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Two week trip -- Should we only visit Poland or add Budapest at the end?

Hi all. My wife and I are planning a trip in September 2024 to Europe and wanted to visit places neither of us have been individually. My wife suggested Poland and was especially interested in Gdansk, Warsaw and Krakow. I've been interested in visiting Budapest (neither of us have been there, too) so now we're trying to decide if we should just focus on Poland for this trip (knowing that it will probably be years before we get back to Europe) or include Budapest. We realize that we will probably lose much of a day each day we change cities since it looks like it's around 6-8 hours to get from city to city. Oh, and to add to the complexity, we are both vegan, which does make destinations a little trickier since often only larger cities have decent food options for us.

Additionally, we were thinking of flying into Gdansk to start our trip and head south from there, ending our travel in Krakow or Budapest. Any feedback on doing that?

Thanks all! Looking forward to Rick's new copy of the Eastern Europe guidebook to help us plan!

Posted by
3818 posts

I'd say with only two weeks available I would stick with just Poland. It's one of the largest countries in Europe, think of it along the same lines as France Germany or Spain in terms of depth of culture/history and things to see and do.

Here's a roughly 2 week "Best of Poland" loop itinerary I put together in the past, It's not exactly two weeks, but just to give an idea for what I'd consider the most important places to visit for a first visit to Poland:

Fly in to Warsaw

-Warsaw (3 nights)

-Torun (2 nights)

-Gdansk (4 nights) - day trip to Malbork Castle

-Gniezno "Birthplace of Poland" (2 nights) - day trip to the Iron Age settlement of Biskupin

-Wroclaw (3 nights): - day trip to the Church of Peace in Świdnica

-Kraków (4 nights): - day trip to Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains

Fly out of Kraków

It's best to see as much of Poland as you can as soon as you can before it gets too popular with the tourist hordes like in Prague. Most of Poland is still relatively undiscovered.

Posted by
2678 posts

There is no right or wrong answer here. I went to Poland for 2.5 weeks and spent the entire time there, so you know my answer. It was right for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

If you think it will be a long time before you get back to Europe and Budapest is a high priority for you, then going there on this trip makes sense. The only downside is, as you noted, the travel time, but it’s not a deal breaker on a two week trip. Just make sure to fly home from Budapest instead of heading back to Poland for your trip home.

I loved Poland; I hope you do too!

Posted by
3719 posts

Another vote for Poland. We spent 2 weeks there and wished we had more time. We visited Krakow, Częstochowa, Wrocław, Gdańsk, and Warsaw in that order. The trains are lovely, splurge for first class, not much more and very nice ride. I wrote a trip report about our trip back in 2018. I agree about seeing Poland before it gets unbearably crowded. Bonus, it was, and I hope it still is, very affordable. Dare I even use the word cheap.

Posted by
5 posts

Well, you're all making this an easier decision! My wife's preference was to stay there and I guess I never considered the size of Poland so I think we'll probably do that, which will make her happy! I was pricing out the AirBnbs last night and couldn't believe how inexpensive some really beautiful places were!

Posted by
17286 posts

I'm in the Carroll boat. It's your trip. Either plan works well depending in your travel style and what you want to get out of it.

"POLAND" is a 5 week trip to see the national top 10. But is that what you want or just Gdansk, Warsaw and Krakow, which could probably be done to a fair degree in 9 days.

How important is Budapest, as you said you might not be back for years. My current fav travel video
https://youtu.be/1nd5AtZIrTk?feature=shared

Posted by
26396 posts

I don't know what "two week trip" means in terms of number of nights on the ground in Europe, and 12 nights is very different from 14.

I love both of those destinations. I spent 6 weeks in Poland and about 6 days in Budapest (plus more time in other Hungarian cities) in 2018. I returned to Poland for an additional 10 days this year (still missed some places) and will probably return to Budapest next year. You'll have an enjoyable trip either way, but I lean in the direction of all-Poland. I'd only cut Poland short to squeeze in Budapest if I had at least 14 nights, had considered the sights in at least the three large cities and had decided I could see what I wanted to see in about 3-1/2 days each. Poland has a lot of modern, fascinating bi-lingual historical museums where one can spend the better part of a day--or even longer--so 3-1/2 days is not as long as it sounds. With an extra day or two I'd try to get to one of the many attractive smaller cities/towns in Poland. I think that would be a nice change from the three bustling cities, two of which are quite touristy.

Budapest is really not a drop-in-for-a-couple-of-days destination as far as I'm concerned.

Posted by
5 posts

So we are definitely going to just do Poland. Any feedback on flying into Gdansk versus Warsaw? Assumed going straight into Gdansk makes more sense logistcally versus flying into Warsaw and then taking the train up, but just wanted to confirm we aren't overlooking anything or there isn't anything we should be aware of.

Thanks again!

Posted by
17286 posts

I think Michael made a fine decision.

But Acraven I reject the notion that there are any rules for how long or how short to do anything. Maybe too short for you since you get to travel a lot and there is always another day, another trip. But not everyone is you on that count. And not everyone is you and me on the count of the purpose of travel.

If I had a friend and he said he could only make one trip, of 2 weeks, to Europe in his lifetime I would send him 3 days London, 3 days Paris, 3 days Rome and maybe 3 days someplace off the tourist grid. . And on my calendar two weeks is 16 days from last work on Friday until next work on Monday.

Posted by
3829 posts

As far as flying in, I look at flight prices and times….. for me in 2022 it was as cheap to fly on up to Gdansk as it was to begin in Warsaw, even though I had to change planes in Warsaw. But trains are not very expensive; so if the flight cost is much higher and if the layover in Warsaw is longer to fly on to Gdansk than a train would take, it might affect my decision. My layover was only a couple of hours, so it was an easy choice.

I started to offer an opinion to your original question but both options seemed to be a personal decision. I love Budapest and hate to think that someone who is interested can’t get there - but we simply can’t go everywhere, no matter how much time we have. You just have to choose what seems right for you, not me.

Posted by
3829 posts

Mr. É, you know it took me 4 years after my first 36 hour visit to Budapest to get back (why on earth would anyone only stay 36 hrs when not on a cruise?). And I have been back 3 times since. But sometimes time forces us to hard decisions. :) The video is great.

Posted by
37 posts

Hi, I spent 3 weeks in Poland, Budapest and Slovakia, but only hit specific targets in each country that were priorities to me, that is, I didn't try to do every highlight in every country. I spent 6 nights in Budapest alone. I flew into Budapest (which was cheaper than flying into Poland at the time) and spent my first 4 nights there. Then took a train to Kosice, Slovakia, then to Zilina, Slovakia, then to Krakow, then Lodz, and then Gdansk. My main priority was researching family history which entailed visiting some small villages outside the main cities (where most tourists don't go), thus I had to cut out other attractions accordingly. For example, I didn't have time to go to Zakopane or Warsaw even though I would have liked to. I flew back to Budapest from Gdansk for my last 2 nights before flying home.

I rented Airbnbs except for one night in a small hotel in Kosice, Slovakia, so I was able to buy my own food from grocery stores. You might consider doing this if your food options have limitations. Although I'm not specifically vegan or vegetarian, I did eat several meatless specialties in Poland: pierogies stuffed with sauerkraut and mushrooms, vegetable slaw, and red beet soup. But there's no guarantee that these vegetarian options are vegan, if I'm not mistaken.

Posted by
37 posts

I also remember an amazing vegetarian meal in Kosice, Slovakia of stuffed cabbage, stuffed with mushroom and barley.

Posted by
26396 posts

The food scenes in Budapest and many popular cities in Poland are rather sophisticated. There may not be restaurants advertising themselves as vegan, but I don't think you'll have any more difficulty eating there than you do in the US.

Posted by
5 posts

On the food front, we actually have been looking and have found many fully vegan restaurants in every city we want to visit! Definitely more than what we have in upstate South Carolina. Can't wait to try some pierogi! 😋

As an update, flight is booked and now we're figuring out how many days to spend in each city. We've looked at the Airbnb options and there are tons of beautiful, modern places for a fraction of what they would cost in the States. We also started learning Polish in Babbel. Getting excited!

Posted by
165 posts

If you haven't looked at these Krakow apartments, check them out. We stayed there (they are in the same wonderful location) on our last three trips: Terminal Apartments and Downtown Apartments. Both are on Bastowa St. near the Planty, a five-minute walk to the Rynek, a short walk to the train and bus station, a great bakery downstairs, and small markets/groceries nearby. You might find them on Booking.com.

In Warsaw, I stayed at Motel One (which is a nice hotel) right across from the Chopin Museum. I have also stayed at the Chopin Boutique Hotel which was a great experience. Lots of eating places nearby on Nowy Swiat.

Posted by
2213 posts

Personally, I am a big fan of Poznan, not so much Warsaw, and not at all Budapest. I would look to start the trip in Gdansk and end the trip in Krakow.

Will Auschwitz / Birkenau be part of your trip planning for Poland ?

Posted by
232 posts

Michael maybe we'll see you there! We are in Krakow in September, doing a similar trip, but we are focusing on the multi-country but not-huge area between southeast Poland and Budapest. (Because Hungary was top of my list.) Happy travels!