Krakow is a great city for those on a budget. You can spend a whole day wandering the city and enjoying all it has to offer for basically nothing. Also the food in the city is relatively cheap! More places to eat in Krakow here.
The Royal Route (Or Royal Road)
The medieval ‘Old Town' is where you will see most of the popular tourist attractions in Krakow. The largest market square in Europe is quite a sight to see and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! I spent a whole day walking around this area and seriously, couldn’t get enough.
I’ve made a free walking guide to the Royal Route & Wawel Hill – you can find it here.
Climb the Town Hall Tower
This is also a good workout to start your day (it is about 110 steps to the top), the Town Hall Tower is the only surviving structure from the original Town Hall. The views from the top are spectacular and best of all, free.
Located on the left bank of Vistula river is a gorgeous hill full of buildings and fortifications that was the official seat of the Polish monarchy. There are 3 things you shouldn't miss while visiting the historic hill: Wawel Cathedral, Wawel Castel and the Dragons Den.
If you missed it above…I’ve made a free walking guide to the Royal Route & Wawel Hill – you can find it here.
free walking tours
You can totally explore the city on your own but there are also tons of free walking tours. The most popular one is CracowFreeTours.com and they offer basically everything; Old town tours, Kazimierz Jewish Quarter Tour, Communist Era Tour, & Polish Food Tour. Also, this is a great option if you are traveling alone and want to meet people! Look for the many umbrellas that say FREE on them.
Climb Kopiec Krakusa
If you get a beautiful, clear sky day make sure you climb Krakus Mound (also known as Kopiec Krakusa) that is in the Podgorze district. From the old city, take tram 1, 2, or 6 to get here.
Walk around the market in the main square
Food and souvenirs, of course, cost extra (but are really cheap!) and you can enjoy some great people watching.
Visit all the local churches
I am not religious (at all) and I found touring the Krakow churches quite fascinating. There are many that are downright BEAUTIFUL and so different from one another.
My top pick to not miss is...St. Peter and Paul Cathedral. It is the oldest baroque building in Poland and a real stunner. Try to visit on a Thursday when there is a demonstration of the longest ‘Foucault pendulum’ in Poland that shows the Earth’s rotation.
$$ Tip: If you don’t mind spending some money (60 PLN / $15), come here during Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8 PM (from May to October) to enjoy classical music concerts.
Explore the streets of Kazimierz
The old jewish quarter of Krakow is full of history and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Quick history lesson: The King banished the jews of Krakow in 1945 to the royal city of Kazimierz and the nearby royal city flourished. The streets hold tons of history and you can easily spend a full day wandering.
Don’t miss: Corpus Christi Church, the Synagogues of Krakow, Remu Synagogue and Cemetery, Issac Synagogue, Szeroka Street & Nowy Square and Schindler’s List filming sites.
Walk the entirety of Planty
Planty, the park that surrounds the old town, was built after they tore down the medieval walls and fortifications (except for the St. Florian's Gate and Barbican). Today, it has an area of over 5.2 acres and it contains 30 smaller gardens that each have their own styles, monuments, and fountains.
Visit Botanic Garden of the Jagiellonian University
If you are trying to escape the cold, or the rain, a great option is visiting the Botanic Garden of the Jagiellonian University that is located east of the Old Town. It has over 5,000 species and varieties of plants along within 3 greenhouses.
Visit free museums
Always check the websites before you visit but here is my list:
- Schindlers Factory Museum: Free every Monday (except the first Monday)
- Rynek Underground Museum: Free on Tuesdays (except first Tuesday of every month)
- Wawel Hill:
- Free everyday - Wawel Hill
- Free on Mondays & Sundays (except select exhibits) - Wawel Castle & Cathedral
- Old Synagogue in Kazimierz (History Museum): Free on Mondays
- National Museum in Krakow – Main Building: Free on Sundays
Picnic with views of Wawel Hill from right bank of the river
Enjoy a quick picnic here for some gorgeous Instagram photos. There are also a lot of free events in the spring and summer. Kladka Bernatka footbridge that lies between Kazimierz and Podgórz is also a photo opportunity nearby you shouldn’t miss.
$$ Tip: If you want to spend some money, there are several barges and boats that will take you on a ride around the river with optional meals as you cruise through.
Visit the Aushwitz Birkenau Camp
The most emotional day I had in Europe. The camp is completely free to visit but there are guided tours available. There are many signs and things to read for free so don’t feel like you have to go on a tour to learn about the camp. It is also a very emotional place and I liked that I could leave once I had seen enough.