If you’re looking for some suggestions for cool and unusual things to do in Krakow, we’ve got you covered. Whether it’s something tourist adjacent, totally off the beaten track, or just something unique to a specific place, we pride ourselves on finding the weird and alternative wherever we go.
Krakow is a beautiful city which was lucky enough to remain largely intact – at least architecturally – during WWII. This is because Hitler commandeered the city as the Nazi headquarters in Poland during Germany’s occupation.
But with beautiful architecture and rich cultural history comes tourists. And I can understand that; Krakow is a great city. As regular readers of our blog are aware, however, we like to get off the beaten path and find unique and unusual things to do in a city that only locals seem to know about! If some of those sites fall under the purview of dark tourism, even better! And Krakow was no different.
Not all of these sites are totally unpopulated (are any these days?), but they are relatively unknown to tourists! Even in the busiest spots below, we found ourselves gleefully engulfed by locals having a nice day out.
And really, isn’t that what tourist-ing is about: Avoiding other tourists?
Kidding! (Sort of.)
These are our top recommendations for things to eat in Krakow, what to see in Krakow off the beaten path, or for anyone just looking to explore a less touristy side and do something unique in the city.
1. Visit the Krakow Mounds
There are four mounds of Krakow: Krakus Mound, Wanda Mound, Kościuszko Mound, and Piłsudski’s Mound. Each entombs an important Polish figurehead: the legendary King Krakus, his daughter (okay, those two might not actually have anyone inside), Polish national leader Tadeusz Kościuszko, and Polish statesman Józef Piłsudski, respectively.
Although the Kościuszko Mound is the most popular of the four, our favourite is the Krakus Mound. If you want to see them all, it’s totally possible. But if you only have time for one, we recommend heading down to the Krakus Mound (before heading to the next two sites below).
It’s funny, because before I went to the the Krakus Mound, I kind of just assumed it was super touristy. But it’s really not, instead it’s one of the most off the beaten path things to do in Krakow. Possibly because it’s not exactly in the city centre.
Still, I don’t know why I thought this, I rarely see any of the mounds on things to do in Krakow lists, no one I spoke to knew about it (who wasn’t Polish). Still, it just seemed touristy. Maybe I came to this conclusion because I knew that the Kościuszko Mound is reasonably touristy. Perhaps I saw it on a things to do list one time and it stayed with me.
Nevertheless, when we headed down to Płaszów, we ended up walking from the Zabłocie neighbourhood, which meant the quickest path was through the Krakus Mound.
As we approached, I mentally preparing myself to be engulfed by people, I readied myself…
But the onslaught never came.
There was no one there. Okay, okay, there was a family out walking their dog and a couple having a moment. But other than that, honestly, it was just us.
And the view was fantastic! Although I have to say it’s much more impressive in person than in the photos.
Location: 30-543 Kraków (behind the Krakow Podgorze train station)
Opening Times: 24 hours
2. Liban Quarry (Kamieniołom Liban)
Just behind (and below) the Krakus Mound is the Liban Quarry. Within the quarry are old, rusted buildings. These were actually used in the film Schindler’s List, as Steven Spielberg had a replica of the Kraków-Płaszów Concentration Camp (more on this spot below) built in the Liban Quarry.
Upon first glance it seems difficult to get to, but the quarry is actually a fairly straightforward trek down. And, if you follow the path all the way – unlike us – you won’t get devoured by mosquitoes. (Although if you want to explore the bottom of the quarry where there are more structures, then this is just something you must endure).
When we were there, the Liban Quarry seemed to be a somewhat popular spot for teenagers to hang out, though it was hardly busy. We also saw one family with their young child, which I’m not sure I’d recommend since there is broken glass everywhere and probably a lot of opportunities for tetanus.
But as full grown adults with agency of our own and the knowledge that we shouldn’t play with sharp edges, we had a great time climbing on the buildings and enjoying the impressive quarry views.
The Liban Quarry was definitely a highlight of our trip. If you’re looking for something in Krakow unique and off the beaten path, then the Liban Quarry is a seriously cool and unusual thing to do in Krakow.
Location: Armii “Kraków” 30, 30-962 Kraków (behind the Krakus Mound)
Opening Times: 24 hours (wouldn’t advise going in the evening)
3. Kraków-Płaszów Concentration Camp
Once you’ve hiked back up from Liban Quarry (an easy hike), keep heading away from Krakus Mound and you’ll soon find yourself in what remains of the real Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp, or Płaszów as it is often referred to.
Established in 1942, the Krakow-Płaszów Concentration Camp is the camp where the ‘Schindler Jews’ lived, and the one featured in the film (though as stated above, it was actually filmed at the Liban Quarry).
Read more about Płaszow and the dark history of the city in our post about WWII sites in Krakow.
However, in terms of unique and unusual places to visit in Krakow, this certainly applies.
Unlike nearby Auschwitz, the Krakow-Płaszów Concentration Camp was destroyed after the war by the Nazis. Therefore, little but ruins remain today. Instead, the camp is now a large sprawling nature reserve, marked throughout by memorials and maps of the camp.
The most striking memorial is at the main entrance to the camp (though, really, there are several and we didn’t actually see anyone entering there). There is also a replica of Amon Göth’s house (the sadistic SS commandant who ran the camp – played by Ralph Fiennes in the film), and some old barracks buildings.
If you’re looking to explore a more alternative, off the beaten track side of Krakow, I thoroughly recommend spending a half day at the Krakus Mound and Liban quarry before paying your respects at Płaszów.
Location: 30-543 Kraków (behind the Krakow Podgorze train station)
Opening Times: 24 hours
RELATED: Why Dark Tourism Matters (According to a Dark Tourist)
4. Explore Krakow’s Street Art Scene
While I would hardly call Krakow a street art hotspot, it definitely has its fair share of fantastic pieces. Even better, a lot of the street art in Krakow takes up entire sides of buildings. Sadly, many of the ones we were told were in the industrial area of the city no longer exist as the buildings no longer exist. Additionally, another famous street art piece of a quote is now no longer visible as a building was built over it.
Nevertheless, street art hunting is certainly an alternative thing to do in Krakow. One can easily spend an afternoon, or even a day (depending how far afield you want to go, or how much walking you want to do) searching for all the hidden street art pieces this city has to offer.
RELATED: Warsaw Street Art Guide
5. Dżok the Dog Monument
This heartbreaking monument sits in a park between Grunwald Bridge and Wawel Castle, but many people walk right past it every day. It is a monument to a sweet black dog, Dżok, whose owner died of a heart attack on the Grunwaldzkie Roundabout (thus the monument’s location).
But what makes Dżok so special?
Well, after his owner died, Dżok waited for over a year for him to return, surviving off of scraps he found on the streets, or was given by animal-loving Cracovians. When it was apparent to Dżok that his owner would not return, he finally allowed one such local to take him in.
Maria Müller was a widow, and she took care of him for a few years until she died in 1998. Following her death, poor Dżok could take no more heartache and he wandered off to die on the train tracks.
On 26 May 2001 the monument was unveiled by a German shepherd named Kety. It was created by Bronisław Chromy.
The inscription reads:
The most faithful canine friend ever, epitomising a dog’s boundless devotion to his master.
Throughout the entire year / 1990-1991 / Dżok was seen waiting in vain at the roundabout Grunwaldzkie roundabout to be fetched back by his master.
You’ll notice that on the statue, Dżok’s outstretched paw is much more worn than the rest. That’s because everyone who comes to see him wants to pat the paw of a good boy!
Location: Smocza 10, 33-332 Kraków, Poland
Opening Times: 24 hours
6. Visit a Cat Cafe
As far as I know, there are two cat cafes in Krakow, and I believe they are owned by the same people/person. They are both called Cat Café Kociarnia (or Kocia Kawiarnia Kociarnia in Polish). One is right next to Krakow Glowny, while the other is a little further north.
For Jeremy’s birthday, we opted to go to the one just next to the station. And we loved it! Having now visited several cat cafes across Europe, this is [so far] our favourite! In many cat cafes, the cats are very chill and don’t really engage with people. Which is fine, I totally understand. I’d be pretty damn sick of people constantly invading my space, as well – and not even providing food!
Still, it was a very welcome surprise to find that the cats at Cat Café Kociarnia were very friendly and quite energetic. Jeremy even managed to get a video of one trying – and succeeding – to climb the wall!
Not the most comfortable seating, but tasty enough drinks and the cats more than make up for anything, really.
Location: Lubicz 1, 31-033 Kraków (this is the one near the station, and the one we’re recommending)
Cost: Free to go in, but you should buy at least one drink per person which is equivalent to a few dollars each.
Opening Times: 10:00 – 21:00 Monday to Friday; 09:00 – 21:00 Saturday and Sunday
7. Hex: Krakow’s Board Game Cafe
I don’t know if this has ever been mentioned before but we love board games. One of the hardest things about packing up and selling most of our stuff was deciding what to do with our massive board game collection.
We wound up leaving them with a friend who is a fellow board games enthusiast. (Of course, we also brought a few of the smaller, travel friendly games along with us.)
So when we found out that Krakow had a board game cafe, we knew we’d be devoting some serious time to hanging out there. After all, it was Jeremy’s birthday…
If you’re looking for cool and unusual spots to hang out in Krakow and playing board games is a thing you enjoy doing – or think you might enjoy doing – then Hex is the place for you. They have everything there from the new classics like Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne to more niche and unique games like Sagrada, Fury of Dracula, Roll for the Galaxy and much, much more.
Hex is by far one of the most fun things to do in Krakow, both during the day or even as part of a night out.
A few things to know before you go:
- It is best to book ahead of time as spots fill up fast!
- It isn’t the easiest place to find. Even if you’re looking for it, you’ll likely walk past it a few times. It is inside a building complex, and you need to ring the bell and be buzzed in to get there.
- Almost all of the games are in Polish. If you pick a game where you aren’t 100% sure of the rules (and you don’t want to/can’t look the rules up online), or which requires a lot of reading (like Roll for the Galaxy), then maybe try another. Or, use the opportunity to make some local friends!
Location: Generała Józefa Dwernickiego 5, 31-530 Kraków (ring the bell at number 5 marked HEX, then walk straight through, it should be signposted once you’re inside)
Cost: Free to play as many games as you can fit in, but you should buy at least one drink per person which is equivalent to a few dollars each.
Opening Times: 11:00 – 01:00 Friday to Sunday, 16:00 – 01:00 Monday to Thursday.
8. Pinball Museum
I’m absolutely devastated that we didn’t make it to the Pinball Museum in Krakow during our stay. In fact, despite having THE BEST TIME playing pinball in Warsaw, we, unfortunately, didn’t even check if there was a pinball museum in Krakow.
But there is – and you should go because I can only assume it is as amazing as Pinball Station in Warsaw. As it rarely pops up on lists of things to do, I can only assume it is another hidden gem in Krakow.
Location: Stradomska 15, 31-068 Kraków
Cost: Adult – 40zł; Student (18-26, with valid ID) – 30 zł; Child (up to 18) – 20 zł
Opening Times: 12:00 – 22:00 Sunday to Thursday; 12:00 – 23:00 Friday & Saturday
9. 2 Pomorska Street
2 Pomorska Street was used by the Nazis as a gestapo prison throughout WWII. Prisoners were interrogated, tortured and locked up in the cells beneath the building. Although it is unknown exactly how many Poles were held prisoner at Pomorska – or even how many died there – over 600 inscriptions from inmates have been found on the cell walls.
You can visit 2 Pomorska Street separately, or on a combined ticket with the Schindler Factory and the Eagle Pharmacy. Because of this, we expected 2 Pomorska Street to be just as the busy as the other two sites. However, due to its location, which is a little outside of the city centre in northern Krakow, this wasn’t the case. We even went on the free day, and found only a handful of people visiting at the time.
Find out more about 2 Pomorska in our post about WWII dark tourism sites in Krakow.
Location: 2 Pomorska Street, 30-039 Kraków
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 to 17:30
Cost: It was 9 PLN (≈ $2) for adults when we visited, however you can also get a combined ticket with the museums of the Eagle Pharmacy and the Schindler Factory – check their website for more information. Admission is free on Tuesdays.
RELATED: Reinhard Heydrich and Operation Anthropoid
10. Check out the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Monument
This intense monument really is a sight to behold!
Ignacy Jan Paderewski was a Polish pianist, philanthropist and politician. Oh, and a composer.
After becoming an advocate for Polish independence, he went on to become the second Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland. Although he was only in office for 10 months, he accomplished a phenomenal amount during his time as Prime Minister and remains well-liked. While in office, Paderewski’s cabinet was responsible for signing the Treaty of Versailles, instituting democratic Parliamentary elections, tackling border disputes and unemployment, creating a public education system, putting protections in place for ethnic minorities, and even helping fight against post-war famine and the outbreak of disease.
He also funded the Grunwald Monument in Kraków.
Overall, he was incredibly well-liked and well-regarded. Nevertheless, after less than a year as prime minister, he went back to music (before once again returning to politics).
There are several monuments of him throughout Poland, but this one in Park Strzelecki is our favourite. In addition to Ignacy Jan Paderewski, there are monuments for several other important historical figures. If you can, stop by the Celestat Museum, whose collection of nativity scenes is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Location: Park Strzelecki, Lubicz, 31-505 Kraków, Poland
Opening Hours: Free!
Cost: 24 hours
11. Be a Foodie
Truly, many of the best meals I’ve ever had have been in Poland. This whole country is seriously a foodie heaven. Several of our top food picks for our 2018 COTAs were Polish restaurants and I can already tell you it will be the same again this year.
So take advantage of the fact that you can eat amazing local food and amazing food from all over the world and basically just stuff your face.
Some of our favourite places to eat in Krakow:
Chimney Cake Bakery: We didn’t actually get any chimney cake this time around, but this warm, sugary treat made Jeremy very happy indeed when we were there in November last year. I also enjoyed a small sesame chimney cake. Unlike the Czech ones which are a bit dry otherwise, you can eat Polish chimney cake without ice cream if you’re not feeling quite that extravagant.
Taste of India: This made our restaurant/cafe of the month for July. We went here for Jeremy’s birthday dinner and then headed back for our last evening in Krakow because it was that good. Best thing about this place was that their idea of spicy was actually spicy. Truly delicious, high quality Indian food… I wouldn’t be surprised if it made it onto our 2019 COTAs…
Ka Udon Bar: We arrived in Krakow quite late at night and starving. Luckily this place, which is quite close to the station, was still open and welcomed us with friendly smiles. The udon, which is all veggie, was delicious. Check out the Japanese sodas and tempura shiitake mushrooms. Yum!
Bagelmama: I love bagels. They’re really the best. And Bagelmama’s bagels didn’t disappoint. I do have to say that I’ve seen a lot of people moan that they don’t live up to New York bagels. But honestly, I think those people are going in with a preconceived notion that they won’t live up to their expectations. As someone who has eaten many a New York bagel and many a London bagel, Bagelmama’s bagels are still pretty dang good. Are they the best in the world? No. Are you a pretentious asshole if you compare them to New York bagels? Kind of! Because here’s a fun fact: BAGELS ARE FREAKING POLISH!
Cupcake Bakery: We went here as part of Jeremy’s birthday celebrations. I don’t like cupcakes, so I just got a hot chocolate which was tasty. However, I must say that while I think cupcakes are gross (specifically I dislike frosting), if I were to be forced to eat cupcakes for the rest of my life, these are the ones I would choose. Glowing recommendation, right? (They also serve various bagels and cream cheeses, pastries and ice cream.)
Mr Pancake: If you want instagrammable food (kill me now, please), this is the place for you. We both got savory meals, which didn’t really have the same effect. But it was still super tasty. I think it has a bit more novelty, though, if you’re all about building a sugar mountain.
Milk bars & pierogis
In case you’ve never heard of a milk bar, Poland has this amazing thing called bar mleczny (or, literally ‘milk bar’ in English), which are essentially cheap canteens. Milk bars date back to 1896 when a man named Stanisław Dłużewski opened the first ever milk bar in Warsaw.
Dłużewski’s milk bar was so popular that others soon followed suit. During the communist era when most of the country was poor, it became law that workers’ lunches must be included in their salary. However, not everywhere had a cafeteria. Instead, the government decided to subsidise the milk bars in order to continue providing cheap meals for everyone.
And it remains so today. Milk bars are still subsidised by the government, and they’re still a remarkably cheap way to eat locally.
However, I found that every milk bar we went to either didn’t have many/any veggie options, was overrun with tourists, or there was no menu in English and no English speaking staff. While I see no problem with this last one and don’t expect people to speak English when I travel, this can be problematic as a vegetarian as I’m less able to just take a gamble. So to be on the safe side, we wound up never going to a milk bar in Krakow (though we’ve been to a few in Warsaw). Luckily for me, we had a kitchen, so I had Jeremy make some pierogis at home cause they’re delicious.
As this isn’t really an option for most – or if you don’t know what pierogis are and want to see what the hype is about – I have heard amazing things about Milkbar Tomasza, which is in the old town. It serves food all day, but seems to be particularly popular at breakfast.
LOOKING FOR MORE THINGS TO DO IN KRAKOW?
– Street Art in Krakow: Colourful, Cultural and Controversial
– Exploring WWII in Krakow: Museums and Memorials You Shouldn’t Miss
WANT MORE POLAND?
– Dark Tourism Sites and Museums in Warsaw
– The Katyn Museum
– Wandering the Walls of Warsaw: Street Art
– Recharging at Pinball Station in Warsaw
How many of these cool and unusual things to do in Krakow have you done? Any other unique or alternative Krakow destinations that we missed? What steps do you take to get off the beaten track when you travel?