Should I go to Warsaw (Warszawa)? Cracow (Kraków)? or Gdansk (Gdańsk)? So what are the best places to see in Poland?
There is certainly a large number of people not only from the UK who are planning a short break in Poland but they often don’t know where to go. One of my friends is going this week for 4 or 5 days and asked me about the best places to visit.
Here is what I would do if I only had a few days in Poland. There are some essentials that you just have to see as this might be your only visit to this country and you want to make sure you make the most of it.
Cracow a must see place in Poland
I would put Cracow (Kraków) on the top of the list. One of must see places in Poland, Cracow is the former capital of Poland, city of artists and one of the most amazing destinations in Europe. You should give yourself at least 1-2 days to visit the main market square, the historical trade pavilions of the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice), Wawel Castle, Collegium Maius (situated at the corner of St.Anna and Jagiellonska Streets, is the oldest university edifice in Poland, it’s history goes back to 1400) and my personal favourite Great Barbican. In terms of nightlife and pubs I recommend Kazimierz, which is a former medieval town, now part of Cracow. The Kazimierz’s market square (look for Plac Nowy on the map) offers very different atmosphere than the main one. If you are looking for a real, more bohemian and less touristic area Kazimierz is definately the place to go for a night out. It is cheaper then the main square too! Here is the full list of pubs in Kazimierz.
Day trips from Cracow
The Wieliczka Salt Mine
The Wieliczka Salt Mine is your another stop, they even offer tours in English (in the morning at 10, 11.30 or in the afternoon 12.15, 1.45, 3, 5). Wieliczka is only 10 kilometers from Cracow city centre and you can get here by taxi, one of the buses or just take a train from the Kraków Główny train station. Some say that the Wieliczka Salt Mine is no less magnificent than Egyptian pyramids and no wonder it’s been listed as one of the UNESCO sites. Here is what they say about The Wieliczka Salt Mine in UNESCO.
“The historic Salt Mine in Wieliczka is the only mining site in the world functioning continuously since the Middle Ages. Lying on nine levels, its original excavations (longitudinals, traverses, chambers, lakes, as well as minor and major shafts) stretch for the total of about 300 kilometres: reaching the depth of 327 metres they illustrate all the stages of mining technology development over time.”
Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum
While you are outside Cracow you should also visit the memorial and museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In the summer museum is opened from 8AM to 7PM. If you are thinking how much time you should leave for your visit in Auschwitz here is a quotation from the museum’s website.
“The duration of a visit is determined solely by the individual interests and needs of the visitors. As a minimum, however, at least one-and-a-half hours each should be reserved for the grounds and exhibitions of Auschwitz I and for the Birkenau site. It is necessary to visit both parts of the camp, Birkenau and Auschwitz, in order to acquire a proper sense of the place that has become the symbol of the Holocaust.”
As for transport there are a lot of buses, trains from Cracow city center.
Zakopane – top holiday destination
When you are in Cracow you just can’t not go to Zakopane! Zakopane is one of the top holiday destinations and the most popular mountain resort in Poland, located 95 kilometers (59 miles) south of Cracow, you can get there by one the frequent buses from the bus station. The Krupówki street is the main street of Zakopane with tons of traditional restaurants and regional pubs. You won’t be able to see everything you want in one day so rent a room and stay at least for one night. You should be able to find rooms when you arrive, even in the peak periods there is a plenty of local people at the bus or train station offering cheap rooms. Remember to try the traditional cheese called “Oscypek”, which you can buy almost everywhere and don’t be surprised when it is being sold without packaging – it’s all handmade, organic and delicious! Please also don’t limit your visit to the main street, there are thousands of hiking trails. If you don’t like hiking spent at least few hours to see the Morskie Oko lake (see picture).
From Cracow to Warsaw
Although I’m not the biggest fan of the capital city of Poland from the historical point of view it is certainly another place you should consider visiting. Train travel is definately the best way to tour from Cracow to Warsaw, but be careful when booking trains some of them can make turn this fairly small 275 kilometers (170 miles) distance into 6 hours journey, ask for a train that takes less than 3hrs. If you need train schedule go to the train station or visit the PKP website. Buy tickets at the train station, I’m not sure you can get them online. In Warsaw, I recommend going to Wilanow Palace, Warsaw Old Town and Lazienki Park.
I hope you find it useful and I would also appreciate feedback from all poeple who have been in these places. There is so much more you can say about Cracow and Warsaw but I didn’t want to turn it into a long lesson about history of Poland. There is also a lot more to see in Poland. Although i’ve never been to Gdansk I heard it is a beautiful city.
Anyway, hope you enjoy your visit!