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If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination in Europe, then Bialystok, Poland is a great option. This beautiful city offers plenty of activities and attractions for visitors looking to explore beyond the popular tourist cities in Poland.
We have visited Bialystok on more than one occasion, and while it may not be one of the big tourism hot spots in Poland, Bialystok is definitely a city worth visiting! And there are loads of fun things to do in Bialystok, whether you are visiting solo, as a couple or with the whole family.
Situated in North Eastern Poland, Bialystok is Poland’s 10th largest city and one of the largest in terms of population size.
The name Białystok translates to “white slope”in English. It also happens to be one of the coldest parts of Poland, with the weather in Bialystok reaching freezing temperatures during the long winters.
Thankfully the summer days can be quite pleasant in comparison. We have been lucky enough to experience both ends of the Bialystok weather spectrum!
But enough about that. Let’s talk about the fun stuff – what to do in Bialystok!
1. Explore Rynek Kościuszki – Kościuszki Market Square
The Bialystok Market Square is a beautiful central part of the city and a must-visit.
Rynek Kosciuszko market square is built around the old town hall, which was destroyed during the war and reconstructed in the 1950s.
With the reconstruction, the town hall changed from being a marketplace and converted into a museum headquarters and art gallery.
Surrounding the market square are lots of different restaurants and stores, making it a great place to find some traditional Polish food.
Or simply enjoy a bit of fresh air and pigeon chasing, as our youngest did during our most recent visit. This was towards the end of a 3 week European vacation, so having wide open spaces she could freely run around were exciting for our tiny explorer, who was just 14 months at the time.
As a total chocoholic, this had to be near the top for me and it is located in Kościuszki Market Square, so it seemed like a natural choice for top things to do in Bialystok!
E.Wedel is a famous chocolate company in Poland and these cafes are all things chocolate. Chocolate drinks, chocolate fondues, chocolate cakes and every other kind of dessert you can think of.
Plus you can purchase blocks of the E.Wedel chocolates to take home too.
The drinks are our favourite though. We have visited the Chocolate Lounge both times we have been to Bialystok and in winter, there is nothing else quite like a E.Wedel hot chocolate to warm you up.
It pretty much tastes like an entire block of chocolate melted into a mug! OMG! You simply cannot visit Poland and not try some E.Wedel chocolate!
On our last visit both kids fell asleep before we even got our order… so it ended up a pretty relaxing mum and dad chocolate session! Our eldest was asleep in our travel stroller and our youngest fell asleep on the cane love seat beside me, after we wrapped her in one of the lap blankets they provide to visitors. Bliss!
3. Discover the Bialystok Churches
There are many breathtaking churches in Bialystok, towering over the city and in most cases, providing there is not a service on at the time, or a wedding, you can have a look around the inside of these grand structures.
On our most recent visit, we were lucky enough to experience a family wedding at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is the church in the photo below.
It is pretty incredible… and extremely tall. I did not even fit the entire building in my photograph. The inside is really beautiful and definitely work taking a look.
If you wander through Bialystok, you will find several other impressive churches within walking distance as well.
This makes for a great photo tour if you are passionate about capturing impressive architecture.
Another impressive structure is the St. Roch Roman Catholic Church in Białystok, which is the towering white church above.
We did not have a chance to go inside this one as it looked like a storm was brewing, however it is in walking distance from Rynek Kościuszki if you have the time.
The Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas is another of the more well known churches in Bialystok and situated along the same walk.
It would not be a European city without a palace, right?! So Bialystok is no different and Branicki Palace is a pretty spectacular royal residence.
I adore baroque style buildings, and this was one of the first I ever saw during my first overseas trip over a decade ago. It was winter at the time and freezing. We did not go inside, but we did stroll around the beautiful palace gardens.
These days, the Branicki Palace is the headquarters of the Medical University of Białystok and it is open to the public for tours.
There are two different sightseeing paths you can take – one focused around the history and the other on the museum. The tours take between 45-90 minutes, depending on which you choose.
You can find Branicki Palace opening times and admission prices on the website.
Or simply enjoy the external grounds and talk a walk to explore the gardens with their many statues and fountains.
5. Meet the Animals at the Akcent Zoo
If you are travelling with kids, or even if you aren’t, a visit to the zoo can be a fun experience. Akcent Zoo Bialystok is a smaller style zoo, mostly with local animals from the region.
You will only need an hour or two to explore Akcent Zoo, and will have the chance to see a lot of different birds of prey, as well as wolves, bears, bison, wildcats and deer. It is perhaps more of an animal park than an actual zoo.
There are a lot of domestic animals too, such as ponies, goats and sheep. The kids will love it!
Best of all, the zoo is free of charge and open all year round, so it is a great option if you are looking for free things to do in Bialystok!
In fact, most of the fun Bialystok attractions are free, which is a great bonus!
Akcent Zoo is located inside Zwierzyniec Park, which is another place worth visiting even if you do not have time for the zoo itself. It is a forest reserve with some great options for hiking in Poland if you enjoy seeing more of the surrounding area.
6. Podlaskie Museum
The former town hall in Rynek Kościuszki is now the Podlaskie Museum and the main branch of the Podlachia Museums.
It is a small museum and mostly consists of an art gallery, however, there are at times special exhibitions in the museum. For this reason, it is worth popping in for a look.
With the history of the town hall and the destruction during war times, it is interesting just to see the rebuilt version of the building. It differs significantly to the original pre-war version, so if you are interested in war history, this is another good reason to visit the museum.
There are several other museums worth visiting in Bialystok too as part of the Museum of Podlasie, if you are interested in learning more about Polish history:
The Białystok Museum of the Village
7. Be Entertained at Białystok Puppet Theater
The Bialystok Puppet Theater is the first dedicated space specifically built for puppetry performances in Poland.
They host many national and international puppetry festivals and events throughout the year and have regular premieres for adults and children. There is usually a mix of literary adaptations for adults and puppet shows more focused on fairy tales for children.
You can even tour the Puppets Cellar which is a display area of memorabilia and costumes from past performances beneath the main stage of the Bialystok Puppet Theater.
Although most of the performances will be in Polish, the visual storytelling would be a great experience to have and younger children will likely find this really fascinating too if you are looking for family friendly attractions in Bialystok.
Find a current schedule of performances and ticket pricing on the theatre website.
8. Stroll Through Planty Park
Bialystok is considered to be one of the most prominent green cities in Poland, in the absence of a lot of major industry, so one of the most enjoyable things to do in town is simply get outdoors and enjoy that fresh air!
Breath it in as you stroll through one of the many different parks and green areas in town.
Planty Park consists of over 35 acres of park area, located near Branicki Palace. There is a playground area for kids to enjoy, and if you ask my kids, any place with a playground is a great place!
They also hold seasonal events through the year, such as summer concerts and festivals.
9. Take a Day Trip to Białowieża Forest
While this may not technically be something fun to do in Bialystok, if you are in town, you must not pass up the chance to take a day trip from Bialystok to Bialowieza National Park.
Bialowieza Forest is the largest remaining part of a primeval forest that once stretched across much of Europe. Within the forest live certain species of animals that cannot be found anywhere else, such as the European bison.
The Bialowieza primeval forest is the only natural site in Poland that is UNESCO world heritage listed.
Nature and Forest Museum is a must-visit when in Bialowieza. There are educational displays telling the history of the forest and its inhabitants, with loads of interactive exhibits and interesting facts.
We thoroughly enjoyed our tour through the museum with an English speaking guide.
There is also the European Bison Show Reserve located 3km from the park entrance, which is essentially a nature reserve with bison and several other animals in enclosures such as moose, red deer, roe deer and wild boar.
There are also some natural predators of the bison, including a wolf pack and a lynx. It was fascinating to watch these animals in enclosures that attempt to mirror the natural environment they come from. We saw some pretty crazy wolf pack behaviour.
Being the middle of winter during our visit, it was a good chance to see the animals that we may have otherwise seen during a hike through the forest in the warmer months.
If you aren’t a keen hiker or if it is too cold, the reserve is a great alternative to see some of the wildlife from the area.
There is also a restaurant that serves good local food. Find out more on their website.
You can catch a bus or train from Warsaw to Bialystok, or hire a car. The train is the fastest option and often the most affordable too, taking around 2.5 hours by train. There is also a direct from Gdansk to Bialystok by train. We have done both of these train trips.
If you are visiting from other cities, you are best to explore hire car or bus routes to reach Bialystok.
The nearest airport is Warsaw, which is an international airport if you are visiting Poland from overseas. It also has domestic routes within Poland.
Within Bialystok, they have a fantastic bus system and it is very easy to get around.
They also have taxi services if there are no buses available for your route. We caught buses to several different areas around town, including to Biala Bialystok Shopping Centre, which is a great location for cinemas and shopping.
There are plenty of hotels in Bialystok for your stay. It is a relatively large city, so where you stay will depend on how you plan to spend your time in Bialystok.
Budget Hotel: Bosir Hotel– if you are looking for a basic hotel that is suitable for families, this will suffice. The rooms are small but have all the basic hotel amenities.
Mid-Range Hotel: Hotel Branicki -If you are looking for a centrally located Bialystok hotel that is close to Market Square with modern furnishings and family rooms available, this is a great choice.
Luxury Hotel: Royal Spa & Hotel – While a luxury choice of hotel in Bialystok, this is still an affordable place to stay. It is centrally located and the hotel actually has its own micro brewery called Stary Rynek.
Alternatively, if you would prefer a home away from home style accommodation, Airbnbmay have the perfect private home rental or apartment for your Bialystok holiday. Sign up for your free account and get credit towards your first stay too!