Happy New Year folks; may it bring you plentiful adventures! If you’re looking for a cheap city break in Europe this year or a new addition for your 2020 travel bucket list, look no further!
Although it’s popularity is increasing as of late, Poland is still massively underrated as a European Travel destination. I recently spent a few weeks travelling around Central Europe and spent over a week in Poland. I want to share with you my reasons for visiting and hopefully inspire you to do the same, with a focus on the three cities I visited: Gdańsk, Poznań & Wroclaw.
If you want to learn about Poland’s most popular city for short breaks, Krakow, fellow blogger Adventures X Lil has written a great post of making the most of a few days in the city.
Krakow has been voted the best place for a city break in Europe this year (for a third year running!) and after visiting this city in August 2019, I can understand why. It’s a city full of culture and history, with a wealth of things to see and do, as well as a multitude of eateries and bars; perfect for a weekend away. And, this is without even mentioning how cheap it is,
1. Affordable Travel Destination
What initially drew me to Poland was how cheap it is to travel there. It all started with a skyscanner search for the cheapest flights, followed by more research into the different cities.
Poland is very cheap to fly to from the U.K and so is everything else when you get there. I paid £26 for return flights from Birmingham to Gdańsk with Ryanair (minus luggage), (I’ve paid more than that just to Leeds or London via train). Like anywhere, some places will be pricier than others, but comparatively everything is pretty good value. You can dine in milk bars or take an Uber for a just a few quid. If you like a drink, you’ll be pleased to know that alcohol is pretty cheap here too. It would be wrong not to try a bit of vodka in Poland, and I picked up a smallish bottle of grapefruit flavoured vodka (yum!) for the equivalent of £1!
It’s also a great place to pick up cheap souvenirs for friends and family. The Baltic coast is known for its production and trade of amber, which is sold all over Gdańsk. At home, amber jewellery is semi-expensive, but I bought 3 pairs of good quality amber and silver earrings and a pendant for the price that I might pay for one piece here. Possibly even less – great for Birthday and Christmas presents!
2. It’s Rich in History
The obvious point to mention is Poland’s World War II history. The war started with the Germans invading Poland, and there is a museum and several monuments to commemorate the first battles, which began in Gdańsk. There are of course several remaining concentration camps in Poland, now serving as museums and memorials to the victims of the holocaust. The most notorious of which is Auschwitz-Birkenau, which can be visited in a day trip from Kraków. I hope to make the journey there in the future to pay my respects.
Gdańsk is famous for the birth of European Solidarity, a worker’s rights movement led by former Polish President Lech Walenska that began in the shipyards, and to such several workers lost their lives. The European Solidarity Centre is a highly recommended museum to visit to learn more about the history of this movement during which many ship workers lost their lives.
In Poznań I visited Ostrow Tumski (Cathedral Island), where Poland is believed to have first come about as a country. Porta Posnania museum on the ‘island’ provides an immersive, interactive look into Polish history and the first Kings and people of the country.
There are also several reminders of communist history in Poland, including architecture, remnants of worker culture such as the Gdańsk shipyards and quirkier reminders, which brings me to my next point…
3. Its Quirkiness
Several quirks of the cities I visited spring to mind. First there are the dwarf statues all over Wroclaw as symbols of anti-communism protest movement, the Orange Alternative, who used a dwarf as their mark. In my couple of days I’m Wroclaw I spotted 3 disabled dwarves, some dwarves stealing from an ATM, a naked one and a drunk one. Dwarf hunting is a fun and whimsical way to spend your time In Wroclaw, and you’re bound to see a few just from strolling through the old town.
Then there is the celebration of two fighting goats in Poznań. Crowds of locals and tourists gather at the foot of the Town Hall, gasping and cheering as these two historic goats slowly emerge and lock horns at noon. It certainly cheered me up, as did seeing all of the goat souvenirs being sold in the old town. They sure love their goats in Poznań!
4. For Good Food
Honestly, as a (sort of) vegetarian, I thought I might have difficulty finding places to eat in Poland, and expected a lot of meat and potatoes. Much to the contrary there were tons of vegan and vegetarian restaurants and cafés all around. Wroclaw and Wrzezch in Gdańsk were particularly good for vegan friendly eats. There’s even a memorial in Wroclaw remembering the slaughtered animals in street that used to be a slaughterhouse.
Poland has some delicious delicacies, including but not limited to pierogi and mushroom and potato pancakes. Check out my recent post about Gdańsk for the amazing pierogi (a must eat in Poland) I tried! They have some delicious sweet treats too. I feasted on Paczki (a donut like pastry that I still think about now with a watering mouth), st martin’s croissants in Poznań and a bilberry bun.
5. For Street Art
If you like colourful murals and quirky art then Poland is the place for you! Zaspa in Gdańsk, also known as ‘mural city’ is home to 60 vibrant pieces painted on the sides of high-rise blocks of flats by artists from all over the world. It’s an excellent way to brighten up an otherwise grey residential area and make it a nice place for locals, as well as bringing tourists into the area and taking them out of central Gdańsk. Some of the locals even participated in the paintings. Nearby Gdynia is also a haven for murals. Check out my post on street art in Gdańsk & Gdynia for more on this.
6. For Stunning Architecture
You’ve likely seen photos of the fairytale looking towns of Germany, the almost Disney-like old town in Prague and the beautiful buildings in cities like Copenhagen, Amsterdam or Brussels, but have you heard of Gdańsk? Or Wroclaw? If you’re looking for magical architecture and old towns that make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a children’s story, I really urge you to visit Poland. Not only is it a less touristic place to visit than some of the other locations I mentioned, the architecture is second to none.
I have loved many of the other destinations mentioned for their beautiful architecture, but honestly, my first thought when I stood in the centre of Prague’s old town, having to use my elbows to cross the street, was “I wonder if all these people have heard of Gdańsk or Wroclaw”? And why pick?! Wroclaw is in a decent location to visit Prague by train or coach. I took a flixbus coach and enjoyed the pretty scenic journey.
7. Good Public Transport
Unlike some places that require a car to get around, Poland has great public transport links and is easy to get around. There are several trains and coaches operating in between cities if you plan on doing a multi-city hop like I did. I started my journey in Gdańsk in the North, before stopping in Poznan for a couple of days before Wroclaw and then Prague and Vienna. For travelling in between cities, the Polrail website is very easy to use and has an English version for visitors. Alternatively, Flixbus offers more flexible and last minute journeys and is a much nicer experience than any coach I’ve been on in England. I use Omio to compare bus and train prices and times.
8. Great for an Interrailing Trip Around Europe
Although many people think of Poland as being part of Eastern Europe, (myself included before doing my research), it’s actually very centrally located. A lot of Polish people consider themselves to be part of Central Europe. Because of this, it’s a great stop to add onto a longer multi-country or interrailing trip a round Europe. A lot of people I met in hostels were listing all the places they had been or intended to go and very few of them mentioned Poland. Whilst you’re already exploring in Central Europe it would be such a shame to miss out on discovering a new culture and adding another country to your list! Germany, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Belarus, Slovakia and Ukraine are all neighbouring countries.
9. Beaches, Lakes & Mountains
Though most of my examples so far have been city-biased, Poland has a beautiful landscape to be explored. In the north of the country, you’ll find endless beaches on the Baltic coast. You can easily visit the beaches in Gdynia, Sopot and Gdańsk in a day and enjoy a long relaxing walk at sunset with the wind in your hair and sand between your toes. And further south, you’ll find beautiful forestry and mountains. Zakopane, an idyllic town at the foot of the Tatra mountains, is a perfect place to see the latter. What’s more, it can be done as a day trip from Krakow! I’m yet to visit this beautiful place but have linked to posts about it from other writers to fuel your wanderlust.
10. Arts & Cultural Attractions
Asides from a growing street art scene, as previously mentioned, Poland has plenty of arts and culture on offer. From the all singing all dancing (literally) multimedia fountain in Wroclaw and neon sign galleries in Wroclaw and Warsaw to more classical and modern art galleries in all the big cities as well as museums.
Poland is also home to over 60 castles, including Malbork Castle, the largest castle in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can visit the castle in a day trip from Gdańsk. Poland is home to several UNESCO sites, including Warsaw Old Town, Wielzika Salt Mines and Centennial Hall in Wroclaw (pictured below). Visit Centennial Hall to see the Multimedia Fountain put on a show, complete with choreography, lights and dramatic music. There is also a discovery centre to teach you about the history of the concert hall.
11. Friendly People & Welcoming atmosphere
Everyone I spoke to in Poland was very helpful and welcoming. I spent half a day on a one-on-one tour of Gdynia’s street art and signage with a local who chatted to me like a friend, gave me recommendations for food in Gdynia and other cities I was visiting and even invited me to join her and her friends for the day.
My Uber driver in Poznań who saved me from going to the wrong bus station for my coach, gave me a chocolate bar, talked to me about where I was from and told me to be safe, take care of myself and have a great trip with a seemingly genuine concern. It was bit of a shock from the hundreds of silent Uber journeys I’ve had at home, or the ones where they ask you loads of weird questions, but a welcome one!
The staff in all of the hostels I stayed in were very helpful and happy to advise you on things to do and secret spots to visit.
Thank You for Reading!
I hope you enjoyed reading about why I enjoyed travelling through Poland, and why you should add this country to your travel list ASAP!