Krakow surprised us! We had looked at photos online, watched video blogs and read our guidebook back to back but we still had no idea what this beautiful Polish city had to offer. We spent four nights in Krakow and in all honesty, we could have stayed longer, the city was much more than medieval buildings, day tours and cheap beer. It was charming, enchanting and welcoming.
Here are our top ten things to do when visiting Krakow
1) Visit Wawel Castle
Wawel Castle was built at the behest of King Casimir the Great III. It is set very close to the city centre on the banks of the Vistula River, on a hill proudly overlooking the streets of Krakow.
Now we have to be honest, we are not really ‘castle lovers’… if there is such a thing. Between us, we have seen many castles some have been inspiring and not particularly unique but I guess it’s just not our thing.
But Wawel Castle, despite not even being on our list of things to see, reignited the Castle love within us! The castle is set up slightly differently from other castles in the sense you have to purchase separate tickets for each part of the castle you want to see. It is worth having a jump on their website before you go to decide what you want to see as rather frustratingly if you change your mind once in there, you are sent back to the entrance to queue and buy more tickets.
There are no ticket stations inside for certain rooms or attractions. The tickets are very cheap and equivalent to 2 euros will get you into the towers or the cathedral or the treasury. The gardens are stunning, brightly coloured flowers with the castle walls as the backdrop. Secret garden-looking wooden doors and sweeping trees. It’s beautiful. There are a few restaurants and food stands as well if you want to stop for refreshments. Also, if you like photography, Wawel Castle has it all!
The website is www.wawel.krakow.pl/en where you can see all the attractions, opening hours and ticket prices.
2) Visit the River and one of its many bars or restaurants
We hired bikes and cycled down the river and it was pretty, had vividly green grass banks and gleaming water with boat tours meandering up and down and the pathways lined with boat bars and boat restaurants.
The river runs through the city but a portion of it is right behind the castle and so very easily accessible after visiting Wawel.
The boats have rooftop bars and seats where you can soak up the sun whilst enjoying a beer or glass of wine! There are many restaurants and bars on the river running through Krakow from casual lunch stops to 5-star dining experiences so it’s definitely worth popping aboard to experience something different.
3) Watch the sunset/twilight over the Bridge or Zakrzowek Lake
Steffan found this spot and it’s not overly well known from what we can gather. It is stunning. It took us around 20 minutes to cycle there on a mix of bicycle and woodland paths and then around a 10-15 minute uphill walk to reach the lakes.
There is some minor climbing involved over fences or through holes in fences to get the perfect view but if I managed it anyone can. If you are less adventurous you can enjoy the view from behind the fence and it is equally as beautiful.
This was discovered completely by accident on the way back from the Lake but trust us when we say, it is the most beautiful sunset/twilight we have seen. The river reflected the light from the street lamps, the castle in the background looked like something straight from a Disney movie and the colours in the sky just looked stunning!
We couldn’t believe how lucky we were to see this… and whilst the bridge is not in the best of spots as it’s on main roads you could always take the short stroll down to the river banks and relax there whilst taking in the view.
4) Visit Krakus mound
Krakus Mound is a distance from the city centre but easily accessible by a short 10-minute taxi ride or a 30-minute bike ride (which we opted for). Krakus mound was named after King Krakus and offers landscape views across the city. It’s also a really pretty spot to take a picnic and a blanket and just chill out.
Despite the uphill walk or bike ride to get there, at the top there are lots of grassy spots you can just relax and take in the views although it does get busier in the summer months. It’s the highest point and you pretty much get a 360 view around the city and over the surrounding area. For photography lovers, it’s worth the trip.
Top tip: IF you opt to hire bikes, get electric bikes. They are marginally more expensive but you really will be glad of your choice when you take the uphill trek to the mound
5) Hire a bike
We decided to hire bikes as there were a few spots just outside of the city we wanted to visit and initially had no intention of hiring electric bikes. But as with us enjoying our sleep, we got to the bike shop late and all of the bikes had been hired out.
There were just two electric bikes left. They cost around the equivalent of 15 euros each for 24 hours along with bike locks, a charger and baskets attached to the front for our bags, we left a deposit and a photocopy of our ID and off we went. If you are going any distance and are not lovers of bike riding or experienced bike rider, we would recommend e-bikes.
They make the day so much less arduous….. Yes, you still get bum ache but at least you can still walk to dinner that evening as you have had a little electric bike help throughout the day!
6) Get a horse & carriage ride
This seems such a strange thing to be in our top ten since we didn’t even get to have one ourselves! If any of you follow our Instagram you will know this was my one huge disappointment! We have both visited so many beautiful cities throughout the world and yet, Krakow excelled in its charm, romance and even the horse and carriages. They look magical and I can’t imagine a better way of spending an hour whilst the sun sets over the church and across the city. Sadly we just didn’t get time but it’s an excuse to go back which is always good!
7) Book some day tours
Krakow is extremely close to some very important sites and attractions and if you have the time is worth venturing outside the city to explore these. We opted to visit Auschwitz and Wieliczka salt mines and despite it being a very full-on day we learnt a lot and found it a really worthwhile way to spend a day.
We booked through Krakow Day tours that are very well regarded and thoroughly enjoyed the day. The transport was seamless. The driver was hilarious and we knew exactly what we were doing.
8) Make your way across Lovers Bridge
Lovers Bridge’ connects Kazimierz to Bonarka and stands across the Vistula River. The bridge is pretty big and has both walking and cycling paths across it, decorated with statues and padlocks with lovers’ initials engraved on them as you find in many large cities now. No matter how many times we see it, we still love photographing and reading them!
We stumbled across the bridge on our way to Krakus mound so if you’re heading in that direction via bicycle then there’s no need to plan two trips to see both.
9) Try Pierogi and Lody (Polish dumplings and ice cream)
We were huge fans of the Pierogi when in Krakow. A very traditional dish and essentially dumplings filled with cheese and potato or meats or vegetables served as a side or main course absolutely delicious!
We also thoroughly enjoyed the Lody in Krakow which is ice cream. There were many ice cream stands and stalls throughout the city and the flavours ranged from anything chocolate-based to fruit, nut, and bubble gum, there was something for everyone! I am not sure I have seen as many choices of ice cream anywhere on my travels aside from Italy which were super exciting!