The weather is cold and often snowy, but a trip to Krakow in December is worth it just to see the city’s Christmas celebrations.
Krakow's Main Market Square has been the site of a trading market for hundreds of years and is the center of holiday festivities. Poland's most famous Christmas market is set up here every December, and the lights and decorations make the center of Krakow even more beautiful.
The market usually opens at the end of November or the beginning of December and closes at the beginning of January.
Since Christmas is a popular time for tourists to visit Krakow, visitors should expect to pay mid-to-high season rates for accommodations. When packing for a trip to this city in southern Poland, include warm clothes that let you dress in layers and boots suitable for walking around in the snow. The average temperature in Krakow in December is about 32 degrees, and there’s a chance of snow just about every day.
Old Town Krakow and the Christmas Market
Old Town Krakow takes on a special ambiance during the Christmas season. The aromas of Polish seasonal foods wafts from snack stalls and huge Christmas tree lends a stately elegance to the square, glowing with lights after daylight fades.
The Krakow Christmas Market sells seasonal traditional Polish food and hot mulled drinks.
Traditional Polish gift items are also for sale, including jewelry from the region, handmade crafts, and Polish Christmas decorations.
Krakow Christmas Creche Competition
On the first Thursday of December, the annual Krakow Christmas Creche competition begins in Main Market Square. In Poland, a Christmas creche is called a szopka.The making of Christmas creches is a Krakow tradition, and Krakovian Christmas creches are elaborate works of art that pull elements from the city’s architecture, distinguishing them from creches made for the holiday season elsewhere.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Krakow
Christmas celebrations in Poland follow many Catholic traditions, including some observed in the United States. Polish Christmas trees are decorated with shapes cut from gingerbread, colored wafers, cookies, fruit, candy, straw ornaments, decorations made from eggshells, or glass ornaments. And midnight mass is a standard religious ritual for many in Krakow and across Poland.
The traditional Christmas feast in Poland occurs on Christmas Eve, or Wigilia, a day that holds equal importance with Christmas Day. Before the table is set, straw or hay is placed under a white tablecloth. An extra place is set for an unexpected visitor, as a reminder that Jesus and his parents were turned away from inns in Bethlehem and that those seeking shelter are welcome on this special night.
The traditional Polish Christmas meal consists of 12 dishes, one for each of the 12 apostles. It's officially Christmas Eve, according to local tradition, when the first star appears in the night sky.
Non-Christmas December Events in Krakow
If you're not interested in the Christmas celebrations, or you find yourself looking for something else to do, the Krakow Mountain Festival is ongoing throughout the month of December.
The popular mountaineering festival attracts mountain climbers from around the world and includes film screenings and workshops along with competitions.
And of course, Krakow rings in the New Year with a large celebration. Market Square becomes a large concert venue with free shows by some of Poland's biggest stars, and the evening is capped by the ringing of the bells in St. Mary's Cathedral and a fireworks show.