Five Things First Time Travellers To Poland Should Know
- The official currency in Poland is the Polish zloty. Despite being a member of the European Union, the country doesn't use the Euro. While credit cards are accepted in most shops, hotels and restaurants, you might struggle with American Express and Diners.
- Tips are not mandatory in Poland. If you decide to give one, the restaurant standard is 10% and rounding up the total of the bill. However, some restaurants have started automatically adding a service fee, so check your bill beforehand.
- English is spoken in Poland. It's taught in schools for years, and in the popular tourist's sites, you shouldn't have a problem communicating in English.
- Public toilets have different symbols. To prevent any confusion, remember that the women's restrooms are a circle and the men's are marked with a triangle. There is also usually a small fee to use the bathrooms so make sure you keep some loose change in your wallet.
- Free WiFi is available in most public spaces. You shouldn't run into a problem getting online while in the country. However, sometimes the instructions are in Polish. If you run into this problem, ask one of the locals or the barista at the coffee shop, and they'll be more than happy to help.
Best Time To Visit Poland
The best time to visit Poland is during its summer months. From June to August the temperatures are warm, perfect for exploring Poland's many attractions on foot.
The favourable weather combined with the European summer holidays makes it one of the busiest times to visit. You can expect crowds at the top attractions and hotel prices to be at their highest.
If you want the warmer weather without the crowds, plan your trip around Poland's spring. From March to May, temperatures are warming up, and the wildflowers are in bloom. It's a great time of year to tackle some of the country's hiking routes before the summer heat begins.
Autumn is also a good time to visit if you are on a budget. The summer rates are starting to lift, and the forests are in awash of beautiful orange and red gues.
If you want Poland all to yourself and don't mind bundling up, visit between December and March. As the temperatures drop, the country is covered in snow and the ski resorts open for business. It's the quietest time of year, and outside of Christmas and New Year, you'll find some of the best deals on airfare, hotel rates and car rentals.
Warsaw is the capital city of Poland and is over 800 years old. Its architecture reflects its age, with buildings ranging from Soviet blocks to Gothic churches. While it was destroyed in World War II, the city has rebuilt its historical Old Town.
Warsaw is also the last residence of the Polish royalty and where the country's 1944 uprising took place. Today, the city is rich in culture and has something to offer everyone whether you're into history, art, or classical music.
Founded in the 10th century, Gdansk is one of the largest cities in Poland. At different times in its history, it belonged to Germany and Poland and even had a brief history of independence from both countries.
Since the war, the city has restored its famous Royal Way, a street used by the Polish kings. Other notable attractions include the largest brick church in the world, medieval ports and its thriving cafe culture.
Krakow is a city that dates back to the 4th century. Once the capital of Poland, it's known for cultural, artistic and academic contributions.
Its historic city centre and nearby Wieliczka Salt Mine were included on the first ever UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978.
The city also has a dark period. During the World World II, the Krakow Ghetto was set up by the Nazis. It's a must-visit for history buffs who want to learn about the city's long and eventful past.
Top Attractions in Poland
A visit to Auschwitz is a must for anyone who wants to understand one of Poland's darkest times. During the World War II, Nazis imprisoned Jews, gipsies, political prisoners and other "undesirables" here. By the end of the war, it's estimated that 1-1.5 million people were killed in its infamous gas chambers.
If you want to have enough time to explore Auschwitz, arrive before 10:00 a.m. You'll also need to book your tickets beforehand if you're visiting during high season. The tickets are free but are required to limit the impact of so many people visiting the site.
For independent travellers, it's also recommended to book a spot on one of the guided tours.
The Crooked Forest is one of Poland's most unusual attractions. It's an eerie woodland where all the trees have the same 90-degree bend at their base. While no one knows exactly how these trees got their bizarre shape, the theories range from practical to bizarre.
The 400 pine trees were planted in the 1930s when the area was still part of Germany. Some believe the trees got their strange shape from black magic or from being buried beneath a terrible snowstorm. But the most plausible theory is that it was the result of a technique used by foresters to stunt their growth.
While we may never know the real reason, the forest is one of Poland's most interesting off-the-beaten-path attractions to visit.
Built in the 14th century, Wawel Castle was the political centre of Poland. Commissioned by Casimir III the Great, the building is a beautiful assortment of Romanesque, Renaissance and Gothic architecture.
Today, it's a museum of different sections: Crown Treasury and Armoury; the State Rooms; the Royal Private Apartments; Lost Wawel; and the Exhibition of Oriental Art.
The castle holds the only preserved piece of the Polish Crown Jewels as well as the Szczerbiec coronation sword.
Another fascinating part of the castle is the Royal Crypts. They are the final resting place for ten Polish kings including President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, Maria.
Home to 800 European bisons, Bialowieza is the largest remaining part of an immense primaeval forest. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, it attracts over 100,000 tourists each year.
Other animals that roam this ancient forest include wolves, lynx, wild boars and deer. Visitors can book guided tours and explore the area either on foot or in a horse-drawn carriage.
The best time to go for wolves and bison is during the winter months. But if you want to see all of the forest's creatures, May is the top choice for wildlife viewings.
Wieliczka Salt Mines
The Wieliczka Salt Mines is one of Poland's largest attractions and is visited by over 1.2. million people every year.
Opened in the 13th-century, the mine was in use up until 2007. Today, it's a museum, full of interesting pieces carved out of the salt rock by the miners.
Down in the shafts, you can explore an underground city complete with three chapels and an entire cathedral. The highlight of this attraction is the Chapel of St Kinga. It's full of sculptures, chandeliers and even altarpieces all made from salt. The chapel took 30 years for two men to complete and over 20,000 tonnes of rock salt was removed in the process.
Major International Airports in Poland
- Warsaw Chopin Airport
- John Paul II International Airport Kraków–Balice
- Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport
- Katowice International Airport
- Warsaw Modlin Airport