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Best things to do in Krakow

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Where in the world: Europe  /  Poland  /  Southern Poland  /  Lesser Poland Province  /  Krakow
From exploring the historic parts of town to sampling delicacies at local restaurants, you'll find loads of engaging things to do in Krakow. History buffs go to Wawel Royal Castle and adjacent Wawel Cathedral, a complex that served as the home of Polish kings. Occupying the very heart of the city's World Heritage-listed Old Town, Main Market Square, the largest medieval square in Europe, offers access to a number of well-preserved palaces and churches. For something different, take a relaxing walk down the paths of Planty Park, boasting floral displays, small lakes, fountains, and statues.

Krakow is best known for its Historic Walking Areas, Historic Sites, and Nightlife.

Top 15 things to do in Krakow

1. Krakow's Rynek Glowny Central Square

Krakow's Rynek Glowny Central Square serves as the largest medieval square in Europe and the gravitational center of Krakow. Established in 1257, the year the city received its charter, the square sits in the heart of Krakow's World Heritage-listed Old Town. See well-preserved palaces, churches, and townhouses. Stand where Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a famed freedom fighter in Poland and America, announced an uprising against foreign domination in 1794. Over the years, the square has served as a stage for political demonstrations, public celebrations, and an annual Christmas market.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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2. Wawel Cathedral

Once the site of royal coronations, Wawel Cathedral represents one of Poland's most significant religious and architectural sites. Two previous buildings burned down here before the church was erected more than nine centuries ago. The present-day cathedral, a Gothic structure, features several chapels built in different architectural styles. As you enter, notice the chain hanging to the left of the main iron door. Made of prehistoric animal bones, this chain is known for having magical powers that ensure the continued presence of the cathedral. To learn more about the large collection of sarcophaguses and altarpieces, take a guided tour.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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3. Walking tours

Suggested duration: 4 hours
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4. Panstwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau, Oswiecim

Devoted to the memory of those who lost their lives in the Holocaust, Panstwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau displays arguably the most devastating concentration camp in world history. Take a guided tour to learn about the history of the camp, which served as the major site of the so-called "Final Solution to the Jewish question." More than a million people died here between 1942 and 1944, most in the camp's gas chambers. Finish your visit at the train ramp where thousands of prisoners from all over Europe disembarked for the final time.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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5. Wawel Royal Castle

Visit Wawel Royal Castle to see the home of Poland's kings for several centuries that now features one of the country's major art museums. Ransacked and vandalized numerous times, the castle was plagued with foreign invaders until the early decades of the 20th century. The art museum was established in 1930. Take the short walk from Krakow's Old Town, and you'll be rewarded with a vast collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, prints, tapestries, and sculptures. The museum is also a center for conservation of exotic works. Be sure to visit Europe's largest collection of Ottoman tents. To see everything in a single day, arrive as early as you can.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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6. Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka

Discover an underground world of dark pits and chambers made from salt at Wieliczka Salt Mine. A short drive southeast of Krakow, this mine, included on the World Heritage List, produced table salt continuously for over seven centuries. Operation finally shut down in 2007. Today you can see dozens of statues, chapels, and cathedrals exquisitely hand carved by generations of miners. An important national monument, the mine draws over a million domestic and foreign visitors each year. Entry is by guided tour only, so buy your tickets well in advance.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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7. St. Mary's Basilica

Featuring two prominent towers, the red brick St. Mary's Basilica dominates the main square of the city's Old Town. Built in the early 13th century, the church features the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world, carved by German sculptor Veit Stoss. The masterpiece was claimed by the Nazis and moved to Germany during World War II. Recovered and restored after the war, it now sits behind the church's high altar. Admire the bottom of the central panel, which depicts the death of Jesus' mother. On the hour, you can hear the trumpet signal play from the top of the taller tower.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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8. Muzeum Krakowa, oddzial Fabryka Emalia Oskara Schindlera

Get an up-close look at the city during the Nazi occupation at Muzeum Krakowa, oddzial Fabryka Emalia Oskara Schindlera. The permanent exhibit focuses on the period between 1939 and 1945. Located in a former administrative building of Oskar Schindler's enamel factory, the museum narrates the history of a city destroyed and rebuilt over the course of several foreign occupations and two world wars. Explore the main space, which features Schindler's office, preserved just as he left it more than seven decades ago, as well as the "Survivors' Ark," made of enamel pots similar to those the workers crafted during the war. Don't miss the museum's recreated ghetto apartment to get a sense of the wartime experiences of the city's Jewish inhabitants.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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9. Kazmierz The Former Jewish District

In Kazmierz The Former Jewish District, you'll see trendy cafes and upscale restaurants next to old synagogues and renovated churches. The district was founded in 1335 by King Casimir III on the former island in the middle of the Vistula River. As World War II approached, the area attracted Jews fleeing Krakow due to anti-Semitism. By the 1930s, the area had several dozen synagogues. Although most of these historic buildings disappeared during and after World War II, you can still visit ten active temples, including one located inside the country's oldest building. Check online for special events and maps showing major attractions in the district.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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10. Nature & Wildlife Tours

Suggested duration: 8 hours
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11. Sukiennice (Cloth Hall)

Located in the middle of the main square, Sukiennice (Cloth Hall) is one of the city's most recognizable architectural landmarks. The Renaissance building was once the center of international clothing trade (thus its name). In the final decades of the 19th century, it was converted into an art museum and became a major cultural venue. The grand halls house one of the largest permanent exhibits of Polish art, arranged by historical period and theme. Take a self-guided tour of the upper-floor galleries to see noted works by Josef Chelmonski, Aleksander Gierymski, Jan Matejko, and Jacek Malczewski. The ground floor features a busy market where you can purchase handmade crafts and souvenirs.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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13. Womai

Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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15. New Jewish Cemetery

The New Jewish Cemetery in Kraków, Poland covers an area of about 4.5ha. It is located at Street, in the historic Jewish neighborhood of Kazimierz. The Cemetery is a registered heritage monument featuring a well-preserved historical mortuary.
The New Jewish Cemetery was founded in 1800 on grounds purchased by the Jewish Qahal from the Augustinians. It was enlarged in 1836 with additional land purchased from the monks. Following the return to independence, the New Cemetery became nearly full. From 1932 on, burials were directed to a new plot bought in 1926 by the Qahal along Abrahama Street and the one at nearby Jerozolimska Street, both in the Wola Duchacka neighborhood (now part of Podgórze district). These two other cemeteries formed the site of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp during the Holocaust and no longer exist. The Jews from the Kraków Ghetto were sent there.
World War IIFollowing the Nazi invasion of Poland in World War II, the New Cemetery was closed to outsiders and the Germans sold the most valuable stonework to local masons. Other headstones, as well as slabs, were turned into construction material and used for paving the supply road to the camp, including the courtyard of commandant Amon Göth, who is known for having insisted that the Jews pay for their own executions. Meanwhile, the old bones at the cemetery were often left uncovered and scattered around in what looked like an open-pit mine. Caretaker Pina Ladner, who used to live on premises, was sent to Płaszów beforehand, and shot.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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