We want to visit Poland, Russia and Germany during a 2 week vacation in June, and would like suggestions or feedback on the initial itinerary being considered. We plan to fly from Philadelphia PA to Helsinki for 2.5 days and then to St. Petersburg for 1.5 days before heading to Moscow for 4 days. Then it's off to Poland for 6 days (Moscow and Krakow), and finishing the trip with 4 days in Germany (Berlin, ??). This trip has us arriving on a Sunday morning, and then leaving on a Sunday morning. This will be our first time to these countries and we plan to do most on our own. Any suggestions or comments would be much appreciated. Thank you.
Confused by your reference to "Poland for 6 days (Moscow and Krakow). Assuming you meant Warsaw, not Moscow again. Do you have a guidebook? This would help narrow your focus. If you really have 6 days, you eat up a lot of time just getting there and leaving. So your time maybe shorter than you think. In fact your whole trip is a whirlwind - too many destinations. You say 2 week vacation, but your itinerary counts 18 days.
Six locations in 13 days (the first and last days are just getting there and leaving days) spread over such a wide geographical area means you are going to spend as long in transit as actually seeing places. Most of your locations are at least 6 hours apart door to door. My recommendation would be to limit yourselves to 4 locations maximum.
Berlin is fascinating and can easily fill 6 full days there. You are short changing all the locations.
Thank you Stan. I meant Warsaw and Krakow
Thank you Jennifer. The odds are we would might not make it back again and wanted a get a taste of each area listed. Our main goal at first was Poland and then Russia but then started to expand all over the place. Might need rethink a couple based on feedback so far.
I would skip Helsinki, unless there is a specific reason to be there. Add the days to St. Petersburg. In Poland I would visit Gdansk and Krakow. It gives two different views of Poland. Both places could keep you occupied with no problem. Warsaw is a huge city and unlike Krakow the old town is rebuilt. With limited time these would be the two best cities to visit.
Russia is not easy to visit. First, you've got to have someone "invite" you to visit, and the Visa is quite expensive.
We visited St. Petersburg the best way--off a cruise ship. And we had two days of touring with a fantastic tourguide in a small Mercedes bus with 8 other people. Those days were the highlight of our trip, and the city is incredibly beautiful. Too bad that the rest of the country was starving (literally) while St. Petersburg was being built--a big "show city."
We found the cruise ships the best way to travel the region because all the Scandinavian countries are deadly expensive.
You might want to either limit your trip to Poland and maybe some of Germany. Or take a guided tour of Russia by itself. Great European cities are best taken "slowly."
Please heed the others' warnings about too much time spent traveling from place to place and getting oriented, and too little time actually seeing those fabulous destinations.
Too little time to see such far-flung destinations. Germany and Poland are huge countries, and Russia's VISA cost (including the admin burden to get one) may make such a short stint there quite expensive. Moscow, Berlin, and St. Petersburg are sizable cities and it doesn't seem like you're going to be giving them enough time.
Appreciate all the feedback. The issues identified with travel plans to Russia were unexpected and disappointing but glad to know early as we get serious with our plans which look to be Poland and Germany with Russia back on the bucket list.
wanted a get a taste of each area Too many stops would be like going to Baskin-Robbins and sampling 12 flavors rather than having 3 decent scoops. If you've eliminated Russia, you'll have a better experience. Without Russia, I'd encourage you to drop Helsinki also. That gives you time to visit Gdansk and/or another German destination or possibly Prague (and Dresden) on the way from Krakow to Berlin.
We have dropped Helsenki for sure and are concentrating on Poland and Germany.. but are looking into the Visa process for Russia should it work out where we can sneak-in a 2-3 day trip to Moscow. There are plenty of good threads on this forum for both Poland and Germany to help map out the itinerary. It's a matter of can we somehow make the Moscow part work. As far as flight times and costs, it seems best to fly in and out of Berlin from Phila PA,. Has anyone accomplished Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow, and Moscow in 16 days?
Nope. Nowhere near. If you start out with 16 days (how many nights on the ground?) and visit such far-flung destinations, your vacation will consist of just 13 full days and some scattered hours here and there. That's an average of just over 3 full days per city.
It’s your trip and this might work for you. If you arrive Sunday and leave Sunday, you have 14 days (counting your arrival day, which may not be a very productive day if you are jet lagged, or your plane is late, or you waste time trying to get into your room). With a morning departure, your departure day will just be a travel day. So, you really have 13 full days. Kraków/Warsaw can be done by train. Berlin/Krakow is a long day by train, or you fly. Warsaw/Moscow would be by plane. Any time you fly, you use up much of a day, getting to and from airport, waiting at airport, getting new currency, etc.
So that gives you 11 days for 4 cities. If you fly back from Moscow to Berlin (you said in and out of Berlin), you could lose another day. Open jaw ticket might save this day.
I don’t think it would be a very satisfactory trip — too much travel within Europe. I would save Moscow for another trip. Personally, I would choose Poland or Germany. We had a very nice 15 day trip in Poland. It was not enough time and we are thinking about going back. I prefer a trip that combines big cities and smaller towns.
It’s your trip, so you should do what you want. You can “see” any city in a day. You will just miss a lot of good stuff if you do. Good luck in your planning.
If you really want to see a lot of places in a short time, take an escorted tour. A tour can be much more efficient at getting you from hotel, to museum, to lunch restaurant, to castle, to dinner restaurant, and back to hotel, than you can on your own. Figuring all that out on your own takes time and energy; doing this kind of marathon every day is exhausting.
A cruise is another way to see a lot of places in a short time, and since the ship takes you from place to place, you can focus on what you want to see in your day in each place. Most cruises give 2 days in St. Petersburg, and with a pre-booked tour (either from the cruise line, or from one of the companies like Alla Tour or SPB Tours or Red October), you don't need to get a Russian Visa.
I know you're thinking that since this is probably your only trip to this part of Europe, you need to "see as much as possible." In reality, if you run around like you proposed in your initial post, you won't see much at all. All of the place you mentioned are big cities, with several days of major sights and many days of worthwhile sights. And getting between many of them isn't trivial; flights will be required, burning much of a day. If you go on your own try to do 2 days here and 3 days there, all you will remember are the packing and unpacking, trips to and from airports, and frustration at not being able to catch your breath and enjoy anything.
Sure, you can get a Russian visa for just a few days as a side trip from Poland. But this doesn't make sense for most people. If you're going to go through the hassle and expense of getting the Russian visa, just focus on Russia for this trip.
In two weeks time you can do Poland and Germany, skip Russia. I would suggest not more than 4 cities total in both Germany and Poland, depending on your travel style, etc. With 2 weeks I could visit 4 cities in Poland and Germany.
Yes, it is possible to visit Berlin, Krakow, Warsaw(?) or Gdansk(?), and maybe the 4th place, Dresden, Hamburg, or Leipzig, if you know what you're doing, where to stay etc. Hamburg and Leipzig are direct on the ICE.
Just to chime in, one could easily spend all of one's two weeks in Poland alone. For example, here's a roughly 2.5 week "Best of Poland" itinerary I put together recently, just to give a bit of an idea:
Fly in to Warsaw
-Warsaw (3 nights)
-Torun (2 nights)
-Malbork (2 nights): With a day trip through the Masurian lakes district to the Grunwald Battlefield/Museum.
-Gdansk (2 nights)
-Gniezno (2 nights): With a day trip to the Iron Age fortified settlement of Biskupin
-Wroclaw (3 nights): With a day trip to the Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica
-Kraków (4 nights): With a day trip to Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains and Schloss Pleß at Pszczyna
Fly out of Kraków
skyscanner.com is your friend. You can search for flights in a variety of ways, including "from Philly (or a nearby airport, of which there are several in NYC and DC, no?) to anywhere" on a specific date or in a whole month. Sadly, you can't search "from anywhere to Moscow," which would sure help your planning.
Also, check out seat61.com for all your train travel information. This site is invaluable, especially for traveling between countries.
Chani, I love your analogy! I'll have to use that one.
Wow scyscanner helped a lot. We are going to focus on just Poland (Warsaw,Gdansk,Krakow) and Germany (Berlin,Frankfurt,Dresden,Cologne), just not sure of the order yet and best transportation options.
Good choices. Keep in mind that Frankfurt to Berlin is direct as well as Cologne to Berlin on the ICE. The night train option is offered from Cologne to Berlin too. You can do that for Frankfurt from Berlin too but more circuitous, ie tailoring your route.
if you are travelling to Poland, here is a couple of things that I consider to be interesting about Poles https://gadano.pl/eng/5-behaviour-of-poles-which-stun-foreigners They might be pretty surprising for you :P
Following almost all of your priorities, use the Bahn train planner to try out this route: Warsaw (arrival) - Krakow - Gdansk - Berlin - Dresden - Frankfurt (departure). All have either direct connections or with just one change. Some legs take the best part of day, but flying (if available) won't save much time, if any.
After reading that article on 5 Polish "behaviours" likely to be encountered by visitors in Poland, I find none would bother me or makes me think twice about going there, which I mostly will do on the 2019 trip since I postponed/canceled that part of the traveling in 2018. Bottom line...no problems.
Use bahn.com to find train schedules - for Poland as well as Germany.
You'll want to fly from Poland to Germany. Easy Jet flies between Gdansk and Berlin. Ryanair flies between Krakow and Gdansk. I don't think it matters much whether you go first to Gdansk or Krakow, since Warsaw is about equidistant between them.
You've still got 6 destinations in 14-16 days. It's either not enough days or too many cities. Are you planning to spend time in Warsaw. If not, get a connecting flight to Gdansk or Krakow if you can't fly directly to either city. If you don't want to spend time in Frankfurt (one of the underrated tourist destinations in Germany), then fly home from Berlin. Dresden is a lot closer to Berlin than Frankfurt. If you want to spend time in Frankfurt, I don't think you have time for Dresden.
Depending on your time limit, priorities, interests, and so on, you'll go through Pomerania to Gdansk Glowny from Berlin, changing twice, one of which is in Poland when you go by train. I took the train there from Berlin in 2003, took a bit over 9 hrs, but well worth it seeing that Pomeranian landscape, and knowing you're heading to the area of the lower Vistula, arrived in Gdansk ca 17:00 hrs.
Thank you for all the responses. We did manage to add a couple more days which allows us with 16 full days before flying back. Our first 2-3 days will be in Munich/Bavaria, then Dresden, and then off to Poland (Krakow, Warsaw, Szczecin), and finish with 3-4 days in Berlin.
Hello, I would strongly recommend you switch Szczecin for Gdańsk. I see you originally had Gdańsk? Szczecin is nice but it's not on the same level.
What the places have in common are their locations , ie at the mouths or close to it of rivers and that they were province capitals. But true... Gdansk takes precedence.
I've been to Poland three times in the past five years. To the OP, are you of any Polish or German heritage? That might change your mind about what cities to visit.
Unless you have an interest in WWII, I would stick with Krakow and Gdansk. You could easily spend 4-5 days in Krakow and get to enjoy the Zakopane mountain region which is just a two-hour ride from Krakow.
While in Gdansk, which is a very well preserved Hanseatic city like Copenhagen, you can easily take the train to Malbork for the day. Get a hotel near the station- we stayed at Hotel Ibis which was very nice and conveniently located to the city sites.
Warsaw was interesting and I look forward to returning to do a more in-depth visit to their museums dedicated to the Uprising and other WWII sites but remember the city was almost totally rebuilt after WWII. Well done, but not original buildings. Unless you like learning about WWII, you might want to focus more on Krakow which will offer a wider variety of options, including WWII- Auschwitz, the Schindler Museum, etc.
Personally, I love Poland much more than Germany although the Bavarian region is lovely with all the castles of Mad King Ludwig. You will also find it MUCH less expensive.
Re that article about the behaviors of Poles. Not smiling is something you see all around Europe, not just in Poland. I remember seeing an old woman at Stary Kleparz in Krakow and noted her dower face. Then, I remembered that she was old enough to have lived through the German and Russian forces occupying her city for most of her life. The experiences the Polish people had during approx 50 years would make anyone a bit hesitant to be all smiley. You will find the vast majority of Poles to be very kind AND helpful.