Planning a trip to Poland is an incredibly exciting venture, but when you only have time to visit one of its major cities, it can be difficult to decide where to visit – especially if you’re stuck between seeing Warsaw or Krakow.
Warsaw and Krakow are both two of Poland’s most popular and culturally rich cities, and although both are well worth visiting, where you should visit will ultimately depend on various factors.
In general, Warsaw is a good choice for those looking for a big-city vibe and a slightly gritty atmosphere. On the other hand, Krakow is an excellent choice for those looking for a picture-perfect and compact city with plenty of historic buildings and sites.
Read on further to better learn what sets Warsaw and Krakow apart and help you decide whether to visit Warsaw or Krakow, Poland.
As the capital of Poland that rose from the ashes and is now a crucial part of the European Union, Warsaw is a vibrant and dynamic destination. From artsy neighborhoods to an outstanding food scene, Warsaw is a must-visit destination for anyone searching for a trip filled with history, culture, and a unique blend of architecture.
Warsaw is an incredibly accessible city, mostly due to its vast size and modern infrastructure.
Warsaw is home to its own international airport that serves a number of destinations across Europe and beyond, so it is easy to get to if you’re arriving from further afield. It is also connected by bus and train to nearby cities such as Gdansk – you can view schedules here.
The Polish capital city also has an extensive public transportation system that includes buses, trams, and a metro system.
The most common methods of public transportation in Warsaw are buses and trams, while the metro is quite new and so only consists of two lines, but conveniently connects to the central train station and the airport.
Because of this, it’s not necessary to rent a car, giving you ease of movement when you’re thinking about how you’ll get from place to place during your time in Warsaw.
Additionally, if you’re not someone keen on taking public transport, it’s also incredibly easy to walk to most destinations within Warsaw if you stick to the city center and main attractions.
While Poland in general is an incredibly cost-efficient destination, you’ll find that there are a few differences in costs when deciding to visit Krakow or Warsaw from an angle of affordability.
Warsaw comes out slightly more expensive than Krakow in certain categories, whereas other costs are pretty on par when comparing Krakow vs Warsaw costs.
When it comes to activities and sightseeing costs in Warsaw, you’ll find that in comparison to Krakow where many attractions and sites are located in the Old Town of Warsaw for free or at a low cost, Warsaw has quite a few museums and galleries spread out throughout the city. These typically cost more than most attractions in Krakow but are still generally affordable for low to medium budgets.
Regarding transportation expenses in Warsaw, the prices of public transportation are relatively inexpensive and comparable to those in Krakow. However, it is worth noting that taxi and Uber fares in Warsaw are pricier than in Krakow, although they remain reasonable.
Poland is known for its hearty and delicious homestyle food and as Warsaw is the capital of Poland, you’ll find yourself at no loss when searching for appetizing as well as unique restaurant options.
But how affordable is eating out in Warsaw vs Krakow? Following the pattern you’ve likely picked up by now, food is affordable in Warsaw but still marginally the more expensive of the two cities.
Things to do in Warsaw
Warsaw, the capital city of Poland, is a vibrant destination with a rich history and culture and no shortage of things to do and see in this interesting capital city.
Whether you’re looking to eat your way through the city, spend time in nature, or dive into Polish and Warsaw history in one of the city’s many incredibly enriching museums, there’s something for everyone.
Warsaw is truly a unique blend of both old and new, offering visitors a visual story of where the city once was, as well as where it’s going.
One of the must-visit places in Warsaw is the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of delightful Baroque architecture, cobblestone streets, and the Royal Castle, offering stunning views of the city of Warsaw. You can book a walking tour here.
For more outstanding views of Warsaw, head to the Old Town Observation Tower located on the Royal Way in Old Town, here you can see the sites in the Old Town along with iconic parts of the skyline such as the Palace of Culture and Science.
If you’re a history buff or someone keen to learn more about the history of Warsaw, head to the Warsaw Uprising Museum, which is dedicated to the heroic resistance against the Nazi occupation during World War II. For another museum option, The National Museum in Warsaw is a wonderful spot filled with over 830,000 pieces of art from both Poland and abroad.
For nature lovers, take a stroll through the Łazienki Park, a beautifully green park filled with gardens, fountains, and sculptures. At the park, you’ll also find the “Palace on the Isle”, the once-summer residence of the Polish monarchs.
Where to Stay in Warsaw
Hotel Reytan – This cosy hotel in the center of Warsaw is perfect for mid-range visitors exploring the Polish capital. There are a number of clean and comfortable rooms on offer, a great location for exploring the city and plenty of amenities to ensure your stay is comfortable. Click here to check availability
Hotel Polonia Palace – This luxury hotel is a great choice if you’re looking for a sophisticated stay in Warsaw. There are a range of plush and chic rooms on offer, a great, central location and plenty of high-end amenities on offer for guests. Click here to check availability
GO Apartments – These apartments are a good option if you’d like to have your own space while visiting Warsaw. There are a number of different flats available, all fully furnished with everything you may need during your stay. Click here to check availability
Oki Doki Old Town Hostel – Budget and solo travelers in Warsaw will love this cool hostel in the Old Town. They offer both dorms and private rooms along with great common areas and a good social atmosphere. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Warsaw hotels!
In comparison to the classically rebuilt and skyscraper-lined city of Warsaw, the city of Krakow speaks loudly through its charming ambience, with picturesque streets and a beautiful Old Town that has been preserved for centuries.
Krakow boasts an abundance of a rich history with delicious local specialties, friendly people, and an atmosphere straight out of a fairytale.
Regarding accessibility, Krakow is generally considered to be a pretty accessible city for both tourists and locals.
There is an international airport, however, it isn’t as high-traffic as Warsaw’s and, therefore, there are not as many route options available. You can organise a transfer from the airport.
Krakow has a well-developed public transportation system that includes buses and trams, running early morning until late at night with extra routes in service during peak hours.
The same tickets are valid for both bus and tram and the cost is pretty on par with Warsaw when looking at whether Krakow or Warsaw is more affordable regarding public transportation.
Although Krakow only has bus and tram transport, unlike Warsaw with metro transport as well, Krakow has a slight edge over Warsaw for walkability. Krakow is a much smaller city than Warsaw, without the “big city” feel, making it quite convenient to pretty much walk around the entire city center.
Because of this, along with the wonderful public transportation system in Krakow, it’s also safe to say that it’s not necessary to rent a car for your time in Krakow.
Krakow is indeed an affordable destination to visit, making it the perfect spot to visit for budget travelers seeking a European getaway off the beaten path.
If both Krakow and Warsaw are in your sights, you’ll find that Krakow is marginally cheaper, specifically when it comes to food, accommodation, and activities costs.
Krakow is a well-known city for delicious street food, with tasty options in the city center for a small price. Even better, if visiting during the winter months, the best place to head is to Rynek Glówny, the city’s main square to have a true Polish feast, tasting local and Polish specialties for an affordable cost with views of the beautiful Cloth Hall.
If you prefer to visit restaurants to eat, eating in a restaurant in Krakow is still a low-cost option, allowing you to indulge in a comforting classic Polish meal without breaking the bank. Krakow is also the alleged birthplace of bagels, so snagging a chewy, delicious bagel is the perfect and affordable way to take a bite out of Krakow and its history.
When comparing Krakow vs Warsaw when it comes to food costs, Warsaw is a more built-up capital city, resulting in a larger amount of restaurants including high-end options that will cost much more.
When it comes to transportation costs, public transportation tickets and passes are cheap, and pretty on par with the cost of public transportation in Warsaw.
On the other hand, if you’re someone that prefers to take taxis or Uber transportation while you travel, taxis and Uber in Krakow are slightly more affordable than in Warsaw, so keep this in mind if it’s an important factor for your trip budget and you’re deciding whether to visit Krakow or Warsaw.
Activities in Krakow are also quite affordable and slightly more cost-efficient than activities in Warsaw. Most sights and attractions in Krakow are government buildings and run by the Polish government leading to a cheaper cost, whereas, in Warsaw, you’ll find many private museums and galleries at a higher cost.
Things to do in Krakow
Krakow is a beautiful and quaint city known for its rich cultural heritage and fascinating history. When visiting Krakow, you’ll find that there are several things to do, see and visit ranging from touching historical landmarks to modern attractions.
A visit to the Wawel Castle in central Krakow is a must-see and one of the most important monuments in the city. At Wawel Castle, you’ll learn about the rich history of Krakow while being treated to stunning views of the city. Here you can also explore the castle’s various chambers, the Royal Palace, as well as the Cathedral. You organise a guided tour here.
The Main Market Square, Rynek Glówny is another iconic landmark in Krakow and is one of the largest medieval town squares in Europe. At the Main Market Square, you’ll find restaurants, cafes, and beautiful sights of the city to take in while relaxing in the Krakow Square that’s frozen in time.
Krakow has significant historical significance as one of the largest ghettos during the Holocaust and as one of the cities that suffered some of the highest losses of the Jewish population.
Krakow’s Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, is well worth a visit. It is home to numerous synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, and museums, including the Galicia Jewish Museum, along with Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory. You can also take a walking tour here.
Another must-see is the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, located just outside the city. It serves as a solemn reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust and is a powerful experience that should not be missed while visiting Krakow. You can book an organised tour here.
The Jewish Quarter is also a timely, idyllic, and quaint area that truly feels like you’ve been transported in time; wandering around its’ enchanting streets and savouring traditional Polish and Jewish food is a must in Krakow. You can also do a food tour if you want to learn more from a guide.
If you’re a lover of art, the Czartoryski Museum is a must-visit attraction. The museum boasts an impressive collection of artwork, including works by Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt. The St. Mary’s Basilica is also a beautiful site, with its intricate Gothic architecture and stunning interior.
Krakow is truly a city that offers an abundance of cultural and historical attractions, as well as an idyllic atmosphere.
Where to Stay in Krakow
Q Hotel Kraków – A great option for mid-range travellers, this small hotel is centrally located and has a number of clean and comfortable rooms available. There is also a great breakfast included in the nightly rate. Click here to check availability
PURO Krakow Kazimierz – If you’re after a bit of luxury, then this trendy hotel in Kazimierz is a great option for you. They have a range of plush and chicly decorated rooms available, a great location and a bar and spa on site. Click here to check availability
Mundo Hostel – An excellent choice for those travelling solo or on a budget, this hostel is centrally located, has a range of private and dorm rooms available and includes breakfast daily. The staff also organise activities and night’s out, making it a great social hostel. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Krakow hotels!
Warsaw or Krakow: Which is Better to Visit
Ultimately, deciding whether to visit Warsaw or Krakow is a personal decision dependent on different factors that are important to you and what you hope to get out of a trip to one of Poland’s most popular cities.
If you’re looking for a classic, small-town feel rather than a bustling urban oasis, I’d suggest heading to Krakow rather than Warsaw. Krakow is known for its beautiful and well-preserved architecture, as well as its charming and vibrant atmosphere, being one of the only cities in Poland that weren’t destroyed during World War 2.
Warsaw, on the other hand, is a busy urban city, with a rebuilt old-town rather than original architecture from before the war.
For history lovers, Warsaw has had an important role in shaping modern Europe and has a history that spans over 800 years. The city has undergone numerous wars and transformations, including the destruction and reconstruction after World War II.
Krakow on the other hand, offers a glimpse into Poland’s medieval and Renaissance past, along with a denser history of Poland’s Jewish community within Krakow, as well as Auschwitz being nearby.
If you’re searching for a cosmopolitan and urban atmosphere in Poland, I’d suggest making your way to Warsaw over Krakow. Warsaw is more similar to other major European cities, and is quite diverse, full of modern arts & culture, skyscrapers, and a completely different atmosphere compared to Krakow.
While Krakow is sweet and quaint, Warsaw has grit and most foreigners visit Krakow, giving Warsaw a more local experience for visitors. Additionally, if nightlife is an important aspect to you and you’re deciding on Warsaw or Krakow nightlife because Warsaw is such an urban city, I would suggest heading to Warsaw.
While both cities are affordable destinations like the rest of Poland, Krakow comes out slightly cheaper than Warsaw. So, if you’re looking for a destination where you’ll save some money, although not much more in comparison to Warsaw, Krakow is the ideal city.
Because it is more compact, you’ll find that Krakow is the more walkable city as the top sites are located quite close to each other. If you’re hoping to explore by foot and not have to rely on public transportation, Krakow is the city for you.
On the other hand, if you are stuck deciding to visit Krakow or Warsaw and you thrive on efficient public transportation in a large city, I’d recommend heading to Warsaw over Krakow.
Last but not least, one of the major deciding factors when deciding where to visit when traveling, is food. Warsaw and Krakow to visit for food are great options, with a few differences between them.
Krakow is more of a traditional, smaller city lending to food options being more-so traditional Polish food (still incredibly delicious), whereas Warsaw, being more of a cosmopolitan city has more diverse and varied food options. So, if you’re looking for a city to indulge in traditional Polish food, I’d head to Krakow.
Alternatively, if you’re someone that searches for new, modern restaurants or ethnic and vegetarian food options, Warsaw is probably your best bet.
Whether you choose Krakow or Warsaw when you visit Poland, you’re sure to fall in love with these historic Polish cities. Both have different things to offer visitors and they’re very much worth exploring in their own right.
Are you planning a trip to Poland? Have any questions about these cities? Let us know in the comments!