Where we consider what Poland has to offer and try to decide between Krakow and Warsaw.

Krakow old town

For my latest travel escapade I went to Poland. 

I spent some time in both Warsaw and Krakow (the two most visited cities in the country), plus a few places in between. More about what I was actually doing in Poland in a future post (once I’ve had chance for the dust to settle and to process my thoughts). Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of my time in these two cities.

Firstly: Is Poland safe right now?

Yes it is.  So many people, when I mentioned I was going to Poland, threw up their hands in horror and asked whether I wasn’t put off by ‘the war’.  Well, the war is in Ukraine, which is a separate country (I know this seems obvious but unfortunately I do feel I need to say it).  The challenge this presents for travellers to Poland is simply logistical; Ukrainians get free travel and this can make the trains a little crowded (they still need a ticket they just don’t have to pay, which sometimes leaves you needing to book ahead a little).

Poland is a member of the EU and also of NATO; if Russia bomb Poland then we’re all involved, whether we like it or not. So staying away for that reason just doesn’t make sense.

  At time of writing, Poland had taken in more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees.  Instead of wringing our hands and saying it isn’t safe there, we should be happy to be able to support their tourism industry. 


Other reasons to travel to Poland

Poland is one of the cheapest countries in the EU. You can still get a room in a three star hotel for less than €30 a night, or a hostel bed for less than €10.

Also, Poland is not overrun with tourists. At a time when so many people are travelling to the same few popular places in Europe, often making them unpleasantly overcrowded, it is good to find somewhere a little off the beaten tourist trail.

A bit of street art in Warsaw

Which is better, Warsaw or Krakow?

In an ideal word, you should visit both.  However if you have limited time and need to pick one it really depends what you’re interested in. 

Krakow is the most popular destination in Poland.  On first sight, it seems more ‘pretty’ in the conventional sense of the word.  There are more historical buildings to see and more of the cute little Instagram-able scenes. 

Warsaw, in common with much of Poland, had to be rebuilt after the second word war and its old town is actually a replica.

Warsaw Old town, which is actually quite new

Warsaw is better for communist-era buildings and monuments. The old town is great to walk around but the city itself is more spread out. However if I’d been given some more time to explore Poland then I would probably have spent it in Warsaw, as I felt I barely scraped the surface of the city; the way things worked out I had quite a few partial days but no real time there. 

As a first-time visitor to Poland I would probably pick Krakow, even though it is the more touristy option. Krakow offers a lot of history and when you are done with the city there are a few day trips to consider, from Oswiecim (for Auschwitz concentration camp), which is around an hour away, the Wieliczka Salt Mines and Zakopane for the snow/skiing. 

Familiar view of Auschwitz Concentration camp. you can take a train or bus there yourself, but you can only visit with a guide (you’re not allowed to just wander around yourself). It’s often easiest to just take a tour, where they transport you there and back and you meet your guide when you get there. Mine cost €29 with supercracow.
Salt mines, complete with a salt cathedral and a little salt pope. take a good camera if you want to capture photos there (lighting is low and it is crowded) or just enjoy being there. You can tag this visit onto your Auschwitz tour if you have the stamina.
I enjoyed the Jewish quarter of Kazimerz the best. If I went back I would look for accommodation around there, rather than being obsessed with finding something in the old town. Once you’ve seen the old town you’ve seen it, whereas Kazimerz seemed to constantly offer more, even when you think you have seen it all.
If you’ve seen the film Schindler’s list you may well recognise this street, as it featured heavily in the film. You can visit the Schindler’s factory nearby. It’s an interesting story, regardless of whether you believe that he was a great humanitarian who wanted to save the Jewish people, or simply an astute businessman who saw an opportunity to exploit workers. I’m afraid the fact that he left Poland for Argentina as the war drew to a close suggests to me that he had something to escape from.

3 replies »

  1. Hello Sarah. I have to admit Poland was on my list for next month but I have now opted for Sicily in June instead. I was conscious that Poland may be a tad busy/overcrowded at the moment. It looks as if you had a good trip! x

    • I’m not sure you can compare Poland and Sicily; Sicily will probably have a weather advantage.
      You could do Krakow on a long weekend really; not ideal but still possible. I did no research before this trip, which isn’t like me at all. I think I’ve grown so fed up with things getting cancelled at the last minute, after I’ve spent hours booking and researching places to go, that I rather pessimistically didn’t bother this time. Maybe that’s why I feel a bit as if I missed stuff out.
      The stations were a little chaotic, but I think they are in normal times and it wasn’t so bad.
      I’m sure you’ll have a great time in Sicily though, so no worries.

  2. Thanks again for a clear; picturesque insight into these 2 cities. Sounds like Poland was an excellent option

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