Kraków 3 Day Itinerary 

Probably the most well known city in Poland outside of Warsaw, Kraków is a popular tourist destination. It’s fantastic old town has a lot to offer visitors, including the amazing Wawel Castle and beautiful St. Mary’s Basilica. Moving away from the centre you can find the emotion stirring old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, as well as visit the fascinating Wieliczka Salt Mine. And of course, the city has many tour operators taking people to see the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and learn about the horrors committed there. Through this Kraków 3 day itinerary I will give you my recommend things to do and see in the city, and hopefully inspire you to take your own trip here.


Kraków 3 Day Itinerary 


Day 1 – Wawel Hill and the Old Town

We begin this Kraków 3 day itinerary by exploring the centre of the city. The first place we are heading is the Wawel Hill complex. It is historically and culturally a very important site for Poland, so gets a lot of visitors, therefore head there early to beat the crowds.

Wawel Castle

Kraków served as the Polish capital until 1596, with Wawel Castle being a royal residence. Even after this date the castle was still used by the royals, for events such as weddings and coronations. Unfortunately the castle was damaged after 1975 when the Austrians took over, following the Partitioning of Poland, and turned it into an army barracks. Since returning to Poland it has been restored through several projects and today is a great museum with several different displays.

Kraków 3 Day Itinerary - a view of Wawel castle from below. Showing its fortified wall at the base of the hill upon which a large castle building stands.
Wawel Castle

There are timed tickets here available for all the different exhibitions. You can also buy a ticket that covers the whole of the castle, and doesn’t have timed entries. I decided to do this so I could explore it at my own pace. If you are planning to see most (if not all) of the exhibitions I recommend doing the same.

Personally I really liked the variation between the different exhibitions, and feel that they cover a great amount of Polish history. A good one to start with is the armoury, which has a really interesting variation of medieval weaponry and armour on display.

2 sets of armour on display in Wawel Castle
2 of the sets of medieval armour on display

There are of course state rooms and a treasury which you would expect from a former royal residence. I enjoyed seeing the Polish artwork on display, as well as good collection of tapestry’s and other treasures. One you might overlook but is definitely worth a visit is the Art of the Orient: Ottoman Turkish Tents. Given the Polish-Lithuanians Commonwealth military clashes and trade routes with the Ottoman Empire I think it’s really interesting to see artefacts from that time.

Castle Gardens

Whilst there are plenty of indoor exhibitions to enjoy, don’t overlook the castle gardens. They are fairly small but well maintained, and a walk around here gives you a good respite from the many indoor rooms!

Looking over the gardens at Wawel Castle as part of a Krakow 3 Day Itinerary. You can see an area with lots of flowers, and another with bushes cut into patterns.
Wawel Gardens

Sandomierska Tower and lunch

Before you leave the castle complex, be sure to climb the Sandomierska Tower. It’s an old defensive tower from around 1460, and you get some good views as you climb up.

A view from Sandomierska Tower showing Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral, as well as part of the green space in the courtyard.
View from the tower

Also near to the tower you will find the complex’s restaurant. Its a good place to try some traditional Polish Pierogi. Whilst there are plenty of great restaurants throughout the city, and you should be all means go and try some of them, a lunch break here makes great sense whilst following this Kraków 3 day itinerary.

A plate of Pilsh Pierogi.
Pierogi

Wawel Cathedral

Asides from the castle, the other main thing to see on the hill is Wawel Cathedral. A ticket for here is separate from the rest of the complex. Buy it in the office opposite the cathedral entrance.

It is famous for being the main coronation site of the Polish Monarchs, with the majority of them being crowned here. And since the 14th century it was also the main burial site for Polish Monarchs, as well as being the final resting place for various national hero’s and military leaders. Two of the countries national poets, Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki, are also buried here.

The Cathedral is also home to the famous The Sigismund Bell. A national symbol, it still tolls on notable occasions such as national holidays. It was cast in 1520 so has been around for a long time, and has been rung on many notable historic occasions. You can climb the tower to view it, though be aware it gets very busy and a bit cramped on the way up.

Kraków 3 Day Itinerary - A view of Wawel cathedra from its outside showing several of its spires which are topped with Christian crosses. One of the gate entrances is shown as well as part of it's walls.
Wawel Cathedral

The Wawel Dragon

Down by the river next to the Wawel Hill you can find the fantastic Wawel Dragon statue. Its here to celebrate Smok Wawelski, a Polish legend about a Dragon that lived on Wawel Hill. And yes, the statue really does breathe fire! Be sure to go down and see it before carrying on to the old town.

Kraków 3 Day Itinerary - The Wawel Drago statue stood on two legs on a rock. The statue's mouth is open and facing upwards at an angel and is 'breathing' out real fire.
Wawel Dragon

The Old Town

Poland is renowned for it’s beautiful old towns, and Kraków’s is one of the most famous. The main square here, which in Polish is known as Rynek Główny, is the main focal point and is lively throughout the day. Overlooking it is one of the cities most prominent buildings, the St. Mary’s Basilica. Built in the 14th century, it is a fine example of Poland’s take on Gothic architecture. It certainly is very impressive! You can visit the inside too, there is a door to the side where tourists can pay a small fee to go in.

A view of St. Mary’s Basilica which has two tall towers, one slightly larger than the other. In front of it is a square busy with people, There are other buildings around but the church is twice the height of them.
A view of St. Mary’s Basilica

At the centre of the square in the cloth hall, a 15th century renaissance building that was a popular trading centre in that times. Today is is full of stalls selling souvenirs and other goods. In front of it the Adam Mickiewicz Monument, dedicated to the famous national poet. It was destroyed by the Nazi’s in the Second World War but was restored to it’s former glory in the 1950’s.

Kraków 3 Day Itinerary - The Adam Mickiewicz Monument stands in the main square. It has several figures sat on it's steps, around a pillar rising upwards which has a singular figure on. The cloth hall is in the background
The Adam Mickiewicz Monument in Kraków’s Rynek Główny, with the cloth hall in the background

One of the oddest things you will spot on this Kraków 3 day itinerary is the Eros Bendato Monument. Found in the main square, it is the work of Polish artist Igor Mitoraj. Eros is the Greek god of love and sex, and is often associated with desire. So take that in mind when interpreting the use of bandages and lack of eyes! Nearby to here you can also see the Town Hall Tower, which is all that remains of the old town hall.

Kraków 3 Day Itinerary  - The Eros Bendato Monument. A giant head lies sideways on a stone pillar. It has bandages running around above and below the nose and below the mouth.
Eros Bendato Monument

Kraków Barbican and old city walls

If you head north from the main square, you come across the remains of the old town walls. The main feature here is St Florian’s Gate, a tower which was part of the cities defences.

A medieval wall leads along to the St Florian’s Gate tower. Along the wall street sellers have artwork for sale. behind the wall tree's lean over.
St Florian’s Gate

Here you will also find the Barbican, which was part of the outer fortifications. It’s very well preserved and hosts a small museum if you wish to visit.

A large red brick military style building. A security guard stand sin the entrance. It has a tower visible at the back of the building. Its upper part has a long row of narrow windows.
A view of the Kraków Barbican

Rest of the old town

The first day of this Kraków 3 day itinerary has already packed a lot in. So if that’s filled your day, hopefully you will be very satisfied with it! But should you want to see more, there are several church’s dotted around, particularly to the south of the main square. The old town is also surrounded by a park, named Planty. Its good to be able to walk amongst some tree’s and greenery after being in the bustle of the city centre. And of the old town itself has lots of pretty side streets to explore, so just having a wonder around can be very rewarding.

A small green area sits in front of a wall, behind which is a church with 2 towers and a red tile roof.
A view of St. Andrew’s Church from the garden of the Saints Peter and Paul Church

Day 2 – Auschwitz-Birkenau

The most infamous of all the Nazi concentration camps, the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex saw the murder of over 1.1 million people. During the Holocaust the Nazi’s killed around 6 Million Jews, which was two thirds of the European Jewish population at the time. They also killed many others too, anyone they deemed unacceptable to their despicable regime. This included Gypsies, Political Opponents, Soviet POW’s, Homosexuals, Poles and many more.

Today the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum can be visited to learn about what happened here, to educate people and to say ‘never again’. There are very well run tours here where a guide will take your group around, explaining what you are seeing and telling you about the victims. Whilst you can visit independently and book through the museums website, I recommend taking a tour from Kraków. They are very well run and organised, and frequent too. I booked mine through Get Your Guide and thought it was very professionally done. Whichever you choose, remember your ID as it’s required.

The Auschwitz concentration camp itself consisted of 3 sites, and the tour takes you to 2 of them. You start at Auschwitz I, which was the main camp, and then visit Auschwitz II–Birkenau which was an extermination camp with gas chambers.

There is of course the question of whether you should visit or not. Obviously it’s an emotionally draining experience, and you see some really horrific stuff here. Personally I decided to visit as I felt it was important to remember the victims and to educate myself about what happened.

An image of the train track at Auschwitz II–Birkenau
Auschwitz II–Birkenau

Day 3 – Wieliczka Salt Mine and Kazimierz

The final day of this Kraków 3 day itinerary starts by taking you to the southern outskirts of the city. Then upon your return it shows some of the old Jewish area, a poignant reminder of what was lost during the Holocaust.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Salt has long been a valuable resource, especially due it’s use in preserving food. In the 13th century a mine was established in Wieliczka to extract salt, and it grew in size to become a vast enterprise. The town of Wieliczka itself is found on the southern outskirts of Kraków, and easily visited from the city. You can either book a tour from Kraków or take the train to Wieliczka Rynek Kopalnia station. Personally I did the latter, and from there is is just a few minutes to walk to the mines. Then you can buy a ticket for one of the ‘individual tour’s where you join a group that will be guided though the tourist trail.

The mines themselves are enormous, covering over 287 kilometres. Only 2% are actually accessible to the public, and I believe the tourist trail covers just 1%. Given how long you spend down in the mine, and the amount you see, this really gives you the impression of the huge scale of the mines. The tours themselves are very educational, covering the history and use of salt well. The further you get into the tour the more interesting things you see too, and you learn a lot about the salt production and the miners themselves. It’s definitely worth doing and for me is a real highlight of this Kraków 3 day itinerary.

Check out the mine’s website for further information, inducing opening times and prices: https://www.wieliczka-saltmine.com/

One of the murals carved from salt inside Wieliczka Salt Mine. several figures in robes with beards and hats (bar one) and facing another robed figure, who is hatless and clean shaven.
One of the murals inside Wieliczka Salt Mine

Kazimierz

Now it’s time to head to Kraków’s old Jewish district. As you would of learned at Auschwitz, Poland’s Jews suffered terribly in World War 2 as the Nazi’s committed horrendous crimes against them. Therefore I think it’s important to visit old Jewish areas like Kazimierz. To remember what was lost and to learn about Jewish life in Poland. Prior to the war Poland actually had the largest Jewish population in Europe, so there were a lot of Jewish areas in the country. This is one of the best places to see one of these.

Kazimierz itself was previously a separate settlement from Kraków, and has it’s own character as such. Though from 1795 onwards it has been part of the city as whole. One of the most striking things you will notice here are old Jewish shopfronts showing business’s that used to be here. A reminder of what the area used to look like.

2 Old Jewish shopfronts side by side. They each have a door and a window, with open shutters. There are signs showing the old ownership of the stores.
Old Jewish shopfronts

There are several Synagogue’s around here, the most famous being the Old Synagogue. It’s the oldest still standing in Poland, having survived being ransacked during the Second World War. It hosts a museum but unfortunately that was closed when I visited, so I just admired the building from the outside.

I also recommend visiting the small Remah Synagogue and it’s cemetery. Primarily because the cemetery is one of the oldest Jewish burial grounds in the country, despite the Nazi efforts to destroy it.

Remah cemetery and synagogue . A Jewish graveyard with many tombstones amongst the grass and tree's The small synagogue is the background.
Remah cemetery and synagogue

Be sure to look out for murals here too. This one was created by artistic group Broken Fingerz to honour the Bosak family. They lived here in the same house for 300 years until driven out by the Nazi’s in 1941.

A Jewish mural on the side of an abandoned house.
Jewish mural

Galicia Jewish Museum

One of the must see’s is the Galicia Jewish Museum. It’s a photography museum that has 2 main sections. The first covers old Jewish sites across the region, a reminder of Jewish life in Poland before the Nazi’s came. The second looks at the history of Jewish individuals and tells their tales. The latter is particularly interesting and goes into really good personal detail.

Information about the wartime experience of one of the people covered at the Galicia Jewish Museum. included is her fake German ID.
On display at the Galicia Jewish Museum

Zapiekanka

As well as it’s Jewish history, Kazimierz is one of the best places in Poland to try Zapiekanka. This street food is essentially bread with toppings and sauce. The classic is mushrooms and cheese, with tomato ketchup. However as you can get that in many other places in Poland, it’s good to try one (or more!) of the other varieties offered here.

A Zapiekanka with cheese, mushrooms, black olives, sweetcorn, tomato and sauces.
A Zapiekanka

There are several kiosks found in the central market building as Plac Nowy. Take a look and try whichever one you like!

A kiosk selling Zapiekanka. There is a bright yellow menu and price list next to the kiosk window. You can the back of a person preparing food inside the kiosk.
A kiosk selling Zapiekanka

A quick Kraków FAQ


What is the best time to visit Kraków?

May is a fantastic time to visit Kraków, as there is usually good weather but the summer crowds have yet to arrive. September is likewise a great month to visit, as the peak crowd season is June-August. These are also the hottest months. If you are planning to visit during the winter, for example for the Christmas Markets in November and December, be aware that the temperatures do drop pretty low and flights can be more expensive.

Can you get by with English in Kraków?

Yes most of those in the tourist related industry in the city speak English. It is actually widely spoken in Poland as whole and you shouldn’t have any problems making yourself understood.

What currency do they use in Poland?

Poland uses Zloty. So whilst in many of the countries neighbours use Euro’s, you will need to change currency here.

Is Kraków safe to visit?

Poland is one of Europe’s safest counties, with statistically lower crime rates than many of it’s neighbours. Therefore whilst you should always exercise caution, it is definitely on the safer side of anywhere you can visit.

Is there public transport to the city centre from Kraków airport?

Yes you can take a 20 minute train from the airport to the main train station, which is only a short walk from the old town.


Thanks for reading this Kraków 3 Day Itinerary!


If you are interested in reading more about Poland, you can check out my posts on Gdańsk, Toruń and Wrocław. If you are vegetarian please check out my experience report on Polish Vegetarian Food. You can also connect with me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook

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