The petite city of Krakow in Poland is enticing more and more Brits to visit—it’s become something of a stalwart in the Christmas market tourism scene. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a visit here!
Currency: Polish zloty
Flight time: Two hours and 25 minutes (from London airports)
Average cost of a pint: €3.50 (in the city centre)
At over 10 acres, Rynek Glowny is the world’s largest medieval town square, and is the central hub of the city. It is home to some of Krakow’s most iconic buildings, from the 14th-century St Mary’s Basilica to the Renaissance era Cloth Hall. When you’re not soaking up the history, restaurants and bars line the square and are a great spot for people watching.
St Mary’s Basilica
Entry Fee: £3 for adults
St Mary’s Basilica is perhaps Krakow’s most-famous building and dating all the way back to the 14th century, has been for quite some time. Outside, the two mismatched towers draw the eye, while inside, the ceiling painted with twinkling stars steals the show.
Wawel Royal Castle
The Wawel Royal Castle has a complicated past: not only was it home to Poland’s kings, but it was also the headquarters for the Nazis in World War II. When they left, the castle remained intact and much of it has now been restored to its former glory. There are five museums here, and access to each is paid for separately. The state rooms and crown treasury are popular choices for those looking to visit just a few of the museums.
Entry fee: £12 for a guided tour in English
Schindler’s story was made famous by Spielberg, and yet, this museum at his former enamel factory brings the story of the Jewish workers here to life in a way that even the film could not. It’s not just Schindler and his workers who are commemorated here either, the museum tells the story of Krakow’s occupation, showing just how swiftly things changed.
Entry fee: £18 for a guided tour
Visiting the concentration and extermination camp at Auschwitz is a harrowing experience, and yet, it’s also an incredibly important one. The tours here are carefully and conscientiously curated to tell the story of what happened here, without being too gratuitous.
Auschwitz is 40 miles outside of Krakow, but there are a number of trains running between Krakow main station and Oświęcim, from which it’s a 20-minute walk away.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Entry fee: £25
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is absolutely vast—it winds underground for over 240 kilometres and is a real subterranean world, one that was worked continuously for over 700 years. Visitors here can only see a tiny portion of this former salt mine, and yet even then it feels sprawling. You won’t just see the former quarries and tunnels, but also a salty underground lake and a chapel carved entirely of this much-loved mineral.
What to Eat
Krakow’s foodie scene is both satisfying and wallet-friendly. You’ll find smoked cheeses, hearty stuffed dumplings and stews, all at prices that we could only dream of in London.
This may look like a doughy concoction, but it’s actually a smoked sheep’s cheese made solely in the Polish mountains. It’s often served with a cranberry jam, which cuts through that rich smoky taste.
Where to eat it: Plac Imbramowski and Hala Targowa market
These stuffed dumplings are popular across Poland, with fillings including everything from the traditional cheese and potato, to sauerkraut and ground meat. These are usually served with sour cream and crispy onions.
Bigos is a great accompaniment to those cold winter days. It’s a hearty stew made with chopped meat, sauerkraut, cabbage and spices, and is often served up with hearty chunks of bread.
Krakow has its very own sausage—a smoked pork number seasoned with coriander, garlic, allspice and pepper.
When to Visit
While the summer months bring with them balmy climes and bright skies, with average highs of 24°C in July and August, it’s not those warm months that draw us in the most… It’s the Christmas season when Krakow truly shines. We recommend visiting between the end of November and December when the Christmas markets run.