How To Travel Like a Local in Poland
This summer, I took my second trip to Poland, and it was a completely different experience than it had been a decade before. The first time I was in Poland I was backpacking in 2006 and only saw Krakow. Returning about 10 years later and seeing the changes was truly amazing. The country is now a blend of historic towns and cities as well as modern, advanced cities.
We were very fortunate because my fiancée’s family and friends were able to give us tours of each city we visited, and we were able to cover a lot of the country in two weeks with built-in tour guides.
We started our trip in my fiancée’s home town of Poznan, which is about two hours east of Berlin, and is an absolutely beautiful mid-sized city. Other tourists use the city, known for many transportation options, as a homebase from which to explore the nearby countryside. Before setting out, visitors to the city must visit the city’s colorful Old Town district and its many restaurants, pubs and clubs.
Once we spent a few days there we headed north to the port city of Gdansk and the Baltic Sea, which was about a five-hour drive. Gdansk is an extremely beautiful old city and reminded me a lot of Prague. Many travelers say it is the most distinctive city in the entire country and draws people to its cafes, shops and museums. Short river cruises are offered and there are tons of spots to learn about maritime history. Nearby, the beaches on the Baltic in Sopot, which is right beside Gdansk, were amazing and offered great swimming and restaurants. Sopot offers many spas and hotels, and is the place were Poles themselves go on vacation. I would highly recommend visiting both places.
From there our next stop was a little off-the-beaten path for most tourists — we went to the Karkonosze mountains in the western part of the country, on the border with the Czech Republic. The region is popular for hiking in warm-weather months and skiing when there’s snow on the ground. This was the most beautiful part of the trip and we ended up completing a 15-mile hike through the mountains. Anyone visiting Poland should consider going here.
Our next stop took us to Wroclaw in central Poland. Many people consider this the most beautiful city in Poland and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Beautiful bridges, buildings, rivers, and a stunning old square are only a few of the highlights.
And finally, our last stop was in Warsaw for four days. It has a different feel than other Polish cities because it was completely destroyed in World World II and had to be rebuilt primarily using pictures. The capital is known for its diverse architecture while being spread across a large area. The city feels modern but also has a beautiful old town, which is one of my must-sees on this trip. Another favorite is the Uprising Museum,which is a collection of artifacts from the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 that are housed in a former power station. The views of the city are breathtaking, but one of the most expansive ones is from the 40th floor of the Marriott.
And of course, I can’t finish my review of Poland without talking about all of the delicious food. The perogies, beef tartar, halibut, zapiekanka (a delicious cheese- and mushroom-covered baguette) and all of the pastries and cured meats make for a great culinary experience.