How to Spend 48 Hours in Krakow, Poland

As a Polish city that promises rich history, great value for money, delicious food and an abundance of compelling sites, it’s no surprise that Krakow caught the attention of Travelista contributor Em Hope. Here she shares how to replicate her weekend itinerary for 48 hours in Krakow.

From visiting popular attractions of the city like Wawel Castle, St Mary’s Basilica and Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory to sites further afield, like the Wieliczka Salt Mines, Auschwitz Birkenau Camp or the Chochołów Thermal Baths you won’t fall short of things to do and see in Krakow. Here’s a tried-and-tested Travelista guide to 48 hours in Krakow.

After years of hearing, ‘you must visit Krakow’ from fellow travellers, we finally took the plunge to witness this charming Polish city for ourselves. With a packed agenda, we knew we certainly wouldn’t be idle. But how do you condense the plethora of activities that Krakow has on offer when you only have 2 precious days there? It was certainly going to be a challenge, but one we were willing to humbly accept.

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48 Hours in Krakow – Overview

  1. Krakow At A Glance
  2. Day 1
  3. Day 2
  4. Top Tips for visiting Auschwitz
  5. Where To Stay in Krakow

Krakow At A Glance

Situated on the banks of the Vistula River, Krakow has a fascinating past that dates back over a thousand years, leaving its mark on every corner of the city. As one of the oldest cities in Poland, Krakow has seen everything from the rise and fall of empires, the birth of artistic movements and the resilience of its people through tragedy. Its historic centre, known as the Old Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to an array of architectural treasures, including the majestic St. Mary’s Basilica.

Beyond its historical landmarks, Krakow is brimming with culture, most evident in its selection of museums, galleries, and theatres. The city also hosts various festivals throughout the year, including the Krakow Film Festival and the Jewish Culture Festival. The Kazimierz district, once the centre of Jewish life in the city, is now a neighbourhood dotted with synagogues, Jewish museums, and kosher restaurants.

Apart from its historical and cultural appeal, Krakow is a lovely place to visit for its welcoming atmosphere. The city’s Market Square, one of the largest medieval squares in Europe, is the heart of Krakow’s social life. Here, you can find bustling cafes, an array of restaurants, trendy bars and a street market offering local crafts and produce.

One of the things that surprised me about Krakow is how easy-going it is, aside from the bustling stag and hen-do stereotype that some may associate with the city. We found the locals are generally welcoming, and I think as with visiting most cities abroad, they appreciate visitors trying to learn and communicate with a few Polish phrases during their stay.

If you’re planning on visiting Krakow and you’re short on time, I’d recommend that you read up on the attractions before your visit, so you can choose what to prioritise. For us, getting a general sense of the city was a must, sampling the distinct Polish cuisine and local beers was also high on the agenda, as well as a must-do day trip to Auschwitz Birkenau.

Day 1: Morning

Touch down at Krakow Airport and take a taxi ride into the heart of the city. As a heads up, if you’re planning on driving in Krakow, our first impression was that it’s a little hectic –the roads felt busy and at times, pretty fast paced.  We definitely didn’t realise how much congestion the city centre would have. My first top tip is to allow plenty of time for your airport transfers.

We checked in at the Galaxy Hotel. This was a unique accommodation choice with an otherworldly interior design theme, a spa and a variety of room options. The staff were really friendly and we were satisfied with our room which was spacious and clean.

Day 1: Afternoon

After freshening up, we set out for an amazing lunch at Czarna Kaczka (The Black Duck), recommended for its delicious goulash, pierogi, and refreshing beer. This place did not disappoint. The warm hospitality of the staff and the excellent dining experience set a positive tone for the day. To any beer lover, I would recommend Żywiec Białe pszeniczny – a popular wheat beer in Poland, which I don’t think you can’t source in the UK (at least with ease) but it was a dream to try.

The afternoon was spent exploring the sunny streets of Krakow, walking past the charming buildings, historical statues, and pretty leafy parks, with a little help from Google serving as our guide to the city’s main landmarks. 

Day 1: Evening

As evening approached, we sought out the best of the rooftop bars to witness Krakow’s renowned sunset. Sadly, our first choice based on the top of a renovated 14th-century building, Hotel Stary, was closed for the season. If you’re travelling to Krakow in Spring or Summer, this one is definitely worth checking out. The second rooftop bar we wandered to – Metrum Restobistro – is situated on the top floor of a Music Academy. This bar offers stunning panoramic views of the city as well as a small selection of hot and cold drinks.

If you’re considering a social evening, the square is a great destination with an array of lively bars. Our day concluded with cocktails here before strolling back towards our hotel. Before our trip, I’d researched another major stop-off point– the Blue Nysa Van – a street food van serving mouthwatering wood-fired Polish sausages (kiełbasa), which we were keen to try. This Krakow institution is super popular with locals and tourists alike and has been in operation for over 25 years. I would recommend, if not necessarily for the food, to go for the experience. If this does end up on your list of things to do, remember to bring cash, as it’s the only accepted form of payment.

In retrospect, our first day in Krakow was a blend of yummy culinary experiences and a host of historical encounters. We very much enjoyed just wandering the charming streets and the city’s vibrant energy left us eager to uncover more of its treasures, ready for Day 2 of 48 hours in Krakow.

Day 2: Morning

A day trip to Auschwitz is an emotional and educational experience that leaves a deep impact on its visitors. All in all, we knew this was going to be a long and harrowing experience, so we decided to fuel ourselves properly before the big day ahead.

Having not quite explored the Kaszimier District yet, we decided to take an early morning stroll around this historic area. It was here we came across a beautiful Scandi-style breakfast spot, Poranki, where they serve all sorts of delicious brunch options, including stacks of pancakes and avocado toast with smoked salmon.

Day 2: Afternoon

Before long, it was time to take the tour bus we had pre-booked to the site of Autchwitz Birkenau. With three pickup destinations across the city, this was a useful option. The gentleman who organised the tour, was lovely and informative, although the main tour itself was self-led, with the assistance of a guidebook.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau complex consists of two main parts: Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau. While it is traditionally recommended to visit Auschwitz I first, large queues and capacity on the day meant that we were to explore Auschwitz II-Birkenau, which provided a deeper understanding of the scale of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust. It is important to note that regardless of the order in which you decide to explore these sites, both should be included in any visit to honour the memories of the victims and learn from the tragedies that unfolded there.

Top Tips for Visiting Auschwitz

  • I’d highly advise bringing a packed lunch, as the on-site café had limited options and could be considered quite expensive
  • Bear in mind that queues can be long, especially during peak tourist season, so arriving early can help ensure a more efficient visit.
  • It’s an emotionally heavy experience, so it’s important to be prepared for a long day.
  • Consider getting a tour guide to take you around the sites. We didn’t do this but wish we had. There were times when we struggled to match up the descriptions in the guidebook with the sites we were passing and I imagine a guide would have been easier to follow and offer a more informative experience. That said, however, if your preference is taking it at your own pace, a self-guided tour is perfectly fine and you can still get a lot out of your time at the site.

Day 2: Evening

Returning to Krakow in the evening, we headed to a beautiful Alpine-style restaurant called Morskie Oko. This culinary gem amazed us with its delicious menu and reasonable prices. One standout dish was their meat platter of regional delicacies for two, accompanied by a refreshing glass of wine. With satisfied tummies and a lot of digesting thoughts from our poignant day out, we decided to get an early night’s sleep before we headed homeward bound the next morning. 48 hours in Krakow is complete!

Where to Stay for 48 Hours in Krakow – Best Hotels

Check out Em’s personal recommendations or browse all hotels in Krakow by budget, star rating and area.

Whether you are a budget-conscious backpacker or a luxury seeker, Krakow has something for every travel style.

Hotel Copernicus – Luxury

For those seeking a little slice of luxury, Krakow has some truly indulgent options. A great choice is the Hotel Copernicus, a five-star hotel located in a beautifully restored medieval building. It offers lavish rooms with antique furniture and modern amenities. The hotel also features a wellness centre, where you can treat yourself to relaxing spa treatments as well as enjoy the sauna and swimming pool in an old vaulted cellar.

Sheraton Grand Krakow – Luxury

Another option is the Sheraton Grand Krakow, located on the bank of the Wisla River. This hotel offers spacious and elegantly designed rooms with stunning views of the river or the castle. The hotel also features a rooftop terrace, a fitness centre, and a range of dining options to satisfy any travelling foodies.

Hotel Senacki – Mid Range

For mid-range budgets, there are plenty of options to choose from, like Hotel Senacki, located near the iconic Wawel Castle. This boutique hotel features elegantly designed rooms with modern amenities. The staff are known for their exceptional service, making your stay comfortable and memorable. 

Galaxy Hotel – Mid Range

This was our author Em’s hotel of choice. Galaxy Hotel is situated just 10 minutes’ walk from the Kazimierz Jewish District, full of atmospheric pubs and cafés. The walk to the Main Market Square takes only 25 minutes, while the Wawel Castle is 20 minutes’ walk away from the hotel. The on-site restaurant overlooks the Vistula River and serves international cuisine from 12:00 until 23:00. Guests are also offered 2 bars –in the lobby and in the restaurant. 

Hotel Kazimierz – Budget Friendly

Another budget-friendly option is the Hotel Kazimierz, located in the historic Kazimierz district. This hotel offers clean rooms comfortable beds and a great location, within walking distance to many popular attractions.

Final Thoughts on 48 Hours in Krakow

Is 48 hours in Krakow enough time? From my perspective, if you’re mainly interested in seeing the main attractions, then yes, it is doable. You can see some of the main architectural treasures, explore the historic sites, and indulge in the local cuisine in this timeframe.

However, if you want to immerse yourself in all that Krakow has to offer, I would recommend staying for at least 3 or 4 days. This will give you enough time to leisurely explore the city, discover hidden gems, and truly soak in the ambience of this captivating place. Our 48 hours in Krakow certainly left us wanting more.

Regardless of your travel style and whether you are intruiged by the city’s past or captivated by its present, Krakow is undoubtedly a destination that should be on every traveller’s radar.

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Born and raised in Northumberland, and having lived in various other beautiful regions of the UK, including the Lake District and her current base in the city of York. Emily. Inspired by communities, Emily loves to travel and is always keen to meet new people. Emily has a degree in English Literature, and a professional background in Journalism, Content Creating, and Radio Presenting.

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