Poland is a relatively large country and you’ll need to take some time to explore it properly, or choose one region and focus on that (and you’ll soon be convinced that you should return!). I spent some time backpacking through Poland, meandering from north to south (and sideways), but feel I really need to return to experience more of what this country has to offer – history, culture, food, and friendly people. I’ve put together a list of 25 travel tips on what to do in Poland to help you when planning a Polish adventure.
Historical Museum of Warsaw
Warsaw is a fascinating city and the square in the Old Town, damaged badly in the war, is famous for having been very quickly rebuilt. Spread across several old houses in this square is the Historical Museum of Warsaw, which is well worth a look.
Old Town Market Square, Warsaw by Amanda Kendle
The town of Krakow is an understandable favourite of many visitors to Poland (that includes me!). A simple stroll around the main Market Square is entertaining enough, especially if your timing is right to hear and see the St Maryâ€™s Church bugler.
Cloth Hall in Krakow byÂ Amanda Kendle
Probably the only intact primeval forest in Europe, the Bialowieza Forest is on UNESCOâ€™s list of World Biosphere Reserves and it’s also famous for its bison reserve, where bisons are bred in their natural habitat. It’s a great place to escape from urban Poland.
Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw
Perhaps a less visited sight of Warsaw – but one of the most interesting places I saw there – is the Jewish Cemetery. It is over two hundred years old, though it suffered at the hands of the Nazis and parts of it are still damaged, but that seems to add to the interest. Obviously there are sad stories to be read into the tombstone inscriptions but these are important stories to remember when visiting Warsaw.
Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw byÂ Amanda Kendle
Wroclaw, with its tricky pronunciation (no letter sounds how it looks!) is a part of Poland I personally haven’t made it to, but Marcus’s post about the Old Town of Wroclaw certainly makes it sound appealing.
I ended up in the northern town ofÂ theÂ more by chance than anything but found it charming and inviting. Its Old Town is compact but so pretty and outside the city the main lakes district of Poland begins.
Olsztyn Old Town byÂ Amanda Kendle
If you’re a fan of “biggest” things, the Malbork Castle is unmissable – it’s the largest gothic castle in all of Europe and apparently by area even the largest castle in the whole world! It was founded by the Teutonic Order and has had a tumultuous history and even today, parts of it remain in ruins.
Chopin attractions in Warsaw
Music lovers will be intrigued by the links to Chopin in Warsaw. Not only did Chopin grow up here, he also left plenty of memorials behind – there is now a Chopin Museum, a Chopin Monument, Chopin’s Parlour and most bizarrely, Chopin’s heart is famously “stored” in one of the pillars in the Church of the Holy Cross.
Chopin Monument by Alf Melin
TheÂ Bieszczady Mountains are part of the huge Carpathian Range and are found right in the south-eastern corner of Poland (they extend on into Ukraine and Slovakia, in fact). Â They are very scenic and full of great hiking and biking trails.
One of the biggest surprises of Poland for me was just how fascinating Wolf’s Lair was to visit. I imagined it simply as a historical site where Hitler had spent some time but it’s in fact a maze of concrete bunkers and ruins now made green by the encroaching growth. You can stay in a simple hotel on site and explore the area before the tourist buses arrive.
Wolfschanze bunkers byÂ Amanda Kendle
The medieval town of Torun in the north-west of Poland is on the UNESCO World Heritage list and is special because it was lucky enough to avoid any bombing during the war, so its old town architecture is still intact.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
If you make it to Krakow, then one of the must-sees is the Wieliczka Salt Mine. With salt mining here dating back to the 13th century it’s historical to start with, but also a fascinating experience to explore the statues and especially the chapel which have been carved into the salt underground.
Wieliczka Salt Mine chapel by jhadow
Lakes at Miedzychod
Suchi recommends the lakes at Miedzychod as a bit of a secret tip on experiencing life around one of Poland’s many lakes. An hour from Poznan, Miedzychod is just a village yet it’s surrounded by three large lakes and (the big tip!) includes several fantastic pastry shops!
Perhaps Poland’s most famous lakes, however, are the Masurian Lakes in the north. The district includes over 2,000 lakes and camping, biking and boating are popular activities for tourists.
At the other end of Poland, on the southern border with Slovakia, the town of Zakopane is the Polish gateway to the Tatra Mountains. Popular in both summer and winter (for hiking and skiing, respectively), Zakopane is well-equipped for tourists with many locals renting out rooms.
View to the Tatras from Zakopane byÂ Amanda Kendle
Slowinski National Park
Yet another fantastic natural attraction in Poland can be found in the Slowinski National Park, home to incredible 44-metre tall shifting sand dunes, found next to the banks of Lake Lebsko. There are some great walking trails to follow with observation towers for the best views of the dunes.
Poland includes a large number of interesting cities but one that particularly impressed Anna was Gdansk. With a focus on tourists and providing helpful and timely information, it’s a pleasurable city to explore.
Royal Castle, Warsaw
One of the most famous tourist attractions across Poland is the Royal Castle in Warsaw. It’s an impressive building in Warsaw’s pretty Old Town, although it had to be extensively rebuilt after the damage inflicted during Warsaw Uprising.
Royal Castle in Warsaw byÂ Amanda Kendle
another Polish town with UNESCO World Heritage statusa well-preserved example of a late-Renaissance urban Old Town.
Auschwitz/Birkenau Concentration Camps
Twentieth-century history is very much present when you visit Poland and although others may disagree, I urge you to choose at least one concentration camp to include on your travels. The Auschitz/Birkenau camps are, I freely admit, quite a distressing place to visit, but you will understand more about World War Two history in those few hours than you will by reading textbooks for a few decades.
Train tracks to Birkenau byÂ Amanda Kendle
Gross-Rosen Concentration Camp
Another concentration camp in Poland, this time visited by Marcus, is the Gross-Rosen Concentration Camp near Wroclaw. It’s a completely different experience to Auschwitz – quiet and empty of the tourist buses, and with less traumatising displays – so it might make a better visit if you’re not sure about trying Auschwitz.
Another well-known name from the Holocaust is Treblinka, the extermination camp in eastern Poland. Unlike Auschwitz, Treblinka’s buildings were destroyed and the area disguised as a farm as early as 1943, so today it is a memorial site rather than a museum, but a tour here is very informative.
Treblinka monument by EuroIL
CzÄ™stochowa is the place Catholics head to on aÂ pilgrimageÂ in Poland – here you will find theÂ Â Jasna GÃ³ra monastery, which is home to the famous Black Madonna painting. The town ofÂ CzÄ™stochowa itself is also pretty and worth a visit.
The Muskauer Park or Park Muzakowski is an enormous English-style garden located on both sides of the Nysa River, which means it actually is located in both Poland and Germany. It includes a castle and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list recently.
Bridge at Muskauer Park by Udo Schroeter
Yet another UNESCO World Heritage-listed site in Poland is the Mannerist Architectural and Park Â in the town ofÂ Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. It dates back to 1600 and was modelled on a map of Jerusalem, including several interesting chapels.
Your Poland Suggestions
Poland is a country full of natural and historical sites and this list really just scratches the surface. If your favourite Polish experience isn’t on this list, please add it in the comments below.