While Warsaw may be the capital of Poland, Krakow’s entire old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is renowned as the Polish capital of culture. With a blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque, the pastel-coloured buildings are mixed in amongst an array of grand churches, museums, grand squares, marketplaces, a castle, and one of the oldest universities in the world.
This city is known for its cafe culture, and there is no end of eateries to while away the hours people-watching. Or perhaps you would prefer to wander the cobbled streets watching out for the nuns in full habit or take a tour of the city in the back of a horse-drawn carriage. Whatever you decide, Krakow is the perfect, affordable weekend city break location.
This guide is perfect for those who only have 48 Hours in Krakow – A 2 Day Itinerary. We will show you what to do in Krakow, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around, whether its a weekend in Krakow Poland or just a quick trip.
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How to get to Krakow
It is relatively easy to get to Krakow, with most visitors flying into John Paul II international airport, just 15km away. However, some budget airlines will fly into Katowice, which is 110km out, although there is a shuttle bus available, which will take around 2 hours, or you could consider a private transfer which will see you arriving in Karkow in approximately 90 minutes.
Getting around Krakow
Krakow is one of the most affordable cities in all of Europe; therefore, it will come as no shock that you can get an Uber from the Airport to the city for around 5 – 6 euros.
Once in the heart of Krakow, you will quickly notice how walkable it is, with all the main attractions being located within about a 20-minute walk of each other. If you want to get around the city quicker, there are various bike and electric scooter hire stations positioned around the Old Town to help facilitate your sightseeing.
The best time to visit Krakow
Tourism season is from April to October, so while it may be quieter out of season, many opening times will reflect this, with some potentially being closed entirely; therefore, it is crucial to research ahead.
Krakow has also become a mecca for those looking for a festive winter break and is undoubtedly the place to visit in Poland at this time of year, with the central Square making way for tiny timber huts. This is where you will find handcrafted toys and Christmas decorations among stalls that prepare delicious grilled and smoked specialties, slow-cooked soups, goulash, and Pierogi, a dumpling that can be made both sweet and savoury.
Where to stay in Krakow over 48 hours
The two most popular areas to stay in during your trip are Stare Miasto, the old town, and Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter. Within the old city, you have many different accommodation options, from 5-star hotels to self-catering apartments to choose from. While it may be slightly more expensive than other neighbourhoods, there is still often a deal to be found.
Betmanowska Main Square Residence is a popular choice for this part of town, allowing you to stay in either a traditional hotel room or a self-contained apartment right in the heart of the historical centre.
Another great choice is the Stradonia Serviced Apartments, located between the two main areas with some offering views out over the Wawel Royal Castle and each coming with a kitchenette and washing machine, which is an excellent option for those looking to keep costs down.
For those looking to stay in the Jewish Quarter, which was also one of the filming locations for Schindler’s List, consider the Puro Krakow Kazimierz, with its ultra-modern interior, with some rooms coming with roll-top baths, ideal for soaking in after a day exploring. This hotel also offers complimentary bike and walking tours of the city.
Things to do around Krakow
If there aren’t enough things to see in Krakow Old Town, consider heading out of the city on a day trip to either (or both) the Wieliczka Salt mine or the now very famous Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp.
Wieliczka Salt mine is around 40 minutes from the city and is the second most visited attraction in the country. These royal salt mines illustrate the historical stages of mining techniques used throughout Europe from the 13th until the 20th century. They are now home to galleries of artwork, underground chapels, and salt sculptures.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp is around 2 hours from the city, but as the largest ever concentration camp is a site many people want to see. To truly understand what took place here, consider taking a tour with a professional guide who will sensitively walk you through the horrors of the Holocaust, taking you on a walking tour of the barracks, the watch towers, the gas chambers, and the crematoriums.
48 hours in Krakow itinerary
Day 1 in Krakow
With an abundance of things to see in the Old Town of Krakow, this is where your tour should begin. Before beginning your day of sightseeing, consider having breakfast at a traditional Polish milk bar. These are cafes that, during the Communist era, provided subsidised, traditional cuisine at budget prices and are still popular today.
A firm favourite amongst tourists and locals is Milkbar Tomasza, which offers a great breakfast at a reasonable price. By 8 am in the morning, it is already a bustling little cafe that is both cosy and chaotic, making it a great place to begin your 48 hours in Krakow.
Once you have finished, start your day by exploring Planty Park, which encircles the Old Town walls, making it hard to miss. Home to various garden settings, towering tree-lined walkways, fountains, monuments, and statues honouring historical figures, including Nicolaus Copernicus. Although just outside the old town of Krakow, this park provides a pleasant setting to walk towards the Barbican, one of the best-preserved, fortified outposts that were at one time attached to the walls and is now a great gateway into the old city.
Built during the 15th century, this Gothic show-stopping entrance once had a drawbridge over a water-filled moat and remains one of the best-preserved structures of its kind in all of Europe. Topped by seven turrets, you can clearly see the unmistakable slots that archers tasked with defending the city would have once used.
Wander through St. Florian’s Gate, the most photographed monument in all of Krakow, and onto the bustling Florianska Street, which will lead you directly to the main Square. The street itself, however, should not be rushed, and while it is now packed full of shops to explore, it is also home to around 700 years of history.
You will see antique metal shop signage marking some of the oldest establishments in Krakow alongside more modern-day additions. Heading towards the Square, you will pass narrow gothic buildings and elaborately decorated Renaissance facades mixed in with post-communism manifestations. This route also includes the house of artist Jan Matejko, the Polish artist known for his historical depictions. It is where he painted many of his masterpieces and remains a biographical museum of his life and works.
Further along the same street, you will stumble across The Pharmacy Museum, with various collections exploring the history of pharmacy in the city. Spread over five floors, one of which is dedicated to the pioneer and inventor of the modern kerosene lamp, Ignacy Lukasiewicz, while another is committed to the legacy of Tadeusz Pankiewicz. Known for running the ‘Under the Eagle’ pharmacy in the Krakow Jewish Ghetto, he tried to help imprisoned Jews during World War II.
From here, you will enter the grand main Square, Rynek Główny, once voted the most beautiful Square in all of Europe by Lonely Planet. Standing since the 13th century, this medieval Square is one of the largest in Europe and is surrounded by mansions and townhouses, market stalls, cafes, and restaurants; this is indeed the beating heart of the city and where you will undoubtedly spend most of your afternoon.
For those in need of a spot for lunch, consider heading to Morskie Oko, located nearby and is an excellent spot for people wanting to try a traditional Polish lunch of steaming dumplings, known as Pierogi, smoky sausages fried on a charcoal grill, or a bowl of zurek, a sour rye soup.
For those after something a little less heavy, spend some time people-watching in one of the 30 or so cafes that line the Square and order a slice of traditional Polish cheesecake, known as Sernik Babci, and a strong coffee.
After refuelling, head to St. Mary’s Basilica, which is just as beautiful on the inside as it is out, with its baroque interior, intricate stained glass windows, and the most striking roof with its stunning blue, white, and gold-topped tower. For those wanting a glimpse of the rooftops, you can also climb the steep steps up to the viewing platform at the top of the Basilica, although this is not an option for anyone travelling during the winter season.
While exploring the Square, allow time to visit the Cloth Hall, also known as the Sukiennice, one of the city’s most recognisable buildings. Having been a trading hall since the 1300s, this is your best bet for any souvenirs you may wish to purchase. Hidden inside this architectural gem, you will find 100s of stalls selling jewellery, lacework, cloth handicrafts, carvings, rugs, and no end of other Polish trinkets.
Finally, and if time permits, no trip to this market square would be complete without a trip to the Rynek Underground Museum. Hidden roughly four metres under the main Square, this museum contains excavated market stalls dating back to the Middle Ages. It gives visitors a great introduction to what living in the city would have been like during Medieval times.
After such a busy day, it’s time to spend the evening relaxing. Take a stroll down the Vistula River, especially if you visit during the spring and summer months, where you will find an abundance of beer gardens and rooftop bars. If you decide to stay close to the old town, you will get a great view of Wawel Castle.
Another option is to check out one of the many game pubs scattered around the city. If you are a lover of board games, you will enjoy this unique pastime that has been adopted by both residents and visitors alike. In the old town, you will find many bars and cafes stocked with board or video games for you to enjoy; a great way to make new friends. Two of the best-known are Cyber Machina, which has a broad mix of different games, and the Domowka Cafe, which can be found in the Kazimierz district.
Day 2 in Krakow
If you only have a weekend in Krakow, your second breakfast experience should be at Mo-ja cafe, a completely different setting from the milkbar on day 1. Mo-ja is a cute little hipster cafe offering traditional Polish breakfasts, eggs, and a selection of vegan dishes. This cafe provides a look into the modern side of an extremely old city.
From here, it is just a short walk to the Wawel Royal Castle, where today’s sightseeing will begin. Nestled in the Wawel hills, offering 360-degree views over the city, was once a royal residence constructed by King Casimir III the Great. Home to royalty for centuries, it is one of the largest castles in Poland and showcases the many different styles of the city. While here, check out the dragon’s den, said to be the former home of a real-life Wawel dragon.
Within the castle grounds, you will find an art museum containing paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and textiles significant to Krakow and the Wawel Cathedral, where Polish monarchs were once crowned and later buried. This is also an important spot for literature lovers familiar with the works of Adam Mickiewicz, considered to be Poland’s national poet, whose remains are also buried here.
After the morning exploring this historical and culturally significant site, head to Hummus Amamamusi for a spot of lunch. This quirky little restaurant serves platters of dipping bread, oils, and fantastic Hummus dips. Locals are happy to talk to anyone that wanders through the door, and it is a great stop-off ahead of an afternoon exploring the Jewish Quarter.
If you are not a hummus fan but still want some time out from sightseeing, head to the Tea Time Brew Pub, a microbrewery located on the Vistula river, proud of its home-produced real ales. Here you can relax, discover a couple of new beers, and perhaps enjoy a game of darts before you head out once again.
From here, you need to head into Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter of the city; once an independent city of its own, and now one of Krakow’s trendiest neighbourhoods, brimming with cafes, bars, and restaurants. However, it was not always a popular place to be. During the Second World War, the Jews of Krakow, about 64000 people, were forced from their homes here and made to relocate to the Krakow Ghetto on the other side of the river.
Of these, only about 10 percent survived, primarily because of Oskar Schindler, who now has a museum dedicated to his work and sits on the site of his former enamel factory, which should be your first stop. Schindler’s factory is now home to a permanent exhibition focusing on Krakow under the Nazi Occupation and shows the horrors of the war inflicted on Polish citizens. The museum has been designed so that each of the 45 rooms resembles a specific place – a street, a labour camp, a shop, a railway station, and many more.
Once back outside, give yourself time to reflect on what you have just seen and stop at the Cheder Cafe, where you can choose from several local-roasted brews while perusing the bookshelves.
Make sure you also give yourself enough time to explore the 500-year-old Synagogue, the Jewish Galicia Museum, and Ghetto Heroes Square. The Square is of great significance to the Jewish population and was once the largest Square in Krakow Ghetto. This is where families were forced apart and deported to the death camps nearby during World War Two.
Today, as you wander into the Square, you will see 33 monumental chairs and 37 normal-sized chairs made of iron and bronze, symbolising the empty seats left behind by those tragically killed. There are also several Jewish walking tours available for anyone wanting to learn more about what happened in this part of town. After exploring this area, the quickest way to return to the old city is via the tram, number 50, taking you back to the central station.
For dinner this evening, consider heading to Pod Aniolami, a restaurant nestled in the gothic cellar of a 13th-century goldsmith’s workshop. The menu is, as expected, traditional Polish and offers dishes including wild boar, steak, duck, dumplings, and grilled blood sausage — a great way to end your 48hrs in Krakow.
Recommended tours in Krakow
- Pub Crawl + Unlimited Drinks + VIP entry + Drinking Games & Photographer
- Kraków In a Nutshell: Walking Tour
- Delicious Kazimierz Food Tour from Krakow
- Sightseeing Bike Tour of Krakow
- The Kraków Vodka Tour
- Wieliczka Salt Mine: Guided Tour from Krakow (with hotel pickup)
- Segway Tour of Krakow: Old Town Tour – 1,5-Hour of Magic!
- Communism Tour in a Genuine Trabant Automobile from Krakow
- Krakow’s Essential Tour of the Old Town and Wawel Castle
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