Based on my experience visiting Krakow and its environs over nearly 20 years, here are my Top 5 Krakow-based exursions. Some you'd expect, some surprises. Am looking forward to numbers four and five myself -- next week, if the weather holds...
1. Auschwitz (Oswiecim in Polish)
This has to come first, for obvious reasons. It's impossible to describe it in a couple of sentences. I devote a chapter to it and the so-called "Jewish Question" in my book. Three tips: be in the mood to visit or don't go at all. I'm one of those who thinks everyone should go there, but if you're on a short city break to Krakow to unwind, well, you may not get out of it what you should. Secondly, be sure to visit Birkenau, too. Thirdly, attend with a good guide.
2. Nowa Huta
This won't be everyone's cup of tea but it is a chance to get an idea of what life was like under Communism: endless monolithic concrete blocks laid out as plazas - soulless and depressing but impressive in their own way. Take a tour with Crazy Guides and travel around in the old cars from that era - I went in a yellow Trabant - and see the main sites such as the steelworks (outside only, I'm afraid) and a Soviet era tank.
Spectacular salt mine that extends to nine levels underground, inluding a cathedral and ballroom! Also a must-see. Tips here would be take a jumper, and be prepared to descend many steps at the start, and walk several kilometers. A scary but quick elevator ride back to the top!
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is part of the HoliDaze epic 366-item Travel Blogger Bucket List (TBBL), a massive compilation of the most exciting, extreme, unique and offbeat global destinations and activities. Check It Out!
4. Blonia bike ride
Hire a bike on or near Planty, the shock of green that surrounds Krakow's old town. Cycle through the Planty, an oasis of calm and cool, until you reach the Vistula river near Wawel castle. Head along the banks of the river behind the castle, turning in eventually to the large recreational area Blonia. Follow cycle tracks towards the end of Blonia, furthest from the town. Return to the old town via the student town, around Reymonta street. All this will give you a real feel for Krakow, and you'll be amazed how much green and tranquillity there is just outside the heart of Krakow.
5. Dorozka ride
Hire a horse and carriage just outside Hawelka restaurant (see my previous article on the Top 5 Restaurants In Krakow) on the main market square. Not the cheapest, so take the half hour (as opposed to one hour) option, asking to go on the Grodska/Wawel castle route. Feel like royalty for half an hour and relax: it's really comfortable! Unique and enjoyable way to see the old town.
Wildcard: Krakow zoo. Some way out of Krakow. Unusual because set in thick forest, and therefore very pleasant to visit. Good display of animals. The huge bison most impressed me. Bison roam free in another part of Poland. Don't worry: not in Krakow town centre!