Poland is Europe’s unsung hero and I’ll tell you why. I’ve been a travel agent for 10 years and I help people of all ages plan anything from two-week to three-month Europe trips. I book thousands of vacations every year, and you know what? I could count on one hand the amount of people who come to me with plans to visit Poland.
For years I didn’t think much of it. ‘Ah well you can’t do it all, so you may as well stick to these places’, is what I would think. That’s what I would tell my customers too. Fortunately, my eyes have been opened and I’ve come to my senses following a recent trip to arguably the most underrated country in Europe. Since returning I feel a responsibility to encourage every single Europe traveller to visit Poland and have their eyes opened, just like mine were.
Here are my five reasons why Poland should be on every traveller’s bucket list.
1. Poland has incredible food
Show me a person who claims they do not love food, and I’ll show you a liar. For most of us, eating our way through the cities we explore is half the fun and that’s certainly true for me. From established restaurants to local joints and street vendors alike, it’s often our foodie memories that stick with us the most when we travel. So why Poland? One word… PIEROGI. Pierogi is basically a Polish dumpling and they’re famous for them, also my goodness are they delicious! Packed with meat, cheese or vegetables (or all of the above) there’s a flavour for everybody. You know what makes them taste even better though? Making them yourself.
HOT TIP: Definitely do the pierogi cooking class in Krakow on Contiki’s London to Rome trip—it’s so much fun, even if you’re an absolute embarrassment in the kitchen like me.
There are, of course, other local cuisines worth sampling in Poland but start with pierogis and then branch out from there. My other foodie tip is to get your hands (and lips) on some ‘Oscypek’, which is a smoked cheese. Cue drooling.
2. Poland has a great nightlife scene
I know, I know, not everything is about drinking (that’s why this is point two and not one), but if you do enjoy a beer from time to time, or perhaps vodka is your poison, then a trip to Poland is simply a must. Not only are their beers and spirits top shelf, they’re an absolute bargain. There are a few places, particularly in the major cities, that offer shots for €1, a bargain. The venues are small, cosy and always have a crowd (for obvious reasons), so it’s a great vibe all round. If you want a true Eastern European night out, then Poland will look after you with its many bars and clubs.
3. Poland is cheap!
We already know alcohol is quite cheap in Poland but if that wasn’t appealing enough, pretty much everything else is ‘pennies on the dollar’ as they say. Accommodation is cheap (by comparison to other European cities), eating out is pretty cheap, and transport is quite cheap too. So, if you want your dollars to stretch as far as possible and still see beautiful towns, eat like a king and sleep in nice accommodation, head east and live it up in Poland.
4. Impressive architecture on every street
Let’s play a game. I say a word and then you say a word that comes to mind immediately. OK, ‘EUROPE’. Most people think of iconic monuments or castles and rightly so, they’re as beautiful as you would imagine. Throughout the continent you can revel at some of the world’s most impressive landmarks and architecture. Poland especially boasts many of these incredible sites and WOW did they knock my socks off. I’ve travelled a lot and every so often a place will surprise me and that’s what Poland did to me. Whether you wander the old town in Warsaw, or marvel at the Wawel Castle in Krakow, you’ll see a beautiful landmark at every turn.
5. Rich history
Sometimes it’s the culture that we choose to travel to a place for. There’s something about a destination that draws you in simply to appreciate the history and stories that make up the places and people. Well, Poland has a very important history. If you are interested in learning about World War II (and I hope you are), you can visit many Polish museums such as the Warsaw Uprising Museum, or perhaps most notably Auschwitz concentration camp which is approximately a two hour drive from Krakow.
In these places, you’ll experience a sombre and confronting exploration of the holocaust and how things truly dark these places were during that time. A word of warning: visits to these places can be very intense and understandably so, but I believe it’s important for people to see the truth up close.
Image source:Liam O’Donnell