Krakow is one of the most amazing cities in Poland. It’s remarkably well-preserved, its history goes back over 1,000 years, and the food! It has to be one of the best-kept foodie secrets in Europe. Whether you’re planning a trip to Krakow already or just curious about it, here are the top 10 things to do when you get there!
10. Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny)
This is one of the largest main squares in all of Poland, and one of the most recognizable. Take a walk through the shops inside Cloth Hall, and go to the rooftop restaurant while you’re there. Go up in the Town Hall Tower, visit St. Adalbert’s Church, go inside St. Mary’s, listen for the Bugler each hour from the Bugle Tower! Very often, you’ll find market stalls in the open space next to Cloth Hall. There will almost always be birds taking over the fountain on the other side. Best of all, there is no shortage of restaurants with outdoor seating here. It’s one of the most pleasant places to enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
More here: What to Know Before You Visit Krakow, Poland
9. Tour the Barbican
Built in 1498, this historic city gate is one of the oldest surviving parts of the city’s system of fortifications, and you can tour the inside. There is information on the inner walls to tell you about the history of the Barbican and its role in keeping the city safe over the years, but the real fun is going up to walk around the top of the Barbican. It was built with views in mind, but for a different purpose than we enjoy views today! Also note that your ticket for the Barbican is also good for access to the Florian Gate and City Walls.
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8. St. Florian Gate
The Florian Gate is the main gate into Old City Krakow. In fact, it’s older than the Barbican! It was first mentioned in writing in the year 1307, and it’s well worth your time to climb the stairs to the walkway on top of the wall. Not only will you get the view, you can also visit the small chapel up there. Don’t forget that admission to the Barbican also includes admission to the Florian Gate!
Also helpful: Your Guide to Train Travel in Poland
7. Church of St. Adalbert and Museum
This completely adorable little church looks sort of randomly placed in the Main Market Square, but its history goes back nearly 1,000 years. It’s super tiny, and its primary purpose is for prayer, not tourism, but as long as you’re quiet and stay in the back, feel free to go inside. The ceiling is beautifully painted. While you’re here, be sure to also visit the museum underneath the church. You will be able to literally see the layers of history going back 1,000 years, and get a little sneak peek at Krakow’s history in the exhibits down there.
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6. Go to the Top of Town Hall Tower
The tower you see in the middle of the Rynek Glowny is the Town Hall Tower, and it’s been there since the 14th century. There was once a proper Town Hall attached, similar to those you’d see in other Polish towns, but it was demolished in 1820 to open up Market Square. I know, it hurts my history-loving heart, too! But you can go up into the tower as it stands today and get the view of Krakow from above. There are also a few exhibits and artifacts to see inside, so don’t skip it!
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5. Wawel Castle
No trip to Krakow is complete without a visit to Wawel Castle! You can explore the grounds for free, but tickets are required for entry into their many (many) exhibits. You can choose the exhibits you want to visit, but keep in mind that tickets are timed, so it’s best to arrive soon after opening to get the tickets and times you want. The castle is a bit of a mish-mash of styles from over its 1,000+ year history. Be sure to take in the views while you’re up there as well!
4. Find the Fire-breathing Dragon
This was a delight on my first trip to Krakow, and it was a delight again when I went back with my husband! The Wawel Dragon has become a symbol of the city, and he can be found just behind Wawel Castle, on the riverfront. He breathes fire at regular intervals, but unfortunately for us, he was either not working or he was turned off because of the August heat warnings during our visit. I did get to see him breathe fire on my first trip, however, and I hope you can, too!
3. Tour the Jewish Quarter
Kazimirez, Krakow’s historic Jewish Quarter, is a must-visit. You can take a walking tour of the neighborhood and former ghetto, which I highly recommend if you are interested in World War II history, or if you just want to learn more about it. There are only around 140 Jews currently living in Krakow, but Kazimirez is still the place to go to visit synagogues, see important historical Jewish sites, and even have an authentic Jewish meal. Just make sure you visit any day except Saturday, which is Shabbat, so that the sites you want to see will be open.
2. Eat at a Michelin Starred Restaurant
So, Steve and I have traveled to scores of countries, but we had never eaten at a Michelin starred restaurant until our recent trip to Krakow! We now understand the hype. There are many such restaurants around the Old City, some of which have multiple stars, in fact. We ate two of the best meals of our lives at Kogel Mogel and Szara Ges, both Polish restaurants, and we cannot recommend them enough. Pro tip: Save room for dessert!
(Coming soon) Essential info: The Best Places to Eat in Krakow, Poland
1. St. Mary’s Basilica & Bugle Tower
This was the highlight of my day! My husband and I both like to get a bird’s eye view of the cities we visit, and old cities always have a tall tower for just that purpose. The Bugle Tower at St. Mary’s has 271 steps to the top (no elevator), so come ready for a bit of a workout. Every hour, the official bugler plays to the north, south, east, and west from the tower. He plays the same song, which was once used to alert the town of attack. Visitors are not allowed into the tower while he’s playing (timed tickets can be purchased at the St. Mary’s ticket office–reserve early!), but if you’re lucky, the bugler may come out to say hello while you’re up there between his duties!
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