So you are going to one of the most beautiful and most visited Polish cities and only have 24 hours to spend there. How much can you see in just one day? You will be happy to hear that you can actually see a lot! Krakow is not a big city and even in such a limited time, you can easily explore it on foot. If you are not planning to leave the historical part there is no need to use public transport. The distances between all the places listed below are around 15-20 minutes walking. And besides, walking in Krakow is a part of the experience because the city can boast of having some amazing architecture.
If you are short on time, I would suggest you pick one of these options to explore the city:
Free walking tours are a great way to get to know the city especially if your time and/or budget are limited. There are few different companies providing free tours in Krakow. Some of them offer only Old Town tours, other also have Jewish Quarter or Communism tours. The duration of tours is normally 2-3 hours and they start few times a day so you can even do two different tours in one day if you like. During the walking tour you can hear a lot of information and see a lot of Krakow in short time. If you are interested in history and culture or just want to meet like-minded people, these tours are the right choice for you.
Walk on your own.
If you don’t like tours, you want to have enough time to take photos or you just prefer to be your own boss instead of following the group, skip the tour and take a stroll on your own. As I said, Krakow is quite a compact city and you definitely won’t get lost. The downside is that you won’t hear all the history that is behind those beautiful buildings and might miss some interesting facts that books don’t tell. But well, you can always come back if you like Krakow after the first time 😉
Now to the sights!
Most of the Krakow’s tourist attractions are located in the medieval Old Town (Stare Miasto).
The central point of the Old Town is the Main Market Square (Rynek Główny). This huge square is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe. It is surrounded by beautiful historic houses containing restaurants, cafes, and shops. The Main Square is the heart of Krakow’s life and this is where you will find a Christmas market in December. The number of other events and celebrations also take place on the square throughout the year so check if something interesting is happening when you are there.
Without even leaving the Main Square you can take a look at the three of the Krakow’s famous landmarks: the Cloth Hall, the St. Mary Basilica, and the Town Hall Tower.
Cloth Hall (Sukiennice)
The center of the Main Market Square is dominated by the Cloth Hall. This beautiful renaissance building was once a center of international trade. Now you will find different stalls selling traditional and not so traditional goods in the main arcade. There is also Sukiennice Museum on the upper floor with a collection of Polish paintings and sculptures from the 19th century.
Town Hall Tower (Wieża ratuszowa)
The Hall Tower was a part of the old Krakow Town Hall until it was pulled down in the early 19th century. This 70-meter-tall tower shares one similarity with the Tower of Pisa but I bet you might not even notice it until someone tells you (I didn’t). The tower leans just 55 centimeters since 1703 when the strong wind caused its tilt. From April to September the Town Hall Tower is open to the visitors and you can climb the steps all the way up for the view of Krakow.
St. Mary’s Basilica (Kościół Mariacki)
The St. Mary’s Basilica with its two towers of different heights is probably one of the most recognizable Polish churches. First built in 1220 it was later destroyed and rebuild in Gothic style. The church has one entrance for tourists where you have to pay for the ticket and another one for prayers only where you enter for free. Note that the church and it is totally closed to tourists during the mass. During the warm season, you can also climb one of the towers for the view of Krakow. For more useful information visit the official website.
Wawel Hill is located just 10-15 minutes walking from the main square. What is often referred to just as “Wawel” is the complex that consists of the Wawel Cathedral and Wawel Royal Castle.
Wawel Royal Castle
The Castle holds a number of different exhibitions and each of them needs a separate ticket. Check the official website to decide what you want to see. Note that there might be a long line in front of ticket office and tickets are issued for specific entrance times. You can easily spend a couple of hours there so skip the exhibitions and simply walk around the castle if you don’t have too much time.
Even if you are not going to visit the exhibitions, don’t miss a chance to see the Wawel Cathedral from inside. The entrance to the church is free, you only need to buy additional tickets if you want to see the Royal Tombs and the Cathedral Museum.
Jewish Quarter Kazimierz
If you still have time, be sure to visit the old Jewish District. This part of Krakow was an independent town once. Later Kazimierz became a Jewish Quarter and is now a trendy district with lots of bars and cafes. Take a chance to try some traditional Polish drinks and food there.
Do you know some other fun activities to do in Krakow? Let me know in the comments.