The southern Polish city of Krakow is one of the country’s oldest and most beautiful cities, as well as its former royal capital. The entirety of Krakow Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny)—Europe’s largest medieval square—contains well-preserved Romanesque, Gothic, and baroque buildings. In or near the history-steeped quarter are star attractions including Cloth Hall, Wawel Royal Castle (Zamek Wawelski), and the elegant streets of the former Jewish quarter, Kazimierz. Guided tours ensure that travelers cover the city’s signature sights with ease, usually by combining coach or bus transfers with guided walks. After taking in its top attractions, many visitors use Krakow as a convenient launchpad for visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, site of a World War II Nazi concentration camp, along with other destinations such as the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny)
The jewel of Krakow, this huge square offers architectural highlights including the Renaissance-style Cloth Hall and St. Mary’s Basilica (Mariacki). The square is a fixture on all Old Town tours, which usually run for half a day and span other treasures such as Wawel Castle and the Jewish quarter. Tours offer detailed accounts of the square’s history and often incorporate guided walks through the pedestrianized cobblestone streets. Segway and electric car tours allow access to areas closed to regular vehicular traffic.
This Old Town tour covers the Main Market Square, Wawel Castle, and Jewish quarter in a half-day with bus and walking components, making it ideal for those who are pressed for time or who want a quick overview.
Travelers who want to minimize sightseeing on foot enjoy this Segway tour, which lets them coast around the Main Market Square and other areas that are harder to access by bus.
This private tour appeals to visitors interested in learning the history of Old Town while also embarking on a personalized itinerary based on individual interests.
This 60- or 90-minute eco-friendly option whisks passengers around the Main Market Square, Kazimierz, and other hot spots by private electric car—accessing sights not reachable by car or bus.
Read more about Main Market Square (Rynek Glowny) tour options here.
Kazimierz (Jewish District)
The hub of Krakow’s Jewish community from medieval times, Kazimierz boasts mansions, squares, synagogues, and memorials reflective of its rich and often tragic history. Taking guided walks—rather than random strolls—is important to unlocking the area’s past and appreciating its resurgence as one of Krakow’s trendiest areas. Exploration is best done on foot, with private or group tours of sites such as Oskar Schindler’s Factory, Podgorze, and movie locations from Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. Food tours spotlight the district’s traditional Jewish specialties.
This tour takes guests on a stroll around Kazimierz to see locations used in Schindler’s List and also visits Oskar Schindler’s Factory museum, making for a well-rounded look at the neighborhood.
For a closer exploration of Jewish history, this private half-day tour visits Kazimierz, the former Jewish ghetto of Podgorze, and the site of the now-destroyed Plaszow concentration camp site.
Taking this Segway tour around Kazimierze lets travelers see city sights more quickly than if on foot— and with the bonus of personalized commentary from a private guide.
A fun foodie twist on a traditional sightseeing tour, this evening excursion includes time in Kazimierz to explore and sample an assortment of Jewish delicacies.
Read more about Kazimierz (Jewish District) tour options here.
Located west of Krakow, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum stands on what was World War II’s largest Nazi concentration camp. The complex incorporates the two main camps— Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau—and encourages visitors to reflect on the horrors that occurred here. Guided tours are recommended for gaining a clear understanding of its history, and most tours cover both sites’ museums, memorials, and remnants of the prison blocks and gas chambers. Tours are sometimes paired with a visit to the nearby Wieliczka Salt Mine.
On this tour, guests explore Auschwitz-Birkenau in the quietness of a small group. It includes the option of an early start, which ensures that the group is among the first of the day to enter.
Ideal for visitors who are pressed for time, this tour takes in Auschwitz-Birkenau in the morning before continuing to the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
This day trip offers the benefit of return transfers to Auschwitz by comfortable private vehicle, with a documentary screening on the camp’s liberation in 1945 providing background en route.
Read more about Auschwitz-Birkenau tour options here.
Things to Know
When to Visit
Visit Krakow between March and May or September and November and the summertime crowds will be absent, but the weather will be mild and comfortable enough for sightseeing.
Most of Krakow’s Old Town attractions are near each other, making walking the best option in the city center. For a break, take a tram or bus—the same tickets are valid on both.
Be sure to tip in Krakow: the norm is 10 percent in restaurants, bars, and cabs. Take extra care when exiting Krakow’s trams: Many run in the middle of roads, which means stepping into oncoming traffic.
Things to Bring
Comfortable shoes are recommended to navigate Krakow’s cobblestones, as are easy-to-layer clothes and a waterproof outer layer—Poland’s weather is fitful, even in summer.
What the Locals Know
Some restrooms in Poland are marked not with the more conventional stick-figure pictograms, but with a circle for women and a downward triangle for men.