The best things to do and the places to see in Poland
One of Europe’s best-kept secrets sits at the heart of the continent. Since the fall of the Berlin wall, tourism in Poland has returned as the country has opened its doors to the world and become a must-go European destination.
The capital in Warsaw pairs bitter-sweet national history with modern trappings. However, for those more interested in stepping back in time to medieval Poland, shouldn’t miss Krakow a living, breathing monument to the glory days of the nation. In addition to stunning countryside, spectacular mountain vistas and rich forests this is a place with much to offer a visitor.
Cycling Routes and Roads in Poland
Poland is a vast country covering 305,000 square kilometers of the European continent. Its unique landscape offers an eager cyclist plenty of opportunities to explore. The country boasts over 149,195 cycle routes with a broad mix of gradients to challenge a rider.
The best time to visit Poland for a cycling holiday is from spring to early fall when you’ll get the best weather and be able to enjoy the stunning scenery to its full.
If you’re looking for something gentler, there’s nothing better than venturing into cities like Krakow, Warsaw, Wroclaw, and Lodz on two wheels. Alternatively, there are thousands of hardened forest paths allowing you to explore the fairy-tale-like countryside.
Top Experiences: Things to Do in Poland
Poland is perfect for city breaks and country retreats alike. There’s a little something for any traveler’s tastes.
For those who want to get their outdoor fix while on holiday in the country there are numerous walks and hikes that can be enjoyed in the southern mountains. The Bieszcady mountains are especially worth a visit with their alpine beauty.
In the winter, the Tatra mountains close to Krakow provide excellent pistes for fans of skiing and at great value for money. If you’re more a fan of the summer weather, however, the Northern coast offers beautiful beaches.
If you want to enjoy a holiday of sun, sea, and sand in Poland you should make your way to Sopot. This is probably the country’s number one beach destination, located between Gdansk and Gdynia. Sopot doesn’t only have wonderful sandy beaches on the coast of the Baltic it’s also full of trendy bars and features the longest wooden pier in Europe.
Sightseeing in Poland
Some of the most famous sights to see in Poland are of course its many majestic castles. Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow is probably the most famous in the land, with its history dating back to the 16th century in its current form. For fans of modern design, however, a trip to Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, a unique, towering callback to the socialist realist style of the communist era is certainly worth a visit.
Of course, there is a more tragic side to the sights to see in Poland, especially from the many relics from Hitler’s occupation from 1939-1945. The Warsaw Rising Museum, detailing the brave but ultimately unsuccessful uprising against the Nazi regime in 1944 stands testament to that. As does the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum near Katowice; a somber reminder of the darkest days of the Holocaust in the 1940s.
Discover Poland by Interest: Polish Food and Culture
Polish food offers an interesting blend of tastes inspired by the many diverse cuisines of Central Europe. Polish dishes are hearty, filling and more often than not, meaty. The nation is famous (to Germany’s great shame) for its sausages, which can be enjoyed in a bun or with a plate of placki ziemniaczane - fried potato pancakes - and kapusta - sauerkraut.
Poland is also known for its delicious soups and stews. The most interesting being Zurek, a fermented barley soup, which is occasionally served in a bread bowl. However, visitors to the country should be sure to try Bigos a traditional Polish hunter’s stew.
The highlight of Polish cuisine, however, is pierogi. These delicious dumplings are served in a light butter and sage sauce and usually contain meat, cheese or potato.
Music Festivals in Poland
You won’t be disappointed if you come to Poland looking for musical experiences. The birthplace of Chopin has continued its tradition of musical appreciation well into the 21st century. If you’re a lover of classical music then you won’t struggle to find performances in the country’s many opera houses.
Modern Polish music fans, however, are rock devotees and, rather appropriately, the country’s biggest music festival is Poland Rock. However, if you’re on the lookout for something more mainstream, Open’er festival offers a diverse mix of popular international and local acts.
Shopping in Poland
Poland, like any modern European country, is home to its fair share of large shopping centers where you can buy almost anything your heart desires. However, those looking for a unique souvenir to take home for family and friends may prefer one of the historical markets in city centers.
Most shops are open Monday-Friday from 10 am to 10 pm or 10 am to 9 pm on Saturdays. Be aware though that the Polish government has recently instigated a ban on almost all Sunday trading, so don’t be surprised if you find most shops and supermarkets closed on that day of the week.
Travel Tips: Things to Know before Visiting Poland
While many Polish speakers are multilingual, you may find that English is not as commonly spoken as you may think. Outside the busy tourist centers of Krakow, Warsaw, and Gdansk Polish may be the only language you come across. It may be worth packing a phrasebook or learning a few key expressions.
Also despite its reputation as a cold country, Poland during spring to fall is actually quite temperate. The country does have notably cold winters (especially in the southern mountainous regions), although the rest of the year enjoys mild weather.
Cities to Visit in Poland
Krakow is a must-visit location for an eager traveler. Despite two bitter world wars in the 20th century and countless other European conflicts affecting it over the centuries, the historic old town remains a pristine reflection of Poland of days gone by.
Warsaw, on the other hand, was not as lucky and was bombed heavily during World War II. However, the since rebuilt modern capital remains an unmissable place to visit in the country.
Alternatively, for those looking for a different experience, Wroclaw is the place to visit. This beautiful city on the banks of the River Oder has a rich history but maintains a youthful vibe with many Polish students choosing to study here.
Poland could very well be described as a fairytale location for travelers. With its mix of history, beautiful nature as well as a rich and interesting culture it certainly is a magical yet modern place to enjoy on a holiday.