Complete travel guide to travel in Poland
Practical information, good advice and destinations to visit, find all the tips about Poland, to live an unforgettable trip!
Presentation of Poland
Poland is a large country located in central Europe. It borders Germany and Austria to the west and Ukraine and Belarus to the east. It also shares a border with Lithuania in the north, and Slovakia and the Czech Republic in the south. The landmass of the nation covers around 120,000 square miles, and the climate is generally temperate and very pleasant, especially in summer, although it can become very cold indeed during winter time. Poland is the sixth most populous state in the European Union, with approximately 38.5 million people living there. Since the collapse of the Iron Curtain in the 1990s, Poland has emerged as a popular holiday destination, and there is a very diverse range of activities and places of interest for travellers to Poland to visit. There are 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Poland, 14 of which are cultural. Lovers of the natural world will find plenty of wilderness there, and there are plenty of forests, mountains, lakes and rivers to keep outdoors enthusiasts happy. The country's beautiful coastline possesses some amazing beaches.
The Top 10 Things to Do in Poland
1. Enjoy the Country's Amazing Cuisine
Poland is a land of great food and drink, and you can find superb regional variations of national dishes in every corner of the country. Polish recipes often make surprising juxtapositions of ingredients, and you can find delicious dishes like herring in cream sauce, accompanied by sliced apple and onion. You might prefer to try a roulade, made from beef, goose or duck, stuffed with pork and accompanied by gherkins. For vegetarians, there are dishes like pierogi, which is a type of stuffed dumpling, often filled with curd cheese.
2. Find Historical Inspiration in Gdansk
The Hanseatic port city of Gdansk has a long and rich history, that stretches right up until the present day. While many people will be familiar with the role that the city's shipyards played in helping to bring Lech Walesa and his Solidarity trade union to prominence before the fall of Communism, fewer will be aware of the city's rich medieval trading history. You can visit museums like the European Solidarity Centre, the Old Toy Gallery, the National Maritime Museum, the Museum of the Second World War and the Gdansk Historical Museum if you want to explore the history of the city further.
3. See Europe's Largest Land Mammal in its Natural Environment
The European bison still roams wild in the forests of Poland. In the Bia?owie?a National Park, these majestic beasts can be seen in the primeval forests. The park lies on both sides of the border between Poland and Belarus, and its forest, which is remnant of the vast woodlands that once covered central Europe, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. As well as the bison, you can see a host of other species, and the trees themselves are spectacular, standing as they do on land that has lain undisturbed for centuries.
4. Experience the Joy of Krakow
While World War Two was a terrible time for Poland and its people, with many of the nation's towns and cities being utterly destroyed in the mid-1940s, Krakow was one city that escaped the worst of the war. This means that much of the old architecture of this 16th century royal capital is intact. You can visit Europe's largest medieval town square, the Rynek G?ówny, which has survived intact. The Cloth Hall is well worth a visit, and you can still hear a trumpet sounded from the high tower of St Mary's Church. This trumpet call has been heard since the 13th century, when it warned of Tartar attacks.
5. Visit Warsaw at Christmas
While Poland can get very cold indeed during winter, the weather does add a magical touch to the country's cities, especially Warsaw. Visiting Poland's capital at Christmas time is a wonderful way to spend the festive period, Lights gleam across the city, highlighting the festive decorations, and a Christmas stroll up the city's Royal Route can be a truly magical experience. Christmas markets help to create a happy, festive atmosphere that is well worth sampling.
6. Commemorate One of History's Darkest Eras
Poland was, sadly, a cauldron for some of World War Two's most violent, heinous and evil acts, with the country occupied by the Nazis. One dreadful legacy that the Nazis left in Poland was that of the concentration camps, used to murder Jews, ethnic minorities and political opponents of Hitler's evil regime. You can bear witness to this hreatbreaking history at Auschwitz-Birkenau, possibly the most infamous of the extermination camps used by the Nazis. Located in the town of O?wi?cim, a heritage centre and museum allow visitors to understand the terrible events that occurred in a dark era for Poland.
7. Experience the Diverse Cultural History of Bia?ystok
Bia?ystok is the largest city in the north west of Poland, and is the capital of the Podlasie region. It is well worth a visit due to its unique character. This has been shaped by its history of housing a diverse range of nationalities and ethnic groups. As well as Poles, Jews, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Germans, Russians, Ukrainians, Romanies, Muslims and Tatars have all made their homes here over the centuries. Some 15 percent of the population is Orthodox in faith, and the church music of this religion remains important in the cultural life of the city. You can immerse yourself in it at the International Festival of Orthodox Church Music and on Bialystok Orthodox Church Music Days.
8. Explore Warsaw's Jewish History
There is plenty to do in the Polish capital, as you will have read above. One visitor attraction really deserves its own section, though, and that is the Warsaw Rising Museum. This is a cutting edge museum that uses innovative technology to give visitors an immersive experience. Sound, light and film are used to put you right in the middle of the Jewish Uprising of 1944, when the residents of the city's Jewish Ghetto rose up against the Nazis. You can then visit the Museum of the History of Polish Jews for a complementary experience that explores the 1000-year history of Jews in Poland.
9. Get Adventurous in the Carpathian Mountains
While much of Poland is famously flat, if mountains are your thing you can find plenty of rugged scenery and adventurous activities in the Carpathian Mountains. This mid-sized mountain range runs the length of Poland's border from Germany to Ukraine. Skiers will enjoy a trip to Zakopane, south of Krakow, while mountain bikers will prefer the Karkonosze range of hills in Poland's south west.
10. Party on in Kazimierz
If you have been sampling Krakow's cultural delights during the day, you may well want to let your hair down a little in the evening time. If so, then the distric of Kazimierz in Krakow might be just the place for you to head to. The district was once the Jewish quarter of Karkow, and was neglected for years after World War Two, with many of the buildings falling derelict. In recent years, bars, clubs and restaurants have sprung up, and the district is now a lively place to go for a night out.
When to Visit Poland
When it comes to the weather, spring is probably the best time of year to visit Poland. The weather is warming up after winter at this time of year, and the country explodes into a festival of greenery. Summers in Poland can be very hot, with temperatures reaching 35C, but they can also be very wet. Tourists pack into resort towns, especially on the coast, in summer too. Winter can be very cold, but this can be a great time to visit cities like Warsaw, which possess a unique mid-winter atmosphere. Just make sure you wrap up warm!
How to Get to Poland
It takes just over a couple of hours to fly directly from London to Warsaw. There is a huge range of methods that you can use to travel to Poland, depending upon where you live in Europe. As Poland is in the EU, you can simply drive over the border from Germany or Austria. There is also an air-conditioned, express train that runs from Berlin to Warsaw. How you choose to travel depends on your point of origin and the budget that is available to you, but you have a vast range of options at your disposal.
Which Hotel to Choose
Voyage Prive hotels make excellent choices for accommodation. One of these is the Yarden Aparthotel in Krakow, located within walking distance of the city's main Market Square. You can stay in two 19th century townhouses which are packed with old world charm. You can also book onto a Voyage Prive Discover Warsaw trip, which lasts for six to eight days. During this trip you will stay at three and four star hotels in Warsaw, Krakow and Zakopane, allowing you to explore some of Poland's main cultural sites. Another option is to book on the Voyage Prive trip that explores the treasures of Poland. On this trip, you will stay in four and five star hotels in Warsaw, Gdansk, Poznan, Wroclaw and Torun.
Culture and Cultural Festivals in Poland
Poland has a fairly open and liberal-minded culture, though many people, especially in rural areas, remain devoutly Roman Catholic. There are plenty of opportunities to explore the artistic and cultural life of Poland at the various arts festivals which are held in various towns and cities across the nation. One of these is St Dominik's Fair, which has been staged in Gdansk since 1260, and is mainly focused on food and drink. Rock music fans can enjoy the Woodstock Fesitval, held in the summer near Kostryn Nad Odra. The Festival of Kinetic Art of Light in Lodz attracts around 500,000 visitors every year to its celebration of Lodz's cultural life.
The map of Poland
Our Practical Advice for Poland
What to bring back from Poland?
If you are allowed to take it into your home country, Polish food makes for a wonderful gift. Some authentically homemade pierogi, for example, can evoke rich memories when cooked. Polish vodka is famous across the world for its potency. Traditional wood carvings, Gdansk amber and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine are among the more esoteric items that you can bring home as souvenirs or gifts from your time in Poland.
What currency to use?
Although Poland is in the EU, it does not use Euros. Instead, you will need to obtain some Polish zloty for use on your hooliday.
What language is spoken?
The main language spoken in Poland is Polish. A regional dialect known as Kashubian is also an official language of the country, but you are unlikely to need to speak this.
How to get to Poland?
Depending upon where you are in the world, you can fly, drive, sail or use rail transport to get to Poland. The country is well connected to European transport routes.
What to pack?
This really depends on the time of year you are visiting and what you plan to do. If you are visiting in spring or summer, you should make sure that you have wet weather clothing as well as summer garments. You need to take the full range of winter wear if you are travelling when it is cold.
How long to stay?
This again depends on what you want to do. Poland is great for city breaks of just a few days, right up to stays of several weeks, if you are wildlife watching or adventuring in the forests and mountains.
Family Activities for Teenagers and Children
If you are planning on travelling to Poland with a young family, there are plenty of places to visit where they can find a range of things to do. Again, this largely depends on where you are visiting and what you plan to do. Rest assured, though, that you can find plenty of family friendly restaurants, theme parks, museums and a range of other venues in Poland.
What Budget to Plan?
The Polish Zloty is a relatively strong currency when compared to the Euro, the pound or the dollar, and that makes Poland a relatively inexpensive place to visit. If you are travelling from northern Europe or the UK, you should find Poland very inexpensive indeed, although this, again, will depend on the type of holiday you are having and where you are visiting. You should expect prices to higher in cities like Krakow and Warsaw than they are in rural regions.