No matter your interests, there is a fantastic day trip from Krakow to suit you.
Krakow is an amazing city to visit for many reasons. It has a rich history and culture, stunning architecture, delicious food, and vibrant nightlife. However, once you’ve gotten to know Krakow, you might be interested in checking out the surroundings. There are many fun and interesting day trips from Krakow.
In addition to nearby cities and historical sites, Krakow’s location in southern Poland offers easy access to incredible nature. Krakow is surrounded by beautiful countryside, including the Tatra Mountains and Ojców National Park. Therefore, visitors can easily take a day trip to enjoy hiking, skiing, or other outdoor activities.
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Best Day Trips from Krakow
Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum
I have the dubious distinction of having been three times to Auschwitz – first on my own in 1985, again with a college group in 1989, and lastly in 2015 with my family – which only drives home the fact that this is a must-see for anyone visiting southern Poland. Indeed, it is the most popular of all the days trips from Krakow. The former Nazi concentration and extermination camp is now a museum, memorial and UNESCO World Heritage site. Tours are available and highly recommended.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was the site of over a million deaths of Jews, Poles, and other ethnic groups. It is a primary symbol of the Holocaust. In fact, January 27, the day that Auschwitz was liberated, was designated by the UN as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is located near the Polish town of Oświęcim. It is 45 miles west of Krakow, and takes about an hour by car, train or bus.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is just a short drive from Krakow. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of salt mining. The mine founded in the 13th century features underground lakes, chapels, and sculptures, all made out of salt. I first visited Wieliczka in 1985, then again in 2015, and the tour hasn’t changed much over the years. Visitors descend the 800 stairs to the 210-ft level. Once there, they visit the many chambers there, then return to the surface via small elevator. It’s a fun experience and fascinating to see how much you can do with salt!
Wieliczka is located 9 mi southeast of Krakow and takes about 30 minutes via car, train or bus. ➡️ See Day Trips to Wieliczka here!
Known as “the winter capital of Poland,” this mountain resort town is located about two hours from Krakow. It is popular among skiers, mountain climbers and hikers, and has a charming atmosphere. There are traditional wooden houses and a lively market selling handicrafts like textiles, wood carvings and sheepskin rugs.
In the winter, in addition to skiing, you can take a husky sleigh ride, snowshoe excursion or a snowmobile tour. Be sure to sample the local Herbata Góralska (Polish Highlander Tea with vodka) to stay cozy. Summers are warm and beautiful. Summer activities include cycling, climbing, horseback riding and quad bike tours. But something you can enjoy year-round are the many thermal baths and water parks in the area. These are often adjacent to a hotel (in case you decide to just shift from Krakow). Need a hotel in Zakopane? Check out the Aries Hotel and Spa Zakopane!
You can reach Zakopane by car or bus; it is about two hours south of Krakow.
Morskie Oko / Tatra National Park
Lake “Eye of the Sea” is the largest lake in the Tatra Mountains and one of its most popular destinations. Located within Tatra National Park, you can reach the lake by foot from the nearest road in about two hours, but it’s a beautiful hike and the view is well worth it. In 2014, The Wall Street Journal recognized Morskie Oko as one of the five most beautiful lakes in the world.
When I went, back in 1985, I took the bus from Zakopane. Few people spoke English then and I wasn’t even sure I was at the right stop! I began hiking up the path and I remember a Belgian family took me under their wing and we all hiked together. It’s one of those unexpected things that make a memorable experience even more special. The Tatras, including Rysy, the highest peak in Poland, surround the lake. You can walk around the lake in under an hour and you’ll get some stunning views.
To get to Morskie Oko, you must first take a bus from Krakow to Zakopane, which takes about two hours. From Zakopane, there is a bus to the trailhead at Palenica Białczańska that takes about thirty minutes. From the trailhead, it’s a two hour hike. If you prefer, you can instead take a horse-drawn cart from the trailhead to Włosienica, then hike the last mile.
Tatra National Park has more than 170 miles of hiking trails, as well as 30 mountain lakes, 650 caves (6 open to the public) and waterfalls as high as 230 ft. Of the 23 national parks in Poland, it is the one most visited.
Poland is 94% Catholic, and Częstochowa is the religious capital of Poland. It is home to the Jasna Góra Monastery, which is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Poland. The monastery is home to the Black Madonna, also known as Our Lady of Częstochowa, a painting that is believed to have miraculous powers. It has been associated with Poland for 600 years.
Częstochowa is about 60 miles north of Krakow. You can reach the town by car, bus or train in around two hours.
Continuing in the Catholic vein… the small town of Wadowice (30 miles from Krakow) is known for being the birthplace of Karol Wojtyła, who became Pope John Paul II in 1978. The first non-Italian pope in 455 years, the election of a Polish pope uplifted the Catholic populace. In essence, religion became its own form of political protest. His visit to Poland in 1979 sparked the formation of the Solidarity trade union in 1980, which would ultimately lead to the end of communism in 1989 – in Poland and elsewhere in Europe.
In Wadowice, you can visit the family house where Karol Wojtyła grew up. It includes a museum that takes you through his whole life and the way he influenced people around the world. The Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the church where he was baptized.
For non-religious activities, check out the Inwald Park complex, one of the largest in Poland. It consists of five amusement parks, including Dinolandia, Dream World Miniature Park, Fortress, Zoo and John Paul II Garden (where an image of the Pope, the Basilica in Wadowice, and St Peters in the Vatican is rendered using twenty thousand trees, shrubs and flowers. Visitors can view this marvel from above, atop an observation tower.
Wadowice is located 31 mi southwest of Krakow.
Dunajec River Gorge
The Dunajec River Gorge is a stunning natural attraction located in southern Poland. It is a deep and narrow gorge that the Dunajec River carved as it flows through the Pieniny Mountains.
The best way to visit the Dunajec River Gorge is to take a rafting trip down the river. The rafting route starts in Sromowce Wyżne and ends in Szczawnica, covering a distance of around 12 mi. During the rafting trip, visitors can enjoy the breathtaking views of the towering cliffs and lush forests that surround the gorge. The rafting trip takes around 2-3 hours to complete, depending on the water level and the speed of the current.
Alternatively, visitors can also explore the Dunajec River Gorge by hiking or biking along the trails that run parallel to the river. These trails offer panoramic views of the gorge and are a great way to experience the natural beauty of the area. However, rafting is still the most popular and recommended way to explore the Dunajec River Gorge.
Ojców National Park and Pieskowa Skała Castle
Ojców National Park is Poland’s smallest national park. It is very biodiverse, home to over 7000 species of animals, including badgers and ermine, 100 species of birds, 1100 species of butterflies and 19 species of bats, which spend winters hibernating in Łokietka Cave.
A highlight of Ojców National Park is a visit to the well-preserved Renaissance castle of Pieskowa Skała (Little Dog’s Rock). It was built in the 14th century as part of the ‘Trail of the Eagles’ Nests’. It was even featured on The Amazing Race in 2006. Other sights in Ojców include Kazimierz Castle, Skała Biała Ręka (the White Hand rock), Maczuga Herkulesa (Hercule’s Club), and the Chapel on the Water.
Wrocław is Poland’s third largest city and one worthy of a day trip from Krakow. Situated 170 mi west of Krakow, Wrocław lies on the banks of the Oder River. The city is famous for its Market Square, which features beautiful colorful houses and showcases a contemporary fountain. The Gothic Old Town Hall, which houses a large astronomical clock, is also located in the square.
The unusual Panorama of Racławice, a painting that depicts the 1794 battle for independence, stands in a circular fashion. With the viewer in the center, it presents different scenes at various viewing angles. Across the river lies the Centennial Hall auditorium, which boasts a massive dome and a towering spire. Significantly, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to Wrocław University, there is also a zoo (Poland’s oldest) and aquarium. If you get bored, you can go on a hunt for the over 600 small gnome statues scattered around the city.
The direct train from Krakow to Wrocław takes less than three hours.
One of the most famous aristocratic residences in Poland, Łańcut has striking architecture, exquisite interiors, and extensive art collections. Built in the 17th century and surrounded by a magnificent English-style park, it also features a unique collection of horse-drawn carriages, stables and an orchid house. For classical music lovers, the Łańcut Music Festival takes place here every June. Łańcut is less than 2 hours’ driving from Kraków via direct highway.
Summary: 10 Best Day Trips from Krakow
Krakow’s location in southern Poland allows for many fascinating day trips to places of historical and religious significance. Due to its proximity to mountains, rivers and several national parks, there is also easy access to nature and outdoor activities in both summer and winter.