To say Poland is picturesque is an understatement — especially in winter. Flying in to this gorgeous country for the first time, where my family comes from, was a wowing winter wonderland for me. As I descended the plane, snowflakes floating towards my face, I noticed everyone looked like me. As they called the names for our gate checked luggage, they even pronounced my name right! This was the motherland. However, Poland is not only greay if you have heritage here; it’s a must see for anyone who wants to set their foot deeper into Europe than just Spain or Italy.
Poland is like a palace of history. If stopping over for the first time, Warsaw may be a great place to dip your toes beneath the snow. It’s definitely the cheapest city to fly into, and you can get acquainted with the rich history that the country has to offer – for a low cost!
There are many free walking tours that let you see the old city that still has many remnants from war-torn era. These will take you through the historic Old Town and to the Jewish quarter; you can also see the luscious lake at the Royal Residence Park and then take a visit to the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Even though these tours are free, you should still expect to tip at least five euros, but that’s an insane bargain for the information you’ll get and the hidden corners you probably wouldn’t have unraveled otherwise.
Where to Party in Warsaw?
If you want to experience more of the Polish partying scene, Warsaw has a wild night life scene… One place that is great for everyone, despite your level of “turnt” is Level 27. Here they have panoramic views great happy hour at sunset or that breakfast mimosa if you decide to dance till sunrise. Or, if you are just in the mood for a midnight cocktail, enjoy a view of the city lights from the top of their terrace bar. There is also an inside bar, live DJ, lounges—something for everyone.
Perhaps you’re more in the mood for something upscale, or something fancier? If so, check out Space Club, where the dress code is on fleek, but the suit is worth the champagne you’ll be popping in Poland all night.
Don’t Miss out on Krakow
While Warsaw is a great first entrance into Poland, you mustn’t leave without adventuring to Krakow. One of the coolest parts of Krakow is getting there! Being that it was only a 20-minute flight, they loaded us up onto a tiny propeller plane that didn’t lift very high into the sky. It was a picturesque view of Poland the whole way as I stared out the window at the windy streets below. Trains are also simple to navigate, and beyond cheap, so if flying a second time isn’t your preference, there are other options at your leisure to get to Krakow. And once in Krakow, it’s nearly impossible to get lost, although looking at a map of the streets may seem like a maze. It’s a quick train into the city center, and then everything is walking distance. No need to do anything further than trek the timeless roads.
While it is not the happiest excursion, a day trip to the concentration camp Auschwitz is a must do. It is important and necessary to see how awful humanity can be in attempt to not let history repeat itself as something so devastating and disgusting could easily happen again. I would highly suggest booking a tour on TripAdvisor.com. There are many that are decently priced, and they come with hostel/hotel pick up and return. On the one-hour drive there you watch a video of the history of the Holocaust and the camp itself, and once there you are taken on a small group tour with an expert guide through Auschwitz and Birkenau II.
Another excursion that can either be a day trip, or you can tack it on to the afternoon of your Auschwitz tour is the Salt Mines. These mines are not just used to excavate salt, but they are entirely made out of salt! The walls, the stairs, and the many sculptures within, they are made of salt. You are actually encouraged to lick the walls to taste for yourself despite the questionable sanitary nature of such an act. There is even a lake at the bottom of the mine (you walk down nearly half a mile) that is even saltier than the Dead Sea!
Polish Foods to Try
While touring a city is always a good idea, it is still best to experience a culture through food and drink. Pierogis are typical Portuguese cuisine, and the ones in Krakow are just as I remember my grandma making. A pierogi is similar to a dumpling, with soft dough outside fillings of your choice: potato, cottage cheese, broccoli, or even dessert flavors like cinnamon or plum. There’s a plethora of pierogi choices! The best, local places to go are “Pirozki u Vincenta” and “Miód i Wino.” Both are easy to locate if using Google Maps and walking distance of anywhere you are.
Another great place to experience if you want delicious cuisine but perhaps something aside from pierogis would be pasta or pizza at the restaurant Nolio. Even though this isn’t quite a “Polish” delicacy… the pizza is unlike any slice you’ve ever had. The pizza is fresh made and cooked in a 900 degree Fahrenheit oven (485 Celsius) for just 60-90 seconds! It really livens up the flavor and creates a flavor unlike any other pizza.
Where’s the Fun in Krakow?
After a long day site seeing, walking around the city, and filling your belly with enjoyable treats, you’ll want to wind down with an evening drink. Poland has quite the collection of craft beer. My all-time favorite place for beer in Krakow is “T.E.A. Time.” This place is right down the street from the Pierogi joints and Nolio, so it’s the perfect evening night cap. It is a craft brewery and pub combined into one! They have an upstairs room for lounging, a lower floor where you can tour how the beers are made, and a basement for playing a variety of card games, board games, or darts as you unwind from your busy day. There’s even televisions to put on your favorite sports’ team!
Poland is a country with a rich history and even richer food. Whether it is a historic walking tour or visiting an iconic museum, it’s hard to make a mistake here. Hop on a plane or a train, and walk left, then right, right then left, and you’re sure to stumble into something that will make you glad you ventured further into the heart of Europe.