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Searching for what to see in Krakow in 3 days? You’ve come to the right place. Here you can find a 3 days in Krakow Itinerary created to maximize your time and enjoy the magic of Krakow.
Warsaw may be the capital city of Poland, but Krakow is the country’s crowning jewel. Largely undamaged during World War II, it has retained much of its medieval charm and is simply one of the most beautiful cities in the entire country, if not the world. While its beauty may be a huge factor in choosing to visit Krakow, there are plenty of other reasons why you should add it to your travel bucket list. This city has a long and varied history, which is evident all around in the architecture and attractions, plus it has an abundance of excellent eateries and nightlife options to keep all travelers happy. I personally fell in love with Krakow and with the ambiance, and variety of things to do, see, and eat, it’s impossible for any visitor not to fall in love themselves.
While Krakow is a fairly big city, especially by Polish standards, it is easily enough to cover it in two or three days. This amount of time is sufficient to see all of the main attractions and sites the city has to offer. For the perfect trip to Krakow, check out the following 3 days in Krakow itinerary with plenty of insider tips for your visit.
Table of Contents (skip directly to the info you're looking for)
- 1 Krakow 3 day itinerary: What to see in Krakow in 3 days for first time visitors
- 1.1 Day 1
- 1.2 Day 2
- 1.3 Day 3
- 2 Additional Attractions
- 3 Where to Eat in Krakow
- 4 Where to Sleep in Krakow
- 5 Where to shop in Krakow
- 6 Discount Cards
Krakow 3 day itinerary: What to see in Krakow in 3 days for first time visitors
Your first day in Krakow is the best day to explore the city’s old town and discover all of the old treasures there.
Rynek and Old Town
Krakow’s main market square – known as the rynek in Polish – is the heart of old town (Stare Miasto in Polish) and is the best place to start your exploration of the city. It is the largest medieval square in Europe, dating all the way back to the 13th century. Dominating its center is the sukiennice, or cloth hall, which was originally built in the 14th century in the Gothic style of the day, but got its current Renaissance look in the middle of the 16th century. It was initially a trading center for merchants, where they would sell all kinds of products, such as textiles and spices; nowadays, it still has this function, although you are more likely to find souvenirs. Next to the sukiennice is the town hall tower, which was once part of the original 13th century town hall that stood in the square. The town hall itself was destroyed during the Austrian occupation in the 19th century, but thankfully the tower still stands. If it is open during your visit, you can head to the top of the tower for great views of the entire city center.
Another highlight of the rynek is St. Mary’s Basilica, famous for its two uneven towers. Legend has it that two brothers were tasked with building the towers and, taking one tower each, they made it a competition to see who could build theirs the fastest. When the younger brother realized he was losing the competition, he killed his brother so construction on his tower would stop. The younger brother eventually completed his own, now much higher, tower, but was so overcome with remorse that he stabbed himself in the heart with the very dagger he murdered his brother with at the top of his tower, and he fell to the ground below. The dagger that he supposedly used can now be seen hanging in the sukiennice.
There are many sights dotted around the streets running off the main square which are worth visiting. These include: Florian Gate, the only part of the medieval walls which survived; the Barbican, designed to protect the Florian Gate from attack; and Planty, a wonderful park running all the way around the old medieval center.
Note: One of my favorite things about Krakow is how many green areas they have in the city. There are so many places with trees and benches to sit around, and people watch (also, my favorite pastime). It is definitely a huge part of the experience to stop and watch every once in a while.
While you are in the old town, you should definitely head to the Rynek Underground, a highly impressive, high-tech museum. In 2005, a number of important artefacts were discovered in the rynek, which led to speculation as to what else could be found below ground. Archaeologists went on to discover a vast array of significant items, as well as the remains of various structures, such as aqueducts, medieval thoroughfares and a cemetery. To show off these wonderful finds, the Rynek Underground Museum opened in 2010. The museum takes you on an incredible journey through 1,000 years of history and combines these fascinating artifacts with modern techniques such as holograms, smoke machines, lasers and 3D models. But perhaps the most interesting thing about the museum is its exhibition on medieval burial practices, including the methods of getting rid of suspected vampires.
Because of its location underground, only 300 museum tickets are available at a time, so it is essential that you book online in advance.
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Make Your Way Down Grodzka Street to Wawel Castle
Part of the Royal Route, which was used by Polish kings to reach the castle, includes Grodzka Street which is one of the oldest streets in Krakow.
As you make your way down Grodzka, you will pass many buildings of historical importance including: Stadnicki Palace, Saints Peter and Paul Church, and Gniezno Bishop’s Palace. This street also has lots of souvenir shops and restaurants.
Take a Tour of Wawel Castle and the Dragon’s Lair
Situated on a hill overlooking the River Vistula, Wawel Castle was once the seat of Polish kings dating as far back as the 14th century. Currently, the castle serves as a museum and there are many interesting exhibitions inside. You should definitely visit the state rooms, which have been maintained in their opulent state, the Crown Treasury and Armoury, and the Lost Wawel, an archaeological reserve.
As well as the castle, the cathedral also stands within the complex, the location of the coronations of pretty much every king and queen in Polish history. You can head into the royal crypts to see the tombs of these previous leaders, as well as important statesmen, including former president Lech Kaczynski, who died in the 2010 Smolensk air crash.
Beneath Wawel Castle is a cave with strong links to the legend of how Krakow got its name. It is said that the city was once plagued by a dragon who killed many of the town folk. It was not until a man named Krak came up with a plan to stuff a sheep with sulphur and feed it to the beast that the dragon was finally vanquished; so, the city was named in his honor. The cave underneath the castle is said to have been the home of the dragon. You can take a trip down there yourself, which will bring you out at a spot by the river where you can meet the dragon itself, if you dare!
Take a Walk Around the Jewish District
To the south of the old town is Kazimierz. Originally a city in its own right, Kazimierz gained a significant Jewish population during the 15th century when many fled Krakow to escape anti-Semitism. Prior to the Second World War, it was a fairly prosperous area. However, in 1943, the Krakowian Jews were forced into the ghetto in nearby Podgorze before being moved onto concentration camps. After the war, Kazimierz fell into disrepair and was considered a dangerous district for a long time.
Things changed in the 1990s, with the advent of the annual Jewish Cultural Festival, which prompted the city to begin renovating it’s synagogues and residential buildings. It is now a really interesting part of the city to walk around, with a number of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, churches and museums to visit. You could happily stroll around Kazimierz on your own, or you can join one of the many walking tours if you want to learn more about the history of this district.
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Insider tip: At the square, Plac Nowy in the the Jewish District, you can try one of Krakow’s famous street food, which is almost sort of like a combination of a flat bread and a pizza, named Zapiekanka.
Zapiekanka is quite large and cheap. You can pick one from among the many windows you will see in the square and order your favorite flavor on the menu.
You usually see people everywhere, just sitting outside or walking around, eating their Zapiekanka. It is so yummy! As a New Yorker, it reminded me of having a New York Pizza slice in Manhattan to go!
Visit Schindler’s Factory
Just over the river from Kazimierz is the district of Podgorze. Although it is a cool little district in and of itself, with a few funky cafes and bars, most visitors head here to see Schindler’s Factory. Oscar Schindler was immortalized in history through the Steven Spielberg film Schindler’s List; despite being a member of the Nazi Party, Schindler is credited with saving the lives of approximately 1,200 Jews by giving them employment in his enamel factories, including this one in Krakow.
The factory now houses a permanent exhibition called ‘Krakow under the Nazi Occupation 1939-1945’ and is an absolute must see when in the city. It is an intriguing museum with an unusual set-up. Each of the 45 rooms is designed to look like a specific place, such as a railway station, a labor camp or a hairdresser’s salon, and gives a vivid history of those places and events that took place, further explaining how life was affected by the occupation. You will get to learn about the struggles of the Polish people and the monstrosities afflicted upon them during the war, and it’s all thanks to the creators of the museum who’ve managed to perfectly capture the many difficulties people faced at that time. It is a fascinating museum, which should be featured on every Krakow itinerary.
Admire the Art in MOCAK
Located right next door to Schindler’s Factory is MOCAK, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow. The gallery has a constant rotation of exhibitions throughout the year, focusing on post-modern and contemporary art, particularly from the past two decades. It is a fairly small gallery so it does not take too long to look around, but it is definitely worth the visit, especially if you are in the area for Schindler’s Factory anyway.
Take a Communism Tour of Nowa Huta
To see a completely different side of Krakow, you should spend the morning of your third day in Nowa Huta. Located on the east of the city, Nowa Huta was one of only two socialist realist settlements ever actually built by the Soviets. Meant to be a utopian ideal, it was built to a very specific plan with a street hierarchy and buildings of grandeur to rival those in Paris and London. The district never came to be as prosperous as was hoped, but it is now a really cool place to visit as it is one of the finest examples of deliberate social engineering in the world.
One of the best ways of experiencing Nowa Huta is by taking a Communism Tour. On this tour, you will be picked up in a vintage Trabant car and taken to see all of the highlights of the district, including the old steelworks and many houses built in the Renaissance style by the Soviets. This tour will give you the chance to learn more about how the average working Pole lived and worked during the time of Soviet rule.
Learn More at the Nowa Huta Museum
To understand more about life in Nowa Huta, particularly about the stories surrounding the nuclear bunkers underneath the buildings, you can then head to the underground exhibition at the Nowa Huta Museum. Located in an old cinema, you will head into the tunnels below to learn about the detailed plans the Soviets had for dealing with a nuclear attack during the Cold War. The museum also holds various temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
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As you may already know, a lot of visitors to Krakow like to include day trips to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and Wieliczka Salt Mine on their itinerary. Both of these excursions from Krakow are definitely worthwhile, along with many others. If you are planning a longer trip to Krakow, or simply would like to exchange one of the days from this itinerary with these excursions, check out my other day trips from Krakow article, here.
Where to Eat in Krakow
It is simply impossible to go hungry in Krakow. Whether you want a quick snack or are looking for a fine dining restaurant, you will be spoiled by all of the choices available here. For a true Polish experience, at least once during your trip, you should eat at one of the many bar mleczny. These traditional eateries serve simple but tasty Polish dishes at excellent prices. If you fancy, you can also take food tours, here are two good ones:  Savor the regional flavors of Poland on a 3-hour food tasting tour of Krakow or feast your way around Krakow on a half-day food tasting tour, which lasts 4-hour.
Many people choose to dine in the old town – and there are certainly some great restaurants there – but personally I think the best places to eat are in Kazimierz. The Jewish district has gone through something of a Renaissance when it comes to the culinary scene and there are fabulous restaurants here serving delicious cuisine from around the world.
I can write a full article only about food, but below are some of my faves, which I keep returning to whenever I visit:
Coffee and Chocolate lover?
Karmello Chocolatier in Old town (2 locations)
I really love Karmello for coffee, their fresh croissants with chocolate (you can pick if you want white, milk or dark chocolate), tasty and unique flavors of macarons (I love the chilli mango), and the freshest juices. A nice place for a coffee break or light breakfast.
For Pierogis, I like:
– Mr. Vincent is the place if you want ambience and they have great food and lots of options for Pierogis fillings.
– 24h Przypiecek (Pierogi 24h) is a more casual place with great portions and quite affordable.
One of my favorite wine bars in Krakow is Ku Ku café & wine. Great service and good happy hour deals. Most of their wine is actually from Austria, where I partially live, so their selection is great.
Best places for breakfast & brunch in Krakow:
Gossip café – it’s off of an an alley, not far from the main square, so it is a little less touristic. Great portions, tasty food, fresh juices, good coffee.
Kamelot café – Old building, beautiful décor, great food, cakes and coffee. Excellent option for brunch, in the old town.
Novum Bistro – Healthy options and beautiful place, not exactly in the old town, so less touristic.
Georgian cuisine in Krakow:
This cozy restaurant, with great portions and tasty food, is one of my faves. I personally love Georgian wine, and if you haven’t tried it, I suggest you to do so immediately. You’ll thank me!
Taste of India is a great option for Indian food. I’ve always found Indian food in Europe to be an experience I rarely regret.
Pasta Bar is a good option with great portions, if you are in the mood for Italian.
Zust do ust
A hidden gem with amazing cocktails. Part of the fun is finding it so, good luck!
Still looking for other fun things to do in Krakow during the evening? What about this Pub, Bar & Club Crawl, or you can also choose a traditional liquor tasting tour with appetizers. Beer lover? Sample at least 6 different kinds of Polish beer on this tour. Vodka lover? Discover the history, culture and customs of drinking vodka with this Vodka Tasting tour. You can find plenty of activities in Krakow.
Where to Sleep in Krakow
No matter what your tastes are, you can be sure you will find somewhere great to stay when in Krakow. Because of the close distance between the old town and Kazimierz, it does not really matter which of these areas you choose to stay in; both are within easy walking distance of each other. But, if you prefer to save your legs, use the public transportation system, particularly the tram system, which is excellent. You may find other accommodation options further away from the city but, to make the most of your time here, you should consider staying somewhere in these areas.
There are plenty of accommodation options available, from hostels and boutique hotels to five-star hotels. There are also a lot of apartments available if you would prefer your own space. However, be careful when booking your accommodation. While Krakow is still relatively cheap in comparison with many western countries, it has become more expensive over the past few years and a higher price may not necessarily signal excellent quality, especially in the old town. Check out reviews of places before booking somewhere. I’ve booked full apartments or rooms using AirBnb during my visit, but you can also compare the prices of the different accommodations on Booking.com
Where to shop in Krakow
Krakow has many great places for shopping. I found tons of cool boutiques and vintage shops, close to the Jewish district, but some of them did not even have a name outside. So, I would suggest to walk around and look.
If you prefer big chain stores, and plenty of selection, just go to the big mall, Galleria Krakowska, and you will find almost every store there. They also have a store where you can even try or buy Polish wine called Wina.Pl. Check it out!
I have never seen the point of getting a discount card for Krakow. If you are following the itinerary, it may work out cheaper just to pay for your entrance tickets individually. While the museums featured in this article are included, the Krakow Card also includes many museums and attractions which you will probably not visit, so you will be paying money extra money when compared to the amount you’ll use it.
That being said, if you prefer convenience over money, the Krakow Card may be of use. Having the card means you will not need to worry about paying entrance fees when you arrive at the museums and attractions, so this could be handy. Be aware that if you do decide to get the discount card, this will include entry to the Rynek Underground but you will still need to book your place in advance due to ticket restrictions.
Are you ready to visit Krakow?
If you love history then you will absolutely adore Krakow. From its beginnings as a medieval stronghold to its more recent past under Soviet control, there is so much to see and learn here that you may wish to extend your trip for more than three days. However, if three days is all you have, you can certainly see the best of what the city has to offer by following this itinerary. Enjoy!