The Wawel Castle in Krakow with a set of small towers and blue/green roof

72 Fascinating Hours In Krakow & The Heartbreaking Auschwitz Camp

Published on: February 3rd, 2019 at 6:40 am

Whether you find yourself in Krakow for 72 hours as a stop between cities or for an affordable weekend city break, you will be amazed by what it has to offer. Krakow is the second-largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. It dates back to the 7th century and it was the capital until the 16th century. It was and still is a rich centre of arts, culture, education and economy. It offers amazing architecture, which can be confirmed by the fact that the entire old town of Krakow is under UNESCO heritage.

A travel guide on how to visit Krakow Poland on a weekend trip

Why are so many people travelling to Krakow?

This city is colourful, abundant with amazing architecture and cozy streets, while also being a budget-friendly place to travel and not too touristy. Krakow, Poland is a great place to be when you desire to witness stunning views of the old buildings and medieval life while eating some of the best local food and staying warm by the Polish sun (in summer). Even though Krakow is full of historical sites and old treasures, it is still surprisingly very modern and filled with cute cafes and trendy places to visit. This allows you to see some pretty cool arts and designs. Krakow city is also really affordable, as with most of Eastern Europe, so if you are travelling on a budget you will be satisfied. It is now starting to attract more and more visitors each year because of its charm, culture, history, affordability and authenticity.

The perfect Krakow itinerary

When spending a weekend in Krakow, you can easily create an itinerary that will fit your needs and wishes. You will be able to see all the things you are interested in while having enough time to relax and enjoy the rhythm of this city. 

Here is how I organized my time in Krakow, I hope it can inspire your own Krakow 72 hours itinerary. 

Day 1

I arrived with Busabout, a unique and cool way I suggest to travel while exploring Europe, as a part of an organized yet independent tour. Find out more about how Busabout operates throughout Europe.

To introduce myself to this lovely place, I took a relaxed walk around the city centre, enjoyed some time in the Main Square of Krakow and checked out the local markets and small shops. 

The large main square of Krakow with a brick building and yellow umbrellas amoungst people
The main square in Krakow is a beautiful spot to spend some travel time relaxing and enjoying the Polish city

After all that walking, I felt hungry, so I visited the Pierogi Festival, which I talk about in the food section. I took some time to find and book my Auschwitz tour and this is something that needs to be booked in advance so either book it before you arrive, to avoid missing out, or on your first day in Krakow.

I spent the evening enjoying some Polish vodka in a bar that my Busabout tour guide had recommended. It was also here that I got my first real taste of the amazing Krakow foods that this city has to offer. Spoiler alert, the Polish food is delicious and affordable. As a huge foodie lover, I have also created a detailed list of the must-try Krakow foods and exactly where you should head to try them.

Use this guide to discover the best food in Krakow and where to find them.

Day 2

If you are anything like me, which would mean interested in the historical background of the city you are visiting, you will use an opportunity to take a free walking tour of Old Krakow. I highly recommend trying to fit one of these in early while visiting Krakow. You will get a lot of useful information about the history and traditions of the city while enjoying the charm along the way. After the tour, I went to grab a zapiekanka, which is a traditional polish meal. You can find out more about traditional Polish food in my blog, which I briefly mentioned above. 

The Wawel Castle in Krakow with a set of small towers and blue/green roof
The Basilica of St Stanislaw and Vaclav or Wawel Cathedral on Wawel Hill in Krakow, Poland

After lunch, I went to see Schindler’s factory. This is one of the activities you shouldn’t miss when in Krakow for 72 hours. The rest of the day I spent exploring the quirky streets of Krakow and got back to the Pierogi festival to grab my last bites of this amazing meal.

Visiting the Schindler’s Factory is a high attraction on everyone’s Krakow itinerary and as such tickets are sold out well in advance most days. I suggest purchasing a ticket a few days before you plan to visit to avoid the disappointment of missing out. 

If you’re only visiting Krakow for 72 hours then I would suggest purchasing the skip the line ticket offered online with Viator.

Day 3

This day was the most important one for me as it included a tour to and around the devastating Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It takes about one hour to arrive there from Krakow. My honest opinion is that you must visit this place if you are in or around Krakow, no matter how much time you’ve got. This illustrates an important part of our history, and you should take the time to understand it and witness the unimaginable events that took place at the location not that long ago. As such, I believe visiting the Auschwitz Concentration Camp should be one of the highest priorities of what to do when in Krakow for any traveller. After this, I grabbed some more pierogis to prepare for my Pub Crawl experience with my Busabout buddies.

Again as visiting Auschwitz is so sought after, and rightfully so, by almost everyone who visits Krakow I highly suggest purchasing a ticket a few days before you wish to visit. You can purchase a ticket just to Auschwitz Concentration Camp or combine it with a visit to the Salt Mines. Another popular tourist attraction in Krakow that I mention in the blog post “things to do in Krakow”.

Explore which ticket option suits you best to visit Auschwitz

A narrow walkway with stones on it and wire fences eiher side in Auschwitz Concentration Camp
Auschwitz Concentration Camp is one of the destinations you almost have to visit but with the knowledge, it’s not going to be an enjoyable experience

Things not to miss when in Krakow

Here I listed a few things I think are essential to plan in your 72 hour trip to Krakow. I have a blog with more information on this topic, be sure to check it out.

Main Square

Main Square of Krakow is so amazing in fact that the Lonely Planet has voted this as the number 1 most beautiful square in Europe and once you are standing there it is very hard to disagree. The square is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe and dates back to the 13th century. It surrounds the famous Cloth Hall which dominates the centre of the square, with the Townhall tower on one side and the 10th century Church of St. Adalbert and 1898 Adam Mickiewicz statue on the other. 

Brodie from Aussieinwanderlust standing with the Krakow Town Hall Tower in the background
Me with the Krakow Town Hall Tower in the background while visiting Poland

Everywhere you look on the ground level there are restaurants for you to sit down and enjoy a meal or drink while soaking it all up. There are also many markets and cool novelty shops selling your typical touristy collectables like postcards, small figurines of famous landmarks and fridge magnets around the square.

It isn’t hard to find the square but here it is on Google maps for your convenience.

Free walking tour of Old Town Krakow

As I mention in many of my other blogs, these tours are very popular throughout Europe and perfect if only spending a short time in a city, like my 72 hours in Krakow. If you have never done one of these tours before then they are a great way to see lots of landmarks throughout the city in a short space of time. They also allow you to learn information about the areas past and certain important moments that have helped shape the city into what you are visiting now. 

On this particular tour you get to see and visit St. Mary’s (Mariacki) Church, the Medieval city walls and the Barbican, the Town Hall Tower, John Paul II’s window, Grodzka Street, Kanonicza Street and finish at the Wawel Castle which is a residency castle.

People are known to have lived in this castle as far back as 50 thousand years ago during the Paleolithic Age. This castle is one of the largest in Poland and has 3 of the main architectural styles of Europe, medieval, renaissance and baroque periods. The castle was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1978 as part of the historical centre of Krakow.

It takes a little over 2 hours to complete the tour of Old town Krakow, but it is worth it. You leave enriched with a greater understanding of interesting information about Krakow and Poland history. 

Reminder:

Tip your guide! Even though they are called “free walking tours” the idea is to tip your guide at the end of the tour as a thank you for his time and effort. The amount is completely up to you and the value you think the tour was.

Here is more information on where to meet for a free walking tour of Krakow, Poland

Schindler’s factory

Krakow Schindler’s factory is an amazing museum that tells the emotionally moving story of Oscar Schindler and his employee’s bravery during a horrible time in history. Schindler was a Nazi industrialist who saved over 1,200 of Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. 

As mentioned, the museum itself is very popular so booking online in advance is certainly suggested. Take 2-3 hours out of your day to be able to enjoy it at a nice pace and see all that the museum has to offer. It is an experience that will move you deeply.

You can either complete the tour at your own pace or join a guided tour to find out much more detailed information about what occurred here and why the story of Schindler’s Factory is so incredible.

Tip:  If travelling on a budget visit on a Monday when the entry is free, but be aware the line up will be long and you are best to arrive before they have officially opened. The usual price is around $15 per person and booking a skip the line ticket is highly recommended.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp

No matter if you have 24 hours or 72 hours exploring Krakow I believe everyone should visit Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The drive to Auschwitz lasts for one hour. The camp is usually packed with tourists so prepare to be patient. You will be given earpieces and radios to listen to the stories about the terror that human beings like us went through not so long ago. As expected this was an experience like no other. It is hard to put into words exactly what you feel when you hear and witness the atrocities that these people were subjected to.

A numbing experience is one way to describe it as I’m honestly not sure what emotions you could list. Shock, anger and disbelief would all be appropriate at certain times throughout the tour. After visiting the concentration camp is over you also head out to the largest of the camp areas called Birkenau. This is where the majority (around 90%, 1 million) of the people kept at Auschwitz died. It is an incredibly eerie place to be standing at. While visiting I never felt completely comfortable in my surroundings. Once finished there we drove back into Krakow. The mood in the car was very strange and you could tell each individual was trying to process and handle what they had just witnessed in their own way.

Be prepared to hear the truth about what happened there and be aware that you will hear stories that are dark and heavy. By visiting and becoming aware of these stories, you will give respect to all the souls that were tortured and killed in this area near Krakow, Poland. There is no human logic to the events that occurred here and there is no right thing to feel or say about this experience. It was intense but also important to see this in my opinion.

Some of the horrible living arrangements at Auschwitz Concentration Camp
Some of the horrible living arrangements at Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Tip:

Book your Auschwitz tours in advance to avoid missing out. Find a tour that suits you here.

Reminder:

Be aware of the rules and be respectful to your surroundings. Think about what you are taking photos of and if it is really appropriate.

Explore which ticket option suits you best to visit Auschwitz

Pub Crawl of Krakow

When it comes to Krakow nightlife, I made this one easy by signing up for the Krawl Through Krakow pub crawl. And in my experience, this should not be missed. I went to this famous Krakow pub crawl with the rest of the Busabout travellers I had arrived in Krakow with. I say famous because I had heard lots of great things about this particular pub crawl and was convinced after that they are completely true.

The night got off to a frantic start and at the first pub, we enjoyed 2 hours of free drinks and shots. I know what you’re thinking all these pub crawls are the same and just give you free drinks but they are all just watered down. Well, I’m glad to report, this one is the real deal. This pub crawl is very popular for a reason and starts off with a very high number of people and as a result, they aren’t able to fit everyone into the future pubs on the trip unless they manage to get some people drunk enough that they either leave early or get lost between pubs. It’s truly the survival of the fittest, or smartest, by the end of the night and no doubt whatsoever you get your money’s worth throughout the evening.

Full disclosure:

Chances are you might forget some of your 72 hours exploring Krakow after this tour.

Book your tickets to enjoy a safe and fun night out in Krakow

The best Polish food and restaurants in Krakow

Krakow is a dream location for every foodie. If you enjoy trying out new foods and consider it an important part of the culture, you will have a lot to do in this city. Polish cuisine is known for meaty meals rich in fat and spices accompanied by fresh vegetables. This is because of the harsh winters that they face.

Here is a list of traditional foods you should not miss while in Krakow:

pierogies, zapiekanka, oscypek, obwarzanek, Polish Beer, Vodka, Kiełbasa, Ziemniaczane, Pączki, Bigos, Zalewajka, barszcz, buraczki, Gołąbki, kompot, goulash and Racuchy.

A traditional Polish food dish called a zapiekanka
One of the many different zapiekanka’s on offer to eat if you know what the traditional foods of Krakow you should be trying

I provide an in-depth description of each one of these products in my blog Must Try Krakow Foods and Drink Items. If you are interested in the traditional Polish cuisine, be sure to check it out. 

Here are some of the best Krakow restaurants in my opinion that will offer a full experience to a foreigner: 

To grab a decent pierogi, go visit a 24-hour shop called Przypiecek or Przystanek Pierogarnia. 

A place to try a good zapiekanka and kielbasa would be Plac Nowy. 

For a tasty Ziemniaczane, go to U Babci Maliny. Some other places I would recommend are: Gorące Pączki, Zalewajka, Jarema, Polskie Smaki, Milkbar Tomasza and Miód Malina. 

To try a good local beer, go to Ursa Maior and to taste some amazing vodka head to Propaganda, Le Scandale and Alchemia.

To find out more on Krakow’s best restaurants check out my food blog post on this topic.

Best time to visit Krakow

Krakow weather is an important thing to consider when visiting. Generally, the best time to visit Krakow is early summer or autumn, which would be the months of April, May and October. It is not too hot, but warm enough with occasional rain showers. You can spend most of your time outdoors, exploring the streets of this beautiful city with the occasional rest stop to drink coffee in the open cafes.

The winter months are not recommended for visiting Krakow since there is an air pollution situation in this city. The smog is made by many of the households that still use coal for heating. Krakow is situated lower than the rest of the surrounding area, so it is harder for the wind to pass and clean the air. 

How to get to Krakow

You can reach Krakow, Poland by plane, by train or as I did by bus. 

I would recommend taking the Busabout tour around Europe. This is the company I travelled a lot with, and can only say that I am amazed by their service. You can check out the details on this company in my blog post. It is a company with more than 20 years of experience, a good team and well-equipped buses. Take it into consideration when planning your trip around Europe.

When travelling by plane, be aware that it will take you 2 hours with a shuttle bus to reach Krakow, and the price of a single ride is 44zl which is around $12. To assist you with booking the cheapest flights possible I suggest you take the time to read this blog on how to book the cheapest flights when travelling

I also have a useful blog with tips on how to book the cheapest travel accommodation as well.

Also, keep in mind that it is always good to have travel insurance for yourself when travelling by plane, in case your flight gets cancelled. The two travel companies I recommend for travel insurance are World Nomads or SafetyWing.  

When it comes to Poland train network, it is really well extended and affordable. You can choose from many train companies and types of trains that vary on comfort, price, speed and so on.

No matter how you decide to arrive in Poland or any other destination the biggest travel tip I can share with you is to join the free Ebates club. You will be saving money on transport, accommodation, tours and much more in no time. Check out how it works and also get a bonus $10 signup credit to use on your first purchase.

Where to Stay in Krakow

My go-to tip would be to stay near the main square in Krakow since it is a handy location and everything is easily reachable from there. This really saved me precious time in the 72 hours I spent in Krakow and while giving me a chance to explore the random little streets around the city and soak in the local vibe.

You can choose some of the best-rated hostels and hotels such as Hey now Hostel, Hostel Rynek, Flamingo Hostel, Venetian House Aparthotel or Puro Krakow Kazimierz.

Alternatively, you can choose to book an Airbnb, find out the benefits of staying in an Airbnb, which is always an affordable yet cozy option when visiting cities. There are a lot of cool little apartments offered in the heart of Krakow city, that are available for a reasonable price. These will provide you with a little more comfort during your stay compared to choosing a hostel. If you go with this option, be sure to use my link to get a free booking bonus.

This would be a sum up of my long weekend in Krakow, I hope it inspired you to explore this unique city and also given you a better idea of how to plan your own travel itinerary. To check out more information on Krakow, please proceed to my other blogs on the top things to do in Krakow and the must-try food and drink options in Krakow

Have a lovely time in Krakow.

Travel budget tips

Either booking a new travel holiday right from the start or while on such a holiday can be expensive. Things like flights, accommodation, meals, transport and tours can add up fast and put a strain on what should be a fun time. These budget travel tips will assist with booking a holiday at the best price or staying on budget while travelling.

Organise Your Trip: Travel Advice and Tricks I Personally Use

Book Your Flight

Heading to either Skyscanner or Momondo are my methods of choice for this. They are my favourite as they search for flights from different companies all over the world. You can filter the results to suit your needs and ensure you land the best price every-time.

Book Your Accommodation

This is an important part of any holiday you’re going on. Read all the reviews and get the right accommodation via TripAdvisor. They even show you the best prices available at the time for that room from suppliers like Booking.com.For booking a hostel your best bet is to start with HostelWorld or possible even use CouchSurfing if you’re on a real budget.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance is a must these days so you have a piece of mind you’re covered for anything that could go wrong while on your trip. I now never go on a trip away without travel insurance. I’ve been using World Nomads for the past few years.

My favourite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • SafetyWing (cheaper option to just cover you for health issues)

Looking for the best companies to save money with?

As I have been travelling frequently over the last few years I’ve learnt some great tools to use for saving money when travelling. I have a travel resource page that lists all the trusted companies I personally use and rely on. I think you will find them good as well.

I also have a couple of great blogs that share quick and easy ways to save money on flights or accommodation. Take a look and save some cash on your next trip.

The Best Place To Book Your Tours

If you are someone you likes to have the best tours in one place and read reviews from other travellers about their personal experiences of each different tour then the best platform to use is GetYourGuide.

They offer the best tours, have money-back offers in case your trip is cancelled and ensure the price of each tour is the lowest possible.

Other posts that might interest you:

If you made it this far, chances are you have enjoyed this post, please SHARE, TWEET or PIN IT. Thank you

The top things to do in Krakow when you have 72 hours
A complete Krakow travel guide for 72 hours in Krakow
The perfect 3 days in Krakow Poland and guide for visiting Auschwitz Camp
The perfect way to spend a short 72 hours exploring Krakow, Poland

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Last Updated on: May 27th, 2020 at 12:35 pm

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