11 day trips from Krakow: what to do near Krakow

Let’s embark on a day trip near Krakow! While exploring Krakow, it’s worth taking a day or two to discover nearby destinations. But what are the best places to visit around Krakow?

In this article, I suggest 11 fascinating places to explore, including the Auschwitz camp, Zakopane, Sandomierz, Zalipie, Czestochowa, and Wadowice. By visiting these towns and villages, you’ll enrich your stay in Krakow with a true discovery of the region!

Auschwitz day trip from Krakow

No visit to Krakow is complete without paying respects at the Auschwitz camp, located in Oswiecim, a small town 37 miles away. It’s an ideal day trip from Krakow, and you can easily return in time for dinner.

Upon arrival, you’ll first explore the Auschwitz museum, which is installed in the former “blocks” of the concentration camp. The main exhibition explains the mechanics of deportation, exploitation, and killing on a large scale. Other exhibits are dedicated to specific populations or minorities and the role of industrialists in the Nazi machine.

Next, you’ll visit Birkenau, another part of Auschwitz. Here, the vast land surrounded by barbed wire extends as far as the eye can see. The inmates were crammed into unhygienic barracks and threatened by the smoke from the crematoria, where thousands of human beings were gassed. You’ll see the prisoners’ beds, latrines, ruins of the crematoriums, and the railway line that took the convoys to the camp for “selection” to decide who died immediately and who was granted a “right to survive.”

Birkenau Miradors

Visiting Auschwitz from Krakow is a tough but necessary experience that leaves psychological traces and indelible memories. Whether you choose to visit with a guide or on your own, I offer plenty of advice on how to organize your Auschwitz visit: how to get there, book tickets, and plan your visit.

To get to Auschwitz from Krakow, you can travel on your own (preferably by bus or car) or book a guided tour. I recommend one of these three tours offered by reputable agencies. Regardless of your choice, your visit inside the camp will be conducted by an accredited guide from Auschwitz, which ensures professionalism and sensitivity:

What to do near Krakow? Visit Wieliczka Salt Mines

A visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mines is another excellent excursion idea near Krakow that can be completed in half a day, as it’s only 12.5 miles away.

Salt mining has been a significant industry in this area for centuries, and the mines were in operation until 1996. The underground tour, led by a guide, allows you to explore a small, safe section of the extensive network of galleries that make up the Wieliczka Salt Mines. You’ll see underground chambers, chapels, and even sculptures made entirely of salt.

This day trip from Krakow is a stunning experience that I highly recommend!

Wondering how to get to Wieliczka? Aside from the salt mines, there isn’t much to see in Wieliczka, and the visit to the mine is always done with a guide. So, I suggest booking a guided excursion from Krakow that includes transportation and a visit to the salt mines.

Michalowice Chamber in the Wieliczka mine
Michalowice Chamber in the Wieliczka mine

Day trip from Krakow to Zakopane

For a change of scenery, head south from Krakow to the Tatras, a mountain range that marks the border with Slovakia. There’s a charming village there called Zakopane that’s very popular with mountain lovers.

From Zakopane, you can take a cable car up to 6,562 feet to Kasprowy Wierch and enjoy the stunning views of the peaks. You can stroll through the craft market on Krupówki Street and purchase oscypek, a traditional cheese. You can also admire the unique local architecture that features wood, inspiring the “Zakopane style,” with exquisite wooden churches to visit like the Jaszczurówka Chapel.

Zakopane is also an excellent starting point for a hike to Morskie Oko, considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.

If you’re searching for things to do around Krakow, consider visiting Zakopane for a day or a few days to explore more walking opportunities. Check out my article on visiting Zakopane for plenty of tips.

How to get to Zakopane? You can find more details in my article about the city, but note that Zakopane is only around 62 miles from Krakow and accessible by car or bus for a low price (takes 2h15) from the Krakow bus station.

You can also book a tour with a guide through agencies like Intercrac or Thousand Miles Cracow Adventure Company.

The Polish Carpathians in Zakopane, Poland
The Polish Carpathians in Zakopane, Poland

Zalipie: a charming village near Krakow

If you’re looking for something unique to visit around Krakow, consider Zalipie, a picturesque village located 50 miles away. In the late 19th century, the women of the village began to paint the interior of their houses.

Initially, the interior of the houses were painted to conceal soot, but it gradually turned into a decorative art, spreading to the exterior walls, wells, and fences. Felicja Curylowa, the most famous artist of the village, decorated her entire farm with flowers, and after her death in 1974, the house was transformed into a museum by a craft cooperative.

The tradition of painted houses is continued through an annual competition held since the mid-20th century, which is quite challenging considering Zalipie is a small village with only about 1000 inhabitants.

To visit Zalipie from Krakow, having a car is advisable as it takes less than 1.5 hours to get there. Alternatively, you can book an excursion with a guide proposed by Poland Active Krakow that takes half a day.

Zalipie, Pologne
Zalipie, Poland | Photo © Mariusz Cieszewski – Under CC BY-ND 2.0 license

Visit around Krakow: Sandomierz, the little Rome of Poland

Sandomierz is another city worth visiting around Krakow, also located in the same direction as Zalipie but further away, around 99 miles. It is situated on the banks of the Vistula and built on seven hills, earning it the nickname of “little Rome of Poland”.

Although no comparison can be made from an architectural perspective, it is an interesting city to explore. A day trip to Sandomierz from Krakow is possible, but it might be a tight schedule considering the distance. You can also consider staying overnight and making a stop in Zalipie on the way.

With a population of 25,000, Sandomierz has remained largely unindustrialized, which contributes to its charm. There are many well-preserved landmarks, including a 14th-century old town and numerous churches (as Poland is a predominantly Catholic country). Don’t miss the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary and the Dominican convent of Sandomierz with its 12th-century St. James church.

Make sure to visit the pretty little market square (known as “Rynek” in Poland) and explore the remains of the 14th-century castle or the medieval underground passages beneath the old town, where merchants used to store wine, salt, and herring.

How to get to Sandomierz? To reach Sandomierz, it is best to have a car since public transport from Krakow is a bit challenging (more than 5 hours by train with one change!). It takes an average of 2.5 hours by car on the DK79.

Sandomierz, Poland
Sandomierz, Poland | Photo © Minka6 – Under CC BY 2.0 license

Excursion from Krakow to Tarnów

Tarnów is a city located 56 miles from Krakow, which can easily be combined with a visit to Zalipie in one day.

Tarnów was heavily impacted by World War II: in the past, half of the city’s population was Jewish. Most of the Jewish inhabitants were exterminated in the forest in the Zbylitowska Góra area, a few miles away. The survivors of this massacre were forced to live in a ghetto and then deported to Auschwitz or Belzec.

Today, Tarnów boasts a beautiful cathedral, the ruins of a castle, and a very popular park (Strzelecki Park) with the mausoleum of General Bem, considered a Polish national hero for his role in the defense of his homeland.

How to get to Tarnów? There is an intercity train between Krakow and Tarnów, which connects the two cities in less than an hour. You can buy a ticket online. It is also possible to reach Tarnów by car via the DW973 in just over an hour.

Tarnow, Poland
Tarnow, Poland | Photo © Dariusz Sieczkowski – Under CC BY-ND 2.0 license

Explore Pieniny National Park

Earlier, I mentioned Zakopane, but if you enjoy nature outings and are looking for more ideas for visits around Krakow, you can explore the Pieniny region, located in southern Poland not far from Zakopane.

It is a mountainous area that boasts the Czorsztyn Castle, a ruined castle built around the 14th century, which overlooks the lake of the same name. There are plenty of hiking opportunities, and a popular activity is freshwater rafting on wooden rafts on the Dunajec River.

The Dunajec Gorge in particular is very popular, and you can also cross the border into Slovakia and walk on a pathway built above the treetops at Bachledka.

How to get there? Czorsztyn Castle is about 75 miles from Krakow, which takes just under 2 hours on the DW968. If you do not have access to a vehicle or do not want to deal with logistics, there are excursions from Krakow to visit the Pieniny region. For example:

You can find more information about the area on the Pienines website.

Rafting trip on the Dunajec River
Rafting trip on the Dunajec River | Photo © Mariusz Cieszewski – Under CC BY-ND 2.0 license

Visit a village near Krakow? Go to Chocholow!

If you want to visit an authentic village near Krakow, head to Chocholow, located about 62 miles south of Zakopane.

The village, which has just over a thousand inhabitants, is known for its wooden houses, but especially for its thermal baths, a large complex of eight pools of thermal water at 97°F, including a mix of indoor and outdoor pools. There is also a salt grotto, sauna, hammam, equipment for having fun in the water such as slides, volleyball nets, and basketball baskets, and a play area for children.

How to get to Chocholow? By car, it takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes on the DW958. If you don’t have a car, there are plenty of options to visit Chocholow according to your preferences:

Chocholow's wooden houses
The wooden houses of Chocholow | Photo © Aotearoa – Under CC BY 3.0 license

Visit Wadowice from Krakow

If you’re looking for a unique experience near Krakow, consider visiting Wadowice, located about 31 miles away. The city is known for being the birthplace of Pope John Paul II, making it a popular destination for both religious pilgrims and curious travelers. The former family home of the pope has been converted into a museum and draws thousands of visitors each year (check out the website of the John Paul II Family Home for more information).

In addition to the museum, Wadowice also boasts a beautiful basilica and a nearby theme park that is sure to please families with children. The park features miniature cityscapes, medieval villages, a “dragon” universe, a dinosaur-themed park (Dinolandia), a Luna park, an educational farm, and other unique attractions, such as a garden depicting Pope John Paul II’s image, complete with an observation tower for aerial views.

How to get to Wadowice? You can reach Wadowice by car in about an hour via the DK44 or DK52. Alternatively, you can take a direct bus operated by Polregio, which takes about 1.5 hours.

Day trips from Krakow to Wadowice are more about the connection between the city and Pope John Paul II than the theme park ;) There are in particular:

  • A half-day excursion exploring Wadowice and key places in the history of John Paul II ;
  • A full-day tour combining Wadowice and Czestochowa, which is also a major pilgrimage center.
Basilique de Wadowice
Wadowice Basilica | Photo © Scotch Mist – Under CC BY-SA 4.0 license

Czestochowa: A “divine” day trip from Krakow

Czestochowa is, like Wadowice, a major center of pilgrimage.

While it is a fairly important and dynamic city – being a large university center with over 40,000 students – Czestochowa attracts between four and five million pilgrims every year. But what makes it so popular?

Since the 14th century, there has been a monastery known as Jasna Gora, which has transformed over time into a true fortress that has withstood the torments of history. Today, it is at the heart of a large sanctuary.

Inside the basilica, you’ll find an icon of the Virgin known as the “Black Madonna of Częstochowa”, for which many people are willing to wait in long lines. It owes its black color to the gradual evolution of the hue of the paint with which it was made. It is said to have been painted by St. Luke himself, on a board from the table where the Holy Family (Jesus and his parents, Mary and Joseph) ate.

Pope John Paul II visited the shrine several times, and the Holy See decided to donate some of the pope’s relics to the shrine, which contributes to its popularity.

Like many Polish cities, Jews were also very present in Czestochowa before the Second World War (with a quarter of the population being Jewish), but were literally decimated by the Nazis. Today, a Jewish cemetery remains with some 4500 graves.

How to get to Czestochowa: It takes just under 2 hours to travel to Czestochowa from Krakow via intercity train (tickets available here). If you prefer to drive, expect a similar travel time via the DK94 and then the DK91.

You can also take an excursion, either a combination of Czestochowa + Wadowice, or a whole day dedicated to Czestochowa depending on the time and budget you have!

The Black Madonna of Jasna Gora
The Black Madonna of Jasna Gora | Photo © Dennis Jarvis – Under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

Discover Katowice

The last city on my list of ideas for day trips from Krakow is Katowice! It is the capital of the Silesia region, making it an important city. You can visit a museum that tells the story of the region, a large cathedral that was built in the 20th century, and a beautiful park named after Tadeusz Kościuszko.

Near the city, you will find the largest park in Poland, the Silesian Regional Park of Culture and Recreation, which features a zoo, a rose garden, a planetarium, an open-air museum where you can learn more about traditional wooden architecture (ethnographic park), and a small amusement park with around 40 rides, including 3 roller coasters.

How to get to Katowice? By car, it takes less than an hour on the A4 from Krakow. By train, it takes about 1 hour (tickets available here).

Katowice, Poland
Katowice, Poland | Photo © Marek Mróz – Under CC BY-SA 4.0 license

I hope you have enjoyed my suggestions for what to do around Krakow! As you can see, it is easy to find an idea for a day trip from Krakow, whether it is just for a few hours (Zalipie, Wieliczka) or for a longer period of time. This is an opportunity to get to know Poland better, a country with no shortage of interesting places to explore.

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