For foreigners, Krakow is undoubtedly the most well-known and frequently visited city in Poland. After the fall of communism in 1989, the city rapidly turned to tourism to boost its development. The beauty of the city, the high quality of higher education and knowledge of foreign languages by Poles have also contributed to attracting foreign investors.
With a population of 780,000 (1.4 million including the metropolitan area), Krakow is the country’s second largest city and a dynamic economic centre. Many Polish and foreign companies are established there and the tourism sector is highly developed. Before the pandemic, the capital of Lesser Poland welcomed more than 14 million tourists a year – including more than 3 million foreigners.
Many visitors fall under the spell of this city with its Renaissance architecture, provincial rhythm, and the cultural richness it inherited thanks to its status as the former capital of Poland. There are so many reasons to relocate to Krakow.
Whatever your reason for moving to Krakow, you will appreciate the security, relaxed lifestyle and good quality/cost of living ratio. Poland is also above the average for OECD countries in terms of personal safety and education in the OECD Better Life Index.
If you are a national of an EU or EFTA member country, you benefit from administrative facilities for living in Poland: travelling, relocating, working and doing business, just like in the 26 other member countries.
Otherwise, depending on your country of origin, you may need a visa to travel and work in Poland and will need to register as a resident in Poland within 30 days of moving there. To determine which formalities are currently required for you to relocate to Poland, consult the Polish consulate in your country of origin or current residence.
Krakow is located in southern Poland, in the region of Lesser Poland (Małopolska) about 50 km from the Czech Republic and 40 km from Slovakia. Its proximity to the Tatra mountains is an additional asset for those who love the mountains, but they block the air pollution in the city.
The city’s climate is continental. However, under the influence of climate change, winters are gradually becoming less cold and snowy and summers consistently hotter with frequent storms. The average temperature in January (the coldest month) is around -2°C, while the average daytime temperature in July (the hottest month) reaches 24.6°C.
Krakow has 18 districts (dzielnica) of different sizes, distributed on both sides of the Vistula, the longest river in Poland, originating in the mountains and flowing 1,000 km all the way to the Baltic Sea in Gdansk.
Krakow was the capital of Poland until the end of the 16th century, which lends the city a rich historic heritage. The Old Town and former Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz, are also UNESCO World Heritage sites. Wawel Castle, the former residence of kings, is also a site where many rulers and national heroes are buried – President Lech Kaczynski, who died in the plane crash in Smolensk on 10 April 2010, is buried there alongside his wife.
In contrast with Warsaw and other cities in Poland, Krakow was not destroyed during World War II so the authenticity and beauty of its medieval and Renaissance architecture was preserved.
The city is also the seat of national scientific organisations, as well as medical, sports, tourist and cultural institutions of national significance.
Between history and arts, visitors and locals benefit from a rich and diversified cultural offer. Cinema, theatre, music, visual arts, as well as performances by national and international artists in the city or the large neighbouring city of Katowice.
Fans of outdoor activities will particular enjoy their proximity to the Tatra mountain range. The small town of Zakopane, located one hour from Krakow, is the starting point for many hiking trails of varied difficulty levels, including one that leads to the highest point in Poland: Mount Rysy (2499 m) on the Slovak border.
Zakopane is also a ski resort with multiple slopes.
This picture is complemented by the atmosphere and folkloric heritage that reign in the Tatra mountains, the most significant cultural region of the country, cherished highly by Poles.
Krakow residents like to point out that their city is home to the best restaurants in the country. Though they might not be the most objective on that point, one thing is certain: the gastronomic offer in Krakow is rich, diverse and affordable.
It includes, first and foremost, traditional Polish cuisine which offers a vast diversity of regional dishes far removed from the foreign stereotypes of cabbage and potatoes. Soups, pierogis (Polish ravioli), dishes based on game, pork, fish, mushrooms, cabbage … are all widely represented. But specialties from all over the world – foremost European and Asian – also have a place. From the famous Polish milk bar and vegetarian restaurants inherited from the communist period to the most refined restaurants, including those with Michelin stars, the most curious and demanding gourmets find happiness in the streets of Krakow.
Living in Krakow is convenient! First and foremost, logistically. The Old Town offers many cultural attractions. Though quite large, it remains easy to navigate and can be explored on foot or by bicycle (car traffic is prohibited). Many institutions, universities and historic residential buildings can be found near the historic centre of the city.
Thanks to its size, Krakow is also bicycle friendly.
Finally, for longer distances, trams, buses and suburban trains provide efficient and safe travel options, including to and from surrounding towns.
Generally speaking, living in Krakow means enjoying good value for money in a historic European city. As in Warsaw, singles and couples without children will benefit from practical aspects of the city as well as the varied cultural and gastronomic opportunities, while families will also enjoy Polish culture, which is particularly geared towards children.
Poland is a former Soviet bloc country that has achieved success in its political and economic transformation. This country of 40 million inhabitants, well educated and open to foreign countries, has managed to make itself attractive to foreign investors. Joining the European Union in 2004 has continued to boost the Polish economy, which has one of the highest GDP growth rates in the EU.
Krakow has always been an important regional economic centre. Attracted by the level of higher education, foreign language knowledge among Poles, universities and salaries that are historically lower than in the capital, many international and Polish companies are established there, making Krakow a dynamic employment pool. Structurally, the unemployment rate is low – before the pandemic it was around 2.1%.
So many favourable factors for newcomers – even those who do not necessarily speak Polish – who can work in Krakow without great difficulty. A higher education diploma and knowledge of foreign languages, first and foremost English, are assets for landing a job, even without mastering Polish.
Most business in Krakow concentrates on service activities: telecommunications and information technology, administration and support functions, commerce, education and hotel and catering, despite the pandemic.
The dynamic Małopolska region now offers some of the highest wages in the country – PLN 6,200 (about EUR 1,370 gross), compared to the (national) minimum wage of PLN 2,800 (about EUR 620), which is rarely used in reality – or the average wage nationwide which reached PLN 5,680 in June 2021 (about EUR 1,260).
In March 2021, the average salary in Krakow was PLN 7,730 (approximately EUR 1,700 gross) – exceeding (by EUR 20) the average salary in Warsaw for the first time.
Are you a national of an EU or EFTA country? You can work in Poland with a valid identity card or passport, as in the other 26 EU Member States.
Not an EU citizen? Depending on your country of origin, you may need a visa to both enter and work in Poland. Consult the Polish consulate in your country of origin or your current country of residence to see the current procedures required by Polish authorities to live and work in Poland.
Becoming an entrepreneur is another option for working in Poland. Poland offers a safe, reliable business climate and relatively simple entrepreneurial formalities. Companies providing legal, tax and accounting services can provide assistance in French or English, as needed.
Krakow was one of the “top 10 business-friendly cities in Europe” compiled by the Financial Times newspaper in 2018-2019.
Whatever your country of departure, it is essential that you entrust your move to Poland to a professional moving company that has solid knowledge of the formalities, procedures and Poland itself, as well as your country of origin and language.
The English-speaking team of Indygo Moving Solutions has been managing relocation processes to and from Poland for more than 20 years. We are at your disposal to answer any questions, arrange your move to or from Krakow or other cities in Poland.
Are you planning to move to Warsaw? See our article dedicated to the Polish capital.