What do you expect from a trip to Europe? In many cases it boils down to classical architecture, fascinating history, exciting cities, and picturesque natural regions. For all this and more, look no further than one of the jewels of Central Europe. We’ll cover where to travel in Poland, how to get around, when to go, and how much it’s likely to cost you.
How do I get around?
Like most of Central Europe, you have a variety of options when it comes to traveling in Poland. Rail travel will likely be your go-to to get around, but budget airlines also serve as a great option if entering the country from elsewhere in Europe. Overall, the public transit system is comprehensive, reliable, quick, and safe – and is only improving.
When should I go?
You can justify a trip throughout the year; just expect the winter months to be relatively cold (should be no surprise here). Exploring the cities is a great time no matter when you go – though the spring and fall months often bring more students and fewer tourists than summer if that’s your thing.
Where to travel in Poland
The capital and largest city in the country is likely to be the first stop on any journey through Poland. The skyscrapers and sometimes haphazard jumble of buildings can be a bit overwhelming for first-time visitors, but won’t matter when you really start to discover Warsaw’s secrets. The city has been rebuilt and revitalized numerous times over the years, resulting in a sprawling behemoth that retains some of the classical feel while coming off as distinctly modern. That being said, the Old Town is still one of the must-see parts of the city. There are some great historic excursions here – not all of Poland’s history is pleasant but all of it worth exploring. Of course, with a city of this size come certain benefits. You’ll be pleased to find a great selection of restaurants, bars, and clubs that’s unmatched anywhere else in Poland.
Warsaw might be the beating heart of Poland, but Kraków is the must-see city for visitors. Centered around a picturesque Old Town that stands tall amongst the best in Europe, this postcard of a city is home to a collection of great museums, historical sights, classical architecture, and much more. Be sure to stop by the Wawel complex if you’re looking to be wowed. It’s arguably the most ‘touristy’ city in the country, but that doesn’t mean it feels artificial. You’ll also find a vibrant bar and club scene thanks in part to the large population of students here.
For something a little different, the port city of Gdańsk is just the ticket. The maritime atmosphere defines the city, with centuries of trade and mercantile enterprises still clearly evident along the docks. The city itself is pleasant to look at, with old squares and buildings that feel just different enough from the rest of the country to be unique. This is the ideal place to explore the Baltic coast from – with beaches, cruises, and more on offer nearby. It’s certainly worth a look after exploring the larger Warsaw and Kraków.
If you still haven’t had your fill of historical sights, putting Wrocław on your travel itinerary will rectify that. It’s smaller than Kraków but possesses many of the same charms ranging from beautiful architecture to idyllic parks – and of course a bustling market square. Like many other large Polish cities, there’s also a renowned nightclub and pub scene to go along with the numerous students that call Wrocław home. Be sure to sample some of the city’s famous beer before you head off in search of other adventures!
It’s not a pleasant trip, but it is an important one. Auschwitz-Birkenau stands today as the most poignant and unsettling reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust. Over 1 million people were killed at the camp complex during World War II, and the tragedy is still palpable in the air. Today, Auschwitz is home to memorials, remembrances, and museums recounting the events that took place. Again, this isn’t a pleasurable trip by any means but you owe it to yourself to explore one of the darkest times in human history.
The forested region in eastern Poland is the perfect escape for those travelers who want to get a bit closer to nature. An abundance of national parks can be found here, covering areas ranging from marshland and lakes to forests full of fascinating wildlife. There are towns and cities spread throughout the area, but they aren’t the main reason to come here. Instead, visit Podlasie if you want to get away from the bustle of urban life for a time.
If you don’t know much about Poland, it might surprise you to learn that there is a beautiful and rugged mountain range that cuts its way through the country. These are the Carpathian Mountains. A dream come true for hikers, bikers, and winter sports enthusiasts (in season of course) – the Carpathians mix stunning peaks and hills with an abundance of wildlife and idyllic vistas. Nestled between the peaks is a network of small towns that make ideal pit stops for weary travelers.
How much does it cost? ($$)*
A round trip flight between Pearson and Warsaw is likely to start around the $850 Canadian mark, though the prices can go higher. Be sure to shop around to find the best possible deal. As always with Europe, visiting multiple countries is an affordable and fulfilling option – so you may want to look into other destinations throughout the continent as an entry point before traveling to Poland.
Poland itself is usually a slightly cheaper option that some of the better-known European getaways such as Germany or the Netherlands. Expect to spend about $83 per day with a budget of $45 for accommodation and $20 for food. If you’re thrifty, you may even to get by with just $32 per day while living like a king will push you closer to $228 per day. Remember that despite being a member of the EU, Poland uses the złoty instead of the euro.
*Cost rating on a scale of ‘$ to $$$$’, or ‘cheapest to most expensive’
Health and Safety
Visiting Poland is relatively safe, with the Government of Canada recommending normal security precautions throughout. While the violent crime rate is low, petty crime does occur in busy and tourist-heavy areas. There have been reports of gangs (generally youths) harassing people on the basis of race, sex, or sexual orientation. While the highways are improving, some roads in more remote areas may not be up to the highest safety standards. Overall though, visiting Poland should be a safe, secure, and above all, fascinating experience.
These are just a few examples of where to travel in Poland, there’s tons more to see and do. If you think somewhere else should be on the list, let us know in the comments. Check out our Country of the Week for more general information about Polish history and culture.
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