For the past three weeks, I’ve been traveling around Poland. I flew from Brussels to Kraków on Wednesday, May 30, and stayed there for an entire week. After that, I visited Wrocław for six nights, and Warsaw for five nights. Finally, I stopped by Toruń for one night and Gdańsk for two nights.
Coming from the US and Western Europe, Poland was very, very cheap. Entire meals—including a soup and side dish—cost around 40 złoty ($10.75 or €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 złoty ($4.00 or €3.50)! This is insane! I definitely gorged on a lot of pierogi, zapiekanka, and żurek.
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.
I stayed at the Little Havana Party Hostel for my first week in Poland. Kraków 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 Kraków.
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.
Wrocław is a chill city next to a lot of universities. There aren’t as many tourists as in Kraków, 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.
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 Wrocław’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.
I stayed in Toruń 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 Wisła River.
The architecture was medieval, the riverside was charming, and the city was walkable. I might return for a longer stay.
Gdańsk is a city with a ton of history. Throughout its history, Gdańsk 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 Motława River.
I also visited Malbork Castle, the largest castle in Europe. It was a convenient 30 minute train ride from Gdańsk. I highly recommend setting aside half a day to visit it.
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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