Are you planning to spend four days in Kraków, Poland and are wondering which are the best things to see?
Then you’ve come to the right place. I spent four days in this beautiful Polish city and am excited to share my first-hand experience.
Make the most of your time there with this 4-day Kraków itinerary. At the end of this article, you’ll also find tips on how to get there and get around, where to eat and where to stay in Kraków.
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Why Visit Kraków?
Kraków is a very easy city to love.
The capital of Poland until 1596, it was also the capital of the General Government during the German occupation. As it was not in the Nazis’ interests to destroy the city’s infrastructure, unlike many Polish cities, Kraków made it through World War II (WWII) with barely a scratch.
As a result, today you can enjoy its perfectly preserved historic centre from Gothic to Renaissance, through to Baroque and Art Nouveau.
Better still, Kraków is a great base from which to take day trips, it is relatively inexpensive and is one of the best solo travel destinations in Europe.
Kraków Itinerary Day 1: Old Town and Wawel Castle
As many of Kraków’s landmarks are close together and much of the old city is pedestrianised, a walking tour of Kraków’s old town is your best bet.
Starting at St.Florian’s Gate, stroll along Floriańska Street to the Market Square, home to Kraków’s Christmas market.
Dominating this square is St. Mary’s Church, the city’s geographic and spiritual beating heart. Arrive there at the top of the hour, and you will hear a bugle call (hejnal) sound from the taller of its two towers.
Across the Market Square from St. Mary’s Church is the Cloth Hall, Kraków’s temple to commercialism since 1257.
Exiting the other side of the Cloth Hall, adjacent to the remnants of the old town hall is Eros Bound, Igor Mitoraj’s sculpture of a disembodied head. Although controversial, this has become a popular Kraków landmark.
The next stop is the Collegium Maius (Jagiellońska 15), the oldest college of Poland’s oldest university. Don’t miss the show put on by the courtyard clock at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. (plus 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the summer months).
Lovers of Art Nouveau should not miss the nearby Franciscan Church (pl. Wszystkich Świętych).
Upon entering the church, turn around and look up at the window above the main door. The stained glass masterpiece by Stansilaw Wyspicński – Let It Be – depicts God emerging from the sinuous, elemental cosmos.
Head along Grodzka and at the magnificent baroque church of St Peter and Paul, walk across Mary Magdalen Square and turn left down Kanonicza. Taking its name from the canons who lived there from the 14th Century onwards, this is one of the oldest streets in Kraków.
At the end of Kanoniczka is Wawel Hill, home to Kraków Cathedral and the Royal Castle. Kraków was the capital of Poland from 1038 until 1596 and Wawel Castle served as the royal residence and seat of power.
Don’t leave here without saying ‘hello’ to the fire-breathing dragon standing guard at the foot of Wawel Hill. According to local legend, Kraków was founded on his defeat, and his lair was in a cave at the foot of Wawel Hill.
>>> GET THE LOWDOWN ON THOSE DRAGONS. CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR AUDIOGUIDE OF WAWEL HILL.
How to explore Kraków’s old town
- I explored the old town on a guided tour with Walkative!, returning later that day to take a closer look at places pointed out by the guide.
- This old town free tour was excellent. It runs three times a day, even on Christmas Day when I did it.
- As the name suggests it is free but tips are appreciated.
FIND OUT MORE: The Royal Road: A Kraków Walking Tour
Kraków Itinerary Day 2: The Wieliczka Salt Mine
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Wieliczka Salt Mine, 12 km southeast of Kraków, is an easy day trip from the city. Over 700 years old, just 1% of the mine’s 300 km labyrinthine network of tunnels is open to those taking a guided tour.
Descending 47 flights of stairs to the first chamber, ‘The Bono’, at 64 meters below the surface, the tour takes you from chamber to chamber, through narrow corridors hewn into the mine’s salt base.
Learn about how salt played a major role in the fortunes of the Kingdom of Poland, particularly in those of Casimir the Great (1310 – 1370).
Are you searching for an unusual wedding location? Then, why not get married at St Kinga’s Chapel? This is the most spectacular of the chapels dotted around the Wieliczka Mine and, at just over 100 meters below ground, it really will prove How Deep Is Your Love.
To be frank, if time is short, I would dump the Wieliczka Salt Mine from your Kraków itinerary. It’s expensive by Polish standards and feels like a bit of a tourist trap.
In my view, you would be better off exploring the city’s other, more cultural, activities.
But having said that, it’s not often that you are given the opportunity to visit a Disneyfied mine complete with chapels made from salt. Embrace the kitsch!
How to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine
It is easy to get to the Wieliczka Salt Mine from Kraków under your own steam.
Catch a train from Kraków Glówny (the central station) to the end of the line at Wieliczka Rynek Kopalnia. The salt mine is a five-minute walk from the train station; the route is clearly signposted.
You can buy your train ticket for the 30-minute journey through Kraków’s suburbs from the machines at the station or from the conductor on board. Check the train timetable here.
But if you prefer someone to take care of the travel arrangements for you, you can visit the Wieliczka Mine on an organised day trip from Kraków. Here are a few of the most popular excursions:
WIELICZKA SALT MINE TOUR FROM KRAKÓW
Explore the salt mine on the Tourist Route tour with a convenient transfer from your hotel and a drop-off in Kraków city centre.
VISIT THE SALT MINE TOUR WITH PRIVATE TRANSFER FROM KRAKÓW
Enjoy the convenience of a private transfer with this affordable half-day excursion that includes your guided tour of the salt mine.
FIND OUT MORE: Visiting the Wieliczka Mine: Is it worth its salt?
Kraków Itinerary Day 3: Exploring Kraków’s Jewish History
Your third day in Kraków is one of two halves.
Spend the morning exploring Kazimierz, the old Jewish Quarter. In the afternoon, head to Podgorze, the site of the ghetto and Schindler’s Factory.
In common with other Polish cities, the human cost of the Nazi occupation in Kraków was immense.
In 1941, the city’s Jews were forcibly moved from the Kazimierz across the Vistula River to a ghetto created in Podgorze. Immortalised in Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List, the Nazis subsequently emptied the Kraków Ghetto in three waves, including deportation to Auschwitz.
Kazimierz was founded in 1335 by Casimir the Great (remember him from the day before?) as a separate city, only becoming a district of Kraków in the 19th Century. With its own town hall, defence walls and large churches, Kazimierz rivalled Kraków in position and wealth.
The history of Kazimierz is closely entwined with that of Kraków’s, and Poland’s, Jewish population.
Although Jewish merchants started to arrive in Poland as early as 966, the first extensive emigration was at the time of the Crusades in the 11th Century. The tsunami of religious zealotism and intolerance sweeping across Western Europe meant that non-Christians were forced to pack their bags and seek a new home.
This mass immigration was a good deal for both the Jewish and the Polish people. In exchange for safe haven, Poland could take advantage of the Jews’ not-inconsiderable knowledge.
However, it was King Jan Olbracht (1459 – 1501) who was responsible for Kazimierz’s distinctive nature. In the wake of anti-Semitic protests in the late 15th Century, he moved the Jewish population here under his protection and Kazimierz became an important centre of Jewish culture.
Kazimierz’s sacred architecture bears silent witness to centuries of peaceful co-existence between Christians and Jews.
To the west is Kazimierz’s Christian section, centred on Plac Wolnica, the site of a popular Sunday flea market and also a filming location for Schindler’s List. A visit to the nearby Corpus Christi Church is worth it for its extraordinary 15th Century altar.
In the east, you have the Jewish half, centred around Szeroka which is home to the oldest preserved synagogue in Poland.
The aptly named Old Synagogue dates from the 15th Century with some remodelling done in the 16th and 18th Centuries. It now houses the Galicia Jewish Museum, chronicling the history and culture of Kraków’s Jews.
This harmony between the two faiths changed with the arrival of World War II.
Prior to 1939, there were an estimated 60,000 Jews living in Kraków. After the Germans occupied the city, Kraków was ‘ethnically cleansed.’ Those Jews who chose to remain in the city – or were unable to leave – were forcibly relocated across the river to Podgorze.
Today, officially there are just 840 Jewish people living in Kraków, 100 of whom are Orthodox Jews.
Visiting Podgorze, the Eagle Pharmacy and Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory
Traces of the former Jewish ghetto in Podgorze are still visible today.
Cross the Bernatek footbridge, linking Kazimierz with Podgorze, and keep going until you reach Plac Bohaterów, the heart of the Kraków Ghetto. Today, a memorial comprising evenly-spaced wooden chairs fills this square, symbolising the furniture destroyed by the Nazis during the liquidation of the ghetto.
At No. 18 is the Eagle Pharmacy.
Tadeusz Pankiewicz, the Polish owner of Apteka Pod Orłem as it was then known, and his staff were the only non-Jews living and working in the ghetto during the occupation. Pankiewicz and his staff risked their lives to help the ghetto’s inhabitants, acquiring food and falsifying documents.
Today, the Eagle Pharmacy has been restored and is an interactive museum charting the lives of those in the Kraków Ghetto. It is well worth spending at least an hour there. It’s not often that a pharmacist is cast as a hero!
Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory is a ten-minute walk from the Eagle Pharmacy.
Since the release of Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List in 1993, the story of Oskar Schindler has become well known. Along with his wife, Emilie, this German industrialist risked his life to save more than 1,200 Jews from the gas chambers by employing them in his factories.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR FAST-TRACK TICKET TO SCHINDLER’S FACTORY
Today, the site of his former factory is a thoroughly absorbing museum chronicling life in Kraków under the Nazi Occupation, through a series of documents from the archives, photos, artefacts and multimedia. MOCAK, Kraków’s contemporary art museum, is in the adjacent, larger part of the factory.
Visiting Schindler’s Enamel Factory
- The museum is located at 4 Lipowa Street
- Plan on spending at least a couple of hours here, more if you can manage it.
- Backpacks are not allowed into the museum and you will need to check these in. Bring a smaller bag if possible.
How to get to Kazimierz and Podgorze
You can walk to Kazimierz and Podgorze from the old town. From Wawel Castle to Kazimierz, this will take you 15 minutes. Alternatively, catch tram #3 or #24.
Kraków Itinerary Day 4: A Day Trip to Auschwitz
Auschwitz was the final destination for many in the Kraków Ghetto and was an important reason for my visit to Kraków.
It was, in fact, a collection of camps. Auschwitz I, a former Polish Army barracks, had its first intake of political prisoners in June 1940.
However, Hitler’s murderous ambition had no limits. In 1941, to increase the camp’s capacity from 30,000 to 100,000, the Nazis built Auschwitz II – Birkenau, 3km northwest of Auschwitz I.
Today, Auschwitz I serves as a museum, many of its red-brick barrack buildings housing exhibitions displaying 80,000 artefacts from lives lost during the Holocaust. By contrast, Auschwitz II – Birkenau, twenty times the size of Auschwitz I, is more of a memorial to those who perished.
From the moment you enter Auschwitz I under the twisted iron of the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate, a visit to this former death camp is an unforgettable and profoundly moving experience.
Documentary images of those who perished stare out at you, frozen in at that moment in time. Their collected belongings – pots and pans, suitcases, footwear, combs and brushes, tins of hair pomade – declare their belief that they were moving onto a different life.
Take time to stop and reflect at the unloading ramp at Auschwitz II – Birkenau.
It was here that the cattle-cart rail transport unloaded its human cargo and, with a swift flick of his finger, the SS Commander decided who would live and who would die on that day.
It was here also that dreams started to die. Dreams of a new home. Dreams of a new life. Dreams of meeting children and grandchildren yet to be born.
How to visit Auschwitz
Allow a full day to visit Auschwitz. You can either visit Auschwitz independently or as part of a tour group from Kraków.
Guided tours of Auschwitz II – Birkenau take 3.5 hours. If you are visiting independently, allow at least 90 minutes to visit Auschwitz I and a further 60 minutes for Auschwitz II – Birkenau.
On balance, visiting Auschwitz on an excursion from Kraków is the better option.
The organised trip I joined was convenient and the guide was excellent, providing far more context than I could have gleaned from a guidebook. However, it sometimes felt rushed and it didn’t give much of an opportunity for quiet reflection whilst there.
I used GetYourGuide to identify options for day trips to Auschwitz. In my experience, they are reliable, offer a good selection of tours and you can cancel up to 24 hours before your excursion for a full refund.
Here is my pick of the best tours:
AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU GUIDED TOUR WITH TRANSPORT
I took this excellent excursion which included transport in a minibus from Kraków, entrance fees and a guide.
>>> BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE
VISIT AUSCHWITZ & WIELICZSKA SALT MINE IN ONE DAY
This full-day guided tour allows you to explore two of Poland’s most popular destinations in one day: Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Wieliczka Salt Mine. It’s also fantastic value.
>>> BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE
READ THIS NEXT: Top 10 Auschwitz Tours from Kraków
If you wish to visit Auschwitz independently, both buses and trains run between Kraków and Oświęcim.
Taking the bus is more convenient as most will drop you by the entrance to Auschwitz-I. A free shuttle bus runs between Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau every 30 minutes.
Check the Auschwitz–Birkenau Memorial and Museum website for detailed information on tickets, including how to buy them. Advance booking is essential.
FIND OUT MORE: Is Auschwitz Worth Visiting? How to Do it
Planning Your 4 Days in Kraków
How many days in Kraków?
If you spend 4 days in Kraków, you will be able to explore the charms of the old town with its squares, its churches and its castle. In addition, it will give you time to visit the important places associated with WWII, remembering and honouring those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
However, if you are short on time you could compress this into 3 days; for example, tour operators offer a combined (long) day trip to Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Mine. Alternatively, you could remove the Wieliczka Salt Mine from this Kraków itinerary.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR GUIDED DAY TRIP TO THE WIELICZCKA SALT MINE AND AUSCHWITZ
The best time of year to visit Kraków
Kraków is a year-round destination.
Take a weekend break in April, May, September and October for mild temperatures and fewer visitors. Although summer is festival season in Kraków and temperatures are balmy, the city is jam-packed with tourists and prices are higher.
Christmas in Kraków is special. The city looks super festive, has one of the best Christmas markets in Europe and is open for business. If you are lucky, there will even be a gentle dusting of snow.
How to get to Kraków
Getting from Kraków airport to the centre of the city is easy, thanks to an efficient rail connection.
Frequent trains run from the train station at the airport to its central station (Główny). A one-way ticket will set you back 18 PLN (as of August 2023) and the 16km journey takes just over 15 minutes.
You can buy your ticket from the machines at the ticket machine in the passenger terminal or train station, or from the conductor on board.
How to get around Kraków
Due to its compact size, the old city is walkable.
However, if you need to go further afield or your accommodation is not centrally located, then a tram is your best bet. Kraków’s tram network is modern and efficient. Ticket machines are at tram stops.
Where to eat in Kraków
For me, one of the best things about Kraków is that it hasn’t sold its soul to tourism.
This is largely thanks to its large student population, 200,000 at the last count, around a quarter of the city’s population. This keeps things real.
Here are a few places that I can recommend:
Pierogarnia Krakówiacy (Szewska 23)
For cheap and delicious pierogi, this wonderfully old-fashioned cafe has deservedly garnered plaudits from foodies.
Take a seat, peruse the small menu and order at the counter. You will be given a ticket and when your number is called, you collect your tasty dish. It’s as simple as that.
Klimaty Poludniul (Św. Gertrudy 5)
For a more upmarket experience, visit this friendly restaurant on the outskirts of the old town. Delicious food with an Italian emphasis and the best glass of Primitivo I have ever tasted (and I have tasted quite a few).
Cafe Camelot (Świętego Tomasza 17)
This characterful cafe tucked in a side street behind Market Square serves fantastic coffee and food from breakfast through to dinner. I recommend their hot honey vodka!
Cukiernia Cichowsky (Starowiślna 21)
If you are walking between the old town and Kazimierz, stop off here for gloriously sinful cake and coffee.
Where to stay in Kraków
There is no shortage of places to stay in Kraków, accommodating all budgets. Here are a few options.
Mid-range – Mercure Stare Misto
I stayed at this comfortable 4-star chain hotel, conveniently located opposite the train station and a 10-minute walk from the Market Square.
Here are some alternatives that I have found that may suit other budgets:
Splurge – Balthazar Design Hotel
In the heart of the old town, close to Wawel Castle, this boutique hotel has garnered rave reviews.
This centrally-located apartment looks like a fantastic budget choice. It has the bonus of a garden area for outdoor dining.
>>> None of these places take your fancy? Click here for other great accommodation choices in Kraków.
Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.
Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.
To get in touch, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on social media.