Since the 7th century, Kraków has been the second largest city in Poland and is an important center of culture and education. Centered around an iconic old city that is steeped in mythical tales, soaring buildings decorate its huge market square, and there are charming cobbled streets to lose yourself in.
However, far from the impressive gothic buildings of the Old Town, there is much more history in Krakow than just ancient monuments.
The old Jewish quarter of this city is a testament to a dark period in Polish history, when the 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.
Troubled past aside, this area of town is now a bohemian place to explore, with cool cafes and bars to fill your days and nights.
Popular with just about everyone, Krakow has every type of accommodation you can imagine. There are more than a handful of hostels, with everything from budget and unassuming hostels to designer hostels. There are also hotels and guesthouses, from affordable to 5-star. Exploring Krakow is easy thanks to a multitude of buses and an impressive 27 tram lines, meaning it’s never too difficult to get from A to B.
Directly across the river from Wawel Castle, this small district was once a town in its own right. Nowadays, it is a little visited corner of the city. Situated on a bend in the Vistula River, isolated Debniki is not home to many tourist attractions and lacks the bars and nightclubs of the city center, despite being so close. That could be because there are no gateways connecting it to Stare Miasto.
However, Debniki is still a lovely area to walk around. There is a beautiful collection of terraced houses around the old town square, and a number of churches in the area, including St. Stanislaus Kostaka’s Church with its striking 1930s design. Nearby is the Manggha Centre, a modern museum of Japanese art and cultural objects.
Debniki’s hotels are mostly budget, with a few hostels to choose from to make them even more affordable. There are also several mid-range hotels. Getting to the center of Krakow is easy and can be done by bus.
Zwierzyniec is located in the western part of Krakow, a little further from the city center. The main attraction of this area is Laswolski, a large area of protected forest that is worth exploring.
This is a beautiful place to take some time in nature. It has hiking trails, as well as the famous Pilsudki’s Mound, where you can enjoy incredible views of the city. One of the best-known mounds in Krakow, built in the 1930s, commemorates the independence of Poland. The Krakow Zoo is also located within the park. In fact, “Zwierzyniec” means zoo in Polish. It is home to 300 species of animals and makes for a fun day out.
There is a wide variety of affordable accommodation, some of which is located in the park itself along the Vistula River. This is a great area for those who want to stay close to nature but a few minutes from the center of Krakow by tram or bus.
Just across the Vistula River from Kazimierz, the Podgorze district was an independent city before becoming part of Krakow in 1795. However, it has a dark history.
During World War II, the Nazis used this district as a ghetto for the displaced Jewish inhabitants of Krakow. Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory is located here, an operation that saved the lives of many Jewish workers during the war. There is also the Holocaust Memorial in Ghetto Heroes Square, which was a regular meeting place for the Jewish resistance.
Other sights in Podgorze include the imposing and beautifully ornate Church of St. Joseph, built between 1905 and 1909. There is also the Krakus mound. Unlike the Pilsudki Mound, this one is of prehistoric origin and is believed to be the tomb of King Krakow, the legendary founder of Krakow.
Accommodation in Podgorze consists of affordable mid-range hotels, as well as a few budget hostels and pensions. Traveling by tram or local bus is easy, or you can just walk across the bridge into the city center.
Much more relaxing than staying in the city center, booking accommodation in Kleparz is the perfect option for those who want a less touristy experience when visiting Krakow.
Krakow Central, you’ll be pleased to know, is still within easy walking distance of this district, close to the north of the Old Town itself. Kleparz is known as a luxury area and has luxury accommodation to match. Here you will find aparthotels and boutique-style apartments, ideal for the independent traveler
The small district of Kleparz is known for its culture. The main square, Stary Kleparz, is full of local vendors and small shops, making it a quieter and more local place than the famous central square, with 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
The Grzegorzki district stretches from the east of Planty Park in the old town to the main railway station. Not the prettiest part of town, the Grzegorzki residential area is known as a student hub.
Stroll from the Krakow University of Economics, soaking up sights like the 1950s Opera House and the 18th-century Botanical Gardens. Every Sunday, the Hala Targowa opens its doors, a market where you can enjoy local life.
Grzegorzki is a family-friendly place, lacking the sometimes boisterous crowds that can be found partying in the Old Town. But it’s still central enough that the views aren’t too far away.
The railway station in the eastern part of Grzegorzki is a good place for those arriving or departing by train as well. Hotels in Grzegorzki range from small family guesthouses to mid-range self-catering apartments.
Located to the west of Krakow, Krowodrza was formerly a village, but has since been incorporated as part of the city itself. Covering an area of just under six square kilometres, it is a quiet, family-friendly area, a slower-paced district than the busier city center
. Among them are the Lobzow Royal Palace and the 16th-century Jordan Park, founded in 1889, with its winding paths and picturesque pond.
Football fans can also enjoy a match at the Henryk Reyman Municipal Stadium, home to Wis?a Kraków, one of the oldest and most successful teams in Poland.
If you decide to stay on this side of Krakow, you can expect to find aparthotels and affordable mid-range accommodation options. The center of Krakow is still easily accessible from here, about 15 minutes by tram.
7. Stare Miasto
The historic center of Krakow, Stare Miasto offers the largest medieval square in Europe. Here you will find bars and cafes, as well as a concentration of the main monuments of the city.
Among them is the church of Saint Florian, dating from 1216, as well as the Barbican, a 15th-century fortified gate. You’ll also find the early Baroque-style Wawel Castle and the huge Krakow Cloth Hall with its Gothic spiers.
Walk along the charming Florianska Street, one of the main streets in the center of the Old Town, until you find yourself in one of the many cobblestone streets in the area. Here, there are plenty of bars and restaurants 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. Virtually all of Krakow’s main tourist attractions are concentrated in this area. And don’t worry, you won’t be short of accommodation, there’s everything here, from cheap hostels to 5-star hotels.
Established in the 14th century, Kazimierz is the old Jewish quarter of Krakow. The inhabitants of this historic area were forcibly transferred to a ghetto during World War II. With this in mind, there are some sobering stories and 20th century history to learn in Kazimierz. In fact, Schindler’s List was filmed here, although the real-life events took place in neighboring Podgorze.
Today, history aside, Kazimierz is known for its bohemian flavor. There are a ton of cool establishments popping up all over this district that think Israeli hummus and hipster cafes sell vegetarian food. With cool kids comes good nightlife, and you’ll find this area busy with partiers, even on weeknights. You will probably stay in cozy historic buildings with lots of charm and trendy boutique style.