Everything you need to know about visiting the Christmas Market in Kraków
At the end of the year, the already enchanting town of Kraków becomes even more magical. With lots of light installations, Christmas trees and of course Christmas Markets, it’s one of the best European destinations to get into the Christmas mood. Due to the Polish climate, chances are big everything will be covered in a layer of snow which makes it all even more magical.
Every December, Kraków’s main square, Rynek Główny, turns into a true Christmas experience. The charming main square is filled with a huge Christmas tree, light installations and, of course, a Christmas Market. In the Christmas Market you can enjoy typical Polish foods such as different types of soup, pierogi and bigos. The Christmas Market on Rynek Główny is the biggest Christmas Market in Kraków. You can find different kinds of stalls, such as those selling wooden toys, Christmas ornaments, winter wear, candy, souvenirs and of course a lot of Polish food. Especially for the food stalls, there are a few selling the same type of food. So if there’s a line at the pierogi food stall, just walk a little further because you’ll probably find another pierogi food stall, hopefully without a line.
We can highly recommend trying oscypek, which is salty, smoked cheese made of sheep’s milk. You can find the grilled version in different stalls on the Christmas Market in Rynek Główny and we loved it a lot. You can either try it plain or with cranberry jam and/or ham. Oscypek is typically found in the region of Kraków and the Tatra mountains.
Something else we loved trying is pajda, an open grilled sandwich. A big slice of bread is slathered with lard or garlic butter and toppings of your choice are added, such as grilled kielbasa sausage, seasoned minced meat, fried onions and/or pickles. You can choose as many toppings as you like, but be aware that it’s a very filling sandwich. We went with garlic butter and grilled sausage, which was a great choice.
Of course, you can’t leave Poland without trying pierogi, typical Polish dumplings with a variety of fillings, and bigos, a typical Polish hunter’s stew with sauerkraut, carrots, onions, beef, lamb and pork. You can taste these dishes at the Christmas Market, however, we tried it in pierogarnias, which are fast food style restaurants (but in a good way) serving pierogi and more typically Polish foods.
Plac Wszystkich Świętych
Heading south from Rynek Główny on a street called Rodzka, you’ll stumble upon a beautiful Christmas tree on Plac Wszystkich Świętych, next to the tram stop. It’s a great spot to admire the lights or take a Christmassy photo.
Plac Wolnica - Kazimierz
If you’re looking for a Christmas Market that’s less crowded, head to the Jewish Quarter called Kazimierz. You can find the Christmas Market on Plac Wolnica, which is a 25-minute walk from Rynek Główny. It’s a small Christmas Market with just a few stalls. There’s also a stage with performances throughout the day. It’s the perfect Christmas Market to escape the crowds and you’re still able to indulge in the Christmas vibes and yummy Polish winter foods.
Don’t forget to stroll through the Kazimierz neighborhood after visiting the Christmas Market. Before World War II, many Jewish people lived in this neighborhood. Nowadays, it’s a trendy and urban area with lots of cool places, such as Hevre, an old synagogue turned into a restaurant.
Plac Jana Nowaka-Jeziorańskiego
In case you missed an ice skating rink, we have good news for you. Plac Jana Nowaka-Jeziorańskiego, the square in front of the train station Kraków Główny and the mall Galeria Krakowska has an ice skating rink. Be prepared that the rink is very small and it didn’t look like it was in the best condition as there was a lot of snow on the ice. It’s a fun activity, especially for kids as their legs aren’t that long. Even though we love ice skating, we didn’t give it a try as we felt that the rink was a bit too small for our long Dutch legs.
There’s a tiny Christmas Market next to the ice rink with around five stalls where you can enjoy a quick bite or shop for some Christmas goods.
Don’t forget to warm up in the mall Galeria Krakowska. It’s a pretty big mall with a lot of stores, cafés, restaurants and a Carrefour hypermarket.
Christmas decorations at Sanktuarium Świętego Józefa w Krakówie
Sanktuarium Świętego Józefa, or Saint Joseph’s Church, is a huge cathedral in the style of Gothic Revival dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. The cathedral is located just south of the Wisla River and the square in front of the cathedral has a few Christmas lights installations, including a Christmas tree. It’s a beautiful cathedral to admire and worth the 35-minute walk south from Rynek Główny.
If you’re going there when it’s dark, we’d recommend taking the Kładka Ojca Bernatek bridge to cross the Wisla River as it looks out on the Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego bridge, which is beautifully lit.
When walking back to the city center, we’d recommend walking along the river for a bit towards Wawel Castle. If you’re in the mood, you could ride the ferris wheel and enjoy beautiful views of Kraków from the sky.
Szopka is the Polish name of the Nativity Scene tradition in Kraków, which dates back to the 19th century. The szopka is a construction featuring the nativity scene surrounded by representations of houses and monuments of Kraków. When walking around the city, you’ll stumble across multiple of these szopka, so keep your eyes peeled. They’re often brightly colored so they’re easily recognizable.
Opening times of the Christmas Markets in Kraków
The Christmas Markets are open from the 24th November until 1st of January. The opening times of the Christmas Markets vary as it’s up to the stall owners. In our experience, the Christmas Market on Rynek Główny is open from around 10:00 until 22:00 and the food stalls are open even later, sometimes until midnight. It also very much depends on the crowds. If it’s crowded at night, such as on the weekends, the food stalls will stay open longer.
The best time to visit Kraków and how long to stay
The weekends are especially very crowded in Kraków in December. If you can travel flexibly, we’d recommend visiting on weekdays as much as possible. We flew to Kraków on Saturday evening and went back Wednesday early in the morning, so we had three full days in the city. From those days, Monday was by far the least crowded day, while Sunday was intensely crowded. We were in Kraków in the second week of December. We can imagine it might get more crowded when Christmas is coming closer at the end of December.
As mentioned before, we were in Kraków for three full days. It’s the perfect amount of time if you want to take it slow, which we did, or if you want to go on a day trip to, for instance, Auschwitz. Otherwise, two full days is plenty to see the Christmas Markets in Kraków and visit the highlights of the city such as Wawel Castle and the Kazimierz neighborhood.
Where to stay in Kraków
The best area to stay in Kraków regarding location would be within the former city walls. This is also the most expensive area to stay as well as the most crowded. If you’re staying within the old city walls, make sure to do some research. There are a few night clubs and bars that are open late at night even on weekdays. Waking up in the middle of the night because of people leaving the clubs is not something we would love.
We chose a more budget-friendly option and stayed at Ibis Budget Stare Miasto just outside of the former city walls. We thought the location was very good as the hotel is right next to the main train station with train connections to the airport and the mall Galeria Krakowska. There’s also a “normal” Ibis hotel next to the budget one. It’s a pleasant 15-minute walk to the main square so the location is still very central. Even though the rooms are basic and small, they have everything you need for a short stay. We actually love staying at Ibis hotels because of their great price-quality ratio. Just like at many other Ibis hotels, there’s also a car park with decent rates. Since we weren’t traveling by car this time, we didn’t use it. Click here to book a room at the Ibis Budget Kraków Stare Miasto or the “normal” Ibis Kraków Stare Miasto.
We hope you are excited for this year’s Christmas season. Have you been to the Christmas Market in Kraków or is it still on your travel bucket list? Let us know in the comments below!
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