You just arrived to Krakow, Poland for the first time and only have 24 hours to explore, what do you do? Below is an itinerary that will take you through Krakow with the best sights, activities, foods, tips and recommendations for your best possible visit.
6:00 AM – Sunrise in Rynek Glowlny
There is a common theme to most of my itineraries, and that is they include the sunrise. The sunrise is one of the best times of the day because areas are not overcrowded with people. The Main Square in Krakow, or Rynek Glowny, is one of the most crowded places in all of Poland, and for good reason. This beautiful Medieval square came about in the 13th century and is one of the largest in all of Europe.
If you want to see the square on your own with some piece and quiet, sunrise is the time.
7:00 AM – St. Mary’s Trumpet
Krakow is a town full of rich history, culture and traditions. One of the most interesting and unique experiences in Krakow is listening to the trumpeter at the top of St. Mary’s Basilica every hour through out the day. At the hour, the trumpeter plays out the West Side of the clock tower towards the square. He plays a short melody and then abruptly stops and is nowhere to be seen. This is to commemorate at trumpeter who was shot and killed by an arrow in the 1200’s. After a few seconds of death, the trumpeter pops out another side of the clock tower and repeats. This goes on for a few minutes and is always finished off with applause. Apparently, the trumpeting at noon is broadcast to all of Poland on the radio and thus has been the tradition since the 1920’s. You have the opportunity to see this all day, but it is your own personal concert in the morning.
7:05 AM – Walk to Wawel Castle
Other than Rynek Glowny, Wawel Castle is the centerpiece of Krakow. It takes about 10 minutes to walk from the square to the castle, and the walk has some good stopping points. If you are hungry and ready for breakfast, that should not be a problem. The main street of Grodzka is full of restaurants and cafes, let alone the square. A lot of Krakow is still closed at this time, but the day is beginning. On the walk to Wawel Castle, you will be sure to see some beautiful buildings along the way
8:00 AM – Wawel Castle
As the legend goes, The Wawel Castle was once endangered by a fierce and ferocious dragon. During the reign of King Krakus some time in 700 AD, Smok Wawelski, or Dragon of Wawel Hill, lived in a lair beneath the castle on the bank of the Vistula River. There the dragon demanded weekly offerings of cattle or else it would devour humans. Noble men traveled from far across the land to try and defeat the dragon, but none succeeded. Until one day, a poor shoemaker told the king that he could defeat the dragon by tricking it into eating a fake sheep with tinder, tar and sulfur inside. The dragon excitedly took the sheep as his weekly offering and immediately felt heat swelling in his stomach. He went to the river to quench his thirst and put out the flame, but he exploded and never returned. Although his remains still sit outside at the base of the castle, blowing fire every few minutes, reminding people of the legend.
This town loves and lives off of this legend. This is their tourism industry, and they are not stopping anytime soon. Thousands of tourists are drawn to Krakow each year to get a glimpse of this castle that was once ruled by a dragon. I don’t blame them. We all love a good dragon story, just look at Harry Potter. Smok himself is best to see in the morning as later in the day he is surrounded by children wanting to climb on him.
Although, it is not just the story of the dragon that should draw you to this castle. This castle is beautiful, and not to mention it was once the home to Polish rulers, Kings and Queens. You will need to take a slight walk up a hill to walk into the castle walls. Once inside the walls, the area is surrounded with beautiful gardens and gorgeous, Gothic and Medieval architecture. The Wawel Cathedral is the highlight here, as its gothic tower stands high into the sky. Walking through the inside of the castle walls will take you back in time.
The area is so peaceful and relaxing that it is easy to fall asleep.
You can spend your time however you want at Wawel Castle. There are tours going on through out the day, but walking through and relaxing for 2 hours is enough. Tours are great, but it is really cool to ask the locals to tell you different stories of the castle. You can follow this link if you’re interest in a tour. http://wawel.krakow.pl/en/index.php?op=40
10:00 AM – Vistula River Walk
Just outside the Wawel Castle lies the Vistula River. The river banks offer some of the best views of Wawel Hill and are a great spot for a nice morning stroll. The area is full of parks and paths that are perfect for people watching. If you want a nice view of Wawel Castle, this is the spot.
11:00 AM – Dragon Shopping in Sukiennice
Also known as the World’s oldest shopping mall, Sukiennice, or the Cloth Hall, is the best spot to find your souvenir dragon to take home. After hearing so many stories about the dragon and witnessing him first hand, you are guaranteed to want your own. Heading back to Rynek Glowny for dragon hunting is an adventure on its own.
There are markets and shops all over Krakow full of Smok Wawelski. The town thrives off of their dragon trading business. From brass statues to plush toys for little kids, there are dragons in every direction. This is one of the best souvenir shopping towns you will find.
1:00 PM – Pierogis
After a morning full of walking, it is time to take a break and feed your hunger with the best of the best, Pierogis. Just a few blocks away from the Old Town Square, you can find some of the best Pierogis in all of Poland. Przypiecek is a fast food Pierogi place. Whereas in the United States fast food is a nasty, fattening burger from McDonald’s, Poland has Pierogis. This little cafe on Sławkowska street specializes in the Polish dumplings. There are so many different options to choose from and the menus are hung around the walls.
Orders come with about 8-10 pierogis, and only cost you about $4… Is this heaven? With so many options, it is very hard not to go with the most traditional, Russians.
If you’re lucky enough to have someone else with you or have more than one day, the sweet, fruit filled pierogis are very unique and hard to find outside of Poland.
If you only have one chance to eat here, they offer dishes that will give you three or four different kinds on one plate. If you go to Poland and don’t eat Pierogis, did you actually go to Poland?
2:00 PM – The Barbikan
Sitting very close to Przypiecek is the Barbikan. This is the only Medieval gatehouse left in a town that used to be circled with them. The tiny castle looking gatehouse is from the 13th century and every now and again they allow visitors in to watch theatre productions. It is small and not much, but its a good stop before a long walk with a Pierogi filled stomach.
3:00 PM – Jewish Quarter
About a 30 minute walk from the Old Town center lies the Jewish Quarter. This is the area that many Jews lived before being taken away to nearby Auschwitz by German forces. The area is very lively today and still holds its past influences. Walking through the area can feel sad as the history that goes with it will live on forever. If you want more information on the Jewish Quarter, there are tours that go through the area in golf carts through out the day.
5:00 PM – Florianska Street
Sitting Perpendicular to Rynek Glowny, this street is one of Krakow’s most beautiful. This bustling street is full of vendor’s, restaurants, shops and bars. It is a good spot to go for a coffee or to grab a drink with friends. Later in the night, this area opens up to a lively night life where everyone will be trying to sell you on their club. During the day, the street is a great spot to look up and see the architecture. Each building is seemingly different in color and design. If you see a restaurant that you like on this street, then hop on in for dinner. However, I have a better one that has tastier food and less of a price 😉
6:00 PM – Polish Dinner
Next to Przypiecek, the Pierogi place, is Domowe Przysmaki. This restaurant is quiet and serves up some great Polish food. The Gołabcki, or stuffed cabbage, is the best I had in my time in Poland.
After having some cabbage, go with the Hunter’s Stew, or Bigos. This is a staple of Polish cuisine and there is a reason why.
This stew is full of cabbage, mushrooms, tomatoes, spices and many different kinds of meats. Absolutely delicious.
7:00 PM – Sunset in Rynek Glowny
Now that your stomach is full, make your way back to the Old Town Square for the night. Krakow is just coming to life. The culture of Krakow really lives up to its hype, especially at this time of day. There are incredible street guitarists playing songs and the trumpeter is still popping in and out. Horse drawn carriages are pulling people through out town. The streets are lined with outdoor cafes where everyone is eating pierogis and sipping on beer or vodka. Street performers do their best to put on the best performance to make some extra money for the night as the sun begins to set.
The sunset is the real show here. With the very unique architecture through out the town, the setting sun creates some gorgeous shadows and lighting on the surrounding buildings.
9:00 PM – Evening Stroll Through Rynek Glowny
If you want, you can go out and party as Krakow has a good night life, but walking around the Town Square at this time is too good to pass up. It is the perfect spot for people watching as well as listening to and watching the street performers. The night creates a completely different atmosphere here as the quaint streets become dimly lit by street lamps and take you back into Medieval Times.
If you have more time in Krakow, you can take a day trip out to Auschwitz. This however, is not for everyone. This is the most infamous extermination camp from the Holocaust where some 1 million people died. This is for sure a gut wrenching experience, but one we must not forget.
Krakow is an amazing and culture filled town that everyone should visit at some point. There is a lot to do and sadly 24 hours isn’t always enough.Whatever you do with the time you have, it will be well spent.
If you agree or have something to change on my “24 Hours In” Krakow Itinerary, please comment and reply below! And don’t forget to subscribe! If you have any other questions or want more recommendations, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Instagram @travelingle and @egtrotters . Thank you! Enjoy your trip in Krakow! =D