Warsaw or Krakow: Which Polish City to Visit?

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by Olivia Ellis

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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 whether to visit Warsaw or Krakow.

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.

This guide will help you understand more of what sets Warsaw and Krakow apart and help you decide which one to visit.


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.

Old Town Market Square in Warsaw
Old Town Market Square in Warsaw


Warsaw is an incredibly accessible city, mostly due to its vast size and modern infrastructure.

The city 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 if you stick to the city center and main attractions.

St. John Archcathedral
St. John Archcathedral


While Poland in general is an incredibly cost-efficient destination, you’ll find that there are a few differences in costs.

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 there are 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, the prices of public transportation are relatively inexpensive and comparable to those in Krakow.

Poland is known for its hearty and delicious homestyle food and there are lots of traditional eateries and modern food options in the capital.

But how affordable is eating out in Warsaw? 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.

Lazienki Royal Park
Lazienki Royal Park

Things to do in Warsaw

Whether you’re looking to eat your way through the city, spend time in nature, or dive into Polish 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, 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 Rising 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.  

Royal Castle in Warsaw
Royal Castle in Warsaw

Where to Stay in Warsaw

Hotel Reytan – Well-located in the centre Warsaw, this is an excellent mid-range option. There are plenty of spacious rooms on offer along with a buffet breakfast available each morning.

Hotel Polonia Palace – A grand hotel opposite the Palace of Culture and Science, this is an excellent luxe option in the Polish capital. Not only are there countless gorgeous rooms, but there is a lovely bar, a restaurant and plenty of other great amenities.

GO Apartments – Offering several one- and two-bedroom apartments, this is great for those with their own space. There is a central location, 4 on-site restaurants, breakfast and they are also pet-friendly.

Oki Doki Old Town Hostel – A highly-rated and family-run hostel, this is an excellent budget option. There are lots of dorms and private available and an excellent social atmosphere for meeting others.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Warsaw hotels!

Warsaw's Old Town
Warsaw’s Old Town


In comparison to the classically rebuilt and skyscraper-lined capital, Krakow speaks loudly through its charming ambience, with picturesque streets and a beautiful Old Town that has been preserved for centuries.

The city 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 the capital when looking at whether Krakow or Warsaw is more affordable.

Although Krakow only has bus and tram transport, it has an edge over Warsaw for walkability. Krakow is a much smaller city 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 transport system, it’s also safe to say that it’s not necessary to rent a car for your time in Krakow.

Prices in Krakow: Tram's aren't expensive
Trams are a great way to get around Krakow


Krakow is an affordable destination to visit, making it the perfect spot place for budget travelers seeking a European getaway.

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 and Warsaw when it comes to food costs, Warsaw is a more built-up capital city, resulting in a larger number 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 costs in Warsaw.

Activities in Krakow are also quite affordable and slightly more cost-efficient than activities in Warsaw. Most sights and attractions in Krakow are 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.

Wawel Castle
Wawel Castle

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 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.

This is also where some of the most unique venues in Krakow’s nightlife are, so it’s worth visiting if you want to party a bit. 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.

For another day trip option, there is also the fascinating Wieliczka Salt Mine which is absolutely jaw-dropping.

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.

Kazimierz in Krakow

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.

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.

Ginger Hostel – An excellent accommodation 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.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Krakow hotels!

Krakow's Market Square
Krakow’s Market Square

Warsaw vs Krakow: Which is Better to Visit

Ultimately, deciding which city to visit is a personal decision dependent on different factors that are important to you.

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.

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 on foot, Krakow is the city for you.

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 to visit Krakow or Warsaw when you head to 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!

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Olivia is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Michigan, USA, she is currently living in Athens, Greece exploring Europe and filmmaking. When she’s not travelling or writing, Olivia can be found cooking delicious new recipes from around the world, reading, and spending time outdoors.

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