Poland

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Meet Poland

The unique guide

Right in the heart of Europe is the country of Poland. Its location - sharing borders with Germany to the west, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to its south, Ukraine and Belarus to the east, and Lithuania and Russia to the northeast - have influenced its cultural development and history, for better and for worse. In modern times, it has one of the strongest economies out of any of the countries in the EU, among many other accolades. It is a wonderful destination for culture lovers, housing 15 cultural UNESCO world heritage sites in total, including the capital city Warsaw’s medieval town. There is plenty that makes Poland a destination worth visiting year-round, from festivals in the spring and summer to skiing and Christmas markets in the winter.

A journey through time

One of the reasons that Poland is visited by tourists year in and year out is because of the part it played in history. Monuments from the medieval ages, like Malbork Castle and the town of Torun, are beautiful locations worth visiting. However, Poland’s more recent history is quite dark. Poland has some haunting reminders of the suffering that took place during the Second World War, like the Auschwitz concentration camp. Though it’s a place where death and crimes against humanity were commonplace during the Holocaust, it still stands as a tool for education. There are other places which have significance to Poland’s place in WWII, like the town of Wizna and memorials to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. There are also monuments which detail Poland’s history as a Soviet state, like the Museum of Life in the Polish People’s Republic in Warsaw.

Enriching culture to soak-up

Another reason why Poland is such a well-known country is because of its cultural contribution. As well as its UNESCO world heritage sites, many artists and writers of repute have come from Poland. This includes but is not limited to the fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski, who wrote The Witcher series, and Jakub Różalski, an artist who also goes under the moniker Mr Werewolf. There are many museums where you can admire cultural landmarks in Poland, like King Jan III’s palace in Wilanow.

Diverse landscapes throughout the land

As with many other countries in Europe, Poland provides its own unique opportunities to go hiking, wildlife watching, or even just admire the landscape. The Sudetes and the Carpathian Mountain ranges act as a physical barrier cutting off the country from Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, attracting those who enjoy mountain sports. The rest of the land is mostly lowland plains cut up by forest belts. To the north is Poland’s coastline, shared with the Baltic Sea. Here, old towns and resorts can be found. Seaports can be done here, though if you’re planning to go for a swim, it’s only advisable to do it in the summer, and even then, it’ll still be cold.

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Meet Poland

Welcome to Poland! Tucked in between many European countries, Poland has a detailed history and rich culture, which has been largely shaped by its proximity to its neighbours. Throughout many of the cities, you can find many tributes to Polish history, whether they are a tribute to the souls lost during the Second World War, or memorials to Poland’s medieval past. Whether it’s to hit up the Krakow Christmas Market, or try out the local cuisine, there is loads to do here! It’s also one of the most affordable countries in the EU, so while we recommend taking enough money with you, it won’t burn a hole in your wallet.

Poland is also home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Kraków's historic center, Warsaw's Old Town, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. These places that you can explore to this day offer profound insights into Poland's complex history. Other must-visit destinations include Wrocław, Gdańsk, and Toruń, each showcasing unique architectural styles, charming streets, and vibrant atmospheres that exudes a well-preserved bygone era.

There are 16 main provinces of Poland, or voivodeships as they’re called here. These are:

1

Greater Poland

2

Holy Cross

3

Kuyavian-Pomeranian

4

Lowe Silesian

5

Lublin

6

Lubusz

7

Łódź

8

Lesser Poland

9

Masovian

10

Opole

11

Podlaskie

12

Pomeranian

13

Silesian

14

Subcarpathian

15

Warmian-Masurian

16

West Pomeranian

A Historical significance for the books

Poland has a lot of history behind it as a country, which is what attracts a lot of visitors from abroad. Though the modern Republic of Poland didn’t come about until the 90s with the fall of the Soviet Union, people have lived in these regions for centuries before that. There are historical monuments which commemorate many historical periods, ranging from the middle ages to the Second World War. There are over 500 castles in Poland and more than 2500 palaces, the largest castle measured by land area being Malbork, a reminder of the bygone teutonic age. There are many war monuments as well, like the fortress of Osoveic, just outside of Białystok. Here, WWI Russian soldiers struck back against German forces in a terrifying display which would be referred to as ‘the attack of the dead men.’ Most interestingly, though are the paintings of Wizna, which was the sight of a last stand of Polish forces against the German Wehrmacht during the Second World War. From vast palaces to murals commemorating Polish resistance against Nazi occupiers, the historical monuments are extensive here.

Perfect for Recreation

Poland is a vast country with many different landscapes within and around the borders of the country. To the north lies close to 300 miles of the Baltic coastline, while to the south are vast mountain ranges that cut off Poland from its neighbours. In between are mostly flatlands used for agriculture. This makes Poland an excellent place to satisfy your recreational sporting needs, whether that be hiking the Carpathians, kite surfing in the Baltic or cycling across the Green Velo, Poland’s longest cycling trail. Wild camping is illegal here, but there still plenty of campsite to pitch up a temporary hub for your adventures. If you’re the less outdoorsy type, or you like to take things at a more relaxed pace, there is still stuff for you to do. Why not take a load off and visit a natural hot spring? There are many different thermal pools - or geothermal in Polish - throughout the country. Maybe you’re an adrenaline seeker and want to step things up a bit? If you aren’t into sports, Poland’s gun laws mean you can indulge in some recreational shooting at a shooting range.

Polish bites and delights

One of the aspects that makes Poland attractive as a destination is their food. There are many traditional dishes which are served here. While many of their dishes have a heavy focus on meat, but if you aren’t inclined that way, don’t worry, they also have some great food dishes as well. The most well-known one is Pierogi, a rolled dough that is filled with either sweet or savoury filling, which can then be boiled, baked or fried. So you can either gorge yourself on meat, ot go for something lighter with potatoes or another veg. But that’s not all that is on offer here. You can try dishes like Kotlet schabowy, which are breaded and fried pork cutlets. There is also golabaki, bigos and many more for you to sample. Many of their dishes include different herbs and spices for a full experience on your taste buds, so no two meals will be the same. It’s also very cheap to eat out here, so try something new!

When to visit

Though Poland is a fantastic destination to visit year-round, you’ll have to weigh up the pros and cons. It can get very cold in the winter; but there is less tourist traffic. Alternatively, in the summer, it’s warmer, though more people will be wanting to visit. The choice is up to you!

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Tourist Season: May - September
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Best Weather: May-September

Essentials

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Time-Zone: Central European Time (CET)
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Currency: Polish Zloty
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Cost/Expense: $$
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Languages: Polish
Dates for your calendar
Jan - New Year Celebrations, the day of the Grandmother
Feb - Polish folk festivals
Mar - Marzanna
Apr - Holy Week
May - Constitution Day, Labour Day, Day of the Flag
Jun - The Night of San Juan
Jul - Harvest Festival
Aug - Jagiellonian Fair
Sept and Oct - Warsaw Contemporary Music Festival
Nov - Independence Day
Dec - Christmas, New Years Eve

Languages 101

Polish is a West Slavic language spoken primarily in the country. Around 50 million people speak Polish, with 97% of that population living in Poland. The language uses the Latin alphabet in writing. There is a mixture of language demographics living in Poland, but Polish is the main one.

Essential Polish Phrases

A decent portion of Poland’s population speaks English, especially in the larger cities, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble. With that being said, here are some phrases which could be handy to keep in mind.

Speak the local language
Englisharrow
I am looking for
Szukam
How do you say...?
Jak można powiedzieć…?
How much?
Ile?
My name is...
Nazywam się
I don’t understand
Ja nie Rozumiem

Transport

Getting There

By Plane

By Plane As a country within central Europe, you can fly into the country by plane. It should be noted, though, that most of the international flights depart and return to Warsaw Chopin Aiport, while Warszawa-Modlin International Airport serves low-cost carriers like Ryanair. Poland has a total of 12 international airports, including Krakow and Gdansk.

By Train

You can easily travel to Poland by train with the option of an overnight sleeper. Destinations in the Czech Republic, Berlin in Germany, Vienna in Austria, Kaunas in Lithuania and Bratislava in Slovakia all connect to major cities in Poland, like Warsaw and Krakow.

By Bus

You can use international coach links to get into Poland overland. FlixBus, Eurolines and National Express are the main international companies that service the country and you can the larger cities via this way.

Getting Around

By Car

If you want to go off the beaten track, a car can be a great way of getting around Poland. To legally rent a car, you must be at least 21 years old and have held your license for at least one year. Some car classes have a maximum of 70 years of age to rent, so keep that in mind. Child seats are mandatory for children up to four years old.

By Public Transport

When it comes to public transport, trains are usually the best way to get anywhere. All the major cities are connected, though these can get crowded during the summer and weekends. Trams and buses are a good way of getting around intercity, while Warsaw in the only city with a metro service. Buses are more useful for travelling throughout the mountainous region, Mazury or getting to smaller villages.

On Foot

A lot of the cities are very walkable and a great way of getting around/ sampling the culture. In fact, many of them have promenades and parks, so walking is encouraged.

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