Krakow, the second-largest city in Poland, and the capital of the country before 1596. Regardless of losing its capital status, Krakow has remained one of the cultural and political centers of Poland. Lucky for you there are plenty of free things to do in Krakow.
Whether you are looking to save some money, or want to implement some free activities into your Krakow itinerary, we’ve got you covered.
Old Town of Krakow
The Old Town of Krakow is considered one of the most beautiful medieval Old Towns across Europe. As such the Old Town is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Heading to the Old Town of the city should be your first place to see. Not only is it free to visit, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but you will also be able to observe the beautiful architecture of the main square.
Standing on the main square of the Old Town is St Mary’s Basilica, which is in itself worth your time. This impressive basilica is one of the most important religious sites in Poland.
Overlooking the river Vistula, the castle of Krakow stands proud on the top of the hill Wawel. As one of the most prominent and iconic buildings in Krakow, Wawel Castle is a must-visit for anyone staying in the city. The Wawel Castle used to be the seat of rulers in the Polish Kingdom. It is a very important cultural and historical sight for the people of Poland.
Located just next to the Old Town of Krakow, the two main attractions on Wawel Hill are the castle and the Wawel Cathedral. The outer courtyard of the castle is the home of Wawel Cathedral. This beautiful gothic place of worship is one of the most photographed places in Krakow. From here you will be able to proceed into the inner courtyard of the castle, and the castle gardens. We highly recommend walking to the edge of the castle gardens, for the great view of the Vistula river and the city of Krakow.
Wawel Hill and the Castle Gardens are free to visit. If you are looking to learn more about the castle, and Poland, there are also permanent and temporary exhibitions and museums located inside the Wawel Castle, however, entry to these are not free of charge.
Jewish Quarter of Krakow
Kazimierz lies just south of the Old Town of Krakow. It is the traditionally Jewish Quarter of the city. Kazimierz district is full of life and history. Due to heavy damages during the Second World War, the district has a very unique architecture today.
It is one of the most popular cultural meeting points of Krakow. Kazimierz is filled to the brim with amazing little cafés, street food, and quality restaurants. Taking in the atmosphere and walking on the streets of the Jewish Quarter is an experience worth the visit in itself. However, it is also the perfect place to grab a bite or start your morning with a cup of coffee.
Visiting Krakus Mound is recommended for travellers looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience in Krakow. The mound is loved by locals and is the highest point in the city. Legend has it that Krakow’s founder, King Krakus is buried in the mound.
Although not in the city centre, you only need to walk about 35 minutes from Kazimierz to reach this vantage point. Up, on the top of the mound, you will have one of the best views of Krakow.
Another off-the-beaten-path adventure you can have is a visit to Zakrzowek Quarry. It is an old limestone quarry, that has been filled with natural water when the quarry digging accidentally punched through the water table.
Today, it is prohibited to go into the water. As a quarry lake, it is incredibly dangerous, and we warn anyone visiting, not to get into the water. However, the quarry is still open for walking around the trails of the lake.
It’s the perfect opportunity to get away into nature if you are exhausted by all the city noises. It is also very popular with locals, especially for community gatherings at nighttime.
Free Walking Tours
What you might not know, is that Krakow even has free walking tours available. You can sign up for any of these online. We recommend taking one of the free walking tours for anyone, not just for those with a tight budget. These tours are guided by local enthusiasts who are happy to show their beautiful city and tell you all about it.
If you are looking for the best free walking tour in Krakow, our recommendation is: https://www.cracowfreetours.com/tours. As the tours are only available for smaller groups, you will need to reserve your spot in advance. We think it is the best way to see and learn more about Krakow.
Museums Free Days
Did you know, almost all Krakow museums have free days? That’s right. When you are visiting on a free day, you will have the opportunity to enjoy Krakow museums without and admission free. One thing to keep in mind, the free days usually only apply to the permanent exhibits and not the temporary ones.
You can check Krakow Info website to see which days are free for which museums.
We especially recommend the following two museums:
The Hipolit House is a museum that is inside an old merchant family’s house. The Hipolit House is centered around the rich families of Poland. Each room represents different eras and is furnished accordingly. You will be able to see and learn the ways of the wealthy in Poland. Free on Wednesdays.
Oskar Schindler’s Factory
Schindler’s factory is dedicated to the people of Krakow through World War II. It’s a touching experience to understand how the Nazi occupation of the city turned out, and what the city of Krakow had to endure during those years. Free on Mondays.
The river of Vistula flows across the middle of Krakow. Many of its historic sights and monuments are built on the shores, including Wawel Castle. One of the best recreational activities we can recommend is taking a walk on the banks of Vistula.
Not only is it less noisy, and closer to nature than the other parts of the city, the views of Krakow from the river banks are pretty remarkable. It’s a great sight to see, especially during nighttime.
Make sure you check out our other guides and tips!