- 30 Jan - 05 Feb, 2021
- 25 Jul - 31 Jul, 2020
- Travel Diaries
Making one of the largest countries in Central Europe, Poland, for decades, has beckoned tourists to its long Baltic Sea coastline. With an astonishing history and fourteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the country is truly incredible and a too often overlooked destination. Visitors who imagine Poland as a backward, impoverished land of rusting factories, smoggy cities, and gloomy natives are left speechless when they step into Kraków's vibrant main square, Gdañsk's colourful Royal Way, or Warsaw's lively Old Town. While parts of the country do still feel like a time warp, today's Poland also has a vibrant urbanity, enticing food and design culture, dynamic history, and kind-hearted natives. Most travellers come visit Krakow, maybe spend a day or two in Warsaw, and then go somewhere else. In fact, there are very few people who have really explored this country in its entirety.
5 Polish destinations you should not miss
1. Auschwitz Concentration Camps
Auschwitz is the site of a former concentration death camp used by the Nazis during World War II. The site has been preserved as a museum and is open to the public. Admission is free, but the experience is much more meaningful with a guide who can give you context. Tickets include the Birkenau camp across the street.
Krakow is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the country. Everyone comes here for the beautiful medieval architecture, castles, good food and hospitality. This city is beautiful, inexpensive, and is filled with plenty to do. No visit to the country would be complete without a visit to this city.
Wroclaw is one of Poland’s less-known destinations but it can definitely compete when it comes to amazing architecture. This small city is beautiful, inexpensive, and free of crowds! Be sure to see the Raclawice Panorama, which depicts the Battle of Raclawice that took place during the Kosciuszko Uprising in the 1790s.
4. National Park
This national park on the Belarus border is a World Heritage site and contains the last remains of a primeval forest that once covered most of Europe. It’s also the only place where European Bisons still live in the wild. Admission is 6 PLN per person, though if you want a guided tour, expect to pay around 250 PLN.
Explore the old and new towns, and focus your visit on the city’s museums where you can learn about the heroic struggles of the Warsaw Uprising and the ghettoization of the Jews during WW2! The castle is also beautiful, though it is a recent construction as the original was destroyed during the war. I love the mix of old and new in this city.
HOW TO TRAVEL AROUND Poland is serviced by an incredibly affordable (if not old) train system. A three-hour ride from Krakow to Warsaw will cost around 45 PLN, while a five-hour train from Warsaw to Gdansk can be found for as little as 65 PLN. For local buses, a single-fare ticket in the central zone will average 4 PLN. Major cities offer one-day tickets for 20 PLN. In general, taxis start at around 6-8 PLN and are incredibly affordable to get around town quickly. However, expect to pay double during the night or during trips out to the suburbs.
SOME MONEY SAVING TIPS
Eat at Milk Bars
Contrary to the name, milk bars (or bar mleczny in Polish) are affordable, cafeteria-style restaurants that you'll find throughout Poland. In the past, milk bars were subsidised by the government for workers but today you can visit one and find complete homemade-style meals for as little as $2-3. You’ll get a taste of Poland at a Bar Mleczny (Milk Bar) hearty pierogies, homemade soups and plenty of meat make a great meal for under 30PLN. Expect no-frills and cafeteria-style where you order from a counter, but it’s a great way to save money and take in the scene.
Get a tourist card
Certain cities, like Krakow, offer tourist cards which give unlimited access to public transportation (normally for one or three days) and free or discounted access to museums. If you plan to see lots sites, be sure to go to the local tourism office and pick up one of these cards!
Take a free walking tour
Free tours from companies like Free Walking Tours can be found in some of Poland’s larger cities, like Krakow, Gdansk, and Warsaw. They are a great way to explore the city while learning about the history, culture, and architecture. Just be sure to tip!
Use ride-sharing apps
Ridesharing apps like BlaBlaCar are a great way to get around the country for cheap. You simply download the app, find someone looking for passengers, and go! Everyone is rated and verified, and it’s usually more convenient (and cheaper) than other forms of transportation.
Stay with a local
While accommodation is not expensive in Poland, Couchsurfing is a great way to lower your accommodation costs. Not only will you save some money by getting a free place to stay, you’ll be able to make a local friend and get insider knowledge about where you are!
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