If you’re planning to visit the cultural hub and one-time capital of Poland, you’re probably wondering where to stay in Krakow to make the most of your short-break visit. Then this guide is for you!
Krakow lies in the south of Poland and covers an area of over 300 square kilometres (190 square miles). Established in the 11th century, it was the capital city of Poland until the 16th century, when that honour was passed to Warsaw.
As Poland’s only remaining medieval city centre after the horrors of the 1940s, Krakow was the first place to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1978, along with the nearby Wieliczka Salt Mine and the Saltworks Castle and Bochnia, to form the protected Royal Saltworks of Wieliczka and Bochnia.
Krakow is surrounded by a Jurassic landscape of rugged limestone cliffs, valleys and caves, with a backdrop of the Tatra Mountains.
With Krakow’s John Paul II International Airport nearby (15km from the city centre), it is a popular destination year-round, and attracts over 3-million visitors annually.
If you’re thinking about visiting this vibrant, attractive city, read on for the best places to stay in Krakow any time of the year.
Where to Stay in Krakow: Best Areas
1. Stare Miasto, where to stay in Krakow for first-time visitors
Stare Miasto is the Old Town area and the shining jewel in Krakow’s crown, surrounded by the parks and gardens of Planty Park.
The area is full of cobbled streets, twisting alleyways, grand squares, numerous architectural styles, churches, synagogues, museums, hotels, restaurants and cafes.
Market Square, the large central square of the old town area, is the main hub for both residents and visitors arriving to partake in the many Catholic and Jewish religious ceremonies and gatherings that regularly take place in the city.
It is also a popular meeting place for political rallies. Or somewhere to just chill and enjoy a coffee or drink while watching the world go by.
After coffee, you can seek out the Renaissance arcades of Cloth Hall and the asymmetrical towers of St Mary’s Basilica. You can look for the numerous Baroque churches and architecture around the area, as well as Renaissance and Gothic buildings.
Over 20 museums cover everything from stained glass to photography to Japanese graphic comics and books (manga).
For Polish history buffs, you will also find numerous branches of the National Museum, including one in the basement of the Cloth Hall.
Look out for St Florian’s Church and the 15th-century gateway known as the Barbican.
Then, take a stroll through St Florian’s Gate to Florianska Street and onto Grodzka Street, full of department stores and Polish high street brands.
There is a road known as ‘The Royal Road’ that passes some of the most important landmarks of the city. It includes Market Square, Wawel Hill with its 14th-century castle, the cathedral, and the Crown Treasury, home of the Polish Crown Jewels.
Walking is not the only way to explore this fascinating old area of the city. Public transport is excellent and free if you purchase a Krakow City Card, which also gives you access to most of the museums in the city.
In addition, you can book organised tours by electric mini-moke, buses, or join a cycle tour (bikes can be hired).
With an excellent selection of restaurants, bars and clubs around the Stare Miasto area, you’re sure to find something to suit. From traditional diners to international restaurants and fast-food outlets, to quiet pubs and busy clubs, there is something here for everyone to fill their evenings.
If you prefer to avoid the busy tourist eateries, consider the Wierzynek restaurant. Situated on Market Square and said to have been operating since 1364, it has been visited by, amongst others, such notables as Fidel Castro, George Bush and Kate Moss.
If you like traditional settings offering quality regional cuisine with a bit of conventional entertainment, then you could do worse than sample the veal, lamb or pork in their own sauces, at the Morskie Oko restaurant in the old town.
If you pride yourself on being a bit of a foodie buff, consider signing up for the Krakow Food Tour, and enjoy sampling various specialities from the local area.
Accommodation in Stare Miasto for your stay in Krakow is plentiful, with a good selection of everything from hostels, self-catering apartments, B&Bs, aparthotels, Airbnb, and hotels.
Considering its prime location for exploring the city, lodging prices in the main are excellent value.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN KRAKOW IN STARE MIASTO
2. Kazimierz, where to stay in Krakow for nightlife
Lying just south and across the river from the old town area, Kazimierz was, in 1335, founded as a town in its own right.
Over the ensuing centuries, it became a central residential and commercial area of Krakow for Poland’s Jewish community until 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded the country. Post-war, the area never really recovered.
By the late 1980s, it had descended into a district of derelict warehouses and empty decaying homes, occupied, save for a few hardy Jewish families, by the homeless and vagrants.
Nonetheless, its history couldn’t be erased, and when Steven Spielberg brought Schindler’s List to the big screen, it reignited the historical importance of Kazimierz.
New investment began to trickle in as increasing numbers of Jews began arriving to discover their roots, and other visitors to see first-hand the areas the film made so important.
Today, with much of the area renovated in its original style, Kazimierz is a thriving mix of Jewish and Christian cultures, combined with a flourishing arty type bohemian lifestyle of music and art, artisan shops, stores, galleries, and copious cafes and bars.
Old cobbled streets, large grand squares and narrow, twisting alleyways cry out to be walked – slowly.
Enjoy the increasing amount of street art and murals, the numerous grand synagogues and churches with their respective cemeteries, and the old-style faux shopfronts of long ago Jewish stores.
Other places of interest include the squares of ul. Szeroka, Plac Nowy, ul. Meiselsa, ul. Dietla and Plac Wolnica. All are surrounded by grand old buildings, impressive architecture, shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Many museums depict the history of Jewish life and culture in Poland, but two more general museums worth a visit are the Engineering Museum at ul. Św. Wawrzyńca 15 and the Ethnographic Museum at Pl. Wolnica 1.
With its numerous cafes, bars, and restaurants, Kazimierz is also a popular night-time area with both local students and visitors. Myriad local bars can be found tucked away in basements, cellars and terraces, making it a great area for a little pub crawling.
Although not particularly well endowed with international restaurants, you still have a choice of nearly 100 cafes and eateries to sit and enjoy the regional cuisine. Or sample the local street food and eat-on-your-feet.
Accommodation in the Kazimierz area is extensive and varied, ranging from basic guest houses, Airbnb’s and hostels to chain hotels and sumptuous lodgings.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN KAZIMIERZ
3. Kleparz, cheap accommodation for backpackers and those travelling on a budget
Located just north of the city centre at the start of the Royal Road, Kleparz started life as a small independent village, then a town and then a city, before becoming a part of Krakow in 1791.
From its birth in the 12th century, the town was burnt down for one reason or another, no less than six times. Finally, its old timber buildings were demolished, and a smart new area of stone houses and mansions in art nouveau and neoclassical styles was built in the 19th century for Krakow’s wealthy elite.
Nowadays, Kleparz is primarily a residential area, especially popular with students from the University of Economics, AGH and Jagiellonian University campuses located near-by.
For residents wanting to get to other areas of Poland, the bus and train stations are just a short distance away. While for those visiting the sights and sounds during their stay in Krakow, one of the city’s largest shopping precincts, Galeria Krakowska, is just a short walk.
Local places of interest include the Academy of Fine Arts, St Florian Church and the Grunwald Monument. But the biggest draw with residents and visitors alike is the six days a week Stary Kleparz market.
The oldest market in Krakow, founded in the 14th century, is situated close to the main square at Rynek Kleparski 20, 31-150 Kraków. Trading since the Middle Ages, it was for many a lifeline during the years of a communist Poland.
Today it is a market enjoyed by visitors and the local population alike, and sells everything from fresh produce and preserves, meats and dairy, to household goods, clothing, mementoes and souvenirs.
One tip if you plan on visiting the market during your stay in Krakow, make sure to change some cash to Polish zlotys. Although many stallholders have the equipment to take cards, the majority still prefer cash, which will often mean a better deal on your purchases.
Much of the accommodation available in Kleparz is private lets, guest houses or self-catering apartments, with a limited number of hotel rooms.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN KLEPARZ
- ($$) Hotel Indigo Krakow – Old Town, an IHG Hotel
- ($$) Vienna House Andel’s Cracow
- ($) Cracow Central Aparthotel
4. Grzegórzki, close to all you need to enjoy your stay in Krakow
Prior to the early 1970s, Grzegórzki was a part of Krakow city centre. Now, it has been designated a district in its own right and covers an area of 5.85sq km (2.25sq ml), with five separate suburbs of Dabie, Grzegórzki, Olsza, Osiedle Oficerskie and Wesoła.
Although a commercial and residential area, Grzegórzki is an exciting mix of historic buildings and modern apartments, bars, cafes, restaurants, hotels and shopping centres.
Being physically still close to the city centre, it is an ideal base for those wondering where to stay in Krakow to be close to many of the city’s major attractions.
Although a relatively affluent area, it is as popular with university lecturers, families, artists, and students as with wealthy Poles and rich business people.
With a new railway station and excellent tram and bus infrastructure getting around is a breeze, although being so close to everything, cycling and walking are popular options.
One of Krakow’s most famous parks, Park Strzelecki, is located in Grzegórzki, as are the Vistula Boulevards, the historic Mańkowski Palace, an opera house and numerous theatres.
There are also several museums around the area. For example, the Celestial branch of the Krakow Museum has a permanent exhibition of the Krakow Fowler Brotherhood and City Defences, as well as regular temporary exhibitions.
If botany is your thing, pay a visit to the Palaeobotanical Museum and Gardens of the Institute of Botany, at the Jagiellonian University, reputed to be the oldest museum-style collection of Polish botanicals.
Around the area you will also find various murals on walls and buildings, such as the Wyspiański Mosaic, the”Hermes leading people to Hades” mural and the Mogilskie Rondo Mural.
For those souvenir hunts, the shopping precincts of Hala Targowa and Unitarg are also in the Grzegórzki district.
In the evenings, you can enjoy a meal in one of the many international restaurants. Or live like a local and visit a Polish bar mleczny (milk bar in polish), which are very popular with residents and those travelling on a budget.
For alcoholic type drinks, you will find plenty of choices from trendy student cocktail bars, to traditional Polish ale-houses.
For those wanting to be just a short distance from what they want to see and do during their stay in Krakow, Grzegórzki makes an excellent choice where to stay in Krakow.
There is a good variety of accommodation around the area, comprising hostels and self-catering apartments, and private lets and hotels, including Hilton and Ibis.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN KRAKOW IN GRZEGORZKI
- ($$) Inpoint Smart Apartments
- ($$) The Loft All-Inclusive Hotel Adults Only
- ($) Vienna House Easy Cracow
5. Podgorze, cool place to stay in Krakow
On the southern bank of the River Wisla, opposite the district of Kazimierz, lies Podgorze (in English, Foothills), considered one of Krakow’s greenest areas. It has a backdrop of scenic natural beauty, made up of woods, hills and limestone cliffs that provide panoramic views across the city.
Podgorze dates back to the Stone Age, with a history going back 10,000 years. Although an independent city until 1795, it wasn’t until 1915 that it was incorporated as a part of Krakow.
Krakow’s oldest monument, Krakus Mound, located in Podgorze, has been dated back to the Iron Age and is said to be the burial site of the city’s founder.
Through the Middle Ages and into the early 20th century, Podgorze was a central industrial hub, with numerous warehouses, quarries, brickworks and other industries providing employment for the local population. But its darkest days were yet to come.
During the war years, the Jewish community in Krakow were herded into the Podgorze ghetto, where many were to perish from ill-treatment, starvation or murder, while many more were shipped to the death camps of Plaszow, Auschwitz and Bełżec.
After the dark days of the war and years under the control of communist Russia, it wasn’t until the late 20th century that Podgorze began to move from its past.
Now, it is a mix of green parks, residential houses, apartments, light industry and warehousing.
New bars, cafes, shopping centres and restaurants are opening, and new hotels are being built to cater to increasing numbers of visitors who want to learn more about its history, and it’s future.
If you’re staying in Kazimierz, you can begin your tour by crossing the river on the Bernatek footbridge into Podgorze. Then, follow the Brodzińskiego road to Rynek Podgórski and the magnificent St Joseph’s Church.
Follow the main walkway to Podgorze main square known as Plac Bohaterów Getta (Ghetto Heroes Square). It is a moving memorial of empty steel chairs dotted around the square to remember those who perished.
There are also several plaques describing the significance of certain buildings, and a mural to Poland’s favourite science-fiction author Stanislaw Lem.
You can visit the Schindler’s Factory Museum, and The Eagle Pharmacy. The only pharmacy allowed to dispense medication in the ghetto. In addition, you can view parts of the old ghetto wall at 25 Lwowska Street and 62 Limanowskiego Street.
Whether you are Jewish, Christian or a non-believer, even if you choose not to lodge in Podgorze, a day should be set aside during your stay in Krakow to visit the many monuments and memorials created in memorandum of those dark days of mans’ inhumanity to man.
As previously mentioned, Podgorze is blessed with much open space, and you can take a day away from the sightseeing on the many hiking and biking trails, which will take you up into the countryside for some fresh air and magnificent views.
In the evenings, Podgorze’s restaurants, bars and clubs are becoming increasingly popular with residents from across the river, who prefer to get away from the increasingly crowded venues in the main city areas.
Accommodation around Podgorze is plentiful and broad-spectrum, with hostels, guest houses, apartments, and budget, mid-range and upmarket hotels.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN PODGORZE
6. Ludwinow – Debniki, where to stay in Krakow on a budget
Sitting on the banks of the River Vistula, just two miles south of the old town area, Ludwinow is a residential/business area of hostels, apartment complexes and boutique hotels interspersed with colourful parks and gardens.
It is an increasingly popular area to stay in Krakow with business people, those travelling on a budget, or those who prefer to lodge away from the busier (and more costly) city centre hotels. But there is a lot more to Ludwinow than just cheap lodgings.
If you’re interested in how Cracovians spend their weekends and leisure time, trendy Ludwinow is the place to spend a couple of days.
Most activities are centred around the contemporary Forum Przestrzenie. An old communist-era hotel sitting on the river bank, it has been refurbished into an impressive modern structure, specialising in the creative arts of film, music and street art.
It also has a popular large café/restaurant and five bars, for when those thirst or hunger pangs strike.
On warm sunny days, the area is packed with people relaxing by the river bank or on the hundreds of deck chairs around the café area and towpath, where you can order breakfast, brunch, lunch or an evening meal.
The forum regularly puts on film shows, alternative music concerts, art exhibitions, book signings, conferences and fairs.
You will also find a large Ferris wheel and a tethered hot-air balloon, from where you can enjoy fabulous views across the Krakow skyline.
If you enjoy theatre or ballet, check out the nearby ICE Congress Centre.
Opened in 2014, with a capacity for 2,000 people, it holds many business conferences, trade shows, symposiums and business meetings, as well as cultural events such as classical concerts, opera, theatre and ballet. Check their website for upcoming events.
If you enjoy Asian art, look up the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art, where you can enjoy exhibitions of both Japanese and Korean works and learn a little about Japanese calligraphy.
Choosing Ludwinow for your stay in Krakow, you can enjoy both the benefits of cheap accommodation, and quieter, more relaxed evenings enjoying a meal and drinks.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN LUDWINOW – DEBNIKI
- ($$) Park Inn by Radisson Krakow
- ($$) Art Suites Boutique Hôtel – Krakow Center
- ($) Well Well Aparthotel
7. Nowy Swiat, a quiet picturesque district close to Old Town
Nestling on a bend on the banks of the River Vistula, west of the Stare Miasto area, lies the district of Nowy Swiat, or in English New World.
Locally, it is often referred to as Smoleńsko, after the main street that runs west to east through the small district. In 1994 the whole area was designated an historical monument.
Just a short walk from the famous sights and attractions of the Old Town, it is a leafy suburb of luxury hotels and high-end shopping malls, chic cafes and quality restaurants.
Zwierzyniecka Street is Krakow’s foremost centre of commerce, and runs southwest to northeast through the district, where many of Poland’s main banks have their headquarters.
While exploring along Zwierzyniecka Street, if you have a love of ghosts and ghouls, look out for Lost Souls Alley. Opened in 2013, it is an interactive mix of a haunted house and escape room.
You can choose from various game levels, depending on how scared and afraid you want to feel while trying to work out how to get from one haunted room to another.
Other, not quite so frightening attractions found in Nowy Swiat include.
- The Krakow Philharmonic Concert Hall
- The Rzeźba-Paweł Orłowski Art Gallery
- The workshop and Muzeum Witrażu w Krakowie, charting the design and making of stained glass
- And the oldest branch of the National Museum, at Emeryk Hutten-Czapski
The whole area is well served by public transport, but walking or cycling is highly recommended to make the most of this attractive district and its closeness to the nearby attractions.
Other places you might like to visit include the Stradom, and Wawel Castle with its dragon statue that breaths fire at regular intervals.
Evenings are what you make them. You can enjoy a romantic walk along the riverside towpath, before picking out your restaurant of choice for a fabulous gourmet meal.
Or you can choose a leisurely stroll into the old town area to enjoy an al fresco cocktail while you watch the comings and goings on one of the many busy squares.
Accommodation around Nowy Swiat is plentiful, with guesthouses, B&Bs, self-catering apartments, pretty boutique hotels and five-star luxury.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN KRAKOW IN NOWY SWIAT
- ($$$) Bachleda Luxury Hotel Krakow MGallery Hotel Collection
- ($$) Hotel Kossak
- ($) Hotel Ibis Krakow Centrum
8. Nowa Huta, where to stay in Krakow for a communist-era experience
Situated east of Krakow, the industrial district of Nowa Huta was designed and built in the early 1950s, when Poland was under the influence of communist Russia.
It was decided a massive steel producing plant would help the country’s economic recovery. Nowa Huta means ‘New Steelworks’, and the area was chosen for this honour.
Paid for by Russia and gifted to Poland, the Lenin Steelworks was to provide employment for the local population, and it does, over 45,000 of them.
To house this burgeoning workforce, a whole new infrastructure of apartment blocks, shopping centres, roads, fresh water and drainage had to be built. And built to highlight all the ‘benefits’ of a new communist lifestyle.
Today, 30-years since the end of communism in Poland, the district of Nowa Huta has developed into a pleasant residential area of shopping malls, apartments, houses, hotels, ancillary businesses, parks and gardens.
Much of the communist era architecture remains, and all the wide tree-lined boulevards fan out from the city’s main square, making it easy to explore.
Consider breakfast or a coffee at one of Poland’s famous Milk Bar’s, before heading to the Nowa Huta Museum. Opened in 2019, the museum is situated underground and uses the many underground passages and shelters to display various exhibitions.
While here, you can pick up a street map of things to visit around the area. Make your way to Central Square, always a busy area with residents and visitors. Around the square are residential apartment blocks, shops, offices, cafes and bars.
If you visit during the summer months, consider a pleasant stroll along Roz Avenue, with its borders of fragrant roses planted all along the street.
The Ludowy Folk Theatre, another communist-era building circa 1955, hosts a large collection of concerts and shows aimed at children and teenagers, and exhibitions, lectures, and seminars for adults.
For that much-needed downtime, you can pay a visit to the wide-open spaces of Wisniowy Sad Park with its children’s playground and an open-air gym. Or the Nowa Huta reservoir with its small island and abundant flora and fauna.
Other places of interest include the Military Museum and the Ice Rink.
There are plenty of pleasant Polish bars and excellent restaurants for your evenings out where you can enjoy some genuine Polish hospitality.
If you fancy a unique communist-era dining experience, look up Restaurant Stylowa. Not only is the building original, but much of the décor remains as it was in the early 1950s.
Here you can indulge in Poland’s famous dumplings (Pierogi), beef soup (Borscht), or Bigos stew. All washed down with a popular local beer or a glass of one of the excellent local wines.
Accommodation around Nowa Huta for your stay in Krakow is plentiful and varied. From private lets, Airbnb, guesthouses, self-catering apartments and hotels to suit all pockets.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN KRAKOW IN NOWA HUTA
Finally, many tourists arrive in Krakow specifically to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum.
Online or in your hotel you will find plenty of organised tour operators who will happily collect you from wherever you choose to stay in Krakow, and return you to your hotel at the end of the tour.