Are you planning an Eastern European trip? Or just wondering where to go in Poland? It is one of those countries you can’t just tick off your list after having visited one city, because there are just so many things to see in Poland. Here is my list of the best cities to see in Poland, but even after seeing those, I believe there is more to check out. I decided to tell you about my personal top 10 attractions in Poland in no particular order. It is a funny mix of discovered beauties like Krakow and totally unheard of gems like Lomza (definitely not on your list of Poland tourist places).
I love Poland and I am happy to live in a country right next to it. When I was little (and the air travel – too expensive for my family), my parents took me on trips by bus. That meant that you would spend a night on the bus and arrive to a new city in the morning. You could then spend the day sightseeing, and in the evening get back on the bus and continue driving to a new place.
This was our Eastern European way to see the world and avoid paying for the hotels in the West, which were unaffordable. It also meant that literally wherever West we went, we had to cross Poland – and it takes time to cross it by bus. But this way you could explore the best places to visit in Poland, and I’m happy I had a chance to do that.
Fast forward 10 years: I’m a rather poor student and in love with a boy from Budapest. And guess what, there are no low costs from Vilnius to Budapest. What to do? Jump on a bus, and just some 28 hours later I can hug him (and eat a langos as a bonus). What to do for all those hours, if you get motion sickness and can’t sleep on a bus either? Look outside the window, admire Poland. A couple of long weekends like this prove my love more than any declarations I made during our wedding some years later.
Times changed, Ryanair and other low costs allowed me to get on a plane and cross this mass of land called Poland in less than one hour. However, I keep getting back to my roots somehow. Now we do our family road-trips from Lithuania to Hungary a couple of times a year and guess what? We have to cross Poland. But now I really enjoy it.
I plan our stops in different towns, small and big, and go to the places to see in Poland we would not have discovered otherwise. This is how this list of cities in Poland you have to visit came to live. Remember that the biggest cities in Poland are not necessary the most exciting ones. Enjoy!
Table of Contents
So, what are the top 10 places to visit in Poland?
Let me be predictable here. When we speak about best cities to visit in Poland, 9 out of 10 people will name Krakow (my own statistics) as one of the main Poland tourist attractions and one of the most beautiful cities in Poland. And they will be right: this city is a true Eastern European fairy tale.
Krakow is the second largest city in Poland and one of the oldest, with its old town recognized as a part of the UNESCO heritage list. The Jagiellonian University in Krakow is one of the oldest universities in the world. When you are there, make sure you visit the Wawel Cathedral and the Royal Castle, and also as many churches as you possibly can.
Where to stay: For a stay you will remember, chose the INX Design Hotel with its colourful and stylish design, which makes it stand out from other bland hotels.
Where to read a book: One of my favourite old bookstores and cafes called Massolit is located in Krakow. For those book and coffee lovers this is the obvious choice.
Travelling is not only about instagrammable views, pretty pictures and hospitable locals. In other words, not only about enjoyment, but about learning. And speaking of learning, I believe that one of the most important lessons one can ever learn is the story of Holocaust. I come from a very mixed background, and now my family is even more mixed, so I do not believe in nationalities. This makes me see the Holocaust as something we ourselves have done to ourselves as people – and I can think of no greater tragedy.
The Polish town of Oswiecim is one of those small towns in Poland, which now look rather similar to each other. But it is also where one of the main concentration camps of Auschwitz was during the World War II. Over a million people were killed there, among them many children. This town is one of those Poland destinations, which should be on our to-see lists.
You can now visit the memorial centre of Auschwitz-Birkenau. If you want to time your visit with some important dates, consider visiting on either 27th of January (which marks the date when the camp was liberated in 1945) or 2nd of August. The latter date marks the liquidation of the so-called “Gypsy family camp” in 1944 – a less known historical fact that up to the half of the Roma population in Europe was murdered during the Holocaust.
Where to stay: Recharge in Hotel Galicja Superior Wellness & Spa. In addition to the comfortable rooms, it also has a sauna for a cold day and bean bags on the terrace for a warm night.
Where to eat: For some national specialties, try Chata Na Zaborskiej.
Lomza is a little town in north-eastern Poland. It was once a rather important centre, but due to a series of unfortunate events lost most of its significance. Now is one of those towns in Poland which you will hardly find in any tourist book. I discovered Lomza by accident and was so pleased with it, that I wrote a separate post on this town.
At the moment it can offer a charming small town centre, un-matched hospitality of the local inhabitants, a green area for walks around the city, some historical sights and a great town beach on the river of Narwa. And of course some great beer from its own Lomza brewery. On a good summer day it it is one of a great places to go in Poland.
Where to stay: Mohito B&B – the place with modern rooms, tasty breakfast, great coffee and the friendliest owner.
Where to have a beer: Pair it with pierogi at Restaurant Zakatek.
I really like the cities, which are close to the national borders, as somehow they have this blend of culture in them. At different times Wroclaw has been a part of Poland, Hungary, Prussia, Germany and a couple of short-lived republics. Can you go more multicultural than that?
Go to Wroclaw to see how different Poland can be. Wroclaw is the fourth-largest city, so one of those big cities in Poland; and is truly multicultural. Come here to enjoy the culture: Music Academy, National Forum of Music, Wroclaw Opera and National Puppet Theatre. Wroclaw attracts many students due to the high-quality education (9 Nobel prize winners from XX century come from here!), making it one of the top places to visit in Poland.
If you are not in a mood to stay indoors, just stroll through the beautiful town centre, admiring the architecture, the sights and river views. Pay attention to the small dwarf sculptures on your way – there are over 350 of them spread around the city.
Where to stay: Modern, comfortable and stylish PURO Wroclaw Stare Miasto.
Where to have brunch: Mleczarnia. Good at any time, but the best for summer brunch. Which by the way was one of the best brunches I ever had, and have to thank my local friends for this tip.
Warsaw is the biggest city in Poland. The capital of Poland. A controversial city.
Warsaw was almost fully destroyed during the World War II and later rebuilt in my least favourite years of architecture – 50-70’s. That resulted in the rather fake-looking reconstructed old town and the rest of the city filled with the grey block houses. So when you first come to Warsaw, you are unlikely to be charmed by its beauty from the first sight.
But after the third time there it became one of my favourite cities to visit. If I ever plan living in Poland, this will be the place where I would move. And I am not the only one, as Warsaw continues to rise in the list of “Most livable cities” (currently nr. 32). Similarly to Berlin, Warsaw compensates for the lack of conventional beauty with so many cultural events, museums, original bars and restaurants, theaters and libraries, offering both locals and visitors plenty of things to do. If you come here, you will never be bored, that’s for sure. And the whole idea of a city raising like phoenix from the ashes really appeals to me.
Where to stay: Hotel InterContinental is the place to stay in Warsaw. Just check out the roof top pool. Can you believe it’s Warsaw, not Singapore?
Where to have a burger: The best burger I have ever tasted was in Warsaw and it was actually vegan. KrowaZywa (meaning “Cow is alive”) is a place for you if you like burgers, doesn’t matter whether you are vegan or meateater. They are that good, trust me!
One of many Poland holiday resorts in the very east of Poland close to the border with Lithuania. Augustow lies on the Netta River and the Augustow Canal. It is surrounded by dark forests, and is a perfect place for walks, skiing, hiking and bird-watching.
You can also take a boat tour on the canal and explore the surroundings. Being very affordable, Augstow is also one of the best places in Poland for a relaxing holiday. Enjoy a fresh fish from the local lake and some dessert and in the evening relax in a spa. By the way, the Sanatorium of Augustow has the reputation of having some of the best spa in Poland.
Where to stay: Get healthier during your stay in Augustow Sanatorium. Or just enjoy the pool, woods and the lake nearby.
Where to eat: Try Ogrodek pod Jabloniami in Augustow and see, if you ever want to eat anywhere else while in this town.
A town with a completely unpronounceable name, unless you speak Polish of course. Szczyrk is mostly known as a winter sports centre with good quality (and affordable) ski runs and ski lifts, used even by the Polish Olympic teams.
I liked it however even more outside the ski season, when we came here on our way from Hungary and stayed for some walks in the woods and (most importantly) to enjoy the local cheese. Having heard little about Szczyrk before, we were surprised to find out this was one of the most beautiful places in Poland we have ever seen.
A good thing about Szczyrk and other small towns around is that you have the picturesque surroundings, a good choice of accommodation and a feeling that you are the only one around, differently from other more crowded locations.
Where to stay: One of the cutest little guest houses I have seen in Eastern Europe: Karolinka Guest House. Mountain views, fireplace and hot sauna in the evening.
Where to eat that famous cheese: In Stara Karczma you can have in different variations, including the one bathed in vodka and set on fire.
This is me cheating and chosing three instead of one city. Tricity or Trojmiasto in Poland is an informal way to describe the towns of Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot, which are located close to each other and to the Baltic Sea. The region has the reputation of having the best cities in Poland to go for summer vacation and is probably one of the most famous places in Poland.
Of those cities Gdansk is the biggest one, and the one offering most in terms of sightseeing and cultural events. It has several museums and its own Shakespeare Theatre, so could be a perfect destination for any season and any weather. You can read more about Gdansk here.
The other two – Sopot and Gdynia – are coastal towns. The weather at the Baltic sea is unpredictable, but if you are lucky (or if you like wind and rain), you will get one of the best beaches in Poland with softest white sand. You can either chose one of those coast cities, or keep your base in Gdansk and plan some day trips to Sopot and Malbork.
Where to stay: Hotel Gdansk Boutique, where you really feel you are near the sea.
Where to drink some locally brewed beers: If you are anything like me (and likely you are, reading this far into the text), then you’d love to check out Brovania Gdansk Microbrewery and restaurant.
Another almost-border town in Polish, which at different times used to be a part of Poland, Lithuania and Russia. You can see all those influences in architecture and generally feel it in the spirit of the city. It is also a rather undiscovered spot, mostly visited by semi-locals from Belarus and Lithuania.
In addition to the beautiful old town, Bialystok has great murals spread all around the city, so do check those out, if you have a chance to visit this place. And if you would like to know more, have a look at the insider story I have on Bialystok. In it I speak to a Polish/UK couple, who chose to call Bialystok their home.
Where to stay: For a feel of old European charm, try Hotel Branicki – one of the oldest historical hotels in town.
Where to get some chocolate: Check out Cafe Wedel, the chocolate paradise of Bialystok (and many other Polish cities and towns). The only problem with it is that it is very difficult to chose between all those sweets, drinks and desserts, all made of the finest chocolate.
A town which again was discovered by accident during one of our roadtrips, and is not normally listed as one of Poland top attractions. Rzeszow is a perfect choice, if you like Prague, Krakow or Vilnius and would like to avoid tourist crowds. The charming Market Square and the City Hall are probably one of the most instagrammable buildings in Eastern Europe. And on a sunny day you can take a walk in the Solidarity Park.
One of the famous landmarks in Poland is the Revolutionary Act Monument, nicknamed Vagina-monument. I will leave some intrigue here, so you will want to visit this place even more.
Where to stay: Rzeszow has an amazing hotel called (for some reason unclear to me) Bristol Tradition and Luxury. It is a rather eclectic mix of tradition and luxury, I must admit, but definitely worth seeing.
Where to have a coffee: Speaking of Instagram. After you have instagrammed the City Hall and the Vagina monument, have a coffee in HolaLola, without a doubt the most instagrammable cafe in town and across the region.
Here you go, now you have your list of Poland tourist spots. Have you already visited this country? What do you think are the best places to go in Poland?