Just on the outskirts of Krakow, is a beautiful forested area known as Niepołomice forest, or Puszcza Niepołomicka in Polish. The forest consists of 6 nature reserves and has a total area of around 94 hectares. It’s a lovely place to spend a couple of hours walking or cycling in peaceful surroundings.
Because of it’s size it borders quite a few towns and villages, including Targowisko, but the town with which it shares its name is Niepołomice. When Krakow was the capital of Poland back in the 1200s the forest was a popular place for the kings of Poland to come hunting and King Casimir III the Great built the royal hunting castle which is still in great condition and is in the town centre. The town centre also hosts several nice coffee & ice cream shops and it’s a very pleasant place to sit and watch the world go by.
Back in the forest, there are multiple different environments within the 94 hectares, ranging from swamps, grasslands, lakes, evergreen forests and deciduous forests. It’s a very diverse habitat and is home to many different species, including deer, wild boar, beaver, black storks, snakes, lizards, owls, eagles and many more. There is also a reserve which is not accessible to the public but which is home to a herd of European bison.
Unfortunately, it is also home to several mass graves of local partisans, Polish soldiers and Jews from Niepołomice and nearby Bochnia murdered during the Nazi occupation. These are now marked by memorials throughout the forest which can be reached by following the marked trails.
If you wanted to visit the forest, the easiest way is to drive but if you haven’t hired a car then you can easily get a mini bus from outside Galeria Krakowska or take a train from Krakow to Klaj or Szarow. If you take the train to Klaj or Szarow, it will cost around 5zl and the forest is right on the side of the station.
I really enjoy spending time in the forest and unfortunately don’t go as often as I should. I’m lucky enough to live around 10 minutes cycle from the forest so should really get over there more often, but life often gets in the way.