Destination Guides

Your essential guide to Krakow, Poland

Recently updated on July 28th, 2023 at 03:24 pm

Krakow’s charms reel you in immediately on arrival. Medieval stone streets and crumbling castles tell past tales, while vibrant life infuses the present. From cosy cafés to booming nightlife. Picturesque parks to opera, poetry and paradises. Read this travel guide to Krakow and discover what Poland’s ‘cultural capital’ is all about.

Meet Rynek Główny: The Old Town Market Square

travel guide to Krakow

Wave “cseść” (hello) to the Rynek Główny – Krakow’s iconic Market Square. The beating heart of the Old Town and the can’t-miss of Krakow. This charming medieval square ranks as the largest in Europe at 40,000 square kilometres. Brilliant museums, lively bars and cafés, hotels, cathedrals, churches, towers and other historic landmarks shine on every step.

polish music

A stroll here is worthy of a trip in itself. And with dances and music festivals, parades, bell ringing, and trumpet ringing thrown into the mix, you can find ‘Cracovian’ tradition in full flow here. Since you asked… here are some things to do in Krakow’s square.

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St Mary’s Basilica

This towering (80m tall) gothic Church is a jaw-dropping sight, especially for architecture buffs. Dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries, St Mary’s Alter inside is a Polish national treasure you have to see. And every hour, you’ll hear Krakow’s traditional trumpet sound (the ‘Hejnał mariacki’) coming from the taller of Saint Mary’s two towers. This commemorates a trumpeter shot when sounding the alarm just before the Mongols attacked the city in the 13th century.

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The Cloth Hall

cloth hall, Krakow

Step in Cloth Hall – the world’s oldest shopping mall. Admire the beautiful Renaissance architecture from 1555. Browse countless shops. Or munch your way through authentic Cracovian food stalls. Alternatively, head upstairs to the Sukiennice Museum to gaze at 19th century Polish art and sculpture.

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Roam around Wawel Hill

Wawel hill

Right next to market square and the Vistula river is Wawel Hill. Legend goes that a Polish prince slayed a dragon at the base of this hill and built a palace on top to celebrate. Fittingly, a roam here throws you back in time. We recommend a visit the Wawel Royal Castle – the first listed UNESCO World Heritage site in the world. And a shining example of architectural styles: medieval, renaissance and baroque. For even more history, the Wawel’s 14th century Roman Catholic Cathedral is a must-see. Coronations, royal burials and the relics of patron Saint Stanislaw are on show here.

Check out historic Kazimierz


Explore Kazimierz in Old Town. Krakow’s former Jewish quarter and setting of ‘Schlinder’s List’ (1993) by Stephen Spielberg. This is a wonderful place to soak in pre-war Jewish culture in Europe. 16th century Jewish synagogues and cemeteries scatter the city. And today, this quarter is bursting with clothing stories, quaint cafés and art galleries. Or roam remnants of the past.

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Taste authentic Polish food


Tuck into sernik babci (fluffy cheesecake) as reward for your exploring. Or try kiełbasa (Polish sausage), obwarzanki (a local Krakow bagel with salt, poppy seeds), kwaśnica (saukerkraut soup), and pierogi (half-moon dumplings). Oh, and don’t forget the silky smooth vodka.

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Explore the Wieliczka Salt Mines

Head to Wieliczka, about 8 miles southeast of Krakow. Here, descend underground for one of travel’s most mind-blowing experiences. Explore the endless corridors and atmospheric chambers hollowed out of salt rock. Over 700 years of excavations are on show – highlighting how important salt used to be for the local economy. Remember to visit the Chapel of St. King (carved from salt rock underground) and admire the sculptures on show.

Planty Park

Planty park, Krakow

Stroll through scenic Planty park. This delightful 4km slice of nature circles around the old town – replacing the old city walls which were dismantled during the 1820s. The perfect wind down after a busy day of sightseeing!

Keen on Krakow? Tell us what parts you’d like to explore in the comments below!

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