This post will show you what to see in Krakow Old Town in one day. Krakow in the south of Poland is the country’s former royal capital and full of art, history and culture. Walking in Krakow Old Town is like stepping back in time.
What about the trumpeter playing from the top of the church tower – every hour and into all directions – to make sure that everybody knows what the time is?
What about the huge Main Square, the largest medieval square in Europe, and what about the historic Jagellonian University, one of the world’s oldest?
Krakow Old Town in one day
Having been walking around in Krakow we put together a self-guided walking itinerary to help you find the best places in the historic city. Just follow our itinerary and explore the city’s fantastic old town. Or just see Krakow attractions without any planned itinerary, wandering aimlessly through the medieval center.
As the historic old town is the most interesting part of Krakow, try to find a hotel right there. It might, however, be a bit difficult as most Krakow hotels are outside the historic city core.
We had good luck, finding a big, airy private apartment with an inner court balcony and windows to both sides of the building. That gave us a lot of fresh air in the extreme summer heat that prevailed in Krakow at the time we were visiting. Our apartment was in a medieval townhouse in a central location. Perfect! So now let’s go and look at the city:
Itinerary: Krakow Old Town in One Day
Krakow walking itinerary: see the old town in one day
This Krakow walking itinerary begins at the most famous Old Town gate, St. Florian’s Gate in the north and goes to the Main Square and south to Wawel Hill. So like most visitors, we first went to the Main Square.
Krakow Old Town Main Square
The historic main square of Krakow Old Town
This is the place all of us want to see in Krakow. At least when year three million guests, coming from Poland and abroad visit the main square every year.
The square is packed with people, always, and an endless row of outdoor cafes, pubs and restaurants line its sides. They are so many that it’s hard to choose where to start, and where to head next.
There are street musicians in every corner, and like in Prague, most of them playing classical music. So medieval and so beautiful!
Like centuries ago there is a small market where stalls are selling flowers and street food. Then there is the 16th century Cloth Hall standing in the middle of it all. And like before, there’s a trumpeter climbing to the church tower to play a tone, every single hour of the day.
Classical Music, in Every Street Corner
Krakow Old Town concerts
Feeling a bit tired after traveling to Krakow the same morning we stopped at one of the restaurants and ended up having a traditional Polish lunch. So heavy, but so good!
Many locals approached us wanting to sell us concert tickets and we finally gave up and got tickets to a Royal Chamber Orchestra Concert in the tiny St. Adalbert’s Church the same night.
We were wondering if we would like the concert at all, but it turned out to be a fantastic experience and we loved how they played. The St. Adalbert’s Church so tiny that it only takes a handful of people. But if you go to Krakow, try to get tickets to this specific concert. It’s really good.
We also found another good concert, in St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church. You’ll find the place walking south along the Grodzka Street from the Main Square. You can buy tickets to the concert right outside the church.
Even if you’re not familiar with classical music you should try it, in Krakow!
At night Grodzka Street transforms to a dining street with loads of good restaurants where to dine after the nights’ concerts. If the weather permits dine outdoors and watch people walking by. And watch Krakow horses and carriages.
Krakow Old Town Streets
A Krakow horse and carriage
The medieval Krakow Old Town is spread on a fairly large area so walking through it in the heat might make you tired. In that case take a horse carriage ride. We, however preferred to walk all the way. As we so much liked to look at the details on the narrow streets.
We even did the 4 km walk along the green belt surrounding the Old Town. Its a ring-formed belt called Planty. You can clearly see the green belt on any Krakow map.
The Planty takes you to Wawel Hill in the south and to Jagellonian University in the west. It also leads to the train station and to a modern shopping mall at the north edge of the Old Town.
Walking south towards Wawel Hill you will find many small museums and art galleries hiding in the streetside buildings, sometimes in the corridors and back yards. There are also many sites associated with Pope John Paul II who, before being elected Pope, was the Archbishop of Krakow.
What to see in Krakow Old Town: Wawel Hill
Wawel Hill if any is a Polish national symbol. For centuries the Royal Castle on the hill has been the residence of Polish kings.
In the Royal Castle visit the staterooms, the Royal apartment and the Crown Treasury.
Outside the castle go and see the Cathedral and the Cathedral Museum. From the hill you also get a panorama of the river Wisla that makes a sharp turn right here. And of course you will get a bird’s ‘eye view of the Old Town.
Two professors at the Jagellonian University of Krakow
Walk back to the city and you will come to the old, famous Jagellonian University, spread over many blocks in the oldest quarters of Krakow. This university is exceptionally old, being established in the 14th century.
On a shady yard we found fine statues of former professors. Then, a narrow passage with a fine, decorated roof took us to the inner court of the university’s oldest building, Collegium Maius.
Collegium Maius Guided Tour
From the inner courtyard you can take a guided tour of the Collegium Maius. That’s the only way to get in and you should book your tour time in advance to get one.
On a guided tour of Collegium Maius, Krakow
As we didn’t book a tour in advance there only was a Polish language tour available, of which we didn’t understand a word. But we didn’t mind that, I always bring my guide book and despite not understanding what the guide said we could see all the splendor. Collegium Maius is fantastic and a must see in Krakow.
The guided tour takes you to historic halls like the impressive Aula and a hall with a Renaissance ceiling full of portraits of former kings and university rectors.
The Jagellonian University Collegium Maius also has the astronomic instruments once used by Copernicus who was one of the students in this famous school. They also have original Copernicus manuscripts and the oldest existing globe containing the continent of America.
Krakow Food Market
Sausages on food market of Krakow
Here are some more photos on Krakow Old Town and its food market. For us, it was now time to catch the train to the airport. We would hive liked to stay longer, but had to travel on.
Train from Krakow to the Airport
We took the train to the airport since it was a lot easier for us to find a train than the right bus stop. In Krakow, however, the train doesn’t go all the way to the airport, but there’s a shuttle bus leaving to the airport terminals from the station next to the airport.
Buying the right kind of train tickets in a machine only speaking Polish turned out to be too demanding. As we were wondering what we should do, an old man that came to us and offered his help for a little coin. We got the tickets, gave him the rest of our zlotys and we left Krakow. I really liked his business idea.
Now we had seen the top sights of Krakow Old Town in just one day and were happy for what we had seen. Yet knowing there’s much more to see in this historic city, the former capital of Poland.