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Are you heading to Poland this Christmas season and looking for the best European Christmas market? Kraków was not only named as having the best Christmas market in Poland but also the best Christmas market in all of Europe! We were lucky enough to be in Kraków on opening weekend of the Christmas market and agree that if you are looking for one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, Kraków should be on your list of places to visit! Unlike many other European markets, this one starts earlier so if you are planning a trip here from the United States over Thanksgiving week, chances are you will be here for the opening weekend of the Christmas market.
Where to stay in Kraków
If you are looking for a great hotel in Kraków that’s a short walk to Rynek Główny (Old Town), then we highly recommend the Sheraton Grand Kraków. We have stayed here multiple times and it’s been a great experience each time. During the Christmas season, the inside and outside of the hotel is beautifully decorated and this family friendly Kraków hotel has one of the best breakfast buffets we’ve had in a hotel.
If you want to see other hotels or apartments in the area, use the interactive map below.
Where is the Kraków Christmas market located?
Located in the main square, Rynek Glówny, the Kraków Christmas market is surrounded by the beauty and charm of historic Old Town and the backdrop of the stunning Cloth Hall and St. Mary’s Basilica.Half of the square is transformed into a winter wonderland, where you can expect beautifully decorated stalls offering traditional Polish crafts, ornaments, delicious food like pierogi (dumplings), roasted chestnuts, mulled wine (grzaniec), and a festive atmosphere with music and entertainment. It even snowed while we were at the market in November!
Polish Christmas traditions
If you know anything about Poland, you know that they have some rich Christmas traditions. I grew up here and we celebrated Christmas the Polish way even after moving out of Poland so I’m very familiar with these traditions!
- St. Nicholas Day: St. Nicholas Day, celebrated on December 6th, is a day commemorating Saint Nicholas, a Christian saint known for his generosity and kindness. As kids, we would leave our shoes out on the Eve of December 5th and St. Nicholas would fill them with small gifts, fruit and candy.
- Wigilia: Wigilia is Christmas Even and we always celebrated on this day more so than on Christmas Day. This is when presents are opened/exchanged and no meat is consumed on this day. Wigilia begins when the first star appears in the sky. I remember as a kid running to look outside to see if any stars were visible!
- Midnight Mass: Attending Midnight Mass, known as Pasterka, is a common tradition for many Polish families. It is a beautiful, solemn service held at midnight on Christmas Eve. I can’t say I was a big fan of this tradition but I did grow up going to church at midnight and then coming home to eat the Christmas goose.
- Opłatek: Before the Wigilia meal, families share a thin wafer called opłatek. They break off a piece and share good wishes for the coming year. You can find these around Christmas at many supermarkets in Poland.
Kraków Christmas market
Are you wondering what types of vendors are at the Kraków Christmas market? The majority of the vendors are food vendors. Selling everything from grilled kiełbasa, all sorts of soups, oscypek (the best smoked cheese you’ll ever have, don’t miss this one!), pierogi and lots of yummy desserts! Come here with the intent to sample a bit of everything. Most of the vendors took credit cards (we used Apple Pay 95% of the time) so you won’t need much cash.
One of our favorite vendors at the market was the soup vendor. There’s nothing like a hot cup of soup on a chilly winter day! They had multiple booths scattered throughout the market, selling many varieties of traditional Polish soup. We were sad that pickle soup didn’t make the menu, but we found some others we loved! We tried the tomato soup and mushroom soup and both were great. Hot soup is just the thing we needed to keep warm in the cold winter air!
Another must try food while visiting the Kraków Christmas market is pierogi. I will also mention that pierogi is already plural, there is no need to add an s. The singular form of it is pieróg. There were multiple vendors selling all sorts of pierogi, from the traditional Ruskie (potato and cheese) to more unique flavors like cherry. I grew up eating fruit filled pierogi and my Babcia and mom would make them with blueberries and strawberries most of the time. We did find a vendor with blueberry pierogi, so I highly recommend walking around before deciding on which stall to buy from!
Kiełbasa and other smoked meats
You will also find many kiełbasa vendors at the market. You really can’t go wrong with whichever one you choose! Most of these vendors sell other meats as well so if you’re a carnivore, you’re in for a treat!
While wandering around Kraków and the market, you will see sheep’s milk cheese called oscypek being sold everywhere. This is unique to this region of Poland and one of my favorite cheeses in the world! It has a smoky but mild flavor and at the market, you can have it grilled. I personally prefer eating it cold, straight out of its packaging, but give both a try to see which you prefer.
While we didn’t have any because neither of us are huge drinkers, mulled wine was sold at several locations as well. These were the biggest lines at the market, so be prepared to wait if you want some wine! Look for the wooden huts with grzaniec painted on the side to find this!
My daughter loves naleśniki, the Polish version of crepes. I make them at home all the time for breakfast and she tried them at the Christmas market as well. At home, we fill them with jams but here they had nutella. She loved this and ended up going back two days in a row.
Aside from all of the food vendors, you will find lots of souvenirs that will make great Christmas gifts at the Kraków Christmas market. One of our favorites was the mini wooden nativity sets, which were very detailed and well made. Lots of Christmas ornaments, wooden toys, jewelry and everything in between.
As you can see, the Kraków Christmas market is one of the best Christmas markets to visit in Europe. The festive atmosphere is sure to put you into the holiday spirit! If you are visiting Kraków on a family trip, be sure to read our guide to visiting Kraków with kids. Want to read this later? Pin one of the images below.