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Travel Guide Europe Poland Krakow

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Introduction

Krakow, Wawel Castle

Krakow, Wawel Castle

© All Rights Reserved Gelli

Having been lucky enough to escape the worst of the bombing during the second World War, Krakow has an edge over most other Polish cities when it comes to the amount of historic buildings still standing. The preserved city centre with its cobblestoned streets, dozens of churches, monasteries and abbeys still holds an old world charisma that has helped make it one of Poland's most popular tourist destinations and in the summer buses full of tourists crowd the city centre.

Located in the southeast of Poland on the banks of the river Wisa, the 'new Prague' was originally the home of Polish royalty from 1038 to 1596, before Warsaw became the countries capital. Throughout the centuries as Poland was under Habsburg, Prussian and Russian rule, Krakow, specifically the central market square of Rynek Glowny, was the rallying point for independence.

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Districts

  • The Old Town (Stare Miasto) is the area inside the old town walls
  • Kazimierz District is the traditional Jewish area
  • Wawel Hill makes up the Castle and Cathedral
  • Zwierzyniec is the old royal hunting ground containing Blonia Meadow
  • Bronowice
  • Kleparz (north of the city)
  • Wesola
  • Podgorze
  • Nowa Huta is the communist showpiece town

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Sights and Activities

Auschwitz-Birkenau

Situated about 70 kilometres away from Krakow, Auschwitz-Birkenau is one of the most important museums in this part of Poland. The journey takes about 1.5 hour. You can get there by public buses departing from Krakow's bus station. Do not take the train as the journey is a bit longer and you have to get from the station to the museum as the buses go directly. There are also lots of tour companies, providing cheap visits, but sometimes you end up rushed along on a crowded coach. Getting a private taxi/tour is the easiest option, usually with no time limits and reasonable prices, and comfortable cars. The driver very often helps you to avoid the lines at cash desks. In the summer season it's recommended to join a guided tour (available at the museum). There's no admission for the entrance, however a charge of 40 zlotys per person is taken for participating in a guided tour and transport between the Auschwitz I and Birkenau site. The total time for the tours over the two sites takes around 3.5 to 4 hours. The only way to enter the Auschwitz I site without having to join the tour is to arrive before 10:00am. The Auschwitz II site can be visited without a guide.

Oskar Schindler Factory

The Schindler factory is located on Lipowa 4, just across the river when coming from the city centre. It houses a museum on how the population of Krakow lived through the years of World War II. Special attention is there for the conditions of the Jews that were forced to live in the ghetto. In the museum there is a film shown about the company Oskar Schindler started here, and his office is displayed together with an art installation made from pots and pans as the factory produced, together with the names of the people of the famous Schindler's List.

Walking tours

Several walking tours are organized through the town. Some for free (you pay what you like at the end), some paid, and also private tours are possible. Especially popular and recommended is the tour around the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz. In general the tours leave several times a day from the main market square.

Wawel Castle and Cathedral

Located to the south of the city center, lies Wawel Hill, on which the Castle and Cathedral were built. This used to be the spot where the Kings and Queens were crowned and burried. The most important location of the former Kings was undamaged in the war, as the Nazis regarded Krakow to be a German town, and therefore didn't wanted to destroy what was German to begin with. At the end of the war they retreated a day before the Soviet troops arrived. The entrance to the cathedral is protected by the bones of the dragon, that once lived under the hill. The cave of the dragon can be visited from an entrance on the hill, and a fire breathing statue of the dragon is found at the bottom of the hill next to the river.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Situated just outside from Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mine takes you to a beautiful journey to the underground chappels and chambers. You can get there by public bus no. 304 from the centre of Krakow. The other option is to get a private tour - in the season there are lots of people lining up to the cash desks so it's better to get someone who'll help you to avoid it. You have to join a guided tour which takes about 2-3 hours. Tickets cost 70 zlotys per person.

Zakopane, Tatra Mountains

Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains is situated about 105 kilometres away from Krakow, the Polish winter capital. The journey takes about 1.5 hour. There are regular bus connections from Szwagropol, but it's better to get a private tour and cut the hassle on getting between each parts of the town. Beautiful views both in summer and winter, really worth visitting.

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Events and Festivals

Christmas Market

Christmas Markt at the Market Square in Krakow includes traditional handcrafts, ginger bread, hot wine, Christmas tree decorations and many other things can be bought in little wooden shops created for this occassion annually on the Market Square.

Cracovia Marathon

During the springtime month of April, Krakow hosts the continental Cracovia Marathon. There is the full marathon for hardcore runners, and shorter distances for others to participate in.

Crossroads Festival

The Crossroads Festival is held in the city of Krakow every year in July. The event is famous for bringing a range of music from around the world, including the unique likes of Mongolia, Israel, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

All Souls Jazz Festival

Located in the city of Krakow each November, the All Souls Jazz Festival pulls in large crowd throughout its operation. The event has grown into one of the country’s largest and most famous musical events.

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Weather

Krakow has a continental climate with generally warm summers and cold winters. Average summer temperatures are around 23 °C or 24 °C from June to August, around 21 °C along the coast. Nights are mostly around 15 °C during this time. Winters last from December to early March, with generally temperatures around zero during the day, and around -5 °C or -6 °C at night. Alltime highs and lows are 35 °C in summer and -27 °C in winter. Precipitation is quite evenly distributed througout the year, although June to August is significantly wetter with around 100 mm of rain a month. Usually there is about 10 to 15 days of some rain or snow during most months. In winter, it is mainly snow that falls.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max1 °C2.9 °C7.8 °C13.5 °C19.2 °C21.7 °C23.4 °C23.4 °C18.5 °C13.5 °C6.4 °C2.4 °C
Avg Min-5.5 °C-4.2 °C-0.9 °C3.1 °C8 °C11.1 °C12.7 °C12.3 °C8.8 °C4.3 °C-0.2 °C-3.5 °C
Rainfall34.7 mm29.7 mm35.1 mm50.1 mm73.7 mm94 mm81.3 mm76.2 mm59.9 mm49.4 mm40.3 mm37.9 mm
Rain Days151414141415151312121516

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Getting There

By Plane

There are two options:
1. Arriving at John Paul II International Airport Kraków-Balice (KRK) which is only 15 kilometres from the city centre. There's a cheap (about 10 zlotys per person) train connection with the city centre (15 minutes) walking to the main square, or 25 minutes to the Kazimierz area). You can find a shuttle bus outside the terminal that takes you to the platform for free and then you enter the train. There are no stops en-route so you arrive in the centre. The other option is to use a taxi. There's a line oustside the terminal but it sometimes gets busy, also not all of the taxi drivers speak English. Be sure to agree on the price, because using the meter may be a worse option as you'll be using an city-outside zone. Also you can prebook an airport transfer - you'll find your driver waiting for you in the arrivals hall, after assisting with your luggage he'll take you to your destination address (about 20-30 minutes). The transfers starts from 70 zlotys which is about €20.

2. Arriving is also possible at Katowice International Airport (KTW) which is 100 kilometres from the city centre. Many travel agents advertise it as a Krakow airport, but of course this is not the case. But there's no need to worry as there are direct bus/minibus connections to the bus station in Krakow. The price is about 40 zlotys perperson per run and unless you're travelling extra heavy, there shouldn't be any problems with fitting your luggage. There are airport transfers as well, but relatively expensive.

By Train

The train station is situated in the centre and there are lots of bus/tram connections to all parts of the city. There are also a lot of taxis, but be awared of cheaters, it shouldn't cost more than 40 zlotys to get to your hotel in the centre.

By Bus

The bus station is situated just next to the train station so the directions are the same. Buses go to most main Polish cities

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Getting Around

By Car

Prepare for problems with traffic and parking your car. The area inside the old city walls is restricted for cars, and in a wider circle around you will need to pay for parking. A good option might be to use one of the free parking lots at one of the shopping centers, and continue by tram from there.

By Public Transport

Easy and reliable, tickets are the same for both trams and buses. There are machines on most of the stops as well as on board (if not you can get tickets from the driver). Tickets are available for different durations, so it is best to know how long your trip will take upfront. Just remember to stamp your ticket after entering the vehicle.

By Foot

The centre is all in walking distance, and it's really an enjoyable walk. The Wawel Castle and the Jewish quarter of Kazamierz are about a 15 minutes walk from the main square.

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Sleep

Upscale

View our map of accommodation in Krakow or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

In the cities there are more and more Wifi Hot Spots, so if you have your own mobile device, you can connect. Best chances of finding one are at airports, railway stations, in cafés, shopping malls and universities. Places like McDonald's and Starbucks usually have unlimited free wifi. In some hotels you can find free wifi, though you might have to pay as well or maybe just use it for a limited amount of time. Internet cafes become less popular recently as people prefer to use internet at homes.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

To call to Poland from abroad, dial the Polish country code,48, then the number without the leading 0, as if calling from a domestic mobile phone.
The general emergency number is 112. Police (997), Ambulance (999) and Fire (998) have phone numbers as well, and municipal police has 986 as a number.

Mobile phones work almost across the whole country. There are four mobile phone operators in Poland: Plus, T-Mobile, Orange and Play. About 98% of the country is covered by the standard European GSM 900/1800 MHz network, the remaining 2% are wildlife reserves or high mountains. 3G is available in almost every town.
Domestic call rates are roughly the same across all services. Prepaid starter kits with SIM card (called starter in Polish) are widely available in reasonable prices (PLN5-20, most of which is available for calls), in most of the shops, supermarkets and news agents.

Just about every shopping centre has at least one independent cellphone shop, the guys who run them are usually knowledgeable and have a range of cheap handsets which you can use as a local / travel phone. This may be a good option since juggling SIM cards is always a pain.

Post

Poczta Polska is the Polish public post service. Post offices are generally open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Monday to Friday. Some offices are open on Saturday until 2:00pm and the main post offices in major cities are open daily, 24 hours. Services are generally ok, but don't expact it to be fast and it is not always reliable, though most letters, postcards and parcels will arrive at its destinations after a week or two. You can find the red post boxes dotted throughout the country. You can check this postal website to see how much sending a letter, postcard or parcels costs, both domestically as well as internationally. For sending packages internationally, you can also check FedEx, TNT, DHL or UPS, as they have fast and reliable services and generally competitive prices as well.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 50.06465
  • Longitude: 19.94498

Accommodation in Krakow

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Krakow searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Krakow and areas nearby.

Contributors

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Krakow Travel Helpers

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This is version 35. Last edited at 19:11 on Sep 22, 17 by Utrecht. 40 articles link to this page.

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