Our long-weekend trip to Krakow didn’t start as a destination itself – we chose it because there was a stand-up show that we wanted to see. Traveling together with another couple, we decided to not only see the show but also discover the attractions, museums, and cafes of Krakow, spending 4 days in the city in total.
The old city of Krakow really surprised us with its size, diverse architecture, and history. In my subjective opinion, Krakow’s old city is more beautiful and interesting than the one in Warsaw. It’s probably because Krakow is the old Polish capital, and the city itself was not destroyed during WWII.
Krakow has lots of museums, churches, narrow streets, good coffee, bars where herring is the new cool thing, and nightlife. Emotionally, the city really grew on us.
Where did we stay?
The four of us rented a 2-room apartment on Airbnb, located basically in the center of Krakow. It took us only a couple of minutes to reach the heart of the old town on foot. It was also convenient and quite cheap to use taxi services (Uber, Bolt) when we wanted to go somewhere further.
Our rented apartment was really clean and neat > https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/33737630
If you’re new to Airbnb, you can get a 30 Euro discount on your first booking registering through this link > https://www.airbnb.com/c/pauliusk28. The discount is valid if your booking is worth 65 Euro or more.
Museums we visited in Krakow
“Wieliczka” salt mine
A well-known rock salt mine next to Krakow started operating in the 14th century but went out of operation in 2007 when the salt resources were over. “Wieliczka” can be visited with a tourist group and a guide. When purchasing the ticket, you can choose the language and the time of the tour (we bought the tickets on the spot). When the time came, together with the guide we went down deep underground. Our guide told us a little bit about the mine and was trying to make some jokes.
Visiting this place really makes you wonder how people used to do this kind of work without electricity or professional equipment that is available nowadays. We were surprised by old wooden constructions which were impregnated with salt and therefore stood really firmly as if they were made out of stone.
This tour, however, had a few downsides. First of all, the place is really touristic. Our guide didn’t tell us anything about how the salt was mined out of the rock, how the work was organized etc. So if you’re keen to know more – the provided information might simply not be enough. After coming back to our apartment, we googled a bit more information about the mine. In general, I think the salt mine is worth visiting but don’t expect to gain too much knowledge from the tour.
Ticket price: 89 PLN / ~20 Euro.
The time needed: a full half-a-day
To most of us, Schindler is best known from the famous Holocaust-themed movie “Schindler’s list”. Long story short, Schindler was a Nazi who had an Enamel factory in Krakow and was employing Jews to work in it. Schindler was taking care of his workers, feeding them and preventing them from being taken to the concentration camps. He is credited with saving approx. 1200 Jews.
Schindler‘s factory museum is founded in the place of the former factory. Any fragments of the factory itself are not present anymore. Instead, different exposition halls are representing the life and conditions of the common people from 1939-1945. Everything starts with nice family pictures, and later the nazi-occupation period is shown. The history of both Jews and Poles is being told.
This museum impressed us with the quality of the expositions and the linear representation of different periods – it really helps to grasp the history better. Schindler‘s factory is highly recommended for those who are interested in WWII history.
We purchased the tickets on the spot. However, if you have a chance to buy them on the website in advance, do it because we had to stand in line for a while.
Ticket price: 24 PLN / ~5-6 Euro.
The time needed: 2-4 hours (depends on how thoroughly you’re going to examine the expositions, different documents, pictures, etc.)
Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow is really close to the Schindler’s factory. It is recommended for those who enjoy contemporary art and non-standard decisions. The exposition contains lots of art pieces that analyze, mock or emphasize different social flaws, feelings, and environmental issues.
Ticket price: 14 PLN/ ~3-4 Euro.
The time needed: 1-2 hours.
Located in the old city, Pharmacy museum occupies 5 stories of an old 15th-century building. Although not very spacious, every store has a rich exposition. Here you can find everything from the old-time alchemy to ancient tools to make pills, first syringes and very weird medicine (according to what we know now, some recipes might look funny or even dangerous).
The museum is really worth visiting for those who love antiques, old packaging and are interested to see how medicine looked like in the past. Expositions are full of not just one, but lots of different examples of everything. Like the rest of Krakow, the Pharmacy Museum is also full of Jewish history. It is dedicated to Tadeusz Pankiewicz who had a pharmacy in the Jewish ghetto during WWII.
Ticket price: 11 PLN / ~2-3 Euro.
The time needed: 1-2 hours (depends on your interest).
We had already visited Auschwitz concentration camp on our previous trip to Zakopane. You can read up on our experiences in the blog post “Traveling in Poland – Auschwitz camp museum”. We decided not to go there the second time, but our friends that traveled together did. It’s a good opportunity to visit Auschwitz while staying in Krakow since the camp is not too far from the city.
Ticket price: ~60 PLN / ~13-14 Euro.
The time needed: it’s a whole day trip from Krakow / the museum itself requires half-a-day
Other museums in Krakow worth visiting (although we didn’t have enough time ourselves)
- Historical Museum of Krakow. Located underground and full of innovative decisions, this museum tells the history of Krakow.
- Executioner Museum. Quite small but interesting museum – that is, if you’re not afraid of violence.
- Polish Aviation Museum. It has a huge outdoor aviation exposition.
- Krakow Pinball Museum. For the real fans of this game.
Attractions to visit in the old town of Krakow
The Wawel hill
An impressive 16th-century palace and Cathedral are located on the Wawel hill. The surroundings here are nicely groomed, you can just sit, relax and admire the views. Lots of noblemen are buried on the hill, such as Jagiełło (Jogaila).
Main market square and hall
A spacious square contains a market hall and lots of cafes, with prices higher than anywhere else. So the square is more suitable for walking around rather than sitting for a beer. The roofed market is quite unique, although the items sold here are not that much – it’s mostly just touristic stuff.
Built in the 15th century, the Barbican is the gate to the old city of Krakow. Nowadays it’s a touristic attraction located in the park surrounding the old city.
St. Mary’s Basilica
This is a very elegant basilica with different towers. From one of them, every hour you can hear the trumpeting (Mary’s hymn). The basilica is located in the market square.
Kazimierz district (former Jewish Quarter)
Strolling around this quarter can be quite interesting – you can explore the narrow streets with Jewish-style signboards. It looks like the area is full of good bars, restaurants and all kinds of action, and not everything is dedicated only to tourists. So if you’re looking for some local experience – try Kazimierz district.
The old city of Krakow is full of beautiful places and buildings that probably don’t even have names. Going wherever your feet take you and discovering different things is probably the best option.
We found a few great places for coffee and breakfast in Krakow. You can also find delicious, good quality home-made ice cream on every corner (or rather ice cream produced by small niche businesses). The ice cream is definitely a must-try in Krakow! Another new discovery was herring – apparently, that’s the new cool thing in some bars. When ordering a beer, you can also take a plate of herring with bread. It’s like a going-out with Christmas Eve dishes.
Handelek (breakfast and coffee)
This cafe has great coffee and a delicious breakfast menu. You can order all kinds of sandwiches here with different spreads, for example, with beetroot and herring.
Wesoła Cafe (coffee and breakfast)
This is a very popular breakfast place with quality coffee and a mouthwatering menu. They provide light lunches as well (salads, wraps), and in the evening you can come here to enjoy a glass of wine.
Bracia Hodurek (ice cream)
Truly delicious and tasty ice cream!
Stara pączkarnia (doughnuts)
This doughnut-chain has a few shops around the city and looks quite popular. The traditional choice here is the doughnut with rose jam, however, there are lots of other options (doughnuts with chocolate, cream, etc.)
Coffeece (a coffee place, close to the Schindler’s factory and Museum of Contemporary Art)
I wouldn’t go to this place specifically, but if you’re somewhere around and are looking to have some coffee – it’s a good small place to sit down and chat with your travel companions about museums you visited.
How to communicate?
English was easy to get by with. The city is full of tourists from different countries, so communication in English is clear and smooth. We didn’t try to communicate in Russian.