In a recent blog I highlighted a few of the attractions for visitors to the city of Krakow. Now I’m going to look at the excursion possibilities for tourists staying in the city.
For many people, one of the main reasons for taking a Krakow city break is the opportunity to visit the notorious Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Perhaps one of the most sombre places that most people will ever visit, Auschwitz lies a short drive away from Krakow, making it an easy full day excursion (about 6 hours in total).
Auschwitz-Birkenau is the most famous of all the Nazi death camps. Auschwitz witnessed around 1.5 million executions of European Jews and also Poles, Gypsies, Russian POWs and people of other nations. A few years after the end of the Second World War the Polish government restored Auschwitz and turned it into a museum. It was also included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979. Visitors take a guided tour around Auschwitz and then Birkenau, hearing moving accounts of the prisoners and exploring the huts where they lived and the gas chambers where the majority of them died.
Another very popular excursion from Krakow is to the Wieliczka Salt Mines, located on the outskirts of the city. One of Europe’s oldest industrial enterprises, the mines have operated continuously since the 13th century! While salt is no longer quite as valuable as it once was, the mine has become both a historical monument and an art gallery, displaying the development and success of mining technology over nearly nine centuries through fascinating historical landmarks and rock salt sculptures. The tourist route is 3.5 kilometres long and leads through over twenty beautifully decorated chapels, past underground lakes and well-preserved traces of mining operations. A highlight is the magnificent Chapel of the Blessed Kings. At over 50m long, 15m wide and 12m high, this is the largest underground chapel in the world. Its altar, artwork, bas-reliefs and even chandeliers are carved entirely out of the walls of rock salt. The salt mine can only be visited by a guided tour, which lasts three hours.
For those who like the sound of a twin centre holiday combining city with scenery, a holiday combining a few nights in Krakow with up to a week in the mountain resort of Zakopane is the ideal solution. Zakopane, located in the Tatra Mountains of southern Poland, is reached by a scenic coach (2 hours) or train (3 hours 20 mins) journey from Krakow. Zakopane is known as the “winter capital of Poland” but this attractive town welcomes visitors all year round and is a superb base for keen walkers. Visitors can enjoy strolling around the town with its unique style of architecture, called Zakopane style, which was first created by artist Stanislaw Witkiewicz at the turn of the 20th century. Food fans will enjoy trying the traditional restaurants, many of which often feature live music performances from folk bands wearing regional costumes