Krakow is fast becoming one of the most popular backpacker destinations in Europe. This ancient city has long been a local favourite amongst Polish people but over the last decade tourism has soured, and for good reason. Krakow, and Poland in general, is a dream destination if you’re travelling on a budget. Prices are cheap but it takes nothing away from the overall beauty of the city and the huge list of things to do here during your stay.
In this guide we’re going to take a look at how to spend 3 days on a budget in Krakow. We’ll tell you where to stay, what to eat, and what to do if you’re backpacking or trying to not break the bank during your stay.
Here’s how we’ll break it down:
- Day 1: Familiarise yourself with the surroundings
- Day 2: Tours and sightseeing
- Day 3: Explore more of the city
Let’s dive in!
Day 1: Familiarise yourself with the surroundings
Lock in your accommodation
Let’s get this out of the way. When travelling to Krakow and you’re on a budget then you need to stay in a hostel. Fortunately for you, Krakow has tonnes of great hostels to choose from to cater for all kinds of travellers. Whether it’s to party, a couple’s trip or simply a weekend away, you will certainly find a nice hostel that fits within your budget. Simply jump on Hostelworld and choose from the endless list of great hostels in the city.
Jump on a free walking tour
There is simply no better way to see Krakow than joining a free walking tour. Krakow has a rich, deep history dating all the way back to the 11th Century. As a result, there is so much to see and learn about this fascinating town including the beautiful buildings, churches and castle in the Old Town. Each part of Krakow offers its own unique story and the best way to learn about it is by joining a free walking tour. You are expected to tip your guide after your tour but this small fee is well worth the price and should fit comfortably within your budget.
On day 1 of your trip, we recommend jumping on a morning Old Town and Wawel Castle walking tour. This will take around 2-2.5 hours but you will see all of the important monuments in the medieval city centre. After the tour, grab a quick bite to eat then jump on the afternoon Jewish Quarter tour that takes you around the beautiful Kazimierz district. Check out the Old Synagogue and learn the troubling history of Krakow’s Jews during WWII and the Holocaust.
Eat some Pierogi!
After all of that walking you will have surely built up an almighty appetite so you should definitely try some Pierogi aka Polish dumplings! Pierogies are a staple in the diets of all Polish people. These delish treats are traditionally boiled (but also come fried) and come in a wide range of flavours like meat, Ruskie (cheese and potato), mushroom, cabbage or even sweet varieties like raspberry.
Best of all, Pierogies are super cheap costing around 18-20 PLN (4-5 EUR) for a serving of 10! There are Pierogi stores located all over the city so you won’t have any trouble getting your fix. If you’ve got a bit more of an appetite, we recommend pairing your dumplings with a yummy soup. The grand total for ordering a serving of Pierogi and soup will be no more than 30 PLN (7 EUR). It really is the best meal when you’re on a budget!
Day 2: Tours and sightseeing
One of the main reasons tourists flock to Krakow each year is because of the city’s proximity to the infamous Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camp. Krakow was at the epicentre of the Nazis rise to power, having been invaded and conquered in 1939. Not long after the invasion, the Jewish Ghetto in Krakow was established in the district of Podgórze. Due to overpopulation many of the inhabitants of the Podgórze ghetto were sent to Auschwitz, where tragically many of these poor souls died.
In total, 1.1 million people lost their lives at Auschwitz of the 1.3 million people that were sent there. Today the camp has been turned into a museum where many visitors go to pay their respects for those who lost their lives during the atrocities of the Holocaust. If you’re visiting Krakow you must make the effort to go to Auschwitz and pay your respects. Auschwitz is located in a small town called Oświęcim which is just over an hour away from Krakow.
There are several options for you to visit the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. The most popular is booking a tour with one of the many tour operators that reside in Krakow. Most hostels and hotels have their own contacts to tour operators who can arrange transportation and a guided tour of both camps. This option will set you back between 130 – 180 PLN (27 – 38 EUR) for the full tour and transportation. We strongly recommend booking one of these guided tours. Auschwitz is not a place you want to visit more than once so pay that little bit extra to really learn about the plight of those who lost their lives here during WWII.
If the price is too high then there is the option of going there yourself. There are regular buses leaving from Krakow’s main bus station that cost as little as 18 PLN (4.5 EUR) for a one way ticket. Entrance to the museum is free however you do have to book your slot in advance. There are many signs and displays within the museum for you to read all about the history of the worst Nazi concentration camp in Europe.
Eat at a traditional Polish milk bar
You’ve already tried Pierogi during your 3 day trip, but if you really want to eat on a budget AND eat delicious Polish food then you need to visit a milk bar (bar mleczny). Milk bars are a part of Polish history, with the first being opened in Warsaw in 1896 by a Polish dairy farmer. The owner, Stanisław Dłużewski, named it milk bar because of the large number of dairy products available on the menu.
These days, milk bars offer a wide variety of delicious Polish staples that are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Best of all, eating at a milk bar will certainly not break the bank. Generally speaking, you can order a soup and main dish for less than 30 PLN (6.5 EUR). Better still, most milk bars offer daily specials so you can eat at one for as low as 15 PLN (3.25 EUR)! There are milk bars located all over Krakow but some of the best are Polskie Smaki, Milk Bar Tomasza, and Polakowski.
Milk bars offer a wide variety of food to choose from but if you want to get your hands on some of the classics then we’ve got you covered. Now, while you may not be able to try all of them, we do recommend Kotlet Schabowy (Pork Schnitzel), Bigos (Hunter’s stew), Tatar (Beef Tatar), Oscypek (Mountain’s cheese), and Makowiec (Poppy-seed cake) are must-haves during your visit.
Do a pub crawl
After your day of sightseeing and eating it might be time to let your hair down. Thankfully, Krakow offers one of the best nightlife scenes in Europe, so you will not be disappointed. There is simply no better way to do this than joining the number one rated pub crawl in the city, Krakow Crawl. Krakow Crawl provides the ultimate night out for people travelling on a budget. For just 60 PLN (13 EUR), you get:
- 1 hour open bar (unlimited vodka, rum, gin, beer, and softs)
- Drinking games
- Local party guides
- Free entrance and a free welcome shot to 4 nightclubs
You simply will not find better value than that in the city!
Day 3: Explore more of the city
Visit the mounds
If you followed this guide closely, then you will have covered most of the city. On your third day, you should focus on exploring the lesser known parts of the city that are often overlooked for travellers who only come in for a day or two. One great place to start are the famous Krakow Mounds.
There are three famous mounds in Kraków – Krakus, Wanda and Kościuszko which are a great way to see the city from a different vantage point. Krakus and Wanda are said to be the site of the burial ground of the great king and city found Krakus and his daughter Wanda. Kościuszko was raised to honour its namesake national hero, Tadeusz Kościuszko, who fought for Poland against the Russians and the Prussians in the 18th century.
If you’ve got time, visit all three but if you only have time for one, then we recommend visiting Krakus mound. The view from this place is special and best of all it is free. Come here with a picnic or a bottle of beer and enjoy the uninterrupted view of Krakow as the sun sets on a mid-summer’s evening. It truly doesn’t get any better than that!
Discover the districts of Kazimierz and Podgórze
You will have already visited Kazimierz and Podgórze if you managed to jump on board a Jewish Quarter walking tour. With that being said, there is so much to see and do in both of these districts that it is well worth exploring each of them more extensively. Kazimierz and Podgórze each offer their own unique perspective of Krakow and provide something for every kind of traveller.
Nowadays Kazimierz is a melting pot of beautiful street art, cafes, bars, and restaurants. Kazimierz is also often referred to as the Jewish quarter because of the rich Jewish history of the area. Here you can find the great synagogue and a string of Jewish cultural museums and restaurants that pay homage to this rich culture. It’s also an awesome place to pick up a bargain souvenir at the street market located at Plac Nowy square. Every weekend you can visit the market to grab anything from clothes to WWII memorabilia, all for a great price!
Podgórze is another great area to explore on your budget trip to Krakow. The area is very peaceful with parks and a charming market square highlighted by the towering St Joseph’s Church. Here, you can also visit the famous Schindler’s factory museum, which was idolized in the award winning film Schindler’s list. Entrance is very cheap, starting at 20 PLN (4.5 EUR). After visiting the museum, you should explore the area further and discover landmarks of historical importance, being the scene of one of the worst Jewish ghettos during WWII.
Join Krakow Boat Party
A trip to Krakow wouldn’t be complete with joining the famous Krakow Boat Party. The only boat party in the city offers an unforgettable evening of drinking and fun, for a really great price. Krakow Boat Party operates from March – October every year so if you want to join, then don’t come in Winter! Tickets are 160 PLN (34 EUR) and include the following:
- 2 hour boat party
- 2 hour open bar (unlimited vodka, rum, gin, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages)
- Live DJ
- Party guides
- Free entrance and free welcome shots to 3 clubs after the party
Krakow Boat Party allows you to let your hair down for the last time while seeing the city from a unique perspective all for a great price. Whether you’re alone or with a group of friends, you won’t leave disappointed.
Hopefully we’ve sorted your 3 days on a budget in Krakow. There really is something here for everyone and even if you do follow this guide perfectly, there is always something more to see. Krakow is definitely a budget traveller’s dream so to get the most out of it, we recommend you to plan your trip well but remember to have fun