Family Fun in Poland: Activities for Children of All Ages
Joanna Millick, MIR’s Director of Sales, is a native of Warsaw and the mom of a six-and-a-half-year-old. An expert in MIR’s destinations, she is especially well-versed in the field of fun things to do with a school-age child while visiting Poland.
It’s hard to find a country more inspiring than Poland. Little over two decades after regaining its independence, Poland has become one of the powerhouses of Europe. With more than two decades of travel experience in Poland, MIR is an expert at crafting tours to Poland for those of any age or interests.
Traveling to Poland with kids and looking for an itinerary the children will enjoy? Here are some of my expert tips:
Warsaw Travel Ideas
Copernicus Science Center
This is an awesome place for kids to roam. Opened in 2010, the modern Copernicus Science Center includes seven interactive permanent exhibits including one called “On the Move,” demonstrating how everything moves from light waves to your fingers. This fascinating museum offers kids and grownups the chance to explore, question, and experience new ideas, and to better understand the things we take for granted.
Warsaw Zoo and Brown Bears
The Warsaw Zoo was opened in 1928, just 11 years before the Nazis invaded Poland. Since the war ended, the zoo has grown to encompass some 500 species and 4,000 animals. One of the highlights is the Brown Bear exhibit, which has a spacious outdoor bear habitat fronting one of Warsaw’s downtown streets, so that pedestrians can see the bears on their way to work or school.
The war years saw the zoo closed and the animals dispersed, but the zookeeper and his wife were able to help some 300 Jews escape the Warsaw ghetto and continue to safety through the nearly 100-acre zoo grounds. While your kids are occupied with the animals, have a seat and read about the zoo during wartime in The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman.
Narrow Gauge Rail Museum & RETRO Steam Train Ride
Some 40 miles west of Warsaw, the city of Sochaczew hosts the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum, which includes an 11-mile rail line leading into Kampinos National Park. Spend a day here touring the open-air rail museum, then board the historic train carriages for a steam-hauled ride through the countryside to the lowlands of the Kampinos forest. Located near the Vistula River, this park is listed as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere reserve. The excursion includes a picnic and games in a pleasant sheltered field within the park.
Krakow Travel Ideas
Train ride to Krakow
Hop the train to Krakow; the ride lasts some three-and-a-half hours, and takes you through little patchwork fields and towns on the way.
Wieliczka Salt Mine for Kids
Miners have worked the Wieliczka Salt Mine for 700 years. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, miner/sculptors carved out beautiful chambers and chapels on the first three levels. A highlight of the trip down the mines is the fabulous Chapel of the Blessed Kinga, where everything, including statuary and chandeliers, is carved from salt. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the mine displays 700 years of evolving technology and artistry. A special tour for kids includes fairy-tale characters, games, puzzles, and an interactive playground.
Children’s Dragon Tale in the Underground Rynek
Archaeological work that began in 2005 revealed the existence of the Rynek Underground beneath Krakow’s thousand-year-old Market Square. Among the various displays concerning the town’s medieval history beneath the square, there is a special one for children – the tale of Krakow’s Dragon.
Krakow’s Dragon (Smok Wawelski)
In the old days, Krakow’s Dragon lived in a cave at the foot of Wawel Hill. A seven-headed metal sculpture of the beast marks the place where the dragon is rumored to have made his home, requiring the town to deliver maidens for him to devour. The dragon sculpture breathes fire every few minutes, delighting – or frightening – children since 1970.
Located in the former town hall building in Kazimierz, the Ethnographic Museum exhibits Polish folk art, artifacts, and reconstructed old-time interiors from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The thoughtful and extensive collection shows Polish culture and traditions with an artistic flare. The museum hosts crafts workshops for kids like Polish paper-cutting and making paper flowers.
Lipowiec Castle with the Vistula Enthnographic Park Wygiełzów
Children love to scramble around the ruins of Lipowiec Castle, the fortress that takes pride of place on a rocky ridge overlooking the rolling green meadows west of the Krakow Upland. A watchtower was built here as early as the 13th century, and the castle structure acquired its present layout in the 15th century
At the foot of the Castle Hill lies the Vistula Ethnographic Park, a seven-acre open-air collection of authentic 19th century wooden cottages, churches, shops, homesteads, and farmyards complete with a marketplace and tavern that serves regional cuisine. Artisans teach children’s workshops on paper-cutting and egg-painting, and during the holiday season kids learn to make Polish Christmas tree ornaments.
Boat Trip to Tyniec
Enjoy a family cruise along the Vistula River to Tyniec, a settlement founded in the 7th-5th century BC. Along the way pass the Krakow Zoo where the Royal Gardens were once located, the 12th century Norbertine Monastery, the Church of the Holy Savior, the Bielany forest, and the Kosciuszko Dam.
Pierogi Cooking Class
Not all kids like to cook. But for the ones that do, this is a fun way of learning how to make traditional Polish-style pierogi, Poland’s national dish, with a private chef. Practice mixing and rolling the thin dough, then stuffing it with any number of savory ingredients. Pierogi can be stuffed with mashed potatoes and onions, ground meat, cheese, or even fruit.
Burn off some energy at the biggest swimming pool hall in Poland! The Park Wodny Aqua Park has several pools that feature climbing walls, slides, a dragon-shaped fountain, and waves. A wading pool is included for the little ones. Restaurants, shopping, a sauna, and a kids’ play center round out the amenities.
Dunajec Raft Trip
Spend two or three relaxed hours floating leisurely down the River Dunajec on a handmade raft poled by two gorale (Polish highlanders) in traditional costume. Glide through the steep-sided canyon cut by the river in the limestone of the Pieniny Mountains. Jagged peaks covered in Carpathian beech forests rise near the river, with names like Sokolica (Falcon Cliff) and Ostra Skala (Sharp Cliff.) Along the way inspect Niedzica Castle, watching the river traffic from what used to be a high peak before the new dam raised the water level.
Eagles Nest Trail and Ogrodzieniec Castle
Head for the hills and the ring of medieval fortresses called the Eagles Nest Trail, built to protect Krakow from invasion long ago. The chain of 25 medieval castles was ordered mainly by Kazimierz the Great, King of Poland. Polish schoolchildren take yearly field trips to the ring of venerable bastions still guarding the approaches to Krakow to learn about Poland’s history and explore the castles.
Kids especially love to explore the ruins of medieval Ogrodzieniec Castle, one stop on the Eagles Nest Trail perched on the highest hill in the region. They can let their imaginations run wild among the crumbling towers of the Gothic stone fortress.
Travel to Poland and Central & East Europe with MIR
MIR’s winter small group tour to Poland, Christmas Traditions of Poland, is perfect for travelers of any age. Celebrate the heartfelt holiday traditions of Poland by wandering Krakow’s brilliant Christmas Market and joining a Polish family in their Warsaw home for the intimate Christmas Eve feast called Wigilia, where you can sample 12 different traditional dishes.