Are you wondering whether or not Poland is worth visiting? Then you’ve come to the right place!
I used to think Poland was a grey and rundown post-communist country that didn’t have much to offer other than cheap drinks and spas. And unfortunately, I don’t think I’m the only one with that perception.
With so many incredible destinations on our doorstep in Europe, Poland is probably not the first one that comes to mind. Little did I know I would soon be spending 5 years living in Kraków, and that I was in for some of the best and most exciting years of my life.
I have explored the country from north to south and east to west, many times. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of traveling in Poland, and why I think it is one of the most underrated countries in Europe.
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- Pros: Reasons to visit Poland
- Poland Cons
- Conclusion: Is Poland worth visiting?
- Frequently Asked Questions Poland
- Popular Poland guides
Pros: Reasons to visit Poland
1. It’s easy to get there and easy to get around
Airports in the large Polish cities are well serviced by budget airlines such as Ryanair and Wizz Air, covering routes all across Europe. From Norway, I can often find round-trip flights for just $40. Poland is also part of the Eurail network and can be included on a European rail pass.
Hot to Get around Poland
The best part about visiting Poland is that it’s easy to get around by car, bus and train, taxis are affordable and there are so many amazing guided tours to choose from.
I once took a first-class train from Kaków to Gdansk, and it was incredible including food service, WiFi and super comfortable seats. And public transport in most cities costs under $1 for a one-way ticket.
RENT A CAR >> I have rented a car several times at Gdansk and Kraków Airport to have the freedom to explore at my own pace. I normally don’t like to drive in the big cities in Poland, traffic can get a little crazy. However, exploring the countryside by car hasn’t been a problem at all.
So if you are comfortable driving, I highly recommend you rent a car. I always use DiscoverCars, a comparison site that covers 10,000 destinations worldwide. They often have the best deals, they include smaller rental companies and they offer FREE cancellations up to 48 hours before your reservation.
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You choose where you want to go or ask them to plan everything for you. Our guide Lucas was knowledgeable and very patient when I wanted to stop everywhere to shoot photos. It’s a great way to explore all the castles, historic sites and natural wonders Poland has to offer.
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2. Long & rich history
Poland’s roots go back over one thousand years. The country has a long history of invasions and wars, mostly because of its positioning between Russia and the old Kingdom of Prussia. Also in modern times, Poland has had to come through a lot with World War II and the invasions of the Nazis, followed by a 40-year Soviet occupation.
Although at times painful, I think it’s worth taking the time to learn about Poland’s past to get a greater understanding of the country and its people. This rich history is in my mind what makes Poland so interesting and it has resulted in 14 cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
One of these World Heritage Sites, and maybe the most important reminder of Poland’s painful past, is Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the German Nazi concentration camps located one hour outside of Kraków.
Auschwitz Memorial and Museum is definitely not a fun tourist destination, but I feel it’s a very important place to visit so we can learn and make sure something like this never happens again. You can learn more about Auschwitz-Birkenau and other great things to do in Kraków here.
Another great and a little less daunting representation of this long history is Kraków’s Wawel Cathedral & Royal Castle which was built over the course of two centuries. It represents nearly all European architectural styles of the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods all within one large wall.
And while on the subject of castles, let’s take a closer look at some of my favorites…
3. Over 500 castles!
When thinking of great places to go castle hunting, the UK and Germany are usually the front-runners. But who knew Poland is home to over 500 castles?
In fact, you’ll find old castles, majestic palaces, mansions and churches all over the country. The Royal Castle in Warsaw and Wawel Castle are two of the most visited, but in my mind, the most interesting castles can be found outside of the main tourist trail.
As the castle enthusiast that I am, I headed out on the “Trail of the Eagles Nests”, which is a chain of 25 medieval castles between Częstochowa and Kraków in southwest Poland. The trail got its name the “Eagles Nest” because most of the castles are built on top of limestone cliffs.
Many of the castles have only survived in the form of picturesque ruins, like Ogrodzieniec Castle you can see above, but they were still equally exciting to explore. I highly recommend spending a couple of days in the area, as it was one of my favorite experiences to date.
But my favorite castle of them all is the mysterious Gothic and Baroque style Zamek Książ located in the city of Wałbrzych about an hour south-west of Wrocław. It’s pink and looks like it belongs in a fairytale, need I say more?
I also have to mention, the Medieval Malbork Castle, which looks like a giant brick fortress but actually is one of the largest castles in the world and should not be missed if you’re in Gdańsk.
Popular castle tours
4. Colorful and diverse architecture
Polish architecture is one of the country’s most distinctive features and a major drawcard for tourists from around the world. From Gothic cathedrals to Baroque palaces, Poland’s architecture reflects its rich history and cultural heritage.
One of the most iconic examples of Polish architecture is the Wawel Castle in Krakow. This stunning castle dates back to the 14th century and is a prime example of Gothic architecture. Visitors can explore the castle’s many rooms and halls, which are filled with priceless artworks and historical artifacts.
Another popular destination for architecture lovers in Poland is the city of Gdansk. This historic city is home to a number of beautiful buildings, including the famous Neptune Fountain and the towering St. Mary’s Church. You can stroll through the city’s historic streets and admire its many colorful facades and ornate details.
My second favorite city in Poland, Wroclaw, is another reason to visit Poland. The most iconic example of colorful architecture in Wroclaw is the Market Square, which is the heart of the city’s Old Town district. As you can see above, the square is lined with colorful buildings, many of which date back to the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
5. Incredible nature
While it is the man-made sights and cosmopolitan cities that get most of the visitors’ attention, Poland is actually an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The country boasts thousands of lakes where you can partake in exciting water sports and large areas of lush forests where visitors are spoilt with endless hiking, mountain biking and animal-watching opportunities.
Up north, you’ll find miles and miles of dreamy beaches lining the Baltic coast and to the south rugged, snow-clad mountains dotted with traditional wooden houses.
One of the main natural attractions in the country is the High Tatras, a mountain range running along the border of northern Slovakia and southern Poland. With 29 peaks over 2,500 meters, the range is often referred to as the Polish Alps.
Locals and tourists alike flock to Zakopane in winter for some affordable skiing and snowboarding in picturesque surroundings. Below you can see me having a rest on our way to the beautiful, emerald-green Morskie Oko Lake. The largest lake in the High Tatras.
Meanwhile, if you want to partake in some aquatic activities, the Great Masurian Lake District, a maze of rivers and lakes in Poland’s northeast, is a must. One of the prettiest areas the country has to offer if you ask me! Further west lies Słowiński National Park, the largest area of wandering sand dunes in Europe and the perfect day trip from Gdansk.
Bialowieza Forest, the country’s only natural UNESCO World Heritage listing, is home to about 800 European bison and massive 500-year-old Oak trees. It is also one of the last remaining parts of the primeval forest that once covered a large part of Europe. Definitely, a place every nature lover visiting Poland should take time to explore.
Popular nature tours
6. Food & drinks
If you’re a fan of pork, duck, sauerkraut dumplings, vodka and beer, you might just have found your food paradise. Just make sure not to be on a diet while you’re there! Filled pierogi dumplings topped with bacon and a side of kapusta (braised cabbage) is a popular delicacy that you have to try.
Oscypek, another Polish favorite, is a smoked cheese made from salted sheep and cow’s milk that is only made in Poland’s Tatra Mountain region.
No trip to the country is complete without a piece of Makowiec, a traditional poppy seed cake and sękacz, a Polish-Lithuanian cake cooked on a rotating spit in an oven or over an open fire. I’m embarrassed to think about how many of those “tree” cakes I ate during my time in Poland.
But beyond the hearty Polish fare, the culinary scene is flourishing with many young chefs experimenting with interesting flavors and opening hip restaurants and bars.
My absolute favorite restaurant in Kraków is a Mexican restaurant called Manzana. Be sure to check it out if you’re ever in the city and remember to treat it as a tapas place. The appetizers are definitely the best. I mean, homemade chips, salsa and taquitos with chipotle mayo… Yuuuuuum!
Whatever you end up eating, it will generally be very well-priced. You can eat at fancy restaurants for a quarter of the price compared to similar establishments elsewhere in Europe. And that brings me to my next point…
Popular food tours
7. It’s affordable
Poland is definitely one of your best options if you’re looking for an affordable getaway in Europe. The currency is called Złoty and chances are your money will go a long way.
Poland is one of the most affordable destinations in Europe, meaning you can really enjoy yourself even if you’re on a tight budget.
For example, one of my favorite things to do is to go out and have a few cocktails in the evening. In Norway, I can only justify buying about three drinks whenever I’m out because those three will probably cost me over $60. But in Poland, I can actually go out and enjoy myself without constantly looking at prices.
At my favorite neighborhood bar in Kraków, a Cosmopolitan will set you back 25zł / 5.5 USD and you’ll usually be able to get a 0,5 draft beer for only 15zł / 4 USD.
The same goes for food. When we were living there I have to admit we got takeaway several times a week because it didn’t cost much more than it would if we bought the ingredients and made it ourselves. A large chopped salad with bacon from our go-to restaurant across the street only costs 30zł / 6.5 USD and that includes freshly baked bread and garlic dressing. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
Accommodation is also quite affordable, I have friends who pay $600 a month for an apartment smack bang in the middle of Kazimierz, my favorite neighborhood in Kraków.
8. Something to do for everyone
Poland is massive. In fact, it is the 9th largest country in Europe, and with size comes variety. As you can probably tell by now, Poland has all bases covered when it comes to historical landmarks, mouthwatering food and the great outdoors. But just to make sure I convince you, here are some other great things to see and do:
Wieliczka Salt Mine is another one of Poland’s most famous attractions, visited by more than one million tourists from all over the world every year. There are nine levels of tunnels and rooms with chapels, statues and other decorations carved into the rock salt. Such a spectacular sight! The mine was one of 12 natural and cultural sites included in the original UNESCO World Heritage List back in 1978 and is referred to by many as the 8th wonder of the world.
With a long and rich history comes a thriving museum scene across the country. One of the newest museums in Warsaw is POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which does not only focus on the Holocaust but also the over 1,000-year history of Jews in Poland.
Another one you should explore is the Warsaw Uprising Museum which many have described as one of the most moving and exciting interactive museums you can visit in the country. In Kaków, Oskar Schindler’s factory has been turned into a modern museum devoted to the city’s wartime experiences. It’s an absolute must!
If you want to pamper yourself with some relaxing time at a spa, then you should definitely visit Poland! Treatments are known to be of high quality and are very reasonably priced.
Popular tours & activities
9. Poles love a party
The bar and nightclub scene in Poland is vibrant and lively, with a wide variety of establishments catering to different tastes and preferences. From trendy cocktail bars to underground techno clubs, there is something for everyone in this country’s nightlife scene.
One of the most popular destinations for party-goers in Poland is my former home, Krakow. This historic city is home to a number of bars and nightclubs, many of which are located in the city’s old town district. Here, you can enjoy a drink or dance the night away in a beautiful, historic setting.
Another popular destination for nightlife in Poland is the capital city of Warsaw. This bustling metropolis is home to a wide range of bars and nightclubs, from sleek rooftop bars to gritty underground clubs. Visitors can find everything from live music to DJ sets and can choose from a variety of different atmospheres depending on their mood.
Other cities in Poland also offer a thriving nightlife scene. In Gdansk, for example, you can enjoy a drink in one of the city’s many cozy pubs or dance the night away in one of its popular nightclubs.
Poland may not be for everyone. Here are some reasons why someone may choose not to visit Poland:
- Weather: Poland has a temperate climate with cold winters and mild summers. The weather can be harsh and unpredictable, especially in the north during the winter months.
- Language: Polish is the official language of Poland, and while many in the big cities speak English, some may find it difficult to communicate with locals who do not speak English.
- Crowds: Warsaw and Kraków are becoming increasingly popular tourist destinations, especially in the summer months. This can lead to overcrowding of popular attractions and long lines. But it is nothing compared to countries such as Italy and Spain.
- Infrastructure: While Poland has modern infrastructure in major cities, some areas may not be as developed. This can lead to difficulties in transportation and accommodations.
- Cuisine: Polish cuisine is hearty and filling, but it may not be to everyone’s taste. Vegetarians and vegans may have difficulty finding suitable options in smaller cities.
- Safety concerns: While Poland is generally a safe country, there have been reports of pickpocketing and other petty crimes in tourist areas. Visitors should take precautions to keep their belongings safe.
Conclusion: Is Poland worth visiting?
Poland is a country with a rich history, vibrant culture, and beautiful landscapes. From the medieval architecture of Krakow to the stunning beaches of the Baltic Sea, there is something for everyone in Poland.
In terms of tourism, Poland has a lot to offer. You can explore historic cities, visit museums and galleries, enjoy traditional food and drink, and experience the natural beauty of the country. With a relatively low cost of living, Poland is also an affordable destination for travelers on a budget.
However, like any country, Poland has its drawbacks. The language barrier can be a challenge for non-Polish speakers, and some areas of the country may not be as tourist-friendly as others. Additionally, Poland’s climate can be harsh, with cold winters.
But in my mind, there’s no question. YES, Poland is definitely worth visiting! It is one of the most underrated countries in Europe, still affordable and so much beauty to offer.
Frequently Asked Questions Poland
What is Poland known for?
Poland is known for its rich history, stunning architecture, delicious food, and beautiful countryside. You can expect medieval castles, picturesque towns, and vibrant cities like Warsaw and Krakow. Poland is also famous for its pierogi, kielbasa sausages, and vodka.
What is the best time of year to visit Poland?
The best time to visit Poland is during the summer months (June to August) when the weather is warm and sunny. However, this is also peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and higher prices. Spring (April to May) and fall (September to October) are also great times to visit, with mild temperatures and fewer tourists.
Is it easy to get around Poland as a tourist?
Yes, it is relatively easy to get around Poland as a tourist. The country has a well-developed public transportation system, including trains, buses, and trams. Taxis are also widely available in larger cities. Visitors can also rent a car to explore the countryside.
What is the best city in Poland to visit?
This is subjective, as each city in Poland has its own unique charm. However, some of the most popular cities to visit include Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk, Poznan and Wroclaw. Warsaw is the capital city and has a rich history, while Krakow is known for its stunning architecture and vibrant nightlife. My two personal cities to visit are Krakow and Wroclaw. Inf fact, I think Wroclaw is one of the most underrated cities in the world.
Are there any safety concerns for tourists in Poland?
Poland is generally a safe country for tourists. However, you should take normal precautions, such as being aware of your surroundings, not leaving valuables unattended, and avoiding poorly lit areas at night.
Is Poland a good destination for budget travelers?
Yes, Poland is a great destination for budget travelers. The country has a low cost of living compared to other European countries, so you can enjoy affordable accommodations, food, alcohol and activities. Hostels and budget hotels are widely available, and public transportation is inexpensive.
Popular Poland guides
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