Cześć! Or hej, if you will...
If you are looking for somewhere to travel this summer and your budget constraints are cheap and cheerful, do not hesitate when considering visiting the beautiful country that is Poland. From the northern coastal town of Sopot to the ancient city of Krakow in the south, there is absolutely something for everyone.
Let us give you a few facts to start with to see if we can't pique your interest a little.
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Did you know that Poland shares its borders with no less than seven countries: Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Slovakia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Germany.
Famous Poles include: composer Frédéric Chopin, Nobel laureate Marie Curie, and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (the first of his kind that proposed a heliocentric model of the solar system – in other words, that the world was not, in fact, flat).
Poland has an area of 312,255 km2 (120,562 square miles).
Gneizno was the very first capital city of Poland.
Footballer Robert Lewandowski may currently be
hitting making headlines whilst playing for Germany's Bayern Munich and has generally been making waves in the Bundesliga for years given his skills, but in Poland he is probably most famous for being a member of the squad for Lech Poznań.
If you are a little short on time and you only have the space in your schedule to visit one place in Poland, here are three suggestions for you.
Of course, if you can, Warsaw is the go-to destination in Poland. A vibrant, thriving city with skyscrapers towering above you and beautiful parks interspersed throughout. The historic Old Town is worth a wander, with cobbled streets and free walking tours that will wax lyrical about castle walls and defences. Walking tours usually set off from the Kolumna Zygmunta if you are interested in taking a look for yourself.
Pałac Kultury i Nauki (the palace of culture and science) is one of the most eye-catching and interesting places to visit in Warsaw, if a more laid-back day out is your thing, and if you like your nightlife lively then Warsaw is definitely the place for you: it is a non-stop party city so if you need your sleep, consider booking into one of the many high-rise hotels away from the noise, or a hostel a little further out.
Gdansk is a port city that is small and very easy to navigate in a short space of time. There is a beautiful walk along the Motława River, lined with cafes, bars, and of course city boat tours touting their business.
As you would expect, the Old Town (Stare Miasto) is worth a meander. Most cities in Poland have a Rynek – a town square, but in Gdansk, there is instead Dlugi Targ – The Long Market – which runs from Targ Weglowy (Coal Square) right up to the channels. If shopping's your thing, as well as overpriced touristy souvenirs, then this is the place for you.
The architecture in Gdansk is truly stunning: from St Mary's Church to Green Gate, there are so many building facades to take in that you will be absolutely spoilt for choice. Possibly the most popular tourist attraction in Gdansk is the Golden Gate. which is a beautiful double-story colonnade topped with eight allegorical statues, and was built in 1612.
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This city is currently the European Capital Of Culture and with good reason. It is the largest city in the west of Poland, sitting on the bank of the River Oder approximately 350 km from the Baltic Sea. It is thought to be one of the hottest cities in Poland during the summer, and with many fountains to paddle in, parks to lay in, beer to drink and lody (ice cream) stalls everywhere, chances are you won't overheat.
One of the most enjoyable 'tourist trails' to take in Europe can be found in Wrocław- there are 163 dwarf statues around the city taking you from culture to history and back again and allowing you to get a real feel for the city. Krasnale, the website for Wrocław's dwarves, even has profiles for each of the dwarves as well as sightseeing route suggestions – if you get chance then this really is a must.
The Market Square is stunning; buildings of every colour you can imagine and some of the best multi-cultural cuisine you could ask for. One of the most incredible things to see in Wrocław is the Wrocław Fountain. It is essentially water and light 'set' to music, and there are often firework displays to accompany the music as well. It is one of the most amazing displays of lights that you could hope to see.
Wrocław is a charming city, and perhaps it's hard to pinpoint exactly why it is the kind of place you could fall in love with when travelling. There is a feel about the place that makes you happy to have arrived, and sad to be leaving.
How else can we tempt you?
Well, if you've never had a baked product from Poland, we can tell you that you are missing out. In the underpasses of most of the cities and on many a street corner there are piekarnia (bakeries) selling the most delicious breads and pastries for a ridiculously cheap price.
Transport around Poland is also very cheap: a short hop on a metro will cost you under a dollar, and an overnight bus with Polskibus will probably set you back no more than $8. Overnight in a hostel can be as little as $4.
Just so you know: there is approximately £1 to 5 zloty and just under 4 zloty to $1 (USD). In other words: Poland can be very, very cheap. Do not mistake that for low standards or quality!
The important stuff: eating and drinking
If food is your thing, know that meals in Poland usually start with soup. Typical soups are Rosół (chicken noodle), Barszcz czerwony (beetroot), and Zurek (sour rye). For your main, it would be incredibly rude not to try pierogi – a dumpling filled with everything from meat to spinach. And for dessert, may we recommend Sernik – Polish cheesecake. Homemade is best, but this thick, sweet, multi-flavour pudding will have you smacking your lips and probably needing a nap.
For the drinkers out there, you should know that Poland is the land of incredibly good vodka. You should also know that the most commonly served beers are Zubr and Tyskie, although the Poles will tell you they aren't the best quality. You should also know that Polish beer tends to be on the strong side, and that the Poles can drink. So if you find yourself invited out for a beer or three, be prepared to be outdrunk, or outdanced, and outraged in the morning when you are hungover but they are off for their morning run without the slightest headache.
We hope we have done enough to inspire you to visit this incredible country: see you at the bar! Na zdrowie! (cheers!)