They say that nothing in life is for free, may be that is true, however, in Krakow on a visit you can actually discover this enchanting medieval city without spending too much. As Krakow has 14 million plus visitors a year the sights to see are pleasingly low cost or cheap. Krakow has an illustrious history and offers something for everyone no matter your reason for visiting. The following suggestions highlight the cheap and sometimes free options to enjoy discovering Krakow’s magic.
Krakow Free Walking Tours are organised and in different languages with English, Italian, German and Spanish being the most available, they usually begin on the main square called Rynek. They are free but if you wish to tip the Guide please feel free to do so. You can also join cheap Bicycle, Electric Scooter & Segway Tours of the city too.
The majority of landmarks or sights are free to enter or with a nominal fee to pay. The main sightseeing tour will include, Rynek Glowny, Rynek or Draper’s Square is the largest square in Europe and was a textile and cloth trading centre in the past. In fact, the world’s silk trading hub back in the 13th century. This medieval era piazza has hardly changed since those early times and only had to be rebuilt after the Mongol invasion of 1241. The Cloth Hall or Sukiennice and Town Hall or Ratusz are museums now. The Ratusz was demolished in 1820 leaving only the main tower standing on the square today.
The square itself measures almost 4 hectares and is host to a tremendous amount of activity including festivals, markets, buildings and monuments. Rynek is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, hotels, pubs & clubs, a waxwork museum, cinema, theatre and live music venues. The market square is also host to a feast of entertainment throughout the year with the Dragon Parade, Easter Fayre, Summer time Music & Theatre productions and Christmas market being the most popular as well as guided pub crawls. On Rynek there is the St. Mary’s Basilica or Kościół Mariacki with its twin towers and bugler sounding every hour of the day from the tallest turret, a marvellous 14th century Gothic church. The basilica also had its own parish cemetery adjacent to it but was later turned into a white stoned lined square called Plac Mariacki which leads to Maly Rynek or Little Rynek Square, although mainly free a full tourist ticket is 10zl or 15zl to climb the 80m towers. A second small domed church, in fact, one of Poland’s oldest known religious buildings, St. Alderbert’s Church or Sw. Wojciech, this petite church in comparison is more than a 1,000 years old. The building was used as a meeting place for merchants and the aristocracy visiting the silk and textile trade exchange before the Sukiennice was built. Next to the existing Town Hall Tower on the main square lies the ever popular ‘Head’ as it is affectionately known or Krakow’s very own Eros Bandato. The huge head of Eros sculpted in bronze laid on its side provides many a happy photograph for visitors. Krakow’s. The tour follows the Royal Route through Krakow, the main city St. Florian’s Gate onto Rynek, Royal Wawel Castle with its own cathedral within the grounds. Built on top of Wawel Hill this medieval fortress will certainly capture your imagination.
The Royal Castle is open and allows you to experience the bygone times similar to the underground museum. Also Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of ‘Lady in Ermine’ is exhibited in one of its art galleries. In the adjoining Wawel Cathedral is where all Poland’s Kings, Queens and Heroes are buried. Ten different areas exhibiting everything from art to arms of varied periods in its history in this listed Unesco World Heritage site, some areas require an entrance fee to view. You will also hear the Legend of the Wawel Dragon which resided in a cave under Wawel Hill near the banks of the Vistula River and to mark the dragon’s lair a huge statue of the dragon that actually breathes fire. Remaining on the square there is the entrance to the Krakow Underground Museum. This fantastic interactive museum displays how life was centuries ago in Krakow spread over 4,000 m2! Exhibition areas cover Krakow’s sometimes turbulent history, daily life and activities with all kinds of artefacts on show. One particular exhibit is the 693 kg lead ball called The Loaf, regarded as a precious metal back then and the 11th century burial chamber are top choices to see. All the exhibition areas have touch screen technology and the interactive mechanics room along with a play area for children. It cost 10zl for entry but FREE on Tuesdays. Moving closer to the Vistula river we have Krakow’s Kazimierz or Jewish quarter which is extremely popular all year round. Some of the sights while on tour of the city include The Old Synagogue, Jewish culture and history can be viewed close up in the main hall and south hall, all the ceremonial artefacts and the Torah Scrolls are on display. There are many synagogues and the Remuh Cemetery which dates back 1535. You can visit Landau’s house and Helena Rubenstein’s birthplace, also, the weekly market stalls with the most popular being on Plac Nowy. In and around this area it is filled with cafes, pubs and restaurants and the nightlife scene is pretty intense. Spielberg filmed in Kazimierz for Schindler’s List, you follow on with a visit to Schindler’s Factory which has been restored and open to the public, 24zl entrance fee but FREE on Mondays and the nearby Nazi camp transfer departure point Plac Bohaterow Getta which is where many Jewish people were brought to before going to Auschwitz. The square has large chairs placed on it symbolising people with all their belongings that waited there without knowing what would happen. A visit to the Auschwitz Birkenau Memorial Site requires a morning departure and a little expense as it’s a 90km journey each way. There are approximately 30 park areas in Krakow where you can stroll freely and peruse the various sculptures, street exhibitions and monuments. Another interesting tour is the Krakow Ghost & Vampire Tour, a 2 hr long scary introduction to Krakow’s supernatural side of gruesome death, torture and disturbing history all at night too which is free but expect to leave a tip or not at your own peril as you may collide with the Nun in the Basement or The Executioner!.
This time it is nature or natural but still super with a visit to the Botanical Gardens in the Jagellonian University grounds for a mere 8zl entrance, more than 5,000 plants, trees and shrubbery from around the world on display.
Another “must do” tour is Krakow Pub Crawl – usually around 50-70 PLN/pp. The guided bar crawls are great to individuals looking to discover Krakow nightlife and meet fellow travellers and party goers, as well as they are an almost obligatory activity for any Krakow stag do group. Depending on the company you may get unlimited alcohol for 1h, or get some free drinks- the tour can be ‘tailor made” and exclusive to your group (check https://partykrakow.co.uk/ ), or you may join in a “city pub crawl” which collects people from various Krakow apartments and hostels.
If you like the open air and walkabouts then take the trek to Krakow’s Krakus Mound a man-made hill to honour the founder of Krakow, King Krakus. The Pagan tomb as legend has it the Krakus is buried there was built in the 11th century and once at the peak you can view all of Krakow or a visit to the Kosciuszko Mound during the daytime is quite refreshing, it is dedicated to a Polish hero Tadeusz Kosciusko and his quest for freedom and equal rights, the mound is also man-made and the view from the peak is astounding. You might want to hire a bicycle from the many bike stations dotted around Krakow. You can really get around Krakow and experience most sights and monuments for next to nothing, so, don’t exchange too much cash because you will have to change it back or, better still, keep it for your return Krakow adventure.