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The streets of Krakow speak of its history through its stunning pre-war architecture, but this is also a city buzzing with contemporary energy. Here’s your guide to an ideal 36 hours in the centre of Polish culture.
9:30: Start the day under an umbrella in the beautiful square Plac Szczepański at Charlotte. The cafe’s on-site bakery serves up the perfect breakfast in the shape of a warm pastry basket, with sweet fruit jams and chocolate spreads on the side.
10:30: Wander around the Main Market Square, one of the largest and most beautiful in Europe. Explore the Cloth Hall, dating back to the 14th century, now a year-round shopping destination for local trinkets and fabrics.
11:30: Take a tour inside the 14th century St Mary’s Basilica, a centrepiece of the city with mind-blowing décor. A trumpet is sounded from the top tower every hour on the hour.
12:00: The Rynek Underground Museum, right under the Main Market Square, is worth visiting for its impressive exhibitions covering the history of Krakow from its origins. Book tickets online in advance to reserve a spot.
13:30: Head to Hotel Francuski for lunch. Opened in 1912, its charming pre-war restaurant offers traditional dishes like zurek, a sour rye soup with smoked bacon, white sausage and boiled egg.
15:00: Spend an afternoon in atmospheric Kazimierz, Krakow’s historic Jewish quarter, now a bohemian hub. Explore the city’s seven historical synagogues, some still in operation, as well as the Jewish Community Centre, home to a thriving modern Jewish community. Traces of Memory, a permanent exhibition at the Galicia Jewish Museum, tells the wider history of the community across Poland. Józefa Street is the perfect street to explore local shops for handmade keepsakes.
17:00: Stop for coffee at Cheder Café, a hub for the annual Jewish Culture Festival. Enjoy traditional Middle Eastern drinks and snacks as well as an impressive book collection. Other bookstores abound in this neighbourhood.
18:00: Go for dinner near the beautiful Plac Wolnica square at Marchewka z Groszkiem, a local favourite serving traditional dishes like pierogi (dumplings) and zrazy, a beef roulade. Walk it off along the Wisła river nearby across the Kładka bridge, often doubling as an exhibition space and a home for hundreds of love locks.
19:30: Plac Nowy becomes a lively centre of Kazimierz at night. Alchemia is one of the oldest bars and still a local favourite, often hosting concerts downstairs. Later, stop by nearby Singer, which lights up with dancing on tables and party people gathering out in the street.
11:00: Take a taxi or tram across the river to Podgórze. Once a separate city, now a trendy suburb and home to some key museums. The Pharmacy Under the Eagle Museum in the former Krakow ghetto tells the story of Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Catholic pharmacist who aided and sheltered local Jews. Nearby, you can visit the famous Schindler Factory and its exhibition Krakow Under Nazi Occupation 1939-1945, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow.
14:00: Grab lunch at the stylish Bal around the corner for great seasonal lunch specials and Polish and international dishes.
15:30: Back in Krakow proper, make time to wander around the glorious 13th century Wawel Castle. If you have time, go in and explore its magnificent state room and private royal apartments.
17:00: Grab a coffee at Karma, which roasts all of its own coffee, and take a stroll down the street to explore some of the local independent shops.
18:30: Dolnych Młynów, an old factory compound, has been rejuvenated into a lively space of bars and restaurants. Veganic is a favourite for all palates, and there’s no shortage of bars nearby to keep going late into the night.