History School Trips to Krakow, Poland
Journey to an area that witnessed one of the 20th century’s darkest periods.
Krakow is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe with a rich cultural history, but set against the backdrop of the horror of the Holocaust. For centuries it was the capital of Poland and the charming market square and impressive churches are a testament to that importance.
A trip to Krakow is most valuable in helping students to begin to understand the full inhumanity and damage of the Holocaust. A visit to one of the Nazi concentration camps or death camps is essential and the notorious Auschwitz and gas chambers of Birkenau are just a short drive away from the city.
Similarly, the Jewish Quarter is brimming with original sites, as well as a host of museums that will help students discover over 750 years of the country’s rich history.
Bring history to life
A helping hand from a History Tour Guide.
Expert knowledge, an understanding of your students’ educational and social needs and in-the-field assistance are just three of the benefits of opting for a History Tour Guide. We have carefully selected a handful of guides who specialise in various areas of history including WWI, WWII and the Holocaust.
“A fabulous experience for staff and students, well organised, supported and thoroughoully amazing!”
What other history teachers thought of Krakow…
100% of our clients said they would recommend a Krakow History Trip with Rayburn Tours to another history teacher rating their overall touring experience at 4.8 out of 5. As Mr Russell Williams from The Gateway Academy said, “A trip to Krakow is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to absorb a different culture and to learn where prejudice can ultimately lead.”
Did you know?
In 1939, Poland had the largest Jewish community in Europe of almost 3.5 million. This may be why 70% of the Nazi extermination camps during WWII were located in what is now Poland, including the three most infamous camps: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka and Belzec.
Almost 1.4 million people visit Auschwitz Birkenau every year.
Our quick, online quote form allows our specialists to provide you with a bespoke quotation for a trip tailor-made to your group’s individual requirements.
Krakow Fact File
KS4 and KS5 (or equivalent)
Flight or coach
John Paul II International Airport Krakow – Balice
- Modern European History
- The Early 20th century
- The Second World War
- The Holocaust
- Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries
Krakow History Study Visits
For students studying the Holocaust, Krakow is the destination for the ultimate History Trip. Although a visit to Auschwitz will undoubtedly be the highlight, there are an array of other visits that help enhance your students’ understanding of this area of the history syllabus. Here are just some of our most highly recommended visits.
All groups visit this extremely moving memorial to the 1.5 million prisoners who perished in the the Auschwitz concentration camp between June 1941 and January 1945. The vast majority of these inmates were of Jewish origin from 28 different nationalities and also included Polish social and political activists and Soviet prisoners. They suffered greatly and were exterminated in gas chambers, starved or worked to death.
It is very important that students visit both parts of the camp, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau and we offer groups either a 3.5 hour guided tour or a detailed 6 hour study tour of both camps. At both sites, groups are shown the vast extent of the grounds and most buildings are accessible to visitors including many disturbing exhibitions. One of the most visited permanent exhibitions on the site is titled 'Grounds of the former Auschwitz I Concentration Camp' which has been open since 1955 and showcases prisoner garments, bunks and other furnishings from prisoner rooms including seized items. Students can also view a 15-minute film at the visitor reception building of Auschwitz I which presents the first moments after liberation.
To help you prepare your students for what they will witness in this, one of the most well-known concentration camps in Europe, learning tools can be downloaded from the Auschwitz website.
Krakow Walking Tour
Meet your guide at St Mary's Church on the beautiful main old town square for a walking tour of the city. This tour can be tailored towards the main sights of the old town. Here groups will learn the fascinating history of the market square, the largest plaza of medieval Europe where in circa 1300 the first Cloth Hall was formed for textile trade. It is now a splendid Renaissance edifice with an ornate roof adorned with grotesque masks and selling assorted souvenirs. The market square has remained the hub of the city since the 13th century. Krakow residents and visitors come here to meet each other, to do business, to shop, and enjoy themselves.
Groups may wish to focus on the Southern Kazimierz district, Krakow's Jewish quarter, which became the city's ghetto during the Second World War. They can explore the Old Synagogue which dates back to 15th Century and see where, in March 1941, the Nazis forced all Krakow Jews to resettle in the newly created ghetto before then forcing the 17,000 ghetto inhabitants into concentration camps just two years later.
Students who have seen the Spielberg film 'Schindler's List' will have the opportunity to visit Szeroka Street which was used extensively during filming.
Wawel Hill and Castle
Located to the South of the old town, this castle is at the heart of Poland's history. From the 11th century onwards, Poland's monarchs took up their residence here in the Royal Castle and they were both crowned and buried here, in the Wawel Cathedral. Polish national heroes have also been laid to rest here since the 19th century.
The castle not only overflows with priceless art treasures, architectural beauties, relics of the past and curiosities, it is also full of glory, magic, history and fable. Groups will view the castle from the outside as part of their old town walking tour but may also wish to visit the interior during their stay.
Galicia Jewish Museum
Located in a renovated mill based in the heart of the Jewish quarter, the Galicia Jewish museum prides itself on presenting Jewish history from a new perspective. It educates the students to focus on the future of both Poles and Jews, as well as detailing their complex histories. It also challenges the stereotypes and misconceptions of Jewish history.
The excellent permanent photo exhibition, Traces of Memory, is internationally acclaimed. The thought-provoking pictures show relics of Jewish life and culture which were destroyed in the Second World War. There are also spaces for temporary exhibits and the museum is currently showing 'Street art Jewish style'.
There is also a fascinating opportunity to meet with a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust. This could be combined with a museum tour. At the museum you can also find one of the largest bookshops in Poland.
Students have the opportunity to visit the original factory building of the German industrialist, Oskar Schindler. The incredible story of this Nazi Party member, who saved the lives of over 1,200 Jewish factory workers, has touched the world, and was made particularly famous by the 1993 Spielberg film 'Schindler's List'. Guided tours are provided through the building which exhibits the harsh reality of Jewish life under Nazi rule.
One of the most interesting features of the museum are the various recreated scenes used to depict life for various Polish inhabitants during this time, such as a hairdresser's salon and a typical Krakow basement apartment.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
This 13th century mine is one of the oldest salt mines in Europe. During medieval times, salt was the equivalent of oil and Wieliczka was one of the biggest and most profitable mines in the world. Did you know that the mine features among twelve objects on the UNESCO's World Cultural and Natural Heritage List. During the 2.5 hour guided tour, groups descend 150m below ground level to view beautiful chapels, ballrooms, passages and caverns carved in the salt rock.
A word of warning, there are 800 steps throughout, of which 350 take you down to the mine to start your journey, so bring comfy shoes!
Krakow Sample Itineraries
Your bespoke itinerary will include the appropriate balance of educational visits and leisure excursions to fill your chosen duration and meet your aims and objectives. Your dedicated School Tour Coordinator will offer advice and recommendations with the sole aim of creating the perfect itinerary for your group, but just to get you inspired, we have outlined the itinerary created for one of our clients below.
Dates: 24th - 27th March
Passengers: 24 students and 3 adults
Departure airport: Liverpool Airport
Accommodation: Hotel Wyspianski
Board Basis: Half Board
Overview of visits: Walking tour of Krakow, Auschwitz and Birkenau, Wieliczka Salt Mine, Schindler's Museum.
After meeting at Liverpool airport for an early flight, the group arrived safely in Krakow. They were swiftly transferred to their hotel, The Wyspianski, for a lunchtime check in and unpacking. With no time to waste it was off for a stroll to the main square for some lunch and the groups' first taste of Krakow. The group were then met by their local tour guide at St Mary's Church in the old town square and spent the remainder of the afternoon on a 4 hour guided walking tour of Krakow old town and the Jewish Quarter, where they learned of the 17,000 Jewish people who were forced to resettle in 1941. It was then back to the hotel for an evening meal and some much needed sleep.View the full day-by-day itinerary
The day ahead would prove to be an emotional and thought-provoking day as the group headed to Auschwitz and embarked on a 6 hour guided study tour that included both camps Auschwitz and Birkenau. The evening was spent winding down, and reflecting as a group on what they had learned and experienced that day.
The group was rewarded with a small lie in today before departing for the Wieliczka salt mines where they took part in a guided tour of the mines. The group was amazed at the three chapels, and entire cathedral that had been entirely carved out of the rock salt by the miners. It was then off to Schindler's Museum where they would be shown round by their tour guide. The rest of the afternoon was spent at leisure exploring the centre of Krakow where the group saw the Cloth Hall on the Market Square and explored the Jewish Quarter and Wawel Castle before returning to the hotel for an evening meal.
After breakfast the group checked out of the hotel and began their journey home arriving back at Liverpool airport at lunchtime.
Dates: Friday 15th February – Monday 18th February
Departure airport: London Gatwick
Passengers: 20 students and 2 adults
Accommodation: Hotel Wyspianski
Board Basis: Bed and Breakfast
Overview of visits: Walking tour of Krakow, Auschwitz and Birkenau, Wieliczka Salt Mine, Schindler's Museum
The group had an early start to their trip coming from the Isle of Wight and arrived at London Gatwick for an earlier than usual check-in. Upon arrival in Krakow the group travelled directly to their hotel for their rooms to be allocated. Once settled, it was just a short walk to meet up with their guide at St. Mary's Church on the old town square for a 4 hour walking tour of Krakow. The group continued to the CK Dezerter restaurant for their evening meal and spent the rest of the evening at leisure. A busy and educational day had been had by all.View the full day-by-day itinerary
After breakfast it was off to the Wieliczka salt mines for a guided tour, where they witnessed the skill of the miners who had carved chapels and an entire cathedral out of the rock salt located here. This was followed by lunch and an afternoon spent at Schindler's Museum before continuing on into Krakow for some late afternoon sight seeing and an evening meal at the Western themed Sioux restaurant.
The group spent the day at Auschwitz, taking part in a 6 hour guided study tour of both camps Auschwitz and Birkenau. After an emotional day the group returned to Krakow to wind down over a folklore themed evening meal and show at the Miod I Wino restaurant, before returning to their hotel.
The group returned to the UK on an early morning flight.
We have a number of hotels and hostels in and around Krakow which are perfectly suited to school groups. Here are two of our favourites:
Hotel Alexander II
Similar to Hotel Alexander I, this hotel is located in the city centre and just a 10-minute walk of Galeria Krakowska Krakow Barbican and Florian’s Gate. Just 15 minutes away you’ll find the Main Market Square and Czartoryski Museum.
Featuring 30 rooms which all include free Wi-Fi, LCD TVs and air conditioning, guests are sure to have a comfortable stay. The hotel also has a 24-hour desk and computer station.
Named after the painter and poet Stanislaw Wyspianski, this welcoming and friendly hotel is modern and comfortable and is located in the heart of Krakow close to the market square and train station. The hotel has 231 rooms spread over 4 floors each with TV, telephone, wi-fi and hairdryers. There is also a gift shop and restaurant serving Polish and International food. The Wyspianski is fully adapted for disabled students with lifts, ramps, and spacious rooms, all with wide doorways and accessible bathrooms.
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