How to travel with children to make them and parents enjoy it? Some would say that question is a trap - you can never satisfy both, one would be happy when the other would just get tired. However, we don’t believe it’s true! Kraków is a city with plenty of options for people of all ages! In fact, we would like to share with you a few ideas on how to discover some hidden gems so both children and adults can really have a memorable time.
When large city centres are never a good place for little ones, Kraków is kind of an exception. Just in the Planty park, the green circle surrounding the Old Town that replaced the old city wall, you can find two playgrounds. They are not too big, but it’s easy to make a stop on your way from the Main Square to the Wawel Castle. Not mentioning that this green park is a perfect way to escape from crowds and heat! Full of flowers and interesting monuments, it can be a great alternative if you want to learn a bit more about the city. A quick break can also power you up if you are determined to take your kids for the trip to the Wawel castle chambers and the marvellous Wawel Cathedral.
Did your guidebook mention that the dragon is the symbol of the city? Well, there is more in that, because we actually have a real 😉 Dragon here! At least the one you can see, touch and climb on it… Below the castle you will find the Dragon’s Den (you can listen to its story if you join our Old Town tour) - an old cave that, according to the legends, used to be the monster's lair. And there he is, in front of the entrance - a sculpture with a gas installation that makes a real fire every now and then! Just tell the kids about it before, as it can be quite a surprise to get close to it without knowing that.
There are plenty more options here, as Kraków has a pretty nice Zoo opened all year long. Despite being out of the city centre, it is easily accessible using public transport as all buses going there are leaving from Cracovia stadium, 10 minutes walk from the Main Square. Just next to your initial bus stop you can enjoy Henryk Jordan’s park, with plenty of alleys, playgrounds, playing fields and a fountain (during summer time there is even a water playground!). Not far away there are ‘Błonia’ meadows - that’s the beloved choice of locals to come here for cycling and roller skating, but you can use it for various sports and activities.
Oh, and by the way do your children like balloons? Yeah, we bet they do. If they are at least 4 years old (that’s the minimum age), look for the place known as ‘Hotel Forum’, an interesting example of Eastern Europe modernism & brutalism. Today it’s a very popular chilling zone with a drink bar and food court, but apart from that in the spring/summer season there is also an amusement park. Just instead of getting on another Ferris wheel, you can jump into a real hot air balloon and enjoy the view from much, much higher! The flight takes at least 10 minutes and it’s better to it in advance. Lifting off next to the Vistula River, with a perfect view of the Wawel Castle and the Jewish Quarter, will be really worth it.
If you like nice views, but you also prefer to put in a little effort to get it - leave the centre and take a short trip to the Podgórze District. There is a place called Krak Mound. Legend says that’s the burial place of pagan founder of Kraków, king Krak. Don’t worry, your children won’t accidentally find any human remains, but as the mound is really ancient, it may be an interesting story for the little ones and a nice walk to climb up there. A real treasure will be the view - one of the best panoramas of Kraków.
The city is simply perfect for outdoor activities. It has many great routes if you would like to rent a bicycle. You can take a nice ride starting just from the Wawel Castle. Following Vistula riverbanks, you will find a 10 km route to Tyniec, a beautiful village with the oldest Benedictine abbey in Poland. On the way you may find Kolna Kayak’s Track where you can try yourself in rafting.
If you are travelling with a toddler, you may prefer the calm and harmony of the Botanical Garden of the Jagiellonian University. That beautiful spot near the Old Town is the oldest place of this kind in the country, established around 250 years ago and contains over 2,000 species and varieties of plants in greenhouses.
Don’t worry if the weather is bad or you come in winter, because there are plenty of options for kid friendly indoor places! A real hit this year (2023) is an exhibit located in the Museum of Nowa Huta District. Take your children for a 25 minute trip by tram to get to an unique example of a socrealistic, ideal communist city. The Museum of Nowa Huta is showing the exhibition called “Children's Fun and Games in Communist Poland“. For the last few months locals were bringing their own toys, comic books and games to show to the new generation how childhood looked like in the 60s, 70s & 80s. No matter where you are coming from we guarantee you will get a bit nostalgic (for avid gamers that may be one of the last chances to play on original Atari!). You will stay there for a long time - it’s very interactive!
It is possible that the most visited by locals spot in recent years was the Museum of Pinball. They gathered over 30 machines, so you can enjoy it with the whole family. You will find it on Stradomska 15 Street. That place really keeps the magic of the 80s, so feel free to come if you look for more nostalgic moments!
The city is also a great spot for the Lego lovers. Before the pandemic a great History Land was presenting the whole history of Poland in the old building of the railway station, but even if it’s gone now, a new BricksAndFigs Lego Exhibition was opened just in April. On Dąbrowskiego 20 Street a stunning collection of original sets and figures is presented, featuring both limited edition and widely available items. The place is filled with a real passion and it would be a shame to miss it.
If you are going to stick to the city centre, there is plenty of choice as well. Pretty fun place is the Main Square Underground - a very impressive museum made on a recent excavation zone where middle-aged Kraków was brought back to life. Children can have fun using the mediaeval scale or walk over a great map of Europe. City of Kraków also opened the new part of historical museum in Krzysztofory Palace - it is focused on Kraków’s local culture, so come to try on the local folk costumes or enter a gigantic version of ‘Szopka’ - Kraków’s nativity scene, always made here during Christmas time. If you are curious to learn more about traditions of Polish Christmas you will find them here.
If you are more engineering than historical soul, step by for a moment to the Jewish Quarter. On Wawrzyńca Street you will find a brand new exhibition of the Museum of Engineering and Technology. It’s called “The City. Technosensitivity Exhibition.” It is a journey through all eras of technology that affected our lives and our cities, from aqueducts to car-sharing apps. As that one doesn’t have that many interactive parts (compared to the size of the whole museum), it may be a better choice if you travel with your younglings. Still, the old tram depot with about 100 years old tram that you can actually get in will be a treat even for two year olds (trust us, we tested it…)!
Sometimes you are just lucky and you come to the place precisely at the right time. Or… if you travel with kids, you may choose your dates wisely and make sure you won’t miss special events that are one of a kind!
Thing is, Kraków has many interesting traditions and annual festivals that are really worth participating in. We mentioned Krak Mound, but did you know that since the middle ages there was a great ‘Rękawka’ festival during which people used to come here to roll their painted eggs down the hill? It is always happening in the Easter period and it is celebrating our pagan origins. That is why today ‘Rękawka’ gathers people dressed as knights and Slavic warriors so you can see them acting sword duelling or even reconstructing real mediaeval battles! If you are curious about Kraków Easter traditions check out this article.
If you come in June, expect the great ‘Lajkonik’ march. That’s another city symbol you will see everywhere. ‘Lajkonik’ is a hobby horse commemorating Tartars that invaded Kraków ages ago and brave citizens who were supposed to beat their chieftain. So always on the first Thursday after the catholic feast of Corpus Christi (usually in June) you may find him marching with his ‘company’ on streets of Kraków. Don’t feel offended if he hits you with his mace - it brings good luck. Nothing comes too easy though, because his ‘company’ will chase you to put some money in their small chests. Sadly, even luck doesn't come for free…
We mentioned dragon, right? So imagine the carnival in Rio de Janeiro, but slightly different. Ours is happening on water and its main theme are dragons. We call it The Dragon Parade and it is happening every year on Vistula boulevards in May or June. This is the time when flying, riding, jumping, fire-breathing and flapping huge wings reptiles crawl into the streets of Kraków. On Saturday evening near Wawel Castle, a breathtaking spectacle takes place, with pyrotechnic effects, astonishing light and laser setting, giant water curtains, music… and lots of dragons, of course! Filled with helium, the massive dragon figures are up to 25 metres long and several metres high. That may be the night to remember!
We know travelling with children is not an easy thing and not always best of fun for exausted parents, but we believe Kraków can be the choice you will all enjoy. Also it is always a great idea to show your children the world even if it takes a bit of an effort!
Feel invited to check our next articles so you can also learn more about our amazing cities!