Poland, specifically Krakow, has been on my bucket list forever! A few months ago, I found a cheap Ryanair flight flying Pisa to Krakow and, since I will (sadly) be leaving Europe soon, I jumped at the chance to spend a weekend in a new city. I had three full days in Krakow, so naturally I began researching and deciding on the most efficient way to see the best of the city in only 72 hours. Three incredible and exhausting days later, I have put together a killer itinerary and seen the most possible of my lucky country number 25!
Some useful Polish phrases…
Dzień dobry (jen-dobray)* – good morning
Poproszę (pop-roh-say) – please
Dziękuję (jin-qui) – thank you
Do widzenia (dough-veez-en-yah) – goodbye
Na zdraví (nahz-drahv-ee) – cheers!
*Good morning is used as a greeting all day until it is actually nighttime.
Where to stay?
Krakow has no shortage of youth hostels…in fact, they’re on every corner. No matter if you prefer hostels, Airbnb or hotels, I would suggest staying in Old Town. Poland is cheap compared to the rest of Europe, so you can find great deals on accommodation even in the heart of the city!
A friend suggested this hostel to me, a recommendation based purely on the great time she had on their pub crawl. I loved Little Havana the second I arrived. My first impression was that it was a nightclub first and a hostel second…and I stand by that observation. The reception is located up a back staircase where they store kegs and cleaning supplies, almost as if the accommodation was an afterthought they added once they got the bar set up.
Besides the untraditional set up, the hostel was clean, spacious and reception was very friendly and helpful! And even though the party was raging all night, you couldn’t hear a peep one floor upstairs. They have some seriously soundproof walls.
The hostel also includes free breakfast, a free beer each night, discounts around town, a free burger at their restaurant and is located right in the center of Old Town Krakow!
Late-night dinner – Gospoda Koko
I arrived to Krakow very late on my first night and, surprise surprise, I went and got pierogis. Gospoda Koko is a short five minute walk from the hostel and is open until 3AM daily. They are cash only but you won’t mind when you see the prices…I ordered a beer, half a cabbage roll, and 5 pierogis for the equivalent of 4 EUR.
Take a Polish cooking class
While scrolling through Viator, I had stumbled upon a traditional Polish cooking class and had to book it immediately. The class had amazing reviews and after spending a morning cooking with Olgierd, I’m about to leave a 5-star review myself. Although the tour is a bit expensive at 65 EUR, you really get that intimate, small-group feel and Olgierd is an expert on all things pierogi!
The class starts off with a visit to the local market (Stary Kleparz) to shop for your pierogi-making ingredients. Olgierd gives everyone a list of ingredients and their Polish translations, as well as some useful every-day phrases. He helps with pronunciation, but allows you to do the ordering from the local vendors.
After the shopping is finished, the group heads back to Olgierd’s flat hungry and ready to make some yummy Polish food. He is a fantastic teacher, always mimicking the steps himself and then allowing the group to try. We made traditional pierogis from homemade dough stuffed with potatoes, soft cheese and sauteéd onion. After spending three days in Krakow and eating more pierogis than I’d like to admit, I can honestly say the pierogis we made during Olgierd’s cooking class were the best I had in the city by a landslide! The man is truly an artist.
If you are interested in learning the art of pierogi making, you can find the class here.
Sample some local craft brews
I love to get an idea of the local breweries in every new city, and Krakow was no exception. After three hours of pierogi making (and one hour of pierogi eating), my friends and I stopped by Pub Omerta in the Jewish Quarter. They have tons of local craft beers on tap and a cozy, beer-loving atmosphere. It’s a great place to kill an hour and people watch!
Drop by Wodka Bar for a vodka tasting
Even though I would normally never order vodka anywhere, a vodka tasting in Krakow was high on my list. Wodka Bar is a tiny little bar offering a wide-variety of vodka flights at an incredible price. We paid 37 PLN for our flight with 6 different vodkas, that’s less than 9 EUR.
We ordered black currant, apricot, ginger, wild rose, chili chocolate and hazelnut. Pro tip: chili chocolate was by far the best.
Dinner – Restauracja U Babci Maliny
I was especially excited for dinner that night, since I had booked us a reservation at, what the internet claimed, was the best pierogi restaurant in town. The unique atmosphere of U Babci Maliny struck me as soon as I walked through the door. The restaurant gives you the impression that you’re dining in an antique shop, but the overall effect works and creates a comfy, yet dignified dining space.
The pierogis did not disappoint. *My meal, fried pierogis stuffed with meat, was incredible and I almost cried when she brought sour cream to the table (it’s hard to find in Italy).
*A couple of my friends ordered the pierogis stuffed with cheese and potato. The pierogis themselves were great but they were covered in a sweet sauce similar to melted ice cream…tasted more like a dessert than a meal.
Book a pub crawl
Since I literally booked my hostel for the pub crawl, I figured I better see what all of the fuss was about. 11 EUR bought us an hour of free drinks at the hostel bar and entrance into four nightclubs around Old Town Square. Pub crawl guides were great, super fun and always making sure everyone in the group knew when we were leaving! We were a bit too sober, so make sure to take advantage of the free-drink hour.
Climb the Town Hall Tower
In every new city, I like to get to the highest vantage point possible to take in the views. The Town Hall Tower seemed like the perfect opportunity to take in Old Town Square from a bird’s-eye view!
Entrance to climb the tower costs 10 PLN, or around 2.50 EUR.
Buy Polish souvenirs in The Cloth Hall
The Cloth Hall, a long indoor market in the center of Old Town Square, is definitely worth a run through. The market is lined with stalls selling all sorts of souvenirs, including jewelry, pottery, clothing, shoes and more.
Marvel at the Wawel Castle Complex
The Wawel Castle Complex, located a short 10 minute walk from the center of Old Town, is one of Krakow’s most stunning sights. If you plan on touring the inside of the castle or the cathedral, I would suggest making a reservation in advance. The ticket line was wrapped around the building.
The castle grounds themselves are free to explore. I spent an hour or so wandering around and taking pictures of the beautiful architecture and gardens.
Explore the Jewish Quarter – Kazimierz
Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter of Krakow, is not far from Old Town and a great neighborhood to walk around and explore. This area is full of quaint shops, delicious restaurants and synagogues on every corner!
Lunch – Smaczek zapiekanki e pieca
In the center of Kazimierz, there’s a small market that sells zapiekanki, or Polish pizza. The pizza is essentially an open-faced sub sandwich, full of cheese, veggies, meat and sauce. I decided on the Niebo w Gebie, full of sausage, tomato, sheep cheese, spring onion, cheese, mushrooms and topped with spicy sauce.
It was both fantastic and incredibly messy.
…and tour some synagogues
Stara Synagoga (The Old Synagogue)
Stara Synagoga was one of the first synagogues in all of Poland. Nowadays, it is used as a museum and no longer functions as a place of worship. A ticket to tour this historic monument will only set you back 10 PLN!
Another synagogue in Kazimierz, the interior of the Tempel Synagogue was extraordinary. The walls and ceiling were covered in elaborate gold and chandeliers hung from every corner. 10 PLN will grant you entrance into the synagogue and as much time as you need to explore!
Wander through St. Mary’s Basilica
Trust me, I have toured a lot of churches in Europe, but the beauty of St. Mary’s Basilica stood out to me. The interior was like nothing I had ever seen…covered in pink, gold, red and blue paintings and designs. It was absolutely gorgeous and well worth the 10 PLN entrance fee.
…and the nearby Church of St. Barbara
I always love hearing the world “free” while traveling. If you’re planning on touring St. Mary’s Basilica, make sure to visit the nearby Church of St. Barbara. Entrance is free and, although much smaller than St. Mary’s, the artwork inside is unbelievable.
Stop by Krakowski Paczki for some traditional Polish donuts
Getting hungry by now? I was. Don’t leave Krakow without trying a traditional Polish donut, A.K.A. a paczki. Krakowski Paczki has a wide varity of traditional and untraditional paczki for incredibly cheap prices. I paid 7 PLN for this toffee covered, toffee filled beauty below and barely resisted going back for seconds.
Dinner – Polakowski
After my post-donut nap, I headed out in search of more traditional Polish specialities. Olgierd, my pierogi guru, recommended Polakowski as one of his favorite restaurants in Old Town.
The restaurant had a self-serve style, so I headed to the counter and ordered a Tyskie (Polish beer), Kotlet schabowy z czosnkiem (breaded pork chop with garlic) and mashed potatoes. Food was delicious (it tasted like German schnitzel) and the whole meal was incredibly cheap!
Shop for traditional pottery
After dinner, I decided to shop around and pick myself up a Polish souvenir. I stumbled upon this traditional Polish pottery shop around the corner from the restaurant. Polish Tradition, located at Grodzka 35, sold the most beautiful painted pottery I’d ever seen.
Thankfully I was limited by suitcase space, so I couldn’t buy the entire store. I did leave with a beautiful set of salt and pepper shakers for 140 PLN.
Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau was one of the reasons I had decided to visit Krakow over Warsaw. Although it was an extremely heavy day, I was glad I had gotten to see the camps and pay my respects to those who lost their lives there.
Since I unfortunately planned too late to make a reservation through the official Auschwitz website, I booked a tour through Get Your Guide. For 21 EUR, it included round trip transportation from Old Town (to both Auschwitz and Birkenau), a Holocaust documentary and informational movie on the ride to Auschwitz and a guidebook with a map for each location. If you have the guide book, you really don’t need a guided tour. All the information is listed in the book and it’s easier to read and walk through yourself than have to stick with a large tour group.
If you’re interested in booking this tour, you can find it here.
Try out one of Krakow’s famous Milk Bars
Poland is full of historic milk bars or “bar mleczny.” Milk bars are basically cafeterias that serve delicious Polish food at crazy low prices! The layout is self-serve, so you order at the front, wait for your food, and bring it to your table to eat.
Lunch – Bar Mleczny “Pod Tęmida”
On my last day in Krakow, I made my way to Pod Tęmida to try out one of these famous milk bars firsthand. The one I chose must have been very popular in the area because the line was almost out the door! However, the staff was fast and the line passed very quickly. I decided to try out fried polish pancakes (or placki ziemniaczane) with pork goulash which were very tasty and extremely cheap.
Go to the spa
When I saw the massage prices in Krakow…I couldn’t resist a trip to the spa. Before hopping on my flight back to Italy, I made a pit stop at May Thai Massage in Old Town. I got a 90 minute classic Thai massage for only 150 PLN, that’s about 35 EUR! The spa was beautiful and my masseuse was incredibly talented.
EAT. EAT. EAT all the Polish food. Make sure to try all these tasty and traditional Polish dishes!
Pierogi (duh) – traditional Polish dumpling
You can find traditional pierogis all over Krakow! They come with a variety of fillings, traditional (potato, cheese and onion), meat, porridge and cheese and dessert options (usually fruit filling).
Barszcz – beetroot soup with dumplings
Barszcz is a beetroot soup that usually comes with dumplings. I ordered mine with egg instead, since I had already ordered an obscene amount of pierogis for dinner.
Kotlet Schabowy – similar to schnitzel
My Kotlet Schabowy at Polakowski was fantastic, but tasted remarkably like German schnitzel. Not that that’s a bad thing…
Gotabki – cabbage rolls
Gotabki is a type of Polish cabbage roll usually stuffed with rice and meat and covered in tomato sauce. If you’re looking for some healthy Polish food, gotabki is your best option.
Placki ziemniaczane – fried potato pancakes
Placki ziemniaczane are pretty self explanatory and every bit as delicious as they sound. Poland is also famous for a crepe-like pancake called Nalesniki, usually filled with cheese or fruit. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to try these.
Zapiekanka – Polish pizza
Found mostly in Kazimierz (the Jewish Quarter), Zapiekanka is a popular street food in Poland. It’s a mix between an open-faced sub sandwich and a personal pizza that comes with loads of toppings and sauces. Fair warning: for street food, it’s incredibly hard to eat on the go unless you want to be covered in crumbs and spicy sauce!
Paczki – Polish donuts
Only the best dessert ever, Paczki are plump and delicious Polish donuts! I went for the toffee flavor on the bottom, but the rose icing on the top shelf was a close second. At roughly 1.40 EUR apiece, there’s no excuse not to try multiple flavors!
Obwarzanek krakowski – Polish bagel
On every corner of Krakow you will find street vendors selling Obwarzanek krakowski. The taste is comparable to a bagel but they are much larger with a wider hole in the center. Flavors are usually salt, cheese, poppy seed and sesame seed. Delicious, but I could have used some cream cheese!
Three days later, as I boarded my Ryanair flight to Pisa, I was sure I had made the best of my time in Krakow. If you follow this itinerary, you’ll have time to see and experience the finest Krakow has to offer!
Thanks for reading this post and, if you enjoyed my Krakow itinerary, make sure to follow the blog and add me on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps 🙂