Just over two hours by plane from the UK, and with flights as little as £30, why is Poland not at the top of our European destination holiday list? The eastern half of Europe is not on the radar for a lot of people. However, if you fancy a break from the likes of Paris, Amsterdam, and Vienna, discover the abundance of European charm, history, beautiful landscapes, and tasty cuisine of Poland.
Those who have visited different areas of Poland often comment that Warsaw is entirely different. Likened to Berlin, the capital city is vast and brimming with architecture, boutique hotels, trendy shops, and industrial art galleries. Warsaw is not only fashionable but rich with history, and an array of excellent museums detail the city’s complex past, from Chopin’s music to the tragedy of the Jewish ghetto.
Contrasting against hip Warsaw is the fairy-tale city of Krakow. Legends state that Krakow was founded on the defeat of a dragon, and this magical ambience rings true throughout the city. The Old Town is bequeathed with Europe’s largest market square, impressive museums, regal churches, and many eateries. The former royal capital is also home to the former Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, whose relic synagogues are a painful reminder of the tragedy of The Holocaust.
Just outside of Krakow, once the capital of Nazi-dominated Poland, is the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. Before its liberation in January 1945, Auschwitz was one of the many prison camps set up. Today, the majority of the prison blocks are home to museum exhibitions, and the gut-wrenching main gate, with sobering train lines still intact, stand as a testament to the camp’s history.
If you love hearty, carb-fuelled fare, your palette will thank you in Poland. Bigos is one of the country’s national dishes and is a wholesome meat stew containing cabbage, sauerkraut, tomatoes, mushrooms, honey, and a variety of meat and sausage. It is served steaming hot with mashed potatoes. Another gem of Poland is the championed pierogi; dumplings filled with seasoned potato, meat, cheese, and sauerkraut. Other popular dishes include stuffed golabki, decadent meat roulade, and various specialist sausages called kielbasa.
Although the cities and towns of Poland are spectacular, do not make the mistake of thinking that this is a city-break-only country. North Poland is blessed with 300 miles of Baltic coastline and Gdansk, Sopot, and Gdynia are the most popular retreats, with summer temperatures over a comfortable 20°C. Travelling to the north west of Poland from the Gdansk Bay area is the Pomeranian Lake District. The picturesque landscape It is made up of almost 200 partially interlinked lakes which remain largely undiscovered by tourists; ideal for those who want a countryside escape.
Gothic cathedrals sit next to communist concrete structures which are neighboured by the most contemporary and edgy buildings. The mix of architectural styles in Poland is astounding and there are no specific sites to place on the itinerary to experience it all. Some of the most championed, however, are Szczecin’s geometric Philharmonic Hall and Krakow’s 14th century gothic Wawel Castle.
Poland is celebrated as one of the most affordable destinations throughout Europe. A three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant in the UK will not leave you much change from £60, but in Warsaw you’d need no more than £20 for the same. The country is a fantastic option for those who want to get away but are limited by budget as there are countless free attractions, such as city tours of Krakow and endless museums that do not charge on specific days.
Poland boasts over 100 castles with varying styles of architecture and, often, incredible gardens and grounds. The aforementioned Wawel Castle, in Krakow, is undoubtedly the most visited but, for a unique experience, head to the Disney-style Moszna Castle which was built in the 17th-century. Other outstanding castles include Lancut Castle, Warsaw’s Royal Castle, and Goluchow Castle.