Not long ago one of the region’s best-kept secrets, Poland, it’s probably now safe to say, has hit the European travel mainstream. Driven by the beauty & popularity of its top tourist city, Krakow, Poland has become a must-see on any Central European itinerary worth its salt.
Although famous for the cultural treasures of cities like Warsaw, Krakow & Gdansk, Poland’s hardly a slouch for adventurous travellers either. Along its southern fringes lie the High Tatras, a breathtaking mountain range cascading the border with Slovakia and one of the country’s best places for skiing and hiking.
Not sure where to begin planning your trip? Get started with this helpful Poland travel guide including when & where to go and how to get there…
When to visit Poland
Like much of Central Europe, you could argue that Poland is a year-round destination. There’s no one specific time of year that would present any major weather concerns that would otherwise wreck a trip. (Honestly, the weather in Poland is fairly unpredictable even in the best of times.)
Poland experiences a fairly typical continental European climate with hot & humid summers matched by cold & overcast winters. Fall & autumn tend to fall somewhere in between.
Overall, the best time to go to Poland is in May and September. Both of these months avoid the summer tourist rush and are far drier than the summer months when rain seems to be a possibility on any given day.
Where to go in Poland
Whatever you’re in the mood for on your European vacation, I can’t almost guarantee that you’ll find it in Poland. From jaw-dropping historical cities to towns with heart-breaking stories, there’s a whole whack of places to visit here that are essential viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in European history.
Adventurous and outdoorsy types will find their sanctuary here, too. Whether your travels take you into the High Tatras for a hike around the crystalline glacial lake of Morskie Oko or to the primeval Białowieża Forest where Europe’s last remaining wild buffalo roam, Poland will refuse to leave you unstirred.
Looking for quick ideas on where to go in Poland? Check out these travel resources:
Nearly every first impression of Poland starts with Krakow, the former royal capital and historical breadbasket of the Polish nation. While its popularity is tending towards the sky (seemingly to the point of no return), it still sits, easily, among one of Europe’s most charming big cities.
From the moment you enter Old Town, the appeal of Krakow is obvious. The whole historical centre is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a status that’ll you’ll without a doubt agree with as you dabble in its cornucopia of Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic architecture.
Outside the Old Town’s official boundaries, Krakow unleashes its modern sensibilities with hip districts like Kazimierz at the forefront of the gastronomic scene with trendy restaurants & bars that showcase the city’s youthful drive.
Ready to plan your trip to Krakow? Get started with these resources:
- 24 Hours in Krakow: A Complete Itinerary
- Best Things to Do in Krakow: Top Attractions & Places to Visit
- Where to Stay in Krakow: The Best Hotels & Areas for Travellers
- Best Day Trips from Krakow: A Complete Guide
No trip to Poland is complete without a foray into the modern-day capital of Warsaw. Even with Krakow standing, without little argument, as the prettier of Poland’s two top destinations, Warsaw is, arguably, the more interesting of the pair, pushing forward the nation’s cultural boundaries more than any other Polish city.
That’s not to say Warsaw doesn’t have its more “classic” moments. Walk along the Royal Way towards Old Town, an area completed reconstructed after almost complete destruction in WWII, and you’ll get a taste of Warsaw’s most regal sights from presidential palaces to old Baroque and Neoclassical Catholic churches.
To get truly down and dirty in the capital, head over the Vistula River to the gritty Praga District. This area, once one of Warsaw’s most infamous quarters, is quickly morphing into one of the city’s hippest districts with trendy galleries, bars & restaurants open their doors inside old dilapidated buildings.
Ready to plan your trip to Warsaw? Get started with these resources:
When the big city vibes of Warsaw and Krakow start to wear you down, head for the backcountry goodness of Zakopane, one Poland’s favourite outdoor escapes. This small resort town, nestled in the High Tatras along the Poland/Slovakia border, hits its peak in winter when it transforms into the country’s premier skiing destination.
Outside of winter, Zakopane is also a superb destination for hikers (as long as you’re prepared to fight with a little inclement weather along the away).
If you’re visiting in the warmer months, don’t miss out on Morskie Oko, a stunning glacial lake close to Zakopane that’s easily among one of Europe’s best natural attractions and one of its most rewarding hikes.
Ready to plan your trip to Zakopane? Get started with these resources:
…more awesome Polish destinations to come!
Transportation in Poland
By air: Most of Poland’s major cities are served by airports that connect to other European and international destination. The most common gateways into the country include Warsaw Chopin Airport (WAW), Krakow Airport (KRK), and Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport (GDN).
By train: Poland is well-connected to its Central European neighbours by train. Some of the most common routes include Prague to Krakow (8h-12h), Berlin to Warsaw (6h23m), Berlin to Szczecin (2h), and Lviv to Krakow (6h-8h).
By train: Like in much of Europe, my favourite means of travelling around Poland is the train. The train service is Poland is ever improving, and is a quick and comfortable way to scoot between cities. Some of the most popular routes include Warsaw to Krakow (2-3h), Krakow to Wroclaw (3h36m), and Warsaw to Gdansk (2h43m).
By bus: In some areas of Poland, destinations are not well covered by train routes. One glaring example is the Krakow to Zakopane route where taking a bus will save you about an hour.