There’s little doubt that Kraków is one of the best places to visit in Poland. Thanks to its historical character, this southern city charms visitors who include it in their Poland itinerary. Sightseeing here is effortless, and you’ll have no trouble spending three days in Kraków.
But there are also plenty of things to see in Poland outside of Kraków, which is what day trips are for. The cities and countryside surrounding Kraków reveal different aspects of the country, including its vibrant nature and its devout faith. These are the best day trips from Kraków that will show you more of what Poland is about.
How to Get Around
Although you can make many of these day trips with public transport, consider renting a car for the day to give yourself more flexibility and independence. With your own four wheels, you control your time and schedule. Depending on how many people are in your group, renting a car might even work out to be cheaper than other forms of transportation. You can compare car rental deals and find the lowest prices at Rentalcars.com, an aggregation site that searches and displays prices and availability from hundreds of car rental companies, helping you find the best possible car for your budget.
Don’t want to drive or deal with the hassle of public transport? No worries! We’ve listed the best tour for each day trip (where available).
The first place many Kraków visitors want to go on a day trip is the former concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim. It may be a somber destination, but that gravity is what makes it one of the best places to visit from Kraków. This infamous complex of Nazi extermination camps was one of the many horrific sites of the Holocaust during the German occupation of Poland.
You’ll start your tour of the camps at Auschwitz I, where you can see the infamous “arbeit macht frei” (“work sets you free”) sign. Walking through the camp, you’ll see exhibits that explain the prisoners’ experiences and displays of rooms full of their belongings. The second half of your visit takes place at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the site of the rail cars, barracks, and gas chambers.
Getting there: We strongly recommend visiting on a guided tour for a better understanding of the camp’s history. If you prefer to visit independently, you can reach Oświęcim by bus or train, which both take 1.5 to two hours from Kraków.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
One of the most anticipated day tours from Kraków for many visitors is a trip down the Wieliczka Salt Mine. While a mine may not sound like the most interesting place to spend your day, this is no ordinary mine. With a history dating back 700 years, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of unexpected beauty.
After delving down 350 steps into the mine, you’ll see the usual underground caverns and mining equipment, but plenty more as well. The miners here had a tradition of carving sculptures from the salt and even created the incredible St. Kinga’s Chapel, which truly has to be seen to be believed. Other stops within the mine include an underground tavern and a subterranean lake.
Getting there: Frequent local buses and trains travel from Kraków to Wieliczka daily, and the trip takes under 30 minutes. You can also visit the mines on a half-day tour and have all the details handled for you.
Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains
A nice change of pace after several days in Kraków is an escape to the resort town of Zakopane below the Tatra Mountains. Many use the town as a base for various mountain activities, such as skiing and hiking, but Zakopane has its own charms as well. Unlike most Kraków day trips, this visit can be as active or as relaxed as you like.
Start your time here with a stroll along the main promenade of Krupówki Street. Here you can soak up the relaxed atmosphere and admire Zakopane’s traditional wooden architecture. Next, take the cable car up Gubałówka, the mountain above the town, for some stellar views of the scenic Tatra Mountains. Close out your time here with a dip in one of the town’s geothermal spas, such as Bukovina Thermal Baths, or some retail therapy.
Getting there: The easiest way to visit Zakopane is with an organized tour. As an alternative, the town is a two-hour bus ride from Kraków, with departures every hour.
Dunajec River Gorge
Much of the Tatra mountain range is too hard to reach from Kraków, but one mountainous area that isn’t is the Dunajec River Gorge, which runs along the border between Poland and Slovakia. Much of this gorge is pure wilderness, with few signs of civilization among the thick forests lining its shores.
Before entering the gorge, stop to see Niedzica Castle and the ruins of Czorsztyn Castle on opposite sides of Lake Czorsztyn. It’s then time to board a traditional wooden raft and drift down an 18-kilometer stretch of the river through the picturesque Pieniny Mountains.
Getting there: This scenic gorge is too remote to reach from Kraków on your own for a day trip, so you’ll need to take a day tour to see it properly.
Ojców National Park
To stretch your legs and get a breath of fresh air, head northwest to the magnificent Ojców National Park. Celebrated for its biodiversity and superb views, the park is just a stone’s throw from Kraków but feels worlds away.
Upon arriving in the park, set out along the path to pass through the large rock gate known as the Kraków Gate. You can then see many caves of different sizes, including the Łokietek Cave, the park’s largest and best known. Adding to the park’s incredible natural beauty are the ruins of Ojców Castle and the well-preserved Pieskowa Skała Castle on a limestone cliff to the north.
Getting there: The easiest way to see the highlights of Ojców National Park, including Pieskowa Skała, is on a guided tour. You can also take the hourly 210 bus to the village of Czajowice, which only takes about 20 minutes to reach from Kraków and is a short walk from the park entrance.
Alongside Kraków, the capital city of Warsaw is one of Poland’s main destinations. You could easily spend several days in Warsaw, but a day trip will do if you’re short on time. Step into the historic Castle Square below Sigismund’s Column before wandering into the Old Town. As you explore, look for the Old Town Market Place, the castle-like Warsaw Barbican, and the old city walls.
You have some great viewpoints to choose from in Warsaw, including the observation deck at the immense Palace of Culture and Science and the bell tower of St. Anne’s Church. Next, learn about the city’s Jewish history and the tragedy of the Holocaust at the modern POLIN Museum. Finally, be dazzled by the beauty of the Palace on the Isle within Warsaw’s largest park, Royal Baths Park.
Getting there: The best way to reach Warsaw for a day trip from Kraków is on the hourly intercity train. The journey lasts a little under 2.5 hours.
Poland is a deeply Catholic country, and one of its most cherished religious sites is in Częstochowa. This city is an easy train trip from Kraków and one of Poland’s main pilgrimage destinations, thanks to the Jasna Góra Monastery. For pilgrims and general tourists alike, the main attraction in this 14th-century shrine is the painting of the Black Madonna, a revered icon of the Virgin Mary.
Other memorable sights in Częstochowa include the Avenue of the Blessed Virgin Mary (also known as Aleje) – the grand promenade leading to the monastery – and the unique Museum of the Production of Matches. On your way out of town, stop to see the ruins of Olsztyn Castle on the Trail of the Eagles’ Nests, a marked path between Częstochowa and Kraków that links a total of 25 medieval castles.
Getting there: The regular train from Kraków takes around an hour and 40 minutes to reach Częstochowa. If you’d also like to see Wadowice, the hometown of Pope John Paul II, you’ll have an easier time with a guided tour.
A visit to Katowice, the nearest big city to Kraków, will show you just how diverse Poland can be. Start with a stroll along the historic 3 Maja Street and around Market Square (Rynek) to see an interesting mix of grand old buildings and brand-new ones.
From Market Square, head over to the hauntingly beautiful Silesian Insurgents’ Memorial, a large sculpture honoring those who fought for this region to be part of Poland in the 1920s. A short walk away is the Silesian Museum, occupying the site of an old coal mine. The museum touches on various aspects of the region, such as mining, history, and culture. It also offers a great view from the top of the mine shaft.
Getting there: The best way from Kraków to Katowice is by bus, with departures almost every hour. The trip takes between an hour and 1.5 hours.
Tyniec is such a short trip from Kraków that it’s technically within the city limits. With a distinct character and some interesting sights of its own, this historic village offers a pleasant break from the busy city.
The main attraction in Tyniec is the Benedictine Abbey on a hill overlooking the Vistula River. Established by Duke Casimir I the Restorer around 1040, this monastery has weathered invaders repeatedly over the years and still hosts active monks. While the views from the abbey are quite something, you’ll get the best view of the abbey itself from across the river.
Getting there: Tyniec is only a 20-minute bus ride from downtown Kraków. You can even rent a bike or scooter and get there on two wheels, as it’s just over 10 kilometers (roughly 6 miles) from the city center.
Poland has no shortage of delightful smaller cities, and Tarnów is one of the best to visit from Kraków. Most of its sights that draw tourists are in the pleasant Old Town. The Main Market Square (Rynek Główny) is where you’ll find the distinctive Tarnów Town Hall, accompanied by some lovely Polish architecture. A short walk down a pedestrian side street brings you to Tarnów Cathedral, a pleasant red-brick church with plenty of history.
The city also has deep Jewish heritage, which is best appreciated with a visit to the Old Synagogue Bimah and a walk through the Tarnów Jewish Cemetery. For views of Tarnów and a chance to see some castle ruins, hike up St. Martin’s Peak on the city’s south side.
Getting there: There are frequent regional and intercity trains from Kraków to Tarnów, which take between an hour and 1.5 hours.
These are just some of the best side trips from Kraków, with plenty more to consider. As you can see, Kraków is a great base for exploring Poland!