A day trip in Krakow is the perfect historical city to explore in a day. From a shopping spree, walking the walls of the old town, to the fire breathing dragon, the city has a bit of everything. Krakow old town is visitable in one full day for the active travellers, with most touristic spots all within 30mins of each other.
This post is written based on a my day trip in September, when I was lucky to have a summer sunny day!
Where is Krakow
In the southern part of Poland you can find the city of Krakow. This historic city is located in the province is called województwo (which i would totally say wrong). I mention historic as the main square area dates back to 13th century as well as its old town area now a World Heritage site since 1978. The city has a population a little below 780,000 but surrounded by a few million more within 100km.
Facts about Krakow
This city has lots of mystery and magical features, such as:
- A trumpet song can be heard hourly from the tallest tower of St. Mary’s Church, which once warned the locals of an approaching enemy – these days played by retired firemen of the city!
- The university of Krakow is the oldest in Poland, as it was established in the 14th century.
- Krakow has the largest medieval commercial square (with 200 meters long) in Europe.
- The Jewish quarters called Kazimierz is famous for Stephen Speilberg’s film called Schindler’s List.
- The 11 tonne bell in Wawel Cathedral is only used on important Polish holidays, as it is so loud that it can be heard for miles away!
Things To Do On A Day Trip In Krakow!
Breakfast In The City Center
My boyfriend took me to Charlottes for breakfast. A delicious little spot in the north west area within the old town. This place is pretty inside but has a cute little terrace to enjoy those morning sun rays with breakfast. They have a bit of everything, but we opted for the full Charlotte’s choice with different breads, croissant, spreads, an egg, juice, yoghurt and champagne. Well worth it for such a little price!
A Free Walking Tour
First things first is to familiarise yourself with the city. The best way to do this is with a free walking tour by a local company. I found that Krakow Explorers offered a nice free tour of the Old Town of Krakow at 10:00 that would last for 2 hours. This was perfect timing to join after breakfast. Our tour guide gave us a fun, interactive but also detailed tour of the main historic buildings and history of the city in general. They have a few more tours that I would have joined if I was in the city for more than a day too.
St Mary’s Church
This beautiful two towered church was constructed in the 14th century, it has one of the best Polish Gothic architecture styles to date. The church is in total 80m (262 ft) tall and a local meeting point for all the free walks, tourists and locals.
Rumour has it that two brothers had challenged each other to build a higher tower, with one brother getting jealous and stabbing his brother during the process. Hence one being higher than the other. However like many stories in Krakow, it’s not really known if to be true or a rumour made up for children’s story to teach them not to get jealous of their siblings. Either way, was interesting to hear!
Shopping Center Galeria Krakowska
This place is like every huge shopping center, it is full of stores ready to welcome you and your money! I personally loved checking out the shopping center. First reason to get out of the hot sunshine on my day trip and secondly because I wanted to check out some local stores that are not in my own country. I love finding a unique piece to wear from a shop that my friends or colleagues have never seen before. This shopping center is perfect for finding that!
Lunch With A Polish Twist
Fancy something local for lunch time? You should find yourself ordering some pierogis! These delicious dumplings are a local favourite (and mine!) with the most chosen and popular filling in ruskie pierogis – mashed potato and cottage cheese! A day trip in Krakow wouldn’t be complete without trying these. I can recommend Pierogarnia Krakowiacy as the top place to visit. It may look a little like a tourist trap with typical old Polish theme, but they have the best. The smallest portion is 10 and for only a few euros!
Collegium Maius University Krakow
The university building dates back to 14th century and its Jagiellonian University’s oldest building. The gothic style building has a beautiful courtyard where you can sit and relax, as well as visit the little cafe. Here there is also a museum you can visit, with a tour of the interiors and exhibits in English. If you visit the courtyard on an odd hour (9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm), you will see the clock with moving wooden historical figures play music from the mid-16th century.
Sukiennice Cloth Hall
This Renaissance style cloth hall is one of the most traditional market halls since the 13th century. It is since 1978 also a UNESCO World Heritage location.
Back in the day, it was used for trading spices, wax, salt and silk. However now during the day, you can find inside lots of little stores selling traditional Polish souvenirs. These can be from traditional lace, cloth, jewellery and wood carvings. However this is also one of the most expensive places for souvenirs that I saw while in Krakow, so I’d recommend only enjoy a walk inside.
There is also a museum you can visit on the upper floor, with permanent exhibits of famous Polish paintings and sculptures.
Walk Through The City Gardens
This horseshoe shape city gardens was once the moat area for the old town. A moat to help defend the city in the past from those wanting to destroy or take over the city. These days you can stroll through the shaded area, following the path all around the old town. It’s perfect to take a break from the city here too as there are many benches to relax on.
Climb The Town Hall Tower
For only a few small coins in your pocket, you can count the steps and climb the top of the Town Hall Tower. I didn’t count the steps, but I would guess around 250 minimum. The climb is also very small in width, with uneven steps and wonky walls. There is a small chain to help but it is not for those who do not like or fear this.
Once at the top, you have a small explanation of the town hall itself and three little doors. It is unfortunately not possible to go through the doors, but there is glass from top to bottom, allowing you to look out at the city skyline.
The Juliusz Słowacki Theatre
Once the location of a church and residential building, they were replaced with this theatre. This beautiful theatre opened in 1893 for Polish directors to showcase their plays. During the Nazi occupation it was taken over by Germans, but regained by the Polish after WW2. These days, up to 540 people can sit and enjoy one of the many performances shown here.
Relax On The Main Square
I wanted to personally avoid the restaurants on the main square of Krakow. Simply to avoid where most tourists end up. However for just a drink, it was relaxing (and due to not many tourists) to sit and watch people go by. I picked a font row table looking right towards St Mary’s Church. There was often the touristic horse rides going past, locals with their shopping and tourists with their maps and cameras.
Visit the Wawel Castle
You can take a tour here or simply walk around the gardens and grounds. It was lovely to walk early here first thing, as there were no other tourists for 8am and even the security guard seemed to be just starting his shift. The castle was very pretty and for this visit (during September) the gardens and flowers were still blooming too. The free walking tour (mentioned above) also took the group here in the morning which was nice to hear a bit of history.
Fire Breathing Wawel Dragon
No day trip in Krakow would be complete without seeing the famous fire breathing dragon. It was built in 1969 and now a famous touristic spot for families with small children. This is where my free walking tour also ended. The famous Wawel dragon (and its’ cave!) can be found at the base of Wawel Castle closer to the river. The the most history of this famous dragon is that in Polish mythology is that two sons defeated the dragon. But in the very beginning, the dragon would cause terror in the local villages and eat young daughters while destroying their houses.
Check out our other Poland posts!
Summary Of My Day Trip In Krakow
I would 100% go back to Krakow. Especially for things like walking the gardens, to enjoy the cosy evening atmosphere at some local bars and for some more shopping. And let’s not forget the pierogi’s! I would also consider checking out some of the museums next time as well as spending more time checking out local restaurants. In one summers day, I didn’t have time to see the museums, hence why they are not on this list. But go check them out for your own visit!
- Wear comfy shoes to walk the whole city in a day – and join the free walking tour!
- Eat at least 10 pierogi’s!
- Spend a few minutes relaxing at the cathedral to take it all in
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