The Best Day Trips from Kraków

Of all the sites surrounding Kraków, the two most significant are the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum and the enchanting Wieliczka Salt Mine. It’s even possible to see both in one day, though they offer very different experiences. Also close by are attractions like Ojców National Park, the historic town of Lanckorona, the former miners’ colony of Nikiszowiec, several painted-timber churches, and the Kasprowy Wierch ski area.

Więźniów Oświęcimia 20, 32-603 Oświęcim, Poland
While unspeakably sad and heart-rending, a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum is an important one. Located in the small town of Oświęcim (better known by its German name, Auschwitz, as this area of Poland was part of the Third Reich during World War II), this was the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp, where more than 1.5 million people—90 percent of them Jews from Poland and throughout Europe—died from 1940 to 1945. The former camp consisted of three parts: Auschwitz, Birkenau (where the gas chambers were located), and Monowitz (where a chemical camp was run by prison labor). Today, the barracks at Auschwitz have been turned into the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, while Birkenau has been preserved to look much as it did after the liberation. Admission to the grounds is free, but visitors must reserve a time slot online to help control crowds—about 2 million people visit every year. Alternatively, you can book a guided tour to learn more about this significant site.
Kuźnice 14, 34-500 Zakopane, Poland
A mountain in the Western Tatras, Kasprowy Wierch towers 6,519 feet above the border between Poland and Slovakia. A cable car runs to the top, making the mountain an ideal place for skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer, or simply enjoying the sweeping views year-round. There are two ski runs that go to the bottom, though both are rather demanding and require experience. If you decide to attempt them, be prepared to wait for the cable car, as Kasprowy Wierch is a very popular skiing destination. In the summer, you can take the cable car to the top starting at 7 a.m., or walk all the way up—depending on the route, it’ll take you about four hours.
A charming historic village, Lanckorona makes for a romantic day trip from Kraków. The town’s picturesque setting endeared it to lovers and artists alike; some settled here, while others visited regularly for plein-air painting sessions. Today, you can stroll past old wooden houses, stop for coffee in a cozy café, and walk up to the castle ruins in the woods—remnants from one of the main battles of the Bar Confederation against Russian encroachment in Poland.
Ojców 9, 32-045 Sułoszowa, Poland
Small in size but not in beauty, Ojców National Park is an easy drive from Kraków. Here, visitors find white limestone rock formations carved into fantastic shapes by the Prądnik River. The river also molded hundreds of caves, which are now home to 15 different species of bats. After exploring the park, drive through the surrounding area to see picturesque castles like the well-preserved Pieskowa Skała, which is part of Poland’s Trail of the Eagle’s Nests (a chain of 25 medieval castles). The Ojców Valley is also famous for its trout fisheries, so be sure to stop by one of the local restaurants, where you can enjoy fresh fish at an outdoor table in the summer.
10 Daniłowicza Street
During a tour of the more-than-700-year-old Wieliczka Salt Mine, you’ll travel through a labyrinth of underground corridors and stairs leading to a variety of fantastically shaped chambers, chapels, salt sculptures, and subterranean lakes. Exploring with a guide is essential, as the mine is home to nine separate levels and more than 2,000 excavated chambers. The Tourist Route, which starts at the Daniłowicz Shaft, takes about three hours to complete but covers only a small stretch of this fascinating underworld. For a more adventurous experience, choose the Miners’ Route expedition, which begins at the Regis Shaft (about a 10-minute walk from the main Daniłowicz Shaft) and allows guests to try their hand at working underground. The salt mine is very popular, so buy tickets far in advance, either online or from a trusted tour operator. And wear comfortable shoes—a visit here involves a lot of walking.
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Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
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