When it comes to fairy tale destinations, there aren’t many countries that can compete with Poland. The country’s fairy tales don’t simply exist in storybooks and the imagination, they can be found all across the country. From medieval towns to fantastical salt mines, hidden dwarves and stone dragons. There’s charming architecture of a time gone by in painted houses and romantic castles and the living breathing enchanted forests of yesteryear. Around every corner your imagination can go wild!
Whether you have a princess without a crown or a valiant prince in the making, a storybook lover or a history buff, every member of the family will be delighted by these charming days out! The whole family can lose themselves in the land of make believe, right here in Poland.
Coo over Castles
What better way to immerse yourself in a fairy tale adventure, than to explore some of the country’s most charming castles. If like me, you enjoy ‘window shopping’ for castles and would like to see more than one, you can do no better than the Lower Silesia region of Poland.
Hire a carriage (or a car) and spend a few days exploring the palatial palaces and mystical ruins that occupy the area. The castles originate from an impressive range of history, with some as old at the 12th century and some the grandiose homes of 17th century nobles.
For entirely different reasons, my favorites are Zamek Chojnik and Zamek Książ. Zamek Chojnik is an overgrown and other worldly ruin, that includes a beautiful woodland hike up to its location atop a hill, whereas Zamek Książ is very much a palatial affair. A gorgeous coral building which sits majestically within excellently manicured gardens, it’s the perfect princess castle!
Whilst majestic architecture is abundant also in my new home city Krakow, for truly magical buildings it’s best to head out of the city. My favorite castle of all is the beautiful Kazimierz Castle which is nestled in the spectacular Ojców National Park (just 24 Kilometers away from Krakow). Characterized by its ragged rock formations and thick woodlands, it’s easy to feel like you’ve stepped into the most dazzling of stone globes!
Explore Magical Forests
Away from the hustle and bustle of Poland’s medieval towns, an enchanting forest can be found on the borderline of Poland Belarus. Bialowieża Forest is the last primeval forest in lowland Europe, the last home to the European Bison called here żubr and centuries old Oak, Elm and Lime trees. Visit in winter to track the bison and wolves and to feel like you’ve stepped into the white wilderness of Narnia; or come and spring and travel around the forest on a noble steed (or you know, a mountain bike).
There’s no woodland area more unique than Poland’s Crooked Forest, in West Pomerania. Nobody really knows why the pine trees of Crooked Forest all bend sharply to the North just above the ground level, before curving back towards the sky. Were the trees manipulated by a human tool when they were planted? Was it simply a freak of nature, caused by a vicious snow storm? Or perhaps it was cursed by a wizard!
Hunt for Dwarves in Wieliczka and Wrocław
One of the most infamous attractions of Poland to this day, is the awe inspiring Wieliczka salt mine. Coax your children there by telling them it’s the rumored home of the dwarf kingdom, then watch their eyes light up as they take in the beautifully carved subterranean architecture and sparkling chandeliers. Historic statues and mythical creatures carved out of the rock salt, ensure that the experience is truly magical!
In recent years, the Dwarves of Poland have found a new home above ground - the town of Wrocław, where their population has been increasing steadily since 2005. There are over 350 now going about their day to day business in the town and special maps can be procured to assist your little ones in their search; although perhaps it’s wise to warn your children that their magical powers turn them to statues as soon as human eyes rest on them! Wrocław’s dwarves are scattered across the whole of the town, leaving plenty of opportunity to sightsee as you go!
Search for Dragons’ Lairs
Any visitor to Krakow can’t fail to notice that stone dragon gargoyles are perched atop many of the city’s oldest buildings and make no mistake, whilst these dragons may be made of rock, once upon a time a living breathing dragon terrorized the city! Well, so the legend says anyway.
A charming day can be spent counting the dragons and visiting the Dragon’s cave at the bottom of Wawel Castle Hill. Children can hear all about the story of old King Krak and the shoemaker who finally defeated the dragon and even see a fire breathing stone dragon. The perfect activity for your dragon slayer in the making!
Painted Villages and Crooked Houses
To truly feel like you’ve stepped into a magical kingdom, a visit to the ancient village of Zalipie is an absolute must. Rightly one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, Zalipie is home to beautiful painted wood cottages. In a tradition, which has flourished over the last centuries, women of the village painted floral motifs over cracks in their wooden homes, with strikingly beautiful results.
A modern day kooky building is Sopot’s Crooked House, built in 2004 by the design team Szotyńscy & Zaleski. The vertigo inducing house, is warped and confusing in an utterly charming fashion! Inspired by the Polish fairytale illustrations of Jan Marcin Szancer and Per Dahlberg; it’s truly like stepping into the pages of your favorite story book!