Krakow is one of the most affordable cities in Europe. Even still when searching for best Krakow things to do, it’s always a good idea to save the pennies where you can. Below we’ve compiled a handy list.
Krakow city breaks are popular with tourists coming from all over. With plenty of reasons why. Food, drinks and visitor attractions are all well priced.
Let’s get into it…
1. Krakow things to do for Free: Visit Museums
There are tons of great museums in Krakow and all have a pretty reasonable entry fee for visitors. However, a lot of people don’t realise most of Krakow’s museums also have one day per week when entry is completely free. This means you can save your złoty for sampling the local food and vodka.
You’ll find a wide array of great options to suit everybody’s tastes. Our first tip would be the Schindler Factory. One of the most popular museums in Krakow.
The Schindler Factory is an insightful look at Krakow’s World War Two history. It is as much about how the war affected Krakow, as it is about Schindler himself. The museum can get booked up so reserving in advance is recommended. However every Monday, except the 1st Monday of the month, entry is free (you will still need a ticket). The museum closes early on Mondays and you will have to go early to get in. Nonetheless it’s a great way to see one of Krakow’s best museums for free.
For more detailed info on museums in Krakow, check out our blog, on the best museums in Krakow. Below is a list of the days when admission to Krakow’s main museums is free:
Free every Monday (except the first Monday of the month). Tragic journey into the city’s World War Two history
Free on Tuesdays (except first Tuesday of every month). Interesting look beneath Krakow main square at the city’s hidden remains
Free on Monday mornings, (Grounds entry free every day). A collection of Poland’s most important and historic buildings. Includes the Royal palace and cathedral and tombs of the Polish Kings.
Located in Kazimierz (Jewish History Museum): Free on Mondays. One of Europe’s oldest surviving synagogues and an insight into Jewish history in Poland
Free on Tuesdays. Next to the Schindler factory. Modern art museum with various interesting exhibitions.
Free on Tuesdays. A branch of the National museum. Small, but very good art gallery located on the upper floor of the cloth hall building in Krakow main square. Featuring paintings by Jan Matejko, Poland’s most famous artist.
Free entry on Tuesday (as of September 2020 all 12 branches of Krakow’s National museum are free on Tuesdays). Features art works by Stanisław Wyspiański, various collections including armour from Poland’s medieval history
Free on Tuesdays. Beautiful, newly restored gallery in Krakow Old Town. Featuring various works by the Dutch masters and renaissance paintings including Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Lady With an Ermine.’
Apteka Pod Orłem- (Eagle Pharmacy)
Free on Mondays. Small, but interesting account of Tadeusz Panckiewicz whose Pharmacy became a salvation for many Jews living in Krakow’s ghetto during World War Two.
2. Krakow things to do for Free: Walk Krakow Old Town
Certainly one of the most picturesque and beautiful medieval cities in the world. During the day or in the evening, one of the best things to do in Krakow for free is to take a walk. The best way to see the city is on foot.
A lap of the Planty park, circling Krakow Old Town, will take you through what used to be a medieval moat surrounding the city. Following the line of the old City Walls, this is a beautiful walk through the 19th century gardens. It will take you past some of Krakow’s most famous buildings including Krakow castle (Wawel).
Wisła Krakow (River)
The best views of Krakow castle (Wawel) can be found along the banks of the Wisła (Vistula) river. Start by joining the river close to Powiśle and head left along the river, towards the castle itself. You will see Krakow’s fire-breathing dragon, the beautiful Skałka- ‘Church on the rocks’ (see below) and the Bernatka footbridge on the way. As well as Krakow castle you can also see views of the Krakow wheel. You will also pass the Forum (Krakow’s most famous communist-era relic) on the opposite side on the river.
3. Krakow things to do for free: Join a Free Walking Tour
Yes we are a little biased, but this is definitely of the best Krakow things to do. In fact, free walking tours are one of the best things to do in any city. Free walking tours give tourists invaluable insight into the city they’re visiting. As well as this, you can get loads of handy tips from a guide who lives and breathes that city.
A city really comes to life when its history is being explained in an entertaining and compelling way. Plus, there is much more to Krakow than most tourists realise, so a Krakow free walking tour is a great option.
Free walking tours are free to join and guides make money from tips. So if you enjoy yourself it’s customary to leave something at the end. So technically it might cost you the price of a tip. Ask any tourist who has ever taken a free tour though. The experience is so insightful you’ll be happy that a tip is all it has cost you.
Each tour with City Walks Krakow covers a different area. In a couple of hours you’ll cover much more with a guide than you can on your own.
You can book your place for free using the ‘BOOK NOW’ button at the top of this page.
4. Krakow things to do for Free: Visit the best Krakow Churches
Nicknamed the ‘Rome of the North’, Krakow is a city filled with beautiful churches. 120 of them to be exact. Most of the crowds flock to St.Mary’s Basilica and Wawel Cathedral, two of the most famous churches in Krakow. Entry is not free unless you are worshipping, but admission doesn’t cost too much. These two are definitely worth a visit, but there are several more very impressive churches that you can visit completely free.
Skałka- Church on the rocks
Set on the banks of the Wisła river. Skałka was the scene of one of the most famous and brutal murders in Polish history. It is here that Bishop Stanisław, the patron saint of Poland, is said to have been murdered by King Bolesław in the 1030. The church now has a beautiful baroque facade and celebrated artist Stanisław Wyspiański is buried here.
Located in the Old Town across from the Bishop’s Palace, this is a beautiful 13th century monastery. The church’s interior was decorated by Stanisław Wyspianski in the late 19th century. It now stands as one of Krakow’s best kept secret masterpieces.
This 17th century baroque masterpiece was designed by italian renaissance architects. It is actually the largest church in the city in terms of the congregation’s capacity. Every night at 8pm throughout the summer months and every other day in the colder months, classical music concerts are held inside. Concerts are ticketed but entry to the church is free.
Corpus Christi Basilica
To avoid the admission cost of St Mary’s basilica in Krakow old town and see a church just as impressive, head to Jewish Quarter Krakow. The area of Kazimierz was never Jewish-only. Corpus Christi basilica is a huge 14th century Catholic church with a most impressive baroque interior, adorned with gold.
A relative newcomer compared to some of Krakow’s oldest churches. Completed in 1909, St.Joseph’s is one of the most spectacular churches in Krakow (on the outside anyway). Located in the main square of the Podgorze district. It is only a short walk across the footbridge from Kazimierz, in Jewish quarter Krakow.
5. Krakow things to do for Free: Swim in the Krakow Lakes
Up next on our list of Krakow things to do, why not turn to nature? A lot of people don’t realise there is amazing and very beautiful natural landscape all around Krakow. Including some large lakes, perfect for swimming and relaxing on a sunny afternoon. All very close to the city centre.
Only a short way from Krakow centre is Lake Bagry. This large natural lake is the perfect place to head to on a hot summer’s day. With a sandy beach and a beach bar where you can soak up the rays with a nice cold drink. Of course you can take a nice dip in the lake. As well as that there are ping pong tables, volleyball nets and plenty of leisure activities. You can take a picnic and make a day of it with some friends.
It should be pointed out that Bagry, although technically walkable, is quite a way from Krakow Old town. It can be reached much more easily by bike or car. Alternatively jump on the 20 tram from Dworzec Glowny, close to Krakow Old Town and ride it to stop Rzebika. Although not strictly a completely free day out, the tram fare will only cost you a maximum of 12zl return. Still pretty damned cheap!
If you want to explore some of Krakow’s other lakes, we recommend Kryspinow, situated about 12km from the centre. This huge lake has several more beaches than Lake Bagry and even more water sports, rowing boats, beach bars and facilities for BBQs. In general the facilities at Lake Kryspinow are better than at Lake Bagry. However you do have to pay an entry fee of 15-20zl for the day. Hence why we recommend the Bagry if you want to keep it as cheap as possible.
Another very popular lake for day trips and free things to do in Krakow, is Zakrzówek. This is actually an abandoned limestone quarry. It famously became one of the best places to swim in Krakow, when it was accidentally flooded in 1992. It has pristine waters and is great for scuba diving (yes scuba diving!). Sounds great I hear you say! Well, not exactly.
Zakrzówek became so (unofficially) popular a few years back that it was fenced off to stop people going. Yet still people go. The reason it was closed off is it can be dangerous. There have been many serious accidents there over the years, from people jumping off the cliffs to the waters below. Last we heard, Krakow council is investing in a project to make the lake safe for visitors, making it officially accessible. Until then, it might be better to stick to Krakow’s other, more legally accessible lakes.
6. Krakow things to do for Free: Krakus Mound
A perfect free thing to do in Krakow is to visit Krakus mound. This prehistoric mound is the oldest man-made structure in the city. It also has one of the best viewpoints in the city. Said to be the final resting place of the legendary King Krakus (who gave his name to Krakow). For centuries ‘the mound’ has offered panoramic views over Krakow. Only a couple of kilometres from Krakow Old Town, you can walk to it and climb it quite easily. We recommend to walk through the historic Kazimierz and Podgórze districts on the way. Past the aforementioned church of St. Joseph. Catch the sunset up there in the warmer months if you can.
7. Krakow things to do for Free: Ojcow National Park
Take a day trip out of Krakow to Ojcow national park. Which is around 30km away. This beautiful valley is carved with huge jagged rock plinths. You can hike in the valley and visit bat caves in the hills. Alternatively, relax outside with a drink in one of the valley’s restaurants. If you have a car the journey from Krakow to Ojcow will take around half an hour (traffic dependant). If you don’t have a car, you can take a bus from Krakow to Ojcow from Nowy Kleparz (ul. Kamienna 8). The journey takes around 40 minutes and the ticket should set you back around 8zł. Make sure you check the bus timetable coming back though. The bus can be infrequent depending on the month you visit.
8. Krakow things to do for Free: Visit Auschwitz from Krakow
Getting from Krakow to Auschwitz for Free?
If you heard from some guy, who spoke to a girl, who knows someone in a hostel who visited Auschwitz for free- then yes this is true. Technically you can visit Auschwitz concentration memorial camp for free. So why are so many companies charging for private tours from Krakow to Auschwitz? Let us explain.
Well firstly, you need to get there. Krakow to Auschwitz is around 1.5 hours so you will need transportation. If you have a car you can drive easily. However, if you book with a private company, pick up and transport from Krakow to Auschwitz and back is included. Otherwise there is a public bus that runs regularly from Krakow to Auschwitz. The bus leaves Krakow main bus station and drops off in the town of Oswiecim. From there you can walk around 10 minutes to the camp. Buses don’t cost much (around 25zl return). You will have to wait for a separate shuttle bus to take you between the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps. So it’s only free to get there if you have a car and even then you need to pay for petrol.
Can I atleast get entry into Auschwitz for free?
Yes, entry is always free into Auschwitz. However this also may not be quite as good as it sounds. It is important to understand that entry to the camp and a tour of the camp are not the same. You have to ask yourself, why are you visiting to Auschwitz? The answer for most, is to learn about the atrocities of the Second World War. To truly understand what happened it is recommended to take a tour, which will cost you extra. However from that, you will learn much more and be able to ask questions if you need to. This is why so many tour companies in Krakow offer both a tour and transport from Krakow to Auschwitz combined.
If you are on a budget you can visit Auschwitz individually and for free. You still need to reserve your spot on the official Auschwitz website. This guarantees your place. Do this up to 5 days before you visit. The free pass does not include a guided tour, but should include a booklet with some written information. You can then travel from Krakow to Auschwitz by car or public bus.
However, if you can afford the private tour fee (around 160zl/ €35) then it will be worth it. The price includes entry to Auschwitz, guided tour and transportation. This will make the day that little bit less stressful and save a bit of time. You can also pay for a guided tour through the official Auschwitz site, although you still need to make your own way there.
One Day Krakow Salt Mines and Auschwitz trip
Another good option with private tour companies, is to pay extra and book a combined tour. Costing around 300-320zl, (€70) this includes a tour of Auschwitz and a tour of the Krakow Salt Mines. The Krakow Salt mines in Wieliczka are a UNESCO world heritage sight. A visit comes highly recommended as one of the best Krakow things to do during your Krakow city break.
For help booking a private tour to Auschwitz, including transportation, email us at email@example.com. Alternatively speak to your guide on the Krakow free walking tours for assistance.
9. Krakow things to do for Free: Visit Płaszów (Former Krakow concentration camp)
Much less of a journey than Krakow to Auschwitz, Płaszów is the lesser known Krakow concentration camp. Harrowingly captured in Spielberg’s masterpiece Schindler’s List. Płaszów was the site of some of the most shocking events carried out by the Nazis during World War Two. The camp was all but destroyed by the Nazis to cover up their crimes. Nowadays the land is a park and memorial to the victims of the holocaust. A peaceful and thought provoking place to take a walk. Signs indicate where former buildings once stood and give a little detail about the area’s troubling history. The holocaust memorial there is both somber and quite impressive all at once.
Very close by and also worth a visit, is a quarry that was used as the filming during Schindler’s List. If you don’t mind going off road a little, the quarry was the filming location for Płaszów in Spielberg’s movie. At the base of the overgrown quarry, you can see replica Jewish gravestones used as paving slabs; as depicted in the movie.
10. Krakow things to do for Free: Street Art
Head away from Krakow Old Town towards the Kazimierz, Zabłocie and Podgorze areas. There are some great, colourful street art murals all around for those who like their urban art. In general these areas are hip and trendy hubs, filled with artsy cafes and cool bars. The walls around Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter Krakow) in particular, are painted with various motifs. Namely at ‘Judak Skwer’ (Świętego Wawrzyńca 16) and the ‘Bosak building ( Plac Bawół 3)’. However venture over the river , across the footbridge into Podgorze over and there’s more. You can see well-known Italian artist Blu’s anti-Catholic golden bell, humourously named ‘Ding Dong Dumb’ (Piwna 3A). As well as ‘Lem’s Robot,’ (ul, Józefińska 24) and many more.
To find out about street art, join the Krakow Street Art and Street Food Tour. See the best Krakow street art murals and try some of Poland’s favourite street food.
There we have it, plenty of things to do in Krakow for free that will keep you busy for days!
To join any of the City Walks Krakow tours check out the full tour schedule.