6 Reasons for Spending Christmas in Krakow, Poland (Especially as a Solo Traveller!)

Discover why you should consider spending Christmas in Krakow

Are you looking for the perfect city in which to spend Christmas? This may not be an easy choice, especially if you are travelling alone.

Solo travel can be lonely at the best of times, but with its focus on sharing festive cheer with family and friends, Christmas can be a particularly tough time to travel alone. To keep loneliness at bay, you need to make sure that your Christmas break destination has plenty to occupy you.

Many cities in Europe, including my hometown of London, shut down on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and beyond. Trust me; the last thing that you want to greet you is a city that has no public transport over the festive period and firmly shut museum and restaurant doors.

Therefore, it pays to do your homework before you book that flight or train ticket.

Hot on the heels of a successful festive break in Vienna, the following year I took the plunge again by spending Christmas in Krakow. 

people walking in snow in castle courtyard in christmas in krakow poland

With its enchanting city centre, rich history and dining places galore, Krakow is a superb destination at any time of year. But at Christmas, it is transformed into a sparkling, festive wonderland and one that is well and truly open for business.

To convince you, here are six reasons for spending Christmas in Krakow. To help you make the most of your time there, at the end of the article I’ve recommended some great places to stay and eat in Krakow and tips on how to get around and away from the city.


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Why You Should Spend Christmas in Krakow, Poland

Krakow is open for business on Christmas Day and Boxing Day

To me, this is the most important reason for spending Christmas in Krakow. Even if there are other compelling reasons to visit a city over Christmas, if its transport isn’t running or its restaurants are closed you could be stuck.

This is not the case with Krakow. Its historic city centre is lively on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, its transport system is running and many of its restaurants are open.

That said, don’t expect much to be happening on Christmas Eve from 2 pm as this is when Polish people celebrate Christmas.

However, I arrived in Krakow late on Christmas Eve and managed to grab a bite to eat in the hotel restaurant. There are a handful of other restaurants open on Christmas Eve, although some close early to allow staff to enjoy their Christmas meal with family and friends.

Whilst not all restaurants will be open on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, I didn’t struggle to find somewhere to eat, and you can always refuel at one of the city’s Christmas markets. And that’s not a hardship!

cobblestone street in rain in old street in krakow
Kanoniczka, Krakow

Krakow is a beautiful city

Let’s face it. You want your Christmas break to be something a little bit special, and Krakow’s fairy-tale town quality will tick that box.

square in krakow at christmas eve lit up at night
Christmas Eve in Krakow

As the capital of the General Government during the German occupation, unlike many cities in Poland, Krakow made it through World War II with barely a scratch.

Picture a perfectly preserved historic centre featuring majestic squares lined with Gothic and Renaissance buildings. Add to this horses pulling carriages, clip-clopping across its cobblestones, and you’ll have the measure of the place.

Exploring Krakow at Christmas: Bonus tips

To get your bearings, I suggest you start off by taking a free walking tour of Krakow’s historic heart. I did this on Christmas Day!

Although there is plenty to keep you occupied within the city itself, it is easy to take day trips from Krakow over the festive period. I visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine on Boxing Day and visited Auschwitz a few days later.

I used Get Your Guide to identify day trips to Auschwitz. This platform offers a good selection of tours and you can cancel up to 24 hours before your excursion for a full refund.

RECOMMENDED KRAKOW GUIDED TOURS

WIELICZKA SALT MINE TOUR FROM KRAKÓW

Explore the salt mine on the Tourist Route tour with a transfer from your hotel and a drop-off in Kraków city centre.

>>> BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE

VISIT AUSCHWITZ & THE 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

TOUR KRAKOW BY ELECTRIC CAR

For a fun and informative excursion, take this 3-hour electric car tour with a local guide. At the end of the tour, there’s the opportunity to visit Schindler’s factory on your own.

>>> BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE

WAWEL HILL AUDIOGUIDE

Or perhaps you prefer to learn more about Krakow on your own? Find out if dragons and the Wawel chakra really existed on this audioguide tour of Wawel Hill. Available in English, Spanish, Italian, German, French, Russian and Polish.

>>> BOOK YOUR AUDIOGUIDE HERE

To shop and dine at Krakow’s Christmas markets

One of the very best reasons to spend Christmas in Krakow is to visit its lively Christmas market, amongst Europe’s best and the jewel in the city’s festive crown.

This temporary village is a riot of colour, with its traditional wooden stalls offering brightly coloured local crafts. Hand-crafted ceramics, sparkly jewellery, delicately painted baubles or local gingerbread  … the choice is yours.

When you are feeling peckish – and the aromas filling the crisp air will make it hard to stop your tummy from rumbling – stop by one of the stalls for a bite to eat.

Traditional Cracovian Christmas Market food includes grilled oscypek (local mountain cheese), grilled Polish sausages and, my favourite, pierogi (Polish dumplings). Finish off your market meal with hot waffles dripping in chocolate, washed down with mulled wine.  

NEED TO KNOW

  • The Christmas Market is located on the central square, Rynek Glowny. You can’t miss it.
  • Traditionally, Krakow’s Christmas Market is open from the last week in November until at least December 26th. However, it often remains open until around the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.
angels as xmas lights in square in krakow poland

For seasonal snowfall

To me, few things spell Christmas more than breathing in icy-crisp air and feeling snowflakes graze against your cheek.

What could be more magical than a light dusting of snow cloaking Wawel Castle?

krakow poland 11
Wawel Castle on Christmas Day in Krakow

Poland is a relatively cheap destination

Krakow’s charms don’t come at inflated prices. Far from it. For me, one of the best things about Krakow is that it hasn’t sold its soul to tourism.

Thanks to its large student population – 200,000 at the last count – things are kept real. Away from the more touristy bars and restaurants, you can tuck into a meal for 15 PLN (under £3) washed down with a glass of craft beer for 5 PLN.

To feast on winter-warming food

If you like winter-warming, inexpensive food in cosy restaurants and cafes, you’ve come to the right city.

Here are a few places that I can recommend:

Pierogarnia Krakowiacy (Szewska 23)

For cheap and delicious pierogi, this cosy, old-fashioned cafe has deservedly garnered plaudits from foodies.

Take a seat, check out the small menu and order at the counter. You will be given a ticket and, when your number is called, you collect your dish.

old restaurant front in krakow poland

In 2018, I paid 25 PLN for a plate of Ruskie Pierogi and a beer.

Klimaty Poludniul (Św. Gertrudy 5)

I visited this friendly restaurant on the outskirts of the old town on Boxing day. A more upmarket experience than Pierogarnia Krakowiacy, it serves food with an Italian emphasis and I savoured the best glass of Primitivo I have ever tasted (and I have sampled quite a few!).

Cafe Camelot (Świętego Tomasza 17)

This cafe tucked in a side street behind Market Square serves great 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 deliciously sinful cake and coffee.

Planning your Christmas Trip to Krakow

Getting your hands on a good guidebook to help you to plan your trip to Krakow and to explore the city and its surroundings whilst you are there, is a smart move. I recommend this Lonely Planet Pocket Krakow guide.

>>> Be inspired to book your Krakow solo festive break with these famous quotations about travelling alone

Best Places To Stay in Krakow for the Christmas Market

There is no shortage of places to stay in Krakow, accommodating all budgets.

READ THIS NEXT: 10 Factors You Cannot Ignore When Choosing a Hotel (Especially as a Solo Traveller)

Mid-rangeMercure 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.

>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK A ROOM

Here are some alternatives that I have found that may suit other budgets:

SplurgeBalthazar Design Hotel

In the heart of the old town, close to Wawel Castle, this boutique hotel has garnered rave reviews.

>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK A ROOM

BudgetEWM Kopernika 8.3 – Market Square & Old Town

This centrally-located apartment looks like a fantastic budget choice. It has the bonus of a garden area for outdoor dining.

>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK AN APARTMENT

>>> None of these places take your fancy? Click here for other great accommodation choices in Kraków.

How to Get to Krakow

Getting from Krakow airport to the centre of the city is easy, thanks to a great 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 9 PLN (as of October 2022) and the 16km journey takes just over 15 minutes.

You can buy your ticket from the machines on the platform or from one of the conductors on board.

There are also rail connections to other major European cities.

Getting Around Krakow

Due to its compact size, the old city is walkable.

If you need to go further afield or your accommodation is not centrally located, take a tram. Krakow’s tram network is modern and efficient. Ticket machines are at tram stops.

Why You Should Spend Christmas in Krakow, Poland

Poland, and Krakow in particular, is a perfect destination to visit at Christmas, particularly as a solo traveller. It is inexpensive by European standards, a joy to walk around, many of its restaurants are open for business and public transport is operational on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Krakow is home to one of the best Christmas markets in Europe and there is more than enough to keep you occupied. Cosy restaurants and cafes are easy places to hang out whilst savouring traditional Polish cuisine.

If you are nervous about taking a Christmas break as a solo traveller, I completely understand.

I too was uncertain about spending Christmas away from family and friends. But having now taken a solo festive break twice I would do so again without hesitation.