Krakow is a popular destination among those seeking city break excitement, and the city's medieval aesthetic, modern flair and communist past make it a truly interesting place.
Holidays in Krakow
There are lots of reasons why Krakow is one of the best Polish tourist destinations. From the extraordinarily pretty Main Market Square (also Europe's largest) to the gigantic ramparts of Wawel Castle, there's all sorts of great places to discover. If you're one of those people that thrives on places that ooze atmosphere and have plenty of stories to tell, make sure you visit Krakow at least once.
With tons of prettily decorated churches, ancient buildings, elegant terraces and winding cobbled streets, Krakow is certainly a sightseer's paradise, but there's more to this city than learning and taking snaps. Throughout the city's old town, visitors can take advantage of a brilliant array of nightlife opportunities, sample Polish cuisine, and enjoy local brews.
What's more, there's loads by the way of greenery, shopping and architecture too, so hire a bicycle, throw away your itinerary and discover Krakow on the fly – you won't be disappointed!
With a mix of cold, dry Eastern European weather and warmer, wetter West European conditions, Krakow's weather depends heavily on the seasons. From November to March, the mercury often drops below zero as snow falls in the city, while spring and summer are warm and sunny. Heavy showers are most common in June and August, although heat waves are just as common during these months.
It's a good idea to check what the weather's going to be like the week before you visit, as changing conditions are a hallmark of the Krakow region.
Things to do on holiday in Krakow
You won't be stuck for things to do when you visit the quintessential Polish city – here are just some of the things you'll want to experience.
If you fall head over heels with cities that are beautiful and atmospheric, you'll find lots to do in Krakow. The city's Old Town and Kazimierz districts were both added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1978, owing to their amazing buildings that date back long into history with medieval and 16th century architecture aplenty.
Any building-lover's trip should include visits to Wawel Castle, which was the seat of Polish royalty for centuries, and Sukiennice, the enormous building in the centre of the town hall that was built in the 1500s during the Renaissance. There are also long stretches of the city's medieval walls to marvel at, a number of palaces, and all kinds of religious buildings, from synagogues, to churches, to monasteries.
The streets of Krakow are steeped in stories stretching back millennia. Myth has it that city was built atop the cave of the dragon that the legendary Polish King Krak had slayed, and although this might not be completely true, people have been living in the area since 20,000BC, and the town received its first mention in 966AD.
Since then, the city has played an integral part in Polish history, being the capital of the country for centuries through Tatar invasions, Mongol attacks, the Renaissance and various periods of occupation, and today there are many museums visitors can visit to learn more about the city. Oskar Schindler's Factory, the Galacia Jewish Museum, the Ethnographic Museum and the Polish Aviation Museum are just a few examples of the museums to be found in the city – take a wander and see which you discover.
As you might expect from one of Poland's top cities, there's lots by the way of culture to be found in Krakow. There are lots of art galleries to explore, from the slick modern art and mixed-media showcases of the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art to the bright and illuminated world of the Stained Glass Museum, as well as lots of smaller galleries and arts spaces dotted throughout the city.
There's also the much-loved Krakow Opera House, theatres and numerous cinemas too, and most months Krakow plays host to a festival of some variety, including the Lajkonik parade, St Stanislaw's Procession the Christmas Market – perfect for unwinding during the city's freezing winter months.
Urban legend has it that Krakow has one of the highest densities of bars in the world. Particularly in the Old Town and Kazimierz zones of the city, visitors can find all sorts of watering holes, from cellar pubs to bars operating out of pretty, green courtyards. The vast majority of these establishments have a one-of-a-kind character, with Alchemia, the Bunkier Café and Weźże Krafta being some of the most interesting. As a side note, if you love ale, Krakow really is paradise.
Thanks to the 120,000 students that call the city home, there are all sorts of clubs to visit later at night. Baroque, Bacarat, Frantic and Hush Live are all worth a visit – just follow the bright lights!
Even if you've not yet experienced Polish cuisine, you're certain to find something to suit your tastes in Krakow. Budget eats can be found at the very popular Przystanek Piergarnia, which is home to some of the best Eastern European dumplings (pierogi) in the city, while rich, warming and totally delicious Central European dishes can be lapped up at the Introligatornia Smaku Restaurant.
For more upmarket dinners, the Restauracja Starka is a great choice, even having its own enormous range of homemade vodkas for a little after-dinner tipple, and Bianca, whose meals look as beautiful on the plate as they taste. Lastly, for a meal in a perfect setting, the Cyrano de Bergerac's vaulted ceilings are the perfect accompaniment to the delicious dishes on the menu.