Krakow might be Poland’s second largest city, but in terms of culture, Krakow is very much the capital. There’s evidence that the city has been around since 20,000 BC, and there’s a delightful local myth that the city was built on the site where a dragon was slain.
As the political capital of Poland for 500 years, you can expect to see a city filled to the brim with castles, cobbled alleys and a unique mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. These buildings miraculously survived World War II. Considering much of the architecture and styles have had to be rebuilt in most cities in Eastern Europe, the fact that these buildings in Krakow are so well-preserved makes it not just unique to Poland, but to the whole of Europe.
This includes the UNESCO heritage site Old Town, which is punctuated with a series of huge medieval squares, some of the biggest in Europe. These ancient squares are generally full of locals sampling the hugely underrated Polish beer (just ask a Cracovian). And that’s where the nightlife begins! With a number of popular nightclubs and all-night bars - you’ll want to make sure you bring your dancing shoes to Krakow.
With cold winters and warm summers, you would think there would be a best time to visit, but the city looks so beautiful whether it’s marked with snow or has the sun filtering through the church steeples - this city is a must-see all year round.
So, if it’s museum hunting and castle touring you’re looking for, or perhaps you simply want to escape for a few nights of fun and immerse yourself in Polish culture, we think you’ll love Krakow. We do.
In District 1, on the left bank of the Vistula River is where you will find the historic Wawel district (pronounced ‘vah-vel’). It has been at the centre of Poland’s history since at least 400AD and is where most of the city’s main attractions are. The Royal Castle and Wawel Cathedral are a must, but it might just be the view across the river you find the most impressive.
Old Town District
Also found in District 1 is the Old Town (or Stare Miasto). Look no further if you want to explore Krakow’s rich historic architecture and famous medieval squares. The most impressive of which is Rynek Glówny, the largest town square in Europe, which encompasses most of this district. But make sure not to miss St. Mary’s Basilica or the palatial Sukiennice Hall.
On the south-eastern side of the Old Town you’ll find the old Jewish Quarter. This part of Krakow was where Schindler’s List was filmed in 1993 and is filled with grand Jewish Synagogues. It is now also home to the trendier pubs and bars in Krakow, around the New Square (or Plac Nowy).
Cycle along the river
Renting a bicycle is easy to do in Krakow, and once you do, you should head to the Tyniec Abbey. About ten kilometres from the Old Town, this idyllic ride along the Vistula River will get you there in no time – and there are even restaurants along the way! With no steep hills and easy-to-spot bike paths, this can be either a solo journey or a family one.
At the journey’s end you’ll make it to the beautiful Abbey, set against the forested river’s edge, built into a jut of rock – and still filled with practicing monks!
Perched above the city, overlooking the Vistula River is the UNESCO World Heritage site, Wawel Castle. A 14th century complex, Wawel Castle has been completely preserved. One of the most important historical buildings in Poland, the Castle grounds include an array of fascinating architecture, from halls and churches to state apartments and grand courtyards. And you won’t want to miss the views of the city below.
Oskar Schindler’s Factory
Visit the original factory, which was not just the historical setting but also the actual location they filmed Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film, Schindler’s List. It hosts two not-to-be-missed museums, one about the Nazi occupation and one featuring the work of contemporary Polish and Eastern European artists.
Krakow has a traditional Polish eating schedule, with a big breakfast in the morning, followed by a late lunch (around 3-4pm) and a light dinner (7-8pm), but don’t let that stop you trying as much of the cuisine as you can.
The most traditional dish you will find in Krakow is the obwarzanek, a delicious, round braided bread, somewhat similar to a bagel. Other traditional Polish foods to try are zurek, a sour and creamy soup, barszcz, a savoury beetroot soup, and of course pierogi, Polish dumplings, which come in all shapes and sizes. And if you get a chance, don’t miss the Pierogi Festival in September!
The restaurants in Krakow tend to serve some kind of variation on traditional Polish food, but often with some modern surprises for those willing to spend a little extra.
A visit to Krakow isn’t complete without sampling the street food zapiekanka, which is an open baguette with baked toppings, which you can get until the early hours of the morning if you need some late night sustenance to keep you going.
Krakow holidays are made for tourists from all walks of life, from party animals to families. With day trips into the Polish countryside as well as world-class spas, World War II museums and attractions, annual festivals, and of course the ever-thriving nightlife, this is a vibrant and beautiful place to visit year-round.
Booking your holiday to Krakow with easyJet holidays is the best way to get to this must-see destination hassle-free. Best of all, you can save on your holiday when you book your flight and hotel together with easyJet holidays.
Krakow not quite sealing the deal? Have a read of our other city break destination guides for further inspiration and temptation!