There’s just something about Poland. For most people, it’s a surprise: some may imagine the gray Poland of the Soviet Bloc and picture it as bleak place full of unsmiling citizens. Others may connect it strongly with its WWII history, which creates an image that is serious and grim. And still others may overlook it because it isn’t one of the most popular travel destinations—it isn’t famous for its beaches, art, or hip modern design. And yet, those people who visit are impressed by the quality of food, how different its cities are, and the way it presents history for anyone who wants to know more. And a bonus is that Poland’s prices are still reasonable.
Poland is Budget Friendly
Poland still uses its own currency, the złoty, rather than the euro like neighboring countries. While this means that you’ll face currency conversion fees if you change money or use a credit card, you will still find that food, drink, ticket prices, and hotels are reasonable in price in comparison with most other European countries.
For example, an express train ticket from Warsaw to Krakow runs about 120 PLN, the equivalent of about 40 euros. Unless you really plan to splash out, you can still treat yourself to a nice entrée at under the equivalent of 20 euros. And wine can be ordered for around 4 euros a glass. Taxis are also inexpensive: from the Warsaw Central train station to Chopin Airport, you’ll pay around 7 euros for a half-hour ride, and if you really want to save, you can choose to go by bus with tickets starting from around one euro for a timed ride.
Food in Poland
Polish traditional food is what you would expect: lots of cabbage, potatoes, and pork, as well as Polish dumplings, or pierogi. And it only follows that many eateries proudly serve up the national cuisine, whether from food trucks or in sit-down fine-dining restaurants. However, you will find many variations on this theme, as well as cuisines from other countries and regions, including Southeastern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Asia.
Most people who visit Poland find the food to be high-quality and the vegetables fresh. While vegans might have difficulty finding plentiful selections, vegetarians will have it a bit easier, with restaurants acknowledging that people have a wide variety of preferences and dietary restrictions. Some restaurants have even gotten on board with marking common food allergens on their menu so that you know which dishes are free of gluten, dairy, or nuts.
While it is worthwhile to pay attention to your instincts at restaurants catering to tourists, even on Market Square in Krakow it’s possible to get a decent-quality meal. The trick is to look at what other diners are eating and take into consideration the menu offerings—a wide variety with no unifying theme indicates restaurants that are catering to passing tourists who may never eat there again and aren’t very concerned about quality; these restaurants may often have sad-looking photos of the food to accompany the listings. On the other hand, a nicely designed menu that showcases a well-thought-out selection of dishes created with an overall vision in mind will offer better results, cleaner food, and happier digestion.
Poland’s cities and towns all have their own character, which means that it’s perfect for visiting more than once or with a comprehensive tour by road or other form of transportation. Warsaw is a capital city and a mix of tourists and regular people; Krakow is full of tourists but its old town, miraculously having escaped bombings during wartime, maintains historic authenticity; Zakopane showcases quaint architecture; Poznan’s gorgeous central square turns into a busy scene for nightlife once the sun sets; and Gdansk is refreshingly near the water and has links to the Solidarity movement, which contributed to the fall of communist rule in the region. So, whether you like cozy old towns or bustling metropolises, Poland won’t let you down.
Poland sometimes seems to be like one big museum. If you’re interested in medieval history, WWII history, or Eastern Bloc history, Poland has much to reveal in its museums, monuments, and historic locations. You can learn how Krakow developed in the Rynek Underground Museum, spend a few hours in the expansive Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews, learn about the fall of communism and the Solidarity movement at the European Solidary Center in Gdansk, visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum to understand the atrocities of the Holocaust, or step back in time at Malbork Castle. But Polish history is in the air even as you explore cities outside of museums—many Polish towns have historic centers that reflect their geography and historic importance, and Poland has made sure to preserve recent history, too, for example, in the small Neon Museum in Warsaw.
So, the next time you’re looking for a slightly unexpected destination to mix into your travel itinerary, consider Poland. You can easily spend a few days to a couple of weeks exploring, dining, learning, taking photographs, and collecting unique memories and stories of your experiences and impressions.