Along with the nation’s capital of Warsaw, Krakow is the premier tourist destination of Poland. It owes its popularity to a mix of beautiful landmarks and dark, complex history, all wrapped up in an affordable city getaway. For those who haven’t experienced Poland before, Krakow is the perfect introduction into the country’s way of life, food, history, and more. So, to start your journey, all you need is 3 days and the following Krakow travel itinerary.
Best Time to Visit Krakow
Krakow, like the rest of Poland, sees it peak in tourist numbers during the summer months of July and August. In summer, expect pleasantly warm European days with the odd thunderstorm rolling through. Visitor numbers easy off a little in May, June, and September as you edge into the shoulder season.
Even in these months, the temperature won’t drop off too badly, and coupled with cheaper prices, the shoulder season is ideally the best time to visit Krakow. For festive souls, Krakow is home to quite a wonderful Christmas market, making it another great time of year to consider this Krakow itinerary.
How to Get Around Krakow
Although many of the popular tourist areas of Krakow can be explored on foot, the city also has a substantial public transport network. The city’s trams can take you through the various neighborhoods of the city centre, while buses offer wider coverage of the rest of the city.
Fares start from 2.8 zl (~$0.77 USD) which provides a 20-minute ticket; and the same tickets are used for both the tram and bus. Tickets can be bought from machines on board most vehicles, at major stops, or from the driver as a last resort.
When arriving at Krakow John Paul II International Airport you have a few options to reach the city center. Two regular buses (208 and 252) and one night bus (902) link the airport with the centre. Alternatively, there is a regular train that can bring passengers to Krakow’s Main Station, which is only a short walk from Old Town.
Accommodation in Kraków
Since Krakow is one of Poland’s most popular tourist destinations, there’s no shortage of accommodation options. With most attractions within walking distance of the Old Town, this part of the city is a good starting point for looking at accommodation. Even if walking isn’t your thing, Krakow is home to an extensive and inexpensive public transport network of trams and buses to help you get about easily.
No matter whether you’re looking for budget hostels, self-catering apartments, or luxurious hotels, Krakow has got you covered. When searching for accommodation in Krakow, two great places to start are Booking.com and Airbnb, as both offer a great selection of options across the city. As for backpackers, Krakow caters to all sorts with both party hostels and the more laid-back variety. For the best hostel prices, check out Hostelworld.
It’s recommended that you book in advance during Krakow’s high season and during the lead up to Christmas, as the city becomes much busier.
The Perfect 3-Day Krakow Itinerary
With this 3-day Krakow itinerary, you’ll not only get to see the sights of the Old Town, but also get a feel for several other neighborhoods. Beyond that, there’s also a choice of day trips open to you so that you can see more of this fascinating part of Poland.
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Ok, let’s get back to our perfect Krakow itinerary and the best things to do in Krakow in 3 days.
Krakow Itinerary: Day 1
There’s only one place for you to properly start your Krakow visit, the city’s wonderful Old Town. After that you’ll venture over to the former Jewish district of Kazimierz.
Krakow’s Main Square
At the heart of Krakow’s Old Town, like in many European cities, is the Main Square, home to many of Krakow’s most beloved landmarks. The square centres on the elaborate Renaissance Cloth Hall, which features a grand arcade inside that you can freely walk through.
Also found on the square is the lone Town Hall tower and St Mary’s Basilica with its mismatched spires. Make sure to stick around for the hourly trumpet call and ask about the legends that surround its interrupted nature. You can learn more of Krakow’s history and local legends with Old Town walking tours.
For those wanting to learn more about Krakow, check out the underground Historical Museum of the City of Krakow. It’s literally right beneath the Main Square.
Finally, if walking around Krakow seems a bit pedestrian, on the Main Square you’ll find horse carriages that can take you around the Old Town in style.
Old Town Landmarks
Venturing north through the picturesque city streets of Krakow’s Old Town you’ll come to what remains of the old Krakow City Walls. Much of the old walls were torn down and converted into parkland to open the city up, but St. Florian’s Gate and the Krakow Barbican both remain.
If you’re an art lover, then consider heading over to the nearby Czartoryski Museum. Not only is it situated in some beautiful palatial buildings, but inside you can admire, among other masterpieces, one of Da Vinci’s most famed pieces, the Lady with an Ermine.
Throughout the rest of the Old Town are countless theaters, churches, and museums. The best way to find one after another is to simply follow Grodzka Street as it runs south straight through the Old Town. Don’t be surprised if you come across multiple monuments or images of Pope John Paul II, the Polish pope was strongly linked with the city of Krakow.
Kazimierz Jewish Quarter
Only a few blocks away from the edge of the Old Town lies the old Jewish neighborhood of Kazimierz. Close to the Vistula River, Kazimierz also has centuries of history around each corner. What’s interesting is that the quarter has a distinctly different look and feel compared to Krakow’s Old Town.
In Kazimierz you’ll find several historic synagogues in its streets, including the 15th-century Old Synagogue. A tour of this neighborhood is advisable so that you can properly delve into its past and find spots otherwise overlooked.
Make sure to stop by Plac Nowy Market and soak in the old-world feel of this gritty square in the middle of the Jewish quarter. Then stop in at Restauracja Polska for a simple, traditional Polish meal while it’s still light out.
Sunset from the Mounds
If you’re after a great spot to get a scenic view of Krakow or watch the sunset, then you’re in luck. Situated to the west and south of the city centre lie two large earth-mounds, Kościuszko Mound and Krakus Mound. Both spots offer panoramic views and a great place to watch the sun go down at the end of your first day in Krakow.
Krakow Itinerary: Day 2
Today you’ll delve further into Krakow’s legends and past with visits to Wawel Castle and the old Jewish Ghetto. To cap the day off, why not go on a spooky ghost tour?
Just beyond the southern edge of Krakow’s Old Town lies the majestic Wawel Castle. This important historic landmark has to be one of the best places to visit in Krakow, hands down. Although it has had its troubles, this medieval castle was once the royal residence when Krakow was the capital of Poland.
After winding your way up into the centre of the castle area, you’ll find not only some ruins but the majestic sight of Wawel Cathedral. The main hall is free to enter, but the cathedral’s crypts, bell tower, and museum require a 12 zl (~$3.29 USD) ticket.
Beside the cathedral is a small path leading to an inner courtyard of the castle that’s lined with balconies and some fresco remains. Surrounding this courtyard are several other museums, including the Crown Treasury and Armory.
Below the castle down by the river, watch in awe as a local legend comes to life with the Wawel Dragon, a fire-breathing dragon statue.
Across the Vistula River uncover the tragic past of the city’s World War II Jewish Ghetto. It was here that Polish and international Jews were forced to live in cramped conditions by the Nazis before being sent off to a concentration camp. To fully grasp the horror and personal side to this period, it really helps to take in a tour of the area. Walkative offers a free walking tour of the Jewish districts in Krakow.
Make sure to seek out the Ghetto Heroes Square, where a collection of vacant chairs makes a powerful statement about the rampant loss of life during this period.
To learn more about Krakow during the Second World War, consider a visit to Oskar Schindler’s Factory Museum. Yes, this is the actual factory building from the acclaimed film Schindler’s List. It now houses a vast museum that explores life in occupied Krakow through various mediums. This museum is said to be one of the best of Krakow, if not Poland.
Time for Dumplings
If there’s one essential Polish dish that you need to sample during your time in Krakow, it’s the Polish dumplings known as pierogi. These hearty, stuffed dumplings are sure to fill you up. A great place to give them a try is at the atmospheric Pod Wawelem Kompania Kuflowa restaurant.
Alternatively, why not find a spot on Main Square to have a drink and some food as you people watch? Cafe Bankowa is one establishment that offers both great outdoor seating as well as a grand interior.
Night Time Ghost Tour
See another side of Krakow with a nighttime stroll through the city centre while a guide does their best to spook you. These macabre tours highlight local ghost stories, spooky legends, and unnerving tales of the city’s serial killers. It may be best to bring a friend for this one :)
Krakow Itinerary: Day 3
Despite being a fascinating city to explore, Krakow also happens to offer several opportunities for day trips. Surrounding the city are plenty of interesting destinations that can be explored in a full day or even half a day if you only have 3 days in Krakow.
Few places in Poland are as infamous as the concentration camps at Auschwitz Birkenau. To the west of Krakow, this tragic place is certainly one of the most common day trips from Krakow. Visitors can either choose to reach Auschwitz with a tour or by public transport.
At the Auschwitz I camp you’ll find a museum set up in the remains of the Nazi death camp. Here you’ll see the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign as well as other haunting reminders of this horrific scar on history.
Nearby lies the vast Auschwitz II-Birkenau. It has row after row of buildings by the camp’s iconic train tracks seen also in Schindler’s List.
The whole day can be quite emotionally draining given the subject matter and raw honesty of what occurred in these places. To get the most out of your visit, consider booking a tour from Krakow.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Really not far from the center of Krakow lies the UNESCO-recognized Wieliczka Salt Mine. With a history spanning back to the 13th century, these mines offer considerable cultural and historic importance.
Once you select a route and descend into the salt mine, you’re treated to the fascinating features of the underground caverns. What’s more, one of the mine’s caverns is home to the Chapel of St. King, sure to be a highlight of any visit.
To maximize your time in Krakow, there are tours that combine a tour of the salt mine with a visit to Auschwitz Birkenau, like this one for example. However, you can also book a tour of just the salt mine.
To the south of Krakow lies the large Tatra Mountain range that divides Poland with Slovakia. At the foot of these mountains lies the popular resort town of Zakopane.
Ideal for outdoor activities, Zakopane works as a destination both in summer and in winter. Visitors to Zakopane in winter can enjoy skiing and snowboarding, whereas the mountainous hiking trails are open during Poland’s warmer months. In either season, take the cable car up to Gubałówka mountain and admire the view out over Zakopane below.
A day trip isn’t enough time to fully explore all of Zakopane’s trails or sights like Morskie Oko, but the town’s delightful character and superb scenery are definitely worth the journey.
Well, there you have it – the ultimate Krakow itinerary. You now know everything you need to know about what to do in Krakow in 3 days. If you’re curious about seeing more of Poland, check out this 10 day itinerary of Poland next.