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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Fun Things to Do in Krakow, Poland

While in Krakow, we tried to do as the locals do, which ended up being the most fun way to experience Krakow. While we did go visit some of the important tourist sites like the Wawel Castle & Dragon’s Den, St. Mary’s Basilica and Wieliczka Salt Mine (see more details about each below), it was the local gems that ended up being some of the most fun and interesting things to do in Krakow.

Krakow Old Town – Rynek Glowny

Right in the middle of the Krakow Old Town is the Market Square of Rynek Glowny. Not only does it provide beautiful views of St. Mary’s Basilica and the old marketplace, but there are TONS of pigeons here! I might argue that they are the tamest in Europe – basically landing on people and eating right out of their hands. They also must have a special signaling system, because as soon as one or two found a good ‘snack’ a whole flock of them would fly toward the new location. I don’t think I have ever heard the kids laugh so hard as the pigeons would fly over their heads!

Pigeons in Krakow Old Town - Rynek Glowny with St. Mary's Basilica in Background

The market building in the centre is unique as well, as it was the trading area for people in Krakow in the old days. Now it is full of vendors selling souvenirs and there is the Krakow Underground History Museum located underground. Alex and the kids did visit it, but there weren’t as many hand-on activities as they had hoped.

St. Mary’s Basilica is also in the square. Every hour when the clock strikes on the hour, a trumpeter comes out after the bell chimes to do a trumpet call. What a cool tradition to keep in this day and age. He even waves down below after he is finished with his trumpet call.

We did try to go up to the bell tour to get a view of the square, but they did not allow children under 6 years old to go up to the tower, so Connor couldn't go. We decided to forego that and went inside the Basilica for a view of the altar and sanctuary. The altar is the largest altar in the world. The detail of this gothic style cathedral was impressive.

St. Mary's Basilica, Krakow, Poland

Great Food & Former Jewish District

Krakow is known for its food scene and we definitely partook in that! The kids loved the Obwarzanek Krakowski, a special pretzel specifically in Krakow. They had these at least once or twice a day for a snack while out and about – super cheap too! Only 2-2.50 PLN (about 50-60 cents USD).

Enjoying a Obwarzanek Krakowski - Specialty Pretzel of Krakow

While the history of the Krakow Jewish ghetto is sad, the former Jewish District has transformed itself and is known for being very trendy today.

Art in the trendy Jewish District of Krakow, Poland

There are popular restaurants, a couple of food truck courts with several options of food trucks and the interesting Plac Nowy. This is where hungry locals come for some of the best zapiekanki in Poland from a variety of vendors in the hole-in-the wall food hatches. Zapiekanki is basically a pizza on French bread with whatever toppings you’d like! And affordable too – only about 12-15 PLN (just over $3 USD) for a massive zapiekanki. We also enjoyed some rolled ice cream from the Thai food truck – just the perfect thing to cool off!

Fountains to Cool Off

It was warm and HUMID during our time in Krakow (mid-July) and it seemed like there was no escaping the heat! So we joined in with the local children in playing in one of the Old Town Fountains. The kids had an absolute blast! One of the other days, Connor fell into one of the plaza fountains, so we just stripped him down to his underwear. But no worries – that’s pretty local attire for the kids playing in the fountains here.

Bike Riding

Bike Riding Through Krakow Old Town

We rented some bikes that had children’s seats on the back and headed out to explore the town. It was the perfect way to cover some distance, explore along the beautiful river bike paths and in the Old Town, while keeping the kids’ feet fresh! The views along the river pathway system were very stunning of the Old Town and the Wawel Castle. Even if not bike riding, I would recommend taking a walk along there. Or there are lots of options to take a boat ride as well!

Views of Wawel Castle from Krakow River Pathway

The bike ride was also a cheap activity – only 30 PLN (or a little less than $8 USD) for 3 hours.

Wawel Castle & Dragon’s Den

It’s hard to miss the Wawel Castle when visiting Krakow – it’s such a focal point for the Old Town. It is renown as the most historically and culturally important site in Poland, as it was the residence of kings for many years and now is an art museum.

Wawel Castle - Krakow, Poland

Unlike some other castles in Poland, this one was NOT completely destroyed during the occupation of Poland during World War II. Instead it housed one the Governor General of Nazi Germany during the War and endured a couple of restorations after that period.

The castle yard is free to explore and open to the public without a ticket. You can also walk along the castle walls and get great views of the river below. However, the indoor exhibits do require a ticket. Instead of a flat admission fee, you have to choose which exhibits you want to see and there is a separate charge for each. We found that if you tried to visit several it was quite expensive, so we choose to just visit the State Rooms and the Dragon’s Den, which is only open in the spring to mid-autumn.

Wawel Castle - Krakow, Poland

The State Rooms are mostly an art museum with a large collection of tapestries on display – the size and scope were quite impressive.

The Dragon’s Den was definitely of more interest to the kids. We had to climb down a spiral staircase that took you to these actual caves that were at the base of the castle wall. There was water dripping from the walls and ceiling and it was hard to believe that people were kept down there as prisoners! There is even a fire-breathing dragon outside the den!

Wieliczka Salt Mine

These caves are located only about 20 minutes outside the centre of Krakow. The only way to visit the Salt Mines is with a group guide. They have tours throughout the day in a variety of languages. You can purchase the tickets ahead of time online and I would definitely recommend doing this; as the line-up was very LONG when we arrived for anyone who hadn’t bought pre-purchased tickets. I would also recommend arriving early – the parking lot was full, we ran into some traffic and the line-ups were very busy so we missed the start of our scheduled tour. Luckily, we were able to join another English one later in the day but it was an hour and a half wait.

However, once we dealt with those logistical issues and we were inside, the mine was quite amazing. After descending down 380 steps we were basically in a whole other world down underground. The most amazing part was that we only visited 2% of the underground mine!! The total size of the mine is actually 9 different levels, 245 km in galleries and up to 327 meters deep. While we were down there for the 2-hour tour, we visited 4 different levels underground and finally ascended back up on the elevator from 135 m underground. The artwork from the salt rock that was done in the caves, the churches that were built underground and the interesting views made the visit very interesting! While it is a super touristy thing to do, we’d recommend it.

Wieliczka Salt Mine Church - Several levels below Ground

Plus, you have to taste-test the 'walls' to make sure it is salt!

We really did enjoy our time in Krakow, and we were happy that we were able to get a better understanding of the city through this large variety of fun things to do in Krakow.

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