Poland Travel Guide

Acting as a bridge between the east and west for centuries, Poland maintains much of its Eastern bloc charm with horse-drawn carts still treading the countryside. While many Poles can’t wait to leave their country for richer European states, it has grown into a modern, vibrant and progressive nation, which at the same time maintains its traditional culture.

Why You Should Go

What’s Cool: Ice-boating on frozen lakes, hiking in national parks, stud farms, mushroom picking, skiing in Tatara Mountains, spas and health resorts, cheap spare car parts, medieval Krakow and friendly and welcoming people.

What’s Not: Strange toilet signs, pickpockets, reckless driving, Auschwitz, frequent car break-ins, May school trips, slow internet, few people speak English, bad roads, too many McDonald’s, non-licensed taxis and stag parties from UK.

When to Go

Poland has a continental climate with four distinct seasons.
Spring (March to May) has mild temperatures.
Summer (June to August) is warm with lots of tourists.
Autumn (September to November) is still fine and a good time to visit.
Winter (December to February) is very cold and the ski season.

Getting There & Away

Warsaw Airport is the main travel hub and has domestic flights linking the main cities. Express and InterCity trains are generally reliable and efficient, and tickets are cheap. The road network provides mainly single-carriageway roads, while bus services are plentiful. Reckless and drunk driving lead to many accidents. There are good public transportation services in all towns, with added trams and trolleybuses running in a dozen of the larger urban areas.

Health & Safety

Poland is generally safer than most European countries, but petty crime such as pick-pocketing is prevalent. Try to avoid disaffected young males with shaved heads in counterfeit Adidas tracksuits. They spell trouble. Don’t drink the tap water and watch out for rabies. Hospitals are adequate and most doctors speak English.

Food & Hospitality

Splurge on fine dining at a fraction of the cost of Western European countries. Or try the subsidized milk bars for a real 1970s feel. Soups are popular and often make a whole meal. Hotels are cheap and comfortable, while rooms in private houses are even cheaper and a better way of getting to know the Polish way of life.

Itineraries

One week is the least you can get away with to enjoy some of the highlights.
Two or three days to see the capital’s highlights.
Two or three days in Krakow’s medieval atmosphere.
Two or three days in Gdansk, birthplace of Solidarnosc and boasting lots of historical landmarks.

Extra time
Two days to cross Wroclaw’s 100 bridges and visit plentiful historical landmarks.
Two days in the medieval walled town of Torun, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
One day to pay tribute to the victims of the holocaust at Auschwitz concentration camp.

Highlights

Warsaw’s Old Town: was faithfully rebuilt from original plans and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Krakow’s: boasts a delightful medieval atmosphere and is one of UNESCO’s 12 most significant historical sites.

Poznan: is home to the Italianate Town Hall in the Old Market Square, Gorki Palace, the 12th-century Church of St John and Przemyslaw Castle.

Gdansk: features the Lenin shipyards, the largest Gothic church in Poland and the Church of the Virgin Mary, possibly the largest brick building in the world.

Wieliczka: is another of Poland’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, home to cathedral-like salt mines.

Ketrzyn: is the site of Hitler’s ‘Eagle’s Nest’, the concrete bunker where members of his High Command tried to assassinate him in August 1944.

Activities

Theatres: The National is the most celebrated of Warsaw’s numerous theatres.

Hiking: through Kampinos National Park, where wild boar and elk can be spotted.

Horseback riding: has a long tradition and fans can choose from a large choice of riding schools.

Skiing: on the white slopes of the Tatra Mountains.

Beach life: on the Pomeranian coast, at Kolobrzeg, large and chic; or Leba, a quiet resort with a fabulous white sand beach.

Pay tribute: to Nazi victims at Auschwitz concentration camp.

Festivals & Events

Poles are devout Roman Catholics, so Christian celebrations are of great importance. Here are the main ones.

January: Warsaw Theater Meetings feature the highlights of Polish theaters over the past year.
June: Lajkonik Festivity is when a man dons a hobbyhorse costume and leads a parade through the streets of Krakow.
September: Wratislavia Cantans is complete with oratorios and cantatas.
November: Polish Film Festival in Gdynia is the leading showcase of Poland on celluloid.

Onward Travel