7 Places to escape the crowds in Krakow

7 Places to escape the crowds in Krakow

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Category : Krakow , Poland

Chocolate box old town Kraków is a jumble of narrow cobbled streets, elaborate churches and grand medieval sights like the main square and Wawel Royal Castle. However, in the summer months, Kraków struggles to cope with overtourism. In 2017, 13 million visitors (and the horse-drawn carriages that carry them) thronged the old town, as well as nearby Auschwitz and Wieliczka Salt Mine. Rachel Mills suggests hitting the highlights fast and then exploring places with a little more local flavour at a more leisurely pace.

1. Take a stroll in Planty Gardens

Where a defensive wall once ringed old town Kraków, there’s now just leafy Planty Gardens, home to more than two thousand trees. The throngs of tourists tend to stick to St Florian’s Gate at the entrance to the old town, which leaves the rest of the park free for a quiet stroll. In the evenings, local families head to its playgrounds and you feel a thousand miles from the old town circus.

2. Cycle along Vistula (Wisla) River

Poland’s “Queen of Rivers” passes Kraków on its 1,000km-long meander to the Baltic Sea and her banks are a much-loved public space. You’ll see local people zipping about on bikes as well as tourists setting out on the south bank to cycle to Tyniec Abbey 12km away. Water trams ply the same route if you’re not feeling too energetic. And if you just fancy splashing about, you can hire a kayak near Pilsudski Bridge.

Szeroka Street by night, pre-war street on Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter of Krakow

Szeroka Street by night, a restored pre-war street in Kazimierz

3. Explore Kazimierz and Podgórze

Kazimierz is the Jewish district of Kraków, or it was until the Nazis forcefully moved surviving members of the community to a sealed ghetto across the river in Podgórze. A devastated neighbourhood after the war, Kazimierz’s low rents eventually enticed artists and bohemians to move there, and by the 1990s it had developed into the coolest part of Kraków. It kept an authentic feel, with synagogues and a Jewish cemetery, and you can give tour groups the slip by exploring the tangle of backstreets. Bernatek footbridge opened in 2010 to create a link to Podgórze – a district that started to regenerate after the movie Schindler’s List was filmed here (Oskar Schindler’s factory is now a museum). Today, the neighbourhood is all start-ups, coffee shops and industrial chic.

4. Take a picnic to Zakrzówek

A man-made limestone quarry that’s now piercing blue lagoon, Zakrzówek is a secret(ish) wild spot not far from central Kraków. Hike in on a trail to be greeted by a vast reservoir ringed by sheer limestone cliffs and trees. There’s an entrance fee these days and locals grumble about swimming being prohibited (not everyone follows the rules), but it can’t be beaten as a picnic spot.

Krakow, Nowa Huta

5. Learn about Communism in Poland at Nowa Huta

It’s not everywhere that you can visit an entire district that was bankrolled by Stalin. Nowa Huta (“New Steelworks”) was a post-war experiment in Social Realism; a carefully planned hub for 100,000 workers that was to be the antithesis of bourgeois Kraków. Although Poland’s devout Catholicism and the ill-considered location of the steelworks meant that the experiment was ultimately a failure, visiting the neat concrete blocks of Nowa Huta – now a suburb to the east of Kraków – gives a fascinating insight into Communism in Poland.

Katowice, Spodek

The Spodek building in Katowice

6. Visit Katowice Culture Zone

Just an hour away, Katowice airport is sometimes used as a cheap gateway for Kraków. It’s fair to say that until recently, Katowice itself didn’t have all that much else to recommend it to visitors. Fiercely working class, with an industry based on coal mining and steel, the city has been suffering economic decline for decades. But times are changing and a government-led initiative has created a central “culture zone”.

The zone incorporates Spodek, a stark brutalist building known as ‘The Spaceship’ that’s been a landmark building since 1971. Spodek has had new life breathed into it and now hosts major arena tours and music festivals. A former mine has been converted into the world-class Silesian Museum, where underground spaces with glass ceilings are now exhibition rooms. Exhibits include Polish art from 1800 to the present day and an outstanding gallery of non-professional art that includes work by miners. Just next door, the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (NOSPR) has a brand-new concert hall with outstanding acoustics.

Katowice, Nikiszowiec

Nikiszowiec’s red brick buildings

7. Step back in time at Nikiszowiec

A socialist fantasy turned reality, wandering the well-ordered grid of streets in the Nikiszowiec quarter in Katowice feels like stepping back in time. Built in the early twentieth century to attract coal miners (once the kings of the working class in Poland), today, hipsters are snapping up the red-brick flats in the area. Explore pop-up art galleries and an arcade of 1920s-era shops that includes cute-as-a-button Café Byfyi where you can order apple pie and strong coffee.

Panorama Market Square at sunrise in Krakow, Poland

10 Top Tourist Attractions in Poland

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Category : Poland , Warsaw

Poland has survived centuries of conflict to emerge as a proud, independent country, ready to assume her new role in modern history. Visitors to Poland are discovering what the locals have long known, that Poland is a country rich in fine culture, scenic landscapes and extraordinary historical sites. Whether exploring the nation’s vibrant cities, the lakes and forests of her picturesque countryside or some of the other tourist attractions in Poland, visitors are sure to bring away rich memories.

10. Wawel Castle

Wawel Castle


People have lived upon the site of Wawel Castle since the Paleolithic Age. The castle itself was first built in the 14th century, at the command of Polish monarch Casimir III the Great. The Gothic castle is home to the only preserved piece of the Polish Crown Jewels, the legendary sword Szczerbiec coronation sword. Decorated with symbols and floral patterns, the blade is notched to hold a small shield, giving the sword its nickname, the Jagged Sword.

9. Auschwitz-Birkenau



A visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau is a powerful experience that words can scarcely describe. The immense size of the infamous Nazi concentration camp is the first thing to strike visitors as they approach the entrance to the memorial and museum in Oswiecim, Poland. Devoted to the memory of the murders in the camps during World War II, Auschwitz-Birkenau has been visited by more than 25 million people.


8. Masurian Lakeland

Masurian Lakeland


Located in an area that encompasses the lower Vistula River to the Lithuania border, the Masurian Lake District contains more than 2,000 lakes connected by an extensive system of canals and rivers. The Masurian Lakeland is the most popular tourist destination of Europe’s lake districts. Hotels, guest houses and camp sites are plentiful in the villages that surround the lakes, and visitors often travel by bicycle or boat to tour the scenic area.


7. Slowinski Sand Dunes

Slowinski Sand Dunes


Situated in northern Poland, the Slowinski Sand Dunes are part of the Slowinski National Park located on the coast of the Baltic Sea. The park is named after the Slovincians who once lived there, and an open-air museum in the town of Kluki features artifacts of their culture. The dunes themselves are formed as waves and wind carry sand onshore and can reach as high as 30 meters. Their forms change with the season and are known as the “moving dunes.”

6. Malbork Castle 

Malbork Castle


Malbork Castle was founded in 1274 by the Teutonic Knights who used it as their headquarters to help defeat Polish enemies and rule their own northern Baltic territories. The castle was expanded several time to host the growing number of Knights until their retreat to Königsburg in 1466. Today it is the most popular tourist attraction in the city of Malbork.


5. Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine


Located on the outskirts of Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is considered one of the oldest companies in the world. Salt has been mined from the site continuously since the 13th century. The site features an underground city, all carved out of the rock salt, including a chapel that is said to have the best acoustics of any structure in Europe. Dozens of ancient sculptures carved from salt are augmented by new sculptures from contemporary artists.

4. Bialowieza Forest

Bialowieza Forest


The Bialowieza Forest is a large remnant of the primeval forests that once covered much of Europe. The forest straddles the border between Poland and the Republic of Belarus, and there are border crossings for tourists on foot or on bicycles. The Bialowieza Forest is home to around 800 wisent, a protected species of European bison. While the wisent are kept within fenced areas, guided tours are available either on foot or in horse-drawn carriages.

3. Gdansk Old Town 

Gdansk Old Town


Located on the Baltic coast, the city of Gdansk’s history includes a long occupation by 14th century Teutonic Knights whose fortresses contrasted strongly with the existing town that came to be known as Altstadt, or “Old Town.” In the 15th century, Casimir IV of Poland allowed the structures built by the Teutonic Knights to be demolished. Gdansk’s Old Town area includes many 17th century structures, including granaries, mills and churches.

2. Warsaw Old Market Place

Warsaw Old Market Place


Founded in the late 13th century, Warsaw and the city’s central marketplace were the heart of Polish culture for five centuries. The original Old Town Market Place was destroyed in World War II but was carefully reconstructed almost immediately after the war ended. The market square features a bronze sculpture of the Warsaw mermaid, the symbol of Poland’s capital.

1. Main Market Square 

#1 of Tourist Attractions In Poland


Dating back to the 13th century, the Main Market Square in the Old Town in Kraków is the largest medieval town square in Europe and one of the main tourist attractions in Poland. The square is surrounded by historical townhouses, historic buildings, palaces and churches. The center of the square is dominated by the Cloth Hall, rebuilt in 1555 in the Renaissance style, topped by a beautiful attic.


Hotels in Warsaw: Hotels in the center

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10 Most Beautiful Castles in Poland

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Category : Europe , Poland

In the heart of Central Europe, Poland has an incredible history and heritage. The architecture of Poland reflects its past, and in no way is that more obvious than when admiring its castles. From ruins with rich historical significance to refurbished and pristine royal residences, Poland has some truly amazing castles to choose from. On your next trip to this historic country, make time to see as many of the following castles in Poland as possible.

10. Ksiaz Castle

Ksiaz Castle


As the third-largest of all castles in Poland, Ksiaz Castle is also known as the Pearl of Upper Silesia. Erected in the 13th century, Ksiaz has undergone countless regime changes and has been the site of many historical agreements. Everyone from Russian czars and British dignitaries have spent the night in this historic castle. Today, Ksiaz Castle offers several guided tours each day, and there are even multiple restaurants within the castle walls where you can dine surrounded by centuries-old art and architecture.

9. Bolkow Castle

Bolkow Castle


In the Lower Silesian Voivodeship is Bolkow Castle, a 13th century structure built as a strong but rather plain stone fortress. In the 16th century, the castle got an upgrade, when an architect named Jakub Parr added some Renaissance touches to Bolkow Castle. This enormous castle was used primarily by monks for centuries, but now it is known for hosting events and even an annual rock music festival.


8. Czocha Castle

Czocha Castle


You might have heard of Czocha Castle recently, because it is sometimes referred to as the Polish Hogwarts. In recent years, this Polish castle has been the site of live-action wizard role playing games, and it goes by the nickname, “The College of Wizardry”. However, the history of Czocha Castle dates well beyond Harry Potter. Built in the 13th century, Czocha Castle is a defensive castle erected right on gneiss rock for longevity. While ransacked during and after World War II, the castle has since been refurbished and transformed into an incredible tourism hotspot.


7. Ogrodzieniec Castle

Ogrodzieniec Castle


In the 14th century, the Sulimczyk family decided to construct the incredible Ogrodzieniec Castle. While it was a remarkable structure in its prime, the castle began to fall to ruin by the 19th century. After World War II, steps were taken to prevent the castle’s complete collapse. Today, you can tour the spooky and surreal ruins. You might recognize Ogrodzieniec Castle, because the iconic structure has served as the backdrop for many things, including an Iron Maiden music video in 1984.

6. Kwidzyn Castle

Kwidzyn Castle

The Gothic Kwidzyn Castle is an example of architecture from the Teutonic Knights. After it was built in the 13th century, it served as the residence for Pomesanians, a Prussian clan. It has a stunning and unusual design thanks to a bridge that connects to the castle and serves as a sewer tower as well as a way to cross the adjacent river. You’ll definitely want to explore Kwidzyn Castle to tour the underground medieval crypts, the museum and the cathedral.

5. Bedzin Castle

Bedzin Castle


In the 11th century, a wooden castle was erected in the town of Bedzin in Southern Poland. By the 14th century, it was replaced with a stone version, the castle that still stands today. Multiple stone walls protect the interior residences and courtyard, which was instrumental in the many battles and sieges taking place at Bedzin. Bedzin was ravaged by Swedish military forces in the 17th century, and then once again by the Nazis during World War II, when the local Jewish population was targeted. Although connected with a sad history, Bedzin Castle is a poignant reminder of Poland’s past.

4. Wawel Royal Castle

Wawel Royal Castle


When Krakow served as Poland’s capital city, the Wawel Royal Castle was the residence of the Polish Royals. From the 14th through to the 18th centuries, Wawel Royal Castle was home to countless monarchs. Built on a bluff called Wawel Hill, the castle offers stunning panoramic views over the city below. Today, the Wawel Royal Castle boasts its original Romanesque design as well as some updated Renaissance features. It also serves as a museum where you can see the royal jewels and other important Polish artifacts.

3. Moszna Castle

Moszna Castle


Found in Poland’s Upper Silesia region, Moszna Castle was built in the 17th century in the traditional Baroque style. In the years since, however, additions have included a Gothic-style wing and a Renaissance wing. With 99 spires, Moszna Castle looks like the quintessential fairytale castle, and it has served as the backdrop for countless films and photoshoots thanks its stunning appearance.

2. Malbork Castle

Malbork Castle


Between the 13th and the 15th centuries, Malbork Castle was constructed by knights of the Teutonic Order. The castle itself was not just intended to be a private residence: It also served as a fortress. As a result, Malbork Castle is incredibly large, and is today one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. The Gothic castle is situated on a peninsula between two rivers, making it a fantastic spot for defense. Every year, the castle plays host to a reenactment of the Battle of Grunwald, a significant battle that took place in 1410.

1. Niedzica Castle

#1 of Castles In Poland


In the 13th century, Niedzica Castle was built in the very south of Poland. It is situated at a significant elevation, indicating it was used for military purposes as well as a private residence. Today, Niedzica Castle is known for more than just its historic architecture. On tours of the castle, you can dress in traditional monk’s robes and dine on an authentic medieval feast, using just your hands and old-fashioned wooden utensils rather than modern metal cutlery. There are often jousting competitions and medieval dancing to accompany these frequent feasts designed to offer a glimpse of the past in Poland.

8 Great Day Trips From Krakow

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Category : Europe , Poland

Poland’s second largest city, Krakow, spreads over the Vistula River and offers a great range of top attractions. The city boast historic Old Town architecture, green forested parks, traditionally Jewish districts, castles and stunning bridges. To truly experience what Poland has to offer, however, consider venturing out for a few day trips from Krakow. You’ll be able to explore mountain towns, national parks, religious and historic landmarks, and important cultural destinations. There are countless places to visit from Krakow that you can get to and from within a single day. As you plan your next trip, be sure to include a few of these incredible day trips from Krakow in your itinerary.

8. Ogrodzieniec Castle

Ogrodzieniec Castle


A little more than an hour’s drive north of Krakow is Ogrodzieniec Castle. Although this castle is now in ruin, it is a beautiful landmark with plenty of history. The castle was built in the 14th century, and it is perched atop a large hill to provide sweeping views over the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland. It was largely destroyed in the 17th century during Swedish occupation, and it features in many legends and myths in Polish culture. You can tour the remains of Ogrodzieniec Castle, take in the views, and even see the remains of the torture chamber in the structure.

7. Tarnow



Directly east of Krakow is Tarnow, a beautiful city well worth a day of exploration. The town square is the heart of the city, and it’s the place you’ll want to spend most of your time. The town square is medieval, with the layout and many of the buildings dating back to the 14th century. The Town Hall is the landmark building in the square, and you can head inside to check out a staggering collection of Polish armor as well as beautiful paintings. Tarnow is also home to a number of historic Jewish sites as well as three traditional wooden churches, the oldest of which was constructed in the 15th century.

6. Benedictine Abbey of Tyniec

Benedictine Abbey of Tyniec


Just under 16 km (10 miles) from Krakow is the village of Tyniec, which is best known for being home to the Benedictine Abbey of Tyniec. The abbey is perched above the banks of the Vistula River, and it is now a religious site as well as a tourist destination. The Benedictine Abbey of Tyniec was first founded in the 1040s, and it remains the oldest monastery in all of Poland. If you visit, you’ll be able to tour most of the rooms in the abbey, talk with some of the monks who still live and work there and enjoy amazing views over the Vistula from the abbey itself.

5. Auschwitz-Birkenau



East of Krakow is Auschwitz-Birkenau, a former Nazi concentration camp from World War II. There are many tours that take visitors to the camp for a day from Krakow, and it is a must-see destination for those interested in WWII history. Although it can be a sad and reflective visit, it is important to learn about this dark time in Europe’s history. Auschwitz-Birkenau is home to a large State Museum, and many of the structures remain in place. You can see where prisoners lived, worked and died in horrific ways under the Nazi regime.

4. Czestochowa



Czestochowa is a religious destination where many pilgrims come to worship. In particular, the monastery of Jasna Góra in Czestochowa is a holy place and a significant destination in the Roman Catholic Church. Jasna Góra Monastery is a shrine to the Virgin Mary, and it is also home to a number of important religious and historic relics. The Black Madonna of Częstochowa, for example, is said to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist during or just after Jesus’ lifetime. The monastery was founded in the 14th century, and today more than three million religious pilgrims visit Czestochowa each year.

3. Ojcow National Park

Ojcow National Park

Just 30 minutes north of Krakow is Ojcow National Park, a destination named after the town and castle ruins of Ojcow. The National Park is the smallest in Poland, but its proximity to Krakow makes it a popular day trip spot. Two rivers run through the park, creating lush valleys amidst countless cliffs, ravines and caves. Incredible limestone rock formations are major attractions, and miles of hiking paths offer plenty of outdoor recreation options. You can also see an abundance of wildlife, including beavers, badgers, bats and well over 100 varieties of birds. There are also several castles within the park’s borders, allowing visitors to explore the ruined Gothic castle of Ojcow as well as the preserved Renaissance castle at Pieskowa Skała.

2. Zakopane


Take a bus or a train two hours south of Krakow, and you’ll get to the mountain resort of Zakopane. This destination is a winter wonderland and one of the most popular ski destinations in all of Poland. In the heart of the Tatra Mountains, you can ski or snowboard during the winter months. Whatever the season, however, Zakopane is the ideal day trip getaway spot. The city is well known for the beauty of its wooden villas, dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of these now house museums, while others have been converted into hotels, or remain in private hands. Hiking options are plentiful in the Tatra National Park, and the Krupówki promenade is a beautiful shopping destination.

1. Wieliczka Salt Mine

#1 of Day Trips From Krakow

One of the most popular day trips from Krakow is visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Wieliczka is just 30 minutes away from Krakow, and the town is best known for its salt mines and related museum. Don’t expect a rustic salt mine, because Wieliczka is unlike anything else on the planet. As you walk along saline corridors completely underground, you’ll be able to see entire churches and ballrooms carved from salt. It is even possible to spend the night in the salt mine, and the accommodation is more like an upscale resort than a camping experience.




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