Kraków, Polska

While it isn’t Paris, Kraków is a perfect small, European city to enjoy charming architecture, thousands of years of history, and delicious food. Plus, despite being the second most populous city in Poland, tourists can quickly familiarize themselves with the city’s small Old Town and nearby Jewish Quarters, two major destinations when visiting. Ideally, visit in the summer and enjoy lazy walks around the city, reading in outdoor courtyards and cafes, and late nights at the city’s dark, eclectic bars.  

Unlike Warsaw and most other Polish cities, Kraków was not razed to the ground during WWII—and it shows. The cobblestone streets of the old town are lined with buildings that are hundreds of years old, their first floors usually home to a restaurant or store. These streets all lead to the city center where the Sukiennice, or Cloth Hall, stands. While the hall still is a good place to explore souvenirs, with booth after booth of slightly different tchotchke, fewer people know that you can purchase tickets at one of the storefronts facing out of the Cloth Hall to visit the Underground Museum located beneath it. The exhibits highlight the archeological findings that were unearthed when the area was excavated in the early 2000s. 

To explore the city’s more refined history, instead head above the Cloth Hall to the MNK (National Museum in Kraków) where you can explore four rooms of 19th century Polish art. If that doesn’t excite you, then skip the museum (you shouldn’t), but still go to the second floor to enjoy great views of the city center from Cafe Szał.

Once you’ve oriented yourself to the Old Town, cross Planty (the verdant park space surrounding Old Town), and head to Kazimierz, on the southeast edge of the Old Town. The historic Jewish Quarter is the hippest area to head out after dark. Get a Żywiec (one of the best known Polish beers), listen to live music (Kraków has a thriving jazz scene), and finish the night with a late night snack—doner kebabs or zapiekanki. 

So yeah, it’s not Paris, but that means you’ll have a much more budget friendly vacation and eat a lot more potatoes—a win-win! 


  • Hevra: Popular, hipster restaurant and bar in a former synagogue
  • Alchemia: Cool, dark bar with wooden tables and doilies
  • Bar Grodzki: Milk bar—my order would be kompot, tomato soup, and potato pancakes
  • Wiśniewski Kraków: Trendy modern bar serving only wiśniowka—sour cherry cordial
  • Aura | Kawiarnia: Cute, tiny coffee shop in the old market (most seating is outside) 
  • Zapiekanki Piecyk: Probably the best known late night spot to get a zapiekanka (an odd Polish take on pizza)


  • MNK The Sukiennice: Enjoy some stunning Polish paintings from the 19th century
  • Rynek Underground: Learn about life in Krakow in the 1300s
  • Wawel Castle: Tour the royal castle, the cathedral, or both! 
  • Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory: Engaging museum about the Holocaust, located in Schindler’s factory 


  • Whether you’re staying in the Old Town or Kazimerz, the city is very walkable. For longer trips, consider the tram or bus.


  • Auschwitz: A sobering opportunity to learn about one of the most infamous concentration camps in Poland
  • Weliczka: A surprisingly fun and unique tour of historic salt mines that produced table salt until 2007


  • Double Life of Veronique (film)
  • Schindler’s List (film)
  • Vinci (film) 
  • The Books of Jacob (book)
  • Poetry of Wislawa Szymborska (book) 

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