Essential Poland in 1 Week
Arts & Culture
Food & Wine
Digital Nomad Travel
Poland is both part of my genes and my soul, and one place in Europe that should be on your radar. It's a stunning mix of history, resilience and culture and an unforgettable destination. Poland is a great place to visit year-round, though my favorite time is May or October. It's an extremely religious country so keep in mind Roman Catholic holidays will mean lots of things are shut down, but it can also be the perfect time to slow down and experience Poland as the locals know it.
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Where to stay
Raffles Europejski Warsaw
Indulge in timeless luxury and refined elegance at Raffles Europejski Warsaw, where historic grandeur, impeccable service, and a central location come together to offer a truly exquisite stay in the vibrant capital of Poland.
$100 USD equivalent Food & Beverage credit to be utilized during stay.
Daily Full Breakfast for up to two guests per bedroom.
Early Check-In / Late Check-Out, subject to availability.
H15 Palace Hotel
Immerse yourself in sophisticated luxury and contemporary style at H15 Palace Hotel, where elegant accommodations, modern amenities, and a prime location in the heart of Warsaw create a refined and memorable stay in the Polish capital.
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Day 1: Arrive in Warsaw at Chopin International Airport
On your first day in Warsaw, after checking in to the Raffles Europejski Hotel, stretch your legs and allow the history to speak for itself. The Rynek Starego Miasta (Old Town Market Place) is the place to start. It was completely leveled during World War Two, and subsequently rebuilt meticulously in five years by Polish citizens. This magnificent restoration is incredibly moving and just one of the many testaments to the resilience of Poles. Today it’s a bustling square of outdoor cafes, artists, musicians and people of all ages strolling and living life to the fullest. Enjoy a coffee outside, try zapiekanka (an open-faced baguette with a myriad of different toppings) or an ice cream. Poles LOVE their ice cream and you’ll be hard pressed to go more than a few minutes without running into an ice cream shop.
Afterwards, head down The Royal Way- along this route you’ll find more than a handful of gorgeous palaces and churches. Interior church architecture in Poland is beyond impressive whether you are religious or not, most are free to enter have guided audio tours you can rent for free or a small donation. Be sure to mindful of any posted instructions inside.
For dinner, stay away from the cafes in the Old Town Square. While the venue is superb, the food is only okay, mostly catering to tourists and overcharging. Instead, wander down some of the side streets and look for where the locals are, it’s bound to be good. Ask your server for menu recommendations and be open minded. Polish food is hearty and loving and you can never go wrong with a plate of pierogi (dumplings), golombki (cabbage rolls) or bigos (stew). For something unique, try zurek if you see it on the menu. It’s a sour rye soup made with kielbasa- it might sound odd but trust me. I dream of the stuff!
Day 2: Warsaw history, park serenity & traditional dining
After a great sleep, take in the Warsaw Uprising Museum and arrive when they open. You’ll definitely want to purchase tickets ahead of time. This is one of my favorite museums and you should allow at least two hours to experience it all. It is a tribute to the brave Poles who stood their ground against Germany in the largest underground resistance uprising in Europe.
After the museum, take a taxi or rideshare over to beloved Łazienki Park. Enjoy a light lunch at either Hygge Warszawa or Le Petit Bistro, then stroll the many paths in this stunning park. Look and listen for roaming peacocks and pop-up concerts in the amphitheater or at the Chopin monument. The name Łazienki means "baths" and is derived from the park’s center attraction, the Palace on the Island. It was originally built in the 1600s as a private bathhouse and then bought by the last king of Poland in the late 1700s, and converted into a private residence. Today it’s a museum.
For dinner, try a Milk Bar! Milk bars (or Bar Mleczny) are leftover from Communist times where Poles could get government-subsidized simple and traditional food. Order your food at the counter. There are no waiters here. Don’t expect an Instagram-worthy backdrop, but the food is as down-home as you can get. I recommend Bar Mleczny Prasowy, opened in 1954.
Day 3: Krakow delights — history, architecture & Polish charm
Catch a train south to Krakow. There are several direct routes daily and will take roughly three hours or even two hours depending on which train you get. Once you arrive in Krakow, a quick taxi ride to the H15 Luxury Palace Hotel and it’s time to start exploring this stunning city bursting with Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic architecture. The old town square is especially impressive and I recommend letting yourself wander this afternoon. Walk over to Wawel Castle and tour the impressive site, one of the most culturally important in all of Poland. Don’t skimp on the tour tickets, there’s a lot to see here and it’s all worth it.
Spend this evening at Morskie Oko for great food and drinks with a traditional Polish atmosphere and highland singers every evening Tuesday-Saturday.
Day 4: Krakow delights — history, shopping & Polish cuisine
Start the day with a hearty but healthy breakfast at NapNap Café, then let yourself linger around the Old Town and Planty today. The Planty is the beautiful green park that surrounds the Old Town. Spend some time shopping at the Sukiennice, or “Cloth Hall”. This 13th century Renaissance hall is filled with dozens of vendors selling all sorts of goods from cloths to leather goods and especially amber. Don’t let yourself leave without picking up some Baltic amber pieces and be sure to buy from a vendor that provides a certificate of authenticity. If Boleslawiec Polish Pottery is your thing, shop at one of the stores just outside the Old Town for the best prices. I particularly like Kopalnia Ceramika.
Lunch today is at Ambasada Śledzie. Śledzie means herring. Don’t be put off, it’s a traditional delicacy and you can do a small tasting which comes with a shot of vodka and accompaniments like pickles and rye bread. They also have additional menu items.
In the afternoon take in a Chopin piano concert, there are several to choose from. Later let yourself get a little loose with a vodka tasting at Szambelan. They will wrap up any vodka you choose to take home securely for your flight— they make great souvenirs/gifts! Enjoy modern European cuisine for dinner at Pino.
Day 5: Auschwitz and Wieliczka — reflect & explore in Krakow
Today set out on a sobering but vitally important tour of Auschwitz Concentration Camp. I recommend taking a small group tour bundled with the Wieliczka Salt Mine (I can help you find the best tour) to maximize your time and get the best experience. Guides are essential at a place like Auschwitz, they provide such knowledge and personalization to the tour that you can’t help but be moved in such a terrible place. Many guided tours will also include lunch, though there is a cafeteria on-site in the visitor’s center. This is a place of solemnity and is not to be taken lightly. Be mindful of what the camp now stands for and remember that smiling selfies are taboo here.
The second half of the day will be much lighter, as you journey on to the impressive Wieliczka Salt Mine. The salt mine was excavated in the 13th century and produced table salt until 2007! It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s not for the claustrophobic or those with mobility issues. You will descend a whopping 800 steps into the mine. Inside you’ll find a chapel, an underground lake, restrooms and a small cafe. Everything, even the chandeliers, are made of salt. Thankfully there is a lift to bring you back to the surface.
For dinner after a long and at times, emotional day, enjoy some al fresco dining at The Black Duck.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Rebecca Robinson's guide, Things to Do in Krakow, Poland.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Poland.