Whether you’re visiting Krakow as a single destination or as part of a route through Poland, there are a few excursions close to the city that are super interesting. The country’s old capital is fascinating, has a beautiful old town that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a city to which you should devote at least 2 full days. In order for you to organize your trip I made a complete guide with things to see in Krakow. But today I’ll tell you about the best excursions from Krakow.
Krakow via Shutterstock
🌟 7 excursions to do from Krakow
After having explored the city, I recommend you to visit the surroundings that are full of natural, cultural gems and a hard tangible memory of our recent past. Here are seven proposals.
1. Wieliczka salt mines
Salt mines in this area began to form more than 13 million years ago and it is known that at the end of the Palaeolithic era there was already a human presence in these lands.
There is also evidence of medieval settlements in the Wieliczka area, but it was not until the 12th century that the use of salt from this mine was recorded. Throughout history, salt mines in Wieliczka were excavated for salt and different methods were used as science and technology progressed.
Today these salt mines are World Heritage Sites and are considered to be the oldest in Europe. The visit through the bowels of the salt mine takes you through 3 kilometers of tunnels, halls and galleries 135 meters underground where you can see a lake, salt sculptures, even has a restaurant and the most popular room, the Chapel of St. Kinga.
Salt Mines. Editorial credit: Beautiful landscape at Shutterstock
Keep in mind that you can NOT go through the mines on your own, but you must go with a guided tour. If you hire her directly there, there are three daily passes in Spanish and you can join those tours.
Otherwise, and my recommendation, is that you book online a guided tour in Spanish that includes the transfers from Krakow, tickets and thus avoid queues or having to arrive well in advance so that they do not fill the quotas of the Spanish tours offered there. Here you have all the information of the excursion to the Salt Mines.
✏️ A note: if you’re claustrophobic, think about it. The tour lasts several hours and you will be in closed spaces underground.
⏲ Visiting hours: 1 April to 31 October from 7.30am to 7.30pm. From November 2nd to March 31st from 8am to 5pm. Guided tours in Spanish are every day at 11.10am, 2.10pm and 4.10pm. In English they are every day from 9am to 5pm every 30 minutes. See all timetables on the official website of the Wieliczka salt mines.
👛 Tariff: the visit to the mines must be with a guide and they have two tariffs for foreign language (not Polish): in low season it costs 89PLN and in high season it costs 94PLN.
Lake in salt mines by Xseon / Shutterstock
🚍 Go on your own to the Wieliczka salt mines from Krakow
The salt mines are less than 15km from the centre and can be reached by public transport. How?
** By bus: In the Krakowska Gallery (located in the city centre) you can take the urban bus Nº304 that takes you to the Wieliczka Kosciol stop (warn the driver that you are going to the salt mines and he will tell you where to get off). To do this you must have a regular 2 zone ticket that costs 4PLN.
** By train: from the central train station (Krakow Glowny) you can take the train to Wieliczka Rynek Kopalnia station. There are trains every hour from 4.45am and the single ticket is around 5PLN that you can buy at the station or on the same train to the conductor.
2. Auschwitz concentration camp
They say you have to know history to avoid repeating it. And that is exactly what the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp is all about. This is a museum-memorial in the former Nazi concentration camp where more than 1 million people – mainly Jews – were killed.
Auschwitz – Publishing credit: badahos / Shutterstock
The concentration camp, created in 1940, is 90 kilometers from Krakow and allows you to tour all the facilities, understand how the Nazi extermination machinery operated and feel the weight of history on your body.
It is possible to visit Auschwitz on your own, although I strongly recommend that you do so with a guide. The visit is totally different when you find out what you are seeing (and in this case it is very necessary). For more information about the visits you can visit the official website of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
As I told you, my recommendation is that you hire a tour from Krakow, which includes transfers, a guide in Spanish that will explain everything during the tour of the concentration camp and take you back to Krakow, so you avoid queues for tickets and entry. Here you have all the information of the tour in Spanish to Auschwitz.
⏲ Visiting hours: all year round Aushwitz opens at 7.30am. The closing hours change depending on the month: in January and November it closes at 3pm, in February it closes at 4pm, in March and October it closes at 5pm, in April, May and September it closes at 6pm, in June, July and August it closes at 7pm and in December it closes at 2pm.
👛 Fee: access to the concentration camp is free, but you must book your place (“entry card”) in advance on the official website of Visit Auschwitz.
Although admission is free, you will have to pay if you want a guided tour -very recommended- (the price is 60PLN). On their website they offer guided tours in several languages, including Spanish (although there are few options since there are days that only do 1 tour in Spanish or there are days that directly do not do it in this language). There is no audioguide service (although there was one in the past, it is no longer offered).
Auschwitz by bondvit / Shutterstock.
🚍 Go on your own to the Auschwitz concentration camp from Krakow
If you decide to tour the killing center on your own, you can get there by public transportation.
How? At the main bus station in Krakow (which is next to the Krakow Glowny train station) you should look for buses that make the route in the direction of Oswiecim and ask the driver to tell you the stop “Oswiecim Muzeum/Auschwitz Muzeum”.
You will see that there are many companies that make the journey, including Lajkonik, which is the closest to the entrance. Buses depart every 15-30 minutes (depending on the time) and the first one is at 6.30am. The journey can take just under 2 hours and the price is around 15PLN. You can buy the ticket from the driver or on the official website of the Lajkonikbus buses (you must bring them printed).
You can also go by train, but the train station at Oswiecim leaves you about 25 minutes walk from the concentration camp.
💡 Do you have little time to tour the areas near Krakow? So my recommendation is to hire a combined tour with a guide IN SPANISH that takes you to the salt mines and Auschwitz on the same day. All the information here.
3. Zakopane and Tatras Mountains
One of Poland’s best-known ski areas is Zakopane, located just 100 kilometers from Krakow, right on the border with Slovakia and in the highest area of the Carpathians.
This alpine village is perfect to go at any time of year, because although in winter you can ski (they don’t call it the winter capital of Poland for nothing), in spring and summer you can see the nature of the Tatras in its splendour.
Zakopane via Shutterstock
But not only nature is overwhelmingly beautiful, the villages here maintain their ancient traditions that are palpable in its architecture, its gastronomy, its music and dance, its way of being and doing.
If you go in winter, you can take a cable car to the top of Mount Kasprowy or nearby mountains and ski down. In spring and summer you can do one of the many hiking trails in the Tatras National Park. One of the must-see visits is to the icy Morskie Oko Lake, which is on top of a mountain and you can do part of the journey by bus and another on foot.
In the city you can walk through the streets of the historic center, stroll through its street markets, visit churches or get into the local history in its museums.
You can go to Zakopane on a guided tour in Spanish with transfers included from Krakow, entrance fees to the sites to visit and tickets for the funicular.
Morskie Oko via Shutterctok
If you decide to go on your own, you can do it by train or bus. There are usually not many daily trains (between one and three) that cover this route and it takes about 4 hours to make the journey. The company offering this route is Polregio and the price is around 43PLN.
If you want to go by bus you must go to the central train station in Krakow and there are buses that depart every half hour or so. The journey takes less than 2 hours and the price varies between 10 and 30PLN, depending on the company. The companies that make this journey are Majer Bus, Bus Inter, Leo Express, Szwagropol or Trans-Kos.
4. Sanctuary of Częstochowa and the Black Madonna
Częstochowa is the spiritual centre of Poland, the Mecca of pilgrimage for those who adore the Black Madonna and a very interesting place to visit in the vicinity of Krakow.
Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa via Shutterstock
This town is about 135 kilometers from Krakow and is one of the most important places of worship for Eastern European believers and it is estimated that more than 5 million faithful arrive each year to venerate their virgin. It is said that the Black Madonna worked several miracles, including protecting this monastery during the Swedish invasion in the seventeenth century and the fires that occurred in the area.
If you travel to Częstochowa you must visit the Pauline monastery “Jasna Góra” to see the “Protector of Poland”, the Black Virgin. The venerated image (a painting) is located in the 13th century chapel.
In addition to the monastery, you can visit the picturesque old town where you will see the fortress and the town hall building.
One of the easiest ways to go is with a guided tour in Spanish, which includes Krakow transfers and tickets. Here you have all the information of the tour to Częstochowa.
Inside the monastery, the chapel with the image of the virgin by goga18128 / Shutterstock
If you want to go on your own, you can take from the central bus station one of the many buses that make this route in about 2.5 hours. The price range ranges from €2.50 to €12 per trip (depending on the bus company and the comfort of the bus). Some of the companies that make the route are: PolskiBus, Flexibus, Sigma Bus, Voyager, Leo Express or Ad Euro Trans.
The buses drop you off in the center of the city, at the bus station. From there you have to walk about half an hour to reach the monastery, or take the local bus number 11.
5. Excursion to Dunajec river and haunted castle
Who can resist a visit to a haunted castle or a boat trip to the famous Dunajec, the natural border between Poland and Slovakia?
If you like the outdoors, you can’t miss a descent down the Dunajec River through Pieniny Natural Park, the second oldest natural park in the world. The 15-kilometre boat ride will allow you to admire the purest nature of this European area.
But the surprise comes halfway through, when you arrive at the haunted castle of Niedzica where it is said that a great Inca treasure is hidden here. This beautiful castle was built by the Hungarians in the fourteenth century as a border post and belonged to different families over the centuries.
Niedzica via Shutterstock
One of the attractions and curiosities of the castle of Niedzica is the legend of Sebastian Berzewicz, the Incas and their treasure. Several books and many press publications have been created on this subject, but the treasure is still hidden. Legend has it that in the 18th century Sebastian Berzewiczy traveled to Peru and married the daughter of an Inca chief.
The daughter of both, Umina, Tupac Amaru marries her and flees with Sebastian to Itaia, where his grandson Antonio is born. Shortly after Tupac is killed and Umina flees to the castle of Niedzica and is said to have hidden the treasure that Tupac had brought with him.
She dies of poison and is buried in the castle chapel. It is believed that now her ghost roams the castle to scare off the treasure thieves.
Castle via Shutterstock
⏲ It can be visited between May and September from 9am to 6.30pm and from October to April from 9am to 3.30pm. Closed on Mondays.
To visit it you can do a tour with transfers included and guide in Spanish that take you to the National Park, the boat to the castle and the entrance to it. Here you have all the information about the excursion to the castle and river.
6. Visit the birthplace of Pope John Paul II – Wadowice
If you’re interested in the life of John Paul II, you can’t miss a visit to Wadowice, where the former pontiff was born and lived during his childhood and youth (until the age of 18).
By the Pope’s signature is that Wadowice was put on the tourist map of Poland, since once was known only for its industrial facet.
Wadowice via Shutterstock
There you can visit the John Paul II House-Museum where you can admire his personal objects, clothes and various photographs. You can also visit other key sites in the life of John Paul II such as the Town Hall building where the pontiff attended primary school.
You can go to Wadowice on a guided tour in Spanish that takes you from Krakow to the city and shows you all the most important places in the life of the former pontiff including the Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, Kalwaria Zebrydowska Park – declared a World Heritage Site – or the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy of Lagiewniki, inaugurated by Pope John Paul II.
Wadowice by Dziewul / Shutterstock.
If you want to go on your own, you can easily get there by bus (it’s only 50 kilometres). The Polriego company train takes about 2 hours to get you to Wadowice. It has 3 daily frequencies and the single ticket costs between 9PLN and 15PLN (€2.10 and €3.50).
7. Visit the city of elves: Wroclaw
Finally, another curious, original and very picturesque excursions to do from Krakow is to Wroclaw.
This city is well known not only because it is really picturesque, but because it has dozens of sculptures of elves in its streets. Finding them all is a good excuse to walk around the city and, by the way, visit its most iconic monuments such as Picota Square, the Bridge of the Lovers, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the Astronomical Clock or visit the Jewish Quarter.
Wroclaw by Renatok / Shutterstock
There are two ways to visit Wroclaw: on your own or on a tour:
The most comfortable way is to do it with a guided tour in Spanish that will take you to the city, take you on foot while they tell you the legends and history of the city. Here you have all the information about the Wroclaw tour.
You can go on your own by bus. In order to do this you must go to the central bus station in Krakow and there take one of the many buses that go in about 4 hours to the city of Wroclaw (“Wroclaw” is its name in Polish). The price range ranges from 5€ to 15€, depending on the bus you choose. Some of the companies that make this journey are Infobus or Flexibus.
Wroclaw by Dziurek / Shutterstock
Of course, another Polish city I recommend is Warsaw. By train is only 3 hours away, so you can go spend the day, although my recommendation will always be that you spend at least 2 whole days to visit the most important sites.
I recommend that you take a look at the post I wrote about “what to see in Warsaw” where, in addition to telling you the essential visits, I tell you how to get from Krakow to Warsaw, the best accommodations and much more practical information.
Warsaw mermaid on the Market Square in the old area via Shutterstock
💤 Hotels in Krakow
I suggest you stay in the old town. The reasons? First because you can walk through the center, and second because it is also close to the central train station, from where you can take trains or buses to attractions around the city (such as salt mines or Auschwitz concentration camp) and from where you can take the tram to go to the ghetto or Jewish quarter.
A good hotel in Krakow is the Intro Hostel, which is just a few minutes walk from the Market Square, is nice, clean, good value and breakfast is great. It has inexpensive shared dormitories, but it also has private double rooms at very good prices.
💰 Where to change currency (Zloty)
The legal tender in Poland is the “zloty” (sometimes abbreviated zt. and sometimes as PLN). You can change currency before your trip in some official exchange house, such as the official house of currency exchange RIA, which also brings the money to your home in less than 48 hours.
If you are not going to need cash in your first hours in the city, you can choose to withdraw local money from Warsaw’s ATMs (one of the best known is from the “Pekao” bank). Beware of the fees your bank charges for withdrawing money abroad (and even for paying outside your own country).
I wrote an article with a comparison of free bank cards that do NOT charge a fee for withdrawing money abroad or paying with them. I recommend that you read it and see if one of these cards suits you well for travelling -and as a card for daily use in Spain-.
Did you find the guide useful? Score it! Wawel Castle. Editorial credit: amnat30 at Shutterstock*
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