Exploring Krakow Christmas Markets: Budget-Friendly, Festive Magic

Caleb and I LOVE Krakow. We’ve been in the Summer, and it felt like a hidden gem (overused term, we know!) After visiting the Krakow Christmas markets, we both agree that Winter feels exactly the same: a place less traveled that is freaking magical!

In the guide, we’ll share everything you should consider when deciding if you should visit Krakow or skip it, as well as a guide to the markets with everything you should eat! We’ve also got some insider tips from our own visit to Krakow during December!

Here’s a video we made so you can get an overall feeling of the vibe!

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✔️ Quick Info:

📅 Opening Dates: TBD! We’ll keep this updated

⏰ Best time to go: late afternoon to just after sunset on weekdays.

🍴 Must eat: Pierogi, Bigos stew and Oscypek Cheese

🏨 Where to stay: We stayed at Roller ApartHotels and loved it, and it’s proximity to markets – only 4 minutes walk!

💴 Paying: card is accepted most places. Bring Euros just in case.

Markets Covered In This Guide: Rynek Glowny, The Kazimierz Market

What To Expect & Know If You’re Deciding To Visit

Before we get into our detailed guide to the Christmas markets in Krakow, we want to help you figure out if it’s worth visiting for what you’re looking for! Maybe you stumbled across our post in the “info gathering” stage and not the “I know I’m going here; give me a detailed guide” stage.

So boil some pierogi, and let’s discuss:

The Good:

First off, Krakow’s Christmas market was named Europe’s best in 2023. So, do what you want with that info.

More than 90% of people in Poland identify as Catholic, so Christmas is right up there in importance with Easter! There are some unique Christmas traditions like St. Nicholas Day on December 6th, or you can buy a thin wafer called Oplatek at the markets and share it with each other as a symbol of good wishes for the year.

If you want a market that has some cultural significance, you’ll find it here!

Caleb and I loved how the whole old town of Krakow felt SO FLIPPING Christmas-y, even around the market. The cute little side streets were all lit up with Christmas lights, and we were lucky enough to experience snow!

It all felt so magical, and we kinda felt like we were in one of those Lifetime Christmas movies that you secretly pretend to hate but sorta love.

A bustling street view at night in Krakow during the Christmas season, decorated with festive lights and filled with people walking, with snow piled up along the sides

When we first got to the market, we were both a little like, “Oh…. that’s all?”  because the market doesn’t even take up the whole main square! But, after visiting, we realized that size, in fact, does not matter.

Because the market was on the smaller side, if we compare them to bigger markets like the ones we visited in Prague or Berlin, it does make it a more cozy, festive, and authentic feeling.  The market is also not as tackily decorated as some of the huge ones, which gives it a real feeling of Christmas that is also romantic. It doesn’t feel as commercialized.

We also really like that there is only *one* main market, so you don’t have to stumble around (thanks cheap mulled wine) trying to hit them all in a short time.

A big reason we go to Christmas markets is TO EAT, so if you share our non-christmas-calorie-counting-hearts, you absolutely should come to Krakow for Christmas. We saw some of the most unique foods here that you can only get in Krakow. Bring yo’ stretchy pants, friends. You’ll need them.

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The Bad:

We always like to keep our thoughts honest,  so we’d say there are *some* downsides to consider. 

There really is only one main market, so if you want a variety or to see a lot of markets, it’s probably not for you. 

Cozy Christmas market stall adorned with garlands and lights, offering festive decorations and seasonal treats in Krakow

Because the market was only part of the square, it did make it feel more cramped and busy than some of the other markets that are more spread out, so keep that in mind!

If you want to go to a market that has lots of local performances like we saw in Bratislava, you’ll likely be let down here. When we researched, so many articles said there was a big stage with Polish dancing and performances, so we were excited! However, we did not see any stage. This may change this year? But, be prepared for this stage not to exist.

If you’re looking for the “WOW” factor with lots of crazy decorations and large sizes that other markets around Europe have, the chances are pretty high that you’ll be disappointed with the Christmas market in Krakow.

Krakow at Christmas is for you if…

To help you decide if you want to visit or not, here are some things that would make it worth checking out if you agree to all/most of them:

  • You don’t mind a slower pace and taking your time with a more authentic Christmas experience.
  • You like simple beauty and aren’t looking for an epic WOW factor.
  • You’re on a budget
  • You’re a foodie (especially vegetarians, as we saw  lots of meat-free options!)
Shoppers browsing a Christmas market stall with a variety of festive ornaments and gingerbread in Krakow, Poland.

It’s not for you if:

On the flip side, if you agree with these thoughts, then maybe the Krakow Christmas market should be a “skipper”:

  • You want to hit A LOT of markets in one city.
  • You’re looking for a huge WOW factor or for a market with lots of activities. 
People walking through a snowy Christmas market street, with red-roofed stalls on either side selling holiday items, with the iconic red brick Gothic St. Mary's Basilica in the distance under a gray sky.

Guide To The Biggest Market in Rynek Główny

The biggest Christmas market is in Krakow’s market square (Rynek Glowny), and as I said above, it really only takes about ½ of the square.  While it is small, it is beautiful with its simple garlands and strands of lights running between the equally simple market stalls.

You won’t find crazy-decorated stalls like those in Strasbourg here, and we didn’t mind!  It’s festive in a pretty way, not a tacky way, especially with the MASSIVE Christmas tree that welcomes you (along with every other photo-happy tourist) when you walk into the square.

A towering Christmas tree adorned with lights, ornaments, and a bright star topper, surrounded by people in a Krakow square

The main square sits under Saint Mary’s Basilica, which was unfortunately closed when we visited but did look really pretty. It all lit up at night in the background of the market, making it one of the more romantic Christmas markets we’ve been to!

As we walked around, it was pretty obvious what the focus was: food! We noticed that there seemed to be a “food area” in the middle with all the food stalls, with the ‘shopping stalls” around the outside. We didn’t see other markets organized like this, so our foodie hearts LOVED IT.

A wooden food stall decorated with red accents and holiday greens under a dusting of snow, displaying signs for 'Grzaniec Galicyjski' which is a traditional Polish spiced wine, set against a backdrop of historic pale-colored buildings

TAYLOR’S TIP: The best stands for mulled wine are on the outskirts of the market and are not very visible. Look for the signs that say “Grzaniec Galicyjski” with long lines of people getting drinks from a window. We call them “mulled wine speakeasies.”

Just note that if you’re trying to collect those cute shoe mugs, you won’t find them here. We had mulled wine in the paper “to-go” coffee cups which was kinda a letdown. But, it’s only 4-5 Euros, which is way cheaper than the 8 Euros we paid at the crappy Budapest market.

We tasted a lot of unique food here, like fried sheep cheese, a ton of different kinds of soup (SO good for a cold night), and peirogi because, duh, it’s Poland! More on the food in a second.

A market stall at a Christmas fair selling intricately decorated gingerbread cookies, covered by a blue canopy, with a bundled-up vendor arranging the displays, set against a dark evening sky lit by festive lights.

If you want to buy some things at the market, we highly suggest you buy from the stalls around the central food area. While we walked around, we saw that those stalls were the most unique and were selling goods that seemed more likely to be made by local artisans.

There is the covered “cloth hall” in the middle of the market that acts as a year-round market, but honestly? It felt insane! It’s a narrow hallway, and it’s indoors, so there were tons of people squished in trying to get warm, and the shopping felt a little less unique and more mass-produced.

TAYLOR’S TIP: If you drink too much mulled wine (does that exist?) there IS a bathroom on the bottom floor of the cloth hall. It cost a couple of Euros, but saved us a few times!

Twilight over a snow-dusted Christmas market in Krakow with a row of wooden stalls decorated with lights and wreaths

The Kazimierz Market

When we walked down to explore Kazimierz (the Jewish district), we also came across a very small and cute market inside Plac Wolnica that had almost no one visiting it at sunset. It was the best time to visit any markets!

If you want a low-key, totally authentic experience, we’d recommend making a little stop there too! But, it’s not something you need to go out of your way for, in our opinion.

Delicatessen stall with an assortment of smoked sausages and meats, with vendors serving in a festive market setting in Krakow.

Regional Food To Try

Boy, oh boy, you are in for a heavy-but-delish treat with Krakow’s Christmas Market food! Here are the things we tried and recommend you follow suit:

  • Grilled meat and sausages – in typical Caleb fashion, he went for the Polish sausages first.

Did that come out wrong? Moving on.

If you’re into meat, you won’t have any issue finding food because there are SO MANY grilling huts.

A paper cup of steaming bigos (traditional Polish stew of cabbage and meat) on a dark wooden table, with a wooden spoon, captured in an intimate, moody lighting
  • Bigos strew – this is one of my favorite soups! It translates to” hunters stew” and kinda reminds me of the cabbage stew that all the 1990 moms ate because it was zero calories.

But, like, not zero calories because it has all kinds of sausage in it.

Just expect to eat it fast because we wish ours was hotter. It was kinda lukewarm.

Close-up of a traditional open grill cooking various meats and potatoes, tended by vendors at a Christmas market in Krakow
  • Other soups: Poland is big on soup, and we saw so many stalls devoted to soups! You can try pumpkin soup, tomato soup, garlic soup, and borscht (beet soup). SO MANY SOUPS TO SLURP.
  • Fried sheep cheese (Oscypek) – OMG, you guys. This is one of the best foods at any Christmas market, full stop. It’s smoked sheep cheese, grilled, and then topped with cranberry jam.

You can also get it wrapped in ham, which we did…again and again and again.

Close-up view of trays filled with traditional Polish pierogi, with plain and green spinach-flavored dough, served in a food stall at a Christmas market
  • Halva – one of my favorite sweet treats made of sesame tahini, sugar, and nuts. It’s SUPER sweet, but we didn’t see it in any other markets.
  • Peirogi – would you trust if we didn’t include pierogies? We had some unique flavors like duck and apricot and pulled beef and veggies!

TAYLOR’S TIP: While the pierogi here is great, our favorite in the city is at Pierogi, Mr. Vincent! We even compared them with the famous Przystanek Pierogarnia. Mr. Vincent also sells the BEST MULLED wine in the whole world, and they have a deal on it when you buy pierogies. You’re welcome.

  • Piernik – old Polish gingerbread that is super spiced!
  • Makowiec – A rolled poppyseed cake that gets all in your teeth, FYI.
  • Open Grilled Sandwich (Pajda) – this is not for the faint of heart? Stomach? Either way, this massive slice of bread, toasted then slathered with bacon fat or garlic butter and topped with meat, cheese, and onions, is going to fill you up.
Mulled wine station with signage offering various hot beverages and holiday specials at a Krakow Christmas market.

We warned you to bring stretchy pants. 

You’ll also find some of the food you see at other markets, like potato pancakes and cabbage rolls.

Tip For The Best Experience 

Where to stay:

We stayed at Roller Aparthotel, and it was the best place to stay in Krakow for christmas markets! It was just a couple of minutes’ walk to the main market. It was a really nice size, quite modern, and clean. 

>>Click here to check prices, reviews, and availability <<

Festive wooden stall richly decorated with Christmas ornaments and lights, offering holiday delicacies under a snowy awning, with busy shoppers in winter attire at a European Christmas market.

Bring cash

You can pay by card at many of the stalls, but some are cash only! Be prepared.

Aromatic mulled wine and hot drink stall, with menu and prices displayed, inviting Christmas market-goers in Krakow.

Don’t get mulled wine in the central food area.

As we said, the best stalls are the “secret” ones around the outside. We had some in the central area, and they were a little more expensive and not as good.

Don’t Miss This Next

Ready to start planning an epic Christmas market trip? Read our ultimate, step-by-step guide to make it easy-peasy for you!

Or, check out our beginner’s guide to European Christmas markets with all our best tips!

So, do you think you’ll be visiting Krakow?

Other Christmas Market Guides

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