My very first thought when I landed in Warsaw was that this was a place where one could have kids. There was something about that summer afternoon, I remember, when most of the city was still in slumber except for the babcias selling raspberries on street corners and couples walking to the park with their strollers. Within half an hour, I saw three separate pregnant women. The first restaurant I ever went into had a children’s toilet seat cover in the bathroom. The second one had a kids’ table and chairs set up in the corner...
In no other major city in Europe or in America, where I’m from, have I seen as many pregnant women and couples with children as I do in Warsaw. But after living and travelling through Poland for a while, I realised that it’s not just the capital. The entire country seems to be reproduction-friendly.
So, with the help of some local moms, I've compiled a list of top 10 travel activities for families with children.
1. Dig for gold at Złoty Stok
South of Wrocław, on the Czech border, you can dig for gold at Złoty Stok, a 1000-year-old gold and arsenic mine that offers great tours perfect for the whole family! The mine has several tunnels – or adits – that offer different attractions.
Highlights include a treasury, where you can see 1066 gold bars representing 16 tons of gold dug up over the mine’s long history; miner-protecting gnomes; an underground boat ride on a 15-seat boat named Titanic; and Poland’s only underground waterfall. After the tour, you can come back out to the surface on the popular Underground Orange Tram.
Find out more: http://www.kopalniazlota.pl
2. Get nerdy at the Copernicus Centre in Warsaw
If you and your kids love science, the Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw’s Powiśle area is a great place to nerd out, play and learn for your whole family. With 400 exhibits, two theatres and a planetarium, a full visit can take up to 5 hours, but if that’s too much, you can concentrate on the most age and interest-appropriate exhibits and activities.
The Buzzz! Gallery, for example, is dedicated to kids 5 or younger and gives your little one a chance to experiment with all their senses. Teens 14 and older may like the Re: Generation Gallery, which explores the world of emotions. Don’t miss the various shows happening at the High Voltage Theatre and Robotic Theatre. Finally, if you and your family are into space, the planetarium offers various programmes for kids of different ages.
Find out more: http://www.kopernik.org.pl/en/
3. Hike the Tatry Mountains
If you were an avid hiker before kids came into your life, it doesn’t mean you have to quit your hobby once you become parents. The Tatra Mountains offer several small valleys that are perfect for the whole family. Magda Piasecka, who blogs about kid-friendly activities in Warsaw and beyond at Kids in the City, suggested exploring Kościeliska Valley, Strążyska Valley, Ku Dziurze and the Morskie Oko Lake. She and her husband have hiked the Tatra Mountains with their 11-month-old son and toddler daughter. She said, ‘The Tatras are the perfect destination for parents who love nature and want to continue their hiking passion with kids.’
If you’re staying in Zakopane, don’t miss the Tatras National Park Centre for Environmental Education, which has recently updated its program to include interactive games where your younglings can experience what it’s like to be a groundhog collecting food for the winter or a goat jumping from boulder to boulder!
4. Splash around
During hot summer days, nothing beats the water. But if the Baltic coast is too cold for you, check out two of Poland’s biggest water parks. Poznań’s Termy Maltańskie features 16 pools of various size and depth, a wave pool and 11 water slides. There's also a climbing wall and a pirate ship for your youngest. The best part is that the aquapark isn’t just for kids. If you wish to relax and rehabilitate, you can explore the jacuzzis, saltwater pools with geothermal water, and the sauna section that offers 14 rooms.
In the north end of the country, not far from Gdynia, the indoor Aquapark Reda offers various pools and slides, one of which passes through a shark aquarium. Open all year around, you can even spend the night here. Poland’s only indoor beach offers teepees set up on fine sand and surrounded by a green garden. You’re guaranteed to be the first ones in the pool the next morning.
5. Hunt gnomes in Wrocław
Wrocław is one of Poland’s most picturesque cities, but what your children will find most intriguing about it won't be its cathedral or the UNESCO-designated Centennial Hall. Instead, it will be the city’s gnomes that dot the streets.
Arm your kids with a map (print one here) and join them on a gnome hunt through the city. Gnomes have become the symbol of the city since the 1980s when they first appeared as a symbol of the Orange Alternative movement that resisted communism through peaceful, absurdist protests. The orange-hatted Wrocław gnomes started out as graffiti, but by the late 1980s became the chosen costume of anti-communism protesters.
The first sculptured gnome appeared in 2001 (you can find Papa Gnome, the first and largest gnome progenitor on the corner of Świdnicka and Kazimierza Wielkiego streets), but since then the gnome population has exploded to include at least 165 little creatures. You can find a dentist, a bum under a palm tree, an ice-cream lover, a tourist, even a developer gnome with a laptop.
6. Go underground in Wieliczka Salt Mine
As one of Poland’s top attractions, the famous Wieliczka salt mine near Krakow isn’t just a marvel to visit for adults. They also offer a special guided tour for children 5 and older called Discover Solilandia, where kids will explore the mine, solve puzzles, and meet interesting characters. At the end, they'll even receive a special diploma. Unfortunately, the guided children’s tour is currently only available in Polish.
If you want a more immersive experience, your whole family can spend the whole night underground! Your experience will include a dinner, underground accommodations in the Słowacki Chamber, which is 125 metres underground and includes a recreation area with games and DVDs, breakfast, and a tour of the mine. Considering the benefits of the underground salt air for the respiratory system, this can be both a memorable and a healthy experience for all involved.
Find out more: https://www.wieliczka-saltmine.com/
7. Castle around at Eagles Nests Trail
Between Kraków and Częstochowa, you'll find the Eagles Nests Trail, which spans 16 mediaeval castles perched among limestone cliffs. The castles were created during the reign of King Casimir the Great as border protection against the Czechs and are now in various state of ruin. The well-marked hiking and biking trail spans over 160 km and includes not just castles but rope parks, caves, religious sites and, of course, beautiful nature. Ogrodzienec, Mirów and Bobolice Castles are particularly recommended. The Eagles Nests Trail can be visited in any reason. Some castles offer knight shows in the spring and summer and skiing areas in the winter.
Find out more: http://www.orlegniazda.pl/
8. Get energised at Energylandia
Energylandia bills itself as the ‘greatest amusement park in Poland’, so of course we had to include it in our list. Located in Zator, a half-hour drive from both Kraków and Katowice, it’s a huge complex offering thirty attractions for various ages. There are themed rides for little kids, families as well as what’s referred to as the ‘Extreme Zone’, where you'll find a hardcore roller-coaster appropriate for thrill-seeking teens and adults. The park is open from April to October and includes water rides and a water park that’s especially fun in the hottest summer months. There are also two pavilions with entertainment shows as well as a 7D cinema (no, I don’t know which seven dimensions there are either).
Find out more: https://energylandia.pl/en/
9. Travel back in time at Tokarnia Ethnographic Park
If you want to explore Poland’s bygone days, spend an afternoon wandering through the open-air Tokarnia Ethnographic Museum, located southwest of Kielce. Here, you'll see houses showcasing traditional Polish folk culture in typical houses from different parts of the Kielce region. The best part of this museum is that you aren’t just left to your own devices. As you explore different structures, you will meet characters – in full historic costume – that will help explain different aspects of rural work and life in the past centuries. The Tokarnia Ethnographic Park hosts events throughout the year, so be sure to check out their schedule.
Find out more: http://mwk.com.pl/
10. See dinosaurs in Jurassic Parks
Last but not least... Poland has three (!) dinosaur parks to choose from – one between Wrocław and Katowice, another between Bydgoszcz and Toruń, and the third and oldest one near Ostrowiec. The first of these parks, Bałtów Jurassic Park, opened as both a tourist attraction and scientific research centre to showcase real dinosaur tracks discovered in the nearby Świętokrzyskie Mountains, a very old mountain range (supposedly the oldest in Europe) that butted out of the sea that covered almost all of today's Poland during the Jurassic period.
Here, children can admire paleontologically accurate life-size reconstructions of various dinosaurs as well as participate in geological workshops. What’s best is that the JuraParks aren’t just for kids. One father who recently visited the JuraPark confessed: ‘I was very skeptical when my wife proposed it, but the dinosaur park was actually amazing, even for adults.’
Find out more: http://jurapark.pl
Written by Sasha Vasilyuk, Sept 2017