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Itinerary dilema - Prague or Krakow

We are in the process of finalizing our Central Europe itinerary and like most Americans the biggest problem is lack of vacation time!
We are planning on traveling into Munich in early September and spending 2 1/2 days in Berchtesgaden. We've spent time in Munich in the past so we are heading to the small mountain town to enjoy some hiking and beautiful scenery of the area. Then we will spend 2 days in Salzburg.

We then plan on taking the Bean Shuttle from Salzburg to Cesky Krumlov and stay for 4 days. While most people would say this is too long, we do plan on doing some biking, canoeing and a day trip to Trebon. We really love the smaller towns and spending time there as once the day trippers leave you see a different side of the town.

Our next destination is a toss up, Prague or Krakow.
We can get a private transfer from CK to Krakow in 7 hours via Green Shuttle. We are drawn to Krakow because it's not as crowded as Prague, has great history, charm and not as packed with tourists.
Prague is Prague, a jewel of a city but very popular and crowded.

I know there is no wrong answer as we would enjoy both of these wonderful cities but we only have time for one (planning on 4 full days not including the time to get there) and we keep going back and forth between which city we should choose.
Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

Posted by
7050 posts

Think about what you want to do in each city and whether one has something uniquely interesting to you to put it on top (e.g, accessibility to Auschwitz for Kraków or Art Nouveau architecture of Prague). I've been to Prague in the mid-90s and it was crowded even then - no doubt it is beautiful and atmospheric (but I would not go back because it's too crowded for my taste). As a Polish person, I can vouch for Kraków as well (yes, it's touristy too and full of beautiful churches, a castle, and former Jewish quarter which is sadly largely devoid of a Jewish population). You really can't go wrong, so do a pros-cons list and just pick one. As another alternative, what about taking a chance on Gdańsk or Wrocław or Poznań? Not as crowded or touristed or even known by many Americans as either Kraków or Prague (frankly, I would choose that option but I say this having been to Kraków many times already). By the way, when Rick says "Kraków is the new Prague", I interpret that as cheesy marketing-speak. Both are interesting in their own right, have a different history, and a different feel to them - no need to compare them just to lure tourists.

Posted by
3696 posts

As more tourists find out how amazing Poland is I would opt for Krakow before it becomes another Prague. While I went to Prague many years ago and again just recently, it was really so crowded and nothing like when I was there years ago. Krakow was really wonderful and felt more like Prague did many years ago. If I were to travel to Prague again I would definitely go in the winter to try and recapture that feeling I had years ago, when you can truly see and enjoy a city for what it is... not just someplace that feels like Disney. The other option if you do choose Prague, is to get up before sunrise to enjoy the overall beauty of the city minus the hordes of tourists.... take a nap during the day and get up for late evening enjoyment of the city.

I don't think you will be disappointed in everything Krakow has to offer, as well as a wonderful ambiance.

Posted by
7061 posts

I spent 3 days (4 nights) in each of them a couple of summers ago. Prague was more crowded but the crowds didn't bother me that much so when I think back on them I don't use that against Prague. With or without the crowds, it's really a toss up - kind of like the toss up between Prague and Budapest (always a tough call). Both Prague and Krakow are fun to visit, have lots to see and do, are historically significant, have wonderful architecture, food, beer, etc.. If pressed really really hard and told I had to pick one over the other, I would probably say I enjoyed my time in Krakow a wee bit more. I guess the two things that drew me to Krakow in the first place are why I feel that way. One was seeing Auschwitz which was a big draw for me, a true bucket list item, and the other was being able to see in person Leonardo da Vinci's Lady With an Ermine which is on display in Wawel Castle, or at least it was in 2014. It's been a favorite of mine since I took a high school art appreciation class and I just love getting to see my favorite works of art in person.

Posted by
15649 posts

Here's why I would choose Krakow.

  1. It's more remote, so the likelihood of seeing it on another itinerary is lower. Prague combines with Berlin, Vienna, Budapest.

    1. It's been "discovered" so chances are that as each year goes by, it will be more popular, thus more crowded and more expensive.
Posted by
2619 posts

Add me to the list of people who loved the time I spent in Krakow--beautiful, charming and plenty to keep you occupied for 4 days with time to relax in their lovely parks and gardens surrounding the square. Pleasantly busy vibe is how I describe it, unlike Prague where every step was met with an onslaught of people, a real struggle to see what I wanted to see. Beautiful, no question there, but nerve-wracking.

I stayed at the Hotel Unicus on sw. Marka, just off Florianska and a block from the main square. Lovely hotel, clean, well-kept, friendly staff and a very large room, excellent breakfast included.

Posted by
16894 posts

Have you already booked your trans-Atlantic flights or do you still have the opportunity to book a multi-city trip, departing from whichever final city you choose? ( would hate to see you make that full travel day to Krakow and then have to backtrack.) Krakow is wonderful, but if you've never been to Prague, nobody could fault you for choosing the closer option.

Posted by
2 posts

So many great responses and ideas, that's why I love these boards.
I think we won't regret going to Krakow. I'm not sure when we will be so close to Poland again so I think we will be happiest going there. Can't wait to really dive into planning now!

Posted by
7050 posts

Another great thing about Kraków is that people have much lower expectations of it than, say Prague, so they are almost always pleasantly surprised. Everyone expects Prague to be fantastic because it's so well marketed and hyped, but most people come back from Kraków surprised at how much better it was than they expected.

Have a great time planning your trip!

Posted by
4637 posts

If you have been to neither of them then I would go for Prague. It is substantially closer to your other destinations and while Krakow is beautiful Prague is stunningly beautiful. It gets more tourists than Krakow for understandable reasons but the crowds are not any worse than let's say in Rome or Venice and then only on so called King's Golden Way (from Mustek via Old Town Square and Charles Bridge to the Hradcany Castle). Do this early morning and you will have it practically for yourself. After 9 am do other parts of Prague (Vysehrad, Nove Mesto, Vinohrady, Letna, Petrin, little historical streets like Novy Svet, Ujezd, Kampa, too many to name them all). Visitor Center can give you more ideas.