5 Polish Cities You Need To Visit
In the middle between the capital of Poland Warsaw and Berlin, Poznan does get the best of both! Stunning historical buildings, a colorful town square as well as hipster cafes and alternative underground clubs blasting electronic music till the morning. Being a student city, Poznan has a fresh spirit with lots of young people including a huge group of international students. It is a city I used to call home for about 6 months when I was an Erasmus student there and absolutely grew to love. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to go back there and see how it has changed and developed.
Starting from the Old Town Square you can get lost in the small streets around it, observing the buildings and peeking into small shops and cafes. The colorful buildings used to be merchant’s houses. In the middle of it, there is a Clock Tower that has a special show exactly at 12 o’clock. People gather to observe two goat figures that are ‘fighting’. After a funny legend that dates back centuries ago the goats are now a symbol of Poznan. Since you are at the town square you should visit the croissant museum and learn how the famous St. Martin croissants are made. It’s not just a croissant! It is a legally protected recipe of a delicious sweet pastry that is made only here in Poznan. You can find it in most bakeries that have a special certificate on the window.
A bit outside of the city center, but definitely worth a visit is Ostrow Tumski (The Cathedral Island). A majestic cathedral welcomes you in this charming area especially if you are visiting during the fall when all the colors are complementing the red hues of the building. The red bridge you can see in the photo below is spectacular during the day but in the evenings under the lights looks like a Disney movie set. On the left of the bridge is Porta Posnania – a contemporary interactive museum with a minimal design that will take you through centuries of history in a visually entertaining way. Once you cross the bridge, you will notice a vibrant area (Srodka) that is my favourite when it comes to eating. Small cute restaurants with both traditional and international food are waiting for you to explore! Try La Ruina and Raj for a delicious cheesecake and exotic dishes.
One of the biggest parks in Poznan is Cytadela (Citadel Park) which has lots of hidden treasures including sculptures, monuments, a war museum and a cemetery. Close to it is the weekly flea market located on Garbary str. and housed in an industrial abandoned-looking buildings that contribute to the unique vibe of this market. Open every Saturday and Sunday between 6am-2pm you can find all types of things from clothing, to jewelry, book, toys and second-hand bikes.
I can go on and on about what you can do in Poznan, so hopefully, a whole post on that is coming. Meanwhile, feel free to message me and ask questions if you are travelling there and need tips and tricks. Or you can try one of my favourite cafes – Minister Cafe.
Probably best known for being the birth place of Nicholas Copernicus, Torus is a lovely medieval town in northern Poland. It makes for a great day trip or a weekend escape. Due to its small and compact size, you can easily see most of it even in a day without being in a hurry.
The town hall of Torun is a UNESCO heritage site because of its well preserved original layout and Gothic architecture. You can climb the Clock Tower and you’ll be rewarded with a magnificent view of the city from above in all its glory!
A Copernicus statue will welcome you in the city center, but if you want to get your geek on, you can visit the museum dedicated to him as well. Speaking of museums you can also visit the gingerbread museum where you can learn to bake gingerbread cookies. Yum! Once you start exploring Torun, you will notice the many gingerbread shops. In Poland, the cookies are called “pierniki” and are often eaten around Christmas but you can find them in the supermarkets all year round. The gingerbread is part of Torun heritage being produced here since the Middle Ages and you can learn about all that in the Museum of Torun Gingerbread.
I’ve written a mini guide about travelling to Torun, what to see, where to eat and drink, so check it out for more info and photo inspiration, of course.
I visited Wroclaw in the winter when the traditional Christmas market makes the Old Town Square even more fascinating. Apart from the beautiful colorful buildings, there were numerous stalls with mulled wine, smoked cheese, gingerbread cookies, and souvenirs.
In the late afternoon when most attractions are already closed but it is still too early to go for a dinner or drinks, we opted for a Jewish tour that took us around the city and its secrets. There a quite a few free tours that aim to familiarize you with the city in a light and entertaining way so you can learn more about the old town, the communism, or the street art. Here’s a fun thing you can do – how about dwarf hunting? There are about 350 dwarfs scattered around Wroclaw – miniature figures that you can spot in the most unexpected places, all in different settings and characters. You can get a map or even a mobile app and go on a dwarf hunt. If you want to learn more about them and how they first appeared in the city’s landscape, you can join a tour that will take you through their history.
You will probably be surprised that, just as in Poznan, there is Ostrow Tumski (Cathedral Island) here as well. A bit bigger and with lots more tourists, but it is perfect for a picturesque walk. It is the oldest part of Wroclaw and houses a Gothic cathedral, beautiful gardens and a few other stunning historic buildings. Surrounded by the river, you have a gorgeous view everywhere you look – be it bridges, Medieval towers or simply the stunning reflection of the buildings over the water. There’s an interesting tradition here that involves one of the oldest professions – being a lamplighter. There are about 100 lamps in the Cathedral Island and If you are visiting in the evening look around and you might spot the guy that lights them every day. Isn’t is so sweet that this part is remaining outside of our automated technology driven world?
Once you’ve explored Ostrow Tumski, you can head to the Wroclaw Museum where the gorgeous Baroque ceremonial hall Aula Leopoldina is located. A few streets away is the University Botanical Garden that is the second oldest in Poland.
If you want to explore more greenery – get out of the city center and head to the Japanese Gardens. As it not in a walking distance, double check the opening hours or call to ask because when we arrived it was closed despite what the information sign said. I’ve got it as a recommendation from a friend and it looks gorgeous so if I ever visit again I will make another try.
Poland’s capital is an interesting mix of old and new! Skyscrapers, historic buildings, contemporary concept shops, and hip cafes as well as old neighborhoods and a beautiful traditional Town Square. It is also a blend of Eastern Europe and German influence that I find really unique.
Start your visit is by exploring the Old Town through its small streets, old buildings and charming little cafes. On the other side of the river is another interesting part of Warsaw – Praga. Wait what? Praga district has nothing to do with the Czech capital. The area was (and still is to some extent) a home to the poorest part of the city’s population but nowadays it has developed into a hipster neighborhood with lots of street art, galleries, cafes and underground clubs. We chose to visit it with the Alternative Free Tour because we wanted to get a bit of a background story and interesting facts about the life there. If you are going alone, be careful if you are passing through passages and backyards, don’t get into arguments with the locals and don’t stare.
The science museum called Copernicus Science Center is a must visit! A science museum is probably not the first thing on your list for a laid back visiting of Warsaw, but trust me this one is worth it! Wait till you see its contemporary interior and interactive exhibitions and you will be lost in fun activities, discovering the world in a totally new, colorful and entertaining way. I was so impressed by the Planetarium and I believe it is one of the most interesting and modern ones in Europe. I visited a concert under the stars where a local award-winning pianist was playing in the dark while we were observing a light show under the dome of the Planetarium. It was a surreal experience that I won’t remember any time soon and the best way to enjoy a live performance of my favourite Clair de Lune.
A great way to spend a sunny afternoon is the biggest park of Warsaw – Lazienki Park. A green oasis in the city with beautiful spacious gardens and the breathtaking ‘Palace of the Island’. Here you can feel like a royalty walking around with even peacocks roaming free.
If you are tired of traditional food and stuffing yourself with delicious pierogi in your Polish travel adventure, I would recommend exploring the gastronomical scene in Warsaw. My #1 favourite spot that I keep talking about to my friends, is the Krowarzywa burger place (a fun word play meaning something like “alive cow”) serving amazingly delicious vegetarian and vegan burgers, complemented by minimal and hipster logo and branding that I absolutely love!
Being the second largest city in Poland, Krakow is a priority on the bucket list of every visitor. There are a quite a few reasons why! Let’s start with the fact that the Historic Center of Krakow is under the UNESCO protection due to its numerous historical buildings, churches, palaces, and houses with spectacular architecture as well as impressive interiors. What’s more, the Old Town Square is the biggest Medieval square in Europe and used to play a huge role in the life of the merchants towns centuries ago.
Krakow has often been compared to Prague but there are not nearly as many tourists as in the Czech capital and not to mention that Poland is a bit cheaper. If you’d like to visit churches and cathedrals start from Church of St. Anne with its impressive Baroque architecture and interiors and St. Mary’s Basilica. The most spectacular one is the Wawel Cathedral where many kings and queens of Poland has been crowned. There are even some dragon legends associated with it and you will see why once you enter the building.
A popular day trip from Krakow is the heart-wrenching concentration camp Auschwitz that was built here during World War II. It makes for a very emotional visit that is worth seeing despite being hard if you don’t have strong nerves as more than a million Jews from around Europe were brought here during the war and many lost their lives.
Read more about Krakow here and what activities it offer for a 4 days trip.
Photos in this post are by EoStories and Blanca San Juan.