Wondering what to wear in Krakow in winter? This guide will help you understand the temperatures, local customs, and best gear to endure and perhaps even enjoy winter in Krakow, Poland.
Krakow is a downright fantastic place to visit in the winter. Snows usually hit the southern Polish city around November time, turning the fabled UNESCO Old Town and the charming historic streets into a veritable fairy tale.
What’s more, the jagged Tatra Mountains are close by, offering skiing from around mid-December onwards and a whole load of enchanting Christmas markets.
But before you can get excited about all that, it’s worth getting to grips with what to wear in Krakow in the winter.
The reason? This town deep in the heart of Central Europe can get darn cold in the darker months of the year.
Subzero temperatures starting at -10 Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) and dropping even lower isn’t. There is also plenty of snow and ice on the ground and the wind chill can take things to a whole new low.
In this guide, we’ll run through some of the main things you’ll need to pack for your jaunt to Krakow and its surrounding region.
Naturally, it’s heavy on thermal wear and lists footwear that should help keep your toes feeling toasty when there’s snow on the ground.
But we’ll also list a few less-obvious things, like clothes that are suited to Krakow’s wild nightlife scene and stuff to see you right in the ski fields of southern Poland (which are only 1.5 hours away!).
What’s the weather like in Krakow in the winter?
One word: Cold.
Like its neighbors to the east in Lithuania and Latvia, winter in this region of the world is cold. If you’ve experienced winter in Copenhagen, then you’ll be close to understanding what to wear in Krakow in winter.
Krakow officially has a temperate oceanic climate. That means balmy summers that can see the thermometers soar past 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) on occasion with plenty of sun.
However, it also means winters that are bitterly chilly.
It’s normal for readings to be below zero here for days on end in the depths of winter. Maximum lows can even be in the -20s Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit), which is when you’ll need to pull out those hardcore thermals and boots.
Krakow can see significant rainfall and even snowfall throughout the winter months, though recent winters have been noticeably wetter and milder than ones a decade ago.
For more snow, you can head south to the Polish winter capital and ski center of Zakopane, where huge piles of the white stuff are all but guaranteed.
Why Visit Krakow in Winter?
It’s no secret that most people visit Krakow at the peak of the summer months. That is the top time for sightseeing, not least of all because it’s warm and means there are more hours in the day to pack in visions of the Gothic Krakow Castle and the churches of the Old Town.
But winter brings its own charms. It’s moody, dark, and mysterious, with winter snows and mists draping the UNESCO center of town.
One real highlight has to be the Krakow Christmas Market, which offers mulled wine, warm beers, and gingerbread on the Main Square between December and January.
There are also fewer tourists around.
Museums like the Krakow Underground and main sightseeing districts like Kazimierz can be fantastic in the wintertime. There are free walking tours there that last around two hours, and coming in winter means you might just be the only one on them.
Finally, there’s the mountains. South of Krakow, easily reachable by train and bus, is the highland town of Zakopane. It has skiing from early December onwards, along with hearty mountain taverns warmed by log fires.
What to Wear in Krakow in Winter
Now we’ve got the weather and the joys of winter out of the way, let’s dig into that all-important Krakow winter packing list.
Here, we’ll cover what we think you should bring for your travels to the Polish City of Kings, and the gear you’ll need to make it through the snow plumes and subzero temps.
1. Thermal underlayers
Thermals are a godsend in the depths of the Polish winter. On the coldest of days, days which can often be colder than -10 Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit), thermals are pretty much the only way to retain enough body heat to stay outside for prolonged periods.
It’s the layer that hugs your skin, so we recommend paying for a high-quality merino wool underlayer like these.
They rarely come cheap, but they’re smooth and almost silken in texture, which reduces chafing and cuts itching to a minimum.
If you’re hoping to get on the ski slopes, you might want to choose thermals with a bit of extra sporting spec. Some of the best makes out there include Icebreaker and Arc’teryx, both of which have been making high-quality winter sports layers for decades.
2. Walking boots
Be in no doubt that Krakow in the winter is boots territory. The ground can often be icy and snowy, or, when the temperatures creep up after some heavy winter storms, wet and slushy.
You’ll need some seriously solid footwear to navigate all that, especially since you’ll probably be doing quite a bit of walking from monument to monument, church to church, market to market.
It’s a good idea to ensure you get boots that have a high-rise ankle. That will help prevent any snow or dirt from getting over the cuff and into your socks – trust us, that’s not a nice feeling!
We love Sorel boots or LL Bean for the cute but practical styles they have. Alternatively, a sturdy, thick-heeled Chelsea boot like Dr. Martens never goes out of style and can last a lifetime if you look after them. Paired with the right socks, these will keep your feet warm all over the world.
Oh, and be sure to couple your boots with a nice woolen sock for added warmth.
3. Fleece, waterproof outer & down jacket
Layering is key to surviving the Polish winter. That’s why we’d recommend that your list of what to wear in Krakow in winter includes not one, not two, but three top-layer coats. Let’s take it one by one to explain.
First, and probably most important: A fleece. This is a thick, uber-warm outer that adds good protection from the chill and wind chill.
You can get them for under $20 in some high-street shops, but it’s a good idea to up the quality a little and opt for one of the prime fleece products from a manufacturer like The North Face or Patagonia, which tend to be way more insulating and last for longer.
A waterproof jacket is necessary for Poland, too. These will come into play when the snow starts falling or the rain comes (as it often does).
To crank up your thermal tech even more, bring along a down jacket. Something like the Microlight Alpine Down Jacket from RAB is a fantastic option, being both lightweight and highly thermal thanks to tightly packed pockets of insulation across the body.
This layer will be the one you reach for when temperatures plummet, so it is usually needed for Krakow trips in the depths of winter, in months like January and February.
4. T-shirts & Blouses
Krakow is an urban destination at heart, so you’ll want to add some of your favorite casual wear to your what to wear in Krakow in winter list! The things listed above are mainly for adding warmth and outer protection.
Your t-shirts and blouses can be for looking good; for those nights out in the Old Town bars and jazz joints.
As a general rule, it’s good to have a mix of options on the shirt front.
Bring a long-sleeve for the coldest days, pack yourself some short-sleeved shirts for the warmer ones, and also have a nice winter blouse just in case you decide to drop into the Krakow Opera (which is fantastic, by the way) or something along those lines.
5. Trousers and Skirts
Jeans are okay but not ideal for touring Krakow in the depths of winter. It’s just that denim gets wet fast and then takes ages to dry. It also tends to hold the cold more so than other fabrics, so you feel colder simply by choosing to wear those rather than something like wool.
If you are planning to spend most of your time in the city, you will be okay with one or two pairs of wool trousers (we love the styles from Theory and JCrew). You can layer a pair of tights or the thermals underneath these easily.
Then I recommend one or two wool skirts of varying lengths, which you can wear with your blouses for fancier dinners, drinks out, or a night at a show.
Those are often partially waterproof or have water-resistant properties, so will be more comfortable in heavy snowfall, for example.
6. Scarf, hat, and gloves
Don’t make the mistake of heading to Krakow in the winter without the woolies to cover your extremities.
Of the trio – scarf, hat, and gloves – a hat is surely the most important.
Second would be gloves, which come in handy if you’re going to wander the Christmas markets with a mulled wine in hand and not get frostbite. I prefer mittens in cold places, but for handling your camera and phone, lighter wool gloves are a bit easier.
Finally, there’s the scarf, which is a good idea but also not 100% necessary if you go for a good down jacket or fleece that has a high-rise collar like most of the Patagonia or RAB products do.
Now we know it might sound a little strange to add swimwear onto the tail end of this list of what to pack for Krakow in the winter, but you might have heard that southern Poland is a bit of a hotspot for thermal baths.
The hilly region between Krakow and Zakopane is riddled with thermal spa facilities where you’ll be able to take a dip in 40-degree Celsius (104-degree Fahrenheit) water surrounded by snow.
If you plan to explore any of these, you’ll need a swimsuit or two to enjoy the baths and saunas.