So a couple of weeks back we wrote about some of the cool things to do, see and taste in Kraków. There’s a lot of good stuff surrounding the second largest city in Poland too, so if you’ve got some spare time (and maybe even a car), have a look at our top five suggestions.
Wooden Architecture Route
The in Małopolska is a good one to start with, as a few of the stops (such as the Chapel of Saint Margaret & Saint Jude) are in Kraków and the nearby area. The route contains a truly grand total of 252 folk-historic wooden buildings, including 174 churches, 16 museums and 9 heritage parks. It would of course be impossible to see all the sights in one day; however, if you head South-East of Kraków towards Nowy Sącz and Gorlice, you’ll find the highest density of wooden buildings, and can make a try to see as many as you can. There are also plenty to see near Tarnów and Oświęcim, which are day trips you could combine with a visit to BWA Tarnów and to Auschwitz, respectively (more on these further on in the article).
Wieliczka Salt Mine
is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and perhaps one of the coolest cave-like places you’ll ever visit. This salt mine is 700 years old and produced table salt until as late as 2007. There are 9 levels and 2,000 chambers to visit, as well as the Chapel of Saint Kinga (more on her story next time) which is made entirely of salt! If you’re going with just a few friends, then you won’t need to book in advance. However, larger groups need to pre-book (especially during WYD!) to reserve a guided tour in the right language. It’s about a 23 minute drive, or a 20 minute train ride to Wieliczka Rynek Kopalnia.* And if you do decide to go for that Kraków Tourist Card (mentioned in our article on Kraków) you’ll be entitled to a free bus service there and back!
For those of you interested in fashion and art, the Pattern. City. Tarnów exhibition at this summer is for you. BWA Tarnów is one of the most exciting contemporary art galleries in Europe, always playing host to new and inspiring exhibitions. This time round a group of artists and fashion designers from around the world present works of art inspired by the history and stories of clothes and fashion. Such historical works of art like a nineteenth century haute-couture dress by Charles Worth are included, as well as the 1868 portrait of Helena Sanguszko by Antoine Bourlard. Pattern. City. Tarnów runs until 28 August 2016, and it takes about an hour by car or train to get there. For this one we recommend taking the train as it’s just a 1-minute walk from Tarnów station to the gallery.
Krzysztof Penderecki European Centre for Music
is a must for music and architecture enthusiasts alike. Gifted students from around the world come here to learn from the best, and renowned musicians are invited for concerts all year round. This amazing building includes a concert hall that seats up to 700 people and boasts an incredible acoustic experience, as well as fourteen rehearsal rooms, a recording studio, and accommodation for students and teachers. The concept for the non-profit organisation came from Krzysztof Penderecki, the most famous composer and conductor in Poland today. He has created four operas, eight symphonies and twenty-nine orchestral pieces, among other things, and he’s even got three Grammys! The summer months focus mostly on the advanced students, but have a look at their website, because you never know when a concert might pop up! It will take 1 hour 20 minutes by car, and a longer 2 hours 30 minutes by train to Lusławice.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum
is where some of the biggest human atrocities took place during WWII. A visit there is disheartening, and yet crucial towards gaining an appreciation of Polish history and how the events have shaped the country. In fact, the museum is closed for the general public during WYD so that as many WYD groups as possible will be able to visit. Prepare for a 1 hour and 45 minutes train ride to Óswięcim, followed by a local bus to the museum. It should take 1.5 hours by car; however, current road works might slow you down.
Next time we’re taking a look at Polish Saints and the legends that go with them. Until then!
*All driving and train times are from the centre of Kraków and Kraków Główny respectively.