We recently visited Kraków in Poland with the kids. It was our first visit to Poland, and it did not disappoint. At the time of our visit, the girls were 9 and 11 years old, with the eldest being in her first year of high school. I don’t think I’ve had a more educational weekend in years, immersing ourselves in learning the important history of this beautiful city. We were there for three full days, and we packed in as much as we could. So if you’re looking for things to do in Kraków with kids, strap in and make your way through this travel blog post.
I guess one thing we get asked often about our visit to Poland is, “Was it a good city break for the kids?”. The question that usually sparks that one off is when we tell them we took the kids on a tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau, the Nazi concentration camps set up a couple of hours from Kraków. And the answer is yes, absolutely! More on that below.
However, there is more to Kraków than just World War II history. So if you’re here researching things to do in Kraków with kids, here is what we got up to and a few others that we have added to our list for the next time we go.
Firstly though, is always the question, “What is the best way to get from the airport to Kraków city?
Short answer: A Taxi!
You can pre-book a taxi or get one from just outside the station. We looked at getting a train or bus, but the taxi was not expensive, and it was more direct and more comfortable than the other options. We landed pretty late in the evening on a dark February night. It was just simpler to bundle the four of us and our weekend bags into a waiting taxi than to try to navigate the public transport system in a foreign country. That would be my first Top Tip for visiting Kraków – book an airport taxi before you leave. Still, it’s not a problem if you don’t, as many taxis are available outside the airport.
Here’a a snapshot of what we did as a family in Kraków with kids
Once you’re there, you’re going to want to have already made a list of things to do in Kraków, especially if you’re there with kids. There is so much to do in and around the city of Kraków that if you have limited time hopefully you can book a few things in advance. Here are a few ideas:
Visit the Cloth Hall
The Cloth Hall, also known as Sukiennice, is one of the most iconic and historic buildings in Kraków. It is located in the heart of the Main Market Square (Rynek Główny), the central square of Kraków and one of the largest medieval squares in Europe.
The Cloth Hall’s architecture is stunning, with its grand arcades and beautiful facades. It is a Renaissance-style building that dates back to the 14th century and has been an important trading centre throughout Kraków’s history. It is divided into two levels: the ground floor, which houses various shops and stalls, and the upper floor, home to the Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art. We didn’t go to the upstairs gallery section, but it’s on our list for our next visit. The ground floor of the Cloth Hall is a bustling market where you can find a variety of shops and stalls selling a range of goods.
Vendors offer traditional Polish crafts, souvenirs, jewellery, clothing, local artwork, and more. It’s a great place to shop for unique gifts or keepsakes to remember your visit to Kraków. If you visit the Cloth Hall in Kraków with kids, try to go early, just after the stalls have been set up. It’s an excellent opportunity to teach kids to be a bit savvy with their money by comparing prices at different stalls before buying their treasures and keepsakes.
Located on the upper floor of the Cloth Hall, the Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art houses a remarkable collection of Polish paintings and sculptures. The gallery features works from prominent Polish artists of the 19th century, including Jan Matejko and Jacek Malczewski. The gallery has an entrance fee, so be prepared for that if you plan to visit. Visitors can admire masterpieces depicting significant historical events, landscapes, portraits, and scenes from Polish literature.
The building is surrounded by other notable landmarks, such as St. Mary’s Basilica and the Town Hall Tower, adding to the area’s historical charm. Visiting the Cloth Hall provides a unique opportunity to experience the historical significance of Kraków while indulging in some shopping and appreciating Polish art. It’s a must-visit attraction for anyone exploring the city.
Take a horse-drawn carriage tour around Kraków.
Taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through Kraków can be a charming and nostalgic experience, adding a touch of old-world charm to your visit. Here are some considerations to help you decide if it’s something you would enjoy:
Firstly, Ethical Considerations: It’s essential to be mindful of the treatment and welfare of the horses. Look for reputable carriage operators that prioritize the well-being of their animals. Ensure the horses are well-cared for, properly harnessed, and not overworked. Responsible operators should adhere to guidelines for the welfare of their horses.
If you decide to go on a horse-drawn carriage ride through Kraków, as we did, it allows you to explore the city’s historic centre from a different perspective, including the Main Market Square, Planty Park, and the picturesque streets of the Old Town. Carriage rides have a historical significance and can provide insights into Kraków’s past. They evoke a sense of nostalgia and offer a glimpse into the city’s traditional transportation methods. It can be a way to connect with Kraków’s heritage and appreciate its cultural heritage.
While a carriage ride can be a memorable experience, there are a few practical aspects to consider:
- Cost: Carriage rides are usually more expensive than other transportation modes. Inquire about the pricing beforehand to ensure it fits within your budget.
- Weather and Comfort: Consider the weather conditions during your visit. Carriage rides may be less enjoyable in colder months due to the chill – we were there in February. We were provided with warm blankets, and the carriage hood was up. I should imagine that on hot summer days, the lack of shade might make it uncomfortable. Be mindful of the weather and dress accordingly, especially keeping little ones comfortable.
- Duration: Carriage rides typically have a predetermined route and duration. If you have limited time or specific destinations you’d like to visit, ensure that the route aligns with your interests and timeframe. The carriage ride lasted about 30 minutes, but different routes and durations were available at different prices. Understand what you are paying before you get in the carriage.
Ultimately, deciding to take a horse-drawn carriage ride in Kraków depends on your preferences and interests. It can be a delightful way to experience the city’s beauty and immerse yourself in its history and charm, day or night.
Visit the Wieliczka salt mine
This was hand down our kids’ favourite experience during our family city break to Kraków. Visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine is a fascinating and unique experience, offering a glimpse into the underground world of this historic site.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is located in the town of Wieliczka, about 10 kilometres or 6.2 miles southeast of Kraków. It is one of the world’s oldest salt mines in continuous operation for over 700 years. The mine is a UNESCO World Heritage site attracting thousands of visitors yearly.
As far as guided tours go, this was one of the best, most well-organized guided tours that I’ve ever experienced. Not only are the guides polite and well-spoken, but so incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the Wieliczka salt mine and its history. The mine offers guided tours that take visitors through various chambers, tunnels, and impressive salt-carved sculptures. You’ll explore different mine levels, including the famous Chapel of St. Kinga, a stunning underground chapel adorned with salt sculptures and chandeliers.
Visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine offers a unique opportunity to explore the underground world and learn about the historical significance of salt mining in the region. It’s a memorable experience that combines history, culture, and natural beauty. Read our full dedicated review of our day trip to the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Kraków – an experience our children absolutely loved, and so did we.
Take a day tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau With the Kids
Okay, I’m just going to say it – this was the highlight of our weekend in Krakow for me. Being there was just incredible. All these years later, I’ve heard stories about how you can feel death in the air, and it’s true. You can absolutely feel a weight on you when you’re there.
It’s essential to remember that you are visiting the largest German Nazi concentration camps and extermination centres. Taking your children there means they will learn about the absolute horrors and human atrocities at these camps. They will leave there, possibly knowing more about how cruel the human race can be to each other than before they stepped through the gates. Over 1.1 million men, women and children lost their lives there.
If you are wondering whether it’s appropriate to take your children to visit a Nazi Death Camp, such as Auschwitz and Birkenau, in my opinion, it’s not only appropriate, it’s important that you do. With that said, I believe it’s up to the parents to responsibly judge whether their children are mature enough to respect the place they are visiting.
Again, for the sake of full disclosure, my children were 9 and 11 when we visited school in the UK in years 5 and 7. As their parents, we believe they were old enough to respect the subject of the tour and were the right age to understand what they were learning, but also not to get bored and become disruptive to other visitors. So with that said, if you are considering taking your children to Auschwitz, I urge you to consider that last bit of what I said rather than only if you think THEY can handle it.
From what I observed, I don’t think it is a push-chair-friendly tour – if you take a pushchair, you’re likely to miss out on quite a bit simply due to not being allowed to take pushchairs into the buildings.
Back to the tour: Visiting Auschwitz & Birkenau is free; however, you pay for joining a guided tour, which I strongly recommend. The incredible knowledge and respect that the guide of our tour showed was only surpassed by his patience with the many questions and interest from various tour group members.
Here are a few tips/insights into the Auschwitz and Birkenau tour that I didn’t know before:
- The two sites are completely separate, and you need to get a bus from one to the other.
- You can’t take big bags onto the site at Auschwitz. Also, there are airport-style security machines, and they check IDs on entry.
- Depending on the tour you take, everyone gets a headset to hear the guide without them shouting, which is really nice and respectful.
- At Auschwitz, many buildings have been turned into museums on the inside.
- At Birkenau, the site is massive! Wear comfortable walking shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
If you’re visiting Krakow with children who are old enough to be respectful, I would highly recommend you put this moving and historically important tour on your list.
How to get to Auschwitz-Birkenau from Kraków
If you’re in Kraków and planning to visit the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps just outside the town of Oświęcim, well, you’re not alone. These historical sites attract over 2 million visitors each year.
Oświęcim is about 70km away from Kraków’s centre, and the easiest and most hassle-free way to get there is by joining an organized tour. Seriously, it’s a breeze! You won’t have to worry about a thing – they’ll handle everything, from hotel pickup (if your tour includes it) to guiding you through the camps with expert knowledge.
It’s a pretty heavy experience, so having a knowledgeable guide can make a big difference. On the other hand, if you’re on a tight budget and feeling adventurous, you can take public transport, but fair warning – it can be a bit of a hassle. The organized tour is the way to go for a more comfortable and informative visit.
Once again, we used Viator, and although we did choose ‘hotel pickup’ our hotel was right in the centre of town which made it difficult for the tour bus to get to so they texted us to get to a meeting point where they picked up everyone for the tour. When you do choose a tour you’ll likely find that most tour operators choose the same central pick up location and it can become quite confusing as to which bus you’re meant to be on. Keep an ear out for them to shout your name, and don’t be late!
Visit Wawel Castle & the Dragon of Krakow
Wawel Castle is one of Poland’s most iconic landmarks and a must-visit destination for families in Kraków. Situated atop Wawel Hill, overlooking the Vistula River, the castle boasts a rich history dating back to the 14th century.
It’s also a short walk from the city centre, making getting to Wawel Castle easy. Once the residence of Polish kings, Wawel Castle is a stunning example of Renaissance, Gothic, and Romanesque architectural styles.
My family get sick of me dragging them to visit a castle in every city break, but I love it. Wawel Castle is no different. Exploring Wawel Castle with your family is like stepping back in time. As you wander through its opulent chambers, you’ll encounter impressive tapestries, intricate woodwork, and priceless works of art that reflect Poland’s royal past. The State Rooms, Royal Private Apartments, and Crown Treasury are among the highlights of the castle tour.
Don’t forget to visit the Wawel Cathedral, adjacent to the castle. This magnificent cathedral is the final resting place of many Polish kings and queens, making it an essential part of Poland’s cultural and spiritual heritage.
Dragon of Krakow
The Dragon of Kraków is a mythical creature that has become a beloved symbol of the city. According to legend, the dragon once terrorized the people of Kraków, wreaking havoc with its fiery breath and devouring livestock. Brave knights attempted to defeat the beast, but all efforts were in vain.
The story’s hero is a clever cobbler’s apprentice, Krakus, who devises a plan to defeat the dragon. He filled a sheep’s skin with sulfur and left it outside the dragon’s lair. The hungry dragon swallowed the bait and was so thirsty afterwards that it drank vast amounts of water from the nearby Vistula River. The water caused the dragon to explode, ending its reign of terror.
The Dragon’s Den is located at the foot of Wawel Hill. Visitors can see a metal statue of the dragon, which occasionally spouts fire, delighting children and adding a touch of enchantment to the experience. There are numerous dragon-themed souvenirs and treats throughout the city, making it a fun and memorable element of your Kraków adventure.
Depending on when you have time to go during your weekend visit to Kraków, I recommend booking your tickets in advance. However, it’s good to note that entry to Wawel Castle is free on Mondays in the off-season. Although I think you still need to book your tickets in advance.
Take a Tuk-Tuk tour to the Polish Ghetto
Yes, we already did the horse-drawn carriage tour, but if I had to choose between the two, the tuk-tuk tour was better. Again, there are various routes you can take, all at different prices. You can choose between 3 different routes or do all of them if you have the time.
We had already covered quite a lot of ground by this stage of our visit to Kraków, but the one thing we hadn’t done was visit the Polish Ghetto. The guided tuk-tuk tour was excellent because it was just us 4 as a family with a personal guide who took us to parts of the city that we wouldn’t have reached on foot but would probably have missed by using public transport.
The Polish Ghetto was the area of Kraków they cordoned off and forced all the Jews to live in before they were shipped off to different parts of Poland by the Nazis. If you’ve ever watched the movie Schindler’s List, you’ll know of this area. As part of the guide you also get to go past Schindler’s factory.
Again, the guide was knowledgeable, and we felt this was worthwhile.
Visit the Churches in Kraków
There are many, many churches in Kraków. Most of them are free to enter and explore, and whilst they are impressive on the outside, on the inside, they are absolutely magnificent. A few of these we went into as part of the Tuk Tuk tour, but you don’t have to be on a tour to visit the churches in Krakow.
What I loved was that they were a mix of golden opulent splendour, showcasing the richness and history of the church. In contrast, some had been damaged during the war and rebuilt recently to offer a modern historical viewpoint, almost doubling as a museum. Here are a few of my favourite pictures of the churches of Krakow.
10 more things to do in Kraków with kids that we didn’t have time to do on this visit:
We didn’t get around to exploring everything Kraków had to offer, but I’ve done some research, and here are 10 more things to do in Kraków with kids.
- Schindler’s Factory Tour (the one I wish we’d done!)
- Rynek underground museum
- City Engineering museum
- Krakus Mound for views of the city
- Visit the Kraków Botanical Gardens
- Take a sightseeing cruise along the river through the city
- Take a dip at the Wodny Waterpark
- Visit Kraków zoo
- Visit Historyland
- The Pinball museum
Getting Around Kraków
The best way to get around the city of Kraków as a visitor is by utilizing its efficient and affordable public transportation system. Kraków boasts an extensive network of trams and buses connecting major attractions and neighbourhoods, making exploring the city’s rich history and vibrant culture convenient.
I’d recommend purchasing a Kraków Tourist Card, which offers unlimited access to public transport and free admission to various museums and attractions.
However, suppose you don’t plan to go far out of the city. In that case, Kraków ‘s city centre is compact and pedestrian-friendly. It is perfect for strolling through its charming streets and discovering hidden gems leisurely. Walking or cycling is an excellent way to soak in the city’s ambience and find delightful surprises around every corner.
Embrace the city’s accessibility, and you’ll find yourself immersed in the true essence of Kraków ‘s captivating charm.
Have you got the itinerary sorted for your city break to Kraków booked?
Visiting Kraków with kids is truly an unforgettable adventure that offers something for everyone in the family. From the fascinating history and stunning architecture of Wawel Castle to the whimsical encounter with the legendary Dragon of Kraków, the city’s charm never ceases to captivate young and old alike. Kraków ‘s family-friendly attractions, such as the interactive museums, enchanting parks, and delicious treats, ensure that every moment is filled with joy and excitement.
As we bid farewell to this magical city, we carry with us cherished memories of exploring its hidden treasures hand in hand with our little ones. Kraków ‘s warm hospitality and rich cultural tapestry create an extraordinary experience that will leave a lasting impression on both young hearts and seasoned travellers. So, if you’re looking for a destination that promises to delight and inspire the entire family, Kraków is undoubtedly the place to be!