After spending 5 fantastic days in Budapest, we hopped on a plane and headed north to Poland to spend the last 4 days of our trip in Krakow. Like Budapest, Kraków was a city that kept coming up when talking to others about which cities in Europe to visit, so we decided this would be the perfect trip to squeeze it in.
Traditional obwarzanki sold from street carts around Kraków, somewhat of a cross between a bagel and a pretzel
As usual we rented an apartment on Airbnb – and spent a whopping $183 for 4 nights, crazy right?! Talk about affordable. The apartment was located in the Jewish Quarter of Kraków, also known as Kazimierz. Kazimierz is a great location – lots of cute little restaurants and pop-ups, bars, and small shops and it is outside of the more touristy area near the Main Market Square (Rynek Główny). The neighborhood has a ton of character with it’s narrow, cobblestone streets and awesome street art and graffiti hiding around every corner. While the area is no longer the center of Jewish life that it was prior to World War II, the history of the neighborhood survives with a plethora of historical sites, synagogues, and Jewish cemeteries. Just across to river is where you can find Oskar Schindler’s factory, which now serves as Kraków’s historical museum.
Street Art in Kazimierz
While we really loved the neighborhood, looking back at the end of the trip I think we would have enjoyed staying near the Rynek Główny (Main Market Square) as that was where we ended up spending a majority of our time. We usually try to stay in less “touristy” areas, but Kraków hasn’t quite reached the popularity of other major European cities, like Prague for example, and while the Main Market Square was definitely crowded during the day, it didn’t feel as commercialized as those we’ve come across in other cities. Kazimierz was great, and we really enjoyed exploring the neighborhood, but it isn’t a far walk from the square and for us it would have made more sense if our home base was closer to where we spent the majority of our time.
Rynek Główny, Kraków’s Main Market Square
While 4 days gave us plenty of time to explore all the highlights, we could have easily stayed a few more days and kept ourselves busy in Kraków and other nearby cities. Kraków has all the great things we love so much about European cities: great food, beautiful churches, impressive museums, cute cafés, a bustling main square, tons of local character, and an endless amount of winding streets and alleyways to get lost in. Read on to see how we spent our time in this beautiful city!
Sightseeing in Kraków
As I mentioned above, Kazimierz is also known as the Jewish Quarter of Kraków and has tons of character. I’d spend a morning/afternoon here just walking up and down the cobblestone streets, checking out the unique shops, and stopping into a bar or two (…or three) for a pit stop. You can grab a Zapiekanki from Endzior for lunch and finish it off with a little Lody from Lody na Starowiślnej (see below for details on both). There are also several great restaurants in the area so you can plan on staying a little longer and make a day of it!
Main Market Square (Rynek Główny)
30-062 Kraków, Poland
If you’re visiting Kraków, you can’t miss the Main Square, or Rynek Główny. It is surrounded by beautiful, colorful buildings and St. Mary’s Basilica with the Cloth Hall right in the middle. You’ll find tons of vendors with carts here during the day and lots of outdoor seating from the restaurants lining the square. If carriage rides are your thing, you’ll find them all lined up here.
St. Mary’s Basilica
plac Mariacki 5, 31-042 Kraków, Poland
St. Mary’s Basilica is Kraków’s most famous church right off the Main Square – trust me, you can’t miss it! A beautiful church inside and out, definitely a great spot for photo ops.
Oskar Schindler’s Factory
Lipowa 4, 30-702 Kraków, Poland
What was once Oskar Schindler‘s Enamel Factory is now home to the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibition at the factory focuses on Kraków Under Nazi Occupation; they have several remnants and information on Oskar Schindler’s factory as well as interesting history on the rest of the city during this time.
Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków (MOCAK)
Lipowa 4, 30-702 Kraków, Poland
I’m pretty sure that MOCAK is the first Contemporary Art museum that Mike and I have visited, and while they definitely had a few odd exhibits, overall we really loved the museum and were very impressed!
Ghetto Heroes Square
plac Bohaterów Getta, Kraków, Poland
Previously Plac Zgody and now named plac Bohaterów Getta for the ‘heroes of the ghetto’, this public square was the largest open space in the Kraków ghetto and was the point of departure for many of Kraków’s Jews who were deported to various camps. Now the square is spotted with 70 empty metal chairs symbolizing departure and absence. Just a few blocks from MOCAK and Schindler’s factory – worth a stop if you’re on this side of the river.
Wawel 5, 31-001 Kraków, Poland
We didn’t end up going in to tour the Wawel Royal Castle, but we did head up the hill to admire it from the outside and snap a few photos of the castle and the fire-breathing Wawel Dragon at the base of the castle. I’ll be honest…the fire-breathing dragon was my main concern here! Don’t pay the money to go down the special staircase into the dragon dungeon (which we did because we didn’t know any better), the dragon is fully visible to the public if you just walk your way down along the river.
St. Francis’ Basilica (Church of St. Francis of Assisi)
pl. Wszystkich Świętych 5, 31-004 Kraków, Poland
The Church of St. Francis of Assisi is another famous church in Kraków, known for its beautiful Art Nouveau interiors and stained glass by Stanisław Wyspiański.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Daniłowicza 10, 32-020 Wieliczka, Poland
Since our time in Kraków was limited, Mike and I decided to set one day aside and do a double tour of Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mine. The Salt Mine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and located just 20-30 minutes outside of the city in Wieliczka, so we figured we might as well visit while we were there. While the tour was somewhat interesting, it just didn’t really do it for us and if we had to do it again we would probably skip it, unless we had a few more days in Kraków to fill. We booked the tour (as well as our airports transfers) through Krakow Direct and we were more than pleased with the service. We were picked up in large, clean vans for just the two of us, our drivers were all very friendly and expertly guided us and set us up right where we needed to be.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum
Więźniów Oświęcimia 20, 32-603 Oświęcim, Poland
After our visit to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial in Germany last year, we had an idea of some of the things we would see and hear at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, but even that couldn’t really prepare us for taking in the sheer size of Birkenau and the things we saw and learned at Auschwitz. This is a place that I feel everyone should take the time to visit.
Shopping in Kraków
Cloth Hall (Sukiennice)
Rynek Główny 1-3, Kraków, Poland
The Cloth Hall is right in the middle of the Main Market Square and impossible to miss. The inside is lined with booths of vendors selling a wide variety of goods and souveniers, some shops with more quality items than others. Amber is a popular stone found in Poland, and you’ll find plenty of it here.
Hala Targowa (Plac Targowy Unitarg)
30-962, Grzegórzecka 14, 33-332 Kraków, Poland
Hala Targowa is a huge outdoor market (I might call it more of a flea market) where you’ll find everything from fresh fruit and flowers to questionable DVDs and mismatched shoes. We walked through on our way to Wesola Cafe (see below) and it was definitely crowded and overwhelming, but interesting nonetheless.
Bozego Ciala 22, Kraków 31-051, Poland
My favorite (non-edible) shop in Kraków was this tiny little Polish pottery shop hidden off a quiet street in the Jewish Quarter. When we were in Germany the previous year I bought a beautiful piece of Polish pottery – and paid a pretty penny for it. Well, I was kicking myself for that purchase when I stepped into this store because they had the same gorgeous pieces for a fraction of the cost. Definitely a great spot to pick up something for yourself as well as loved ones back home.
plac Szczepański 2, Kraków, Poland
The best thing I brought home from Kraków was a jar of raspberry jam from Bistro Charlotte. Seriously, this stuff was so amazing – I was scraping out the jar for every last bit! I brought a jar home for my mom and she loved it too, who doesn’t love edible souvenirs?! (Plus it was super inexpensive!) If you plan on visiting Kraków and have a little extra room in your suitcase, I’d pay handsomely for a few jars!
Rynek Główny 7, 33-332 Kraków, Poland
A great little shop hidden off the Main Square with tons of beautiful hand-painted Christmas ornaments.
Krakuska Sztuka Ludowa
Szewska 9, Kraków, Poland
Krakuska is a little shop off the Main Square with a wide variety of traditional souveniers. A good option for a one-stop-shop if you’re pressed for time.
Eating in Kraków
plac Nowy 4, Kraków, Poland
If there was a “dishes to eat in Poland” bucket list, a Zapiekanka would definitely be at the top. Zapiekanki are open-faced sandwiches made on half of a baguette and are very similar to what we would think of as French Bread pizzas. They are cheap and easy to make and first became popular during the Communist-Era in the 70’s. In Kraków you’ll find tons of places serving up Zapiekanki, but the most popular spot is Endzior, a tiny stand in the middle of plac Nowy in the Jewish quarter. Zapiekanki start with a base of cheese and mushrooms and traditionally (or so I heard) they are topped with ketchup – I tried this on my first Zapiekanka and as much as I love ketchup, this was not for me. We returned for a late night visit and I had an amazing combo of fried onions, chives, and bacon and it was nothing short of amazing.
Rakowicka 17, 31-511 Kraków, Poland
We enjoyed a ton of great food in Kraków, but a simple breakfast at Wesoła Cafe was definitely one of my favorite meals. The cafe itself is super cute and very Instagram-worthy. They don’t mess around when it comes to coffee and offered a great selection of beans and brewing methods. I ordered their mixed plate with ham, gouda cheese, egg spread, another delicious spread, a spring salad, and bread and butter, along with their coconut chia pudding with fresh fruit – simple but so fresh and delicious. Mike ordered the Fried Eggs and Frankfurters and as much as I loved my plate, I had a bit of order envy…I don’t know how they made their frankfurters, but they were delicious! They can get super busy and it’s not a huge place so I played it safe and made a reservation – I’d definitely recommend that if you’re planning ahead. A little out of the way but we would have loved to return if we had the time!
Przemysłowa 3, 33-332 Kraków, Poland
Coffee Cargo is a must-visit for coffee lovers in Kraków. It’s located just a couple blocks from Schindler’s Factory and the MOCAK and somewhat hidden in a very industrial area (and building). Just a super cool space, I highly recommend checking it out.
Lody na Starowiślnej
Starowiślna 83, 31-038 Kraków, Poland
Over the course of our 4 days in Kraków I probably had 4 ice cream cones (I think there may have been 2 in one day) from Lody na Starowiślnej, conveniently located right across the street from our apartment. Lody means ice cream in Polish and Lody na Starowiślnej is arguably Kraków’s most popular spot to grab a little Polish lody. The ice cream is delicious – homemade with fresh, seasonal fruit – strawberry was hands down my favorite. The only downside is this tiny shop’s popularity – people lined up down the block consistently throughout the day for a taste. We stopped in during the lulls, I think I may have even had a cone one morning when they opened around 9am – there was no line, I couldn’t resist!
Józefa 34, 31-056 Kraków, Poland
We had a great dinner at a cute little French restaurant, ZAZIE Bistro, in the Jewish Quarter on our second night in Kraków. We made a reservation the previous night with no problem. The dishes were hearty and comforting – we loved the steak tartare and the french potatoes gratin.
św. Gertrudy 21, Kraków, Poland
I love Polish food and wanted to find somewhere that I could get my fill – enter Pod Baranem. They had a great menu with traditional Polish foods and then some. Great service, lovely atmosphere, and delicious food – the perfect spot to enjoy our last meal in Kraków.
Dajwór 10, 31-052 Kraków, Poland
Bagelmama is a cute little bagel shop located right around the corner from our apartment in Kazimierz. The owner is a friendly ex-pat who has lived in Kraków for the last 10 years. He and his sweet old chocolate lab Pablo (who befriended Mike immediately, of course) kept us company and made us feel at home when we stopped in for one of their delicious bagel sandwiches on multiple occasions.
Augustiańska 3, 30-962 Kraków, Poland
We never made it to Hummus Amamamusi, but they were next on my list of places I wanted to try if we had the time. This is a tiny little spot and the reviews are great – a good option for a different type of cuisine.
Mikołajska 16, 31-027 Kraków, Poland
If you’re looking for a legit (read: where the locals go) Polish pierogi spot, look no further than U Stasi. Located down an alleyway off the Main Market Square, U Stasi can be difficult to find, but definitely worth the effort. This is not your typical sit down and be waited on restaurant – people sit down, order their pierogis, eat, and get on with it, very similar to a Polish Milk Bar. Don’t expect any friendly english-speaking servers here – you walk in, quickly pick your own table and place your order. I would do a quick internet search before going and plan your order ahead of time. Our pierogis came out in no time at all, we ate, and then got up to pay at the counter and head out. It seemed to be mostly locals eating alone on their lunch breaks, it was almost eerily quiet while we were there. A basic, no-frills, slightly intimidating spot, but some seriously delicious pierogis.
plac Szczepański 2, Kraków, Poland
Come for a couple jars of their raspberry jam to-go, stay for a simple yet delicious breakfast with a buzzing atmosphere. Bistro Charlotte is located just off the Main Square and I stopped in for breakfast on our last morning in Kraków. I indulged with the Charle’s Breakfast – a basket of croissants, jam, an egg, and of course – a glass of bubbly, because why not?!
Krakowska Manufaktura Czekolady
Szewska 7, 31-009 Kraków, Poland
When you see photos of a beautiful cup of just straight up melted chocolate, it’s hard to avoid the indulgence. Krakowska Manufaktura Czekolady is a chocolate shop off the main square with a cafe above where you can sit down and enjoy a cup of your own. I’ll be honest though, it was incredibly rich and a little much for me…but hey, it was pretty! This would also be a great spot to grab an edible souvenir to bring home to friends and family. Warning: if you go in with kids, watch out for their selection of phalic chocolates in a wide variety and sizes and colors.
Drinking in Kraków
House of Beer
Świętego Tomasza 35, 31-027 Kraków, Poland
After a little research we were very surprised to find that Poland is quite a hot spot for craft beer, who knew?! We stopped into a couple of craft beer bars in Kraków and House of Beer was our favorite, offering the best beer selection along with great background music and friendly bartenders.
Kraków Slow Wines
Lipowa 6F, 30-702 Kraków, Poland
Just a few doors down from the MOCAK and Oskar Schindler’s factory, you’ll find Kraków Slow Wines – a bright, airy spot to try a variety of regional wines after an afternoon of sightseeing.
Szczepańska 5, 31-009 Kraków, Poland
Sadly, every single time we attempted to visit the rooftop at Hotel Stary for a drink, they were closed for one reason or another. This hotel is right off the Main Square and has great views from the rooftop bar.
Mikołajska 5, Kraków, Poland
Another spot we just didn’t have the time to squeeze in was Wódka, a vodka bar just off the Main Square. Convenient location and a ton of fun flavors to choose from.
Well, I think that covers it! We had a fantastic time in Kraków and for anyone considering a visit, Mike and I highly recommend this fun, beautiful city – you won’t be disappointed!