Maybe I’m a little biased (sometimes I give tours for this company and invite you to join me!) but Krakow Explorers is by far the best free walking tour company in Krakow. You don’t have to take my word for it– you can check out their reviews on Trip Advisor, Google, or Guru Walks (the leading booking platform for such tours).
There are two main offerings; the Old Town or the Jewish Quarter.
Usually we suggest starting with the Old Town Tour and then doing the Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz as a follow-up; but if you don’t have enough time for two tours- then pick which one you are more interested in.
For many, it may be easier to read about the Old Town and explore it on your own a bit; while having a guide for the Jewish Quarter is almost mandatory in my opinion. I live there, and you wouldn’t believe how many lost tourists I have helped over the years! Things aren’t as obvious there, and so I highly recommend going with someone who can show you around, so you can spend more time there really getting the value out of what I consider to be the best part of the city.
Each of these tours lasts approximately 2.5 hours- and is a pay what you want donation based tour. The concept of “free” walking tours was started in Berlin, Germany as a way to remove barriers for travelers both from set pricing, but also planning. You can leave a free walking tour at any time, and you can also just show up and join one at any time too, so there isn’t a lot of planning needed.
Even better- if you get a guide you don’t vibe with, you can pay them accordingly, or just kindly exit the group- it happens! We’re all different types of travelers, and this is a great option so you know you’re getting the best quality at the best price (since you decide what that is!)
Why you should tip you free walking tour guide?
Well, all guides have costs, pretty big ones actually. And it often happens that a big group will book and then leave without tipping, or leave a tip as though they are a single person instead of a group of eight. Because of the modern day booking systems, guides are required to pay per person that books, on many platforms, like Guru Walks. So it sometimes happens that a guide is losing money- and that’s a bummer.
So my advice, no matter what company you choose for your walking tour- try to book directly on their website and not through a third-party middleman; especially if you are a large group! But if you like booking through a platform like Guru, where the guide assumes your reservation cost- keep that in mind when tipping.
How much should I tip on a free walking tour in Krakow?
The point of a free tour is to remove barriers in price but also to offer more flexibility when it comes to how long you stay, giving you the ability to leave at any point of the tour etc…
However, in terms of what to leave your guide, I’ll start with this. Most golf-cart tours charge just under 100zł per person if you’re a group of 4- more per person if you’re less than that. There are benefits to the carts- most importantly- you don’t have to walk! But many times the golf carts are only an audio guide playing while someone drives you about. Leaving little room for questions or for a tour to be more personalized to the group’s wants and wishes. But use that pricing as a gauge.
If you are on a backpackers budget- leave what you can. But if you have the funds, the minimum I would give is 50zł per person in your group (remember the guide is paying per person to the booking platforms). If you really like yours guide and want to say thank you in a big way- leave more ☺️ it’s as simple as that!
But Why is Krakow Explorers the best Walking tour company in Krakow- and why did i choose them?
First of all, they are locally owned and operated. The people in charge are physically here on the ground in Krakow. Constantly researching and learning about the city (many of them have pHd’s in history, archeology, etc.)- and were either born here, or have spent the better part of their adult lives here! They are also constantly making sure that all their guides have not only knowledge about Krakow, but are comfortable navigating groups. Many of the other walking tour companies are huge and span many cities- so they aren’t usually checking the quality of their guides on a daily basis. Krakow Explorers being a small company, is able to monitor their guides very well. And honestly- we are all good friends.
When your tour guide is happy, and feels a part of a really good guiding group, like the team at Krakow Explorers- it is directly reflected in the job they perform. In order to prepare for my own tours- I went on each of my teammates tours- and I can honestly say they are all phenomenal at what they do. And they are truly passionate about the knowledge they are sharing with you.
What to expect on a Free Walking Tour in Krakow
If you are going on the Old Town Tour you will cover what I usually refer to as the typical tourist checklist– each guide has his or her own preferred route, but for the most part they cover these places:
The Old Town and Castle
St. Mary’s Basilica
The Cloth Hall
Main Market Square
Town Hall Tower
Wawel Palace Courtyard
If you are headed to the Jewish Quarter tour you will get a great introduction to not only what happened here during WW2, but also the hundreds of years of history that existed before the war, and the modern day Jewish presence here in Kazimierz as well.
The Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz and Former Jewish Ghetto
History of the Jewish People of Krakow
Ritual Bathhouse historic building
The Old Synagogue
Jewish Community Center
Schindler’s List Courtyard
Former Jewish Ghetto
Ghetto Hero’s Square
Krakow Explorer’s themselves describe the tours as follows:
On the OLD TOWN FREE WALKING TOUR, you will see the most beautiful and important places in Krakow you shouldn’t miss. We will introduce you to Krakow’s and Polish history and will show you our recommendations where to go and what to do, to help you to organise your stay in Krakow. We will share with you our knowledge and passion about the old royal capital of Poland. One of the most popular tourist destinations in this part of Europe!
On the tour you will get knowledge about the largest mediaeval market square and why the trumpeter plays the melody from St. Mary’s Basilica every hour on the hour. You will see one of the oldest European “shopping malls” – Sukiennice, where you can buy the best souvenirs in Krakow. Our storytelling guides will show you remains of the Old Town walls and some anecdotes about saving them till today. You will walk to one of the oldest universities in Europe, where famous Nicolaus Copernicus and Pope John Paul II used to study. We will help you to understand the terrible history of World War II, and the reasons why Krakow survived. The icing on the cake will be the Wawel Castle. One of the most spectacular renaissance royal residences all over the World. After that you will know why the capital of Poland has been moved to Warsaw. Our OLD TOWN FREE TOUR will end the story of the terrifying Dragon, which is one of the symbols of Krakow.
After a 2.5h walking tour you will be able to understand the mentality of Poles, their history and see the best of the best in Krakow.
On the JEWISH QUARTER FREE WALKING TOUR you will get big knowledge about Jewish culture, religion and history. You probably were wondering why the biggest Jewish population in Europe lived in Poland? On this tour we will present the most important, and beautiful places in Krakow`s Jewish Quarter.
Nearby the royal castle in Kraków awaits a completely different world – Kazimierz district. It used to be a separated city established in the 14th century by the king Kazimierz (Casimir) the Great. This area is famous for its Jewish quarter, which was one of the most important centres of the Jewish culture. Before World War II 30% of the Krakow population were the Jews. They contributed to creating a very unique spirit of the city in which they lived for centuries! You can’t leave Krakow without seeing the oldest preserved synagogue in Poland. It is also where Steven Spielberg filmed his famous Schindler’s list. Tour is covering the sites that you might know from this iconic film.
When the sun goes down Kazimierz is changing into the centre of Krakow’s nightlife. This district has a rich offer of unique pubs, bars and restaurants. Tell our local guides how you would like to spend your night and for sure they will tell you places you will never forget.
Last part of the tour will have place in Podgórze, which was the area chosen by Nazis for a Jewish Ghetto. World War II and Nazi crimes committed in Poland has changed Kraków. It is however important to see the buildings and walls that witnessed the tragedy of the Jewish nation. Your guide will show you the Ghetto heroes square – memorial in the form of many chairs. Don’t hesitate and join us for a 2.5 hours tour to the historical Jewish quarter and the ghetto!
Having been established as a city on the island in close vicinity of Krakow, Kazimierz was supposed to become a competition to its neighbour – Krakow. The Jews who in the Middle Ages were prosecuted in the Western Europe started settling in Kazimierz and soon this city became a place of Jewish prosperity.
It is here where you can find Jewish synagogues, cozy and tiny streets on which the hustle and bustle of Jewish life was prevailing before the catastrophe of WW2. See the oldest synagogue in Poland, trace the filming spots of the ‘Schindler’s List’ ,learn who are Ashkenazim and Sephardim, get to know Helena Rubinstein, Roman Polanski, Ludwick Zamenhof, and Maximilian Faktorowicz.
Join us for 2.5-hour tour where we will discover the Jewish heritage in Krakow, get to know their traditions and exciting people who were creating the Jewish history in Poland.