Eurotrip Part 2: Poland 馃嚨馃嚤

Wawel Castle
The courtyard of Wawel Castle in Krak贸w.

For the past three weeks, I’ve been traveling around Poland. I flew from Brussels to Krak贸w on Wednesday, May 30, and stayed there for an entire week. After that, I visited Wroc艂aw for six nights, and Warsaw for five nights. Finally, I stopped by Toru艅 for one night and Gda艅sk for two nights.

Overall impressions

Coming from the US and Western Europe, Poland was very, very cheap. Entire meals—including a soup and side dish—cost around 40 z艂oty ($10.75 or 鈧9.25), give or take a few. If you can find a milk bar, which are no-frills restaurants that serve traditional Polish food, these meals can cost as little as 15 z艂oty ($4.00 or 鈧3.50)! This is insane! I definitely gorged on a lot of pierogi, zapiekanka, and 偶urek.

Montage of pierogis
Eating pierogis at Przystanek Pierogarnia in Krak贸w.

And the state of point-of-sale payments in Poland is surprisingly advanced compared to that in the US. During my trip to Poland, I learned that you can hold your credit card to the credit card machine to pay; it was called contactless payment. I also learned that my credit card was equipped with an RFID compatible with contactless payment. I’ve never seen anyone use it in the US… ever! That method makes waiting ten seconds after inserting your credit card into the chip reader seem primitive.

On the cultural side, I was surprised to see that many young Polish folks were interested in Spanish and Latin American culture. It was not uncommon to hear Spanish being spoken on the streets. There were also a lot of clubs that played Spanish-language music; that type of music was particularly fun to dance to.

And finally, the traffic is horrible in the bigger cities. I often had a difficult time getting from the train station to my hostel/Airbnb in the city center. Luckily, I budgeted enough time to account for this.

Krak贸w

Krak贸w's Old Town
A quiet street in Krak贸w's Old Town.

I stayed at the Little Havana Party Hostel for my first week in Poland. Krak贸w is famous for being a party destination, and I can now confirm that it’s true. My hostel was on top of Teatro Cubano, a venue that plays Latin music and is popular with the locals.

However, outside of the Old Town, the environment was much quieter. I wandered around the Kazimierz district and it seemed like a more down-to-earth neighborhood with less tourists. I think I might stay there instead if I return to Krak贸w.

During my stay, I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and Wieliczka Salt Mine. I highly recommend taking the time to visit both of these places if you’re in the area.

Wroc艂aw

Wroc艂aw
Facing the university building in Wroc艂aw.

Wroc艂aw is a chill city next to a lot of universities. There aren’t as many tourists as in Krak贸w, however I couldn’t find any hostels on HostelWorld, so I stayed in an Airbnb on the main market square.

Aside from university students, I’ve met quite a few business travelers. After exploring the city for a few days, I’ve seen branch offices for multinational companies like Google, Nokia, EY, and Credit Suisse. So that explains it.

I liked this city. It was very walkable and felt like it retained its Polish characteristics. There were a lot of people my age because the city is home to many university students. I might have to come back in the middle of the school semester.

Wroc艂aw from the  air
The view of Wroc艂aw from St. Mary's Cathedral's bell tower.

Warsaw

Palace of Culture and Science
The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw.

For Warsaw, I stayed at the Oki Doki Hostel, which was two blocks from the Palace of Culture and Science—Stalin’s gift to Warsaw in 1955. Warsaw’s architecture differed from Krakow’s and Wroc艂aw’s; it was more modern and resembled London’s or New York City’s architecture. The main reason why is because most of Warsaw was destroyed during World War II, so the buildings had to be built from scratch in the late 1940s and 1950s. I also noticed that the old town was a bit out of the way, about 25-30 minute walk from the train station.

I’ve heard many people say that they dislike Warsaw, and I can definitely understand why. I found that my five day stay was enough to explore the city without getting bored; and the good weather certainly helped me enjoy my stay. But I can imagine that in the winter, the surroundings look much more dreary.

Plac Zamkowy
Plac Zamkowy in Warsaw's Old Town.

Toru艅

Toru艅
The main market square in Toru艅.

I stayed in Toru艅 for one night at an Airbnb. However, I didn’t see much of the city or go on a walking tour. The gingerbread museum across from my Airbnb required a reservation, so I went to another one. I also climbed the town hall tower and rode a boat on the Wis艂a River.

The architecture was medieval, the riverside was charming, and the city was walkable. I might return for a longer stay.

Gda艅sk

Gda艅sk
Ulica D艂uga, the main street of Gda艅sk's old town.

Gda艅sk is a city with a ton of history. Throughout its history, Gda艅sk has been an important seaport and trading area. The city is also walkable and my hostel, the 4-Friends Hostel, was located right next to the Mot艂awa River.

I also visited Malbork Castle, the largest castle in Europe. It was a convenient 30 minute train ride from Gda艅sk. I highly recommend setting aside half a day to visit it.

Malbork Castle
At the top of Malbork Castle's high tower looking into the courtyard and the landscape.

I enjoyed my visit to Poland. The past three weeks were fun, interesting, and easy on my wallet. I will almost certainly return to Poland to explore this country further. Now, for the next four weeks, I’ll be traveling onwards to Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and France.

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