Poland occupies one hefty cut-out of Europe. Ranging from Belarus in the east to the borderlands with Germany, it crosses coastline, mountains, and plains. There are deep forests and wiggling rivers to boot. And that’s not even mentioning the endless swathes of rolling grassland that dash through Masuria. The result? If you’re someone who loves the great outdoors, there’s sure to be plenty of things to do in Poland a-ready and waiting.
And once you’re done scaling the Tatras and swimming in the Baltic? How about delving into the mix of enthralling cities in Poland? There are loads to consider. Mainstream gems include medieval Gdansk and Krakow, with its soaring castle. Then comes modern Warsaw, or off-beat Lodz where old industrial depots now beat with life.
The good news is that Poland is now more accessible than ever before. Oodles of low-cost and long-haul airlines jet in and out of the country from all over. There are good train links to major regional hubs like Berlin. And you can easily catch rail or bus connections to even the remoter parts of the Poland countryside. That leaves very few excuses for those who are pining to find out what is Poland known for and what amazing spots await in this Central European wonderland…
Explore Warsaw – the capital of Poland
Where better to begin than the capital of Poland? That’s Warsaw. It sits just east of the geographical center of the country, straddling the Vistula River as it widens northwards. The beating hub of the metropolis has shifted over the years. It’s now in a bustling modern town that rattles with trams and is spiked by the iconic Palace of Science and Culture. (That’s a great landmark, and a must selfie spot!).
However, the most romantic area is likely to be the Warsaw Old Town. It’s considered one of the most fantastic and accomplished reconstruction projects in Europe. The whole place was totally razed during WWII. Afterward, local residents moved to recreate the district as it was, complete with handsome Baroque and Gothic palaces, cobbled lanes, and cafes.
Warsaw also boasts some seriously pleasant parks. The cream of the crop is probably the huge Łazienki Park. That sits on the south side of the city. It’s laden with grand palaces, a lantern-lit Chinese garden, and a statue dedicated to Poland’s own Fredrich Chopin. Come summer, it’s a fine place to picnic and people watch.
Explore Krakow – the cultural capital of Poland
Of all the things to do in Poland, delving into the cultural capital of the nation of Krakow is surely close to the top. Why? How about soaring Gothic spires? How about haunting churches with more than 1,000 years of history? Or exploring the vast cobbled squares where cafes and beer bars all merge on the corners? All that an more is on offer in this most beautiful of cities in Poland.
Yep, for hundreds of years prior to the move to Warsaw, Krakow was the capital. Now, it comes gilded with a UNESCO World Heritage tag. That covers the Old Town area particularly. Head there to see the legendary Royal Way where Polish kings and queens once made processions. And you can go to get lost in winding alleys of cobblestone, between vodka bars and taverns.
On the south side of the city is the district of Kazimierz. Butting up to a bend in the Vistula River, it’s pulsing with more coffee shops and bars than you can shake a pierogi dumpling at. It’s a fine one for nightlife, but also has lots of character in the daytime. Then, walking tours can help you find the ancient synagogue and Jewish culture hubs that hide amid the blocks.
Make the most of the Poland weather in Sopot
When the Poland weather is scorching between May and August, there’s arguably no better things to do in Poland than enjoyments on the seaside. Cue Sopot and the Baltic coast. One part of the trio that is the Tri-City up north, it’s a chic resort with a grand history.
Powdery beaches slope straight into the water from the edge of the town. There’s a long pier with wrought-iron seating and concession stands. And the whole center is laced with regal hotels and spas that cater to the R&R crowd.
If you want to venture a little further from Sopot itself, there are more Polish beaches on offer. The most notable is almost certainly the Hel Peninsula. That’s northwards, jutting out with mile upon mile of dune-backed sand and clean water.
Get down to the Poland mountains
As Poland pokes southwards past Krakow, it edges into a small clutch of the Carpathian chain. There, a whole subrange of peaks rises like daggers on the border with Slovakia. They are the High Tatras. And for adventurers, they are a must…
Summertime ushers in some of the finest hiking in Central Europe. Routes can take you through valleys peppered with glistening alpine lakes. There are long-haul treks that last more than 10 hours, clambering up craggy slopes past ibex and pine forests. During the spring, blooming meadows of wild crocuses color the recess of the hills. In autumn, there’s a golden hue to the woods. And empty trails to enjoy as you hit the heights of peaks like Giewont.
However, it’s the winter that really sees the Poland mountains come alive. As the snows fall, one of the most exciting things to do in Poland is to don the skis. The best skiing in Poland from December to March. Resorts open up all over the Zakopane valley near Krakow. There are others available in the foothills of the Tatras just a little to the north.
See the beautiful Poland Countryside in Masuria
With the small town of Olsztyn at its heart, Masuria unfolds with some seriously stunning Poland scenery. Famed for its 2,000 or more lakes and waters, it’s a green and verdant land that seems to go on forever. Most journeys will start in the west, coming out of Gdansk. From there, it’s not long before you’re whizzing on empty country roads past glimmering lagoons and hay-filled farm fields.
One of the top things to do in Poland for locals is still a summertime sailing jaunt to this region. And boy is there loads to get through. You can get out on the boat in vast Lake Niegocin and explore wooded islets. You can moor up in the elegant spa town of Gołdap, sat right on the border with Russia. Or, you can stick to dry land and content yourself with camping under oak and fir trees.
There’s rich history to be found in this majestic Poland countryside to boot. Formidable castles raised by the Teutonic Order still stand in some parts. There are revered Christian shrines with famous sanctuaries. And there are even crumbled bunkers left over by the Nazis.
Enjoy the delights of the Gdansk Old Town
As cities in Poland go, there are really two places that ooze history: Krakow and Gdansk. Sat on the Baltic Sea in the north, the latter’s got a long past. It was once a powerful member of the Hanseatic League. Therefore, its merchant guilds traded goods throughout the whole Baltic basin. And it was contested by the Teutonic Knights and Polish monarchs.
The remnants of all that still stand today. You can see them in the form of the great crane tower as you wander the Motława River. You’ll spy them in the Green Gate and its 16th-century royal seals. They ooze from the cobbled lanes of the Old Town to boot. And they pop up with the red-tinted spire of the great Gdansk Town Hall.
Gdansk also has a special place in the hearts of many modern Poles. That’s because it’s the city where the great Solidarity movement began. That movement was the main force behind the removal of communism and the foundation of what we know as Poland today. All that history awaits at the famous Gdansk Shipyard.
Visit the enchanting town of Zakopane
Curled streetlights gnarl like fingers over a snow-covered street. There are hearty taverns where fires flicker in the hearths. The sounds of mountain-man gorale music echoes from the beer halls. Jazz bars throb with life and spa hotels beckon behind. Welcome to the so-called Winter Capital of Poland: Zakopane.
Basically, whenever the Poland weather gets a tad on the sub-zero side, this is where people go. Down in the midst of the Tatra Mountains is where you can catch it. There, it offers all sorts of things to do in Poland, whether you want to ski or just get cozy in a romantic B&B.
The epicenter of the town is the main pedestrian street of Krupowki. It’s got bars and sports shops aplenty. And there are loads of places that can help you plan your Zakopane ski trip come the colder months.
Try to spot mighty beasts in the Białowieża Forest
On the extreme eastern border of Poland is a place where monsters still live. You can catch them stalking primeval woodlands that are caked in moss and vines. They’re waiting to welcome you to one of the last old-growth sections of forest on the content: Białowieża.
Closer to Belarus than to Warsaw, this one’s really far east. In fact, it’s so remote it’s virtually untouched by modern hands. That means visitors get to see a whole UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Within are 800 or so European bison, which are the last of the species wandering the continent.
And while glimpses of those majestic animals are rare, there are still loads for the fauna lover. Wolves, bears, and a whopping array of 250 birds still lurk here to boot. In addition, swamp beds, rivers, waterlogged valleys, and quaint Polish villages abound here.
Go to Krakow to taste some vodka and get stuck into the nightlife
Tasting vodka in Krakow is one of the rites of passage for any lover of the clear tipple. Acclaimed tours can whisk you around hearty taverns. Along the way, they’ll teach you all about the rich history of the drink. Some packages include smorgasbords of Polish food. Most will have a dedicated guide to answer all the questions you have about the various flavors of regional vodka.
After that, how about hitting the wild nightlife of Krakow? There’s a particularly legendary Krakow Pub Crawl on the menu. Or, you can just go it alone and bar hopping at Kazimierz and Podgorze. Those are two local neighborhoods with a cozier vibe. Therefore, expect jazz nights, pool halls, and Jewish food cafes aplenty.
Devour Polish food
Of all the top things to do in Poland on this list, this one’s surely one you can’t ignore! In fact, food and a visit to this part of Europe go hand in hand. The local cuisine is a fusion of east and west, with touches of Russia and Germany. The result is that it’s always sure to pique the interest and get the taste buds a-tingling.
Cue a whole medley of potato-packed pierogi dumplings, sour zurek soup, and pickled gherkins. Bolster that with Polish vodka. And you can finish it off with sweet cakes infused with walnut. If this sounds like your perfect choice of things to do in Poland, be sure to pen in a visit to the Old Town of Krakow or Warsaw, where some of the finest regional eateries await.
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