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Poland in September 2017

This will be my only visit to Poland. I started with a desire to see Krakow because I was told "it's like Prague before it was inundated with tourists" and I liked Prague (in spite of the many tourists). I have to fly into Warsaw and discovered that there's a lot to see there too. Then some folks really liked Gdansk, so I'm thinking about adding that. I love museums - art, history, folklore, quirky, whatever (like a bookworm, I'm a "museum mouse"). I'm a slow traveler, spending hours and hours in museums and not trying to cram too much into each day.

So . . . . I am ready to start planning. How many days in Warsaw? in Krakow? (definitely want to see the salt mines, more definitely do not want to go to any WWII death camps). Do you (anyone who reads this) recommend adding Gdansk? How many days? I guess train from Warsaw, but then train or flight to Krakow? I plan to end in Krakow and take an all-day bus through Slovakia to Budapest.

Bring it on, guys. Thanks!

Posted by
6179 posts

Both Gdansk and Krakow are quite compact, whereas Warsaw is more spread out in terms of the attractions. For that reason alone, I would give an extra day to Warsaw (because not everything is a quick walk away, although the metro and street trolleys could get you anywhere you need). You can see all of Krakow in 2 - 2.5 full days, it's not that big at all. I would add an extra half day for the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Also, see if you have any interest in going to the Zakopane mountains close to Krakow. They have their own feel and traditional "mountain culture", including some neat rural architecture. If you like fresh air and a nice place to walk or hike, then Zakopane would be highly recommended. If you stay overnight, obviously that's at least 1-2 more days. I would allot at least 2 full days (if not 3) for Gdansk, which includes a side trip to Malbork Teutonic Castle (major highlight, very interesting). Yes, definitely it's worth going there, even for a long day trip. Lastly, at least 3 full days in Warsaw - once you pull together a list of things you want to see there, you can adjust. I have my own favorites in Warsaw, so feel free to ask once you have some ideas of what you're interested in (I don't want to post "must sees", as the other thread mentions). All three cities will feel very different from one another, so it's a nice mix to see all of them. There are also many places that are less touristed and known (at least for American tourists), but it depends how much time or interest you have.

I don't know if it's possible, but maybe it makes more sense to fly into Gdansk and work your way down to Krakow (or the other way around). Warsaw is a good hub and trains are fast from there in either direction. If you don't want to backtrack, then consider going from north to south or vice versa.

Posted by
2487 posts

Torun would be a perfect stop between Gdansk and Krakow. A little bit touristy, but for good reasons.

Posted by
11613 posts

I spent three nights each in Warsaw and Kraków, will go back in 2018 (adding Zakopane and Gdansk).

I would add a night for the salt mines, but if you are not going to Auschwitz-Birkenau, three nights should be enough. The Jewish neighborhood has a couple of memorial sites and the nearby Schindler Museum. Hotel Ester is lovely but at the top of my price range; I had an excellent dinner there one rainy night.

I loved Warsaw, visited there first and then took the train to Kraków. Kind of a long ride but I hate the whole airport experience.

Posted by
5026 posts

Chani Warsaw is more cosmopolitan; Krakow more historic and charming. Look for da Vinci's Lady with Ermine there. But I would also suggest visiting some of the smaller towns like Sandomierz and Kazimeirz Dolny if you get a chance. Download the InYourPocket Guides to Warsaw and Krakow for good maps and recommendations.

There's a fast train from Warsaw to Krakow, I think 2.5 hours. Not been to Gdansk.

Posted by
6179 posts

Some (hopefully) helpful links to aid in your planning:

http://warsawtour.pl/en (Warsaw city guide)
http://warsawtour.pl/en/brochures (downloadable Warsaw brochures in PDF format)
http://freewalkingtour.com/ (various city walking tours)
https://www.inyourpocket.com/gdansk
https://www.inyourpocket.com/krakow
https://www.inyourpocket.com/warsaw
http://rozklad-pkp.pl/en (train)
http://www.polrail.com/en (train)
http://www.polskibus.com/en/index.htm (bus)

Posted by
5026 posts

Chani, in Warsaw, the main road - the Royal Way - which has a few name changes along the way, is a wonderful pedestrian-only walk all the way from the diplomatic zone to the restored old town area. It is lined with shops and restaurants, the University, and old churches, one of which has Chopin's heart entombed in a pillar. Its as nice a walk as I've seen anywhere. If you stay near that street, you can easily get to much of what is interesting.

In Krakow, we stayed in the Kazimierz area, which was the old Jewish quarter. There is a square that is full of restaurants including some with klezmer music. Kazimierz is still within walking distance of the Stary Rynek (old market) area, which is full of shops and restaurants as well as historic churches and the Wawel castle.

So both cities were very walkable and restaurants and services were up-to-date and welcoming, not grim and gray as we were expecting. They get plenty of European tourists, so service is pretty westernized.

Posted by
199 posts

We visited Poland this past summer on a 16 day tour and enjoyed it very much. We were on a bus, so I can't speak to the train, but it seems like taking the train from Warsaw to Gdansk and then flying to Krakow might make sense. We found the RS book "Krakow, Warsaw and Gdansk" very helpful. We spent 3 nights (2 full days) in Warsaw. We also enjoy taking our time at museums and spent most of one day on our own visiting the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. We also visited the Warsaw Uprising Museum but didn't find it as engaging. After you read more about all there is to see and do in Warsaw, you may want to add a third day.

We spent 3 nights in Gdansk, but the tour had stopped at Malbork Castle on the way there. I would add a third day, if you want to see Malbork. Our tour included a visit to Sopot, and it was fun to walk the boardwalk and see the Baltic beaches. We spent most of a "free day" at the Solidarity Museum and enjoyed it very much. It is also possible to take a side trip to Westerplatte (site of opening shots of WWII.)

We circled west to include Tourun, Gniezno, and Wroclaw, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Zakopane, but you might want to proceed directly to Krakow. We spent 3 nights in Krakow, but we had seen the salt mines on the way there, so you could add a day for that. There is plenty to see and do in Krakow. We spent most of a free afternoon at the Schindler factory. We visited the underground museum beneath Krakow's main square with our tour, but could have used more time on our own.

Hope you have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
13967 posts

At a slow pace, 4 days each in Krakow and Warsaw? 3 in Gdansk? Enough? I used rome2rio to see travel times to/from Torun and it seems kinda out of the way - pretty, but out of the way.

My only flight option is TLV-WAW. I can buy a separate ticket on Lot Air to Gdansk for $40 at 10.45 am. I would land at WAW at 8.10 (no jetlag but also no sleep the night before). Looks doable. I'm usually risk-averse but . . . The other alternative is to start in Warsaw, then Gdansk, then a 5.5 hour train ride to Krakow. Which would you choose?

I'm now thinking:
Day 1 - Fly to Gdansk (4N), wander a little. Nap a lot. Dinner and long sleep.
Day 2,3,4 Gdansk and day trip to Malbork Castle
Day 5 - morning train to Warsaw (4N)
Day 6,7,8 - Warsaw
Day 9 - Warsaw, evening train to Krakow (5N)
Day 10,11,12,13 Krakow and day trip to salt mines
Day 14 - Bus to Budapest

I don't think things would change much if I start in Warsaw and then go north. It's 5.5 hours on the train from Gdansk to Krakow. I'd rather do that than save an hour and a half by flying - too much hassle, especially with a checked bag.

And (snap) just like that my week in Poland has become 2 weeks.

Posted by
6179 posts

If you wanted to fly from Gdansk to Krakow to save time, that wouldn't be a bad thing (unless there are no direct flights and you have to connect in Warsaw anyway - in which case, I'm not sure how much time or money you'd save). Another alternative would be to fly into Warsaw and just break up the days in Warsaw as opposed to continuous, since you'll have to go through Warsaw anyway. I'm usually biased in favor of splitting long train trips if possible because a long train trip feels like you're killing most of the day. So the idea would be to spend a day or two in Warsaw first, then take a train to Gdansk and spend a few days there, then come back to Warsaw and spend a day or two more there, then take a train to Krakow and end with a few days there. Then onto Budapest.

The trip as you have laid out is very, very leisurely. You have plenty of time to spare in Krakow and Gdansk. I would probably not make Krakow and Warsaw the same number of days because if you get bored in Warsaw, you can easily jump on a train to another city (like Lodz or somewhere else) for a day trip. In other words, Warsaw is the best base for side trips compared to Krakow and Gdansk (so if I had some slack time, I'd rather be in Warsaw because I'd have more choices to see something else just by virtue of the connections). There's no debate that Krakow (and Gdansk) is more charming and that Warsaw is a bit underrated (and some people don't take to it at all). I don't think you'll have any trouble filling out your time even as you have allocated, provided that you like museums and appreciate a slower pace of travel. I would only fine tune once you have a chance to see what you want to do in each place. I would even advise being open to renting a car just to mix up some smaller towns in your trip. I am biased in that I really like a mix of big and small and urban and rural on my trips. There are some lovely small towns in Poland that you will miss (like Kazimierz Dolny) if this is your only trip.

Posted by
11613 posts

The most moving sight I visited in the city of Warsaw was the Mila 18 memorial.

Canaletto's paintings of Warsaw supposedly were used in restoring the architecture of the city after WWII.

Posted by
13967 posts

I can believe it. I saw some of his paintings of Venezia (in Roma) and they look quite like my photos from last month :-)

Posted by
451 posts

I also recommend Gdansk and Malbork. It's been a few years since I visited so perhaps the train service has changed, but at the time, Malbork was on the rail line between Warsaw and Gdansk. I just got off, stowed luggage long enough to visit Malbork, and then continued on to Gdansk.

Posted by
1457 posts

Chani, I feel like we are kindred traveling spirits. I too am planning on going to Poland for 2 weeks but not until the summer of 2018 (this summer is a family cruise to Alaska). Anyway, we plan on going to Krakow, wroclaw, Torun, Gdansk, Malbork, Warsaw. We have to end in Warsaw b/c they have flights to Zagreb, the other half of our in planning stage vacation. The Seminarian at my Church is from Malbork so we have been talking about visiting. Hope you write a trip report to help others like myself. Safe travels.

Hello Chani!

If you love museum etc. I would really recommend you to get a krakow card as it includes access to over 40 attractions and you don't have to bother about any tickets. You also have public transport included. Much recommended. You can buy it here https://krakowcard.com.

Posted by
503 posts

Hi Chani, I can't speak of cities in Poland other than Krakow which I visited last Fall. You can easily spent 4 days and nights there, especially as a Slow Traveler. The Schindler factory museum in easily the better part of a day if you truly see it all and take the time to read the information cards in each room. It also takes a bit of time to get there from the city center. We took a tram and walked a bit. There is also the underground museum of ancient Krakow that is accessed directly in the city square that was quite fascinating. Musical concerts at night and, of course, just sitting in the square at a café watching the life of Krakow pass by, It is wonderful.

Posted by
242 posts

I hope to return in 2018. Krakow easily deserves 3-4 days. I also stayed in ancestral villages for about a week this past May and it was the absolute highlight of my life! Got to meet newly discovered cousins and they had a reunion in my honor.

One thing to consider is that it can be VERY inexpensive to fly between major cities. We took a RT flight on LOT between Warsaw and Rzeszow and that saved us a full day of driving and a rental car! The cost was only $50PP RT.