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Krakow or Copenhagen; a city comparison and tourism travel guide

Both Krakow and Copenhagen are fantastic cities, but which is better for your city-break or holiday?

We understand your dilemma. There is a wealth of information about both cities, but little stating which is the better destination and more suited for your trip.
This website will provide our unbiased opinions, and hopefully help you to choose the best city to visit. The article is divided into the following sections, and can be jumped to using the underlined links:
1) Introductions -
2) City scores -
3) Which one should I, friends, or family visit? -
4) When to visit and weather -
5) Who is the city suited for? -
6) The perfect 48hours (with map) -
7) Tourism details (where to stay? airport details?)

Introduction to Copenhagen and Krakow

There is a buzz going about Copenhagen. The city’s always had fascinating tourist attractions and a welcoming people, but now the city is flourishing and the artisan scene is blossoming. Once deprived areas are being transformed into creative hubs, while trendy bars and independent business are springing up throughout the city.

Copenhagen is a dynamic city, which effortlessly excels at tourism. There is a public transport that actually works, a rich diversity of cultural attractions, along with a distractive, quirky character. It is no secret that Copenhagen is expensive, but borne from this is a growing street food movement, and an attitude to savour and enjoy.

High-level summary for Krakow and Copenhagen

Summary
Which city would I go to? Copenhagen
Which one would I recommend to my parents?Copenhagen
Which location for my 19-year-old cousin? Krakow (Copenhagen is too expensive for him!)
Which for my food obsessed friend? Copenhagen
Note: The above comparison does not consider the weather, and assumes travel at the best time of year (which is detailed later in this article)

The following sections compare the two cities and considers; how long to spend in them, when to visit, and provides suggested 48hours in each city (along with an interactive map). The final section is tourism practicalities and includes which airport to fly into, what district to be based in and how best to explore the city. We hope that you find all of this information useful, in planning your next exciting trip.

Destination details

How long to spend in the city?

In many ways, Krakow is the perfect example of a city-break destination. Not only is it compact and walkable, but its main-see sights are all connected via leafy parklands or riverside paths. You can check off the castle, the Old Town, the Jewish Quarter, and plenty more in a mere 48 hours. And the airport hosts oodles of low-cost flight links to cities right across Europe, which makes it easy to whiz in for just a couple of days.

If you're looking to add excursions (and there are loads of them) to your itinerary, you might need a little longer. Trips to Auschwitz, the salt mines in Wieliczka, and the Tatra Mountains can be crammed together in a single two-day tour, but it's better to do them separately and leave at least a day for each.
What's more, the wild Krakow nightlife might just put you out of action for a morning. Those with a penchant for vodka might be better off planning 4-5 days at least in the Polish city of kings.

Copenhagen can be seen in two days of sightseeing. A third day provides time for a slower pace (and flexibility to avoid rain) along with a chance to explore the artisan districts (Vesterbro, Latin Quarter and Nørrebro) in great depth. Copenhagen is a very endearing city where staying longer is very tempting…
A popular day trip is to visit the castles of Frederiksborg and Kronborg. Malmö is on the opposite side of the Sound Estuary (the Öresund) and can also be visited as a day trip.

Copenhagen’s weather is not as dismal as most visitors initially presume, and not cold as the other Scandinavian countries it is often mentally lumped with. The summer will always provide the best weather, and this aligns with the peak season, late spring and autumn can also offer decent sightseeing weather. The winters are cool and wet, but as many of the city’s sights are indoors, it is still possible for a better value (relatively!) city-break.

Summertime sees Krakow fill to bursting with tourists. It's the peak season, and things can get rammed on the main drags of the Old Town. That's why it's often better to try to come in months like May or September. Those are outside of major European vacations. There will be way fewer people queuing for the Wawel Castle. Hotel prices in Krakow also tend to drop considerably after August, while the Tatra Mountains are at their most handsome in spring and autumn.

Krakow in the winter is a totally different beast. Woolly jumpers, thermal underlayers, snow boots – you'll need the lot. Temperatures in south Poland can ebb to minus 25 degrees in the height of the season. However, the Planty Park and the Old Town do look truly stunning under a layer of snowflakes. It's also the time of year to plan ski trips near to Krakow. Just beware that pollution can be bad in the centre – the winter smog is some of the worst on the continent.

Krakow's a seriously versatile travel destination. Weaving the threads of a long, regal history together with a vibrant café culture, the culinary delights of Lesser Poland, and a nightlife that's nothing short of legendary, there's something in these parts to cater to all sorts. First up: Backpackers. The younger, budget-conscious crowd enjoy more hostel dorms and happy-hour deals than they can shake a Polish blood sausage at. Meanwhile, districts like Kazimierz are laden with concept stores and hip coffee shops.

Those who lean towards the more cultural side of things are also in luck. UNESCO World Heritage Sites abound in this part of Europe. In fact, Krakow's Old Town itself is one, bursting with medieval trading halls, brick-fronted churches, and castles that date back to the 1200s. There's also art by Leonardo da Vinci and Polish masters to get through in the museums, along with archaeology expos of the urban underground that are truly fascinating.

Being stuck between the vast plains of central Poland and the Carpathian Mountains means that Krakow is probably not the city for anyone looking for sun, sand and sea. What's more, the air quality is abysmal, so don't come expecting a break from life in a metropolis.

There is a lot to love about Copenhagen, there are funky art installations, wonderful tourist attractions and a great vibe about the city. Copenhagen is a tolerant and inclusive city, which is popular with all ages, diversities and tourist types. .

The main consideration is the astronomical price of everything. For context, the price of a glass of large beer in a touristy bar, is around 60kr (€8/$9), is the same you could pay for a lunch in southern Europe. If you have the money or can budget well, you will adore Copenhagen.

48hours in Krakow
It's a good idea to stick to the city of Krakow itself for your first 48 hours. That's where you'll be able to uncover the rich medieval history, tales of Polish kings and queens, and some of the best dining (and drinking) the country has to offer:

Day 1: Where better to start than the UNESCO-tagged heart of Krakow? The Old Town is the piece de resistance here. Begin on the Market Square. It's one of the largest urban squares in the world, and a lively gathering point for both people and sights. On its eastern side is the wonderful Basilica of St Mary, arguably the most important church in Poland. The Cloth Hall (a stunning Renaissance building) stands in the middle, filled with souvenir stalls.

After learning about powerful kings and battles with Tartar hordes, you'll finish under the mighty Wawel Castle. That's an icon of Krakow. Walk through its gateways to find a green courtyard with a small café. Glug a coffee and then scale the belfry of on-site Krakow Cathedral for sweeping panoramas of the Vistula River and the Tatra Mountains (on a clear day).
For the evening, return to the Market Square and hit the local bars with fellow travellers.

Krakow Vistula River

Tourist boats moored along the banks of the Vistula River in the scenic Kazimierz district of Krakow

Day 2: A hangover-cure breakfast (if required) in Milkbar Tomasza complete with traditional Polish sausage starts the day. From there, head to the Planty Park. A famous green space, it follows the route of the old city walls and is a people-watching paradise. Move south to the district of Kazimierz. Known as the Jewish Quarter, it's got centuries-old synagogues and some of the coolest cafes in town.
An optional walking tour here is for you if you want to delve into the darker history of Krakow's wartime past. If not, stroll to the Vistula Boulevards to join the joggers. Then, it's easy to cross over to Podgorze neighborhood and find corner cafés and wine bars. For sunset, push southwards to the Krakus Mound. This off-the-beaten-track spot is great when the light dips low over the city.

Copenhagen offers so much for a fun-packed 48 hours. Below is an interactive tour map - day 1 is highlighted in green and day 2 in yellow.

Begin the first day in the Rådhuspladsen, and wander up the Strøget, a bustling shopping street, to the Latina Quarter. Next is the Nyhavn district, with its 17th-century canals and traditionally painted houses, a favourite with tourists. Departing from the docks in Nyhavn are canal boat tours.

For lunch head to the Bridge Street Kitchen for a popular street food market. Christiania is a unique bohemian commune which is worth visiting, but pushy drug dealers and influx of tourists slightly detracts from the original ideals. Afterwards, head to the Vor Frelsers Kirke church, the Christiansborg Slot palace and the Slotsholmen island district.
Tivoli park is one of the world’s oldest amusement parks, and an enjoyable location for early evening. For the later night spend time in the trendy Vesterbro district.

Latin Quarter Copenhagen

The side streets of the Latin Quarter (Latinerkvarteret) are a joy to explore

Start the second day in the magnificent Rosenborg Slot palace, which can easily take a couple of hours to explore. Crossing the river leads to the diverse Nørrebro district with the uber-cool Superkilen Park - great for your Instagram posts. For lunch, visit the Torvehallerne street food market.

In the afternoon head into the historic Frederiksstaden district, with the Amalienborg Palace, and the Frederiks Kirke church both beautiful examples of grand Rococo style.For a cultural end to the day visit the SMK museum (the Danish National Gallery) or the Nationalmuseet Museum.

The Balice International Airport is the main gateway to Krakow from the air. Getting to and from the terminal is now really easy thanks to a dedicated train line that runs every 30 minutes or so to the central station. You can purchase your ticket at the airport platform or on the train (9 PLN). A taxi from the airport typically costs around 50-100 PLN, depending on the company you go for (Mega and Eco taxis are usually the cheapest).

Most of Krakow's hotels can be found at least within walking distance of the Old Town. Generally speaking, the closer you are to that the better. However, you might also prefer the café scene and more local atmosphere of Kazimierz, which sits just a little to the south.

Krakow is generally safe for visitors. Reports of bar scams (when staff charge astronomical rates for just a few beers) and taxi scams are occasional. Also be warned that Police will pounce on anyone caught drinking alcohol in public or crossing the road on a red light (both warrant a fine).

The “Indre By” area of Copenhagen is the best location to be based in due to its central positioning, but it does sell out. The Vesterbro district is an up and coming area, which is trendy and a touch edgy. Frederiksstaden is a more refined area of the city and contains many of the smarter hotels. For a lively trip be based close to the Latin quarter.

There is excellent public transport but often hiring a bike is the easiest way to ravel around, as there are extensive cycle paths and the city is flat.
The currency used is the krone (dkk), which is pegged to the euro at €1=7.46dkk. You must exchange to krone, as Euro is rarely accepted, except in the airport.

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