Never having been to Poland, we are unsure of and overwhelmed about best place to rent. We'd like to be able to visit other areas not too far away. Would like to be able to travel via train, or short plane ride. Krakow? Warsaw? We're thinking of September/October.
Poland is very big, I would not pick "one best place" but at least 2-3 (I'd pick a place where day trips are within two hours each way or so). Warsaw is the best hub for transport throughout the country because it has the most connections to other cities. The train system (including modern, fast Pendolino trains) connects all major cities and buses can be used in-between as well. I think it's about a 5 hour train ride from Krakow to Gdansk by train, and 1 hour by plane (hopefully that gives you some perspective of how long it takes to go from south to north).
I would go no late than mid-September to mid-October so that you'll get a whole month of pretty decent weather. If you start your trip in October, it could get cold fast. Weather has been super unpredictable though.
Poland has become my new favorite country in Europe. It's beautiful, affordable, English-friendly, safe, and offers wonderful food. I have been to Krakow, Warsaw, Poznan, and Wroclaw--all extremely nice. Polish people are courteous and intelligent. Much of their infrastructure is very new and signs are multilingual. I am going to Poland again soon and will visit Zakopane and re-visit Krakow. Enjoy!
We visited Kraków , Wroclaw, Gdansk, and Warsaw . Enjoyed every city and had a great time. It had been on my radar for a few years before we got to visit and we were not disappointed at all. We were there for two weeks and the train system is easy to use. It was so affordable, many grat museums, so much history. We definitely want to return and visit some of the places we missed and revisit the cities we saw.
If you're interested in visiting cities, then you might want to go to Gdansk - it's a beautiful seaside city with lots of museums, monuments and beaches.
However, it's the southern Poland which is the most interesting region - there are picturesque mountain ranges, Krakow & Zakopane, Wroclaw (easy to travel by train), waterparks with hot thermal pools, Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Thank you all for your responses. We are very interested in visiting Poland.
What about finding a tour company?
If we planned our own trip, is it necessary to rent a car, or travel within cities and from city to city via train?
We like the idea of going at our own pace, but never having been to Poland, wonder if that is practical.
We are looking at September of this year.
Joy, I think you will really enjoy Poland. I don’t think you need a tour. It is very easy to take trains from city to city. We used the bus to get to some smaller locations. We were able to buy train tickets on line before we left. We bought bus tickets from the driver when we boarded. I also bought/reserved time for some popular museums.
Take the plunge! It’s really an easy country to visit.
Joy, I will send you a PM with the name of a tour company we used. You can use a tour for part of the trip, or customize for all of it.
I would split it in 3 parts: Gdansk - Krakow - Warsaw
Gdansk = Sea + Museums + History + Malbork + Events + Mazury area
Krakow = History + Architecture + Salt mines + Mountain area
Warsaw = Capital city landmarks + Parks + Events + Museums + Transport hub
I'll add your suggestions to our trip itinerary.
Those seem to be 3 areas not to miss.
I could use all the info I could get!
I'd like to see Poland someday, but this photo display would make me cautious about spending too much time in the larger, denser cities. I suppose that the health risk would be very minimal for short stays, but the discomfort might be significant for some individuals.
According to data presented by Poland Smog Alarm, residents of the Polish capital inhale levels of the carcinogen benzo(a)pyrene akin to smoking about 1,000 cigarettes per year. Those who live in the suburbs ingest the equivalent of about 2,400 cigarettes.
According to data quoted by Quartz, in one day in January last year, the levels of air pollutants registered in the city reached 437 micrograms per cubic metre – with the average norm over 24 hours, established by the EU, being 50 micrograms per cubic metre. In Paris, officials sound a ‘smog alarm’ at 80 micrograms per cubic metre.
I'd like to see Poland someday, but this photo display would make me
cautious about spending too much time in the larger, denser cities.
Please don't let the photos freak you out or stop you from coming to Poland. If you notice, they were all shot in winter when people use coal for heating (not exactly tourist season). Not surprisingly, this story was published right at the time the climate talks were going on in Katowice. There was all sorts of news coverage meant to shame Polish politicians for giving into the coal industry interest groups. Of course the over-reliance on coal is bad and shortsighted but, believe me, Poland has come a LONG way since the environmental degradation during the Soviet times. I'm from there. I know.
Poland is not alone in exceeding pollution standards. One could easily pull up a story about Paris' legendary pollution too, but that hasn't stopped people from going there.
I would not spend a whole month in one place in Poland. I traveled to Poland a little over a year ago and Gdansk had great ambience, just a real jewel of a city. It has a very easygoing vibe and not too crowded--at least in early May. When I was there I felt like "this is the place" as I rarely have on many trips to Europe. Of course Krakow was great too, but I expected that. Torun is another city that I did not visit, but which my research showed had a lot of merit. Berlin is a city where I could easily see spending at least a week, in the same general area. (My 2016 trip to Poland ended in Berlin). There are mountain regions in Poland too which are supposed to be very spectacular.
My husband and I are just back from Poland - our second trip there. A few years ago we visited Krakow and were fortunate enough to be able to book Andrew Durman who we found highly recommended on Rick Steves website.
In Krakow we had a wonderful time. We flew in to Krakow from Vienna as we were visiting our Godson and family who live nearby. Andrew met us the next morning at our hotel. We found him to be very informative, full of historical facts and a wonderful communicator he customized our time and made sure we saw so many places in Krakow and surrounding areas, i.e. Salt Mines (soo interesting) Auschwitz, Schindlers factory, Jewish Ghetto area, Birkenau, Cloth market, Pope John's areas, etc. A great visit and Andrew's knowledge and expertise were simply THE BEST!
This past May-June we decided to return to Poland again because of the previous great time with Andrew in the Krakow area, this time we chose Warsaw and Gdansk as our destinations. We contacted Andrew to see if he was available, he responded right away with regrets as he was already booked. He did however, recommend an associate. Because we highly regard Andrew, we did not hesitate taking him up on his offer. We used Booking.com for our lodging in Poland and found it helpful and reliable for European properties as it is based in Europe. We arranged for our own train travel from Linz, Austria, via Vienna to Warsaw. Mike (Andrew's Associate) met us at our hotel the next day and we were off on our Warsaw adventure! We liked Mike immediately and he did not disappoint. Mike is very knowledgeable of the Warsaw area and he made sure we got to see all of the historical sites, museums, parks, etc., by foot and vehicle. He offered so many interesting facts about Warsaw from a past and present view that we would have never known or learned about from an organized tour. He suggested places to see and things to do. He picked us up at our hotel each morning in his Air conditioned new Mercedes van and we were off. Upon leaving Warsaw, we drove north to Gdansk enjoying a comfortable ride while viewing the lovely Polish countryside, with stops along the way at several historical spots. In Gdansk, Mike took us to our previously booked lodging in the Old Town (a place Andrew had suggested) and then proceeded to take us here and there for the following few days of historical, scenic excursions. Visitng the new world War II Museum was incredible, the Solidarity Museum terrific, A day spent at the historical Malbork Castle will not soon be forgotten, even walking along the beach of the cool Baltic Sea was a special treat, visiting the Amber museum and walking in a Solidarity anniversary parade was totally awesome!! Gdansk is a beautiful place and full of interesting things to see and do. Mike was indispensable and so helpful in all regards - One day he even assisted us when my husband got a touch of the flu and needed to see a Doctor! Mike's translating talents came in very handy in a situation that could have proved to be a challenge. We give the Polish medical system 5 stars!! turns out the doctor had visited the U.S. even toured Hawaii - our home state!! The total cost of Doctor and 3 medicines were incredibly inexpensive.
When our departure day came, Mike was at our hotel at 4AM to collect us and our luggage and get us to the airport in Gdansk with time to spare. It was hard to say goodbye as we had become friends. Our time in Poland was super special thanks to our friends Andrew and Mike! We will never forget their hospitality as they shared their history and love of country with a heartfelt friendship toward us.....we do hope to return again to Poland and have another special adventure!
So much great advice! I've been there three times in the past five years and the more I visit and learn, the more I want to visit the museums and places not on the top ten lists- like the WWII sites. The WWII museum in Gdansk is probably the best in Europe (I did a WWII trip in May 2018, so I saw a LOT!) and Schindler's museum is also wonderful. I've been to three concentration camps. The most extraordinary area is not far from Rzeszow which was the site of Camp Heidelager during the war. They have two museums where the camp once stood: Blizna and Pustkow. The Museum of the Armia Krajowa is also amazing. So much to see! We've been to Lancut, Zawoja, Lutcza, Przeclaw, etc. to see some smaller jewels!