Formerly the national capital and seat of kings, Kraków (English Cracow or Krakow) is still considered to be Poland’s capital of culture. As the nation’s major tourist destination, it almost seems to have been designed for the convenience and pleasure of its many visitors. It is a beautiful city, with a living culture and full of great places to stay and to eat. On top of this, the whole old town is within easy walking distance.
Cheap flights and a lively nightlife have made Krakow a popular international destination for young people. But it is much more than that. It is a great family friendly place to explore and for anyone who just wants to soak up its historic atmosphere. Read on for things to do in Krakow with kids or without.
The Old Town – Stare Miasto
Krakow Free Walking Tour
Take this tour on your first morning. It’s a great introduction to the history and layout of the city, and it will help you navigate later. The guides always have good advice about places for you to explore and to eat. It’s free – you tip the guide after the trip according to his/her performance. You can book an English language trip here
The meeting point for this walk is between the Florianska Gate and the Barbican.
We take these free walking tours wherever we find them, and recommend those in Budapest and Reykjavik as well as Krakow.
The Main Market Square – Rynek Głowny
The Main Market Square in Krakow is a symbol of the city. It is the largest (200 x 200 m) medieval markets in Europe and for sure one of the most beautiful one. It attracts tourist with an amazing atmosphere, great restaurants, cafes – all with good food. Main Square is full of kid friendly attractions – starting from feeding or chasing pigeons, seeing a performance, living statues, ending up on browsing stalls with souvenirs or getting balloons toy made for the kid on the spot.
St. Mary’s Basilica – Kosciół Mariacki
St. Mary’s Basilica dating from the fourteenth century is one of the best examples of gothic church architecture in Poland. It is famous for other reasons too. Do visit the interior. The murals and stained glass are both stunning, dating from renovations in the nineteenth century by the best artists in the land.
A bugle call played from St Mary’s tower marks every hour. National radio broadcasts the noon call every day to establish 12.00 everywhere in Poland. Don’t be surprised to hear its sudden ending. Every Polish schoolchild knows the legend of the brave trumpeter who played to warn the city about the Mongol invasion. His special anthem was cut short when one of the invader’s arrows struck him in the throat, and this tradition remains today.
The bugle tower affords a magnificent view of the old town. Note that places inside are limited and you have to book in person on the day. You can’t buy tickets farther in advance.
Tickets for St Mary’s Basilica bugle tower are 15 PLN ($4)
Tickets for tours of the church interior are 10 PLN ($2-50)
You can also see inside the bell chamber, but only by prior appointment (no children).
For opening times and further information see the website
The Cloth Hall – Sukiennice
The centrepiece of Krakow Market Square is the Cloth Hall. The first markets were set up here in the thirteenth century. The present building dates from 1875 when it was rebuilt on the site of earlier halls destroyed by fire.
Inside you will find every kind of craft stall and souvenir of the city and the nation. Enjoy for the character of the place. Much of the merchandise, though good, is a bit overpriced.
Rynek Underground – Podziemia Rynku
This museum under the market square displays a thousand years of Polish history. It’s a hi-tech experience with projectors, and touch screens. The high point for kids is the multimedia hall with its “surprise” appearance of the Wawel Dragon (Smok Wawelski)
The entrance to Rynek Underground is outside the Cloth Hall on the side facing St. Mary’s Basilica.
You should reserve your ticket in advance – especially if you are in a bigger group. For reservation click here
Adult tickets are 21 PLN ($6)
Krakow Archeological Museum – Muzeum Archeologiczne w Krakowie
If your kids like mine are fascinated by ancient Egypt with its tombs and mummies, then Krakow Archeological museum will be a big hit. They have a great selection of mummies, and four sarcophagi are displayed with mirrors and lights mounted underneath.
The museum also houses exhibits of the archaeological history of this region known as Lesser Poland. There are fascinating displays of animals in their natural habitats and models of the historical development of building design.
Opening times and free days vary throughout the year. Check out the Museum website
Additional extra – next to the museum is a great wooden playground which is free to enter. Entrance to the playground is from the Planty
The perfect break for tired feet after walking around the old town, the Planty is a delightful park just outside the city walls. Sit and relax here with a coffee or an ice cream and watch joggers and the world go by.
Still in the Old Town, Wawel mount with its castle, cathedral, and dragon is a legendary microcosm of history in its own right.
Wawel Royal Castle – Zamek Królewski na Wawelu
Wawel’s history begins in the eleventh century. However, the castle you see today is the result of several rebuilds and adaptations following multiple destructions by fire and wars over the ages.
For centuries, Wawel Castle has been the residence of Polish monarchy and the symbol of the state. Now it houses one of the nations greatest art collections.
Entry to Wawel Castle hill and the castle courtyard is free of charge. Entry to the interior is payable, depending on which exhibitions you want to see. The pricing structure is quite complicated. For prices and opening times refer to the Castle website
Wawel Cathedral – Katedra Wawelska
More than 30 Polish monarchs were crowned in Wawel Cathedral, and most of them are buried here too. It’s probably the best place to breath in the atmosphere of Polish history.
Entrance to the cathedral – adults 12 PLN, ($3) kids 7 PLN ($2)
The Wawel Dragon – Smok Wawelski – and his Den
Every Polish child knows the legend of Smok Wawelski and his appetite for beautiful princesses. The prize for his destruction was eventually won by the bright young shoemaker, Szewczyk Dratewka. The unlikely hero prepared a lamb stuffed with sulphur. After this feast, the dragon became so thirsty that he drank almost half of the water in the river Vistula and exploded!
Entry to the dragon’s den is from the castle yard through a small brick tower and then down stone steps to the 270 metre-long cave. Only the first 80 metres is open for the public. Perhaps some descendants of the real dragon live farther into the shadows beyond, but if you want to see Smok Wawelski for yourself, a fire-breathing sculpture stands outside, facing the river.
Entrance to Dragons Den – 5 PLN ($1). You can see the sculpture, breathing fire every five minutes daily, for free from the riverside promenade,
Attractions Outside The Old Town
Kazimierz – Old Jewish district
Krakow’s Kazimierz is a an old quarter which from XIV century until after the II World War was inhabited only by Jews. At the beginning, Kazimierz was a separate city with its own walls and with time become one of the districts of Krakow. Thirty years ago Kazimierz was considered as a dangerous place to visit, now its the most trendy place full of restaurants, pubs and cafes all serving mouth-watering food.
If your kids love Lego, (and who doesn’t?) then take them to History Land. Here you will find Lego models of famous Polish battles and historic events. When your kids’ capacity for history is sated, set them free in one of the rooms where they can build whatever they want.
The place is ideal for a rainy day.
Plan your visit at the History Land. Website
It is in the former railway station (Dworzec PKP) – facing Jan Nowak-Jeziorański III Square.
Tickets – Adults (16+) – 27 PLN ($7) , Kids – 24 PLN ($6)
Krakow Chocolate Factory
This place is a chocolate-lovers’ paradise. You can sign your children (and yourself too) in for a chocolate-making workshop. Whatever you make you can take home. Or you can sit and guzzle coffee and chocs while your kids labour away to create delicious snacks for you to share later.
Krakow Zoo has an extensive collection of animals from almost all over the globe. You will find here two-toed sloths, lions, jaguars, panthers, a tiger, zebras, hippopotami, and reindeer. The Zoo has almost 1,500 animals of 270 species.
Krakow zoo is located here in the Wolski Forest, and is open daily from 9 AM -7 PM
Tickets price Adult – 18 PLN ($4-50), Children 10 PLN ($2-50)
Cracow Rope Park – Krakowski Park Linowy
Here you find not only zip lines up to 200 metres long but also another 200 metre obstacle course. The course comprises rope bridges tyre swings and nets some as high as 9 metres and is set in and above in the beautiful grounds of Pychowice Manor House. There are also less-challenging courses for younger guests. For those who don’t enjoy heights, the entry fee includes trampolining, water balls and boating on the lake.
The park is open from May until October.
Tickets for one hour in the park: Adults 30 PLN ($8), Kids (6-16 years old) 25 PLN ($6-50), kids below six years old 15 PLN ($4).
Kościuszko Mound – Kopiec Kościuszki
It is best to visit the Kościuszko Mound on a sunny day for a view of the whole city. It was built by the people of Krakow in honour of General Tadeusz Kosciuszko who fought for the independence of Poland in the nineteenth century. The concept of the monument was to create a symbol of permanence to celebrate Polish patriotism. And it worked; the Kościuszko Mound has survived two world wars and communism.
Entrance to the Mound costs 14 PLN. ($3-50)
Day Trips out from Krakow
The Salt Mines at Wieliczka – Kopalni Soli “Wieliczka”
Table salt has been available at Wieliczka since the stone age in the form of natural brine springs. More formal mining started in the thirteenth century, for almost seven hundred years until very recently. The mines were listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1978.
Within a network of tunnels you will find magnificent chapels, statues and modern sculpture all carved from the solid rock salt.
The pricing and arrangements for buying tickets are complicated. As an example an online ticket bought more than 3 days in advance for an English-language family of four on the guided “Tourist” route through the mines is 247 PLN ($64) Off-Season and 262 PLN ($68) High Season
Visit the website for more information and pricing here
Auschwithz Birkenau was the biggest Nazi concentration camp. More than 1,100,000 milion men women and children lost their lives in here.
During the guided trip which lasts up to 4 hours, you will learn about the camp and its part in the Holocaust. Going around the camp blocks, seeing remnants such as strands of hair from people who died can be tough. Some go there with kids as a part of their education. I haven’t taken my girls yet and I dont know if I ever will. We told them about the Holocaust but I’m not sure they should see it. It’s enough that I saw it. The website advises that Auschwitz is not suitable for children under 14 years old.
There are different language guided tour please refer to the Auschwitz website to check date and timings.
Established as a town in 1336, Lanckorona is now a charming small village 30 km outside Krakow. Lankorona village centre is composed of well-preserved traditional wooden houses around a central green. There is a great little folk museum of timeless household goods and old tools, and a pleasant walk up through the woods to the old castle mound above.
Lanckorona has in recent years become a centre of artists. Every December four or five hundred angels and devils descend on the town for its annual winter Festival of Angels.
Ojcow and Pieskowa Skała Castle
Ojcow National Park has located 30 km from Krakow. The Park’s beautiful natural landscape includes some good bouldering climbs. Its a perfect place for family friendly outdoor day, where you can hike, climb and visit castles.
Two castles share this fabulous landscape, Pieskowa Skała Castle and the picturesque ruins of Ogrodzeniec Castle
Today Pieskowa Skala Castle is a museum, which houses a collection of European art, whilst in Ogrodzeniec you can move back to mediaeval times and watch knights fight or participate in one of the historic festivals to become a knight in armour yourself.
Things to do in Krakow with Kids or without – Pin it for later
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