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Poland for a week - itinerary and questions

I'm planning to go to Poland for about a week in June or July this year. I'm almost 40 and enjoy modern art, WWII history, crafts/shopping, taking pictures, and food. I just got back from Portugal last night and loved it but felt like my tour spent too much time in castles and not enough time in the big cities. Also, not particularly interested in the salt mines - saw something almost identical in Bogota. Probably won't do Auschwitz as I've done a few others in recent years. I won't rent a car.

I am flexible on the amount of time I will have but maybe 6-7 days on the ground; it depends on what days work for frequent flyer tickets.

I was thinking Krakow and Warsaw but I saw people posting that Krakow and Gdansk might be better. I'm wondering why people make that recommendation?

I am wondering if Uber is useful in Krakow/Warsaw/Gdansk? I saw another poster ask about it for Krakow but I didn't see a real answer. It has been great on other travels to get through the language barrier and also when you don't know where you are or where a taxi stand is.

Have you heard of a good tour of one of these cities that can be joined? I couldn't find an overall tour of Poland that worked.

Any recommendations for good hotels in central locations?

Any day trips recommended from Krakow/Warsaw/Gdansk for particularly picturesque towns that are train accessible?

Thank you!

Posted by
4686 posts

I don't like to dwell on the concentration camps and the Holocaust from World War II - but I don't know how anyone interested in history at all could not visit Auschwitz while visiting nearby Krakow. I urge you to see it. You don't even have to spend all day there - I spent half a day. I took an early bus from Krakow to Oświęcim (Polish name of Auschwitz) and entered the camp before 10am so I could do it self-guided. Not saying you shouldn't hire a guide, but I didn't feel the need; I used my Rick Steve's book's self-guided tour.

The "Museum of Krakow under the Nazi occupation" (aka "Oskar Schindler's Factory" - the museum has almost nothing to do with him) is a terrific World War II museum focusing on Krakow during the war. I'm not a big museum buff, but this one is modern and engaging, and I really enjoyed it.

I didn't visit Warsaw on my visit to Poland, I visited Gdansk, Torun, Wroclaw, and Krakow. Warsaw, Wroclaw, and Gdansk were all flattened by bombs during the war and re-built (whereas Krakow was largely spared and so pretty authentic). I understand that Warsaw is a big, modern, gleaming city; I was more interested in Wroclaw from what I'd read, which is the biggest reason I skipped Warsaw (which I would have seen with more time). Gdansk has a nice restored old town but also was the site of the Solidarity movement, a key piece of Cold War history. There's a museum dedicated to it. There's also now a World War II museum in Gdansk (something that wasn't open when I visited). You can also take some excursions from Gdansk like Sopot (seaside resort town) and Malbork (a terrific restored castle, perhaps my favorite castle I've seen in Europe, even though it's not completely authentic).

With only a week, you probably do have time for only two of these cities. I'd say Krakow is a must, not just because of Auschwitz: it's a lovely, authentic old town. Warsaw probably is more convenient and practical vs. Gdansk given your limited schedule (maybe you'll get better flight connections), and I can't tell you obviously what Warsaw is like - but you can read above about the appeal of Gdansk, which is a lovely town in parts and sprawling and a bit ugly outside of the old town area - another side effect of communism, and part of its appeal in a sense.

Posted by
1316 posts

I would normally recommend using Krakow as a base and exploring the surrounding towns, this is really an area where there is a lot nearby. There are a bunch of options - for example this is a (long) day trip I took a few years ago around the carpathians, this easily could have been 2-3 days. But if you are sure you don't want to rent a car, a dark horse option is Lviv, which is one of those towns you need to see now before it is ruined by hyper tourism. You can either take a train there (7 hours one way, though), or there are now direct flights from Katowice on Wizz. Katowice is only an hour away from Krakow.

Posted by
6148 posts

I was thinking Krakow and Warsaw but I saw people posting that Krakow
and Gdansk might be better. I'm wondering why people make that
recommendation?

People make that recommendation because, frankly, Warsaw is pretty underrated (and will continue to be that way if people keep going to Krakow instead - reviews tend to feed on themselves, and more people will visit Krakow than Warsaw). It's also a big city and not comparable to a much smaller Hanseatic town like Gdansk which has a totally different feel and scale. It sounds like you'd like Warsaw (just PM me if you have any questions, I'm from there) based on your interests, including modern art. With only 6-7 days, I would see Warsaw and Krakow and leave the possibility of a day trip to Gdansk, which would be very easy using Warsaw as your base. Both Gdansk and Krakow are very compact and require 2-3 days. Warsaw is much larger and spread out in terms of attractions (I would give it 3 full days at least). In all cities, just stay in the old center - you can't really go wrong. You won't need Uber for Gdansk or Krakow - they're too small. Everything is walkable. Taxis in Warsaw are cheap.

Posted by
12091 posts

Hi,

Given your limited time, I suggest Warsaw and Krakow, both or either one. Likewise with Gdansk, ie spend the whole week there with a day trip to Malbork.

There are a lot more interesting places, ie small towns not visited by tourists, to see on the lower Vistula other than merely Malbork. if you're into the region, landscape-wise, historically, towns, etc. ...lovely areas.

Posted by
13930 posts

I went to Gdansk, Warsaw and Krakow in that order about 1.5 years ago. I liked Gdansk best, Warsaw least.

Gdansk was one of the Hanseatic cities and was often part of Germany, so it's much less "Polish". The Solidarity Museum is one of the best museums I've ever visited (I love museums). I didn't get to the WWII museum, which is also highly rated. Gdansk is walkable. In 4 days, the only time I rode was a taxi from the airport.

Krakow's Schindler museum is also top-notch, the name derives from its location in the old Schindler factory, it's not about Schindler, though there is a small side exhibition. I went to the salt mines and could have skipped it. The free walking tours were very good (also in Warsaw). I rode trams and buses.I stayed in the Kazimierz quarter and it was walking distance to the center. You can't hail taxis in Poland, either order one at your hotel or walk to a taxi stand, so the once or twice I was really tired, I ended up walking to the tram or just back to the hotel rather than search for a taxi stand.

I had no trouble communicating. I don't think I learned two words in Polish - just couldn't get my mouth around them.

Posted by
4954 posts

Liz, you specifically mentioned WWII as an interest. It would be hard to pass up the Warsaw Uprising Museum, see how much was destroyed and restored from the war. Any interest in smaller towns?

Posted by
204 posts

Liz,

I'm about your age (just turned 39), visited Poland on my own last year, and am hoping to go back this summer. I loved Gdansk and strongly second everybody's recommendation. As for day trips, if you don't like castles, skip Malbork for sure. I like castles and am a history buff, and I was kind of disappointed. A friend of mine recommended Sopot as a day trip from Gdansk. I didn't make it, but I'm hoping to do so this year.

I had planned initially on skipping Warsaw, but I didn't, and I'm so glad! Add me to the list of people who think Warsaw is much cooler than its reputation. Also, it's a great place to go if you're into food. Eat Polska does great food and drink tours.

For other good day tours, I'd recommend looking at the Urban Adventures website. I've only done their food tours (in Krakow, Vilnius, Palma de Mallorca, Marrakech), but I've never been disappointed. They have one of Nowa Huta, a purpose-built Communist-era suburb of Krakow, that looks great.

Caroline

Posted by
12091 posts

Hi,

Since your interests include that on WW2, I would suggest going out to Modlin, ie the fortress, if you decide to go to Warsaw.

Posted by
41 posts

Hi Liz,

If you're interested in WWII history, art, good food and taking memorable photos then Gdansk is definitely the best one. There's a very big WWII museum, Solidarity Center museum, lots of interesting monuments and statues.

If you get tired with the sighseeing you can take a boat to Westerplatte peninsula and spend some time on the beach.

I think Gdansk is the most beautiful city in Poland and its great advantage in the summertime is the weather. It might be too hot in Warsaw or Krakow, but in Gdansk, the temperature is pleasant in summer and it never gets too hot because of the sea breeze.

Attractions, restaurants and hotels in Gdansk
Attractions, restaurants and hotels in Krakow