Steeped in dark history, Poland is emerging as the place to go for World War II history buffs and those who want to explore rebuilt urban centers. The country was once caught in the middle of one of history’s greatest battles – World War II.
It is here, in Poland, that some of the worst actions were carried out by the Nazis and there are constant reminders of the past. With plenty of museums and historical sites, Poland is living history. But while the scars of the past remain, Poland has begun to look towards a bright future.
Witamy – Welcome to Poland
While the remnants of the past are scattered throughout all of Poland, the cities have emerged to become popular hotspots for tourists looking to experience the country and culture. The streets are filled with plenty of activities and the unique architectural design of many urban centers have made the cities. stars in their own right.
But beyond the busy pathways of Kraków and Warsaw, the Polish countryside is known for being untouched and unspoiled. With mountains and rivers and pristine flat lands, Poland is also an outdoor enthusiasts dream come true.
Almost completely destroyed during World War II, Warsaw is Poland’s capital that has risen in the place where ashes once lay. The majority of the city experienced heavy damage and there are only a few parts that are still standing. Most of the things that were left before World War II have been preserved in the local museums.
But from near destruction, Warsaw has become a diverse landscape with a wide range of unique architectural styles. The capital is now the place to be and travelers can indulge themselves in the local Polish cuisine, enjoy the green spaces, and take a spin through all the lively bars.
Culture and Language
Poland has a long history of human activity that dates back to 500,000 years ago. With early humans settling the area, Poland’s recorded history is much shorter and only about 1,000 years of events have been recorded.
Still, 1,000 years is a long time and the country has gone from being ruled by kings, tyrants, and finally Presidents and Prime Ministers. While the Iron and Middle Ages in Poland were very significant in the country’s development, Poland’s more recent history in World War II is what has solidified the country in the minds of travelers.
World War II saw Poland invaded by Germany on September 1st, 1939. Germany then persuaded the Soviet Union to invade parts of Poland with those troops arriving on Polish soil in September of that same year. With occupation by both Germany and the Soviet Union, Poland became a hostile environment. Some of the most horrific acts of World War II were carried out in Poland with many Nazi death camps being built in the country. Auschwitz-Birkenau is the most well-known Nazi death camp, which has parts that are still preserved and open to the public.
But Poland’s struggle wouldn’t end with the Nazis and the country was also ruled by Joseph Stalin and has strong communist ties. By the 1970s, Poland wanted to become a more westernized country and it worked hard to reform its image and government. Today, Poland is a democratic state, which has become unified and holds free elections.
While the road was difficult, Poland has emerged to be a world leader. With plenty of tributes and memorials to the past, Poland has become very popular within industries like manufacturing, energy, and tourism. Tourists are eager to experience history first-hand and Poland welcomes visitors with open arms. With plenty of locations that explain the past, visitors can get up close and personal with Poland’s culture.
Culture is extremely important for Polish people, so it makes sense that there is a diverse list of language spoken throughout the country. The main language spoken is Polish, but a few minority languages include Czech and Slovak. But about 97% of the population speaks Polish, which makes Poland Europe’s most linguistically homogenous nation.
While English is not a native language in Poland, it is one of the most common languages that is taught and learned by Polish people in school. It is estimated that up to 30% of the population understands and can speak English to a certain level. For tourists, English is quite common in urban areas, so you shouldn’t have too hard a time navigating your way through the country.
Before travelers can begin their journey to Poland, you need to check that you have all your legal documents ready to go and in good order. A big part of travel is being responsible when entering and visiting different countries. For United States citizens, visiting Poland is a straightforward and easy process. Poland is a part of the Schengen Area and Agreement, which allows US tourists to visit the country without obtaining a visa prior to travel. However, this is only applicable to stays that are less than 90 days in their duration.
But in order to be granted entry into Poland, US visitors do need to have a valid US passport. Your passport must also have a remaining validity of at least 6 months past your intended date of departure from Poland. You are not required to have a full blank page in your passport and you just need space for a stamp.
There are also no vaccination requirements to enter Poland, but there are currency restrictions. Travelers may not enter Poland with more than €10,000 Euros with them in cash. This also applies to leaving the country as you cannot carry more than €10,000 Euros out of Pland either.
Visiting most of the European continent means that you will be looking at an expensive vacation. But Poland is one of the few countries that is an exception to that common rule. Instead of having to spend the big bucks, Poland is a very budget friendly European nation that can suit visitors with budgets that are big or small. But it is always important to know your budget before you travel, which is when estimating your spending budget can come in handy. The most important parts of your travel budget will be the flight, accommodation, food, drank, and transportation.
Part of your journey is getting to Poland, which means that you’ll have to book a flight across the pond. On average, travelers should expect to pay about $1,000 US dollars to fly from the United State to Poland. But there are many budget airline sites or deals with major airlines that can drastically reduce the cost. The time of year that you visit Poland can also lower or raise the cost of your flight.
Summer is the ultimate high for Poland’s tourist season with the majority of people booking their vacations for the months of June, July, and August. But by travel in the shoulder season, which is just before June or at the beginning of September, you may be able to lower the flight cost by hundreds of dollars.
Once you have decided when and how you will get to Poland, you will need to decide where you will stay each night of your trip. Accommodation is important for every traveler and Poland has a plethora of options to offer. The most common options for accommodation include hostels, hotels, and Airbnb.
Hostels offer the most affordable nightly rates in Poland with most dorm room beds costing $12-$14 US dollars. If you want a little more privacy but still enjoy the hostel setting, private rooms are often offered for about $40 US dollars per night. These rates are some of the most affordable in Europe and you can always check online for good reviews of a hostel.
But if hostels are not your preferred accommodation spot, there are also plenty of hotels to suit all types of budgets. The most affordable hotels will offer rooms for about $25 US dollars per night and increase in price from that point. However, most budget hotels will not cost more than $40 US dollars per night.
Boutique hotels or ones that have three stars will cost more than the budget options. However, many three-star hotels are still very affordable with nightly rates that start at $45 US dollars for a room. Luxury hotels will be very expensive, and you should expect to pay hundreds of dollars per night.
For travelers who are part of a group or who wish to cook their own meals, Airbnb is an affordable option that has a lot of listings all throughout the country of Poland. A shared room on Airbnb will often cost about $10 US dollars per night, while private rooms will charge double that.
If you want to rent a private residence on Airbnb, travelers should expect to spend at least $50 US dollars per night. However, most apartments are listed at about $75 US dollars per night and an entire home may cost more than $100 US dollars per night.
When you aren’t sleeping or relaxing in your accommodation, you will likely be out on the streets exploring Poland’s culture. A significant part of any culture is the cuisine and Poland is no different. Polish cuisine is known for being meat heavy on the ingredients, but many dishes also use a variety of local vegetables too.
Poland’s national dish is filled with vegetable and meat. The dish is called bigos and it is a hearty stew that is often served with bread or mashed potatoes. Pierogi is Poland’s most famous dish and it is the country’s take on dumplings. The dumplings feature a variety of fillings including flavors like meat, cottage cheese, fruit, and sauerkraut.
For a hot dish on a cooler day or for people who just love soup, rosót is a lighter stew that has chicken and a small variety of vegetables. For a few tasty wraps, you should try golabki, which are small caged rolls that have been filled with minced pork, rice, onions, and mushrooms. One dish that is very popular and reflects Poland’s Jewish population are placki ziemniaczane or potato pancakes. The small cakes are best served hot and are frequently topped with sugar or sour cream.
While those are just a few of Poland’s tasty highlights, there are many more things to try that will make your mouth water. But with so much to try, you don’t have to dig too deep in your pockets to eat out in Poland. Food is relatively affordable in Poland and many local restaurants will charge about $20 US dollars for a meal. A slight upgrade will cost more, and a finer establishment may charge about $30 or $40 US dollars for a meal.
But if you want to eat at the best establishments, at the bare minimum you should expect to spend about $50 US dollars per meal. The high-end restaurants will cost much more, and meals can easily exceed $100 US dollars in price.
If you want to cut your budget back, you may consider cooking for yourself if your accommodation allows for you to make your own meals. Groceries in Poland are also affordable and will cost less than always eating out. Most travelers can get by with spending about $40 US dollars each week for food in Poland.
Food may not be the only thing on your mind and travelers who would like to have a drink with dinner will need to account for the price of alcohol in their spending budget. The price of alcohol can vary widely and often the cost is based on the reputation or type of establishment that you go to. While the most affordable drinks can be purchased for less than $2 US dollars, you should still expect alcohol to get expensive. At the finer establishments, alcohol prices that rival those of the United States.
Overall, budget breakdown can help you plan your trip so that you aren’t caught off-guard by the price of goods in Poland. Budget travelers in Poland should expect to spend about $50 US dollars each day of their trip. A more mid-range budget means that you could spend double or triple that amount. Many mid-range budgets will accommodate for you to spend up to $150 US dollars each day in Poland. Luxury vacations are always an option for some travelers and in that case, the cost of a trip to Poland can easily extend into spending hundreds or thousands of dollars for a visit.
How to Get Around
The chances are also high that you will want to travel throughout Poland while you are visiting the country, rather than stay in one place. The cost of transportation should also be considered as prices can vary by the method you choose. The most common transportation services in Poland include domestic flights, trains, buses, and local transportation.
Flying domestically throughout Poland is the fastest way to get around but it isn’t the most budget friendly. While almost all the flights in Poland will cost about $75 US dollars or less, the price of so many airline tickets can add up for some travelers. But if you take the time to book early or look for special deals, you may be able to purchase tickets for as low as $15 US dollars.
Trains are another fast way to get around Poland and are a more affordable option than domestic flights. Many train tickets are not too expensive, and you should expect to spend $60 US dollars or less for your ticket. Shorter rides are the most affordable and some may cost as little as $30 US dollars.
Buses are another option that are slower but very affordable. Many bus tickets can be purchased for about $10 US dollars and are available to all travelers. Even if you are going a very long distance, it may be worth it to take more time to travel to your destination so that you can save on your budget.
Finally, local transportation is the most reliable method for getting around the city. Many local transportation options sell tickets for less than $2 US dollars each ride. But in mega urban centers like Warsaw will have a reliable network of vehicles that can safely tote you around the city. You can even find unique multi-day passes for the local transportation system, which will help you save a little money on your budget.
Top Cities to Visit
While you may have heard of many Polish cities, there are so many that it would be impossible to visit every single one during your trip. You will have to pick and choose, but to help you in your decision, here are Poland’s top cities to visit.
Due to being almost completely destroyed in World War II, Warsaw has a unique appearance that mashes together various architectural styles like Gothic and Modern. The city has been rebuilt and its diversity enhanced amongst the quiet stone paves streets of the Old Town, Warsaw will provide plenty of entertainment. The rebuilt Old Town is a highlight, as are the numerous museums that tell stories of the past.
Another city with an Old Town is Kraków. Here, the Old Town is a famous area that has been revitalized and preserved for the future generations. There is a lot to do in Kraków and visitors will often establish themselves are true adventurers when they are in Kraków. The new wave of bars and restaurants has brought a youthful liveness back into Poland to show that the present and future is thriving.
As a port city, Gdansk is fun to explore with its old cobblestone streets and narrow pathways. The area has a strategic placement that has often been a dispute between nations at war. But now the new restaurants, cafes, shops, and museums have filled in the cracks. The idyllic Baltic Coast also makes Gdansk popular with boaters who want to get out on the water and explore the area.
Lodz was a once predominantly Jewish town that was overtaken by Communism and German occupation during World War II. The city has been rebuilt and as much of the past as possible has been preserved. But while the history hasn’t faded, the new life brought into the city has made it a popular destination amongst tourists. Whether you’re a history buff or are just looking to enjoy the views, Lodz is a great place for curious travelers.
Points of Interest
While we highlighted some of the most visited cities in Poland, there may also be an attraction that catches your eye. There are many points of interest scattered throughout Poland, but here are the tourist hotspots throughout this proud country.
Auschwitze-Birkenau is the place to go for tourists who want to experience the power and tragedy of history. The extremely dark past of Auschwitz-Birkenau makes for a very somber visit, but many people are still interested in taking a peek at this Nazi death camp. Located in Oswiecim, the concentration camp has been preserved and devoted to the memories of those killed in all the Nazi camps during World War II.
As an extensive lake system, Masurian Lakeland is a popular place to go for people who want to cruise the open water and small canals. The district is filled with various lakes and it has become a tourist hotspot with plenty of places to house and entertain guests. The flatter landscape also makes this the perfect place to get out on a bike and explore Poland’s quieter nature.
Slowinski Sand Dunes
These seaside sand dunes are known for constantly changing due to outside factors and the varying elements, but that doesn’t mean that they have scared off the tourists. Instead, these dunes have become very popular amongst younger travelers who wish to climb to the top and then slide down the side of the dunes.
Wielicza Salt Mine
With salt having been continuously mined from this location since the 13th century, the Wielicza Salt Mine is truly a sight to behold. Within the rock salt, a complete chapel has been carved and it is said to have some of Europe’s best acoustics. The sheer size of the mine will also take your breath away.
Get Out and Go
Poland and come out on top after surviving years of harsh conflict. But now, the past is being memorialized and the future is becoming the present. In Poland, people are celebrating their culture and sharing their memories. For those who want to step back in time to see history, Poland should be at the top of your list. With somber attractions related to World War II and modern-day establishments, Poland is truly become a tourist hotspot. All you have to do is book a ticket and set out on your adventure to witness the beauty of Poland.