Dating back to the 7th century, Krakow is the second largest city in Poland and is an important hub of culture and education. Centered around an iconic old town which is steeped in mythical tales, soaring buildings decorate its huge market square, and there are charming cobbled streets to get lost in.
However, away from the stunning Gothic buildings of the Old Town, there is a lot more history to Krakow than just the ancient landmarks.
The former Jewish Quarter of this city stands as a testament to a dark period in Poland’s history, when Jewish inhabitants were rounded up and relocated to the city’s infamous ghetto. This was where the real-life events of Schindler’s List took place.
Aside from the troubling past, this area of town is now a bohemian place to explore, with cool cafes and bars to occupy your days and nights.
Map of Krakow
1. Stare Miasto · 2. Kazimierz · 3. Grzegorzki · 4. Kleparz · 5. Krowodrza · 6. Zwierzyniec · 7. Podgorze · 8. Debniki
Popular with just about everyone, Krakow fittingly has just about every kind of accommodation you could imagine. There is more than just a handful of hostels, with everything from budget and unfussy to design-led stays. There are also hotels and guesthouses – from the affordable to the 5-star. These make it easy for anyone to enjoy the history and architecture, leafy parks, and modern culture of this exciting city.
Exploring Krakow is a simple thanks to a multitude of buses and an impressive 27 tram lines, which means that getting from A to B is never too difficult.
The historical center of Krakow, Stare Miasto features the largest medieval town square in Europe. Here, you will find bars and cafes, as well as a concentration of the city’s major sights.
These include St Florian’s Church, which dates back to 1216, as well as the Barbican – a 15th century fortified gateway. You’ll also find the early Baroque style Wawel Castle, and the huge Krakow Cloth Hall with its gothic spires.
Meander through charming Florianska Street – one of the main streets in the center of the Old Town – until you find yourself in one of the many cobbled lanes of the area. Here, there are a lot of bars and eateries for those who get thirsty and hungry as they explore.
Needless to say, this part of Krakow is definitely going to benefit those who like to traverse a city on foot. Practically all the main sights of Krakow are packed into this area. And don’t worry, you won’t be wanting for accommodation; there is everything here – from budget hostels to 5-star hotels.
Established in the 14th century, Kazimierz is the former Jewish quarter of Krakow. The inhabitants of this historic area were forcibly moved to a ghetto during World War II. With that in mind, there are some sobering stories and history from the 20th century to learn about in Kazimierz. In fact, this was where Schindler’s List was filmed, even though the real-life events took place in neighboring Podgorze.
Today, apart from the history, Kazimierz is known for its bohemian flavor. There are a lot of cool establishments popping up around this district; think Israeli hummus and hipster cafes selling vegan food. With the cool kids comes a good nightlife, and you will find this area busy with partygoers even on weeknights.
Accommodation in the area is generally more affordable than Krakow’s Old Town. You’ll likely stay in cozy, historic buildings with a lot of charm and trendy, boutique style.
The district of Grzegorzki runs from the east of Planty Park in the Old Town to the main train station. Not the most beautiful part of the city, the residential area of Grzegorzki is known as a student hub.
Take a walk from the Krakow University of Economics, soaking up sights like the 1950s Opera House and the 18th-century Botanic Gardens. Each Sunday, the Hala Targowa opens up for business; this is a flea market where you’ll experience a real slice of local life.
Grzegorzki is a family-friendly place to stay, lacking the sometimes rowdy crowds who can be found reveling in the Old Town. But it’s still central enough that the sights aren’t too far away.
The train station in the eastern part of Grzegorzki makes it a good spot for those arriving or leaving by train as well. Hotels in Grzegorzki range from small, family-run guesthouses to mid-range, self-catering apartments.
Much more relaxing than staying in the middle of the city, booking your accommodation in Kleparz is the perfect choice for those who want a less touristy experience when visiting Krakow.
Central Krakow, you will be happy to know, is still within walking distance of this district, neighboring the north of the Old Town itself. Kleparz is known as an upscale area and has upscale accommodation to match. Here you will find boutique style aparthotels and swish apartments, ideal for the independent traveler.
The small district of Kleparz is known for its culture. The main square, Stary Kleparz, is busy with local vendors and small shops, making it a calmer and more local affair than the famous central square.
Stary Kleparz is atmospheric, featuring a covered market that has been in operation for over 800 years. Browse the market stalls – the clothes stalls are especially good here – then grab some local food at a bistro and watch the world go by
Situated in the west of Krakow, Krowodrza was formerly a village but has since been incorporated as part of the city itself. Covering just under six square kilometers, this is a quiet, family-friendly area – a slower paced district as opposed to the more bustling town center.
This residential area has some grand, leafy sights; attractions that point back to its more out-of-town origins. These include the 16th-century Royal Palace of Lobzow and Jordan Park, established in 1889, with its winding pathways and picturesque pond.
Football fans can also enjoy watching a match at the Henryk Reyman’s Municipal Stadium, home ground of Wisła Kraków – one of Poland’s oldest and most successful teams.
If you choose to stay on this side of Krakow, you can expect to find aparthotels and mid-range, affordable accommodation options. The center of Krakow is still easily reachable from here, being around a 15-minute tram ride away.
Zwierzyniec is located in the western part of Krakow, a little further from the center of town. The main draw to this area is Laswolski, a sprawling area of protected forest that is well worth exploring.
This is a beautiful place to take some time out in nature. It features hiking trails as well as the famous Pilsudki’s Mound, where you can get some amazing vistas of the city. One of the most well-known mounds in Krakow, this one was constructed in the 1930s and commemorates Polish independence. Also located within the park is Krakow Zoo. In fact, “Zwierzyniec” actually means zoo in Polish. It is home to 300 species of animals and makes for a fun day out.
There is a scattering of affordable accommodation, some of which is in the park itself along the Vistula River. This is a great area for those who want to stay close to nature yet be minutes from Krakow’s center by tram or bus.
Just across the Vistula River from Kazimierz, the district of Podgorze was formerly an independent city before becoming part of Krakow in 1795. It has a dark history, however.
During World War II, the Nazis used this district as the ghetto for the displaced Jewish inhabitants of Krakow. Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory, an operation that saved the lives of many Jewish workers during the war, is located here. There’s also the Holocaust Memorial in Ghetto Heroes Square, once a regular meeting place for the Jewish Resistance.
Other sights in Podgorze include the imposing and beautifully ornate St. Joseph’s Church, built between 1905 and 1909. There’s also the Krakus Mound. Unlike Pilsudki’s Mound, this one is prehistoric in origin and is thought to be the tomb of King Krakus, the legendary founder of Krakow.
Accommodation in Podgorze is all about affordable mid-range hotels, as well as a few budget hostels and guesthouses. Traveling by tram or the local bus is easy, or you could simply stroll across the bridge into the center of the city.
Directly across the river from Wawel Castle, this tiny district was once a village in its own right. Today, it’s a seldom visited corner of the city. Set in a bend in the Vistula River, the isolated Debniki isn’t home to many tourist attractions and lacks the bars and clubs of the center of town, even though it’s so close. That might be because there are no footbridges connecting it to Stare Miasto.
However, Debniki is still a charming area to wander around. There is a beautiful collection of townhouses around the former village’s square, and a number of churches in the area, including the Church of St. Stanislaus Kostaka with its striking 1930s design. Nearby is the Manggha Centre, a modern museum of Japanese art and cultural artifacts.
The hotels in Debniki are mostly budget-friendly, with a few hostels to choose from for even more affordability. There are several mid-range hotels, too. Getting to the center of Krakow is simple and can be done by bus.