carrots with Peas), situated at the corner of the market at 2 Mostowa Street. The best choice would be their extraordinary carrot and pea soup and pierogi (of course!).
Take a stroll along the lovely Kladka Bernatka pedestrian bridge and have a coffee or local beer in one of many alternative small bars visible on both side. Have a look at the Main Square of Podgórze district, where you will find the interesting St. Josef church and a pretty local park where it is possible to have a nice rest or picnic among the old trees and limestone rocks.
Take a tram to the city centre and get off at the tram stop called ‘Basztowa LOT,’ then head to the Stary Kleparz food market. It’s the perfect place to get a peek into local life as the residents around you shop for fresh produce, cheeses and other delicious treats — keep your camera handy for great shots of colourful stalls full of fruit and vegetables.
Check out the round, red brick building called Barbacan, then go through St. Florian’s Gate to find yourself very close to the Main Square, where you should be at the exact hour to listen to the trumpeter who plays from the highest tower of St. Mary’s Basilica, a special signal called hejnal to commemorate a legendary victory over the Mongols in the 13th century. This place is always busy, but around 2pm to 4pm there are fewer people, so enjoy visiting the most important monuments like the Basilica inside and the Cloth Hall, a huge local market where you can buy all the souvenirs you need.
Next, go to the Collegium Maius (15 Jagiellonska Street), the oldest building of Jagiellonian University. Visit the monument dedicated to its most famous student, Nicolas Copernicus, at the Collegium Novum nearby and take a deep breath in the beautiful Planty park — a green ring created on the site of the city’s medieval fortifications.
Of course, you could also hop on our Royal Krakow tour, which takes you along the Royal Route and to see the landmarks of Old Town!
After some rest, have an aperitif in Bonobo Café (4 Maly Rynek), where delicious craft beers and a big selection of Polish vodkas are available. After that, head out for a typical Polish dinner at U Babci Maliny (38 Szpitalna Street). For some late-night fun, you can go to the dance and gym studio Kontakt at 40 Szpitalna Street, where you will be sure to find friendly locals and expats who would love to chat and dance the tango (yes, the tango!) with you in one of the many secret places around the city.
Or you could go see a movie in one of the many centrally located cinemas. All the movies are in their original languages with Polish subtitles, so don’t worry about not following along. The Kino Pod Baranami theatre is a great choice as it has very friendly stuff and ambitious line-ups year round.
Another option for an unforgettable night in Krakow is to head back to the Kazimierz district, known for its nightlife, and spend the rest of the evening roaming local bars, talking to people and dancing. If you feel hungry at some point, don’t miss the excellent smoked sausages and fresh rolls with mustard served right on the street directly out of an old blue communist van at the busy market place Hala Targowa, located between Kazimierz and Old Town.
If you can’t manage a full 24 hours in Krakow, you can still see the sites within a quick few hours on a stopover — thanks to a fast train line that connects the main railway station and the city centre of Krakow, you’ll only need about four hours total to get from the airport into the city, see some sites and then head back for your airline’s check-in. The train runs every 30 minutes, but we recommend counting on one hour one way, just to be sure. Don’t bother with private cars or taxis, as frequent heavy traffic will hold you up, and the train is much faster.
If you’re in Krakow on a morning or afternoon layover, head to Wawel Hill with its famous royal monuments — it is the place where the heart of all of Poland beats. Visit the monument of the Dragon at the Vistula River, then climb Wawel Hill for outstanding panoramic views and great photo opportunities. Visit the romantic courtyard of the Wawel Castle and enter the Wawel Cathedral to see the coronation place and royal necropolis. You’ll need about an hour to 90 minutes to see the sites.
If your trip has you on an evening or nighttime layover in Krakow, then head to the Kazimierz district, home to lots of Jewish monuments and artistic soul. Kazimierz is the former Jewish quarter of Krakow, where every single home and building has its own fascinating story to tell. It’s a unique neighbourhood where the old and new coexist, where art galleries and cafes share equal space with monuments of Jewish culture. Synagogues and cultural centres stand side-by-side with charming bars and restaurants, while Jewish original inscriptions meet with modern murals, and traditional kosher food can be found alongside Indian or Mexican food trucks. You’ll need about 90 minutes to two hours to get the proper Kazimierz experience.
Walking through Krakow is like strolling through your very own open air museum. Around every corner you’ll find something of interest, whether it be a beautiful building or a cool food truck selling traditional Polish fare. Get to know the local way of life in this gorgeous city on a Krakow tour filled with history, culture, food, and even a bit of local lingo if you’re looking to learn it!