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3 weeks in Poland

I booked a spontaneous flight to Warsaw the other day for August and I am having trouble deciding which way to go for my itinerary. I have 20 nights and I don’t know if I want to spend it all in Poland or split my time with Czechia. This will be my first visit to Poland but I have been to Prague twice. I love the idea of getting to know some smaller Czech cities.

A rough itinerary for just Poland would be
Warsaw 1nt
Krakow 4nt
Zakopane 3nt
Katowice 2nt
Poznań 3nt
Gdańsk 4nt
Warsaw 3nt

For Poland and Czechia:
Warsaw 1nt
Zakopane 3nt
Krakow 3nt
Brno 2nt
Ceske Budejovice 3nt
Prague 2nt
Wroclaw 3nt
Warsaw 3nt

I won’t have a car and will be relying on buses/trains to get around. I have researched time tables and they all seem like doable journeys for me regarding distance. In your opinion, which itinerary looks best? Is there anything you would add/subtract? Little towns worth stopping through? Also, if you have any advice of things to do and see or some day trips in any of these destinations, it would be much appreciated. I have the RS Eastern Europe guide so places such as Kunta Hora, Cesky Krumlov, Malbork Castle, and the Wieliczka salt mines are on my radar but open to many other suggestions. I enjoy hiking and parks, history and castles, and love experiencing a culture through their food. Thanks for all the help!

Posted by
2169 posts

Hi Christian, I know you won't be disappointed with Poland, I have been several times and I must say it's such an underrated corner of Europe.

I would recommend just focusing on Poland this time around, with the rising number of Covid cases in central Europe crossing between boarders with newly imposed restrictions can make for quite an unstable situation, best to stay in one country and mitigate those potential issues.

This would be my recommended itinerary for a first time "Best of Poland" trip, flying in to Warsaw and out of Krakow, as to minimize backtracking:

Fly into Warsaw

Warsaw (3 nights)
|
Torun (2 nights)
|
Gdansk (3 nights) - day trip to Malbork castle
|
Gniezno (2 nights) - day trip to the Iron Age fortified settlement of Biskupin
|
Wroclaw (3 nights) - day trip to the Church of Peace in Świdnica and Książ Castle or Kłodzko
|
Kraków (4 nights) - day trip Pszczyna Palace
|
Zakopane (2 nights) - hike to Morskie Oko
|
Kraków (1 night)

Fly out of Kraków

Instead of Poznan, a work-a-day business city, consider breaking up your big city theme with a smaller town, in between Wroclaw and Gdansk. I would actually suggest spending 2 nights in the charming town of Gniezno instead. Gniezno is the legendary birthplace of Poland, it was the first capital of Poland even before Krakow. The main sight is the Gniezno Cathedral and its twelfth-century bronze doors. A nice day trip from Gniezno is the iron age fortified settlement of Biskupin.

For a first time trip to Poland, a stop at Wroclaw is a must (my favorite city in Poland), it has much to see in terms of history and architecture, but has the laid-back vibes historic university town. The old center is quite unique, as it incorporates a little of every country that has ruled the city - from Silesian Gothic to Austrian Baroque and German Modernist. Plus their are a number of great daytrips from from Wroclaw in the nearby Sudeten mountain range, like Kłodzko (known as “Little Prague”), Książ Castle, and massive timber Protestant Churches of Peace - UNESCO world heritage sites located in Jawor and Świdnica.

As an off the beaten path daytrip from Krakow, I would recommend a trip to Pszczyna, an old baroque town, former capital of the Duchy of Pless. It's dominated by a large Baroque style chateau, which used to be owned by the von Pless family. The interior is very well preserved and many of the original furnishings 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 all helps!

Posted by
5894 posts

For either itinerary, you are wasting time backtracking to Warsaw to return home. Instead book it as a multi-city (aka open-jaw), and save some time.

Posted by
706 posts

I would also recommend just sticking to Poland. We had only 16 nights and were quite rushed. I think 3 weeks would be great. I think your itinerary looks fine, but our itinerary was more like what Carlos suggested. We did our trip by train (except we took the bus from Kraków to Zakopane). My favorite stops were Gniezno, where we stopped on our way from Torun to Wrocław, and the Peace Church in Swidnica (I think the minibus will be better than train, at least that was the case a few years ago) which we did as a day trip from Wrocław.

Posted by
5894 posts

For either itinerary, you are wasting time backtracking to Warsaw to return home. Instead book it as a multi-city (aka open-jaw), and save some time. For example, for #1, fly into Gdansk, return from Warsaw (or vice versa). For #2, into Warsaw, return from Prague.

Posted by
2021 posts

You will not be disappointed spending all your time in Poland. We were there for 16 days in 2018 and loved everything - the food, people, sights, churches, museums, concerts, history. We went to Krakow, Wroclaw with a stop at Czestochowa, gdansk with day trip to Marbork, and Warsaw. We were 4 adults and each of us would love to return to see more. We had already been to Czech Republic 2x and just wanted to concentrate on Poland. The trains are so easy to use and so inexpensive we upgraded to first class on each train ride. We did hire a private driver from krakow to wroclaw because of our stop. Also not outrageously priced for drive door-to-door with stop to see the Black Madonna and private one hour tour of Czestochowa. I did a trip report but am not good with cut and paste. I’ll try and update.

Posted by
2980 posts

Another fan of Wroclaw - whatever you decide make sure to include Wroclaw!

I like Carlos' itinerary!

Posted by
113 posts

Thank you everyone and thank you Carlos for that very detailed response. Sticking with Poland it is! I usually explore many countries during my travels to Europe, so it will be nice to deeply explore one country. My flight is already booked, so open jaw is not an option. I don’t mind backtracking and can always use an overnight transport option as to not waste that time. With Carlos’ itinerary, I can easily get a bus from Zakopane to Warsaw which only adds a few more hours of travel time.

Posted by
2510 posts

I’m super excited about your trip… Warsaw round trip ticket and all 🙂! I think you will find an all Poland itinerary very rewarding. I had a trip planned for fall 2020 and then 2021, but I decided to go for Bosnia instead this fall when Poland dragged its feet on opening its borders. I can’t wait to go to Poland in the next couple of years!

Posted by
168 posts

In 2017 my wife and I spent time in southern Poland: Wroclaw, Boleslawiec, and Krakow. Like others on this string, we really enjoyed Wroclaw. Boleslawiec is a nice small-town stop if you enjoy the Polish pottery from the region; the annual Pottery Festival is in Aug (though I don't know if it will be held this year due to COVID). More info is in our trip report posted in the forum: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/poland-wroclaw-boleslawiec-krakow-aug-2017-part-1-of-2

Posted by
1932 posts

Your itinerary options get me so excited about trying to reinstate my 2020 Poland trip. After visiting Krakow and Wrocław on 2 different trips - and loving both! - I was looking forward to an all-Poland visit.

I wrote a trip report (2019) about my time in Wrocław and Świdnica, including details on catching the minibus for the day trip to the Church of Peace that Carlos suggests. I loved that day trip!
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/trip-report-wroclaw-and-swidnica

One of my all-time favorite meal memories was in Wrocław, at a pierogi restaurant recommended by Carlos and mentioned in my trip report. I scored the little half-height table on a platform overlooking the restaurant and felt like one of Wrocław's dwarves enjoying my dinner of sweet and savory pierogi with cherry cider.

Posted by
938 posts

Hi Christina, is there a reason you didn’t add Auschwitz-Birkenau? It’s an easy bus ride from Kraków. Do take Rick Steve’s self-guided walks so you’ll see everything you need to see before moving on.
I also suggest visiting the Wieliczka salt mines for an early morning church service on Sun, otherwise skip it. The reason I say that is because it’s the only part of the salt mine that’s interesting and being there for mass would make it special.
Don’t know what time you’ll arrive in Warsaw, but I would go to Gdansk first and there are two ways to get there. The first option is to take a non-stop flight from WAW for less than $100. The other is to catch a train from the airport and transfer at the Warszawa Zachodnia station (15-minutes) then continue on to Gdansk (3h). Gdansk is the city where you want to shop for amber.
From Gdansk you can take a 45-minute bus to Marlbork Castle.
It will be a lot easier to get around if you stayed in Poland than it would if you included the Czech Republic. However, I recommend flying from Krakow to Lviv, Ukraine for a couple nights and then flying from Lviv to Warsaw. You can include both journeys on one ticket for less than $100.

Posted by
2169 posts

One of my all-time favorite meal memories was in Wrocław, at a pierogi restaurant recommended by Carlos and mentioned in my trip report. I scored the little half-height table on a platform overlooking the restaurant and felt like one of Wrocław's dwarves enjoying my dinner of sweet and savory pierogi with cherry cider.

Glad that was such a fond memory for you! :)

For those curious the restaurant is called Pierogarnia Stary Młyn (https://www.pierogarnie.com/en/) right off the central market square in Wrocław. If you want the ultimate Polish Pierogi experience this is the place to go. They have all kinds of pierogi including many vegetarian options plus other nice menu items like rustic Polish salads and hearty soups, very affordable for the large portions. It's also very user friendly, especially for first timers, the staff were great and explained everything very well. I think they have locations in Torun and Gdansk as well, check them out when you get to Poland!

Posted by
113 posts

Jeff- The pottery festival looks interesting. I tried to do a bit of research to see if it was happening this year but didn’t have much luck. That might just have to be something I ask around about once over there. But it’s nice to have on my radar, thank you for the suggestion!

CWsocial- What a thorough trip report, much appreciated. Full of great resources that will be useful for my trip. There are so many good day trip options from Wrocław, I don’t know how I’m going to choose which ones to go to.

MaryPat- Oh Auschwitz is a given and is actually the site that sparked my interest in visiting Poland. Quite a depressing attraction, but I feel drawn to experience it, especially as the last survivors are leaving this earth, it’s important we never forget.
I appreciate your advice about the salt mines. I will keep that in mind, although there are a million other things I would find more intriguing than sitting through mass.
I land in Warsaw in the early afternoon. And have looked into transport options to a different city the day I land and have a few different routes I can take. There are also flix bus routes all over Poland that are very convenient. The flix bus connects Poland and
Czechia pretty well so it wasn’t really any more difficult to get around with either itinerary (I did a ton of transport research coming up with the routes) I have also looked into hopping over to Lviv but the bus ride is quite long and I really don’t want to fly during my trip. Originally I was going to have a month to travel and a trip to Ukraine was more fesible. But after having to cut down a week, I think Lviv will have to wait for next time.

Carlos- Sounds delicious! I am definitely marking that off on my google maps. I think eating is my favorite part about travel

Posted by
1932 posts

There are also flix bus routes all over Poland that are very convenient.

I found FlixBus tickets to be cheaper if I purchased in Euros, and even cheaper in Polish Złoty or Czech Koruna. The price of the "extras" (booking fee, seat reservation, and especially checked luggage fee) were notably higher in dollars. The tickets are inexpensive, so it's not a huge amount, but still.

Simple instructions for choosing your FlixBus currency are here:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/transportation/flixbus-tickets-cheaper-in-euros-than-dollars

I found it to be well worth the price to purchase the "panoramic" front seat on the upper deck: turned an ordinary bus ride into some delightful countryside sightseeing.

Posted by
113 posts

CWsocial- wow, thank you so much for that tip! I just did a comparison of prices on the flixbus.com site vs flixbus.pl and was pretty shocked at the differences. Found the same bus with panoramic seat was $20 on the .com site and just $12 on the .pl site. That wasn’t even adding in extra luggage which was $10 and $1.25 respectively. What a shocking difference. I would have never even thought to check in local currency. What a great way to save money.

Posted by
18739 posts

I have no idea what the situation is like now, but when I was in Krakow in 2018, Auschwitz tickets were sold out for eight days into the future. I was glad I had (unusually for me) booked mine ahead of time. The alternative would have been going to the memorial site and standing in a very, very long line in an uncovered courtyard. Even if I'd gotten a ticket that way, I might have been told it was for 3 hours later. I had no trouble just taking the public bus to Auschwitz, but the bus station is a bit oddly located, sort of behind the train station, so I was glad I had already been over that way. I may have bought my bus tickets a day ahead of time; I'm not sure about that. Allow plenty of time to get to your bus.

The Schindler Factory visit was also regularly selling out, though I think not multiple days into the future. However, that's an indoor sight with fairly tight quarters. It may be selling a lot fewer tickets this year for health reasons.

When you get around to L'viv on a future trip, be sure to include at least Kyiv as well. There's tons to see in Kyiv.

Posted by
113 posts

Acraven- I do remember hearing that tickets booked up in advance with Auschwitz, but before booking the trip I did a bit of research and saw that there were plenty of spots open for the next day. Especially for tours in English, tours in Polish and German were a little less available. But thanks for the heads up as I would have been quite disappointed if I wasn’t able to visit.

Lviv and Kyiv are def on the list. Albeit the list is quite long, but I am eager to explore more of Eastern Europe as I feel like they are counties less traveled and talked about, which makes me very intrigued. Plus they are all extremely affordable making it easy to stay for longer