Home to a beguiling centuries-old medieval center, terrific museums, award-winning boutique hotels and many of the country’s best restaurants, the most popular city in Poland can be hard on your wallet if you really live it up. Yet getting the most out of your visit to Kraków needn’t have you drifting into insolvency, Poland overall is not a massively expensive destination. 

Picking less pricey days to visit the most popular attractions, making the best use of public transport, staying in inexpensive accommodations and eating and drinking local can all help you make the most of your stay while simultaneously immersing you in Polish culture. Here is how to visit Kraków on a budget.

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Evening in Krakow's Old Town with people heading to restaurants
The train from the airport gets you into Kraków Old Town in less than 30 minutes © Mark and Anna Photography / Shutterstock

Take public transport to/from the airport

Unless your evening flight to Kraków gets delayed – or you have to be at the airport between midnight and 4am – save the taxi fare by taking a bus or train to/from the airport. The easiest way to travel is by train between Kraków Glowny (main train station) and Kraków Lotnisko (John Paul II International Airport). These run twice-hourly (first/last departures are 3:48am and 11:40pm from the train station and 4:17am and 11:08pm from the airport). A one-way ticket costs 9zł and the journey takes 20-30 minutes. 

The airport is also served by bus lines 208 and 209 from Kraków’s main bus station between 4:30am and 10:30pm (5zl, 45 minutes), and night bus 902 that runs hourly at five minutes past the hour from 11:05pm to 4:05am.  If you have no choice but to go by taxi, note that Uber and Bolt rides cost less than official taxi rides (from 45zł as opposed to from 75zł), but are less reliable.

Distances in the Old Town are perfectly walkable 

If you enjoy keeping fit while on the road, exploring Kraków on foot should help you towards your fitness goals. Old Town is wonderfully walkable, as is Kazimierz, and strolling between the two takes around 20 minutes. Morning runners will appreciate the ring of parkland surrounding Old Town.

Visit Kraków during the shoulder months

Accommodation prices shoot up by at least 25% during the summer high season, so consider traveling off-season. By far the cheapest time to come to Kraków is in the winter (with the exception of the Christmas/New Year period), but it can be bitterly cold.  Shoulder seasons (mid-March to May and September to mid-October) are a good compromise, allowing you to combine moderate room rates with mild weather and relatively few visitors.

Get to know Kraków’s trams and buses

Public buses in Kraków are not hugely useful unless you want to visit a few attractions in far-flung corners of the city, but trams are inexpensive and really handy for reaching sights in Nova Huta, Podgórze and Kazimierz neighborhoods if you’re based centrally. 

Single tickets (2.80–6zł) can be purchased either directly from the driver or from ticket machines at most tram stops; prices vary, depending on the zone and on whether the ticket is valid for 20, 40, 60 or 90 minutes. If you have a blitzkrieg approach to sightseeing, you may wish to buy a 24/48/72-hour travel card for 15/24/36zł; seven-day travel cards also available (48zł).

A new bike-share scheme is coming

While Old Town is wonderfully walkable, if you want to combine some daily exercise with getting to attractions further out (sights in Kazimierz, Nova Huta and Podgórze), you may wish to make use of Kraków’s bicycle rental schemes. Following the demise of Wavelo – Poland’s first city bicycle rental scheme – during the pandemic, the City of Kraków is due to launch a new bicycle rental scheme in late 2022, which will include regular bikes and electric bicycles, with a subscription service and docking stations all over the city. 

Two people cook sausages at a street-food stall in Krakow
Kraków’s street food might not be healthy but it is delicious © Liya_Blumesser / Shutterstock

Dine out on Kraków’s street food

If daily fruit and veg are not a deal breaker for you, it’s possible to happily subsist for days on some of Kraków’s best street food. Grab an obwarzanek or two (Kraków bagel topped with poppy seeds or sesame seeds) from a stall pretty much on every street corner in Old Town for 2.50zł, chow down on superlative kielbasa (signature Polish sausage; 10zł) from the van in front of the market on ul. Grzegorzecka, and try the zapiekanka (10zł) – Poland’s answer to pizza – a half-baguette topped with cheese, mushrooms and ketchup at Plac Nowy in Kazimierz.

Stay in hostels

If you’re looking to stay centrally – in Old Town, or in Kazimierz – then hostels are a terrific budget option. Some offer dorms only; others may have inexpensive singles or doubles as well as cooking facilities and communal hangout spaces; others are for women travelers only. Best of all, most offer free breakfast and have knowledgeable staff who organize inexpensive tours and nights out and can recommend the best cheap places to eat and bars. 

Kraków’s top hostels include Mundo, Draggo House and Greg and Tom’s Party Hostel. Check in advance whether you’re booking yourself into a crush-a-beer-can-against-your-forehead party hostel or a sociable, laid-back spot to meet fellow travelers (sometimes the clue’s in the name!).  

Or find room shares and short-term lets

If privacy and having a space of your own takes precedence over saving money by sleeping in a hostel dorm, look into online room-share options and short-term self-catering apartments for rent (they are especially plentiful in Old Town and Kazimierz and are even cheaper outside those two popular neighborhoods), the latter particularly good value if you’re traveling with several friends. 

In summer, student dorms are typically rented out as cheap hotel rooms, though they’re located outside of Old Town. Other budget digs to look out for include private rooms for rent (look out for "noclegi" signs in the window).

Take advantage of museum passes and discounted entry

Even if you don’t take advantage of free admission offered by different museums on different days, if you’re planning on doing some intensive sightseeing, it’s well worth purchasing multi-venue tickets for Museum of Kraków and Kraków National Museum branches online.

The main chamber in a vast salt mine, with chandeliers hanging down and people moving around
Public transportation is way cheaper than a tour to Wieliczka © Jaroslav Moravcik / Shutterstock

Take public transportation to Auschwitz and Wieliczka Salt Mine

While the most notorious Nazi death camp and an underground cathedral carved out of salt are not in Kraków proper, visits to these two sights are the most popular day trips from the city. Virtually every hotel and hostel offers long day tours to both for around 300zł, which may be worth considering if you’re really short on time.

But if time is not a factor and you wish to absorb your experiences in peace rather than share them with a busload of other visitors, set aside a day for each (it’s more than worth it) and use public transport. 

To get to Auschwitz, 66km (41 miles) west of Kraków, take a bus (8–9 times daily, 1.5–2 hours) from Kraków’s central bus station for 20zł, or one of several daily trains to Oswiecim (13zł, approx 2 hours), then walk for 25 minutes, rather than pay 170zł for a day tour. Getting to Wieliczka, 16km (10 miles) southeast of the city, is even easier: hop on one of the half-hourly trains from Kraków Glowny train station (6zł, 20–30 minutes), then walk for 10 minutes. 

Skip the expensive city tours in favor of wallet-friendly ones

As befitting a city of its stature, Kraków offers countless themed tours that cater to all budgets. Boning up on the city’s history and culture ahead of your trip and skipping the standard tours is an obvious money saver. However, a number of tours are extremely worthwhile and offer cultural immersion and the opportunity to see Kraków from an unusual angle. 

Free Walking Tour offers excellent daily walking tours of Kraków’s Old Town, as well as the themed Macabre Kraków, Jewish Kraków, Street Art, WWII Kraków and Nova Huta Kraków that are nearly gratis. While there is no official fee for the tour, it’s customary to tip the guide at the end. We recommended a tip of around 20zł (US$5), though more generosity is always appreciated.

Drink the tap water

Kraków tap water is potable and doesn’t taste as if you’re sipping from a swimming pool. So keep your reusable flask refilled and that way you’ll be hydrated and do your bit for the environment.

Eat at a dirt-cheap bar mleczny (cafeteria)

If you’re afflicted with nostalgia for the Communist era, you’ll be thrilled to disover that you can combine your passion with a quest for some of Kraków’s cheapest eats. Throwbacks to the pre-Iron Curtain era, Kraków’s historic “bar mleczny” are dirt-cheap cafeteria, popular with locals, where you can fill up on soup, pierogi and juice without crossing the 10zł threshold. There’s a branch at Grodzka 43 in Old Town and another at Starowiślna 29, at the northern end of the Kazimierz neighbourhood.

Shop at produce markets and best-value supermarkets

If you’re staying in self-catering accommodations or a hostel with a guest kitchen, you can save your pennies for more memorable dining or cultural experiences by cooking for yourself at least part of the time. Some of Kraków’s cheapest fresh produce is found at local markets, such as Stary Kleparz

Additionally, look out for Kraków’s (and Poland’s) least expensive supermarket chain, Biedronka, with one handy branch in the Old Town and another in the shopping center adjoining Kraków’s main train station.

Save your partying for happy hour

In Kraków, keep an eye out for happy hour in most bars, when you can take advantage of discounted tipples and two-for-one deals. Even better, head for a branch of Pijalnia Wodki I Piwa – a popular local chain of old-school bars dotted around Old Town, with another branch in Kazimierz.

The decor is identical (and probably won’t make many of your Instagram photos) but they serve up uniformly cheap beer (from 8.50zł per pint), vodka (7.50zł per shot), wine, cocktails (16zł), coffee (5zł), soft drinks and shots (5zł individual; 12zł for a “kamikaze” flight of four), along with bar snacks (sandwiches, steak tartare, and zurek – sourdough soup) and a healthy dose of 1960s nostalgia.

Daily costs in Kraków

Hostel dorm: 25–35zł
Basic room for two: 90–150zł
Tram ticket: 3zł
Dinner for two in a local restaurant: 30–40zł
Beer: 9zł
Coffee: 5zł

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