Poland is easily one of Europe’s most underestimated countries. While it may have a somewhat tragic history that often leaves potential visitors expecting somewhere drab and tattered, Poland is far from it!
Instead what you will find is a country well preserved from the effects of a challenging past, now standing tall and shining bright as an affordable tourist destination full of equal parts history and natural scenery.
While Poland holds a special significance for our family, being the place of birth of both Simon’s parents, there is so much appeal for all travellers. By not being a huge tourist destination, you can enjoy everything Poland has on offer minus the massive crowds of many other European cities.
Bordering countries such as Russia, Germany, Belarus and Slovakia, a visit to Poland is also the gateway to many other top travel destinations.
We have put together a Poland travel guide to help you get the most of this amazing country.
POLAND TRAVEL GUIDE
POLAND CITY GUIDES
Poland is best travelled by bus if you are looking for an affordable and reliable transport option. Many of the younger generation rely on public transport to get to and from due to them often being unable to afford their own car, so the buses are frequent. You will also find trams in some of the larger cities, such as Warsaw.
All day travel tickets are available at many convenience stores and ticket machines, or single trip tickets for public transport.
There are also trains connecting many of the cities, which is an alternative affordable transport. Or there are taxi services in most parts of Poland also.
Poland has several airports, with the major international airport being Chopin Airport in Warsaw. LOT Polish Airlines is Poland’s international airline carrier, travelling around Poland, Europe and further abroad.
Accommodation in Poland is quite varied, with typical hotel options in all major cities, including many of the large global hotel chains. There is speciality historic accommodation situated in some of the older parts of Poland, many maintained to their original glory, with a few mod cons added.
Bed and breakfast accommodation are also popular in Poland, like much of Europe as an alternative to the big chain hotels. In the south of Poland, chalet accommodation is widely available as well as self contained apartment style accommodation throughout the country.
Poland have their own currency, the złoty. The złoty is subdivided into 100 groszy. Typically 1 EURO = 4 złoty, which as remained relatively stable for the past several years, making Poland a budget travel destination.
FOOD AND DRINK
The cost of food and drink, alcohol included, is very affordable in Poland, although of course the prices are a little higher around the main tourist areas and airports. You can often get great street food in parts of Poland, or cheap eats at a ‘sandwich shop’.
Must Try Food in Poland:
Pierogi – A popular dumpling style dish, traditionally filled with ground meat and herbs, or potato and cheese. There are also dessert varieties filled with fruits.
Bigos – A cabbage and meat stew that is perfect for the often cold climate in Poland, and often referred to as Hunter’s Stew due to it being made with whatever meat was available at the time.
Placki – Shredded potato pancakes that are fried and often served with sour cream or fried mushrooms.
Traditional smoked polish sausage is also a must have, as seen in the photo above. So good!
Expect hearty food, with lots of meat, potatoes and cabbage. No watching your weight while in Poland! Check out our must try food in Poland guide as a starting point.
MUST SEE POLAND ATTRACTIONS
Stroll Through Old Towns – With some of Europe’s most impressive town squares, this is a must see Poland experience. Krakow has the largest town square in Europe, but you will also marvel at how well restored Warsaw’s old town is following the destruction from WWII.
Visit Auschwitz-Birkenau – A tough travel experience that should not be missed when visiting Poland, as an opportunity to learn more about such a significant and tragic part of world history. The Auschwitz – Birkenau Memorial and Museum is the largest of the concentration camps from WWII. A very sobering travel experience that will stay with you.
Bialowieza Bison Park – To the north east of Poland, near the Belarus border, you will find Bialowieza Forest and Bison Park. The natural scenery is so tranquil and well preserved, with the chance to see animals in the wild, or some guaranteed sightings at the Bison Park.
Tour Wieliczka Salt Mine – Dating back to the 13th century and continuing table salt production right up until 2007 makes Wieliczka one of the world’s oldest operating salt mines. These days you can enjoy a variety of tours through the mine to see sculptures and the impressive St Kinga Chapel, or learn what it is like to be a miner. There is also a health retreat and accommodation within the salt mine.
Warsaw Rising War Museum – By far one of the best war museums we have visited, you will learn a lot about WWII and the impact on Warsaw in particular. Not a good option for children as some of the displays are very graphic.
Hike the Tatra Mountains – Sitting along the border between Poland and Slovakia are the impressive Tatra Mountains, often with peaks of snow against the horizon. Trekking through the mountains will bring you up close with beautiful scenery, glacial lakes and wildlife. Ride up the Kasprowy Wierch cable car and check out the views atop one of the tallest Tatras in the region.
Ski or Snowboard in Zakopane – A popular winter holiday destination for Polish natives and the rest of Europe, Zakopane has plenty on offer for the winter sport loving adventurers.
Beach Walks Along the Baltic Sea – The seaside towns of Gdansk, Sopot and Gydnia are popular in the warmer weather for their beaches, seaport and cool inner city style.
See the Crooked House – While visiting the baltics, a popular tourist attraction in Poland is the Crooked House in Sopot for its architectural style and uniqueness. Inside is a business, shopping and food hub.
USEFUL POLISH PRASES
- Hello – Cześć
- Yes – Tak
- No – Nie
- Please – Proszę
- Good – dobry
- Thank you – Dziękuję
- i don’t understand – Nie rozumiem
- Cheers/to your health – Na zdrowie
- Beer – Piwo
WHAT TO BUY IN POLAND
Typical souvenirs popular when visiting Poland include the following:
- Handcrafts such as pottery, needlework or woodwork
- Wooden nesting dolls
- Amber jewellery
- Christmas ornaments
- Polish chocolate (E.Wedel is the best)
POLAND TRAVEL TIPS
- The travel high season in Poland is between July and August when accommodation prices increase
- If invited for a meal, expect to eat a lot and be asked more than once if you want more
- While English is becoming more widely spoken in Poland’s larger cities, your best option is to learn some Polish language basics before you visit
- Beware of pickpockets in crowded places or on public transport
- It is customary to air kiss on each cheek 2 or 3 times when greeting someone you know
- When visiting, it should be the host to offer the first toast – “Na zdrowie” which means “To your health”
- It is customary to take a small gift, such as flowers or chocolates when invited to someone’s home
- Public bathrooms can sometimes attract a small fee to use, and may be labelled with a circle icon for women and a triangle icon for men