Our whirlwind trip to Poland began in magnificent Gdansk, continued in sunny Sopot, and ended with three lovely days in Krakow. I genuinely think it’s impossible not to fall in love with Krakow. With its stunning architecture, appetizing local food, and dreamy little streets, it will charm anyone.

once upon a time in kazimierz restaurant in krakow

There is something undeniably magical about Krakow. A city left unscathed during WWII, history and legends meet in architecture that is beautiful and original. Knowing myself, I had a hunch that I would love Krakow. In a way, it’s a city overflowing with architecture fit for a Wes Anderson movie! Clearly, I could write about everything that there is to see in Krakow for days so I made sure to separate it into a few blog posts. If you want to know the hidden gems in Krakow, head on over to this blog post.

Always on the lookout for Art Nouveau, I was delighted by what I found in Krakow. As Art Nouveau swept over Europe, Poland couldn’t resist its charm. For around 20 years, floral motifs and sinuous blended in with local Polish architecture. In fact, Krakow was the center of Polish Art Nouveau. The Stary Theatre, House Under the Globe, and Palace of Fine Arts are only a few of the many dazzling examples of Art Nouveau in Krakow. I’m half tempted to write a separate blog post featuring all of them!

For a long time, Krakow used to be the capital of Poland, all the way until 1596. The entire Old Town of Krakow is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once upon a time, it had long walls and towers protecting it from outsiders. Today, a few walls and the Barbican remain. However, the Old Town itself has survived a lot, and the cobblestone streets and historical architecture have easily retained the charm of bygone days. A city rich in history, Krakow has many legends, such as tales of ghosts, stories of alchemists, and enchanted pigeons. I only wish I could’ve found a book about them all because some were quite fascinating!

beautiful square in krakow

If you don’t have time for a lot of museums, make sure one of them is the Historical Museum of the city of Krakow. Technically, the museum has 14 branches scattered all over the city, so I am talking about the palace here. Situated inside Krzysztofory Palace, the museum focuses on the history of the city and its culture. We loved the permanent exhibition and found it both engaging and intriguing. It gave us a clearer picture of the city through legends, important historical events, and more, all of them carefully curated to provide you with information.

It was the complete opposite of the usual dry historical facts you sometimes get in museums. Also, we visited on a Tuesday which happens to be the free entrance day! While on the subject of museums, did you know that you can see a Leonardo da Vinci painting in Krakow? Inside the Czartoryski Museum, you can marvel at the Lady with an Ermine, one of four surviving portraits painted by Leonardo. Once again, it was Tuesday which meant free admission here as well!

princes czartoryski museum in krakow

Cafés and restaurants in Krakow

When it comes to cafés, I am convinced that nobody does cozy cafés as well as Krakow. It’s no exaggeration when I say that every second café in the Jewish district is astonishing. The vintage interiors are impeccable and there is a homelike feeling to them. Never before in any city have I had such an abundance of cafés to choose from! And never have I ever actually visited that many in three days alone! You can expect an article featuring all the beautiful cafés in Krakow.

singer bar in kazimierz krakow

In a similar vein, the restaurant scene will warrant a separate article as well. While in Krakow, we focused solely on Polish cuisine. First and foremost, we hunted down the best pierogis in town, both savory and sweet. Zapiekanka was another local delicacy that we thoroughly enjoyed. Street food rarely wins me over but a spinach zapienkanka with basil sauce sure did! All in all, the Polish dishes were amazing and you should give them all a try.

For both of these, your best bet is Kazimierz, the Jewish district of Krakow. Chock-full of trendy restaurants and bars, it’s where you’ll want to be during meals. But that’s not all, the charming pre-war architecture and lively atmosphere only add to its appeal. This is where they filmed Schindler’s List back in the 90s and it’s understandable why. There is a distinct atmosphere to the Jewish district in Krakow that sets it apart from the rest of the city.

Granted, it’s partially a consequence of its popularity among tourists today. You’ll see plenty of restaurants playing Jewish music which will often feel like a tourist trap, rather than something authentic. That’s not to say you’ll only get that. On the contrary, I found the Jewish Quarter utterly captivating. Simply strolling through the neighborhood put a smile on my face. Kazimierz is a bohemian neighborhood with a lot of character and I found many hidden gems over there, including a bookstore inside a synagogue.

The very first thing we did upon arrival was visit St. Mary’s Basilica and admire that exceptional ceiling. Star-painted ceilings in blue and gold colors are fairly common in Poland. You can find a similar one at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. Coming back to the basilica, it’s a wonderful example of Polish Gothic architecture.

One of the biggest attractions in Krakow is the Wawel Royal Castle. Impossible to miss, it rises above the city and the Vistula River. It’s an architectural complex where you can visit up to ten different parts of the castle. Upon seeing the many separate tickets for places we knew nothing about, we abandoned the whole thing in favor of walking through the inner courtyard. Exhausted from our sunrise mission, I figured I would leave the castle for a future visit.

Speaking of the main sights in Krakow, don’t miss the Cloth Hall across from the basilica. Once a meeting place for traveling merchants, today it houses a gallery with many stalls. The stalls were an original part of this Renaissance wonder. Even back then, they would lock the gates on both ends, like today. The only difference is that these days you’ll find souvenirs here, as opposed to cloth, spices, or salt. Lastly, don’t miss Szal Cafe, a rooftop bar on the first floor with a lovely view of the square!

With regard to viewpoints in Krakow, I have a handful of suggestions. First up, the Town Hall Tower offers a lovely view of the basilica. However, I should specify that windows cover all four sides of the viewing platform. Furthermore, you can climb up the Bugle Tower of St. Mary’s Basilica. Oddly enough, we didn’t find many rooftop bars in Krakow. You have the rooftop bar on top of the Copernicus Hotel that overlooks the Wawel Castle. But my favorite find was Metrum, a cute little restaurant located within the Music Academy. Technically, it isn’t a rooftop bar because it follows school hours and closes at 6 PM but it offers a stunning view of Krakow framed in fairy lights!

As you would expect, Krakow is brimming with churches, more than 100 of them. My personal favorites are the Church of St. Anne and the slightly more remote, Church of St. Joseph. Regarding the latter one, it’s on the other side of the Vistula River. I would urge you to venture that far out in order to see the remains of the Ghetto Wall as well as the Ghetto Heroes Square. Nearby, you’ll also find the Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory, nowadays a museum.

remains of the ghetto wall in krakow

It goes without saying that I would wholeheartedly recommend visiting Krakow. With this stay in Krakow, I scratched the surface of a city that I knew I would be revisiting. There were a few things I didn’t manage to see, like the famous salt mines and the sure-to-be devastating Auschwitz. But I am definitely including those two in my next visit.

old writing on wall in krakow

On the whole, three days in Krakow were enough to forever bind me to this enchanting city. As luck would have it, I will be back here as soon as September to see an old friend. But you can bet I will stay longer than necessary, tracking down even more cozy cafés and falling under Krakow’s charm one more time. I hope these photos inspired you to finally visit Krakow, or maybe even revisit it!

woman peeking into an old restaurant in krakow
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Brigita Soldo

Travel Photographer · Creative Content Creator · Vintage & Sustainable Fashion Advocate

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