You’ll be charmed at Kraków in winter.
The largest city in Poland’s Małopolska region, Kraków is one of the oldest cities in Central Europe.
European history is everywhere you look in Kraków.
It used to be Poland’s capital and seat of kings; now it is a vast city situated on the Vistula River that attracts visitors all year round.
One of the most beautiful cities in the region, Kraków boasts incredible architecture; thanks to this, the city actually entered the UNESCO list over 40 years ago!
The charming buildings of Kraków, its rich history and range of indoor attractions, its fantastic Christmas markets and its fun festive atmosphere mean that it’s a great city for winter travel.
There’s so much to see in Kraków in the winter season; this city guide will go into all of the highlights!
What’s Kraków like in winter?
If you want to avoid the hustle and bustle and the crowds of tourists who can effectively spoil your dream trip (Kraków is a prime location for stag/ bachelor and hen/ bachelorette parties), visit Kraków as a winter city break.
In the cooler months, you’ll experience the magical charm of Kraków covered in snow, giving each building a festive touch.
Plus, the Polish food in Kraków is even better – and heartier – in winter.
Do you want to nab a bargain? In winter, the prices of city hotels are much lower than high season.
By visiting Kraków in the winter season, you’ll experience this magical city without unnecessary crowds and long queues.
People often think that Poland in winter is freezing, but it’s actually a lot warmer now than it used to be. So it’s very feasible to visit Kraków in the colder months!
Kraków in November
Average Temperature: 0° – 7°C / 32° – 45°F
Early November could be a good time to visit Kraków if you want cheaper hotels and flights and aren’t bothered about snow. This is before the main ski season starts.
Kraków starts feeling festive around mid-November when most of the Christmas attractions start opening.
However, November in general is a lot quieter than December!
Kraków in December
Average Temperature: -4° – 3°C / 25° – 37°F
Obviously, December is the most festive time to visit Kraków, with the Christmas markets in full swing and plenty of other festive attractions throughout the city!
It’s also popular with skiing, with some visitors opting to spend a few days soaking in Kraków’s festive cheer and then heading up on the mountain roads to the slopes!
Whatever your trip style, visiting Kraków in December is a magical experience. As it’s a busy month, allow additional time to get anywhere – there may be traffic and queues at attractions.
Kraków in January
Average Temperature: -6° – 1°C / 21° – 34°F
This is potentially the best month for winter sports in the mountains around Kraków (although the season is quite long!).
This makes Kraków a popular stopover point for skiers, before they head off in search of mountain air and lots of snow!
Make sure you leave ample time to make journeys to the slopes in January, as even roads close to the city can be blocked by snow.
Kraków in February
Average Temperature: -5° – 3°C / 23° – 37°F
Again, February is a popular skiing month in Kraków, and lots of people visit the city as a stopover before going to the slopes.
If you’re just here for a city break, you might find that attractions are quieter during this month.
Toward the end of the month, it starts warming up a little in the city, and any snow begins to melt.
Kraków in March
Average Temperature: -1 ° – 8°C / 30° – 46°F
Although the ski season continues in the mountains, Kraków warms up quite a bit during March.
Poland in general is still quite chilly in early Spring, but you may have some brisk days with sunshine, perfect for springtime walks!
Toward the end of March, the spring/ summer tourist season starts in Kraków, and it can begin getting busier!
The best things to do in Kraków in winter
Stroll around Kraków’s Christmas market
Located on Rynek Główny, the thirteenth-century square in the centre of the old town, Kraków’s Christmas Markets have been held there for centuries.
They usually start at the end of November.
The Christmas Market in Kraków has become a permanent fixture in the calendar of events on the Kraków Market, a tradition that largely influences the cultural and economic development of Kraków.
Every year, the merchants offer a wide range of Christmas products, such as hand-painted cans, Christmas tree decorations, decorations, Christmas centrepieces, earthenware, woodwork, jewellery, souvenirs, postcards, calendars and much more.
Thanks to sellers from all over Poland and neighbouring countries you can sample delicious grilled dishes like traditional oscypek roasted on a grill with cranberries and drink mulled wine.
If you fancy a little snack there will also be roasted nuts, baked chestnuts, Christmas cookies and gingerbread. Or, sip on mulled wine or hot chocolate!
And there’s so much more than food, like local craftsmen showcasing their products (it’s the perfect place to buy Christmas presents!) or groups of children performing carols.
The market is like a magical little winter wonderland – touristy and crowded, to be sure, but also beautiful and wonderful, and a must-visit Kraków winter destination.
Relax in a day spa in the city
Kraków has an exceptionally diverse and rich spa scene based on both Polish (herbal and salt therapies) and oriental traditions.
There’s a huge variety of salons and spa equipment in the city, which makes Kraków stand out from other cities when it comes to relaxation.
In many Kraków spas, you’ll find saunas, jacuzzis, spa capsules, and even salt caves, graduation towers or floating pools.
Amongst the most popular day spas are Dtahus Aroma and Wellness which offers body and face massages and Tarita Salt Spa & Wellness which is known for massages, but also offers two salt caves, a graduation tower, floating and music therapy.
It’s worth mentioning Beernarium Spa – The stay at the Beer Spa is definitely one of the most atmospheric winter attractions in Kraków, with various hot relaxation baths.
Depending on your mood or occasion, you can choose a beer, wine or milk bath. Baths relax the body and mind, moisturise and nourish the skin and provide a variety of vitamins.
Additionally, during the treatment, a selected drink is served – beer, wine or champagne.
After a bath, the spa offers idyllic relaxation on a straw bed.
This is a special procedure that gives you a feeling of deep relaxation.
The very fact that the spa is located in the basement of the Old Town, in a historic tenement house, makes guests feel special here.
The unique character of the spa is something that definitely attracts many people to spend their time there.
Head to the nearby mountains for skiing
Visiting Kraków is a great excuse to take a small trip to nearby mountains, with the Gorce Mountains located just seventy kilometres from the city.
Gorce is a great option for a small getaway, especially for those who prefer smaller mountains. There are a few slopes here, and you’ll arrive back in the city refreshed after a day in the mountain air!
If you prefer more challenging slopes, head to Kotelnica Białczańska resort, one of the prime destinations for skiing in Poland. It’s a two-hour journey through beautiful winter scenery.
If you don’t have a car or aren’t comfortable driving on mountain roads, there’s a bus service from the city.
Another option for skiing near Kraków is Kraków Valley – just thirty kilometres from the centre, this is a golf course in the summer that turns into a ski resort in winter!
Offering three drag lifts and cross-country ski runs, it’s an ideal choice for beginner skiiers to enjoy a few hours of skiing.
On days when visibility conditions are good, you might even see a panoramic view of the Tatra Mountains!
Go Ice Skating in Kraków city centre
For some people, winter sports are a must during any winter trip. Experiencing ice and snow is a unique activity that you can only do this time of year, after all!
As well as skiing, you can go ice skating in Kraków!
Every winter, there’s an open-air ice rink set up in Jordan Park.
It is the largest “Ice Park” in Poland.
Just walking around is a spectacle, but you can also skate around the park’s alleys between trees, where you can admire the various sculptures and decorations.
If the weather’s not so kind, you might want to choose an indoor ice rink instead. You’re in luck here too.
There are lots of indoor ice skating rinks throughout Kraków – try Cracovia Ice Rink or Origo Ice Rink.
Usually, entry to these ice rinks is around fifteen polish złoty for an hour’s session.
Discover the Wieliczka Salt Mine
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the best day trips from Krakow in both summer and winter.
Wieliczka is a Polish city and is home to one of the world’s oldest salt mines. It’s effortless to reach from Krakow; located just half an hour away from the centre.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine, boasts about two hundred and forty-five kilometres of underground corridors – but don’t worry, you won’t be walking that far! Less than four kilometres are open to the public.
But they’re a spectacular four kilometres – in Wieliczka Salt Mine, you can admire beautiful salt sculptures, salt lakes and mesmerizing chambers, plus the unique Chapel of St. Kinga.
You’ll also see old mining tools and machines on the route, giving you the chance to learn about historic methods of salt extraction and transport.
As the attraction is underground, it’s perfect for rainy or cold days – the Wieliczka Salt Mine is open whatever the weather!
See the Polish szopki, nativity scenes in December
The most colourful attraction of the Christmas Fair is the nativity scene competition, a tradition dating back to the early twentieth century.
Every year, dozens of colourful nativity scenes are displayed at the foot of the Adam Mickiewicz monument in the Old Town part of Kraków, where judges decide on the winner.
After the competition is over, all pieces are then sent to the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków.
Also, don’t miss the main Kraków nativity scene while you’re here. This is a slender, multi-level, tower-like and richly ornamented structure made of light, non-durable materials.
Christmas cribs are also a permanent element of the Christian tradition, and you’ll find them in most of Kraków’s churches.
Although nativity scenes are popular all over the country, those made in Kraków are exceptional.
Artists are often inspired by the city’s unique buildings and its variety of architectural styles, making scenes with similar edifices in the background.
Discover history at the Wawel Royal Castle
The Wawel Hill and the Royal Castle are treasures of Polish history and culture.
Perched high on a hill overlooking the old city, Wawel Castle is one of the largest in Poland and was built in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries for King Casimir III The Great.
It’s the most important historical site in the country and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978.
At Wawel, visitors can see many different exhibits, including Oriental Art, Royal Private Apartments, State Rooms and the Treasury and Armoury.
It’s free to walk around the outside and look of the castle, but there’s a fee to pay if you’d like to go inside.
Walk around Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory Museum
Schindler’s Factory is one of the most popular attractions in Kraków.
The original factory was established as a production site for enamel and tin products.
Two years later, the German entrepreneur Oskar Schindler became its owner.
He employed a lot of Jewish people during the World War II Nazi occupation, and by doing so, he saved over a thousand of them from exportation and ultimately, death.
Currently, this place functions as a factory museum that is devoted not only to the activities of Oskar Schindler but has become an expedition about life in Kraków during World War II.
The history of Schindler’s Factory was described in the novel “Schindler’s Arc” by Thomas Keneally, and Steven Spielberg directed a feature film called “Schindler’s List” based on it.
Ascend St. Mary’s Basilica
The famous St. Mary’s Church is one of the most important symbols of the city.
The Minor Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, standing by Market Square, is a pearl of Polish art and architecture, visited by crowds of tourists from all over the world.
The origins of the church go back to the Middle Ages, and remains of a Romanesque temple have survived on the ground floor.
If you’re around on Christmas Eve, midnight mass is held here.
It is also worth climbing the St. Mary’s Tower – called Hejnalica – while you are in the city.
It has a stunning view of the Medieval city and the bugle call is played from the tower.
This call sounds every hour but is always interrupted suddenly.
This is because it alludes to the legend that a long time ago, a bugle-caller saw the Tatars heading towards the city and began to play to warn the inhabitants of the approaching destruction.
He did not finish the tune, however, because an arrow from one of the Tatars pierced his body.
Be charmed at the Garden of Lights
Stanisław Lem’s Garden of Experiences is known as the Garden of Lights during winter.
It’s one of the largest such facilities in Poland. The open-air exhibition is an amazing display of festive colours and lights that will delight every tourist.
It’s one of the best things to do in Krakow in winter with kids, as it has a different family-friendly theme each year (in 2021, the theme was Snow White).
The installation is perfectly detailed, with an incredible sound and light show.
What’s more, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday there are special laser shows that are also worth seeing.
Learn about Poland’s sombre past at Auschwitz-Birkenau
A very sombre attraction, but one that is worth visiting and fully learning about, is Auschwitz. Most tourists visit Auschwitz on a day trip from Kraków, where a guide will take you around the area.
Auschwitz was the biggest concentration camp in Europe during the Nazi occupation, and over 1.1 million people were murdered here, mostly in the horrific gas chambers.
The guide will show you the chambers and camps, and there’s a museum where you can learn more about this horrific part of European history.
It’s open throughout the year.
How far is Auschwitz from Kraków city centre?
Auschwitz is around 65 km/ 40 miles from Kraków city centre. You can either take a bus there or book a tour with hotel pickup.
Where to stay in Kraków in winter
Daniel Griffin Aparthotel by Artery Hotels is a perfect budget place to stay. The aparthotel has chic, modern, comfortable rooms with bright windows and en-suite bathrooms. Breakfast is available, and most rooms have a city view over Kraków. Click here to read more.
Niebieski Art Hotel & Spa is a luxury hotel with comfy, spacious rooms, some with balconies with river views. There’s also a gym and a spa and wellness centre on-site, perfect for warming up in after exploring chilly Kraków. Click here for more information.
What is the weather like in Kraków in winter?
The climate of Kraków is characterised by cold winters, with temperatures often below freezing.
Winter is cold and grey.
Snowfalls are frequent but are often light, so while you may see a light dusting of snow, it shouldn’t impact your exploring!
January is the coldest month of the year and it’s when you have the highest chances of seeing snow.
The average temperature during winter is around two to four degrees celsius.
Nights in Kraków are much colder, with temperatures occasionally dropping to minus twenty degrees.
When planning out your daily activities you should consider daylight hours, as it gets dark very early – in December, darkness begins to fall in the early afternoon.
What to eat in Kraków in winter?
Polish cuisine is seriously underrated – I think it’s the best type of comfort food.
While you’re in Kraków, sample delicious food like red borscht, dumplings with meat or fruit filling, roulades or sour soup.
These specialities are not only tasty and filling but also allow you to quickly revive after a day of exploring the city, especially in the cold winter evening.
Rosół, a chicken or vegetable broth is meant to be immune-boosting and is highly recommended if you’re feeling under the weather.
Also, try Polish zapiekanka – a long toasted baguette topped open-face style with delicious toppings.
Served warm, it’s perfect for a meal during winter walks, and it’s easy to find in almost every place serving fast food.
Of course, another way to warm up in the winter is to try some Polish alcohol!
Polish nalewka is a unique liquor made out of plums, berries, lemon, ginger, quince, or even nuts.
Commonly used as a digestive, it’s supposed to have healing properties and in winter even a small glass can warm you up.
Of course, you’ll find plenty of Polish vodka, local beer and even wine from Poland in many bars and restaurants across the city!
If you don’t drink, don’t worry – you’ll find rich hot chocolate at many cafes throughout the city.
What to eat in Kraków at Christmas
If you’re looking for Christmas goodies, head to the Christmas market where the stalls tempt visitors with sweet treats like caramel roasted nuts, cakes, gingerbread, honey, chocolate and marzipan products.
Or, try savoury delicacies like regional cold cuts, dumplings and grilled meats.
Mulled wine is also immensely popular throughout the festive season in Kraków. Of course, there’s always plenty of hot chocolate on offer too!
When it comes to traditional Christmas food, Poland has a tradition that there are always twelve dishes on the table during Christmas Eve dinner.
Dishes vary depending on region, but the most universal are red barszcz with a kind of ravioli called uszka, carp and pierogi.
You’ll be easily able to find those dishes in restaurants throughout Kraków, especially in December.
How to get to Kraków in winter
Kraków has a large international airport with flights to many locations all over Europe.
Some of these can be very affordable in the winter!
Alternatively, Poland has great rail links, and you can get to major cities all over Central Europe, like Prague, Bratislava and Budapest, from Kraków Główny (the main train station in the city).
There are also bus options with links to other cities in Poland too!
How to travel around Kraków
The easiest ways to travel around Kraków are on foot and by tram.
The city centre is very walkable, and if you get tired, most of the attractions are connected by the excellent tram service.
If you’re travelling a bit further, the tram network is great.
It’s the city’s main public transportation system, and there are multiple tram lines that will bring you within walking distance of attractions.
Most tram lines operate every ten to twenty minutes between four in the morning and eleven in the evening on weekdays, with reduced hours on Saturdays and public holidays.
There are car restriction zones in the historical centre of Kraków. If you’re exploring more of Poland, renting a car is a good option. However, you may need to park your car outside of the main city centre.
What to pack for Kraków in the winter season?
When packing for Kraków in winter, don’t forget really warm clothes.
It’s a gorgeous city to walk around in winter, so pack your coat, scarf, gloves, wooly hat, thermals and very comfortable boots.
If you’re a student, bring an international student ID. Kraków is a student city, so many places have discounts for those in education.
If you’re visiting the Christmas markets, bring some cash.
These days most sellers accept cards, but not all of them! Take some smaller bills to avoid the seller having issues with finding change.
FAQs about Kraków in winter
Is it worth going to Kraków in January?
Yes, it’s worth visiting this Polish city in January. There are plenty of indoor attractions to enjoy, and you’ll have the chance to see beautiful snow.
Is Kraków good to visit in December?
Yes, Kraków is gorgeous in December. There are lots of Christmas markets and festive activities to enjoy! Just make sure that you leave ample time to travel around the city and enter attractions, as it’s very busy.
Does it snow in Kraków in winter?
Yes, it snows in Southern Poland in winter. Snow in the city centre is frequent but not that heavy, but you’ll see loads of snow in the surrounding mountains.
What clothes should I wear in Kraków in winter?
Take plenty of layers! Remember your thick coat, scarf, gloves and a wooly hat.
Is Kraków nice at Christmas?
Yes, it’s lovely at Christmas! Enjoy the festive markets, nativity displays and abundance of light shows. Just leave additional time to explore the city as it can be busy.
Is Kraków nice in February?
Yes, the weather starts warming up and there are lots of attractions you can enjoy, including the Wieliczka Salt Mine with mesmerizing chambers and beautiful salt sculptures and various museums.
Does it snow in Kraków in January?
Yes, you’re most likely to see snow in January.
Does Kraków have Christmas markets?
Yes, Kraków has some of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
Is Kraków worth visiting in winter?
If you’re looking for a charming place to visit during the colder season, the Medieval city of Kraków will enthral you.
Whether you want to explore a UNESCO world heritage site with rich history, engage in some of the best festive attractions or even enjoy a few hours of skiing in Poland’s most beautiful winter scenery, there’s plenty on offer in this Polish metropolis.
Winter walks are magical in this Polish city, and indoor attractions, museums and art galleries are perfect whatever the weather!