Krakow on a budget can be a truly enlightening experience. It can encourage you to explore a fascinating and fun side of Krakow that many tourists will never get to see. Polish people know how to live within their means and as such there’s already a fabulous system of super-cheap, pocket-friendly options for those with a smaller budget who still want to enjoy themselves. In this city, it’s still cool to respect frugality and to indulge in a simpler, more authentic way of life. Walk amongst the real people of Krakow and experience life as a local. Our suggestions below will be enjoyed by not only by the poor of pocket but also by the rich of heart.
Stay for free with locals
CouchSurfing is a popular free web community of travellers who are happy opening their homes to visitors in their city in order to share culture and tradition, friendship and fun. Many people have a proper bed or even a private room for you, making it an unique way to visit a new country. Sign up at couchsurfing.com and you can search through the 37,000+ hosts in Krakow to find people that you would be the most comfortable staying with and maybe even return the favour to a fellow traveller when you return home.
Of course, another well-known budget accommodation go-to is the good old hostel. Not only for students like some might assume, but a welcoming, fun and communal environment for all ages and all backgrounds. If you still don’t like the idea of sharing bunkbeds with strangers then you can book a private room, which still ends up cheaper than most hotels. Hostel rooms in Krakow start at as low as 18 PLN per night, which is chump change compared to many other cities.
Here’s a list of some wallet-friendly hostels in Krakow
Hotels & Guesthouses
If you desire a bit more comfort, Krakow still has some pretty cheap hotel and guesthouse options. We’ve found that if you are travelling in a couple or with a group it often works out cheaper or the same price to book a private room in a hotel as it would two dorm beds. Here are some good options:
Eating and Drinking
The Milk Bar
Born from a sparsity of ingredients or money during the period of communist rule, these grandma-run cafeterias, known in Polish as “bar mleczny”, have a fascinating story to tell as well as some delicious, traditional food to taste. These back-to-basics kitchens have survived well into the modern era, easily competing with newer, hipper places thanks to their well-established trustworthiness and value for money. When you dine here, you know they are using good, simple ingredients and techniques that even the most discerning village elder would approve of, and pricing it with the same antique dignity.
In Milk Bars you can chat with locals from all walks of life: war veterans, shoe cobblers, shop assistants, librarians and others of every generation. Not many tourists will learn about these community-centred cafes so you might even be an exciting visitor for the locals! Every Milk Bar is different but in general you will find such traditional Polish delights as pierogi (stuffed dumplings), pork or chicken breaded cutlet, surówki (pickled salads), gołąbki (rice and meat stuffed cabbage), potato or apple pancakes, bigos (meat stew), naleśniki (sweet or savoury stuffed crepes) and lots more. To drink there is usually tea and coffee or a typical homemade smoked fruit drink called kompot.
One of our favourites is a little known secret: Restaurant U Romana. Located atop the Krakow Academy of Music building, this secret Milk Bar is typically frequented by cello-playing students. Right in the Old Town, not a tourist in sight, and it has the best view in Krakow.
Milk Bar prices generally range from 4 PLN to 20 PLN per dish.
Here’s a handy map of Krakow’s Milk Bars
Traditionally cheap-as-chips food, drink and fun. Just like Milk Bars, the ‘Pijalnia’ is a special business, very specific to Poland and growing out of a need for food and drink on a tight budget. Unlike milk bars, these bustling and forever-open pubs not only serve warm plates of filling traditional Polish food such as pierogi, kiełbasa and żurek soup, but also the lowest priced alcohol in town. Generous selections of their famous uniquely flavoured vodka shots, plus beer, wine and all the usual spirits line the menu. To compliment the drinking, each Pijalnia also serves typical communist style vodka snacks (Polish tapas) such as herring, beef tartare and pickles. If you want to chat with friendly, boisterous locals or share a laugh with some happy tourists then this is a great place to pull up a stool, day or night. Each pijalnia generally has one set price for all drinks and one applied to all food. Prices range from 3 PLN to 5 PLN for drinks and 4 PLN to 10 PLN for food, depending on the place.
Here are some of our favourites:
Komisariat (u. Estery 6, Kazimierz Jewish District)
Pijalnia Wódki i Piwa (Pl. Nowy 7, Kazimierz Jewish District. Also at Floriańska 34 and Szewska 20, Old Town)
U Jozina (Św. Tomasza 7)
A delicious street food snack that can be found in strategically placed little blue carts all over the city. This traditional Krakowian bagel is not only historical and endemic to the city, but also bloody delicious! Baked fresh every day, try them topped with poppy seeds, sesame, linseed, cheese or salt. Priced from 1.50 PLN to 1.80 PLN
This gorgeous historical open air market has been around since Kings and Queens still graced the nearby Wawel Castle. A maze of mini hut shops lead to rows upon rows of simple blue tables are stacked high with a rainbow of fruits, vegetables, spices, clothing, jewellery, plants, housewares and bric a brac from near and far. Offering exotic fare, regional grandpa-grown produce, grandma crafted traditional meats, cheeses, bread and cakes, plus handmade specialities; Stary Kleparz is a perfect hunting ground for the budget shopper or eater. The atmosphere here will simultaneously massage you into the peaceful village of the surrounding regions as you uncover the beautiful grounded heart of this multifaceted, down-to-earth country.
The Stary Kleparz is at ul.Krowoderska 22/5. Just across the road from the Barbakan
Krakow is perfectly designed for visitors on a budget. With a huge range of fascinating and diverse cafes, museums, galleries, historical buildings and more packed into several cosy and neighbouring districts, plus gorgeous green parks and beautiful cobbled streets connecting everything; this city is not only easily walkable but enjoyably so. We highly recommend taking your time to wander through the Old Town, Kazimierz, Podgorze and Debniki, or along the picturesque banks of the river Vistula.
Wawelo is Krakow’s official city bike for hire, and they are pretty cost effective and convenient to use. All you have to do is sign up to the service with your bank card via their Official Website and you’re ready to cycle!
You’ll find their bike ports at lots of major locations all over the city, so you can pedal from one side of the city to the other and leave your bicycle at a port there instead of having to return it. This also means that you only pay for the time you’re actually using it. For instance you can ride to the museum, return the bike to the Wawelo rack, spend three hours looking around inside and then come out, pick up a new bicycle and start all over again.
Setting up will cost you a one-time 10 PLN fee, but after you can choose two options: on the ‘Pay as you go’ system, you’ll recharge your account as you would a mobile phone, and it only costs 0.17 PLN per minute, which works out to 1.70 PLN for 10 mins or 10.20 PLN per actual hour cycled. So for short distances, it’s great. But for longer distances or times of use you can choose the 29 PLN option which gives you 24 hrs to use up 12 hours of cycle time.
The alternative is to take an organised Bike Tour in Krakow where everything is organised, including a knowledgeable local guide.
Trams are super cheap, fast and conveniently connected for exploring the city, far & wide. A tram stop is never far away and most of the time you’ll only need one, or occasionally two to get to where you need. Not only that but they can offer an alternative budget tour for those who don’t have the pennies but would like get a good look around at all the sites. A trip on the no.8, no.6, no.78 or no. 73 tram can take you on a super picturesque ride travelling from leafy Salwator, along the Vistula river, right through the middle of the ancient historical old town, around the green and peaceful planty park circling the old town, down iconic. Ul Starowiślna with its bustling street life, through Kazimierz Jewish District and across the river into the beautiful village of historical Podgórze.
Tickets can be purchased with machines (at some stops) or on board the tram (but make sure you have coins, as they don’t take cards or cash in notes!), and must be validated after purchase by punching them in to one of the small orange boxes in the tram. They are regulated by time rather than number of trams, so you can change trams on the same ticket as long as it’s within your allotted time. Prices start at 3.40 PLN for 20 mins and 6.00 PLN for 90 mins but the larger amount of time you purchase, the relatively cheaper they get. You can also save with family tickets. 1 day, 2 days, 3 days, 1 week or a month tickets are also available, and you can buy an all inclusive ticket to get around anywhere within Krakow City limits, which also works on busses.
Heres the official MPK Krakow Tram Price List
And here’s a map of all the tramlines
Things To Do
Here’s some very good news: Krakow probably has more free festivals, exhibitions, markets, music and things to do than any other city you have ever visited. We will try to list as many of our favourites as we can, but there is so much more than we could ever fit into any one article.
Stay up to date with locals in the know! Find out what’s happening every day: festivals, concerts, exhibitions etc. through Local Life’s regularly updated local events in Krakow listing. Discover even more by following them on Facebook.
Weekly ‘Free Entry’ Day for Museums
In Krakow, almost every museum and gallery has one day of the week on which it is completely free to visit! This includes the National Museum, MOCAK, Schindlers Factory, Archeological Museum and loads more. Auschwitz is free every day but you should still book your place in advance as it is busy, so it is best to go on an organised tour to the concentration camp.
There are so many beautiful free festivals in Krakow that it seems there’s one for just about everything. They are always accompanied by free concerts, often simultaneously in multiple market squares across the city, and gorgeous traditional markets offering magical sights and smells. Several bring free outdoor cinemas with screenings of fabulous films (see below) and many involve hundreds of free art exhibitions or performances in unusual locations.
A few to watch out for are:
A festival we look forward to all year. Also dating back to more traditional times, this festival of spring has the whole city creating and wearing floral wreaths on their heads as they party hop from one medieval square to the next as the entire city is taken over by the biggest free range music festival you’ve ever seen. Big stages are erected across the city as for one whole day Krakow is filled with live music of all kinds. Jazz, contemporary, rock, pop, regional, weird and wonderful, super famous and never been heard of. It’s all there, everyones involved and it’s such a blissful day. Markets, food and extra parties accompany it.
One of the biggest festivals of the year (and that’s saying a lot considering how many massive festivals Krakow puts on), the Jewish Culture Festival is part artist, part gourmet, part philosopher, part historian & total party animal. In essence, a “culture” encompasses every aspect of life & the Jewish Culture Festival reciprocates that aim with a full & diverse program of events. Expect everything from intimate concerts to street parties, from amphitheatre presentations to group discussions, from street food bites to gourmet feasting, from unknown hermited poets to world-famous painters.
A traditional medieval fair with reenactments including a seriously real battle of ancient armies, music, markets, food, fun, joy and life. So much fun!!
But really, that’s only three. There’s so much more.
Outdoor Summer Cinemas
When the sun comes out and the grass is dry, cinemas screens begin to pop up in parks, squares, by rivers, in gardens and even on top of buildings. As a major player on the world film scene, Krakow’s plethora of movie lovers celebrate with a summer of free screenings of both classics, independents and new films. Bring your picnic blanket and settle in for a warm evening of free cinema under the stars.
Here’s a handy guide to Krakow’s outdoor cinema season
Another fabulous free outdoor treat that you can enjoy during the warmer months, Piknik Krakowski is a gorgeous series of community picnics designed to bring everyone outside to experience the peace and beauty of Krakow’s parks. Lots of great free stuff is provided for helping you to have fun: deck chairs, picnic blankets, sprinklers, sports equipment, guided activities and games for both kids and adults.
Here’s the Piknik Krakowski calendar for 2019
Nature and The Big Outdoors
You don’t need to wait for these picnics to visit Krakow’s parks and gardens. We have so much green space here, filled with chirping birds, voluptuous squirrels, meandering streams, towering, broad leaved trees, flowers, butterflies, frogs, lizards and fluffy bumblebees… and it’s completely free to enjoy every day of the week! Some of our favourite city parks are Park Bednarskiego, Planty Park, Zakrzówek Quarry, Nowa Huta Lagoon, along the Vistula River & Las Wolski and Park Krakowski. The Salwator area is also very picturesque.
If you take a 30 minute bus ride (3.80 zl) to the outskirts of Krakow, you can enjoy glorious National Parks with stunning, rocky outcrops dating back to the Jurassic period such as Ojcow and Niepołomice. You don’t need much luck to find great fossils here in the rock. There are also plenty of peaceful hiking/walking/cycling paths to explore, meadows to picnic in, rivers to splash in, even slackline walking and popular rock climbing routes on the monolithic chalky stone faces!
Here’s a list of National Parks near Krakow
A free and fascinating way to enjoy Krakow and it’s mysterious history is explore the ancient and secretive astronomically aligned mounds (kopiec) of Krakow. Looming high over the city and connecting with the sun and stars on pagan holidays, some say they are burial mounds for kings, some say they were built by the ancient celts for magical purposes, some say they are alien landing platforms and some just have no idea. Either way, the energy, the nature and the views there are magnificent… and completely free. Bring a picnic and some binoculars! Kopiec Krakus in Podgorze is our favourite.
Here’s an article about the mounds.
How are your haggling skills? Come on down to Krakow’s many markets to see if you can snag a bargain! These sprawling flea markets are great fun, free to browse and are absolutely packed with cool and amazing things. You can find vintage, collectables, jewellery, knick knacks, old coins, stamps, bags, furniture, clothing, war stuff, fruit & veg, yummy foods, & just about everything else old & new.
Where & When:
Plac Nowy in Kazimierz – all day, every day but best on weekends
Hala Targowa on ul. Dietla – Some stuff on weekdays but best on Sunday mornings
Second Hand & Vintage Shopping
Krakow offers a plethora of second hand and vintage shopping for friends of free (well, cheap) fashion. With vintage shops and ‘Odziez na Wage’ (Clothes by Weight) shops on every corner, this is actually one of the best cities in Europe for bargain blouse browsing. Some of the “vintage shops” will cost you an arm and a leg, but there are many more super cheap ones… you just need our help to know which ones to go to and which ones to avoid.
Here’s an article with more information
Here’s a useful map of Second Hand Shops
Last but not least, no matter what your religion, we definitely recommend exploring the city’s world famous churches. With it’s high density of churches and monasteries, Krakow was once known as the ‘Rome of the East”. Most of those churches are still standing today and it’s free to explore them as well as to soak up the silence. Stunningly intricate architecture, rainbows of stained glass windows made by famous artists such as Wyspiański, gorgeous medieval paintings, softly glowing candlelight… even if you don’t understand what they say in Polish, experiencing a mass here can be a glorious experience. Catholic, Atheist, Hindu, Wiccan or Muslim, you can appreciate the art, the architecture, the music and the history behind these ancient soaring structures and it won’t cost you a penny.
Here’s a map of Krakow’s Churches