If you already love the sound of this town of beauty and legend, go straight to our guru's list of hotel recommendations. Otherwise here are some good reasons to visit, and some of the best places to stay in Kraków to enjoy them.
Kraków has always been Poland's artistic and cultural centre, but it was also the royal capital for 500 years. That it hasn't remained capital may be why much of its beautiful Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture survived WWII. In fact no other Polish city can boast so many historic structures. Or so many artworks - there are something like 2.3 million!
The Old Town is where a lot of the most treasured buildings can be found. Many of them in the streets fanning out from Rynek Główny, which is Kraków's main square and the largest market square in Europe.
The square is best approached by starting at the Barbican, an old fortress on the edge of the town. The thick walls are worth closer inspection. Walk through the Florian Gate into Ul Florianska, a pedestrian boulevard. Here most of the top name shops are to be seen. Whilst the prices are lower than in other western cities, they are still pricey by Polish standards.
In the distance you will see the Basilica of St Mary with its distinctive towers. They were built by disputing brothers and are at differing heights. Every hour a bugler sounds from the high tower in memory of warnings from days of old. On certain days you can climb the tower. This gives you a wonderful view of the old town and even Wawel Castle, Kraków's centrepiece.
Kraków's small layout is packed with history, and many of the key sights huddle together. So it's very easy to get around on foot. This is a beautiful town in every season. Though the summers are busy - and hotel prices inflate - and winters are cold.
Rynek Główny will always provide a good meal but, being a tourist magnet you will pay the highest prices. Moving further afield to places like Kazimierz in the old Jewish quarter will pay dividends. Not only will the venue be quieter and the prices lower but you might find offerings not seen elsewhere.
Kraków also knows how to host an event! The summer is packed with festivals, celebrating and showcasing everything from film to opera to street theatre.
Many visitors to Kraków also take time to make the hour long journey to Auschwitz-Birkenau, former Nazi concentration camp and now museum and monument.
Kraków has plenty to offer in the way of evening entertainment as well. There are hundreds of cafes, bars, restaurants and clubs - the most charming of which are tucked romantically down old winding alleys.
As with most popular tourist destinations, the best places to stay in Krakow can get quickly booked up during the peak periods, so plan ahead to ensure you get your hotel of choice.
As well as being easy to see on foot, the tram and bus services work well and taxis are very reasonable. So it's easy to get your family from place to place.
An utterly charming small hotel overlooking Planty Park on a leafy street. Wood burning stoves, parquet floors, lovely garden. No restaurant but many in the local area. Friendly efficient staff. A really cosy place to stay in an ideal location for exploring the city.
Unique setting in a small 19th-century townhouse. Individually decorated rooms with traditional elegance - creams, pastels, mahogany furnishings. Dinners and conferences are arranged in the atmospheric vaulted cellar. Well situated to explore the city.
Modern, unassuming hotel. Separated from the traffic noise of the major streets, it is a perfect location for families with children. Comfortable contemporary rooms with statement pieces of art. Atmospheric cellar restaurant. Walking distance to many of the main sights.
Charming apartments with modern interiors in the heart of the Old Town. Exposed brick walls, beamed ceilings and clean, crisp furnishing with all the mod cons. A friendly atmosphere with communal breakfasts - a trendy home from home. Ideal for travellers who search for a true local experience.
A boutique gem you won’t be disappointed with. Set in a quiet cul de sac but still in the heart of the medieval town. Award-winning restaurant serving fusion cuisine, beautiful individually themed rooms. A warming library bar for winter evenings. A lovely base to explore the city from.
The only hotel overlooking Krakow’s principal square. Traditional elegance and beautifully decorated rooms with paintings, four poster beds, and stunning views. A stately house with a fantastic restaurant. A totally charming place to stay for local exploring.
An impressive hotel on a quiet street. Elegant pink-and-white Renaissance façade and polished modern interiors with neutral tones and Art Deco influences. Lovely breakfasts and the added extra of a basement gym and sauna. An immaculate and friendly base for exploring the city.
Krakow’s first hotel in the heart of the Old Town. Its original heritage features with their traditional European elegance have been melded with modern luxuries. Two restaurants sit in the lovely former courtyard under a glazed roof. A luxurious base to explore the city from.
Dignified 16th-century townhouse hotel in a central location. Baroque interiors with lots of dark wooden panelling, excellent restaurant, and lovely meeting rooms. An ideal base for exploring the city.
The Copernicus is truly special - Renaissance frescoes, carved stone portals, and Gothic rooms with dark woods and velvets. Fabulous roof top bar with views over the Old Town. An indoor pool in the vaulted cellar. An accoladed Polish restaurant. A luxury base to explore the city.