The Best of Krakow in 3 days: Maximized Easter Weekend Itinerary

Easter weekend is a great time to visit Krakow. There are numerous events and celebrations, the weather is warming up, and an Easter market is happening on the largest market square in Europe. It is also a four-day weekend if you are living and working in most countries in the EU. The only downside is that there are disruptions in the opening hours of the sights in and around the city.

In this guide, we put together a plan on how to visit Krakow and experience the city without being bothered by the Easter weekend closures.

Walk in the neighborhoods filled with history, see beyond the casual walls of the ghetto, visit a notorious concentration camp, retrace the footsteps of Polish royalty, and revel in the shadow of the castle that has symbolized Poland since the beginning of its history. The best of Krakow offers visitors so much in such a short visit.

In three days, it is helpful to sight see layer by layer, from the historic core, to the outskirts, and further to nearby towns.

Here is an overview.
Good Friday – Jewish Quarter
Black Saturday – Auschwitz-Birkenau Day Trip
Easter Sunday – Wawel Hill and Historic Center

Okay, let's get down to the details.

Day 1 - Good Friday

Arrive in Krakow, Explore the Jewish Quarter

On Good Friday until right before sundown, the Jewish Quarter sights remain open. Start your visit on Ulica Szeroka where you can get an overview of the Jewish-themed sights, restaurants, and synagogues. On one corner, you can peek inside some restored store fronts to get a glimpse of everyday Kazimierz before the war.

Straight ahead, you can enter the 16th century Rem’uh Synagogue and Old Cemetery, which houses the remains of some of the most important Jewish intellectuals of that period, making them two of the most important Jewish sites in Europe.

Explore the back streets, taking in the murals at every corner. This street art reminds everyone of a culture that is rich and thriving. Soon you will arrive at plac Nowy market, a kosher and local market square. Take a break here with some zapiekanki – foot long baguettes with different toppings, lots of cheese, and tasty sauces.

After that energy boost, circle back to ulica Szeroka. You will pass by Isaac Synagogue, which sometimes holds klezmer music concerts. Back in the square, the Old Synagogue which houses a museum, is usually closed for Easter but is still worth viewing from outside. It is the oldest surviving Jewish building in Poland and its location eight steps down from street level speaks of Jewish ingenuity.

From here you can easily take a tram to Podgórze, then walk to Schindler’s Factory Museum. Last entry is 16:30 and closing time is 18:00.

Reservations are a must. This museum is one of the best museums about the Nazi occupation, so it is definitely worth entering even if you have not watched the Schindler’s List movie. The 12-meter stretch of the original ghetto wall on Lwowska street will not look so casual after a visit to this museum.

Walk back to Ghetto Heroes’ Square and Pharmacy Under the Eagle to continue the Ghetto Memory Trail. The building that houses the Podgórze Savings Bank, while beautiful on the outside, has a particularly gruesome history written on a plaque out in front.

The walk ends at the Podgórze Market Square where the main focal point is the whimsical St. Joseph’s Church. All the buildings surrounding the square have their own significance in this historic district.

Across the street is the Kładka Ojca Bernatka footbridge. This links the Kazimierz and Podgórze districts and is a visual architecture piece, complete with acrobatic statues and love locks on the railings.

A few blocks away is the food truck square called Skwer Judah. The dinner options here are endless and the atmosphere is relaxed but alive. Ending the night here after exploring the Jewish quarter, it is easy to understand the meaning behind the mural that the artist, Pil Peled, painted: a “representation of the Jews' vulnerability and struggle to survive and preserve their culture, as well as the strength to overcome their fears”.

Day 2 - Black Saturday

Visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

Black Saturday provides a day of reflection about suffering and pain. A visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum is somber, but also an important one.

Hints: Reservations are a must, as Easter weekend has high demand. Take the first bus at 06:20 from the main bus station, whether you have reservations or not. The obwarzanek (polish pretzel) stand near bus stand G1 opens at 06:00 and provides great fuel for the line and the road. Upon arrival, show up 15 mins before your entry slot and you will be allowed entry to the security line. Some people will queue near the entry even though their time slot is hours away. Don’t miss your entry time by being stuck in a non-moving line. Guided tours are available, but are not required.

Every visit starts at the “Arbeit Macht Frei” Gate. From the upside down ‘B’ of the sign, the double barbed wire fences, to the skulled “halt” sign, it is easy to tell that there is more to the brick barracks than what they appear to be.

The second row of barracks after the gate hold the Museum Exhibitions. Blocks 4, 5, 6, and 11 are especially important to visit. There are arrows in each building, showing the direction of visit. Some will lead upstairs and some lead to the basements. Take your time here. Let tour groups pass if you are visiting on your own without a guide. Every small glass exhibition tells stories that are easy to miss.

The buildings in the row of National Memorials provide a more detailed look at the effect of the Holocaust in each country represented. Do not miss the Jewish Memorial at Block 27. Most of the exhibits are interactive. It is easy to spend a lot of time listening to stories and watching the videos.

At the end of this road is the area for the Crematorium. Enter the building with respect. The ones in Birkenau were not rebuilt but this one is intact and filled with painful proofs of what transpired.

Most visitors will spend the morning in Auschiwtz I before heading to Birkenau in the afternoon. There are lunch choices just outside the museum. Benches are also available around the parking lot, so a packed lunch is possible. After lunch, take the free shuttle bus to Birkenau.

You alight the bus right across the Guard Tower. If you watched the Schindler’s List movie, the train tracks passing through the main gate are an eerie reminder of the realities that happened in this camp. At times, it is possible to climb the tower with a tour guide.

The first exhibition in Birkenau are the Wooden Barracks immediately to your right. They extend as far as the eye can see. This is a reminder of the scale of this camp. The exhibits are about camp conditions and daily realities.

Going back and through the main avenue, you will reach the Dividing Platform near the single red cart. Often, there will be flowers laid in the tracks or school groups flying Israel’s flag in this area. They are somber reminders of the families separated and lives lost from these separating train tracks.

With your back to the guard tower, the entrance to the left lead to the Brick Barracks. You can peek through the windows to see the restoration works in progress. Walking through the dirt roads and seeing the ruins of some other barracks, you can get a sense of the vastness of the camp.

At the end of the road, you can see ruins of the Crematoriums, destroyed in an attempt to cover up the evidence. The Monument, with the plaques in different languages, is sobering and meaningful.

Walking further to the right side of the monument, you will see ruins of the loot barracks referred to as Canada. Nearby, the Sauna is an important building to visit in order to experience what it was like for prisoners in their first moments in the camp.

The long walk back to the entrance provides some quiet time needed to think about all the things you saw and experienced throughout the day.

Take a bus back to Auschwitz I and then transfer to another bus back to Krakow.

You may not want to do anything else after your visit, but if you want an activity to lift your spirits, Krakow offers a lot of options. I would suggest booking months in advance for a Black Saturday Wieliczka Salt Mine Concert. If not, a simple dinner at the Jewish Quarter with traditional klezmer music is always available. The Klezmer Music Venue also offers Klezmer Music concerts every day, right in the middle of Old Town.

Day 3 - Easter Sunday

Walk around Krakow’s Historic Center

Easter Sunday is a day of celebration! Krakow’s Historic Center is alive today.

Start with a Milk Bar breakfast at Polakowski. Several branches of this traditional Milk Bar chain are open so they are a good option on Easter Sunday.

After a hearty Polish breakfast, trace the Polish king’s footsteps. You can also do this walk in reverse, starting from Wawel Hill and ending your day in the Market Square. Just note that Wawel Cathedral is open only from 12:30 to 16:00 on Easter Sunday. Plan your visit accordingly.

To do the traditional “Royal Walk”, start from the Barbican (Barbakan) and City Walls, a reminder of the wars Krakow had to fight in it rich history. You can stroll and relax along the Planty before entering the crowded streets of the Old Town.

The nearby Florian Gate (Brama Floriańska) is Krakow’s main gateway. It stands tall and white with emblems and Krakow’s coat of arms. It is usual for artists from the nearby art school to sell their wares here or from opera singers to busk under this gate.

The Floriańska Street (Ulica Floriańska) is historically very commercialized, and it definitely retained this character albeit in a more modern sense.

Soon you will arrive at the entrance of the square where St. Mary’s Church (Kościół Mariacki) is located. Make sure to enter and ogle at the ceiling and altar. Tours are not allowed but visitors who are respectful of people coming to pray can enter as well.

Right outside is the Florentine designed Cloth Hall (Sukiennice). The hall itself and the gallery is closed but you can still enter the passageways to see the traditional stalls and frescoed ceilings. The vendors are selling their wares in the Easter market nearby.

Emerging on the other side, you reach the Main Market Square (Rynek Główny), a.k.a. “The Square”. This is where all the action is. The Easter Market is filled with traditional food like bigos and borsch soups, pierogies, oscypek grilled cheese, traditional cakes, and more. There are also handicrafts, textiles, toys, and souvenirs, of course.

If you did not find any dessert you like in the market, you can stop by for donuts at Gorące Pączki, just off Szewska street.

Passing by the head statue and the Town Hall Tower, Bracka street will lead straight to St. Francis Basilica (Bazylika Św. Franciszka) filled with gorgeous Art Nouveau stained glass windows and frescoes. Nearby, the Archbishops Palace is usually visited by pilgrims interested in St. John Paul II.

Headed back to Grodzka street, you will pass by many Milk bars but they could be closed during the Easter holiday. Continue walking south until you reach Mary Magdalene Square surrounded by 13th century Baroque churches. Turn here and towards Kanonicza Street (Ulica Kanonicza), a well-preserved street that once was the home of guests such as Copernicus and important Polish clergy members.

At the end of this street, the ramp for the entrance to the Wawel Hill is just across the street. From this entrance, Wawel Cathedral is the first building you will see. It is open 12:30 – 16:00 on Easter Sunday, technically for prayers only. Respectful visitors are allowed. This important church is filled with Polish history and historical figures. Not to be missed.

Spend the rest of your day exploring the Wawel Hill Castle Grounds including the Florentine courtyard hidden away inside a passageway to the right of the cathedral. The views of the Vistula from the hill is also spectacular. The museums are closed for the weekend but the exterior of the cathedral and surrounding buildings are worth the hike by themselves.

Have dinner back at the Old Town where outdoor dining seats are plentiful. If you want something nearby, Pod Wawelem offers traditional Polish food, as suggested by the name, just below Wawel Hill.

There we have it, a three day packed itinerary of Krakow. If you are staying until Easter Monday, you will have more time to check out other museums as well as eat at the other milk bars in town. Take your time and plan to come back for more.

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