There is much to be said about Central Europe’s gem that often goes unnoticed. Although typically described as an Eastern European country, Poles will quickly (and politely) set you straight. Common misconceptions of the colorful land of Poland are that it’s a dreary, industrial place not known for much more than its painful past, pierogis, and flavored vodka. This is a far cry from the truth.
Poland is a resilient country with a booming economy where old meets new. Offering rich history (it boasts 14 UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and undeniable beauty at every turn, there’s a place for everyone here. From vibrant metropolitans, big pub crawls, and world-famous historical sites, to seaside cities surrounding the Baltic Sea in the North down to the snow-capped Tatra Mountains in the South, these cities are sure to hit your travel sweet spot. Not sold yet? Then let us mention that Poland ranks in the top 10 for world’s biggest beer drinkers.
The 5 Best Places to Visit in Poland
Kraków is Poland’s most frequented tourist spot and it’s not hard to see why. With one of the largest market squares in all of Europe, medieval architecture all around, romantic cobblestone roads, gothic churches, and stunning castles, it’s no wonder they dub this Polish city as “the next Prague.” It’s here you’ll find Main Market Square, Wawel Castle, St. Francis’ Basilica, and a former Jewish quarter chock-full of history.
At only a day trip’s distance away lies Auschwitz and the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Not exclusive to Kraków, however, are Poland’s infamous milk bars. These are cafeteria-style restaurants where the locals eat that feature home-cooked meals and local beers at affordable prices. Be sure to be on the lookout for these during your time in Poland!
No trip to Poland would be complete without a visit to its capital, Warsaw, which is also its biggest city. Unlike the more old-world Kraków, Warsaw has more of a 21st-century flare. It’s a hub of impressive museums, including the towering Palace of Culture and Science, Chopin Museum, Warsaw Museum (where you’ll learn about the city before and post WWII) and Copernicus Science Centre (the most family-friendly of the bunch).
Or you can take a stroll through Royal Baths Park, the city’s largest park, where you’ll find Lazienki Palace. For a taste of Warsaw’s glory days, visit Old Town Market Square. It’s the oldest part of Warsaw, rich in colorful architecture, cafés, and shops. You’ll also spot St. John’s Cathedral here.
Ask any local, and they’ll say you can’t leave the country without seeing their seaside off the Baltic coast first. One of three cities in the Tricity metropolitan area, Gdańsk is a developing port city that’s considered a true seaside gem and probably the most picturesque city on the list. What sets it apart from other Polish cities is its distinctive Germanic architecture, glowing waterfront, and golden sand beaches. It’s also a lively nightlife scene.
Spend the day in Sopot, where you can enjoy the beach, or walk along the impressive wooden pier year-round, kayak along the waterfront, or explore old town. Pick up some beautiful amber jewelry as a souvenir from one of the many shops along the shore. Catch the best views of the city on Gradowa, where you’ll get a panoramic shot of the city, river, and shipyard. Or visit nearby Malbork Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist attraction. This striking brick castle is the largest castle in the world by surface area and has been entirely restored post-WWII.
Old souls will enjoy the character of Wrocław (“vrots-wahf”) without the crowds found in Kraków. While still full of cultural attributes and entertainment, Wrocław is known for some pretty unique things. Over 200 gnomes adorn the streets – each with their own unique story that you can read up on. Their train station that looks like a castle (winning) and their Old Town Square is one of the prettiest in all of Poland.
A feast for the eyes, the housing flats and apartments here are vibrant and offer many good bistros and bars on their lower levels. You’ll even find the Hansel and Gretel houses here! The beautiful golden Town Hall (Ratusz) found in Old Town Square is a popular landmark of the city and a building commonly seen on Instagram.
Zakopane is the winter sports lover’s paradise (only a two-hour bus ride south of Kraków). Much like Gdańsk, this is a popular holiday spot for Poles and tourists alike and has long been hailed the “Winter Capital of Poland.” The breathtaking ice-caked summits of the Tatra Mountains make this mountain town look like it came straight out of a fairytale. There’s plenty to do here, from skiing and an easy hike to Emerald Lake to taking a stroll down the main walking street and indulging in potato pancakes from Bar Mleczny. Long day on the slopes? Step into the hot pools at Terma Bukowina to relax.
Lastly, while not a city, a scenic gem that’s a pride amongst many Poles is the awe-inspiring Masurian Lake District that stretches across northeastern Poland. It claims over 2,000 lakes that are connected by rivers and canals. Be sure to put this on your list if you’re looking to enjoy the simple pleasures the countryside has to offer.
As you can see, Poland should be a must-see country on your travel list. Some things to remember before touching down: English is their most common second language, the people are extremely hospitable, and they don’t use euros (their national currency is złoty, pronounced “zwoty”). We hope to see you livin’ it up Polish style and enjoying a cheap beer with a local very soon!