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2 week itinerary in Poland

It's official: I'm going to Poland.

Flight tickets are purchased and the general outline of the trip is being developed.

What I need from you fine folks is help with the details.

First, let me provide some background:

  • I'm an American male solo traveler in my upper-20s taking my second trip to Europe.
  • I'm arriving in Warsaw on Saturday, October 19 and departing from Krakow on Saturday, November 2.
  • I enjoy architecture, history, food/drink and natural beauty. I am particularly fascinated by 20th century history, but older architecture.
  • I know it's probably going to be cold and dreary in Poland in late-October, and that's OK with me. I am curious if the leaves will still be changing during my stay, however.
  • I'm a budget traveler when it comes to accommodations (Airbnbs, public transportation, etc.), but I don't mind splurging a bit for a great restaurant or sightseeing experience.

Feel free to ask me for more details about myself.

Let's talk itinerary. Here's what I've compiled thus far:

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19
Arrival in Warsaw (3 nights)

-- Flight scheduled to land at WAW at 1:55 p.m. local time.
-- Find Airbnb, then wander around Warsaw in a jet-lagged daze, perhaps do the Royal Way walk if I'm functional enough.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20
First full day in Warsaw

-- Royal Way Walk and Royal Castle
-- Chopin Museum (I'm a huge fan of his)
-- Warsaw Museum
-- Lazienki Park

MONDAY, OCTOBER 21
Second full day in Warsaw

-- Museum of the History of Polish Jews
-- Warsaw Uprising Museum

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22
Depart Warsaw for Malbork, then on to Gdansk (3 nights)

-- Morning train to Malbork (2.5-3 hours)
-- Malbork Castle
-- Afternoon train to Gdansk (30-45 minutes)

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 23
First full day in Gdansk

-- Gdansk Walk
-- St. Mary's Church
-- Solidarity Center

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 24
Second full day in Gdansk

-- Museum of the Second World War

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25
Depart Gdansk for Torun, then on to Poznan (2 nights)

-- Morning train to Torun (2.5 hours)
-- Torun Walk
-- City Hall Museum and Tower
-- Gingerbread Museum
-- Afternoon train to Poznan (1.5-2 hours)

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 26
Full day in Poznan

-- Old Market Square/Town Hall
-- Church of St. Stanislaus
-- Cathedral Island
-- Imperial Castle

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27
Depart Poznan for Wroclaw (1 night)

-- Morning train to Wroclaw (2.5-3 hours)
-- Wroclaw square and town hall
-- Ostrów Tumski
-- Szczytnicki Park
-- Centennial Hall
-- Cathedral of St John the Baptist

MONDAY, OCTOBER 28
Depart Wroclaw for Krakow (5 nights)

-- Morning train to Krakow (3.5 hours)
-- Royal Way Walk
-- Planty
-- St. Mary's Church
-- Main Market Square
-- St. Francis Basilica

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 29
First full day in Krakow

-- Wawel Hill, Cathedral and Castle Grounds

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 30
Second full day in Krakow

-- Schindler's Factory Museum
-- Kazimierz

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 31
Third full day in Krakow

-- Auschwitz

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 1
Fourth full day in Krakow

-- Possible day trip to Zakopane (weather may be a factor) or Wieliczka Salt Mine

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 2
Depart Krakow

-- Flight departs KRK at 10:40 a.m.

A few questions I have:

-- What do you think about the allotment of nights, particularly for Poznan, Wroclaw and Krakow? Is 2-1-5 the best strategy? Could I drop a night in Krakow, do without Zakopane/Wieliczka, and add a second night in Wroclaw?
-- What's the best site for purchasing Polish train tickets? I've been using this Polrail site thus far for time/price estimates.
-- Rick Steves doesn't include anything about Poznan and Wroclaw in his guidebooks. Are there other sites in those cities that I didn't list on my itinerary but should be considered?

I'm excited to hear what you folks think!

Posted by
4686 posts

Consider a night on Torun instead of just a day stop. It's a lovely town, the only "small" town on your itinerary (actually larger than it appears - but the center/old town feels pretty small). There isn't a ton to do/see there, but it is fun and charming.

I had two nights in Wroclaw. That really wasn't very much given that I arrived late the first afternoon and left early for Krakow the second morning - really one full day in Wroclaw. So probably would add a night there two if you can.

Add the Racławice Panorama to your Wroclaw itinerary if you can. This unique panoramic circular painting (housed in its own museum) depicts a famous Polish victory over the Russians in 1794.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rac%C5%82awice_Panorama

The Museum of the Krakow under the Nazi Occupation (housed in the former Oskar Schindler factory) really has almost nothing to do with Schindler, FYI. You can see his preserved office - that's about. Otherwise, it's a terrific, fairly modern museum detailing life in Krakow during the war. I love history but often find museums boring...but this one I did like a lot.

I didn't actually visit Warsaw or Poznan.

Posted by
5019 posts

I would assume that by late October the heavy tourist crowds of the summer high season are no longer a major factor, but do be aware that a few things ("Schindler" museum and Auschwitz) book up early during busy times. To avoid disappointment, book these things ahead if you know your schedule.

Posted by
661 posts

Looks like a great trip! I’m not sure about Zakopane in October. We were there in July and spent 2 nights. It would be a long day trip. We had construction traffic both ways. It was especially slow getting there. It would be a long day trip. We didn’t go to the salt mines.

We did a day trip to the Swidnica Peace church from Wrocław . We really enjoyed this day. If you do this day trip, take the bus, not the train. The bus has much more frequent service. We took the bus back to Wrocław when the train was canceled! If you take the bus you could probably get to Swidnica and Jawor in one day.

We also really enjoyed Gniezno (on train line between Torun and Poznzan). Great church, with amazing brass doors and a really interesting crypt.

I bought all our train tickets on line before we left. Don’t remember the site but it was not the site you mentioned. If you have the RS book, the site is listed there.

We also used Lonely Planets.

Posted by
6144 posts

Your itinerary looks great, but I would take one day away from Krakow. It's just not that big to justify that many full days, especially if the weather is crappy. Consider taking a day trip to Łódź from Warsaw - it's a former manufacturing center with some pretty cool architecture. You won't find it in a Rick Steves guide (and probably hardly any Americans go there), and that's ok.

Check out the In Your Pocket guides for each city. Also, Warsaw has a very good tourism website with all sorts of good maps depending on your interests.
https://warsawtour.pl/en/main-page/
https://warsawtour.pl/en/brochures/

This is the official rail website (don't worry if you can't find tickets if you look too early out):
https://rozklad-pkp.pl/en

PS. I really like the green roof garden on top of the University of Warsaw Library.

Posted by
1862 posts

Hi Nathan, I think Wroclaw has just as much or even more to offer than Poznan, I would definitely take 1 night from Krakow and add it to Wroclaw. Your current Wroclaw itinerary (adding the Racławice Panorama) would easily fill up 2 days maybe even 2.5 days. If possible, I would even spend 3 nights in Wroclaw, then you could even do a day trip to the impressive 17th century Churches of Peace at Swidnica and Jawor, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

In Wroclaw, since you mention you are interested in 20th century history, I would highly recommend visiting the Old Wroclaw Arsenal, which houses an exceptional museum of 20th century militaria and armaments, including a fascinating exposition of historical Polish Sabers. The Arsenal also houses the Silesian Archaeological Museum, which has ancient Roman and Celtic artifacts found in the area. The Old Wroclaw Arsenal is a real hidden gem, not many foreign tourists know about it.

Continuing with 20th century history, a great alternate day trip from Krakow is Schloss Pleß at Pszczyna. It's a Baroque style chateau, which used to be owned by the von Pleß family. The interior is very well preserved and many of the original stuff are all still there. It is also historically important as this is the place where Kaiser Wilhelm II had his HQ for the eastern front during WW1.

Hope this gives a few ideas :)

Posted by
1862 posts

Also, I agree with spending at least 1 night in Torun (maybe remove Poznan completely?). Torun's medieval architecture managed to escape bombing in WWII, and has thus been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Torun is also the birthplace of the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, one can visit a museum dedicated to him as well as his 15th century house, which I would add to your current itinerary.

Posted by
1417 posts

Agree with Andrew - don’t miss the panorama in Wroclaw, amazing piece of art and an amazing story.

In Warsaw we loved the Chopin museum and attended a piano concert at the Archdiocesan Museum. Warsaw is where we saw more concerts advertised. Warsaw also has a lovely ethnographic museum within walking distance of the royal way. The two museums on day 2 will definitely take all day. When you walk the royal way, keep going past the castle to the new old town and another better market square.
In Krakow across the street from Schindler is a small glass blowing factory, short demonstration and small museum if that interests you. Also in the area is an ethnographic museum which is located in, if memory serves me, the old town hall. You will love the building too. There are small museums and lovely old churches along the Royal way you could pop into, time permitting.
We found Marlboro to be a fun day but the place is so big it is overwhelming. After 2 hours with the audio guide we thought it was finished but it was only half done. We stayed there for about 5 hours.

For food, definitely look for the milk bars. Rick lists them in his book. Great food and very cheap. We ate in them in Gdańsk, Wroclaw, and Krakow. Missed the one in Warsaw. Check out on line if the guys with the blue van are around when you are there. They are in krakow, come out at night - 8:00 and just sell kielbasa from a small grill, by their van, under a tent. Fun waiting in line talking to people from all over, some locals too. Eat the doughnuts from Stara Paczkarnia, a chain in each city,and bagels from the kiosks around Krakow.

We purchased all our train tickets when we arrived in our first stop - Krakow. No problem. Poland will not break your budget. We were just there this past July and will definitely go back again.

Posted by
4686 posts

Poland is cheap! I'm frugal, but it's the only country where I've ever "splurged" for first class trains - didn't cost much more than second class! I understand the trains have improved a little since 2012, but back then, in second class, the train compartments were four seats across; the first class compartments were only three across. I felt like first class on Polish trains was more like second class in other countries.

Posted by
2070 posts

I took almost this exact same trip about five years ago. All the same cities in the same order with a slight variation in number of nights per city.

I would not take any days away from Krakow. It was my favorite place followed by Gdansk. I would decide on Zakopane based on the weather. We spent two nights there, but the weather was crappy. It was mid-October and it snowed, which was fine, but visibility was poor. Overall we had great weather; 50s and 60s — not too hot for walking around.

I liked the salt mine, but on a sunny day, I would choose Zakopane.

I think you’ll love Poland. It has an interesting history and beautiful market squares. The people are nice, and it’s super cheap. Oh, and the trains are awesome — always on time, at least for us. Unfortunately, I can’t remember if we bought our tickets ahead of time or not.

Posted by
12090 posts

Good that you're going solo on this second trip. I did likewise at 27.

As part of budget traveling I suggest staying in a hostel , the Greg and Tom in Krakow, very close to the train station.

How about more history in Warsaw? See the Military/Army Museum on your landing day if time permits, otherwise, see it on your first full day.

You're sure about getting jet lag?

Posted by
2487 posts

Good itinerary. I agree Torun deserves a full day as does Wroclaw. You could leave Gdansk for Torun in the afternoon (a whole day for the WWII Museum could be too much) and the same for Wroclaw to Kraków, giving you an extra morning.

I never had any problem with getting train tickets while in Poland, making it a habit to buy them the day before if only not to run the risk of a long queue at the ticket window while the train is about to depart.
Don't assume English is spoken at the railway station: write down date, time and train number, and everything will be fine.

Posted by
6144 posts

-- Museum of the History of Polish Jews
-- Warsaw Uprising Museum

You may want to spread these two (highly recommended) museums on different days because they are very content-heavy and could easily take a 1/2 day each depending on your interests (and you need to figure in transit time and a break to get some lunch). If the weather is good on your trip, obviously you can switch things around to take advantage of it (and use the museums in case of cold, rain, etc). By the way, I went to grad school in Pittsburgh (loved it!) and so the weather in Poland won't faze you at all compared to the 'Burgh.

Posted by
16757 posts

I spent 22 hours in the WW II Museum in Gdansk, which I realize is way beyond normal, but it's an indication of how much English-accessible content there is. I think the Solidarity Museum was more like 8 hours (spread across two days). So I believe the limit is more how much museum time you can stand on a single day than what the museum content justifies.

I had a problem with the ground floor of the Home Army Museum in Krakow (not on the current itinerary, and not necessarily essential given your other plans). Much of the first floor was really dark. It might not bother a younger person, but I'm 67 and I need light to be able to read. It's otherwise a good museum, and the lighting on the upper floor was fine.

I agree with Agnes about the two large Warsaw Museums. I spent close to a full day in each, again not all at one time, though that was primarily because I tend to get a late start in the morning.

Posted by
569 posts

We visited Krakow and also stayed in a castle near Ukraine in October/very early November in 2003. (In fact, our night at the castle was on Halloween, and we were the only ones there.) I remember wearing a winter coat, but the temperature was not unbearable. I realize weather changes from year to year, but we had a lot of sunshine on our trip. The only day it rained was the day we visited Auschwitz, which was appropriate for the setting.

I do recommend visiting Wieliczka! It was one of the highlights of our trip. We didn't have time for Zakopane, so can't compare.

Your itinerary sounds fascinating!

Posted by
157 posts

I return after 24 hours and this thread is filled with so much incredible information! Thank you all!

Let me address these initial comments with some followup questions.

-- I haven't heard much about Poznan on here...is it worth a stop or not? Many people have suggested adding a night apiece to Torun and Wroclaw, and if I scrap my two nights in Poznan, I could add a night in Torun and Wroclaw without sacrificing time in Warsaw, Gdansk and Krakow.

-- Furthermore, if I subtract a single night from either Krakow or Gdansk, I could add a third night to Wroclaw and make a day trip to Swidnica and Jawor. Are these places worth dropping a night in Krakow or Gdansk for? Would I need three nights in Wroclaw to see all of Wroclaw, plus Swidnica and Jawor?

-- Just based off my brief research, I will likely add Racławice Panoram and Schloss Pleß. Thanks for those great suggestions!

-- I need to reconfigure my Warsaw museum strategy somehow. Doing both the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Warsaw Uprising Museum in a single day sounds exhausting. The problem is, there are so many amazing museums in Poland and so little time.

You're sure about getting jet lag?

I planned on battling through jet lag on my first night in Barcelona when I went to Spain...and I failed miserably. I may be young and (reasonably) fit, but I still need my beauty rest ;)

By the way, I went to grad school in Pittsburgh (loved it!) and so the weather in Poland won't faze you at all compared to the 'Burgh.

I'm glad to hear that! There are a few other fellow Pittsburghers wandering around the forum. I just moved back after a one-year hiatus, but I'm happy to be in my hometown.

Posted by
1421 posts

What's the best site for purchasing Polish train tickets? I've been using this Polrail site thus far for time/price estimates.

I used PolRail, Jeffrey Dobek, to purchase my Polish rail tickets. His service, and that of his supporting colleagues was impeccable. Jeffrey helped me with my fare options, facilitated the purchase, and had the tickets delivered to my hotel a few days in advance of my arrival - all professionally and precisely according to our discussions.

Posted by
1421 posts

Chopin Museum (I'm a huge fan of his)

If your final itinerary puts you in Krakow on a Tuesday evening or a Friday evening, consider a Chopin Concert at Polonia House:
https://www.facebook.com/ChopinPianoConcerts/

I researched numerous options for a Chopin concert in Krakow and was underwhelmed by the reviews. While in Krakow, I found Chopin Concerts in Polonia House and was impressed! It is a historical venue; the concerts are held in a small performance room. The pianists are superb professionals.

Performances at 730pm, Tuesdays and Fridays. In early October last year, I had no trouble buying tickets the day before the event. Polonia House is steps off the main market square where it meets Grodzka street.

Posted by
6144 posts

There's no reason to buy the train tickets in advance or to use a third party site to do it. It's very unlikely the trains will be sold out during the time of your trip. It's also not like Western Europe, where it really pays to get tickets in advance - Polish train tickets are very inexpensive in general, they won't break the wallet. As far as allocating time goes, I always give more time to larger cities where attractions are more spread out. You have probably too little time in Warsaw and too much in Krakow, which is really compact and small in comparison.

Posted by
1421 posts

Schindler's Factory Museum

To a point made earlier, I was there early this past October, and Schindler tickets were sold out for the first few days of my stay; fortunately still available later in the week. You can buy them online 60 days (I believe) in advance. I wouldn't wait until you're in Krakow to buy them, especially if you're pretty committed to your schedule of other activities. Of course Mondays are free, and also more crowded. Tickets for those days were snapped up sooner.

With ticket in hand, there's no need to wait in any long entry line. You can go in the door to the left of where everyone else is waiting to buy their tickets at your appointed time.

Posted by
2487 posts

The Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica are stunning in all their simplicity. I've seen hundreds of churches in my life, but never such as these.
In Poznan I found the cathedral and the St Stanislaus (which I remember as the Dominican church) absolute beauties. The Rynek with the town hall doesn't stand a comparison with other Polish cities. The »Imperial castle« is a late nineteenth-century affair in the framework of a Prussification campaign. As a whole I can't find the city very agreeable, although others will passionately disagree.

Posted by
12090 posts

I second the suggestion to see Schloss Pless, historic site as it pertains to WW1 and even connected to US history.

Posted by
1862 posts

Regarding Wroclaw, I spent 3 nights there in 2014 and another 3 in 2017 and I still felt like I have not seen it all. I also agree with tonfromleiden, the Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica are unique to Poland and even Europe as whole, as they are the largest timber religious buildings in Europe, the interiors are breathtaking, definitely worth it for me.

Posted by
12090 posts

Very true about the Prussianfication campaign. Very shorted-sighted on the part of the Germans, politically counter-productive prior to 1914. I suppose the Austrians were the least stringent, ie more enlightened in that regard towards the Poles in their Empire.

The Great Powers awarded Prussia the province of Posen at the Congress of Vienna. The Russians were no better in their efforts at Russification, less tolerant, and even more stringent and harsh after the events of 1863 in Warsaw.

Posted by
2487 posts

You don't have to decide on Poznan in advance. It is very well doable as a day trip from Torun, with both in the morning and in the afternoon a direct train, taking only 1,5 hrs (and at the most affordable price of Zl 38).

Posted by
10 posts

Hi
I am planning to go to Poland next May too. During my research, I find the free walking tour is quite interesting. It covers major cities in Poland. I watched youtube video and the feedback is quite positive.

Posted by
16757 posts

Those tours are "free" in quotation marks. The way they work is that the company signs up tour leaders and pays them nothing. The tour guides have to pay the company a fee for everyone who shows up for the tour, no matter how much or how little they tip. Rick has reported that the head tax is around 3 or 3. 50 euros.

Posted by
13930 posts

I was very pleased with the free walking tours I took in Warsaw and Krakow. As acraven says, you are expected to tip. I usually figure about €10 per person, more if the guide was exceptional.

Posted by
12090 posts

Hi,

That's why you don't use the RS books. I don't. For Wroclaw and Poznan I suggest The Rough Guide Poland

Posted by
13930 posts

A couple more thoughts . . . the free walking tour of Jewish Krakow was very good, starts in Kazimierz and ends at the Schindler Museum. I was underwhelmed by the salt mines, probably the only sight I would have skipped, in hindsight.

My trip was 2 years ago. I bought 2nd class tickets and the trains were fine, though not as comfortable as in other countries. I did not have any long trips, just Gdansk to Warsaw and Warsaw to Krakow.

Posted by
41 posts

Hi Nathan,

Other great places in Wroclaw - Japanese Gardens, National Museum and Hydropolis. It depends on what you're interested in.

I always buy train tickets directly on the Polish rail website. Polish national rain company is called PKP and it's best to buy tickets on their website.