As I flew over the city covered in a blanket of snow, I did wonder why I chose to visit Kraków in December. I’m going to not lie, Kraków was bitterly cold but once I got into the swing of things I was enjoying the winter vibes with the falling snow and the festive surroundings. A lot of activities in Kraków are indoors but the ones that aren’t can be helped along with kawa (coffee) and zupa (soup)… and some very warm clothes. Let’s embrace Krakow in December I say!
THINGS TO DO IN KRAKOW
Get festive at Kraków Christmas Market
Kraków Christmas fair on the main market square will get you in spirit of the season. You’ll not be disappointed with the choice of Polish dumplings (pierogi), smoked hams, sausages, pork knuckles or cheeses. The hearty meals will warm you up in the bitter cold as the horse and carts trot by. Take a moment to look round at the surrounding history such as St Mary’s Basilica is a fine example of Polish Gothic architecture, dating back to the 13th Century.
Located in the Main Square, Old Town // Normally runs from end of November to start of January
Find your inner historian at Wawel Castle
Wawel Castle, built in the 14th century, is a beautiful mix of Gothic, Renaissance, Rococo and Romanesque architecture and this iconic UNESCO World Heritage site can be seen from all parts of Krakow. Enter the Wawel Cathedral located around the courtyard and imagine the coronation of almost every Polish king and queen in history. There’s a fabulous collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, ceramics, sculptures, tapestries and more. Tours of Wawel Castle will take you round the royal chambers, halls, and medieval courtyard as well as the “Lost Wawel” exhibitions.
Cosy dining in Kazimirez
After a long day travelling and sight-seeing in the bitter cold weather, the perfect end to your day would be to find a cool bar in Kazimirez (Singer was a lovely choice) and fill your belly with some super tasty Polish food, and grzaniec (mulled wine) . You will be spoilt for choice for cute and quirky restaurants in Kraków but Starka Restaurant far exceeded my expectations, it was warm, inviting and the food was sensational… oh and obviously the customary ‘wodka’ served at the end of the meal will give you a warm glow before heading back into the snow.
Discover the lively street art
There is plenty of creative street art to feast your eyes on in Krakow, Poland’s cultural capital. You will find many murals in the districts of Kazimierz and Podgórze and many have sprung up due to cultural art festivals which clearly welcome lively and meaningful street art around the city. I made my way around using the Discover Cracow Street Art Guide but on limited days you can hop on a 2 hour tour with FREE Walkative! TOURs.
Be awe-inspired at St Joseph Church
St. Joseph’s Church at the top of Podgorski Square in Kraków is a majestic Gothic-style Roman Catholic church built in the early 20th century. Whilst the church is distinctive to see from afar, take a closer look at the architecture, the detailed clock tower, gargoyles and sculptures are breath-taking. The church was especially impressive in the falling snow, looking like something from a fairytale.
Located in Zamoyskiego 2, Podgórze Square
Marvel at the Basilica of St Francis Church of Assisi
The Church of St. Francis is certainly one of the most impressive churches in Kraków. The church was inaugurated in the 13th century, and has since been severely damaged by various fires and renovated in different styles according to the period. After the Great Fire of Kraków in 1850 it was rebuilt in the neo-Gothic style, including the polychrome wall paintings and the powerful stained-glass masterpiece by Stanisław Wyspiański called God in the Act of Creation’ at the entrance.
Located at Wszystkich Świętych 5 // Open every day from 6am-7.45pm
Feel romantic on Lovers Bridge
The Father Bernatek Footbridge (Kładka Ojca Bernatka) over the Vistula River joins the districts of Kazimierz and Podgórze. You immediately see the nine acrobatic figures hanging from the the bridge, the sculptures were installed by artist Jerzy Kędziora in 2016. The dual walkway is built for both pedestrians and cyclists but also has another purpose. The “lover’s bridge” has become a popular place for couples to add their padlocks adorned with their initials – you need to take your own, there’s no shops to buy a padlock to uphold this tradition.
Located at Kładka Ojca Bernatka
Osker Schindlers Enamel Factory
I think we have all seen the film Schindlers List right? It’s a compelling story about of Oskar Schindler and his brave acts during WW2 who put his family at great risk by protecting and saving the lives of over a thousand persecuted Jews by employing them in his factory. The Oskar Schindler Museum will tell you all you need to know about this courageous man as well as a comprehensive history of the Nazi occupation of Krakow.
Located at Lipowa 4 // Open 10am-6pm November to March and 10am-8pm April to October // 30 Zloty, however, admission is free on the first Monday of each month.
Get creative at MOCAK art gallery
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków is also on the site of Oskar Schindlers Enamel Factory. I was super impressed by the lovely spacious gallery for displaying modern art from around the world. There were 6 temporary exhibitions on show at MOCAK, my favourite was by Boris Lurie, an American artist, who was born into a Jewish family in Leningrad. His thought-provoking installations and mixed media paintings were captivating.
Located at Lipowa 4 // Open daily from 10am-6pm
Learn about the Holocaust at Auschwitz-Birkenau
Visiting the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau was compelling but be prepared for an emotional day. It’s a sobering reminder of the atrocities against over 1 million Jews in WW2. Being there at -6 degrees, I wearing more layers than the day I summited Kilimanjaro and was still freezing, but it really brought home the harsh reality of the conditions they must have endured. Read more on why we should visit Auschwitz-Birkinau.
Recommend to use Krakow Shuttle for the Auschwitz-Birkenau & Wieliczka Salt Mine tour, they collect you from your hotel, play a documentary on the bus to set the scene and provide a lunch box.
Travel deep into the Wieliczka Salt Mine
This former salt mine on the outskirts of Krakow is pretty amazing hence why it has earned itself UNESCO World Heritage status. The Wieliczka Salt Mine reaches down 327m and extends in horizontal levels for over 287km, however, the Tourist Route is only 135m down involving almost 800 steps and over 2 km of meandering corridors. You go through different chambers, salt lakes and the St Kinga chapel is just magnificent with elaborate statues carved by the miners themselves. There is even accommodation and health spa at the mine, the therapeutic micro-climate of salt excavations can be excellent for your mental and physical well-being. It gets pretty hot down there, ideal for December sight-seeing in Krakow!
Located in Daniłowicza 10 //
KRAKOW: THE ESSENTIALS
Where to stay in Krakow
The best part of Krakow to base yourself in is the Old Town, you will only be a short walk from most of the sights in the city. Here’s a few recommended stays to get you some ideas;
Pergamin Old Town Apartments – A fantastic budget accommodation in the perfect location, just 450 m from the Wawel Royal Castle and 600 m from the Main Market Square and with the most amazing breakfast buffet. Check out my review of Pergamin Old Town Apartments.
Hotel Lavender – This modern 3-star aparthotel is only 1 km from the Main Market Square in the Old Town and Wawel Royal Castle is 2 km. It has a restaurant on-site as well as a bar, great to meet fellow travellers.
INX Design Hotel – This 4 star hotel has super cool decor and boasts a fitness centre, shared lounge and on-site restaurant. Nearby points of interest include Schindler Factory Museum and Wawel Royal Castle.
Getting around Krakow
Krakow is pretty well set up for public transport, the buses and trams run from 05:00 – 23:00. You can buy your ticket from the machine before getting on and don’t forget to stamp it when on board to avoid a fine.
It would be worth investing in a Krakow Card for a 2-3 day trip, it includes unlimited public transport and admission to up to 40 museums. If you plan your route well for your trip, you can actually do most of it by foot!
Guided tours in Krakow
- Choose from a wide selection of tours with local guides.
- You can download the In Your Pocket app to find yourself around the city
Getting to Krakow
There’s loads of airlines fly to and from Krakow. I flew from Dubai with Fly Dubai then continued my journey from to Manchester with EasyJet. Other options include Emirates, KLM and Lufthansa.
Travel insurance for your trip
Always make travel insurance a priority! World Nomads is my go-to guys, I’ve learnt this from experience. You can buy and claim online even when you’ve left home. I love that they give a little back too and support community development projects in various countries.
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