More than 13 million tourists visit Poland’s former capital each year — and it’s easy to see why.
While many Polish cities were ravaged during World War II, Krakow’s treasures remained largely intact.
This beautiful city, with its medieval market square and welcoming atmosphere, is just over two hours from the UK by plane. Its magnificent Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage Site, too.
More than 13 million tourists visited Krakow, Poland’s former capital, each year. The above map show its tourist hotspots
Where to stay
PURO Krakow Kazimierz
This stylish hotel in the historic Jewish quarter is minutes from the Old Town by pedal power (the hotel offers free bike hire). Other freebies include coffee, activities such as Pilates and a city tour. The rooms are high-tech and equipped with tablets to control everything from lights to air conditioning. Doubles (room only) from £60, breakfast £13, purohotel.pl.
Vienna House Easy Cracow
This recently renovated hotel in the business district is a 20-minute walk from the city centre. After a busy day sightseeing, flop into a rocking chair in your colourful room. B&B doubles from £48, viennahouse.com.
Aparthotel Grodzka 21
A stone’s throw from the market square, these 12 apartments (without cooking facilities) in a 14th-century building are elegantly designed with antique furniture. Breakfast is served next door. B&B doubles from £45, apartamenty-grodzka-21.krakowhotels.net.
Venetian House Aparthotel
Slap bang on the Market Square, these modern apartments with small kitchenettes are set within a 16th-century building. Pick one at the front for lovely views. Doubles (room only) from £55, breakfast £8, venetian-house.com.
Where to eat
Head to Pierogarnia Krakowiacy for traditional Polish dumplings (stock image)
Listen to traditional folk music at this cosy place decorated with old farm equipment. Polish dumplings dominate. Try ones with cheese and mushrooms (£3.45) or cherry and mascarpone cream (£3.65). Address: 3 Mikolaja Kopernika.
Offering tasty, plant-based cuisine, this is set in the grounds of an old cigarette factory. Try the bean burger with sun-dried tomatoes and sweet potato fries (£5.66), veganic.restaurant.
Chimera Salad Bar
this self-service restaurant based in a covered courtyard inside a former printing house offers more than 30 salads and hot dishes. Four items cost £3, and six £4. Bread is free, chimera.com.pl.
A range of more than 80 wines is a massive part of this restaurant’s appeal. Try the pumpkin soup (£2.42) and vegetable or pork risotto (£6.25), klimatypoludnia.eu.
What to see and do
Explore the Old Town
Admire the twin-towered St Mary’s Basilica in Krakow’s Market Square
Krakow’s focal point is the Market Square. After admiring the twin-towered St Mary’s Basilica, stroll through the impressive Cloth Hall with its ornamental facade and decorative roof. It is a hive of activity, with stallholders selling souvenirs.
Afterwards, climb the leg-aching narrow steps of the red-brick Town Hall Tower (£2, free on Mondays, or free all week with the Krakow Card — see below).
Take a wander
Explore Kazimierz, the historic Jewish district with its myriad galleries, bars, cafes and antique shops.
The flea market at Plac Nowy is a must. Here, you’ll find everything from old cameras to LPs and street food. Try a 12 in toasted baguette topped with cheese, mushrooms and tomato sauce (£1.20).
Head for the castle
A major draw is Wawel Castle and Cathedral, situated atop a hill alongside the Vistula, Poland’s longest river.
The castle’s three storeys, complete with arcaded courtyard, are a fine example of Renaissance architecture.
Even if you don’t enter, walk up to the castle walls for a view of the river twisting its way through Krakow. Entry to the cathedral is free.
A salty adventure
Wieliczka Salt Mine is included in Unesco’s first-ever World Heritage List, and is more than 170 miles long and 1,000 ft deep
Head beyond the city to Wieliczka Salt Mine (wieliczka-saltmine.com), ten miles south-east of Krakow. It is included in Unesco’s first-ever World Heritage List, and is more than 170 miles long and 1,000 ft deep.
The highlight of the tour is the 17th-century St Kinga’s Chapel carved out of rock salt.
The city is packed with museums, including the Polish Aviation Museum (whose exhibits include German fighter planes from the Great War), the Archeological Museum and the Museum of Municipal Engineering.
Don’t miss Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory (Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning Schindler’s List was shot in the city), which re-opened in 2010 as a museum, partly telling the story of Krakow during the Nazi Occupation.
Also recommended is Rynek Underground, beneath the Cloth Hall, which showcases unearthed treasures from medieval times.
Many museums offer free entry on Mondays or with the Krakow Card (see below).
Want to discover what life was like in Communist times? Jump in a Fiat 126 (a car of the Socialist era) with a guide (£26 for a private tour, fundacjanh.org/enha-trip) and head to Nowa Huta, built by the Communists in 1949.
Visit underground bomb shelters and administrative offices, sample a traditional dinner and study the stark architecture.
Make life easy
The Krakow Card (krakowcard.com) is good value. It costs £20 for 48 hours and provides free entry to more than 40 museums and attractions, as well as free use of public transport and myriad discounts around the city.
EasyJet has returns from £58.98 (easyjet.com). The train to the city centre takes around 20 minutes and costs £1.82. For more information about the city, go to krakow.pl.