If you only have one free day in Krakow, be sure to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. Take a bus or train to this former concentration camp to explore the world’s most important World War II memorial. Take in the solemn exhibits, featuring former prisoners’ personal belongings (such as toothbrushes and glasses), as well as the camp’s grounds and largely-destroyed gas chambers. While visiting the site is free of charge, you’ll need to reserve your space well in advance. It’s a good idea to book onto a guided tour to learn as much as possible about the horrific history of the site.
Just ten kilometers from the center of Krakow lies the beautiful and fascinating Wielicza Salt Mine. This UNESCO World Heritage Site first opened in the 13th century and is now home to over 170 kilometers of underground tunnels; however, only 3.5 are open to the public. Most visitors choose to take the three-hour ‘Tourist Route’ around the mine, passing entire chambers, ballrooms and chapels made out of salt. These rooms, which even feature salt chandeliers, are still regularly used for weddings and masses.
More ambitious tourists can follow the ‘Miners’ Route’ instead. After putting on your overalls and hard hat, you’ll set off from the historic Regis Shaft to explore the more hidden, less artistic corners of the mines. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even spend the night underground!
At 21 square kilometers, Ojcow is one of Poland’s smallest national parks, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in unbeatable natural beauty. In fact, 1,000 species of flowering plants and a huge range of animals, including bats, beavers and badgers, call this park home!
In addition to the stunning greenery, be sure to check out the unique rock formations, including the 25-meter-high Hercules Club. The park also hosts around 400 caves: the two largest are over 200 meters in length, while others are hidden, making them perfect for thrill seekers. Don’t miss out on the park’s stunning castles, including the remains of Kazimierz’s Castle and the beautiful, well-restored Renaissance Pieskowa Skala.
Popular with pilgrims from around the world, millions of visitors take to Czechtochowa every year to visit the 14th-century Jasna Gora Monastery, which stands on top of a 340-meter-high limestone hill. This building houses the Black Madonna, a Virgin Mary Icon and Polish national treasure.
To learn more about Czestochowa’s history, be sure to visit the more modern Town Hall, which is home to the Czestochowa Museum. The exhibition provides fascinating insights into the city, while the building’s tower offers fantastic panoramic views over Czestochowa and its neighboring towns.