Kraków: A beautiful Christmas market, Chopin, and… axe throwing?

If you fancy a short European city break for three or four nights, and you don’t want to break the bank, try Kraków in southern Poland this December. There’s a lot to explore, with a flight time of only two and a half hours, and you might just get some snow to put you in the Christmas mood!

Kraków Christmas Market

As it’s December, let’s start our exploring with a trip to the Christmas market. The Irish Times named it one of the top ten Christmas Markets in Europe, and it’s well worth a visit.

The market is held every year in the beautiful main square, Rynek Główny, which is one of the largest medieval town squares in Europe.

You’ll find excellent first-hand accounts on the web of what the market is like, and detailed information of all the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that you can experience. These articles will do a great job of selling you on why you need to go to Kraków this Christmas! Visitors also report that the prices are very reasonable.

There’s everything you’d expect at the market: Christmas trees, amazing decorations, Polish pottery, gifts, mulled wine served in traditional wooden barrels, and lots of food. Meat and cheese dishes are plentiful. Entertainment is provided by local ensembles singing carols, and you’ll find proper carol concerts too.

An unusual and unique tradition in Kraków is the display of Christmas Cribs, known as szopki—they are very ornate, and look like a nativity scene mixed with a dolls house.

You can even book a tour of the market, which includes a trip to an authentic Polish restaurant and explanation of Polish Christmas traditions. The tour also helps to support local cultural heritage by taking you to a small, local gallery to see how traditional hand-painted glass baubles are made.

What else is there to see?

The historic centre of Kraków is a UNESCO world heritage site. You can explore the medieval history and take a stroll around the public parks. 

You can see churches, such as St Adalbert’s Church and St Mary’s Basilica, and visit Wawel Royal Castle

You’ll also find plenty of fascinating museums and galleries. The Historical Museum is made up of 14 branches throughout the city.

The MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art is notable for being built on the site of Oskar Schindler’s famous factory; it’s a modern warehouse museum with glass floors and slanting roofs, presenting 4,000 works from the last two decades.

When you need a rest, visit a milk bar for traditional food and drink. The milk bars have a fascinating history, dating back to communist times, and provide homemade meals at very low prices.

Culture in Kraków

The most famous Polish musician is the great piano composer Frédéric Chopin, and you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to hear his music performed in Poland. The Chopin Gallery has regular one-hour piano concerts, performed by wonderful Polish pianists. The concerts get great reviews and cost less than £15 to enter.

For something a little bit odd, take a ten-minute walk north from the main square to Bad Axe. It promotes itself as “the premium Viking-styled axe throwing club, where you can learn how to safely throw axes”. It’s got to be worth a try, right?

Travel to Kraków

There are plenty of easyJet flights to Kraków airport from all over the UK. The city is 20-minute taxi ride from the airport, and the Uber taxi app also serves Kraków, to help you get around once you’re there.

Accommodation is reasonably priced, especially on Airbnb. £30 a night goes a long way here! There are also lots of traditional hotels to choose from.

If you’d like to have everything arranged for you, Newmarket Holidays runs a four day trip to the Kraków Christmas market. Leger Holidays also has package tours to many of the Christmas markets in Europe.

When it comes to Kraków, there’s so much to do that you’re bound to find a whole host of things to interest you. So here’s to festive good cheer in Kraków this year!