Krakow in winter can be spectacular, especially if you’re lucky enough to get those crisp, sunny days when the city is covered with a layer of fresh snow. Although it’s not rare that you will experience snowy days during the winter, it’s not guaranteed. What you can certainly count on is that it will be cold.

Although winter in Krakow is usually considered the low season, the city doesn’t shut down. There will be fewer crowds, and you may score better deals on hotels. But, restaurants, bars and cafes will be open as normal. Make sure, though, to bring some layers if you’re visiting Krakow in winter – you will need them.

This guide takes a look at the ins and outs of Krakow in the winter months. We’ll guide you through the weather and the vibes in December, January, and February. There are also tips on what to do there and what is happening in Krakow in winter.

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What’s in this guide to Krakow in winter

Krakow weather in winter

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Although Poland has a reputation for snowy, cold winters, it’s sadly not always the case. You can expect the piles of snow down south in the mountains throughout the season, but Krakow in winter is not always covered in white powder. That said, if you’re lucky, you will experience the beautiful scenery of Krakow Old Town covered in snow.

It is a given that you will get snowy days in Krakow between December and February, but the days of full white winters are mostly gone. What you can count on, though, is that it will be cold. Temperatures in Krakow in the winter oscillate between single figures above and sub-zero Celsius. You won’t get as many sunny days as you would in the summer, so the locals may not be as smiley as they would be in July or August.

January is the coldest month of the year in Krakow, and this is when you have the highest chances of seeing snow. Although snowy Christmas isn’t a given, it does happen now and then, so if you’re lucky, you will be able to experience hot mulled wines at snowy Christmas markets in Krakow.

Our pick: Krakow in December

Krakow in December

Although the weather in December in Krakow can be a bit grim, especially since this is the month with the highest cloud coverage of the year, it is also the festive season. The days are short, and sunshine is rare, but that moody, noir atmosphere gives Krakow a lot of character. Plus, there will be plenty of colourful and shiny Christmas decorations around the Old Town and Kazimierz that brighten up the city in the dark.

Christmas markets start popping up the last week of November and stay open throughout December until Christmas Eve. The biggest and the most popular one is on the main square, where you can try some local delicacies, including grilled Oscypek, pierogi, and Polish sausages. Warm-up by sipping hot and spiced mulled wine. There are also cute little shops with local crafts and arts.

On the last weekend before Christmas, Krakowians enjoy going out with their friends to celebrate the festive season. Those meetings will usually include plenty of booze. The bars are full, and the city is pumping with life. But of course, the biggest night of the year is the 31st of December. That is the only time of the year when you can catch corks popping all around. There is usually a big event on the main square with local artists and loud music.

Krakow in January

Krakow in January

January is the coldest month of the year in Krakow. Although many people think this is the worst time to visit Krakow, that’s the month when you’ll have the highest chances of seeing snow. It’s also the best time to hit the slopes in southern Poland, where you can easily get to, from beautiful Krakow. Earlier in the month, before the winter school break begins, is actually when places like Zakopane and Bialka Tatrzanska are less busy. That’s the best time to try your skills skiing or snowboarding if you don’t want to queue for lifts.

But when it comes to Krakow itself, the weather is cold and often gloomy, and people tend to hide away in warm cafes and bars. There are fewer tourists around, and hotels are a little cheaper. It is a great time to visit Krakow if you’re not a fan of crowds. Be prepared, though, the weather may not be pleasant.

Krakow in February

Krakow in February

February in Krakow is also cold, sometimes bitterly cold. But it tends to get warmer towards the end of the month. The days are getting longer, though, and you have more chances of sunshine than the month before. That’s when many Polish schools have their two-week school break (the exact dates vary from region to region), so lots of Poles will be heading down south to the mountains. We’d recommend avoiding trips to Zakopane if don’t want to spend hours in traffic.

Just like in January, there are not many tourists around Krakow, and you may find better deals on flights and hotels than you would in the summer. If you’re lucky, you may get those crisp, sunny winter days when Krakow looks absolutely stunning. It’s a great time to walk around the old town with a hot cup of takeaway coffee in hand.

Top things to do in Krakow in the winter

Although Krakow in winter is not the most popular destination, there is a lot to do there if you decide to brave the cold. The weather may not always be up to scratch, and you will need to take some extra layers with you, but that’s when Krakow is least busy. Here are some ideas for things to do in Krakow in the winter.

Enjoy Christmas markets

If you happen to visit Krakow in December, you will get to enjoy Poland’s best Christmas market. The biggest and the most popular one is located in the main square in the old town. It starts around late November and stays open until Christmas. There are lots of little huts with local produce, crafts, arts, and gifts.

The smell of freshly grilled sausages will hit you as you get closer to the square. Make sure to try some of the local specialities like grilled Oscypek (mountain cheese) with cranberry jam and Grzaniec (mulled wine with spices). You can also try different flavours of Pierogi (Polish dumplings) and traditional Polish sausage from a barbecue.

Visit Zakopane

If you like snow, winter is the best time to visit Zakopane. It is the mountain capital of Poland, easily accessible from Krakow. The name Zakopane means buried in Polish which refers to the amount of snow this region gets during the winter. You will often see piles of fresh powder, not only on the Tatras above but also in the town.

Zakopane lays in the foothills of rugged Tatra mountains, with the iconic Giewont (you will recognise it by the cross on the peak) looming above the city. There are plenty of cute wooden houses dotted around the place. The most popular places to visit in Zakopane are Krupowki (a street with plenty of bars and restaurants) and Gubalowka with panoramic views over the snowy Tatras.

If adventure is what you’re after, get your crampons and go hiking in the Tatra National Park or go skiing on Nosal or Polana Szymaszkowa. After the active day in the cold, retire to one of the many tavernas on Krupowki for a hearty meal by a warm open fire. 

Go skiing in the mountains

Krakow is fantastically located if you want to go skiing in Poland. It’s only about two hours away from the high Tatra mountains and even closer to some of the best Polish ski resorts. Although skiing in Poland is no Alps, it’s a great place for beginners. Most ski slopes are gentle blues, with only a few of the more challenging pistes. It’s also one of the cheapest places to ski in Europe.

A few of the best ski resorts close to Krakow include:

  • Bialka Tatrzanska (less than 2h away) – Known as Kotelnica Tatrzanska. It is the best-connected ski resort in Poland, great for beginners.
  • Szczyrk Mountain Resort (about 2h away) – One of the biggest ski resorts in Poland. It’s less busy than Bialka and Zakopane.
  • Kasprowy Wierch (Zakopane; about 2h away) – This is the only Polish ski resort in the High Tatras at nearly 2000m up. You will get the best snow conditions but not so many pistes to choose from. Bear in mind that it’s not the best for beginners.

Go café hopping

Krakow is dotted with cool cafes around the old town, Kazimierz and Podgorze. Every year new venues are opening up, and the quality of the coffee here is top-notch. Krakow in winter is cold, so you don’t feel like you’re missing out by going indoors. Head to Karma roasters for the best coffee near the old town and visit Alchemia in Kazimierz for hipster vibes, the Jewish quarter. There is no shortage of cool cafes around Krakow, just walk around and you’ll find loads of places.

Dates to remember in Krakow in the winter

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There are a couple of important days on the calendar if you’re travelling to Krakow in the winter. Most of them are international holidays, though, so these dates shouldn’t surprise you.

Christmas

Poland is a catholic country that celebrates Christmas very seriously, and Krakow is no different. Unlike in many places around Europe, Christmas Eve (that the Poles call Wigilia) is the biggest night of this festive season. Don’t be surprised that many restaurants in Krakow will be closed on the night of the 24th of December, and you may have trouble finding a place for dining out. Traditionally, Polish families sit together at the dinner table and eat 12 dishes that don’t include meat. It is the only day of the year when you can go to a midnight mass in one of the churches around Krakow (it’s called Pasterka). Christmas day (or the first day of Christmas as it’s known by the Poles) is when most shops will be closed, but more restaurants will start opening their doors. Things almost go back to normal on Boxing Day (the second day of Christmas), with lots of young Krakowians going out for drinks after family dinners.

New Year

Like across the rest of the world, New Year’s Eve is a huge night in Krakow. You will pay a premium for most hotels around this time, especially if you choose to stay in the old town. There is usually a big stage by Sukiennice on the main square with local and international artists performing for the audience. It is the only night of the year when you can get away with popping a cork of an alcoholic drink without risking a hefty fine. Join the party!

Three Kings’ Day

Three Kings Day is celebrated on the 6th of January, twelve days after Christmas. It is a religious holiday that marks the end of the Christmas period. Most shops will be closed, but the restaurants and bars will remain open here in Krakow.

Where to stay in Krakow in winter

Here’s a list of the best hotels to stay in Krakow while visiting in the winter:

  • Hotel Stary – This is one of the most iconic hotels in Krakow. Great location for winter visits.
  • Hotel H15 Luxury Palace – A luxury hotel in the heart of Old Town. Warm up in the sauna after walking around cold Krakow.
  • Hotel Kossak – Lovely hotel overlooking Vistula River and Wawel Castle.