Don’t sleep on Poland. While it may not be the first place families consider when making their European travel plans, the natural beauty and fantastic architecture of the country is absolutely worth checking out, and you will quickly discover there are lots of unique opportunities to educate and excite your imaginations.
1. Look out for gnomes in Wrocław
Wrockaw with your family can be a fun cross between a treasure hunt and Pokemon-GO. A beautiful city in it’s own right, your kids will love to hunt through the entire city looking for the amazing gnomes that can only be found here.
Scattered throughout the city, you and the kids can make a game out of looking out for all the different gnomes (y0u can print out a map of the gnomes locations here). These gnomes became a defining part of the city in the 80’s as a means of peaceful protest against Communism, and the statues started appearing in the city in 2001, and there are currently nearly 200 statues in total for you to try to find as you walk around Wroclaw.
2. Check out the Wieliczka Salt Mine
Ok, hear us out. We know the suggestion of a salt mine isn’t something that immediately calls out to be seen, but the one found in Wieliczka is worth the trip. Three levels of beautifully carved out caverns in this 700 year old Unesco World Heritage site will blow your minds. The Chapel of the Blessed Kings features everything, from the furniture to the chandelier is entirely carved out of salt.
3. Check out dinosaurs!
For a reasonably small country (slightly smaller in mass than New Mexico), Poland rocks not just one dinosaur park but three. Get your family excited about paleontology with a trip to any of these parks, boasting life-sized versions of your favorite dinosaurs so you can see how you might have measured up if you had been around back then.
4. Go underneath Warsaw and hear about Krakow’s Dragon
Underneath the main square in Warsaw is an archeological dig that has been going on since 2005, revealing a massive medieval history previously unknown. Families can tour the underground space and learn of the “Krakow Dragon” (also known as the Wawel Dragon) a folklore tale about a fire breathing dragon that terrorized villagers until it was poisoned by the sons of King Krakus. From Wikipedia:
“According to Wincenty Kadłubek’s Polish Chronicle, the Wawel dragon appeared during the reign of King Krakus (lat. Gracchus). The dragon required weekly offerings of cattle, if not, humans would have been devoured instead. In the hope of killing the dragon, Krakus called on his two sons, Lech and Krakus II. They could not, however, defeat the creature by hand, so they came up with a trick. They fed him a calf skin stuffed with smoldering sulfur, causing his fiery death. Then the brothers argued about who deserved the honor for slaying the dragon. The older brother killed the younger brother Grakch (Krakus), and told others that the dragon killed him. When Lech became king, his secret was revealed, and he got expelled from the country. The city was named in recognition of the brave and innocent Krakus.”
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There is also a statue of the Krakow Dragon that can be found above ground. Created in 1979 by Bronisław Chromy, the statue breathes fire every few minutes.
5. Mine for gold at Złoty Stok
Want to dig for gold? The mines in Zloty Stock were once rich in gold deposits, and nowadays offer visitors the opportunity to tour the various tunnels, which feature different attractions, and you can also dig for gold that was once plentiful in the mine. These caverns also boast Poland’s only underground waterfall.
In addition to the mine, if you happen to go through this November, you can take part in the Run 4 Gold and race in the mud and snow with other adventurous runners
6. Wroclaw Zoo
The oldest zoo in Poland (began in 1928, making it 90 years old) boasts 4000 animals in the zoo in any given year. The zoo also has a history deeper than just a space for exotic animals. During WWII the zoo was closed, but the zookeepers used it’s 100 acres of land as a path to free hundreds of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto.
7. Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum
This last suggestion is kind of heavy and involves having serious discussions with your family, but when you feel your family is mature enough to take on challenging subjects, the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum offers a unique opportunity to confront the holocaust that could leave a lasting impression on your children.
WHEN TO GO: With Poland’s temperate climate, the most popular times to head there are on either end of summer, either in April or October.
In any visit to Poland, you will find the people extremely kind and hospitable to visitors, the country itself is has also been more progressive than most of it’s neighbors (for instance, homosexuality has never been banned in the country in any form). For any family who want to make a point of visiting the less frequented spots in Europe, Poland is an absolute must-see.