Poland: Krakow vs. Warsaw

It’s not a contest or a competition, but rather a healthy debate in Poland: Krakow vs. Warsaw. If you only have a limited time in Poland (as I did), which city do you choose (if you have to) – Krakow or Warsaw? Warszawa is larger and more modern in appearance largely re-built after World War 2. Kraków is more historical with the Sukiennice and Wawel and a short trip to the salt mines in Wieliczka.

Wawel Cathedral with golden roof of Sigmuntus Chapel in Krakow by marktravel

Poland: Krakow

Krakow has a lot going for it with a warm and comfortable vibe. Krakow is compact compared to the much larger urban sprawl of Warsaw. In Krakow, you can take a short walk almost anywhere. From the old Jewish quarter; to the Market Square; to the shadow of Wawel Castle and beyond. There’s a great range of bars, restaurants, and music venues. Food choice includes everything you find throughout Europe including Thai, Italian, French, Russian, Hungarian and, of course, Polish. Kogel Mogel, Szara, Morskie Oko are among the many very good Polish restaurants. Museums to visit include the National Museum (21 branches in Krakow), the gallery of 19th- century Polish art and the Schindler Factory museum on the original premises. There’s also the Wieliczka Salt Mine and a short drive to Auschwitz (see my Auschwitz post- Poland: My Visit to Auschwitz).

World War 2 Memorial in Warsaw by marktravel

Poland: Warsaw

The “new” Warsaw is the greenest city in Poland. With over 80% of Warsaw destroyed in World War 2, city planners had a chance to modernize the city. The city gained new squares, parks and monuments. In Warsaw, you can explore the Old Town (reconstructed after the war) and the Royal Route to the baroque Wilanow Palace. Warsaw has several newer museums including the Chopin Museum, Copernicus Science Centre and the Warsaw Rising Museum – all worth a visit. The much anticipated Museum of the History of Polish Jews has been built on the grounds of the Warsaw Ghetto. The city centre is a modern downtown area with glass buildings and a newer subway system. Warsaw is an eclectic mixture of history, culture, a communist past and modern business.

Poland: Krakow or Warsaw

I hate to choose. Do you like red wine or white wine? Black or white? I like both. It depends. Although Warsaw is the capital of Poland, Krakow is probably the country’s favourite city. They are different and for many different reasons. I choose not to choose. The truth is…I’ll go back to both Krakow and Warsaw.

13 thoughts on “Poland: Krakow vs. Warsaw

  1. Mike February 7, 2013 / 8:12 pm

    Nice post. Funny that you, as a foreign traveller, should be asking that question as it divides us, Poles, to a certain degree. Generally people living and/or studying in Krakow tend to dislike Warsaw and, to a lesser extend, it also goes the other way ’round. It’s silly, really, but there seems to be that tension. Personally, me being Warsaw-born, I really like Krakow for it’s entertainment but I also really like Warsaw for being more of “a city” in terms of modern urban life. Hope you’ve enjoyed your stay in Poland! 🙂

    • markstraveljournal February 7, 2013 / 8:39 pm

      Thank you for your comments Mike. I very much enjoyed my stay in Poland.

  2. Madryt February 10, 2013 / 2:33 pm

    I like the helpful information you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I’m quite sure I’ll learn many new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

  3. ReadyClickAndGo February 13, 2013 / 1:05 pm

    I prefer Krakow! there is so much to see in the city but also outside of city – Zakopane, The Wieliczka Salt Mines, Tyskie Brewery…Auschwitz

  4. Ryan K Biddulph May 16, 2019 / 7:43 am

    Looks like 2 awesome cities to experience Mark. Nice review.

  5. adventuresxlil May 14, 2020 / 10:26 am

    Rather interesting! I’ve only visited Krakow but people have said I need to go back to experience Warsaw. I’d be so nervous though that Warsaw wouldn’t live up to the amazing experience I had in Krakow!

    • markstraveljournal May 14, 2020 / 10:45 am

      Krakow is great but so is Warsaw. They are different though. You’ll have to get to Warsaw and judge for yourself. Thanks for the comments

  6. Patrycja Gronert September 10, 2021 / 4:39 am

    Great post, Mark! Even though I’m from Poland I’ve been to these two cities only a few times. I love both of them, but each gives me a different vibe! Warsaw seems like a big city, great for a night out or ‘office life’, while Krakow seems to be more chill and easy-going, if you know what I mean. I love to learn the history of Warsaw (although it’s a tough one), but whenever I’m in Krakow, I also go to Auschwitz.

    I think, I’d definitely recommend Krakow for someone, who’s going Poland for first time, but Warsaw should be on the must-visit list as well 🙂

    • markstraveljournal September 10, 2021 / 7:17 am

      Thank you for these comments. I give the nod to Krakow as well but both make for a great trip to Poland.

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