What to do outside Krakow
What to do outside of Krakow? An insider guide to hidden gems and landmark destinations outside Krakow.
If you think Krakow is a city-break destination only, think again. Outside the city limits lies a compelling array of natural and cultural attractions to tempt restless explorers.
When writing about headline attractions and hidden gems, we hope to underline how slow travelers will revel in our home city’s bubbling milieu.
A shortlist of what to do outside Krakow reveals something for every interest. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum and the Wieliczka Salt Mines are known to most visitors. Yet, there are many diverse attractions outside Krakow.
Rolling from the Vistula to the Tatra Mountains, the region boasts historical relics, striking landmarks, and outdoor activities that make the most of local geography.
Here’s our pick of attractions outside Krakow that add depth and variety to unhurried itineraries.
Krakow and beyond
Before spotlighting attractions outside Krakow, a quick geo-historical snippet to set the scene.
Krakow may have started life as a Stone Age settlement. Yet, the city founded by dragon-slaying King Krakus was Poland’s royal capital by 1038. At the foot of the Carpathian Mountains on the banks of the Vistula River, it was well-placed to reap the benefits of international trade.
Cultural ascendancy marked Krakow’s golden age. And although Warsaw became the capital in 1596, Krakow remains Poland’s second-largest city and cultural epicenter.
Krakow’s prominence in Polish history stretches far beyond city limits to a landscape dotted with colorful villages and national parks stretching to the Tatra Mountains. All are readily accessible from Krakow, yet worlds apart.
Popular attractions near Krakow
Let’s start with a handful of attractions just outside Krakow, which are quick and easy to reach.
Proudly overlooking the Vistula is Tyniec Abbey, an imposing Benedictine Monastery from 1046 in the historic Tyniec village. It’s a stunning sight. One for Instagram, no filters required. Partly open to the public and just 14 km (8.7 mi) outside the city center, Tyniec is among the most accessible and eye-catching attractions outside Krakow.
Pedal power is the ultimate way to reach Tyniec. Fill your lungs with fresh air, ready to have it taken away by one of the country’s emblematic landmarks.
Accessible by: Bike, bus, or car.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
It’s impossible to leave Wieliczka Salt Mine off this list. The thrilling and atmospheric salt mine, complete with a subterranean chapel, is an itinerary topper for many Krakow visitors.
It’s easy to see why. 400 steps lead to a labyrinthine underworld layered with history and engineering brilliance. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s a short journey (13 km / 8 mi) from Krakow to otherworldly astonishment.
Accessible by: Train ( Train from Krakow Glówny to Wieliczka-Rynek-Kopalnia stops near the entrance), bus, car, or shuttle bus booked with the Salt Mine.
Ojców National Park & Pieskowa Skała
The striking limestone formations of Ojców National Park are heaven for hikers, nature lovers, and geology buffs.
Poland’s smallest national park weaves through canyons peppered with caves. Hidden within this beautiful natural spot outside Krakow are fortresses that once formed the “Eagle’s Nest” chain of defense.
The one to visit is Pieskowa Skała, a magnificent Renaissance Castle from the 14th century with an Italian garden and art exhibitions.
At around 30 km (18.6 mi) from the city center, this is one of those attractions outside Krakow where you’ll need a car or tour bus.
Pieskowa Skała: Sułoszowa 5, 32-045 Pieskowa
Accessible by: Car
Regional attractions to visit from Krakow
The Tatra Mountains and colorful villages offer enticing escapes, infusing a Polish odyssey and leading travelers down less-worn paths. To reach them, you may need to familiarize yourself with Polish road signs or transport timetables. But our favorite attractions outside Krakow are worth making time for.
Lanckorona is another village oozing serenity and Polish charisma, around 30 km (19 mi) south-west of Krakow.
Quaint wooden houses and a ruined castle with an outsized footprint on Polish history await visitors. The setting for two historic battles, tiny Lanckorona retains a charm that belies its violent and influential history.
Happily, trains and buses quickly transport visitors to this calming refuge, one of the attractions outside Krakow you can visit and still have time for sightseeing and cocktails back in the city.
Lanckorona: Wadowice, Lesser Poland.
Accessible by: Train, bus, or car.
Chocolate-box Zalipie Village rewards travelers who adore quirky gems.
Cottages and features lovingly re-painted with pretty motifs according to a century-old tradition exude pastoral tranquility. With a splash of Polish character and color, you’ve got a dreamy escape for slow travelers.
100 km (62 mi) east of Krakow, Zalipie is quickly reached by car. But a train to Tarnow (an absorbing city worth building into your excursions), followed by a bus to Zalipie, is a convenient alternative.
Zalipie: Gmina Olesno, Dąbrowa County, Lesser Poland.
Accessible by: Train & bus connection, car.
Popular attractions outside Krakow ( up to 2 h drive)
Ogrodzieniec, a dramatic castle with a fiery backstory to match, is another attraction outside Krakow that helps unpeel Poland’s complicated history. On a less somber note, it’s a damn fine set of ruins.
The Mongols scorched the first fortification. A far sturdier gothic edifice followed, perched atop the conveniently named Castle Mountain. It survived as a link in the “Eagle’s Nest” chain of defense until set ablaze in 1702.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ruins left to poke around. Enough to earn the castle modeling work on TV shows like The Witcher. And justify visiting one of the more out-of-the-way things to do outside Krakow.
A car is recommended.
Ogrodzieniec Castle: Zamkowa, 42-440 Podzamcze
Accessible by: Car (or train to Olkusz then taxi)
Zakopane and the Tatra Mountains
Travel further afield, and the magical Tatra Mountains await. The breathtaking range of peaks is a wonderland for outdoor pursuits and one of the prettiest natural spots near Krakow.
Just 110 km (68 mi) from Krakow, regular buses link the cities in little over 2 hours. An overnight stay is the way to go; the views and animated central Krupówki street will make the time fly by.
Zakopane: Zamkowa, 42-440 Podzamcze
Accessible by: Bus, train
Another contender (and likely winner) for the most scenic natural spot near Krakow is Morskie Oko, a lake high in the Tatra Mountains.
The Wall Street Journal named it a hidden gem among the world’s great lakes. You don’t need a journalist’s eye to see why. It is a stunning natural wonder, backdropped by unspoiled beauty to bewitch hikers and nature lovers.
Visit this natural wonder by bus or car from Zakopane. Drive or join a tour if heading directly from Krakow.
Morskie Oko: Tatra National Park
Accessible by: Bus from Zakopane or car/tour from Krakow.
Dunajec River rafting
Where there are mountains, there’s rafting. The Dunajec River scythes through the Pieniny Mountains. But rather than whitewater thrills and spills, there are the gentle pleasures of traditional wooden rafts.
Floating through verdant landscapes along the Dunajec Gorge, boat trips last around 2.5 hours. They are a soothing antidote to city life, graced by the mountains in their summer glory. Easily one of the top attractions outside Krakow for outdoor enthusiasts.
Car or organized tours from Zakopane are the best way to reach Czorsztyn and the tranquil waters of Dunajec.
Dunajec River rafting: Czorsztyn, Pieniny Mountains
Accessible by: By car or organized tour from Zakopane or Krakow.
Tarnowskie Góry Silver Mine and Black Trout Adit
Fittingly, we end our voyage around the most exciting attractions outside Krakow with another boat trip. But there’s nothing typical about the underground waterways of Black Trout Adit, which head into the earth’s depths through an abandoned mining tunnel. It’s an offbeat excursion to please kids big and small.
The bigger draw is the Tarnowskie Góry Silver Mine, recently added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Now the silver is gone, the mine collects Euros from tourists who enjoy unconventional experiences and engineering achievements.
Although a little further afield in Upper Silesia, Tarnowskie Góry can be reached by train, with a connection in Katowice.
Tarnowskie Góry Silver Mine: Szczęść Boże 81, 42-600 Tarnowskie Góry
Accessible by: train, car
Explore beyond Krakow
Scan our guides on what to do in Krakow, and you might furrow your brow and question whether there’ll be time to extend your travels beyond Krakow.
For a weekend break, that makes sense. Spend 5-7 days in Krakow, and you’ll have time to breathe and embark on slow-burn adventures in and outside the city. And if you want your wanderlust as sated as your appetite for pierogi, you might find these fantastic attractions outside Krakow are just what you were looking for.