Four days in Kraków is enough time to explore the key sightseeing districts in the centre of the city and to head out of town for at least one day trip. This is the ideal way to make the most of four days in Kraków, as it offers the most flexibility.
Cloth Hall – image © Jason Weaver
Some Things to Keep in Mind About Exploring Kraków
There is a lot to see and do in Kraków. This four-day schedule includes many key attractions, focusing on the Old Town, a day trip to either Auschwitz or the Wieliczka Saltmines, the ‘socialist realist’ area of Nowa Huta, as well as the Kazimierz and Podgórze districts.
Every trip to Kraków will include a lot of walking. Make sure you have comfortable footwear and protection against the rain. The tourist season is from April to October, and opening times vary accordingly. Certain areas get crowded in summer. We have tried to accommodate this and the itinerary should work out of season.
Note, too, that there are some excellent guided tours available, which can be the very best way to get the inside view on the city. Guides are fluent in English. There are countless options available including bike tour or something more specific like a food tour.
It’s worth giving some thought to which area of Kraków you book accommodation in, as each district has a very different flavour and will influence your trip accordingly. Our page on Where To Stay In Kraków gives a brief description of each area with suggestions for accommodation in each.
It’s impossible to over everything in a single trip. If you find yourself flagging, pick the things which interest you most. Parts of the city are beautiful enough to just sit outside with a coffee or beer and watch the world go by. We’ve also included the option of some leisurely shopping if you need to slow down for the afternoon.
The people of Kraków are patient hosts and exellent English is spoken in most places. Credit or debit cards are accepted, unless stated. The majority of restaurants listed have vegan and vegetarian options and many will cater to other diets, such as gluten-free.
Kraków Four Day Itinerary Summary
- Duration: Four days of 8 to 10 hours of touring – excluding evening meals and strolls.
- Areas Covered: Kraków Old Town; Wawel Hill; Auschwitz-Birkenau or the Wieliczka Saltmines (with optional shopping in Old Town); art and culture highlights in central Kraków; Nowa Huta; Podgórze and Kazimierz.
- Sights visited: The Royal Route; Rynek Główny (Main Square and the Cloth Hall); Rynek Underground; St. Mary’s Basilica; Church of St. Francis of Assisi; Wawel Hill (Cathedral or Royal Apartments); Auschwitz-Birkenau or Wieliczka Saltmines; Plac Szczepański; Collegium Maius; National Museum, Main Building; Nowa Huta; Arka Pana; Ghetto Heroes Square; Pharmacy Under the Eagle; Schindler’s Factory; Kazimierz and Szeroka Street; Galicia Jewish Museum.
Day 1: Stare Miasto (Kraków Old Town) and Wawel
Milkbar Tomasza – image © Jason Weaver
8:00am: Breakfast: Milkbar Tomasza
Breakfast in Kraków is a surefire way to immerse in local life and kick off a day exploring the Old Town. Milkbar Tomasza does a great breakfast for a reasonable price, and is very popular with Kraków’s residents.
During the 20th century, milk bars were a form of cafeteria designed to offer cheap but nourishing food, with their fortunes tied to the turbulence of Poland’s political history. Tomasza is a contemporary update on the milk bar, retaining the homely menu and price. A hearty breakfast will set you back about 5€, including a drink. It’s cosy, a little chaotic, and fills up soon after 8am. Chances are you’ll end up sharing a table, but this is a friendly introduction to the city.
Kraków Barbican – image © Jason Weaver
Walk through St. Florian’s Gate and into ul. Floriańska. You’ll see a McDonald’s directly to your left and the two towers of St. Mary’s Basilica at the very end of the street. Floriańska Street formed part of the Royal Road, the procession route through Stare Miasto and down to Wawel Hill. Despite the tourist shops and fast food outlets, it’s worth taking your time, as there is some 700 years of history in these buildings. The route includes the house of artist Jan Matejko and the Museum of Pharmacy.
Take the second left into Świętego Tomasza, around 250m down ul. Floriańska. Streets are clearly marked with signs on most corners. Cross over ul. Szpitalna and you’ll see the sign for Milkbar Tomasza up ahead on the left. It’s a 400m walk in total. Note: Milkbar Tomasza is closed on Monday.
Adam Mickiewicz Monument – image © Jason Weaver
9:00am: Rynek Główny
This is a perfect time to get photos of Kraków’s Main Square (Rynek Główny) without too many tourists, while the restaurants are still taking in deliveries and before the main attractions are open.
Turn right outside Milkbar Tomasza. Retrace your steps along Świętego Tomasza and turn left into ul. Floriańska. At the end, the square opens up before you. It’s a stunning view. St. Mary’s Basilica is directly in front, the Sukiennice (or Cloth Hall) sits in the very middle, and the Adam Mickiewicz Monument between the two. Mickiewicz is considered Poland’s national poet and his remains are buried under Wawel Cathedral.
Spend some time exploring the entire square, taking in the Town Hall Tower and the ‘Eros Bendato’ statue (known as ‘The Head’) on the far side of the Cloth Hall, the Church of St. Adalbert (aka Church of St. Wojciech) to the south, and the gorgeous buildings on all four sides. Each of these has its own history. The Wierzynek restaurant, for example, has royal origins in the 14th century.
The cobbled streets of the Rynek Underground Museum – image © Jason Weaver
10:00am: Rynek Underground
From 2005, Rynek Główny underwent a huge excavation project, revealing foundations and artefacts to the beginning of Kraków’s past. The 6,000 metre area is now an imaginative and engaging state-of-the-art museum explaing Kraków’s history, directly beneath the pavement of the Main Square. It’s the ideal way to find out more about what you have just seen above ground.
Entrance to the Rynek Underground Museum – image © Jason Weaver
The exhibition entrance is on the outside of the Cloth Hall building, at 1 Rynek Główny. It’s hard to spot from a distance. Head to the corner of the Cloth Hall opposite St. Mary’s Basilica. Look for the small glass pyramid and fountain to point you in the right direction. Confusingly, you collect tickets from the opposite side of the Cloth Hall. So, follow the building around so that you’re in the same side of the Main Square as the Town Hall Tower. The ticket office is about halfway down. It’s marked with a #21 on the wall and says ‘Podziemia Rynku’ on the door.
Rynek Underground Museum Ticket Office – image © Jason Weaver
Entry is limited to 300 people at a time, so advanced booking is recommended. You can reserve a time slot at the official Rynek Underground website. Click on the link for the Online Tickets Reservation System and change the language to English if necessary – click the EN button at the top of the page. Print your reservation out, as a digital confirmation will not always be accepted in Poland. You pay for the ticket when you pick it up. Cards are accepted. Admission is free on Tuesdays, but places are always booked up early.
You’ll also get free entry with a KrakowCard but will still need to visit the ticket office to reserve a time slot.
If you buy a ‘skip the queue’ ticket from Get Your Guide, you can pay upfront and print out the reservation at home. However, you will still need to visit the ticket office with your document. But, if you book a tour through Get Your Guide, you need only turn up at the stated meeting point and everything else will be organised for you.
It’s a bit crowded when you first enter the museum, as groups come and go, but it quickly settles into a peaceful and atmospheric wander through over 700 years of vivid history. There are holograms, models, and reconstructions, a series of genuinely entertaining films, and an exhibit on how to bury vampires, as well as many objects and trinkets.
St. Mary’s Basilica – image © Jason Weaver
11:30am: St. Mary’s Basilica
Directly opposite the Cloth Hall, and impossible to miss, the elaborate Gothic interior of St. Mary’s Basilica is an absolute treat for the eyes. The 15th-century altar by Veit Stoss is considered the highlight. It is traditionally unveiled with great ceremony at 11:50am each day, although it was undergoing renovation on my last visit. Regardless, the scale of deep blue vaulted ceilings and the sumptuous stained glass windows are still essential viewing.
St. Mary’s Basilica Ticket Office – image © Jason Weaver
You will find the tourist entrance is on the right side of the building with the ticket office directly opposite. Just look for the crowd. Understandably, the queues are long, especially when people want to see the unveiling of the altar. There’s a bit of pushing and the church gets very full but, in my experience, the queue moves quickly and everybody gets inside without too much fuss.
Entrance to St. Mary’s Basilica – image © Jason Weaver
The northern tower served as lookout for the city and, from here, a bluesy bugle call is played at the top of every hour. This call breaks off abruptly mid-melody, allegedly to honour a trumpeter shot with an arrow in 1241. Both towers can be seen with a separate ticket.
You can pay for a ticket in advance from Get Your Guide but you’ll still need to exchange it at the ticket office. Make sure you bring a print out with you, as a digital copy may not be accepted. You’ll also get free entry with a KrakowCard but will also need to visit the ticket office.
Kraków Cloth Hall – image © Jason Weaver
12:30pm: Sukiennice to Church of St. Francis of Assisi
Leave St. Mary’s and cross over to the Cloth Hall. This indoor market is often claimed to be the world’s oldest shopping mall. You can amble through, looking at the souvenirs, and exit on the southern side. Cross over and down into ul. Bracka directly opposite.
There are some pretty shops and atmospheric cafes down here. Follow the street to the very end and turn right into Franciszkańska. Cross over to the small green on the right hand side and look back across the road. You’ll see the Bishop’s Palace with the Papal Window, a mosaic to commemorate the evening addresses Cardinal Karol Wojtyła made from there before becoming Pope John Paul II in 1978. Wojtyła’s presence is felt all over the city.
Papal Window – image © Jason Weaver
Church of St. Francis of Assisi – image © Jason Weaver
To your right is the entrance to Church of St. Francis of Assisi. Though relatively modest, Wyspiański’s florid art nouveau decoration and the incredible stained glass make this one of my favourite churches in Kraków or elsewhere. Entry is free and there aren’t the kinds of crowds you’ll find at some of the more famous locations. Highly recommended.
Miód Malina – image © Jason Weaver
1:00pm: Lunch: Grodzka Street
With the Papal Window to your left and St. Francis to your right, follow Franciszkańska as it curves around and joins plac Wszystkich Świętych. You’ll hit a crossroads after a few minutes with another McDonald’s on one of the corners. Turn right into ul. Grodzka.
Grodzka forms the final leg of the Royal Route up to Wawel and has a number of impressive churches and other points of interest (see below). There’s also plenty of places to stop for lunch. If you fancy Polish (with a touch of Italian), we recommend a window table in Miód Malina, on the corner of Grodzka and Poselska. Look for the painting of a raspberry. A main course of duck, roe, or potato pancakes is around 15€.
Obwarzanek vendor on Grodzka Street – image © Jason Weaver
Church of Saints Peter and Paul – image © Jason Weaver
If the weather is good, you can pick up a snack from a street vendor. Obwarzanek are similar to pretzels and can be bought for a couple of złoty each. There’s usually a stand opposite the magnificent baroque gates of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul. Look for somewhere to sit in the grounds of Romanesque St. Andrew’s Church, next door.
View of Wawel from Kanonicza Street – image © Jason Weaver
2:00pm: Wawel Hill
Cross the square opposite Saints Peter and Paul and take a left into Kanonicza. There are a few plush hotels down here and the former house of John Paul II on the right. But the real reason to take this backstreet is the stunning view of Wawel that emerges at the end of the street.
Leave Kanonicza, cross over Podzamcze and follow the path to your right up the hill to Wawel. It’s impossible to miss. Follow the crowd.
Wawel Cathedral and Royal Apartments – image © Jason Weaver
Wawel is a complex of different attractions, each of which are highlights to any Kraków visit. Your best bet is to focus your energy on either the Cathedral or the Royal Apartments, as each will take a couple of hours to see, and you’ll want a bit of time to stroll around the grounds. I especially recommend a guided tour if you want to get the most out of the Castle. You can book in advance through Get Your Guide and need only turn up at the right time, handily sidestepping the queues. You’ll come away with a much greater understanding of Poland’s impressive history.
The grounds are free to enter and offer panoramic views. Take advantage, even if you don’t intend to tackle any of the paid attractions.
The Wawel Dragon – image © Jason Weaver
5:00pm: Dragon’s Den
During the summer season (April-October), a lighthearted way to round off the afternoon is to exit through the limestone caves beneath the hill. On the opposite side of the Wawel complex, the fortifications overlook the river Vistula. Look for the signs to Smocza Jama with the little graphic of a dragon on. There’s a small doorway in the fortifications and a ticket machine to the left. After a giddy journey down some very narrow spiral stairs, you come out into a moody cave. Then, out, to the riverside and a statue of a fire-breathing dragon.
Entrance to the Dragon’s Den – image © Jason Weaver
Early Evening: Rest at your hotel
Any trip to Kraków will involve a lot of walking. You’ll certainly need to put your feet up for a while. If it’s a fine evening, you can sit by the river to recuperate or make your way back to your hotel for a couple of hours.
The secret to navigating Kraków’s public transport system is to use this invaluable online route tracker. Simply use your phone’s geolocation to add your start point, then type in your destination – it recognises street names and points of interest and will break down routes from start to finish. There are also Android and iOS apps but I found the web version worked better.
Note: The extended KrakowCard includes unlimited use of buses and trams within zones I and II. Whilst this may not end up the cheaper option, it is convenient to be able to hop on and off at will.
One of Tytano’s many places to eat and drink – image © Jason Weaver
8:00pm: Food and Drink: Old Town, Tytano, or Forum Przestrzenie
As you will have discovered, the Old Town is packed with a fantastic range of places to eat and drink, and the standard is generally good. But if you want something away from the tourists, Tytano has a very different atmosphere.
Tytano is a cluster of bars and restaurants around a converted tobacco factory, with a lot of outside seating – relaxed in the afternoons and perfect for summer evenings. It’s a little rough and ramshackle but, in my opinion, this adds to the charm.
With Florian’s Gate to your left and the Barbican to your right, follow Planty Park until you reach the Bunkier Cafe and Gallery on your left – it takes about 8 minutes. Leave the park and cross over the main road (Podwale). With the Bagatela Theatre on the right corner and the C.K. Browar restaurant to the left, take Krupnicza. Turn into Dolnych Młynów (the second turning on the right). Keep your eyes open: Tytano is on the left, opposite ul. Rajska and the Molam Thai Canteen, but it’s pretty low key from the outside.
Forum Przestrzenie – image © Jason Weaver
Another option for summer is Forum Przestrzenie on the banks of the Vistula. This is a brutalist Soviet-era hotel converted into a multi-purpose venue. It’s good for a drink. It gets busy in the evenings and there can be long wait times for food. There’s a gallery, huge murals, DJs, ping pong tables, and the like.
The view from the river – image © Jason Weaver
The route makes for a pleasant 20-minute riverside walk on a fine evening, with a fantastic view of Wawel Hill and the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel on the way back. Take the Dietla bridge over the river and follow the path to the south. It’s technically possible to get here by river taxi, so check the jetty timetables to what’s running. But I wouldn’t rely on them to get you back. The building itself is now hidden by huge advertising posters but you can spot it easily enough by the fun fair and deckchairs outside.
Day 2: Auschwitz or the Wieliczka Saltmines and shopping
For many, a visit to Auschwitz is the main reason to come to Kraków. See our guide Auschwitz-Birkenau Krakow Day Trip and How To Get To Auschwitz-Birkenau From Kraków page for full details. You can pre-book a tour with transport included, which will last 6-7 hours in total, then pick up the shopping itinerary when you get back.
If you have already been to Auschwitz, we recommend a morning excursion to the incredible Wieliczka Saltmines, followed by a more casual afternoon browsing around some of Kraków’s most interesting shops. If you’re travelling to Kraków at Christmas, a seasonal market is a lot of fun.
8:00am: Wieliczka Saltmines
You can pre-book a tour with transport pickup included for just after 8am, which will last roughly 4 hours in total. See our separate page Wieliczka Saltmines Krakow Day Trip for full details and our dedicated How To Get To Wieliczka Saltmines From Kraków page.
Pod Wawelem Restaurant – image © Jason Weaver
12noon: Lunch: Pod Wawelem Kompania Kuflowa
It’s likely that your Wieliczka Saltmine transport will drop you off just next to Wawel Hill. If so, the mighty Pod Wawelem restaurant is a perfect place for a hearty eastern European lunch. With a covered veranda in Planty Park itself, Wawalem serves huge plates of pork knuckle, duck, steak and other (mostly) meaty fare, with an average price of just over 8€ for a main. Kozel and Urquell beers are served by the litre.
Start at the very foot of Grodzka, on the other side of the road from Wawel Hill. Turn up into Planty Park, in the opposite direction to the Castle. Pod Wawelem is just up ahead on the right.
Vegab, Krakow – image © Jason Weaver
Alternatively, just grab some bits and pieces for a packed lunch in Planty Park, if it’s a fine day. If it’s not, why not try a delicious vegan kebab, at the aptly named Vegab. Follow the park up until you reach Sienna on the left. Turn right and cross over to Starowiślna. Continue down for about four more minutes and Vegab is on the left.
Ciuciu Cukier Artist – image © Jason Weaver
2pm: Ciuciu Cukier Artist
Ciuciu Cukier Artist is “Smallest Factory of Sweets in the World”. This little candy store makes sweets by hand with natural ingredients and techniques that date to the 17th and 18th century. You can watch them being made or even take part in a workshop to create your own lollipop. Shows take place on the hour and last 20-40 minutes. There’s a small charge for children.
From Pod Wawelem, double back to Grodzka. Wander up for about 10 minutes, past Saints Peter and Paul and Miód Malina. Ciuciu Cukier Artist is on the right hand side, once you’ve crossed Poselska.
World of Amber – image © Jason Weaver
2.30pm: World of Amber
Poland is renowned for its honey-coloured resin, as the Amber Road ran down from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean since at least the time of the Pharoahs. In truth, you’ll find shops all over the city. All the same, World of Amber in Grodzka is like a sumptuous and beguiling cave of beautiful objects, from Deco-style bracelets to objects like boats and chess sets.
World of Amber is right next door to Ciuciu Cukier Artist on Grodzka.
Karmello – image © Jason Weaver
Although a chain rather than a native of Kraków, Karmello is a nice place to pick up some handmade chocolates as gifts. Beer truffle, anyone? You can ask for them to be personalised and pick them up later. It’s also a café with a range of deliciously thick chocolate drinks, such as apple cinnamon and mint, and window views of Grodzka.
Continue up Grodzka to the crossroads at plac Wszystkich Świętych. Karmello is opposite on the left hand corner. There is also a branch on Floriańska.
Galeria Plakatu: Cracow Poster Gallery – image © Jason Weaver
3.30pm: Galeria Plakatu (Cracow Poster Gallery)
The poster has been a thriving artform in Poland since the 1890s, and has lent itself to a number of purposes and innovations. During the 1950s and 60s, there was a stunning flowering of originality around, of all things, posters for movies, which were dictated by the illustrator rather than any distribution studio. Even Hollywood blockbusters could end up with the most inventive graphics.
Though relatively small, Galeria Plakatu has an impressive range of posters for film, theatre, and proganda, as well as postcards. If you have an interest in graphics, I cannot recommend this enough.
Come out of Karmello and stand and the Grodzka crossroads with McDonald’s to your right. Walk along plac Dominikański then take the first left into Stolarska. You’ll see an interesting parade of shops with a covered walkway on the other side of the road. Galeria Plakatu is about halfway up. Please note: the gallery closes at 2pm on Saturday and is closed completely on Sunday.
Pasaż 13 – image © Jason Weaver
4pm: Pasaż 13
Tucked innoculously behind the façade of two historic town houses, Pasaż 13 is what you might call a boutique shopping mall. Ingeniously constructed in a relatively small space, this cluster of fashion stores is accompanied by a delicatessen, restaurant, and bar with an extensive wine cellar. Worth a visit just for the architecture.
Continue up Stolarska and turn left into Pasaż Bielaka. You’ll come back out on the Main Square. Turn left again into Grodzka. Pasaż 13 less than 30m down on the left.
Szambelan – image © Jason Weaver
Sklep Szambelan is a fascinating and unique little shop, focused on all things liquid. They sell delicious vodkas, meads, and absinthes, decanted from bulbous flasks, which you can taste before you buy, but also oils, vinegar, tinctures, and a range of artistic bottles in different shapes and sizes. However, the stunning range of vodka is the star of the show.
Walk back into the Main Square and follow the southern edge until you reach ul. Bracka. Turn left and continue down. Szambelan is on the corner of Gołębia. Note: If you want to take a short detour, there are also some nice shops along Gołębia.
Red Is Bad – image © Jason Weaver
5pm: Red Is Bad
If you’re spent any time in some of Kraków’s museums, you’ll realise that Poland has a strong history of resistance against oppression and this, in recent years, has seen a great focus of interest and pride. The shop Red Is Bad is problematic to discuss, especially to a tourist and outsider like myself. The clothing label is wholly made in Poland, features dramatically patriotic imagery with historic resonance, such as the Warsaw uprising, and brands itself with a manifesto stating ‘not financed by European Union funds’. The relationship between fa-fa-fa-fa-fashion ‘swag’ and nationalism, right-wing or otherwise, has been fiercely discussed across Europe and North America in recent years. In Poland, you can buy it on the high street.
Pierogarnia Krakowiacy – image © Jason Weaver
Walk back up Bracka and follow the Main Square around on the side with the Town Hall Tower. At the Małachowskich Palace, halfway up on the left hand side, turn left into Szewska. This is a good street for browsing and keep your eyes open for Pierogarnia Krakowiacy, the charmingly ramshackle pierogi restaurant on the right. Carry on and Red is Bad is a few doors along.
Massolit Bakery and Café – image © Jason Weaver
5.30pm: Massolit Books & Café
On the other end of the ideological spectrum to Red is Bad (presumably) is this exceptional progressive English bookshop and café. They stock around 20,000 new and used titles, which you’re free to read and peruse as you relax in an armchair. Great coffee and baked goods, and regular events. Like that other great American-European bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, Massolit also belongs to a tradition worth fighting for. The bakery is great too, with delicious fresh nibbles being pumped all day on the premises.
Walk to the end of Szewska and follow Planty Park down, keeping an eye out for the Filharmonia tram stop and the concert hall. Cross and walk along Smoleńsk. You’ll pass the Massolit Bakery and Café (pictured). Take the first left into Felicjanek and you’ll find Massolit Books & Café a little way down on the left.
Kogel Mogel – image © Jason Weaver
7pm: Kogel Mogel
Widely considered to be one of Kraków’s finest Polish restaurants, with a thumbs up from Michelin, the Galician menu has traditional favourites like duck and goose, and an excellent choice of wines. Vegetarian and vegan options are available, but you may want to see what’s on offer first. Main courses range from 10-50€.
Kogel Mogel is located in Sienna, which leads out of the Main Square Look for the ZARA store, close to St. Mary’s and next door to the Hard Rock Cafe. Follow the street almost to the end. Kogel Mogel is the last restaurant to the left, right before the park. Alternatively, follow Planty round and enter Sienna from the other direction.
Wódka Café Bar – image © Jason Weaver
9pm: Wódka Café Bar
Vodka production is a long and venerable tradition in Poland, with many flavours, variations and local traditions. This cosy little bar and their platter of six tasting vodkas is the perfect introduction, especially as the staff are so friendly. It could change your life. They also have a great selection of bottled beers.
You might also want to try one of the many Kraków vodka tours.
Turn left outside Kogel Mogel and then left again at the park. Take a short walk along Świętego Krzyża and turn into Mikołajska. Wodka Cafe Bar is just on the left.
Day 3: Art and Culture and Nowa Huta
Bistro Charlotte: Chleb i Wino – image © Jason Weaver
8:30am: Bistro Charlotte – Chleb i Wino
Chleb means bread, which holds a special, almost holy, place in the pantheon of Polish food. Charlotte is a French-style bistro with shelves of fresh, premises-baked loaves racked up behind the counter. Expect all-day continental breakfasts with croissants, jams, and good coffee. Bench tables add to the lively atmosphere or grab a seat in the window to look out over Szczepański.
Start at the Barbican. With St. Florian’s Gate to your left, follow the curve of Planty Park until you reach Szczepański. Turn left and Charlotte is just on the right. The entire walk takes 8 minutes.
Stary Kleparz market – image © Jason Weaver
A great alternative for sunny mornings is to get some bits and pieces from Stary Kleparz market and have a picnic breakfast in Planty Park. Although the squat layout suggests otherwise, this market has been in operation for hundreds of years. There’s a huge array of fresh produce and it’s fun to nip from stall to stall, seeing what you can find.
Grunwald Monument – image © Jason Weaver
Stary Kleparz market – image © Jason Weaver
From the Barbican, leave Planty and cross the main road (Basztowa). Walk up Jana Matejki – you’ll see the huge Grunwald Monument, commemorating one of the key battles of the 15th century. Turn left onto Ignacego Paderewskiego and Stary Kleparz is just up ahead.
Palace of Fine Arts – image © Jason Weaver
9.30am: Plac Szczepański and the Palace of Fine Arts
After breakfast, take a stroll around plac Szczepański. Directly opposite Bistro Charlotte is the Palace of Fine Arts. Jacek Malczewski’s freize around the exterior is the star here, symbolising the creative process. The other sculptures and details represent aspects of Kraków culture from start of the 20th century.
plac Szczepański – image © Jason Weaver
Plac Szczepański was renovated just over a decade ago and the Art Nouveau façade of the Stary Teatr is particularly beautiful. The ‘Kraków 1900’ exhibition at Szołayski House continues the Art Nouveau theme of the square.
Collegium Maius – image © Jason Weaver
10am: Collegium Maius
Dating from the 14th century, Collegium Maius was the main campus for the Jagiellonian, one of the oldest (and most historically prestigious) universities in the world. Beyond the deceptive gateway is a gorgeous courtyard wtih balconies, which can be visited for free. The courtyard clock strikes every other hour, from 9am until 5pm, as an utterly charming parade of historical figures process from beneath its face. Next door is a free garden with information about swordfighting between nobles (!) and various scientific contraptions.
Entrance to the building itself is only possible with a guided tour and places are strictly limited to 20 people at one time. However, this is a real Kraków highlight and I suggest reserving a slot in advance of your trip, particularly if you wish to take the extended tour. Unfortunately this needs to be done by phone. The local number is 12 663 14 48. Full details on the Collegium Maius website.
There are two tours available. The standard tour lasts roughly 30-40 minutes and takes in the gorgeous wood-lined professors’ quarters, lecture hall, and library, as well as a room dedicated to former student Copernicus. Much of the building is still in use! Most of the rooms are small and packed with objects, making the tour engrossing and somewhat intimate. At least one visitor will end up setting off the alarm when they get too close to an exhibit. Availability depends on season and day of the week – see website for full details.
The full tour lasts an hour and includes the collection of scientific instruments and medieval art gallery. This is only available in English at 11am on Monday to Fridays.
Entrance to Collegium Maius – image © Jason Weaver
To find Collegium Maius, walk to the south east corner of Plac Szczepański, on the same side as Charlotte, then turn into Jagiellońska. Continue for another 3 minutes and look for the little gateway on the right. Entrance to the courtyard is free and you can just walk in. The ticket office for tours is directly to the left. Closed on Sundays.
National Museum – image © Jason Weaver
11am: National Museum, Main Building
The HQ for Kraków’s sprawling 11-branch National Museum and, while the Czartoryski Museum was being renovated, was until recently home to a Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine.
The building is home to collections of decorative and 20th-century Polish art, as well as arms and uniforms, but the temporary shows are the bigger draw. Use the official National Museum website to check what’s on. The permanent collections are free on Sunday and the gallery is closed on Monday. You shouldn’t have any trouble buying a ticket at the museum itself but you could also book in advance from Get Your Guide, just to be on the safe side. A KrakowCard will also get you into the permanent collections.
Leave Collegium Maius and turn right. Continue to the end of Jagiellońska and cross Planty to the main road (Straszewskiego). Cross and enter Józefa Piłsudskiego. There’s a 10-minute walk of 1km, so feel free to hop on a bus if you don’t feel like walking. All buses on the left-hand side of the road will stop close to the museum but check with the driver just in case.
Józef Piłsudski Monument – image © Jason Weaver
If you choose to walk, there is a triptych of impressive statues as a reward. The Józef Piłsudski Monument celebrates the revolutionary and statesman of Polish independence. Keep an eye out for it on your right. It’s hard to miss.
Wyspiański statue – image © Jason Weaver
Cross the dual carriageway at the end of Józefa Piłsudskiego. The enormous expanse of undeveloped land straight ahead is the Błonia parkland and you may spot the Crocovia football stadium off to the left. The National Museum is the imposing block of a building to the right, decked in huge banners advertising the temporary exhibitions. There’s usually a temporary collection of sculptures in front and a monument to 20th-century polymath Stanisław Wyspiański close by.
Bunkier Cafe – image © Jason Weaver
12.30pm: Lunch: Bunkier Cafe
Looking out directly onto Planty, the Bunkier Cafe is a bit like a big greenhouse, with a 180-degree view of the park. It’s a buzzy, sociable place for lunch and serves tank beer, which is unpasteurized and served as close to production as possible. This effectively means it’s still brewing until the moment it’s poured, which translates into a fresher taste. Note: service can be slow, so best avoid if you’re pushed for time.
Bunkier Sztuki Gallery – image © Jason Weaver
The cafe is attached to the Bunkier Sztuki, an excellent contemporary art gallery. As one of the only modern buildings in the Old Town, this slab of brutalist concrete is a nice transition to the Soviet-era architecture of Nowa Huta. The work won’t be to everyone’s taste and there is no permanent collection, so check what is currently showing and see if it appeals to you. The afternoon itinerary can start an hour later or you can make a note and return on another day. Closed on Monday.
From the National Museum, trace your way back to Planty either on foot or by bus. Then follow the park up to the left, almost as far as Plac Szczepański and the Palace of Fine Art. The Cafe building is hard to miss.
Update: The Bunkier Cafe is currently closed, so we suggest one of the many restaurants around the corner on Szewska.
Nowa Huta – image © Jason Weaver
2pm: Nowa Huta
Built in the 1950s according to the principles of socialist realism, Nowa Huta was intended as a worker’s utopia, a new city for 100,000 people, radiating out along five grand avenues from a central square. It was never finished and the huge statue of Lenin was torn down in 1989. Nowa Huta particularly benefits from an informative guide to bring some local colour.
The 30-minute trip to Nowa Huta comes with a couple of caveats. Compared to similar architectural projects, such as Berlin’s Karl-Marx-Allee, it is a little underwhelming. This is, after all, a residential area rather than a tourist destination, so it has no obligation to entertain. The main points of interest are spread out and the whole area is currently undergoing reconstruction. However, it represents an important era of Polish history which is almost invisible in the central parts of Kraków. Is it worth the visit? I would say so, especially for the Arka Pana (see below). If the following sounds interesting, you should find it rewarding experience. If not, use the time for one of the alternative itineraries, such as the Wieliczka Saltmines, without feeling that you are missing out.
Leave the Bunkier Cafe and turn left. Follow the outside edge of Planty Park for a few minutes until you reach the Teatr Bagatela bus stop. Get the 502 bus which leaves every 10-15 minutes. You can also get the 73 tram but the bus is slightly quicker, more comfortable, and simpler, as it says PLAC CENTRALNY IM. R.REAGANA on the front. And, as this is the stop you want, you can stay on the bus until the end. The marvellous Jakdojade planner will make sure you’re on the right route. The journey is 10 stops in total and takes 28 minutes.
The same ticket is valid for either a tram or bus journey, and can be bought from the ticket machine at most stops. These are straightfoward to use and have an English-language option. The cheapest ticket is for a 20-minute journey but you’ll want the 50-minute option for Nowa Huta – and the same again for the return. This covers a single trip within the entire Kraków network and, at time of writing, costs 4,60 złoty, just over a Euro. You can pay with a card. Be sure to validate your ticket in the machine once you start the journey. The extended KrakowCard also includes free public transport.
Ronald Reagan Central Square – image © Jason Weaver
The bus should terminate at the end of aleja Generała Władysława Andersa, a long dual carriageway. Keep walking in the same direction for a few moments and you’ll come to plac Centralny, a large square surrounded by traffic on all sides. Officially renamed ‘Ronald Reagan Central Square’ in 2004, this simple act was an almost Haiku-like compression of recent history. Cross over to the middle to orientate yourself and you can grasp the architectural layout of the area from the very centre. There’s a monument to the Solidarity movement to the south and, directly at the other end, is the Avenue of Roses (aleja Róż) to the north, where the 7-tonne monument to Lenin stood – known locally as the ‘Godzilla of Nowa Huta’. Google ‘aleja róż pomnik lenina’ to see how it looked.
Cepelix – image © Jason Weaver
There are two large residential blocks on either side of aleja Róż with shops on the ground floor. To the right, under a covered walkway, is the folk design shop Cepelix. This is definitely worth a visit for splendid souvenirs – beautifully decorated ceramics, traditional clothing, and religious icons – but also to get a glimpse of an authentic 1950s Nowa Huta interior. Please note: Cepelix closes at 1pm on Saturday and is shut on Sunday.
3pm: Nowa Huta Museum
Built into the ground floor of an apartment block, this small museum features posters, furniture, and other period artifacts to give a flavour of life in the socialist ‘workers’ paradise’.
Leave Cepelix and turn right into aleja Róż. This once would have been lined with vibrant red roses. Today you’ll need to use your imagination. Restaurant Stylowa sits at the end of the block to the left. Cross over and carry on past the park. The Nowa Huta Museum is on your right, with a stylish green neon sign and some information boards out on the street itself. The entire walk from Cepelix takes 8-10 minutes. Note: the museum is closed on Monday.
Kino Światowid cinema building – image © Jason Weaver
The museum is actually split across two locations, and this is where things get complicated. The other part is based in the old Kino Światowid cinema building. The temporary exhibitions on the ground floor are usually aimed at local residents but one of Nowa Huta’s 250 underground nuclear shelters is now open to the public. Unfortunately, this is somewhat out of the way on Os. Centrum E1, to the south-east of Ronald Reagan Square. To complicate things even more, there is yet another nuclear shelter beneath the Mechanical School at Os. Szkolnym 37. Furthermore, Nowa Huta Underground requires a separate ticket and is only open on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday. There is free entry on Tuesday. If you’re exploring Nowa Huta alone, I’m not convinced the extra effort is worth the reward but would recommend one of the tours available through Get Your Guide instead.
Arka Pana – image © Jason Weaver
4.30pm: Arka Pana
A joyous 1970s wonder of a building, Arka Pana (The Lord’s Ark aka Church of our Lady the Queen of Poland) is one of my favourite buildings in Kraków and, for me, reason enough to visit the district. Built entirely by volunteers, somewhat in defiance of everything Nowa Huta was supposed to represent, it is an eccentric and colourful experience, with a huge rainbow of light running behind the balcony and various truly curious artifacts, including a piece of moon rock.
Please note: no entry during mass, and only open to visitors between 3-4pm on Sunday.
Teatr Ludowy – image © Jason Weaver
Arka Pana – image © Jason Weaver
Leave the Nowa Huta Museum and turn right up aleja Róż. Continue for a few minutes until you reach Stefana Żeromskiego and turn left. Look out for the striking modern architecture of the Stefana Żeromskiego church on the left and, further on, the 1950s avant-garde Teatr Ludowy. Continue along Stefana Żeromskiego for another 8 minutes, as you gradually see the bulbous, ark-shaped Church appear to the right.
Restauracja Stylowa – image © Jason Weaver
5.30pm: Restauracja Stylowa
Whilst there are some tasty food trucks south of Ronald Reagan, you won’t want to pass up the opportunity to eat in a restaurant of the Polish People’s Republic. Stylowa is something close to dining in Nowa Huta, 1970s style.
Stylowa is on aleja Róż. You probably saw it on your way to the Nowa Huta Museum. So retrace your steps back via Stefana Żeromskiego. It’s a 20-minute walk, but you could catch the 139 bus from the Arka stop to aleja Róż – a 5-minute trip and three stops in total. The Jakdojade planner is your friend here.
Solidarność monument – image © Jason Weaver
After your meal, wander back down to Ronald Reagan Square. Making sense of how the bus and tram stops work is a bit tricky, but if you go to the same side of the square as the Solidarność monument, you’ll find the stop for tram 73 on aleja Jana Pawła II. These leave every 15 minutes and will be marked with NOWY BIEŻANÓW P+R as their final destination. Use the Jakdojade planner to find your way. You can also get the 44 tram marked SALWATOR. Disembark anywhere you recognise a landmark around the Old Town.
Planty Park after dark – image © Jason Weaver
7pm: Night Stroll in Planty Park and Nocturnal Exploration of the Old Town
Once the sun goes down, the walkways of Planty Park are atmospherically lit and you’ll find the benches occupied with couples and friends. The mood in the Old Town also changes as the nightlife kicks in. If you want to get to know this side of Kraków, there are probably hundreds of bars to choose from. Start with Staropolskie Trunki on Floriańska and see what you can find tucked away in passageways and underground.
Staropolskie Trunki – image © Jason Weaver
The biggest fun are Kraków’s ‘secret bars’ that demand a bit of work on your part. Mercy Brown is just outside the Old Town but you’ll need to do a bit of online research to find out where it is and how to get in. Most intriguing of all is Z Ust Do Ust. It’s not in the Old Town, but a series of riddles on their website will reveal the location.
Day 4: Podgórze and Kazimierz
Swoją Drogą – image © Jason Weaver
9:00am: Breakfast: Swoją Drogą
Swoją Drogą is a smart little riverside cafe and bookshop. They specialise in breakfasts from around the world, including Polish and Arabic, costing roughly 5,50€ each. There’s a vegan option with lentil sausages and tofu bacon. The walls are lined with books, including a range of Polish translations into English and other languages. It’s quite laidback and shouldn’t be too busy at this time of day.
The CRICOTEKA arts centre – image © Jason Weaver
Find the Teatr Słowackiego tram stop at the foot of Pawia. It’s close to Galeria Krakowska and the train station, and a 5-minute walk from the Barbican. Take the #3 tram in the direction of Nowy Bieżanów P+R. It’s 5 stops to plac Bohaterów Getta and the whole journey takes 8 minutes. We’ll return to plac Bohaterów Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square) after breakfast. For now, with the tram stop behind you, cross to the top right and turn into Piwna. Take the first right into Krakusa and then the first left into Nadwiślańska. You’ll see the river to your right and the incredible CRICOTEKA building – this a contemporary art space in honour of artist and performer Tadeusz Kantor. Swoją Drogą sits a few minutes further on the left. It’s a 6-minute walk.
Ghetto Heroes Square – image © Jason Weaver
10:00am: Ghetto Heroes Square and Pharmacy Under the Eagle
Retrace your steps back to plac Bohaterów Getta. The empty chairs offer a poetic response to the complex history behind this site. The square lay just inside the main gate to the Kraków Ghetto. From here, the residents would have waited for deportation, carrying the possessions and furniture that would eventually be left behind and abandoned. But the monument also conveys are more hopeful message. The square was also a place to socialise and a base for resistance.
Entrance to Pharmacy Under The Eagle – image © Jason Weaver
Pharmacy Under The Eagle – image © Jason Weaver
On the south side of the square is a tiny museum known as Pharmacy Under The Eagle (Apteka Pod Orłem). This is an intimate and tactile recreation of Tadeusz Pankiewicz’ chemist shop which continued to function as the ghetto was created around it. Telling the story from such a focused perspective is an ingenious way to convey the events that took place directly outside.
Pharmacy Under The Eagle Ticket Office – image © Jason Weaver
There is a ticket office several doors down, which accepts cards. You’ll get in free with a KrakowCard. Though busy, it’s usually okay to just turn up. The museum itself is on the corner. You can buy a ticket combined with Schindler’s Factory and there are several excellent tours to Podgórze and Kazimierz.
Entrance to Schindler’s Factory – image © Jason Weaver
11:00am: Schindler’s Factory
As you’ll probably know from Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film, Oskar Schindler was a wartime industrialist who managed to protect a number of local Jews by employing them in this factory. This story actually forms a relatively small part of the museum’s evocation of Jewish life in Kraków through the 20th century. Absolutely recommended.
Come out of the Pharmacy and return across the square to the tram stop on the right. Look for the subway and use it to cross the main road. At the end of the subway, you’ll see a sign for Fabryka Schindlera, pointing back in the direction of the river. Follow this until you see the restaurant Jadłodajnia on the right. Turn right into this street. It’s called Kącik but there’s no street sign on the corner. The area becomes very residential with blocks of flats but keep going straight ahead. You’ll reach some railway lines and an underpass. On the other side of the underpass, you’ll see the contemporary art gallery MOCAK ahead of you. Schindler’s Factory is just beyond with a small line of electric tour vehicles directly outside. The walk takes just under 10 minutes.
Schindler’s Factory – image © Jason Weaver
It’s very likely that this excellent museum will be packed and entry is strictly allocated by time slot. It’s free on Mondays, and you can get admission with a KrakowCard, but you’ll have to move fast. It’s best to reserve well in advance and turn up early to pick up your ticket. You can use the official reservation system. If the queue is long and you think you’ll miss your slot, it’s fine to move to the front and tell one of the staff that you have a reservation. Better still, book a guided tour to really get the most out of the museum.
MOCAK with Schindler’s Factory to the right – image © Jason Weaver
Next door is MOCAK, one of Poland’s newest major art galleries, and a snapshot of Polish contemporary work. If you’re a fan of Tate Modern, for example, this could make a good alternative to spending the afternoon in Kazimierz.
Bernatek Footbridge – image © Jason Weaver
1:00pm: Bernatek Footbridge
Linking (and helping to revitalise) the two districts of Podgórze and Kazimierz, the Father Bernatek Footbridge (Kładka Ojca Bernatka) has become a much loved landmark, particularly since Jerzy Kędziora’s neatly balanced sculptures of acrobats were added.
From Schindler’s Factory, make your way back to Ghetto Heroes Square, across, and back up Krakus and Nadwiślańska, past CRICOTEKA. You’ll see the bridge up ahead once you’ve passed Swoją Drogą. This is a slightly longer route but the walk takes you through the very heart of Kazimierz.
If you’re hungry and want to get straight into Kazimerz, walk from Schindler’s Factory back to the tran stops on Ghetto Heroes Square and catch the #10, #24, or #78 in the direction of the river. Get off two stops later on Miodowa. The courtyard entrance to Hamsa is a short walk on Miodowa itself.
A street mural in Kazimierz – image © Jason Weaver
1:30pm: Lunch in Kazimierz
Although Kazimierz is a fascinating destination for its historical resonance, there’s also an unmistakable energy to the area that hits you immediately.
At the far side of the Bernatek bridge, cross over the road and continue directly ahead into Mostowa. You’ll come to a roundabout, with Bocheńska on your right. Carry on straight ahead, into plac Wolnica, with a parade of shops on your right. Once upon a time, plac Wolnica had the scale and importance of Rynek Główny. Continue as Wolnica becomes Bożego Ciała, which is named after the 15th-century Corpus Christi Basilica immediately to the right, behind the high walls. If this intrigues you, feel free to come back and explore later this afternoon.
Corpus Christi Basilica – image © Jason Weaver
Turn right into Józefa and follow onto the cobbles right at the end. Note the old prayer house at #42 Józefa. Directly before you is the side of the Old Synagogue. Look to your right for the Jewish mural on the side of a building. Then, turn left into Szeroka. Note the entrance to the Old Synagogue, the line of restaurants to the right of the street and, further up, the Remu’h Synagogue and Cemetery to the left. Hamsa is unmissable at the end of the street.
Hamsa Restaurant in Kazimierz – image © Jason Weaver
Although there’s a whole row of restaurants along one side of Szeroka Street, Hamsa Hummus & Happiness (to give its full name) is recommended for fresh, middle-eastern mezze plates and life affirming philosophy. A 2-3 person selection of three dishes with bread, vegetables and olives costs approximately 12€.
Pierogi MR Vincent – image © Jason Weaver
A good alternative is the Van Gogh-themed Pierogi MR Vincent, offering some of the best Polish dumplings in the city. There’s a huge selection to choose from and it’s fun to go with a group to mix and match what you order. Plates are roughly 4€ each. It’s cosy inside, so you may have to wait for somewhere to sit. Follow the directions to Hamsa but continue along Bożego Ciała instead of turing into Józefa. The restaurant is 140m ahead on the right.
Once Upon A Time In Kazimierz – image © Jason Weaver
Szeroka Street – image © Jason Weaver
Jan Karski monument – image © Jason Weaver
2:30pm: Szeroka Street
After lunch, take the opportunity to explore Szeroka Street and the surrounding area. To the side of Hamsa is Once Upon A Time In Kazimierz, a curious restaurant at 1 Szeroka Street. The exterior is a reconstruction of four historic Jewish shops, whilst the interior is charmingly eccentric. Close by are the Remu’h Synagogue and Cemetery, which date from the mid-16th century, though still active. Please note, these are not open to the public on Saturday. Keep your eyes open for the ‘bench’ dedicated to Jan Karski, a member of the Polish underground and one of the first to report on the concentration camps. At the other end of Szeroka is the Jewish Museum in the Old Synagogue. The whole area is full of quaint side streets and interesting shops.
Galicia Jewish Museum – image © Jason Weaver
4:00pm: Galicia Jewish Museum
Galicia was a geographical region that once spread across parts of what is now Poland and Ukraine, and the Galicia Jewish Museum was set up to explore the Jewish culture of this area through contemporary photography. What makes this gallery so fascinating is how the photographs interact with the stories told by the other museums, not to negate them but to create a richer, more complex, picture.
Facing the Jewish Museum and Old Synagogue, with Hamsa behind you, walk left along Na Przejściu. Turn right into Dajwór. Galicia Jewish Museum is up ahead on the left. Look for the bright, orange mural on the side of the building. You shouldn’t have any trouble getting in and entry is free with a KrakowCard.
Judah Square mural – image © Jason Weaver
5:00pm: Judah Square Food Truck Park
There are a number of murals dotted around Kazimierz. Judah is by Israeli street artist Pilpeled and has lent its name to the collection of tasty food trucks that it overlooks. Like many of the urban food spots springing up around Kraków, it’s rough round the edges, but you’ll definitely find something good to eat here. Try the maczanka from the Andrus Food Truck or go with whatever your nose recommends.
Andrus Food Truck – image © Jason Weaver
Turn left outside Galicia Jewish Museum and then right into Świętego Wawrzyńca. Go past Duffy’s Irish Bar on the corner of Bartosza and Skwer Judah is up ahead on the right.
plac Nowy – image © Jason Weaver
5:30pm: Bar hopping around plac Nowy
By day, a market place with a squat, brick rotunda in the centre, plac Nowy becomes the best departure point for an evening of bar hopping. With Alchemia, Mleczarnia, and Bar Atelier just off the square itself, there’s also plenty to choose from in the surrounding streets. It gets messy with pub crawls as the evening wears on, so the early start might be to your advantage.
Plac Nowy is actually only a 15-minute walk from the Old Town but you can pick up trams on Starowiślna. From the northen end of plac Nowy, turn into Warzauera. Turn left at the end into Jakuba, then first right into Miodowa. Starowiślna is the big dual carriageway, just after the back entrance to Hamsa. Use Jakdojade to find a route.
More Kraków Itineraries
See our range of itineraries to suit your stay in Kraków:
- Kraków Two Day Itinerary
Kraków is packed with things to do, but you can still see a lot in two days. This itinerary is perfect for getting the most out of two full days, such as a long weekend.
- Kraków Three Day Itinerary
Three days in Kraków lets you explore the key sightseeing districts in the centre of the city and to head out of town for at least one day trip. This is the ideal way to make the most of three days in Kraków.
- Things To Do In Kraków
This page is full of suggestions for some essential things to see and do in Kraków. Here, we offer an overview of different activities and link out to where you can find out more information.
- Auschwitz-Birkenau – Kraków Day Trip
Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is hardly your usual tourist attraction. Never-the-less its historical importance cannot be overstated; visiting will leave an impression on you.
- Wieliczka Saltmines – Kraków Day Trip
The Wieliczka Saltmines comprise of 20 chambers connected by around 3km of tunnels which lie 135m underground. It’s one of the most popular attractions in the area and is an easy daytrip from Kraków.