48 Hours in Krakow - Highlights Itinerary for Two Days
Krakow is a truly beautiful city in the classic sense, so much so that the entire of Old Town, the historic centre of Krakow, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. At the centre of Old Town lies Rynek Głowny, Main Market Square, the largest in Europe and in 2013, voted the most beautiful market square in the world by Lonely Planet.
Balancing the city sites is Planty Park, a lovely green space that encircles the Old Town where the city walls once stood. As in many cities in Europe, Krakow has a thriving café culture, many of which transform into bars in the evening, so spending a couple of hours sipping your drink of choice and watching the world go by is a must during your visit.
The city is very compact; Old Town, where most of the city’s sights are located, can be walked at it’s longest point in 20 minutes. Bike and electric scooter hire is popular though for those that want to travel with a bit more speed!
So how do you best spend just 48 hours in Krakow? Read on for our two days in Krakow itinerary!
Day 1: Morning – Main Market Square
Your first stop has to be St. Mary’s Basilica in the Main Square, a dramatic 14th century Gothic building that is as beautiful inside as it is out. Enter via the side door to see the decadent interior, dramatic stained glass windows and various works of art.
Every hour, on the hour, a trumpet call rings out across the city from each of the four corners of the tallest tower. Originally a trumpeter was stationed there to alert the town to impending invaders, with one such sentry credited with the now abrupt end to the call; he was allegedly shot in the neck by Tartar soldiers before he could finish his tune.
During your 48 hours in Krakow, make sure to buy tickets to ascend the tower to see the trumpeter and enjoy a birds-eye view of Krakow (only available between April and October).
Next, head to the Sukiennice (Cloth Hall) in the middle of the square. A market has existed here since the 13th century; take a wander through the building, it’s now the perfect place to pick up a souvenir.
Below the Sukiennice is the Rynek Underground Museum that tells the story of Krakow through the ages, with a particular focus on the Main Market Square. You will be taken on a journey via multimedia displays through atmospheric fog, short films and traditional artefacts, as well as see the remains of 11th century burial sites and the original, excavated market stalls that once stood in the square.
Day 1: Afternoon – The Jewish Quarter
Spend your first afternoon of two days in Krakow exploring Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter a 10 minute walk south west of Old Town.
Kazimierz has a different vibe from the historic centre, it’s more bohemian, grittier and less classically beautiful. Kazimierz is the kind of place best just wandered round, there are a treasure trove of quirky shops, hidden summer gardens and atmospheric cafés. For the latter, try Cheder Café with its brick arched ceilings and books to peruse and read over your coffee of choice. Leave the 48 hours in Krakow itinerary behind and see what you discover!
At the centre of Kazimierz is Plac Nowy, a slightly underwhelming but important square, having been the centre of trade for the area since the 19th century. Check out the market stalls in the rotunda in the middle for a traditional Polish snack, they apparently do the best Zapiekanka (pizza on half a baguette) in all of Kraków!
Day 2: Morning – Wawel Hill
Start your second day of 48 hours in Krakow by walking through the Old Town, along the old cobbled streets, admiring the many beautiful churches and buildings to it’s southernmost point, Wawel Hill. Here lies Wawel Castle and Cathedral, once the home and coronation site to a long line of the Polish monarchy.
There is lots to do here to fill much of your two days in Krakow, from visiting the cave of the Wawel Dragon, touring the former rooms of the palace or seeing the tombs of previous kings, queens and national heroes buried below the Cathedral. It would take days to see everything, so pick a couple of exhibits at most (all have separate tickets) and make sure you reserve some time for just wandering the grounds and enjoying the views over the Vistula River.
This is one of the most visited attractions in Kraków, so I would recommend getting here for when it opens in the morning (from 09:30am on weekdays and 10:00 on weekends) for a more leisurely experience.
Day 2: Afternoon – Oskar Schindler’s Factory Museum
Venture across the bridge over the Vistula River to Oskar Schindler’s Factory Museum in the Podgórze district. The story of Oskar, a Nazi, and his wife Emilie who protected their Jewish workforce from being shipped off to concentration camps in the Second World War is truly fascinating The exhibit also gives an insight into what Krakow, particularly Kazimierz, was like during the Nazi occupation.
Afterward, walk along the banks of the Vistula to admire Old Town from the other side of the river, there are some particularly superb views of Wawel Castle which is a nice way to spend your last few of 48 hours in Krakow.
Evenings in Krakow
There are no shortage of places to eat and drink in Krakow, with the obvious being one of the many options on the Main Market Square in Old Town. The people-watching and the views are excellent from all sides of the square, but some of the restaurants here only do average food at best.
La Grande Mama is an excellent choice for an authentic Italian meal, eating their seafood linguine while sipping on wine overlooking the beautiful buildings in the square is a lovely way to spend an evening.
You can’t spend 48 hours in Krakow without trying the local food and one of the best places to do so is Miod Malina. Located in the former Stadnicki Palace and with traditional Polish décor, it is the perfect place to try the local cuisine. It also does some Italian dishes if you want to stick with what you know. Like many restaurants in Kraków, there is an outdoor garden hidden at the back, perfect for when the weather is nice.
For a slightly more refined experience, Kogel Mogel is also an excellent option, their goose pierogi (a traditional Polish dumpling) are to die for! This restaurant focuses on using local ingredients and traditional ways of preparing their food which is then presented to you beautifully. Their flower-filled garden courtyard is also very romantic should you wish to enjoy a drink from their extensive wine list.
For some evening frivolity, head to Mercy Brown for a prohibition-style speakeasy (they have a very stunning chandelier) with some fabulously creative cocktails. It has a hidden entrance through the cloakroom at Smakolyki restaurant. For the loveliest staff (they brought us blankets to wrap up in when it got a little chilly!) and a superb wine and cocktail selection, Scandale Royale overlooking Plac Szczepański ticks all the boxes as well.
Head to the west side of Old Town and you will find the Tytano Complex, a cluster of buzzing bars and restaurants in an old tobacco factory. There is no shortage of cuisine choice here, from what are apparently the best steaks in Krakow (Cargo Grill & Deli) to sushi at Tao Restaurant & Club. Afterwards, enjoy one of the very creative cocktails at edgy Lastriko, or if you are a gin fan, go to Międzymiastowa. The party goes on here to the early hours at the weekend and it is the kind of place you could spend 12 hours at and wonder where the time had gone!
Bonus Highlights for 48 Hours in Krakow
The city is a popular base for 2 day trips from Krakow; Auschwitz and Wielczka Salt Mines. There are lots of companies that run tours, including entrance tickets and return transport and I recommend booking in advance of your 48 hours in Krakow for the best choice of dates and departure times.
Auschwitz is around a 1.5 hour drive from Kraków and the tour will take 8 hours in total. It might be a sombre thing to do during your 48 hours in Krakow, but it’s a very important historical experience visiting Auschwitz, where you will be taken on a tour around the original buildings that housed the prisoners, some empty and some with exhibits.
I recommend going for the most popular option, a guided tour, as the guides there have lots of stories and additional information that really enhances the experience. Be aware that because of the nature of what happened at Auschwitz, the museum advises that it may not be suitable for those under 14 years if age.
Wielczka Salt Mines
Wielczka Salt Mines can be reached within a 30 minute drive of Krakow and a tour can take between 4 to 6 hours in total, depending on how much you want to see. The mines are made up of over 300km of tunnels, chambers and underground lakes up to 327m below the surface. It was the world’s longest operating salt mine from the 13th century until finally ceasing only recently in 2007.
All tours are guided and give a history of the mine as well as giving you the opportunity to see Wielczka’s most famous chamber, the huge Chapel of St. Kinga. It took 3 men over 30 years to create it and everything you see in here is carved of salt, from the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling to the sculptures lining the walls.
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About the Author: This post was written by Rachael Gunn, the founder and creator behind luxury travel blog Champagne on Arrival. With a particular love of beautiful hotels and more off-beat destinations, Champagne on Arrival informs and inspires those with a passion for travel, as well as sharing lots of tips for getting travel luxury for less. You can follow me on Instagram or Twitter.