The dragon-based legend has created a mythical atmosphere which permeates the streets and squares of one of Poland’s most popular cities. Home to Europe’s largest and most beautiful square Rynek Główny, fantastic cuisine, friendly people, vibrant nightlife and maaany students, Krakow leaves no one indifferent, whether it’s for the city’s attractions, cultural scene or simply the home-like feeling it gives to everyone who visits. If you’re planning a tour of this Polish gem anytime soon, check out all you need to know before you go!
Table of Contents
Getting to Krakow
- Bus: Krakow has one main bus terminal located right in the city center. It has over 100 daily departures both to cities in Poland and 20 other European countries like Germany, Italy, etc.
- Plane: Saint John Paul II International Airport Kraków–Balice is only 11 km from the city center and is well connected to the city.
- Train: Krakow’s main train station is only 1 km northeast of the city center. It is Poland’s first subterranean railway station with five double-track platforms.
MPK S.A. provides services of public transport in Krakow through the network of tram and bus lines, apart from which you can also use a certain number of private-owned minibus lines. One-way ticket for a municipal bus or tram is 3,8 zlotys (0.9€) and is valid for 40 minutes, you can buy it at newsstands and from ticket machines, as well as directly from the driver in some buses, but keep in mind that drivers sell 60-minute tickets for the price of 5 zlotys. You can also buy a 20-minute ticket for 2,8 zlotys or a one-day card for 15 zlotys.
Minibuses run by private companies don’t accept these tickets, and sell their own on board for 2 zlotys.
It is not easy to find a convenient parking place anywhere in the city, so it’s always better to use public transport. However, if you are arriving by car, parking in the city center is Zone C which is paid between 10:00h and 20:00h on weekdays. Parking meters sell 20-minute tickets for 1 zloty, 60-minute tickets for 3 zlotys and 3-hour tickets for 10,6 zlotys. Once you buy the ticket, leave it on view behind the windshield of your parked car. There is a spacious underground parking area beneath Plac Na Groblach square, next to Krakow Sheraton Hotel where one hour costs circa 1€. You can also look for a subterranean parking garage in front of the Krakow National Museum. Zone A is strictly pedestrian district, while Zone B is for pedestrians and police, ambulance, etc.
Old Town – Krakow is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and one of only few that escaped the war destruction. Its Old Town is a protected UNESCO known for one of the most vibrant cultural scenes is home to Europe’s largest square Rynek Główny (over 40 000 metres), dominated by the Cloth Hall (Skiennice), world’s oldest shopping center. You can also see the Gallery of the National Museum, the new Underground Museum and many other market stalls. The historic site is surrounded by the Planty Park, ideal for chilling on fresh air.
Wawel Castle – The mighty Wawel Castle is a symbol of national identity and a former home of the Polish kings and queens. The castle is a combination of Gothic, Rococo, Renaissance and Romanesque architecture and contains five separate sections: Crown Treasury & Armoury, Royal Private Apartments, State Rooms, Exhibition of Oriental Art and Lost Wawel. The number of visits is limited per day to preserve the castle, so all tickets have an exact entry hour. It is open daily from 09:30h to 17:00h.
St. Florian’s Gate – Krakow’s main gate, Floriańska, was built in the late 13th century and from 15th century it has been the official gate to the city on the Royal Route towards the Wawel Castle. Inside the gate there is a small altar of Our Lady of Piasek, while the balcony, arcade and the upstairs chapel were added in the mid-19th century. The popular Floriańska street hosts everything, from souvenir shops to vodka tasting joints, so make sure to have a at least one walk along the street.
Kościuszko Mound – The super-interesting hill of Kościuszko was raised in 1823 to honour the national hero, Tadeusz Kościuszko. Once you climb to the top, you can enjoy fantastic panoramas of the city, while on clear days you can see all the way to Tatra peaks on the south. It is also a place where you can learn about the history of the Polish march to freedom, see memorials to remarkable individuals and a historic 19th-century fort.
Dragon’s Den – Former home of the legendary Wawel Dragon is a must-see knowing that the entire city has been built on a legend about a defeated dragon. The entrance to the cave is next to Baszta Złodziejska, from where you will have a great panorama view over the Vistula River and Krakow’s suburbs. After buying a ticket, descend 130 steps and walk for 70 m through the damp interior only to emerge onto the bank of Vistula, next to a status of fire-spitting bronze dragon, the work of sculptor Bronisław Chromy.
Barbikan – Built at the end of the 15th century, the Barbican is connected to the aforementioned Floriańska Gate via a drawbridge over a moat which surrounded it. The Gothic Barbikan is topped by seven turrets and includes not less than 130 defensive slots used by the army men. Today the site is used for various events and can be visited as an outdoor museum in the period from April to October.
Zakrzówek – A hidden lagoon in an old mined quarry is actually so hidden that some people stink think it’s a myth. Surrounded by the sheer limestone cliffs and greenery, the lake is blessed with incredible natural beauty, and it is extremely popular during summer as people come to swim, sunbathe and hangout and even jump off the steep cliffs.
Krakus Mound – Krakow’s oldest structure is one of two prehistoric monumental mounts in the city and its highest point offering fantastic panoramic views from its 16-metre high peak. The mound is surrounded by the cliffs of Krzemionki, the green rolling fields of Płaszów, the grim Liban quarry and the Podgórze cemetery, so take a detour and enjoy the peacefulness.
Bagry Lagoon – Nestled in the Płaszów district only 5 km from the Old Town, the artificial lake is very popular for swimming, sailing and other water sports. The site features 3 beaches monitored by lifeguards on duty from June to August. It also has a children’s playground, sailboat, pedalo, canoe and kayak rental.
Botanical Garden – Spreading on almost 10 hectares, the country’s oldest botanical gardens date back to 1783 and provide home to over 6 000 plant species. Flora-filled paths, fountains, herb and rose gardens, ponds and a 250-year-old oak tree is something you must see, but keep in mind that it is a seasonal attraction, closed from mid-October until mid-April.
Krakow Zoo – Opened in 1829, Krakowski Ogrod Zoologiczny accommodates over 1400 animals representing 285 species. Its highlights include wild cats, white camel, pygmy hippoportamus and much more. It is a perfect activity for families traveling with children, which can enjoy several facilities in the park for the price of 18 zlotys per ticket.
Auschwitz Birkenau – A former Nazi concentration camp founded in World War II is a must-see destination for anyone who’s interested in history. Although it is quite disturbing and depressing image, it is important to learn about this horrific time in Europe’s recent history. The site is home to a large State Museum as well, so you can see where captives lived, worked and died under the Nazi regime.
Ogrodzieniec Castle – Although in ruin, the castle is still a beautiful site of interesting history. It was built in the 14th century on top of a large hill, a location ideal for sweeping view over the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland. Swedish occupation in the 17th century partly destroyed the castle which plays a big role in many legends and myths in Polish culture. See the castle’s remains, enjoy the views and check out the remains of the torture chamber.
Ojcow National Park – Despite being the smallest national park in Poland, the park named after the town and castle ruins in Ojcow is a popular spot for its rich wildlife where you can see beavers, bats, badgers and more than 100 bird species. There are also few castles nearby, such as Gothic and Renaissance castles.
Zakopane – The destination is a winter wonderland and one of the most popular ski destination in this part of Europe. Nestled in the heart of the Tatra Mountains, the city is famous for its beautiful wooden villas dating from the 19th century, some of which house museums and others have been turned to hotels or have remained private properties. You can go hiking or do some shopping along the Krupówki promenade as well.
Tarnow – The beautiful city of Tarnow is proud of its charming medieval town square situated in its heart along with many building dating back to the 14th century. The most important building on the square is the Town Hall where you can see a great collection of Polish armor and beautiful paintings of Polish artists. Don’t miss out on several historic Jewish sites and three traditional wooden churches too.
Wieliczka Salt Mine – Visit the city of Wieliczka to come across its highlight – salt mines and related museum. This otherworldly experience is unlike any other salt mine on the planet, as you will be able to see churches and ballrooms carved from salt while walking down the underground saline corridors. You can also spend the night there in beautifully decorated rooms.
According to the urban legend, Krakow has the highest density of bars in the world. Without any exaggeration, hundreds of bars can be found in cellars and stretching from the Old Town to Kazimierz and further on. Thanks to tourists which come in bigger number each year, prices are not that cheap as they used to be (but still much cheaper than in European cities), but at least they don’t close until there are people drinking inside. Whether you’re interested in pubs or clubs, Krakow has it all, so listen up! When it comes to more relaxing atmosphere in pubs, the best places to go to are Piec Art with awesome beer offer, Boogie Bar and Shakers Club popular among locals, or Budda Drink and Garden where students love to meet. Other cool pubs are House of Beer, Omerta Pub and Propaganda. After few drinks you will probably want to dance the night away, so we recommend you Frantic with two dance rooms, Goraczka with most popular dance hits, Rdza that offers drum and bass performances, Kitsch – Push, Shine, Cocon or simply ask a local, he’ll tell you where to go.
There is a reason why Krakow has a reputation of one of the best shopping places in Poland. It is a city where you can find a variety of great products at very affordable prices, so let’s start. The top shopping areas are the open air market on Plac Nowy, ulica Jozefa or the Cloth Hall on the main square. Stroll along Florianska Street, Szewska Street, Grodzka Street, or Slawkowska Street as well. These are the perfect places to bargain for unique, home-made products and crafts. If you’re looking for a shopping mall, visit Galeria Krakowska, Pasaz 13 or Galeria Kazimierz.
The official currency in Poland is złoty, so make sure to have some when you arrive. Euros are generally not accepted, but you can always pay with a credit card in case you ran out of cash. There are ATMs all over the city and they offer services in few European languages. If you need to exchange money, don’t do it at the airport as there are unfavorable exchange rates, so head to one of the smaller exchange bureaus called ‘kantor’, located in city center, hotels, train station and shopping malls. But keep in mind that they usually accept only major European currencies like dollar, pound, franc or koruna.
- Common EU emergency number: + 48 112
- Ambulance: + 48 999
- SP ZOZ Szpital Uniwersytecki w Krakowie: +48 12 424 70 00
- Emergency Line (for foreigners only in the summer season): +48 608 599 999, +48 800 200 300
- +48 222 787 777, +48 608 599 999
- Local police: +48 997
- Municipal police: + 48 986
Tourist Information Center
- Cloth Hall (Sukiennice), Rynku Glowny, +48 124337310
- Wyspianski Pavillon, 2 Plac Wszystkich Swietych square, +48 126161886
- Tourist Information Center, 2 Sw. Jana street, +48 124217787
- Tourist Service Centre, 11 Powisle street, +48 124175812
Tourist Information Center, 25 Szpitalna street, +48 124320110