Krakow, the former capital of Poland, is a city steeped in history and rich in architectural beauty. As one of the few major cities not reduced to rubble during World War II, it offers visitors a unique experience of an Old Town bursting with churches, monuments, and the seat of ancient kings. Coupled with its thriving nightlife scene, picturesque streets and rich cultural heritage, it’s no wonder that tourists often have many questions about this enchanting destination.
Before setting off to explore this medieval city, it’s only natural for you to have some inquiries about what to expect. From understanding local customs, transportation options, all the way to delving into the city’s incredible history, this article aims to answer the most frequently asked questions about Krakow, providing you with essential information that will make your trip truly unforgettable.
In the following sections, we’ll cover a wide range of topics such as sightseeing, transportation, local cuisine and more. So, sit back, relax, and let us guide you through the vibrant city of Krakow, answering any queries you may have as you embark on your adventure.
Table of Contents:
Krakow, a city with a rich history, has been an important centre of Polish culture and politics for centuries. It served as the capital of Poland until the late 16th century, and even today, you can feel the air of historical significance throughout the city. Notable attractions like the Wawel Castle and St. Mary’s Basilica bear witness to Krakow’s significant role in the nation’s past.
The city boasts an impressive architectural heritage, largely because it was spared from major destruction during World War II. As you wander through Krakow’s streets, you will be greeted with a stunning array of architectural styles including Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque.
Krakow is situated in the southern part of Poland, near the border with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The city lies on the banks of the Vistula River, which adds a picturesque charm to the already captivating cityscape.
As a visitor, you’ll find that Krakow’s location makes it a convenient base for exploring other nearby attractions. With the stunning Tatra Mountains to the south and the famous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp to the west, it’s a city that provides easy access to Poland’s diverse range of historical and natural sites.
Getting to and Around Krakow
Krakow Airport, also known as John Paul II International Airport Kraków-Balice, is located about 11 km from the city centre. To reach the city from the airport, you have several options:
- Train: The airport train station is located near the passenger terminal, and trains run to Krakow’s central train station (Kraków Główny) frequently, taking about 20 minutes.
- Bus: The city bus line (number 208 or 252) connects the airport with the city centre, with journeys taking around 40 minutes. A night bus (number 902) is also available.
- Taxi: Taxis are available outside the arrivals terminal, but it’s recommended to book a licensed taxi to avoid potential scams.
Krakow boasts an extensive public transport system, including buses and trams. To travel around the city, you can:
- Purchase tickets at ticket machines or in kiosks.
- Validate your ticket upon boarding the bus or tram.
- Keep the validated ticket with you during your journey.
Remember that tickets come in different types, depending on the duration of your travel, from 20-minute to 72-hour tickets.
Taxis in Krakow can be identified by their taxi roof signs and yellow plates. When taking a taxi, make sure it is licensed and displays a visible rate card. You can either hail a taxi on the street, order one through a mobile app or call a taxi operator.
Kraków Główny, the central train station in Krakow, connects the city with major destinations in Poland and Europe. It is conveniently located within walking distance of the Old Town and has numerous facilities such as ticket offices, luggage storage, and waiting areas. When travelling to or from Krakow by train, be sure to check the train schedule and book your tickets in advance to secure your desired travel date and time.
Currency and Finances
The official currency of Krakow is the Polish Zloty (PLN). While euros may be accepted at some places, it is best to use zloty for transactions in the city. You can exchange your foreign currency at the airport or at various exchange bureaus throughout the city called “Kantors”.
ATMs are widely available in Krakow, and you can easily withdraw Polish zloty using your debit or credit card. Most ATMs accept VISA and Mastercard, but it is wise to check your card’s compatibility and fees with your bank before travelling.
Keep in mind that local banks or your home bank might charge fees for using ATMs outside your network.
For more extensive financial services in Krakow, you can find numerous banks throughout the city. These banks usually offer currency exchange services, though they might have slightly lower exchange rates compared to Kantors.
It’s advisable to compare the rates at different banks and Kantors before deciding where to exchange money. Banks may be able to swap practically all world currencies, but you should inquire about conversion fees and requirements in advance.
A Kantor is a Polish foreign currency exchange bureau that offers more competitive exchange rates compared to banks. When looking to exchange money in Krakow, checking rates at multiple Kantors is a good idea. They often accept major currencies like euros, American dollars, Swiss francs, and Canadian dollars for exchange. Remember to avoid currency exchange services at the airport or in high tourist areas, as the rates may be less favourable.
In summary, don’t forget that the primary currency in Krakow is the Polish zloty, and you can access ATMs, banks, and Kantors for your financial needs. Make sure to compare exchange rates and be aware of potential fees when exchanging money or using ATMs.
Accommodation in Krakow
When looking for accommodation in Krakow, hotels are a popular option. There is a wide range to choose from to suit your preferences and budget.
For those seeking historical splendour, consider staying in the Old Town, such as the Hotel Copernicus. However, do note that this option comes with a higher price tag. If you’re on a limited budget, you may consider staying in areas immediately outside the Old Town, as they often offer a suitable compromise.
For instance, the Hyatt Place Krakow is located 500 metres from Wisla Krakow Stadium and offers amenities like a fitness centre, private parking, a restaurant, and a bar.
Krakow also has a selection of hostels available for those looking to save on accommodation costs. These often provide shared rooms, communal spaces, and basic amenities. Staying in a hostel can also offer you the opportunity to meet fellow travellers and explore the city together.
Kazimerz, an area known for its unique atmosphere, is home to several hostels that cater to budget travellers.
In summary, Krakow offers a range of accommodation options, from luxurious hotels in the Old Town to cost-effective hostels in vibrant neighbourhoods. It’s essential to consider your budget, preferences, and desired location when selecting where to stay in this beautiful city.
Arts, Attractions and Sightseeing
Krakow is home to a variety of museums, each catering to different interests. For art lovers, you can visit the National Museum, which houses an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts.
If you’re interested in history, the Schindler’s Factory Museum offers a glimpse into the lives of those living under Nazi occupation.
For a relaxing break, visit one of Krakow’s parks, such as the Planty Park, which surrounds the Old Town. This green space offers walking paths, benches to unwind on, and picturesque spots to capture photos.
The Old Town of Krakow is a must-see for any visitor, boasting stunning architecture and historical landmarks. Wander through the narrow streets and marvel at the Gothic St Mary’s Basilica, or climb the steps of the Town Hall Tower for a panoramic view of the city.
Kazimierz, the former Jewish quarter, offers a mix of galleries, street markets, and vibrant nightlife.
Once the heart of Jewish life in Krakow, it’s now a cultural hub with a blend of historic synagogues and trendy cafes.
Main Market Square
At the centre of Krakow’s social life, the Main Market Square is not only the largest medieval market in Europe, but also a meeting point for students and tourists alike. Here you’ll find the famous Cloth Hall, the world’s oldest shopping mall, selling souvenirs and other goods.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Finally, don’t miss the chance to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine, an underground world of tunnels and chambers carved out of rock salt. This UNESCO-listed site features intricate sculptures, chapels, and stunning salt formations for you to explore on guided tours.
Cuisine and Nightlife
In Krakow, you’ll find a wide variety of restaurants offering both traditional Polish cuisine and international dishes. Amongst the popular local dishes, you should try pierogi (dumplings), placki ziemniaczane (potato pancakes), and żurek (sour rye soup).
For a fine dining experience, visit some of Krakow’s upscale restaurants in the Old Town and Jewish Quarter.
Bars and Clubs
The nightlife in Krakow offers plenty of options to suit your taste. From intimate bars to lively clubs, there are numerous venues where you can enjoy a drink or dance the night away.
Polish vodka is a must-try, and local craft beers are also gaining popularity. Most bars are open till late while clubs usually close around 4-6 am.
During the day, there’s no shortage of cosy cafes to relax in and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. Many cafes also serve various desserts and light meals.
In the trendy district of Kazimierz, you’ll find several cafes with unique and artistic atmospheres, perfect for a leisurely afternoon break.
Vegan and Vegetarian Options
Krakow has a growing number of vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants, offering a wide range of plant-based options. In addition to dedicated vegetarian venues, many traditional restaurants and cafes also offer vegetarian dishes. You won’t have trouble finding delicious, fresh and healthy options to suit your dietary preferences.
Shopping and Services
When visiting Krakow, you may want to explore the variety of shopping experiences available. In the city centre, you’ll find high-quality domestic and international boutiques, as well as traditional markets. If you’re in search of souvenirs, try looking for them away from the city centre, where you can find better deals.
For your convenience, Krakow offers numerous 24-hour pharmacies and convenience stores, so you never have to worry about emergencies or late-night shopping.
Should you need telecommunication services during your stay in Krakow, there are various options available. Major mobile carriers in Poland include Orange, T-Mobile, and Plus. These carriers offer prepaid SIM cards that you can easily purchase and top up at convenience stores or carrier shops.
For a night out and an opportunity to relax, you can visit one of Krakow’s cinemas. The city offers both multiplex cinemas showcasing the latest blockbuster films and smaller, independent cinemas that screen unique cinema gems. Most films in Poland are subtitled in Polish, so do check before buying a ticket if you require English subtitles or a different language.
Events and Sports
Krakow is renowned for its diverse cultural and artistic events throughout the year. As you plan your visit, make sure to check the event calendar to catch some of these great happenings.
Notable events include the annual Krakow Film Festival and the Jewish Culture Festival which exhibit fascinating films and showcase Jewish culture respectively. Food enthusiasts can look forward to the Pierogi Festival celebrating Poland’s famous dumplings, while creative minds will be captivated by the International Street Theatre Festival.
Being in Krakow, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy various sports, whether as a spectator or participant. Football is the dominant sport in Poland, and you’ll find two main teams in Krakow – Wisla Krakow and Cracovia. Catching a match between these two rival teams, known as the “Holy War,” is considered a must for football fans.
For those who prefer to be active, the city also offers various sports facilities. Head to the Park Jordana where you can find basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts, as well as a swimming pool. If you’re a runner, there’s the picturesque Blonia Park which boasts wide open spaces and charming scenery that makes it ideal for jogging and leisurely strolls.
Lastly, consider joining cycling enthusiasts by renting a city bike from one of the many Wavelo stations dotted around the city. This user-friendly system allows you to explore Krakow at your own pace, taking in its vibrant, historical charm.
Recommended activities in Krakow:
- Auschwitz Weekend Tours
- Bachelor Party Krakow
- Bike Tour: Old Town, Kazimierz and the Ghetto Exploration
- Creepy Krakow: 2-Hour City Walking Tour
- Krakow Bike Tours
- Krakow by Night Tour
- Krakow City Guided Tour on Scooter & Food Tasting
- Krakow City Tour by Electric Golf Cart
- Krakow Kalashnikov Shooting
- Krakow Stag Do Itinerary
- Segway Hire Krakow
- Segway Tours in Krakow
- Schindler Factory Tour
- Slovakia Treetop Walk, Zakopane & Thermal Spa Tour from Krakow
- Theme Parks near Krakow
- Things to do in Krakow at Night
- Traditional Gondola Sightseeing Vistula River Cruise
- Visiting Krakow with kids
Basic Travel Information
Climate and Weather
Krakow has a temperate climate with warm summers and cold winters. The average temperature in summer, from June to August, is around 20°C, while in winter, it often drops below freezing. The best time to visit Krakow is from May to September, as you’ll experience milder temperatures and enjoy outdoor activities in the city’s green parks.
Always check the local weather forecast before your trip to help you pack accordingly and plan your sightseeing.
Krakow is generally considered a safe city for tourists. However, as with any other major city, it’s essential to exercise common sense and take basic precautions. Keep your belongings secure, avoid walking alone in poorly lit areas, and be aware of pickpockets in crowded spots. In case of an emergency, dial 112 for police, ambulance, or fire services.
The official language in Krakow is Polish, but English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas, hotels, and restaurants. To better connect with the locals, learn a few essential Polish phrases, such as “dziękuję” (thank you), “proszę” (please), and “przepraszam” (sorry or excuse me).
In Krakow, the standard electrical voltage is 230 volts, 50Hz AC, and the outlet sockets use the Type C and Type E plugs. If your home country has a different voltage or plug type, it’s recommended to bring a travel adapter on your trip to ensure you can charge your devices safely.
Tours and Excursions
Auschwitz-Birkenau, a significant historical site, is a popular destination to visit while in Krakow. Guided tours from Krakow to the concentration camp provide an in-depth look at its harrowing past.
The guided tour includes transportation to and from the site, and takes roughly 2.5 hours at Auschwitz, 1.5 hours at Birkenau, with a 3-hour round trip journey.
For a closer look at Krakow, there are various types of tours available:
- Krakow Old Town: Explore the historic streets and beautiful architecture by joining walking tours or a Vistula River cruise. This way, you can witness the majestic Wawel Castle and the Kazimierz district from a unique perspective.
- Cultural Tours: Discover the rich history and heritage of Krakow by taking advantage of cultural tours that showcase the city’s significant landmarks and stories.
- Wieliczka Salt Mine: Another top-rated destination is the Wieliczka Salt Mine. With guided tours available from Krakow, you can explore this amazing underground world in just 2.5 hours, including transportation.
As you plan your time in this charming city, these tours provide an exciting way to delve deeper into Krakow’s captivating history and culture.