Poland is in my blood.
But regardless of your ancestral roots, the country is a must-visit. Relative to Paris and Prague, Poland remains relatively ignored by the travel masses. Go beyond Warsaw, Kraków and important sites like Auschwitz. Poland’s architecture, culture, history, food and drink beg to be explored.
The Basics. New low-cost airlines (like Norwegian Air) transport you to Poland for a steal. Poland is a member of the EU (making border crossings easy) but not on the Euro (your USD goes far). Trains make intercity travel a breeze; Uber is your best bet intracity. For lodging, choose one of the many renovated apartments instead of a hotel room (recommend Booking.com).
The History. Poland’s story is long and complex. There are decades when it even ceased to be a country. A slew of newly opened state-of-the-art museums bring Poland’s history to life. Here are three favorites:
- POLIN (Warsaw). The Museum of the History of Polish Jews explores the 1000+ year history of Jews in Poland. You can’t understand the history of one without understanding the other.
- Rynek Underground (Kraków). Recent excavations in Kraków’s main square exposed remnants of the city’s market square during the Middle Ages. The museum is an audio-visual delight, literally below your feet. Entries are limited, so book in advance.
- Emigration Museum (Gydnia). While I went to learn more about my Polish ancestors’ emigration experiences, I left understanding much more about Poland’s history. Because global emigration has been the key to Poland’s story for centuries.
Walking Tours. Pack good walking shoes! When in Poland, check out Free Walking Tours. No reservations needed, just show up. If you find your tour valuable, generously tip your guide.
In Kraków, we also spent half a day with private guide Joanna Werynska. A literary scholar, journalist, and global traveler, Joanna introduced us to one of the oldest and esteemed universities in the world, Jagiellonian University, and set us up for lunch at Klezmer Hois in the old Jewish district of Kazimierz.
Finally, don your headphones and take a walking tour at your own pace at Malbork Castle. Just a short train ride from Gdansk, Malbork Castle was originally built by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century. While the damage it suffered in World War II was devastating, the restorations since are awe-inspiring.
Na zdrowie! (Cheers!)