Posted by Adam on

If you’re planning on visiting Krakow any time soon, you might already know there are lots of tour companies offering lots of day trips and excursions to lots places outside the city centre. If that’s true, you’re probably also wondering which one’s are worthwhile, and how your precious few days in this amazing city are best spent. It’s not easy to decide! Here’s an insight into just a few.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

I’m starting with my unexpected favourite – the Salt Mines. For those whose time in Krakow is limited, I bet this is high on the list of attractions to be cut from the itinerary! Well it turned out to be one of my favourite parts of the whole trip. It’s a great, quite unusual, and unexpectedly charming day trip. And here’s the secret: you really don’t need to book onto a tour for it at all.

You can absolutely just catch a local bus and find your own way to the mines. Once you’re there you can sign on to a tour in the language of your choice, and then begin the long walk down the mineshaft. And I do mean long – it’s 350 steps down to reach the start of the tour.

The guide that lead my tour was really great, she gave lots of detailed information, but delivered it with a dry humour and wit that definitely made the experience enjoyable. A visit to salt mine might sound like quite a humourless experience, but actually it was a laugh. Throughout the tour the guide made references to a planned visit by Pope John Paul in the 1990s – a much loved figure in Poland – but at the last minute he cancelled. The nicely tiled floor? That was laid for Pope John Paul. The backlit religious icons, and this flight of stairs? John Paul. With her straight-faced delivery, said with apathy and for the hundredth time no doubt, it was very comical for those of us who picked up on it .

Being a Salt Mine of course does mean that you’re surrounded by salt. If you dare to give the walls a lick, they taste of… salt.

Zakopane and the Tatras Mountains

A visit to Zakopane, a resort town not too far from Krakow, isn’t so straightforward to recommend. It’s at the base of the Tatras Mountains and so apparently a popular departure point for winter sports, mountain climbing and hiking. I don’t know when high season is for this place, but I think it’s safe to say it isn’t early May.

It’s a strange place. In the town there is a good little high street, with cafés and some unexpectedly high-end and expensive shops. Wealthy people do go skiing I guess. Further up the mountain the amenities aren’t so welcoming, and parts felt like an abandoned theme park. How the place operates out-of-season I’m really not sure. It’s also a bitterly cold environment. Luckily none of that matters though, when the landscape is so stunning.

It’s hard to capture how awesome the mountainous environment was. The really great part about visiting Zakopane is taking a funicular up the mountain, getting past the tourist attractions at the top and instead appreciating the small community up there, living in tranquility, in log cabins, and then taking the the ski lift back down again. Actually the ski lift was equal parts amazing and terrifying.

If you accidentally underestimate just how cold it will be here don’t worry, there’s a few second hand shop and thrift stores to be found. That’s speaking from personal experience. I’m now the proud owner of a red velour (worn and stretched out) FILA jacket.

Auschwitz-Birkenau

It goes without saying that a visit to concentration and extermination camps at Auschwitz is definitely worthwhile. It’s a sobering experience, and certainly not to be taken lightly. Booking onto a tour for this is necessary, the guides will talk you through the history of the events that unfolded. I didn’t take any photographs while visiting, there is an atmosphere that I’m not sure I could have captured.

Bistro Charlotte

Special mention to Charlotte – my favourite café in Krakow, in Poland, or maybe everywhere ever.

It’s busy and bustling, the vibe is amazing, and their menu is uncomplicated. It’s not even a day trip destination, it’s in the city centre. But I could easily spend all day here. Or at least, I can certainly tell you it’s good for breakfast and good for evening drinks too. It’s just great! I wish it was in the UK instead. Their speciality for breakfast is just a basket of breads, with big jars of jam reserves and chocolate spreads, but it’s so nicely done, and I’ve since tried to recreate at home.

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