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Looking for advice on visiting Poland

We are a family of 4 (kids aged 13 and 9) who have traveled to 12 countries and 12 states, so the kids are well versed in travel.

The plan is visit Poland from approximately July 1 to July 10, but we are flying out of Philadelphia, so there will be a connection flight involved.

Want to visit Gdansk and Sopot, Warsaw, and Krackow (including salt mine and Aushwitz).

I feel like this is too aggressive, translating into 2 days stay in Gdansk, Warsaw and Krackow, and 1 travel day in between.

Am I correct?

Can anyone suggest either a more realistic version of this plan, or an alternate plan (like skip Warsaw, or skip Gdansk and just stay in Sopot, etc.).

Additionally, what's the best way to travel between these cities? Train? Bus? Flying?

Thanks in advance for your assistance!

Posted by
16614 posts

Yes, I think you're trying to cover too many places. Poland is a huge country. But exactly how many nights will you have in Poland?

I'd start by scratching Sopot. Unfortunately, I don't think that's enough--though of course it depends on what you want to see and do, plus I am looking at things from the perspective of an adult who spends a lot of time in museums. My 2018 trip also had a heavy focus on Cold War sites, because that's a special interest of mine. Poland has done an exceptionally good job of making its key historical sites and its museums English-accessible. As a result, you're not typically spending just 30 or 60 minutes somewhere. There's a lot of very good information posted in English, and it takes time to read it (or watch videos). I spent 20 hours (!) in Gdansk's WWII Museum and 8 hours at the Solidarity Center. POLIN (Museum of the Jews in Poland) and the Warsaw Rising Museum took me about 8 hours each.

I don't know how appropriate Auschwitz is for a 9-year-old, but getting to the camp and visiting it takes the better part of a day. The Schindler Factory takes probably at least 2 hours (over 4 for me, I think). And Krakow is gorgeous, so you want to have time to enjoy the city, Wawel Castle, etc.

Let's see what folks who actually have children (I don't) think about you timing.

As for transportation within Poland:

Warsaw - Gdansk is under 3 hours by train.
Warswa - Krakow is 2 hr. 20 min. by train.
Gdansk - Sopot is 15-20 minutes by train.

Ergo, trains are the way to go.

If you have Polish ancestry, you might be interested in the Emigration Museum in Gdynia (also near Gdansk). It's modern and full of English. I wouldn't particularly recommend it on a very short trip like this if you're not Polish, though the emigrant experience is pretty universal.

Posted by
5017 posts

Way too aggressive IMHO.

Stepping back, reality check time. You are going to Europe for a week, basically. That's a very, very short trip to Europe (too short for me - personally, I won't go to Europe unless I can be there for an absolute minimum for 2 weeks on the ground, not counting travel to and from Europe...it's just too far to go for a shorter trip, and the cost of getting there is too high for me to justify going if I'm not going to be there at least 2 weeks; others have their own "personal minimums", that's mine).

In your case, you're going to have 7 usable days once you get there. Seven days. You can't reasonably go to 4 different cities in that short time (especially when at least one of them includes two separate day-trips).

With just 7 days, I'd pick Krakow and one other. Warsaw is an obvious choice. Split your time between them. They are well connected by a modern, high speed rail line.

Posted by
1795 posts

Well, prepare to be pleasantly surprised, as Poland has quite the modern high speed rail network, called EIP (Express Intercity Premium). With 9 nights available, I'd do something like this:

Fly in to Gdansk
Gdansk (3 nights) - day trip to Sopot
EIP Train to
Warsaw (2 nights)
EIP Train to
Krakow (4 nights) - day trips to Wieliczka Salt Mine & Zakopane
Fly out of Krakow

I switched out Auschwitz for Zakopane (mountain resort town), a more appropriate choice for children, I think. Also please note the spelling of Krakow, rather than Krackow.

Hope this helps!

Posted by
12084 posts

Hi,

Great that you want to go to Poland. Any specific interests, historically or culturally? I f you basically have 9 full days, I would suggest visiting 2 cities, maybe a day trip from one of them, Warsaw and Krakow, Gdansk and Warsaw, or any other two cities.

No problem is planning or getting around, it's all a matter of priorities and just doing it.

If you prefer staying in one specific area, say the lower Vistula or the Vistula "bend," or Upper Silesia, then choose for the lower Vistula Gdansk and some towns in that specific region.

I would suggest reading up in The Rough Guide Poland...great for further historical and cultural research. I don't regret going to any place in Poland, ....all interesting, fascinating, enlightening, be they Warsaw and Krakow or the much smaller places.

Posted by
15 posts

These are all great suggestions, thank you! There's no reply button for each reply, so I have to use this broader reply. But all of your comments were very helpful, thanks again

Posted by
16614 posts

Paul, you may get additional advice from others, but it would really help if you told us how many nights you have in Poland. Your original post is unclear to me.

Posted by
12084 posts

Hi,

Given your time frame, I could visit 3 cities in Poland but with a family in tow that might be stressful or tiring. I travel solo so visiting 3 cities say, in Germany in different parts of the country poses no problem at all, energy -wise or logistically.

Your kids may feel differently with a seemingly full schedule. I was with my grandson in Europe when he was still 4 going on 5 and 10 going on 11, he never complained, immersed himself in the trip, a totally good trooper, regardless if he was in London, France, Paris or in the southwest of France.

If "the kids are well versed in travel," do all three cities...Gdansk, Warsaw and Krakow. I suggest leaving Krakow for last in terms of the train options.

Posted by
22 posts

All of these replies are great! I too am looking to do a similar trip as Paul with my husband and two well traveled teenaged girls (something like 20 countries so far) with an interest in 20th century history. I was thinking about 4 nights in Krakow (Auschwitz, Salt Mine, Schindler, exploring the town) and then a few nights in either Warsaw or Gdansk. Thoughts?

After our Poland adventure, we'd like to go to Estonia/Latvia/Lithuania (not necessarily all three). Any suggestions? We will be there for 2 weeks in August.

Thanks everyone! (and thanks Paul for beginning this thread.... very helpful!)

Posted by
16614 posts

If Krakow is your first stop [edit: meaning jetlag and possible sleep deprivation], 4 nights will be rather short given the three sights you've already got penciled in. There are quite a lot of other things to see in Krakow, and the city is drop-dead gorgeous, so it's great for just walking around. Be advised that both the Schindler factory and the advance tickets to Auschwitz sell out.

Warsaw is richly blessed with historic sites/museums related to WWII and Cold War. Gdansk has a new WWII museum and the Solidarity Center. Really, it would be impossible for me to pick one of them.

Posted by
15 posts

Replies continue to be fantastic. Regarding the question of nights, looks like 7 nights. Thanks!

Posted by
4670 posts

I agree that Warsaw is a must, but it's not nearly as nice as Krakow. We skipped the Salt Mine, and aren't sorry we did. I agree that you are making a mistake in believing that your Above Average (referring to Garrison Keillor ... ) Child is ready for Auschwitz at 9. Obviously this is not the last visit to Eastern Europe for a person who has been to 12 countries at age 9. (My parents took me to Europe at age 1 by ship, on a babymoon (??) in 1952. It completely failed to make me a cosmopolitan jet setter. I did not go to Europe again until I was 37, for business. Now I've been 50+ times.)

We left out Gdansk, partly because it's likely to come up on a (infrequent for us) ocean cruise at some future time. Because of family history, we felt a day in (very worthwhile for anybody) Lodz was important. I'll add that the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe (Lodz) might be a better introduction to the Holocaust than Auschwitz at 9. This is an easy daytrip from Warsaw, BTW.

Krakow does deserve the most nights, and Warsaw the fewest. My reviews,
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/four-cities-in-poland-2019

Posted by
16614 posts

With just seven nights, I'd choose two places. Actually, I spent that long in each of the three major cities last year. They all have a lot to see in terms of historical sites and a variety of museums. It's true that Warsaw is, overall, a much more modern-looking city, with just a fairly limited area rebuilt in the old style. But it also feels a lot less touristy, and that is a plus.

Posted by
656 posts

I agree. With only 7 nights you are going to have to choose. You don’t have time to do Gdańsk, Warsaw and Krakow. My favorite was Gdańsk. We were there for 3 nights, seeing Oliwa on our arrival day and Malbork on our departing day.

We shortchanged Warsaw, but figured that would be an easier destination to get back to on another trip (nonstop flights from NY, Chicago).

We were in Gdańsk in early July. The weather was delightful. We loved walking along the river after dinner and looking at all the boats.

Posted by
656 posts

For the other poster with 2 weeks: I would spend 2 weeks in Poland or 2 weeks in the Baltics. Try to see something other than the big cities, Zakopane would be a great choice for kids.

We spent just over 2 weeks in Latvia and Lithuania and had a great trip. In Lithuania, don’t miss the Curonian Spit. We stayed in Nida for 2 nights — our favorite stop.

We also spent just over 2 weeks in Poland and are eager for another trip.

Posted by
1847 posts

I don't know how many people fit in an old East German Trabant, but I think the kids might enjoy a Crazy Guides tour in Krakow. Their traditional tour is riding around in a Trabant, having a coffee/drink in an old East German coffee shop, and visiting an apartment in a model Communist development (including vodka for the adults and communist pickles for all). For a small price, you can add on lunch in a "milk bar" located in the old model development (best food I had in Poland). Perhaps they have a family discount? I loved my tour with them.

Good insight into life behind the Iron Curtain and really fun, young guides...

https://www.crazyguides.com/

Posted by
12084 posts

Come to think of it, I did ride in an old "Trabi" as they were known in August 1989. The woman friend drove me out to Prenzlauer Berg, where I saw walls on buildings splayed with bullet holes (Einschüsse), lots and lots of them, if you were looking for that sort of thing. It was a real enlightening experience to get out to the non-tourist , almost deserted area, of East Berlin. There were only two of us in that car.

Posted by
451 posts

Paul, I agree with previous posters that you are covering too many locations for the amount of time. I'd suggest limiting yourself to two cities. Just looking at geography and train travel time, one of them should be Warsaw. If there is a way to fly into or out of Gdansk or Krakow, then that's your second city. If you end up flying in and out of Warsaw, my recommendation for a second city would be Gdansk. I think for kids this would be more interesting because of the port and Malbork Castle outside of Gdansk. If you go to Krakow I would not include a visit to a concentration camp.

Posted by
3 posts

I wouldn't recommend trying to visit many places at once. Poland is a huge country and every city is worth seeing. Gdansk and Sopot are very close to each other so two days will be more than enough to walk around the city centres and the beach.

Posted by
28 posts

Paul - I read this post because I, too, am from Philly and planning a family vacation to Poland in July at the same time! It would be great to connect and compare notes. I will say, however, that I chaperoned my then 8th-grader on a field trip to Dachau some years ago and the 13 year olds could not handle it. Many were so upset they needed to return to the bus. Just some wisdom from having dealt with the situation. It's why I've saved Poland till now (my kids are all grown). In any event, thanks for this post and would love to be in touch about your choices and experiences.

Posted by
85 posts

Paul and JRJComm:

Another Philly guy here (by way of Chicago). My wife and I went to Poland for 2 weeks last May. Our itinerary was 3 nights in Gdańsk, 2 in Wrocław, 4 in Kraków and 3 in Warsaw. If I had to do it over, I would have added another day in Kraków and one less in Warsaw.

You might want to consider flying out of Newark on SAS. We went Newark-Gdansk and Warsaw-Newark, connecting in Copenhagen both ways. Copenhagen is a great airport to connect in, especially if you spring for SAS Plus. If you can get them this late, SAS has discount kid fares that can be seriously inexpensive.

In Kraków, check out the Venetian House Aparthotel. It is located in the main square and have kitchens (handy with kids in my experience). There is a 24 hour market kitty-corner on the other side of the square which is super convenient.

PM me if you'd like.

Ed

Posted by
1878 posts

With such short time I would stick to three stops, and two of those should be Gdańsk and Krakow. I think Toruń is also worth consideration, I regretted not visiting. I only allocated seven days to Poland on a 2016 trip and left feeling that one could easily fill two weeks they (though I did also enjoy the Germany leg of the trip). You can catch a bus tour to Auschwitz that leaves midday from Krakow and gets you back by early evening. This provides a perfectly satisfactory visit. For us the salt mines were worthwhile, but I wish we had five night in Krakow rather than four. With 6 p.m. arrival from Gdańsk and the two day trips, our time ended up feeling short there. The train between the two cities was around five hours but it was perfectly fine with a nice dining car.

Posted by
44 posts

I mentioned this on another Poland thread and got reprimanded a bit, but we just returned from Poland on 1/2. We only visited Warsaw and Krakow. I loved Krakow, it was beautiful, even in the gray, cold winter (we only went winter because we added it to a Germany Christmas market bucket list trip). I can do without Warsaw, it's a typical big city and while interesting, I wish we had gone to Gdansk. My doctor is Polish, from north of Warsaw, and she recommended we skip Warsaw and I wish I had listened. It's a fine city, just not anything really spectacular compared to how pretty and nice Krakow is. I would do some indepth research on Warsaw and determine if there is anything there you simply must see before I made time to do so. I realize everyone has their favs, and I'm not knocking Warsaw, simply saying with limited time, it can be skipped without missing any major attractions IMHO.

Posted by
14 posts

I loved Gdansk myself. There was tons to see in Gdansk--the architecture, churches, seaport and side trips to Sopot and Malbork castle. I spent 3 nights in Gdansk to have time for side trips to Sopot and Malbork castle but really couldn't find time for the museums which is a pity. Typically I try to spend my time exploring and walking rather than cooped up in museums but that's just my personal preference.

I thought the old city of Krakow was beautiful but it was very crowded and it wasn't during the high season. It was late October.

I had no interest in Warsaw. When travelling in Europe, it is imperative to choose the places of top interest and it wasn't of key interest to me. That's not to say it's not beautiful etc. but when time is limited, one has to make choices. I spent 3 weeks travelling through 3 Eastern European countries and spent about 8 nights in Poland. I would have liked to go to Zakopane but didn't have time.

The recommendations at Auschwitz are children over 14 years of age. There are some very upsetting sights in there (a huge ball of human hair, a wall where people were shot, gallows...I don't think a child of 9 should see these things.

Posted by
14 posts

Someone suggested scratching off Sopot. The reason I left Sopot on the list is that you'll be there in July. It would be nice for your children (and you too) to be able to end the day with a nice swim on a hot day.