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Poland Itinerary fall 2023

Hello,

Ive been perusing all things Poland for awhile, and now I am in the planning stages for fall 2023. We are an older couple in our 70s. We enjoy history, some hiking, sightseeing, and enjoy museums (but not non-stop). We only do trains and buses now. We may be able to rent a car for a couple of days if that is the only way we can see something special.

We will arrive in Berlin on Sept. 7 and have to be in Amsterdam on Oct. 5. Everything else is Poland. This is what I have so far and nothing is set in stone except for the first couple of days.

AR Berlin - overnight; have spent a lot of time in Berlin previously, so won't this trip
Gorlitz - 2 days
Wroclaw - 4 days; side trip to Swidnica ?
Katowice/Czestochowa - worthy of overnight; one or both; or done as day trips from Krakow
Krakow - 2 days; have spent 3 days here in the past and saw all the big sites; day trip to Zalipie?
Zakopane - considering this but only for hiking; should I skip or will I hate myself for not visiting this region
Sandomierz/Lodz/Lublin - don't know if these are worthy of an overnight or even visiting; thought we could visit one or both on the way to Warsaw
Warsaw - 4 nights; is this enough? Day trip to Kazimierz Doiny?
Torun - 2 nights; day trip to Bydgoszcz? (if so, should I add another night to Torun)
Gdansk - 5 nights; side trips to Malbork, Gdynia, Sopot, Ostroda, Mikolajke; for sure I want to visit Malbork, but not sure about the others
Poznan - 2 nights; side trip to Gniczno
Train to Berlin

I've noted hotels mentioned in the forum, but I probably will come back asking for advice as soon as the itinerary gets tightened up a bit. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

Posted by
5245 posts

Sounds like a great trip. Take me with you LOL. I've been to at least half of these places but not some of the side trips, but I haven't been back since 2012. Malbork castle is wonderful. Sopot is a pleasant little resort town that I found a bit dull. Torun is delightful. Gorlitz is a neat town - the contrast between the former eastern part of the town now in Poland is stark.

The train should get you pretty much everywhere on your list, at least the major stops. I took the train everywhere on my trip from Gdansk-Torun-Wroclaw-Krakow.

Posted by
1660 posts

Gdansk - 5 nights; side trips to Malbork, Gdynia, Sopot, Ostroda, Mikolajke; for sure I want to visit Malbork, but not sure about the others

Gdansk IS the highlight but from your itinerary, it looks like you'll miss most of this magical city because you'll be travelling to other places ... too bad, maybe next trip

Posted by
1660 posts

Thinking about Bydgoszcz

Time is on your hands - how about a book - Full Circle: A Homecoming to Free Poland , Radek Sikorski

Posted by
3000 posts

Overall a good itinerary a few initial thoughts:

  • For Wroclaw add daytrip to Książ Castle
  • For Wroclaw you could rent car and excellent hike in Stołowe Mountains National Park for the day
  • Katowice old town has been cleaned up in last few years, like mini Krakow
  • Good Katowice daytrip to Nikiszowiec, turn of the century Silesian workers' estate
  • Good Katowice daytrip Pszczyna, historic baroque town with old German Ducal Chateau
  • Good Krakow day trip, rent car and follow Eagle's Nests Castle Trail for the day
  • Zakopane great mountain spa town with hiking, worth 2 nights
  • Sandomierz + Zamość historic renaissance towns worthy of stop if in area
  • Good daytrip from Gdansk, Grunwald Battlefield and Museum, largest medieval battle in Europe
  • Masurian Lake District worthy of several nights, storybook medieval towns strung together by 1000s of lakes, not well known to foreigners

hope this helps :)

Posted by
1660 posts

POZNAN - Citadel Park is worth every moment you can spend there - the very first time I encountered the gravestone inscription "Known Unto God" - it was emotional.

Posted by
2491 posts

If it helps, here is my trip report from a month in Poland in September of,this year.
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/poland-north-to-south

Here are a few comments - and they are only MY impressions.

  • Definitely take a day trip to Swidnica if you have 4 full days in Wroclaw. I loved Wroclaw, but if you are short on days, you COULD steal a night from here if necessary.
  • A few hours were enough for me at Jasna Gora, and I am happy to have stopped. Although I stayed overnight in Czestochowa, I wouldn’t do it again.
  • If you plan to hit all the side trips from Gdansk, you may want to add a night.
  • If you plan to day trip from Warsaw, add a night.
  • I tried really hard to get to Zalipie, but it’s not simple without a car. I was even willing to pay double rate for a tour - but couldn’t get one in September.
  • Trains were nice. I am not a fan of the table arrangement, though, so pay attention to your choices on forward facing, rear facing, table, etc. choices when reserving.

Looks like you have a wonderful trip shaping up!

Posted by
22593 posts

I love just wandering around Gorlitz. As I recall there's a considerable walk between the German and Polish train stations (on opposite sides of the river). I made that walk more than once. It's doable with wheeled luggage, but you might want to look for a taxi. The best hotel on the Polish side is probably less expensive than an average spot on the German side, but the German side has most (not all) of the beautiful architecture.

Gdansk has a greater density of (rebuilt) historic architecture than Warsaw. Understand that Gdansk is extremely touristy these days in a way Warsaw is not. I still enjoyed seeing it (and spent many days there), but the real-world atmosphere in Warsaw was more appealing to me.

Both Warsaw and Gdansk have excellent and very time-consuming historical museums.

In Warsaw you have the Jewish museum and the Rising Museum, each of which could probably fill a day. And there are other museums, some rather unusual--including a neon museum, the Polish poster museum (Google says this one is temporarily closed), and a small Communism museum set up in an apartment (near the neon museum). There are many historical and art museums I'm not mentioning here. There's tons to see in Warsaw. Four 4 nights seems like a very short visit, but I love art and am all-in on WWII and Cold War history, so my sightseeing list is always atypical.

Gdansk has the Solidarity Center (about 8 hours for me) and the quite new WWII Museum (20 hours to see the whole thing and watch all the videos). Those are both outside the historic center. The amber museum in the center makes a nice change from history and art museums.

I went to Gdynia but saw only the area between the train station and the Emigration Museum. I don't remember much of interest along that path, but it doesn't mean there's nothing worthwhile elsewhere in the city. The Emigration Museum is modern and well done. I think it would be of interest to folks with a personal connection to the story of emigration (not necessarily limited to those of Polish extraction). For me (a 5th-generation? 7th-generation?--I have no clue--WASPy mishmash) who didn't grow up hearing any stories about the emigration experience, it would have been skippable, though I could appreciate the quality of the exhibition.

After visiting Poland in 2018, I speculated that a considerable amount of EU money had gone into developing new museums and making them fully English-accessible. I headed to Poland without a fixed idea of how much time I'd spend there. It ended up being 5 weeks, and there are many places I didn't have time to go.

Of the new-to-you places mentioned, I went to and enjoyed Wroclaw, Torun and Bydgoszcz. As of 2018 there was one of those free-walking-tour companies (which I try to avoid but sometimes cannot because they've driven all the inexpensive competition out of the market) in Wroclaw. I took three tours and thought they were all worthwhile. I'd rank the Dwarves and Communism (!) tour last; too many dwarves, not enough history of the Communist period for me. In fairness, it was clear from the reviews that the tour tilted that way.

Posted by
13540 posts

Aside from the definite side trip from Gdansk to Malbork, I would heartily suggest another town in this lower Vistula area...the town of Gniew. What you listed certainly are worthy of visiting from Gdansk.

Posted by
7364 posts

Kazimierz Dolny is a lovely little town, but I think it is only worth seeing if it's a stop on the way between your destinations. There's too much to see in Warsaw to use up a day for it. I'd say the same for Sandomierz, although it is larger and there's more to see. We saw both as we were going from Krakow back to Warsaw.

Look at the In Your Pocket website for good info on Warsaw/Krakow/Gdansk. Lots of useful info on hotels, shops, restaurants, and guides can be downloaded.

Posted by
41 posts

Wow. Thanks for all the good advice. I think I need more time in Poland. I have amended my journey, but I still have things to consider like whether we should rent a car at a couple of places mentioned. I have a total of 24 nights. Still need feedback on whether Lublin or Lodz is worthy of a visit. I've started filling in hotel information where I have it.

Wroclaw - 4 nights; visit Swidnica and Ksiaz Castle; Prestige Apartment
Katowice - 2 nights; visit Pszczyna and maybe Nikiszowwiec
Zakopane - 2 nights
Sandomiera/Zamosc - 2 nights
Warsaw - 4 nights
Torun - 2 nights; day trip to Bydgoszer
Gdansk - 5 nights; trip to Malbork Castle, Sopat
Poznan - 2 nights; maybe side trip to Gniczno

If my addition is correct, I have 23 mights accounted for, so I have one more night somewhere. I have intentionally dropped Krakow since we've already spent 3 days there.

Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks again.

Posted by
2491 posts

Yes, there is so much to see! It makes choosing hard. :) It will be a great trip!

Carlos will have better recommendations, but it does look like the beginning part of your trip has destinations that a car would facilitate. It will just take some detailed research. Once you reach Warsaw, though, it all looks pretty straightforward.

For fine-tuning, you have a pretty action-packed trip scheduled, with several 2 night stays (meaning only 1 1/2 days in those locations. With one extra night, I don’t think I would add a destination unless you need a stopover somewhere to make travel easier (especially if using a car). If it were me, I would add that night to one of your 2 night stays.

Posted by
1660 posts

When in Gdansk I like to stay at the Radisson Blu Hotel - great location - nice, comfortable rooms - filling breakfast - competent bar staff.

Posted by
3000 posts

Still need feedback on whether Lublin or Lodz is worthy of a visit.

Those cities are less well known to tourists, I've driven through Łódź and I did not feel the need to stay the night, the city is heavily industrialized and a hub for manufacturing. The city felt sprawling yet bleak.

Lublin can be used as a base to explore the Royal Renascence Towns in the area including Kazimierz Dolny, Zamość, and Sandomierz

Posted by
1660 posts

I've driven through Łódź and I did not feel the need to stay the night

Interesting, I haven't been to Łódź but everytime a see a picture of Piotrkowska Street I always think I need to include it in my next time in Poland trip.

Posted by
3000 posts

Perhaps the centre of town has been gentrified since I was there in 2012. I know that the city's manufacturing based economy collapse after the fall of Communism and it's still seemed like rough going when I was there.

Posted by
41 posts

Thanks so much for all the advice. I am rethinking some of my destinations and hope to add more in SW Poland. I'm still not sure I want to rent a car to do that area, but it looks so wonderful.

Any advice on apartments in Gdansk?

Posted by
3000 posts

SW Poland. I'm still not sure I want to rent a car to do that area, but it looks so wonderful.

The SW is my favorite part of Poland! This area between Wrocław and Katowice is the historical Silesia region, a land rich in history, culture, and scenery and hardly known to outside tourists. A car is best in my opinion to explore this area. Some reasons it's my favorite are:

The Weather - it has consistently the best weather in Poland, whenever I go there its always sunny and pleasant, I believe it has the most sunny days of any region of Poland.

Unique multi-cultural history - At various times, Silesia has been part of the Kingdom of Poland, Bohemia, the Habsburg Monarchy, the Kingdom of Prussia, the German Empire. The architectural eye candy around the region reflects this unique history, one sees a little of every country that has ruled the region- from Polish Gothic to Austrian Baroque and German Modernist. Both the local cuisine and culture reflect this multi-layered history too.

Fascinating Day trips - The Silesian region is a fascinating area to travel around, full of time-warped old castles, 19th century spa towns, Prussian fortresses, giant wooden Protestant churches, primeval forests, spectacular mountain hiking, and rumours of hidden Nazi gold.

You can read more about the region here: https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/lower-silesia-poland-great-places/index.html

Posted by
41 posts

Thanks again for all the advice. I enjoyed the article, Carlos; thanks for recommending it. There are several places on there I'd like add to the itinerary. I am now looking at renting a car in Wroclaw in order to visit places in Silesia for four days. Not sure where I am dropping off the car, though. Krakow? Lublin?

My question for now is this: if we leave Wroclaw in the morning, can we visit Jawor, Ksiaz Castle and Swidnica in one day? If that is possible, where would be a good place to stay that evening. Is visiting "Frankenstein" a good second day?

This is about all I've got done right now. I am looking for how to group sights and where to stay.

Thanks again.

Posted by
219 posts

When I visited Ksiaz castle, it was an all day experience. There are many parts of the complex to visit and I got there too late to visit the tunnels which was a bit of a shame. I think trying to squeeze three sites in one day would be too much.

I really loved Zalipie. It was such a cute little village and really a way to get away from all the tourist. It isn’t that hard to get to without a car, just takes some planning as there are only a handful of minibuses that go there in a day. So you need to time you train to Tarnow with the first minibus out. The Tourist info office in Tarnow is super helpful and has all the needed material to aid you on your journey like minibus schedules, bus stops, maps, and pamphlets about Zalipie. I also very much enjoyed having a bit of time to walk around Tarnow before catching my return train.

Zakopane is absolutely a must see for Poland as it’s one of its most scenic areas of the country. The town itself is super touristy but the hiking available is stunning and there are even some cable cars to get the view without the effort.

I stayed at the waterlane island apartments in Gdańsk and loved them. They come with a balcony and a nice view as well as access to an indoor pool, sauna, and hot tub. The location is great too with just a 5 minute walk to the tram that takes you to the train station and about a 10 min walk from the main drag of Gdańsk. I highly recommend the Museum of the Second World War and I think if you’re going to Malbork, you can skip the amber museum in Gdańsk as there is a small one inside the castle.

If you are at all savvy with phones, download the app Jakdojade. It will tell you how to get anywhere within a city on local pubic transport and in many of the cities, you can even buy the ticket on the app. This app was a life saver as I was using google maps at first and it would either give me an inaccurate route or tell me a route didn’t exist when there was one.

Posted by
3000 posts

Hi Catherine, here would be my responses to your queries:

  • Depends on your final itinerary, but you'll have the easier job dropping off the car in Krakow or Katowice. Though Lublin is a bit out of the way so it may be difficult to find rail connections.

  • Książ Castle and the Church of Peace at Swidnica can be visited the same day if you get up early. Książ Castle's grounds are quite extensive though, one can spend most of the day hiking the forest and exploring the various annex buildings and ruins.

  • I'd drop Jawor, I think it is redundant if you are visiting Swidnica.

  • Ząbkowice Śląskie aka Frankenstein is nice enough to explore for a few hours, but there is no big sites there. If you have a car I'd probably head to Kłodzko instead, Kłodzko is a sort of “Little Prague”, definitely the architecture of the town reflected that. By far the most interesting site in the town is the old Prussian Fortress that dominates the center of the town. It was apparently one of the largest star fortifications in the Prussian Empire and is in remarkably well preserved.

Posted by
13540 posts

Hi,

Good that you are doing a well recommended day trip from Katowice to Pszczyna. Highly recommended if you are into the history of the chateau known as Schloss Pless. That chateau has been refurbished with specific attention paid to its history in WW1.

In WW1 the chateau served as the German Supreme HQ on the Eastern Front. (OHL Ost), was aslo connected to US history in the war. The wife of the German nobleman, the owner of Schloss Pless, was English who wrote her memoirs, "The Memoirs of Princess Daisy." dealing with the war years and their lives there. Revealing and enlightening.

Posted by
2491 posts

I would also drop Jawor if visiting Ksiaz and Swidnica on the same day. Did you know you can stay right on the grounds of the Peace Church at Barokowy Zakatek, if that helps? It is a lovely place.

Posted by
13540 posts

Hi,

I would suggest as a day trip from Torun, if you want to do that, the small town of Chelmno, ca. one hour. Like Torun it is also located on the Vistula. When we were in Torun in 2005, one of the days was spending doing a day trip by bus to Chelmno.

The bus depot in Torun, about a 30 minute walk from the center, was the transit center for numerous bus lines going to various towns, small and big, in that region.

Posted by
41 posts

Thanks all for the excellent, insightful information. I have the beginning of the trip and the end of the trip nailed down, but I am still working around with 6 days between Wroclaw and Warsaw. One thing that has gotten abudantly clear is that 4 weeks in Poland is not enough. Guess I'll have to come back.

I am looking at trains and not getting very far. How far in advance can one book trains/buses? Is it necessary to prebook trains? Do they have dynamic pricing like the airlines?

One last question today: If we see Swidnica and Ksiaz Castle in one day, can we get to Klodzko to stay the night? Or is that too long a day with night traveling involved.

Thanks again for your help.

Posted by
3000 posts

One last question today: If we see Swidnica and Ksiaz Castle in one day, can we get to Klodzko to stay the night? Or is that too long a day with night traveling involved.

I think that's reasonable. When I was in the area, I actually stayed at Polanica-Zdrój, just a little down the road from Kłodzko. Located at the foot of the Sudeten mountain range, Polanica is a 19th century Spa Town from the old Imperial German days. Really relaxing place with restorative mineral waters, I ate the best pierogi I've ever had in Poland at Villa Polanica, where I stayed.