Home » 5 reasons Poland is Europe’s most underrated destination

5 reasons Poland is Europe’s most underrated destination

written by Joshua Kloke July 6, 2015

Poland has always occupied a special place in Europe: centrally located, many a bloody battle has been raged on its soil.

From an atlas, it’s a country with no defining features. When I first landed in Poland to begin a teaching assignment in 2005, I haphazardly drew a circle as the map of the country for a class. The class chuckled and commented on its remarkable accuracy.

Back then Poland was viewed as the gateway to Eastern Europe. Seven countries, including Belarus, Russia and Ukraine to the east, border Poland. To the West was Germany, a mainstay on any European travel itinerary and the Czech Republic, a must-visit land of beer and stunning architecture. Czech Republic was a country that, for many, was about as far East in Europe as they would travel, thank you very much.

Which left Poland an inexpensive and relatively undiscovered country by backpackers and wallet-waving tourists alike, with beer just as pristine and architecture to hang its hat on.

poland travel guide - Adam Smok

Warsaw | Image c/o Adam Smok, Flickr

I always assumed the secret would eventually get out on Poland. I assumed it’s rolling hills and awe-inspiring Tatra mountain range (where Intrepid has a new trip!) would benefit from snow-loving thrill seekers. I had to believe a trip to northern Poland on the country’s constantly improving train system to Gdansk, a must visit for any 20th century history buff, would be commonplace. After the 2012 Euro Cup, co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine I couldn’t help but think that sports buffs would descend on its many stadium.

But by all accounts, I’ve been proven wrong. Poland remains undetected by the hordes of travellers (comparatively speaking, of course). This is both a great shame and a great opportunity.

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If you’re after rich culture, delicious and unique cuisine, beer that can hold its own against nearly any in the world, architecture you can lose yourself in and immaculate outdoor opportunities, do not waste another second overlooking Poland.

poland travel guide - Arek Olek

Krakow | Image c/o Arek Olek, Flickr

1. The Rynek

Let’s start where you’ll likely begin your Polish journey and may end up having a difficult time leaving: the Rynek. Most cities have these square-shaped pedestrian medieval marketplaces filled with shops, bars, restaurants (in summer, the walking space in every Rynek shrinks due to expanded patios).

Architecture styles will range from Classical, to Baroque and even some Gothically-designed buildings. But all will be a delight to the eyes from morning until night. When I first arrived in Poland, I couldn’t get over how “Candy coated” these buildings appeared, as if pulled straight from a Hans Christian Andersen story. The most picturesque Ryneks are in Krakow and Wroclaw; bring extra memory cards for photos as there’s always a different building in a different light that just has to be captured.

READ MORE: 6 REASONS WHY KRAKOW IS EUROPE’S MOST OVERLOOKED CITY

When you’ve got your fill of photos, you’ll soon discover one of the Rynek’s other main purposes: a venue for you to while away your time with the most underrated beer in the world.

poland travel guide - Kuba Bozanowski

Warsaw pillow fight, 2010 | Image c/o Kuba Bozanowski, Flickr

2. The beer

Yes, Poland is known to many as a vodka stronghold but it is their centuries-old, tried and true beer that will surprise travellers and keep them occupied for many an afternoon.

There is no better people-watching than on the patios of Poland’s Ryneks, and few better pale lagers in the world to enjoy than Zywiec and Tyskie, mainstays in any Polish bar or patio. Polish beer, poured for a fraction of the cost compared to Western European counterparts, generally masters the great beer paradox: it goes down easily enough that you can spend all day with it and it also packs enough flavour and punch.

READ MORE: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO 7 DAYS IN EASTERN EUROPE

3. The food

When there’s beer drunk en masse, food isn’t usually far behind. Ask around and take a few steps beyond the Rynek to find a “Bar Mleczny,” or what translates to a “Milk bar.” No, these are nothing like the Australian counterparts: they are cafeteria-style restaurants that exclusively serve cheap, hearty and well-prepared food. They were born out of the hard economic times caused by the Soviet communist regime and provided all Poles with inexpensive meals while they worked.

Many of the meals prepared were dairy-based but you can now find a variety of Polish staples, including pierogi (Meat, potato and cheese filled dumplings) and bigos (Cabbage and bacon-laden stew) that will fill you up on the cheap.

poland travel guide - Artur Malinowski

Warsaw | Image c/o Artur Malinowski, Flickr

Milk bars are rarely advertised in guide books and as such, you’ll have to be a bit adventurous when ordering. Most milk bars I’ve ever stepped foot into were thankfully free of the English language. It might be a surprise what ends up on your plate but don’t be surprised to rub elbows with Poles from all walks of life and taste the type of dish prepared with a grandmother’s love.

READ MORE: 8 PLACES YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU NEEDED TO SEE IN EUROPE

4. The history

It would be all to easy to spend days on end eating and drinking your way through the Polish cities such as Krakow, Wroclaw, Warsaw and Gdansk, soaking up the world-class museums and historical monuments as you please.

Of particular note in Gdansk is the European Solidarity Center, which tells the story of Lech Walesa and his fight to take on the oppressive communist government. It was here where the fire was lit and changed the course of history. Walking the cobblestone streets through the old town and then towards the shipyards where Walesa began the Solidarity movement, it is in turn impossible not to visit Gdansk and not feel moved by its historical legacy.

poland travel guide - Pavel Dobrovsky

Tatra Mountains | Image c/o Pavel Dobrovsky, Flickr

5. The wilderness

But there’s so much more of Poland to explore and no trip to this underrated Central European gem is complete without a trip to the town of Zakopane at the foot of the Tatra Mountains.

This is world-class skiing and snowboarding on a budget. A temperate climate atop Kasprowy Wierch means you can enjoy both beginner and advanced downhill opportunities without much in the way of stress. The mountains are easily reached in two hours by train from Krakow and feature both awe-inspiring views and a range of activities.

And it’s these common themes of fascinating history, hearty food, delicious beer and the distinct lack of mass tourism that make Poland a truly untapped European gem.

Ready to check out Europe’s hidden gem? Explore Poland with Intrepid Travel.

 

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38 comments

emma August 2, 2021 - 9:44 pm

e this summer. I went to Poland few times, but I always stayed in Warsaw. I think that Poland in general is a little underrated. It is such a beautiful country with many interesting spots! I love that it is constantly growing and developing and many new places and restaurants open, at least in Warsaw. One of my favourite spots in Warsaw is New Orleas

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Robert Johnson August 2, 2021 - 7:58 pm

thank you for sharing!

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Flotilla IoT May 24, 2021 - 9:31 pm

i have a dearm to visit polan country.i have apply for visa many time but every time rejected.if any body about right way to apply visa for polan please share detail.thanks

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David December 9, 2020 - 10:12 pm

Bar Mleczny is really a great spot

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Jake Ryan October 1, 2020 - 5:39 am

Don’t forget the little-known towns like Torun, Zamosc, Lublin and if you want to see Orthodox churches Białystok area. Other underrated places near Poland are Gotland/Visby and Åland but I digress.

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First Ads September 19, 2020 - 4:21 pm

Thanks For Sharing By the way Nice Photography

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sharjeel September 16, 2020 - 3:09 am

Thanks

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discount Partner August 24, 2020 - 7:11 am

Great place.Nice photography

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Amir Articles July 13, 2020 - 8:30 am

Really love this country. thx for sharing

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Victor Martin January 7, 2020 - 11:45 pm

What a fabulous article on Poland. Short and precise. I especially loved the insider tips! Very helpful.

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Hei Polen March 6, 2019 - 9:35 pm

Absolutely Agree that Poland has the credibility to be the top destination a traveller ever seeks. the tips you have described above have shown what this country can offer & diversity it holds.
By the way amazing images & information…

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Magda January 17, 2019 - 1:48 am

This is pretty much true. Warsaw is underrated 🙁

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Garry Christan January 15, 2019 - 5:37 pm

I think Poland is the best European country to spend holidays. It boasts 14 unique UNESCO World Heritage Sites which you simply cannot miss.

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Danielle August 21, 2018 - 2:09 am

I LOVED reading this. I’ve just spent most of the last year in Poland and this had me nodding along in agreement! You are totally right about the wilderness. I’ve spent so much time in the mountains, forests and lakes and they really are so undiscovered by most tourists.

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Kim Lang July 20, 2018 - 6:43 pm

What an amazing and a fascinating place to visit. I really didn’t know much about this but after reading this post I will surely visit one day. Thanks for sharing such an amazing post.

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Agness of Etramping February 26, 2018 - 7:01 am

We are from Poland and I couldn’t agree more that it is one of the most underrated European destinations, Joshua! Exceptional pictures which I hope will inspire more and more people to explore this wonderful country!

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slowder January 14, 2018 - 5:40 am

Krakow is the main city to visit in Poland. Krakow it wasn`t destroyed during Second World War so all buildings are original and quite old. There is also a main point to visit places like Auschwitz-Birkenau or oldest Salt Mine in Poland. Main Square in Krakow Old Town won in plebiscite one of beautiful Square in Europe.
Enjoy your holiday.

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jane November 16, 2017 - 11:42 pm

wooow poland is nice!

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lena November 15, 2017 - 10:47 pm

If your visiting Gdansk you will always find things to see and do at any time of the year. Though I would stronly recommend June. Due to the fact, that it is th hottest and prettiest month in Poland. About the cities though. I think that Gdansk is one of the best choices in Poland. Just check this out: http://visitgdansk.com/weekends-in-gdansk . Beautiful city with lot of attractions..

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audrey November 15, 2017 - 10:40 pm

If you are planing to visit Poland with your children, then one of the best places which you can check is Blue Lamb Archeological Education Center in Gdansk. If your kid dreams about the career of Indiana Jones, loves stories and secrets the Blue Lion Archeological Education Centre will be a perfect place for playing for it. You can read more at: http://visitgdansk.com/weekends-in-gdansk
The museum was established in the only preserved granary in Gdansk where the original entablature from the 17th century still exists. Therefore, the surroundings have a unique ambience creating an appropriate mood for the joint excursion. The Blue Lion is also an excellent place for a future knight.

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birbona November 8, 2017 - 7:04 pm

Nice suggestions 🙂 I spent about a week in Poland last year (visiting Gdańsk) and loved it. Looking forward to returning some day! Very helpful was serwis visitgdansk – I found there a nice hotel and good restaurants with regional food. The weather was bad but I did not get bored 🙂

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misara September 2, 2017 - 12:22 am

I am just planning my first trip to Poland. I read your article and all comments and I know that if I will be spend night in Szczecin I will choose Dana Hotel ( I checked their site and it looks really good ;p ). I would like to go also to Warsaw and Cracow. Hope there will be not too cold in October ? 🙂

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Rob July 3, 2017 - 4:50 pm

This is all true. A beautiful country, worth spending at least a couple of days. About the wilderness, I would also recommend visiting big lake area on the Mazury/Kaszuby – one of the best I’ve seen.

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Anne June 26, 2017 - 7:22 pm

Poland is a great country, and Warsaw as a city is very often underrated. It shouldn’t be, because it is really one the most interesting and beautiful European cities. It has so many fascinating and great places – from huge modern business centers to cozy little bars. Everybody will be able to find something for themselves and have a great time in Warsaw. My favourite spot in Warsaw is actually a bar in the Old Town – Bubbles Bar. They serve champagnes and sparkling wines, but not only. They also offer delicious food, that goes well with the champagne. It is perfect for hanging out 🙂

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Will Milton June 20, 2017 - 9:21 pm

I agree that Poland is very underrated. I feel it’s like Europe’s best-kept secret or something. The village I’ve been to in Krakow was tiny but it’s rustic and has that unique charm to it. I didn’t know mushroom foraging can be so exciting! LOL!

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Lola May 31, 2017 - 9:29 pm

Great article 🙂 I love Poland too. I agree with JAROWKA, Szczecin is a great place and it’s worth seeing. Its great place with beautiful Old Town and so many historic monuments. About good place to stay I would advice beautiful historic Hotel Dana, my friends from UK stayed there during their travel and they was very happy with that. It is in the city center so it’s a big plus and convenient.

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jarowka May 18, 2017 - 5:45 pm

Few people talk about other cities, and it’s a shame. For example, Szczecin is such an example. Beautiful city with history and really good accommodation. You can stay at the Dana Hotel, for example, from wherever you are.

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AnnaD April 30, 2017 - 11:05 am

Poland has a lot to offer: you can do nature tour, especially in Podlasie region and mountains, you can explore it’s rich folklore with many festivals and skansens in very diverse regions, go hiking, mushroom hunting, sailing or do a history tour (from medieval times to wwII and communism). My personal favorite is Poland’s archeology: neolithic flint mines in Krzemionki Opatowskie, bronze age pyramids hidden in forests, Lusatian archeo skansen in Biskupin, mysterious mounds in Krakow, ancient gold, silver and salt mines, stone circles in Tuchola forest, and Slav and Viking center in Wolin island with the most spectacular festival if this kind in Europe.

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iva April 24, 2017 - 11:43 pm

Yes, great place

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Lora April 24, 2017 - 7:30 pm

I really think that Poland is very underrated. It is actually a great country with so much in offer! I visit Poland quite often and I usually stay in Warsaw. I love the city, it very diverse and fascinating. It isconstantly growing and there are many cool spots and places to see and go to. As I am a huge foodie my personal favourite place is a restaurant in Warsaw – the Akademia Restaurant. It is a modern Polish restaurant with delicious food and incredible atmosphere. I always go there when I visit Warsaw!

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Oli February 17, 2017 - 8:23 pm

I really like Poland and I plan on going on a longer trip there this summer. I went to Poland few times, but I always stayed in Warsaw. I think that Poland in general is a little underrated. It is such a beautiful country with many interesting spots! I love that it is constantly growing and developing and many new places and restaurants open, at least in Warsaw. One of my favourite spots in Warsaw is New Orleas. It is a great and elegant restaurant with delicious food from all over the world. Great place for a quiet dinner:)

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Thomas May 9, 2017 - 4:19 pm

Hey Oli,

I start my 3 to 4 weeks trip to Poland in July this year.
I will start in Gdánsk and try to make my way through the land down to Krakow or maybe Zakopane.
I am so excited, it is my first backpacking experience ever 🙂

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monna January 28, 2017 - 8:30 am

Our country is really undiscovered by foreigners :), for example, szczecin – there is so many attractions that you do not need to go to Warsaw or Krakow. What more accommodation base in Pomerania is really well prepared. I would recommend eg Hotel Dana in Szczecin – a four-star hotel that will seduce everyone.

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Oskar December 21, 2016 - 3:19 pm

If you will get back to Poland I can reccomend you a small city near border with Slovakia, Zwadoń City. Maybe it isnt as much as Zakopane but you can enjoy nature and explore very much interesting places.
If you decide to get there I recommend you an old manor Dworek Szwajcaria.

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Angelina88 January 1, 2017 - 9:44 am

In my opinion, we will certainly find more than 5 reasons to visit Poland. Definitely it is worth to go to Szczecin. The city has in fact an incredible atmosphere, and what’s more we can have there a great rest in places such as the 100 year-old Dana Hotel. We can not ony relax there in comfortable rooms but also taste delicious dishes.

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Leon July 28, 2016 - 5:56 pm

There’s lots of beautiful spots in Poland: towns, lakes, sea, even desert. Lately I was in Szczecin which is exceptional city with such a attractions like philharmonic, Embankment of Chrobry, beach, etc… If you decide to get there, stay at historic Dana Hotel.

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Lazyamble March 15, 2016 - 8:48 pm

Years back while planning a trip to the Eastern part of Europe. I decided that we should begin our journey in Poland. And we did, arrived at Warsaw after a stopover in Zurich.

First impression of Warsaw, not your usual touristy European destination. When you stepped into the old town, you realized there are much to see. If you are in world war 2 history, you will see memorials of it.

Be adventurous, do check out and have a meal in the local milk bar.

Wanted to experience more about wartime Poland, check out the concentration camps Auschwitz and Birkenau from Krakow.

Do visit Krakow and it’s charming old town too.

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Namaste India March 10, 2016 - 9:22 pm

Great place.Nice photography

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