South Poland is an immensely interesting region. Worldwide famous Kraków, several national parks, UNESCO sites, nature reserves - it's all there. If you visit Kraków and there are so many places to see, where to go? What are the best day trips from Kraków?
In the below article, I present the most interesting places near Kraków which are definitely worth a visit.
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Day trips from Kraków
1. Auschwitz Concentration Camp
Distance from Kraków: 67 km.
The 20th century showed that there are no limits that a person would not dare to cross.
Auschwitz Death Camp is the most tragic place in Poland and EVERYONE should visit it.
Here are some horrifying facts about this place:
→ Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp is the most recognizable symbol of the Holocaust and the site of genocide worldwide. Never in any other camp or extermination center did SS men murder such a large number of Jews from almost all of German-occupied Europe.
→ Still, many people do not know that nearly 40% of registered prisoners at Auschwitz were Poles. Besides Jews and Poles, there were detained and murdered Romani people, Soviet prisoners of war, and prisoners of over twenty nationalities.
→ Auschwitz was part of German plans for the colonization and Germanization of the territories of Eastern Europe, which, in addition to the extermination of Jews, also involved the extermination of the Slavic population.
→ On June 14, 1940, the first mass transport of Polish political prisoners arrived at Auschwitz.
→ Within less than five years, at least 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz. The majority died immediately upon arrival. Over half of them died due to starvation, inhumane labor, rampant terror, executions, terrible living conditions, diseases, and brutal medical experiments.
→ At the time of liberation, there were approximately 7,000 people in Auschwitz Death Camp.
In response to recurring references to "Polish concentration camps" in 2007, at the request of Poland, UNESCO decided to change the title of the Auschwitz concentration camp to "Auschwitz-Birkenau. German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945)."
Admission to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Site is free. To enter, you need to reserve a pass on the museum website, but for a better understanding of Auschwitz's history, I recommend taking a guided tour.
Visitors arriving in groups are required to have a museum guide. Individual visitors have the option to join another group.
Due to the popularity of Auschwitz Camp, it's best to arrive at the Memorial Site at least 30 minutes before the start of the tour for security checks. Visitors are required to dress appropriately for the nature of the site.
2. Wieliczka Salt Mine
Distance from Kraków: 15 km.
The "Wieliczka" Salt Mine is an extraordinary place – hidden from the world, full of secrets and legends. It is also an invaluable monument of nature and technology, placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978 as one of the first twelve places and objects in the world.
The mine consists of a dense network of underground corridors and tunnels forming a complex multi-level labyrinth. Only a small part of this vast underground world, created over centuries by nature and man, can be seen with one's own eyes.
The main touring route, the Tourist Route, leads through historic, and geologically most valuable parts of Wieliczka Mine. It includes over 20 uniquely beautiful chambers and almost two kilometers of winding corridors.
In the excavations located at a depth of 64-135 meters underground, visitors can admire unique brine lakes, salt sculptures, ancient mining equipment, and chapels carved in salt, including the most famous one - the chapel of St. Kinga. The chapel of St. Kinga is the most recognizable place on the Tourist Route and the largest underground temple in Europe, still serving sacred functions today.
All sculptures and decorations, even the meticulously crafted floor, were carved in salt by talented miner-sculptors.
Reservation of tickets by individual tourists is not necessary, but it's good to know that sightseeing takes place at designated hours. The opening and touring hours depend on the day you plan to visit the mine. Detailed information is available here.
For more information about Wieliczka Salt Mine, check out our detailed travel guide.
Distance from Kraków: 109 km.
Zakopane is a picturesque town located at the foothills of the Tatra Mountains.
The most popular things to do in Zakopane are:
✅ Hike in Tatra Mountains - a major draw for outdoor enthusiasts, offering hiking trails in the summer and skiing opportunities in the winter.
✅ Visit Gubałówka Hill - a popular vantage point accessible by a funicular, providing panoramic views of the Tatra Mountains.
✅ Chill out on Krupówki Street - the main street in Zakopane, lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes.
✅ Visit Wielka Krokiew - a ski jumping venue, hosting international competitions and providing an iconic backdrop to Zakopane.
✅ Relax at thermal baths.
For more information, check out our detailed Zakopane travel guide.
4. Ojcowski National Park
Distance from Kraków: 18 km.
There are many interesting natural places to see near Kraków and Ojcowski National Park is one of the closest and most beautiful.
Here are the most interesting things to see in Ojcowski National Park:
✅ Numerous caves formed in the limestone rocks of the Krakow-Częstochowa Upland. So far, over 700 caves of various sizes have been counted in the park, but only two of them are accessible to tourists: Ciemna Cave and Łokietka Cave.
✅ Collection of wooden buildings dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries. Part of these structures served as residential and agricultural buildings for the local population. Another significant group of buildings includes old boarding houses, villas, and hotels catering to visitors of the Ojców SPA.
✅ The power of water in the Prądnik Valley has been harnessed since the Middle Ages. Several mills have survived to this day, with the most valuable ones dating back to the 19th century. The best preserved is Boroniówka Mill Settlement, an old mill and sawmill. This unique place was saved from destruction by a pair of local businessmen enthusiasts.
✅ Chapel "On the Water" dedicated to St. Joseph the Worker. Built in 1901 on the site of former spa baths in the so-called Swiss-Ojców style. Its name refers to local tradition, according to which the Russian occupiers prohibited the construction of religious buildings on Ojców land. In response, resourceful locals built the chapel on supports driven into the bed of the Prądnik River.
✅ Ojców Castle - although only a few fragments of this medieval castle have survived to this day, its ruins are now one of the main attractions of Ojców and the Ojcowski National Park. Built as part of the fortification system, now known as the Eagle Nests Trail, designed to protect the western border of the Kingdom of Poland.
✅ Pieskowa Skała Castle - a Renaissance-style castle situated on a limestone cliff overlooking the Prądnik River Valley within the Ojcowski National Park. Pieskowa Skała Castle houses a valuable collection of art, including period furniture, paintings, and decorative items from various epochs.
✅ Extraordinary rock formations - various rock formations, protected within the park, have been shaped by numerous geological processes. The most famous rock is Maczuga Herkulesa, translated as Hercules Mace. The rock is a natural limestone monolith that rises vertically from the ground, resembling a massive mace or club.
If you aren't renting a car, you can reach the Ojcowski National Park from Krakow by bus - check the timetable here.
You may also take a guided tour:
5. Beskid Wyspowy Mountains
Distance from Kraków to Rabka-Zdrój: 70 km.
Beskid Wyspowy are the closest mountains to Kraków. Less known than the famous Tatra Mountains but definitely worth a visit.
The mountains are rather low as the highest peak, Mogielica, reaches just 1170 m. Hikes are easy and suitable for all kinds of mountain enthusiasts, families with kids included.
If you wish to go for a hike, choose Chyszówki village. If you prefer to visit a picturesque mountain health resort, go to Rabka-Zdrój.
Check out this guide to Beskid Wyspowy - the amazing mountains near Kraków.
6. Pieniny National Park
Distance from Kraków: 110 km
Some consider Pieniny the most beautiful mountains in Poland. Magnificent peaks and lush vegetation, splendid views, quaint villages, castles, lake, and Dunajec River Gorge which is part of UNESCO World Heritage. There's everything you need for an unforgettable trip.
Here are the main attractions in the Pieniny Mountains:
✅ Dunajec River rafting on traditional wooden rafts - can be started from two locations: Sromowce Wyżne Kąty - the first starting point, or Sromowce Niżne at the foot of the Three Crowns - the second starting point. The rafting season lasts from April 1 to October 31. Dunajec River Gorge is featured on UNESCO's List of World Heritage Sites.
✅ Kayaking and ponton trips.
✅ Cruises on Lake Czorsztyn - Lake Czorsztyn is one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in the Pieniny region. You can spend an unforgettable time aboard ships and gondolas. Near Czorsztyn Lake, there are beaches, several water equipment rentals, and a marina. In the summer season, two ships depart from the marina near the castle hill in Niedzica.
✅ Hiking - the are many scenic hikes and planning the route is quite easy. Trails are suitable for all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts, families with kids included. Here are some of the most interesting hikes:
- Trzy Korony - the most famous mountain in Pieniny National Park. It reaches barely 982 m and it's easy to reach. There's a platform on the top from which you'll admire amazing panoramas.
- Homole Gorge - considered the most beautiful gorge in Poland. Known for the diversity of geological formations and the charming, somewhat mysterious places along the Kamionka stream, as well as the lush vegetation full of extraordinary, rare specimens. The gorge is impressive thanks to its high, steep, and mighty rocky walls.
- Wysoka - the highest peak in the Pieniny Mountains (1050 m).
✅ Czorsztyn Castle - located on Castle Hill, Czorsztyn Castle is the biggest tourist attraction in this area. A great place for history enthusiasts. The castle was built in the 14th century and remembers the times of King Kazimierz the Great. Tourists can visit partially preserved ruins of the middle and upper castle, as well as a Renaissance tower. From the castle's terraces, you can enjoy a beautiful panorama of the entire Pieniny region: Lake Czorsztyn, Spis Pieniny, and the peaks of the Tatra Mountains.
✅ Niedzica Castle - also dating back to the 14th century. The interiors of the upper and middle castle were adapted for museum purposes while preserving the historical layout and character of the building. You can also visit the carriage house and granary.
For tourists visiting the castle, several exhibitions are prepared in the lower and upper castle rooms. In the lower castle in Niedzica, there are many interesting exhibits: furniture, carpets, porcelain, clocks, and other utility items from the 16th - 19th centuries. The upper castle offers exhibitions in the hunting, guild, and guard rooms. In the courtyard, it's worth checking out the extraordinary 60-meter well carved into the limestone rock.
✅ Szczawnica - a charming and picturesque health resort. Szczawnica owes its healing character to its mild and warm climate and therapeutic mineral waters.
7. Babia Góra National Park
Distance from Kraków: 80 km.
Babia Góra is the highest mountain in Poland outside the Tatras. It's also called the Queen of Beskidy Mountains. It's a perfect day trip from Kraków for hiking enthusiasts.
Babia Góra National Park is part of the UNESCO List of Biosphere Reserves - it's home to a diverse range of plant and animal species.
You may have noticed that lots of places near Kraków are UNESCO heritage sites. Isn't that fantastic? 😀 I love the fact that there are so many valuable places in south Poland!
If you would like to go hiking in Babia Góra National Park, check out our guide.
8. Ogrodzieniec Castle
The region of the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland (also known as the Polish Jurassic Highland or Polish Jura) is incredibly picturesque. Limestone rocks charmingly blend into the valleys and hills. On the highest elevations, fairy-tale castles present themselves like eagle nests. Although most of them are already in ruins, their appearance and location still evoke admiration.
In Kraków-Częstochowa Upland there is the most famous hiking trail - Eagle Nests Trail (Szlak Orlich Gniazd). Ogrodzieniec Castle lies right next to this unique trail on which you can explore the mysterious secrets of Polish history.
The castle is one of the most significant sites in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland and, at the same time, probably one of the most dignified ruins in Poland. It is definitely worth a visit to marvel at the mighty ruins, learn about the complex fates of its inhabitants, and hear a few mysterious legends associated with it.
Polish Jurassic Highland is a natural destination for every history enthusiast and lover of picturesque landscapes. And a Netflix series "Witcher" 😉
A one-way route has been marked within the castle. You have the opportunity to climb the limestone tower, from which a magnificent view of the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland unfolds, and on a clear day, you can even see Smoleń Castle. Films and models help to grasp the former scale of this construction.
In the vicinity of the castle, you will find a complex tourist infrastructure with additional attractions, accommodation, and dining options.
Ogrodzieniec Castle is surrounded by impressive limestone rocks, making it an excellent place for rock climbing.
If you have time, visit the nearby Birów Hill. You will find there a unique reconstruction of a Slavic stronghold.
9. Jasna Góra
Distance from Kraków: 150 km
The monastery of Jasna Góra is located in Częstochowa and is the largest pilgrimage center for Poles.
Jasna Góra houses the image of Our Lady of Częstochowa also known as the Black Madonna, is a revered icon of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus. The icon is traditionally believed to have been created by St. Luke the Evangelist and is considered one of the holiest and most significant religious symbols in Poland.
The most impressive buildings of Jasna Góra Monastery are the Basilica and Chapel of Our Lady. You will also find there monuments and souvenirs from various eras. Many of them are priceless works of art from centuries past:
✅ Knight's Hall - a large room where the sessions of the Sejm of the First Polish Republic and audiences with King Jan Kazimierz used to take place. In 1991, Pope John Paul II received the keys to the gates of Częstochowa there. Currently, the hall exhibits paintings and standards of Polish units that fought during World War II.
✅ Treasury - you will see there many golden and silver items. Especially noteworthy is the monstrance offered to the Paulines by King Zygmunt Stary. The Treasury also houses golden chalices given by Popes John XXIII and Paul VI. There are also silver items, such as patens from King Jan Sobieski and liturgical garments from centuries past. It's important to note that, unlike other rooms with artifacts, photography is not allowed in the Treasury.
✅ Museum of the 600th Anniversary - opened on the round anniversary of the monastery's foundation in 1982. Inside, you can admire paintings depicting saints and scenes from the life of the monastery painted in the 17th century. The museum houses works by Tommaso Dolabella, an Italian painter active in the 17th century in Poland commissioned by the Church and the Wazów dynasty kings. In addition, you can see the original foundation acts of the monastery issued by Władysław Opolczyk and Władysław Jagiełło, dresses of the image of Our Lady, and liturgical garments of Pope John Paul II.
✅ Arsenal - the former armory of the Jasna Góra fortress. However, the monastery currently does not possess samples of historical weapons. Contrary to the name, it houses old crucifixes, gold jewellery, and numerous paintings. Particularly noteworthy is the Madonna with Child by Pieter Brueghel the Younger.
The entrance to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Częstochowa is free of charge. All other places are subject to admission fees.
10. Gorce National Park
Distance from Kraków: 70 km.
Another fantastic place for hiking near Kraków.
Gorce National Park is an example of beautiful Polish mountains. Within the park, you can find all the highest peaks of the Gorce Mountains, including Turbacz, Jaworzyna Kamienicka, Kiczora, Kudłoń, Czoło Turbacza, and Gorc.
The symbol of the park is the black fire salamander on a yellow background. The Gorce area is extremely valuable and worth protecting, primarily due to its natural and scenic qualities.
One of the most specific and distinctive features of the landscape in this park are beautiful clearings from which you get to admire stunning views of Pieniny National Park, Tatra Mountains, Beskid Wyspowy, Beskid Żywiecki, and Beskid Sądecki Mountains.
Another characteristic feature is that in spring clearings in Gorce National Park are covered with a vast carpet of crocuses, giving them a specific purple color - perfect places for photographers and Instagram influencers.
The oldest religious monument in this park is the Bulandowa Shrine. It is a shrine erected on the Jaworzyna Kamienicka clearing, built at the beginning of the 20th century. It was funded by Tomasz Chlipała, the most famous shepherd of these areas. Many folk tales and legends, containing numerous fantastic elements, are associated with the shrine and its benefactor. A yellow or green trail leads to this shrine.
The Jaworzyna Kamienicka clearing itself is noteworthy. It is considered one of the most beautiful clearings in the Gorce Mountains, making it very popular among tourists. From there, you can admire the panorama of the Beskid Sądecki and Beskid Wyspowy, especially the ridges of Kudłoń and Gorc mountains. The slope of the clearing descends to the Kamienica stream.
Turbacz (1310 m) is the highest peak in the Gorce Mountains and the most popular mountain in the Gorce National Park. Below the summit, there is a mountain hut, offering splendid panoramic views of the Tatra Mountains.
Gorc and Magurki are two peaks with observation towers.
For more info about Gorce National Park, check out this guide.
How to get to Kraków?
There are many ways to get to Kraków. The city is accessible via:
- International Airport Balice.
- A4 motorway that runs through southern Poland connecting the East with the West - it starts at the German border and ends in Ukraine. The motorway is a part of the European route E40. It's paid.
- Efficient rail transport.
Booking.com offers cheap flight booking services - you may compare flights from 500+ airlines to destinations around the world.
You can check deals on flights here:
If you'd like to travel a lot and visit multiple places (especially Polish towns and villages) or discover Polish nature, the most convenient and fast way to travel is to rent a car.
When we need to rent a car we always use Rentalcars.com and are happy with them, never had any issues with this company.
You may check deals on car hire in Kraków Airport here:
Getting to Krakow city centre from the airport by public transportation is fairly easy - there are lots of shuttles every day:
- railbus - commute takes about 20 minutes. There’s a shuttle about every 40 minutes to the Kraków Central Train Station (Dworzec Główny PKP). The rail bus stop is about 200m from the T1 terminal. Between the stop and T1 and T1 terminals, there’s an airport bus (free of charge).
- public bus (MPK): lines no 208, 292, night bus line no 902.
Central Bus Station in Kraków is located on Bosacka 18 Street, right next to the Central Train Station. Here's a Google Maps link.
To check the timetables and available options, go to the Kraków buses website.
Other beautiful places in Poland
Poland is a country with diverse landscapes and rich history. Here are some beautiful places in Poland that you might consider visiting:
🌇 Gdańsk - beautiful seaside city, my personal favourite. Totally different from other cities in Poland
🌇 Wrocław - located in southwest Poland on the Oder River. Famous for bridges and dwarves.
🌇 Poznań - a bit underrated among international travellers. It hides a lot of national gems.
🌇 Warsaw - the capital of Poland brimming with attractions.
🌇 Kraków & Zakopane - 5-day itinerary.
🎋 The most beautiful nature places in Poland - stunning sites for nature lovers.
⛰️ Easy hikes in High Tatras - a list of hiking trails suitable for everyone in the highest mountains in Poland.