We outline some of the most exciting and adventurous day trips from Krakow, with a touch of history, some wild mountainscapes, and even historic salt mines thrown in for good measure.
If the churches, squares, medieval monuments, museums, and endless basement bars sloshing with vodka and beer are getting just a little too much, then don’t worry – there are oodles of day trips from Krakow that can whisk you away to somewhere totally different but equally as awesome for a few hours. Whether you’re after a glimpse of craggy mountains, hikes through woodlands and canyons, a taste of smoky sheep’s cheese, or a splash in a lake, the list below has you covered.
Ojcow National Park
Poland’s smallest national park is just 20 minutes from the Main Square of Krakow. Spread over a series of small valleys just to the north of the city, it’s a stunning swathe of the Małopolska Province that brims with needle-like rock spires, carved gorges, dense forests, and babbling riverways. You can get here on a local bus connection, but that means some fiddly timetables, which is why we’d recommend a private tour with pick-up and drop-off. When you do arrive, you can explore the reserve to your heart’s content. Be sure to check out the geological area that has towers of stone called things like the Cudgel of Hercules. Get some shots on the lookout point above the local trout farm. And, of course, don’t miss the half-ruined castle, which is a haunting remnant of the medieval fortifications that once strung along these Polish hills.
Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains
If you’ve got the time, we’d say a jaunt to the Winter Capital of Poland and is a must! The journey by bus takes between two and three hours, depending on traffic. That means you’ll need to rise early to fit this one in, but trust us, setting the alarm will be totally worth it! Just think of the moment you lay eyes on the serrated summit of the Giewont or the cloud-caressed top of Kasprowy Wierch (two of the highest mountains around).
If you’re into hiking, you can hit the trails of the Tatra National Park by strolling south out of Zakopane’s center. If you prefer shopping and views, stick to Krupowki Street and the funicular railway station on the north end of town. Come winter, this is also the go-to spot for skiing in Poland. More information on planning a Zakopane ski trip, click on through!
Wieliczka Salt Mines
One of Krakow’s most amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites and – you could argue – the very reason that the city looks so grand and glorious to this day, it’s the sprawling complex of the Wieliczka Salt Mines.
It’s actually doable in half a day, thanks to its proximity to the Old Town, sat just to the south-east in the suburb of Wieliczka itself. Dating all the way back to the early Middle Ages, the mines here produced fine rock salt (and still do) and brought great wealth to Krakow’s kings and nobles.
But it wasn’t only industry that went on underground. You can also wonder at whole cathedrals carved from the rock salt, see fairy-tale characters cut from stone, and stand in echoing music venues beneath the earth. It’s awesome stuff.
Under two hours’ drive to the north-west of Krakow is the hertiage-rich religious center of Częstochowa. It’s primarily famous for the revered shrine of the Black Madonna, which still reigns as one of the most important in all of Poland. That’s housed in the Monastery of Jasna Góra, attracting huge crowds of devotees throughout the year.
To see the painting, you’ll need to arrive early, as it’s unveiled in the morning and covered up again in the afternoon. However, it’s not the only pull, because majestic Romanesque and Gothic churches erupt around it, and the wide Holy Virgin Mary Avenue cuts through the heart of the city.
While snows and sub-zero temperatures dominate the winter months, Krakow can get darn hot during the summer. Yep, we’re talking mercury in the mid-30s most days in July and August, with some sweat-inducing humidity to go with it.
Cue this large body of water, which is one of the few possible day trips from Krakow that’ll let you swim, sunbathe, and chillax away from the hubbub of the city. Known to locals as the Kryspinow Lagoon or Kryspinow Lake, it’s only 12 kilometers from the town center. It’s home to a large, manmade beachfront, and comes fringed with grills and Polish taverns, so you can grab your pierogis and piwos, no problem.
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These are just a few of the awesome day trips from Krakow that are out there. If you’ve done any that you think should totally be on this list, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below.