Updated: Added a new travel video to the article.
European summer is coming up soon and if you are looking for a place to go in Europe that is extremely beautiful, lively and relatively cheap, why not spend 2 weeks in Poland? Poland is possibly one of the most colorful countries in Europe with its incredible history, fairy-tale like castles, and best of all, still really cheap.
Within this guide, you will find a recommended route you can use to travel around Poland for 2 weeks while seeing the best the country has to offer. From the fairy-tale town of Torun to the stunning mountain range of Zakopane, here are all the information you need to backpack Poland.
Poland Itinerary Map
Why go to Poland?
More often than not, people have come to associate Poland as a lesser developed country in Europe but after I spent 3 months in Poland in 2018, I can say that Poland is developing fast with all the facilities you'd expect from the west but at a much cheaper price. It has become the country in its own league with its unique traditions, the language and its tragic history to draw from. All these points make Poland a great country to visit for all kinds of travelers from history buffs to off the beaten path adventurers alike.
When to Go
April to September is the best time to go as the weather is much warmer now and the colors of Spring/Autumn will make Poland even more colorful than usual. One downside is that there will be lots of people everywhere. In order to avoid that I would stick to the beginning (April - May) or the towards the end (August - September) of the peak season as the weather became cooler and it is not as crowded.
Poland in winter is its own beast with beautiful snow everywhere contrasting with the colorful architecture, much fewer people but still maintain its beauty. The weather does get really cold though (I got -16°C once) and because of that, many viewpoint towers are closed so do weighs pros and cons and prepare accordingly.
Where to Stay
Warsaw - Dream Hostel Warsaw - 14.78 USD/Night (Great location right by the square, excellent free breakfast, clean facilities,)
Torun - Hostel Freedom - 15 USD/Night (Located in the center with incredible view of the old square)
Gdansk - 5 Points Hostel - 15 USD/Night (Super comfy bed, it was incredible!)
Poznan - Poco Loco Hostel - 11.14 USD/Night
Wroclaw - Grampa's Hostel - 11.51 USD/Night
Krakow - Krakow Hostel - 12.91 USD/Night
Zakopane - Hostel 1902 - 8 USD/Night (Excellent Location)
How to Get Around
Buses and trams in Poland are pretty accessible with the help of Jakdojade website where you can pick a city and punch in where you want to go and it will let you know which bus number or tram you have to get on. This works in every city in the itinerary and you can either access its website or download an app (Android | iOS) on your phone.
For traveling from city to city you can either use Flixbus (formerly Polskibus) or the train. They are both really accessible and quite cheap, more so with buses and all of them you can book online. With buses, I'd recommend booking directly with Flixbus or through Busradar.com whereas trains, Intercity website is where you can book a train ticket online.
Poland Two Weeks Itinerary
Warsaw (3 nights)
If you are traveling by air, you are most likely to arrive in Warsaw, the capital city of Poland and one of the country's most vibrant city. You can easily spend 2 full days here starting with the old square. The old square is the landmark of the city with a spacious walking area, towers, colorful traditional architecture, and churches all connected through roads leading to the Old town marketplace. While at the square, be sure to check out the Sigismund's Column, the Royal Castle, and the St. John's Archcathedral.
If you want to see the square from above, you can go up the Taras Widokowy tower for a fee and you will have a 360 view of the city. The best time to go up is right before the sun sets.
As with most European cities, one of the best view you can get of a city is usually from a bridge across a river. Warsaw is no different and you can get one of the best views of the city both during the day and at night from the Gdański Bridge. The Gdański Bridge is located within walking distance of the old square just north of it. With a nice stroll through the old town down the hill, and across the roads, you will be met with the green double-deck bridge where the upper part serves road transports and the lower part, trams. Both levels are equipped with sidewalks so you can walk along the bridge safely.
For the second day, we will take it a little slow and take a bus heading towards Wilanow from the old square (right in front of our hostel) and get off at the end of the line where the Wilanow royal palace is located. This Baroque royal palace is a wonderful piece of Polish history that survived both World Wars and becoming one of the most important landmarks in Poland. The palace is surrounded by beautiful gardens with statues so it is the best place to take a stroll and enjoy the slow part of traveling.
After spending a few hours at the Palace, you can take a bus back but right before entering the city, be sure to drop by the Łazienki Park and check out the Palace on the Isle. The park is a great place to stroll in the morning and enjoy a sunny day in Warsaw away from the city. If you are lucky, you might see a few peacocks there too.
Last but not least, be sure to check out the Uprising museum and learn about the heroic uprising of the Polish people against the Nazi during the occupation of Warsaw. This part of the history was not known to me until now so I am glad I visited the museum and learn the struggle of the people living in Warsaw during the Nazi regime.
Torun (2 nights)
Next up, let's take a break from a big city and visit this small but beautiful fairy-tale town of Torun, one of my favorite city in Poland. With its medieval architecture, baroque-style church and its history involving knighthood, walking around Torun was like walking through one of the The Witcher novel written by the Polish author, Andrzej Sapkowski.
Torun is also the birthplace of the great mathematician and astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus how formulated a model of the universe that put the sun at the center instead of Earth. Within the city, you will see his statue, museums and all his legacy live on eternally in Torun.
While in Torun, be sure to visit Cathedral Basilica of St. John, the leaning tower of Torun and or if you want to learn about the Teutonic Knights, be sure to drop by the District Museum.
If you are visiting the District museum, you can also pay a bit more to have access to the tower where you will be able to see Tourn from above, which is highly recommended in order to appreciate the beautiful baroque architecture of its past.
Another place that is a must-visit is an observation deck across the river, near the train station where you will be able to see Torun and its well-preserved wall in its entirety. Visiting the observation deck is highly recommended during sunset or in the early morning where the lights are not too strong. The location of the observation deck is shown below.
Gdansk (2 nights)
Gdansk is one of the most important port in Poland and it is also the location where the first World War 2 crashes happened during the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany. Gdansk is also famous for its colorful architecture around its Long Market district, now home to Accidental-Wes-Anderson-style houses and shops. You can spend half days walking through the Long Market, and to the port. While at the port, be sure to check out the Catholic Cathedral, the Brama Mariacka (best viewed from the other side of the port), the green gate and the Golden House along the way.
If you want to learn about the Polish experience during World War 2, visit The Museum of Second World War, located a little bit outside of the old port area. Be aware that the place closes quite early and do not make the same mistake I did and go there after opening times.
You can also go a little further and take a bus to Westerplatte, an open-air museum dedicated to the battle of Westerplatte, which was the first clash between Polish and German forces during the invasion of Poland and thus the first battle of the European World War II.
Malbork (half day)
From Gdansk, you can take a train directly to Malbork in the early morning and spend your day walking around in Malbork until 3 PM before heading towards Poznan. Trust me, Malbork is definitely worth the detour as this Ghotic fortress is the largest in the world by land area and there is no place quite like it. The beautiful red brick fortress located by the river Nogat is a wonderful piece of history built during the Teutonic knight time in 13th century.
Walking inside the fortress makes you feel like you are in the Witcher novel. The fortress really captures the medieval, almost fantasy vibe of the typical European folk tales you often hear when you were young.
Witin in the castle, there are several buildings you can enter and discover on your own. Places like the old church of St. Mary, the tower, and the Great Refectory are not to be missed.
Also be sure to walk across the river and see the castle from the other side. It is best seen during the evening when the sun is about to set and the water in the river calm and still.
Poznan (2 nights)
After Torun and Malbork, you will feel quite strange to be back in a big city but don't let that intimidate you as Poznan has quite a few things to offer from the most colorful old square to the reddish pink colored Catholic church, the Fara Poznanska.
Walking around the square you will be towered by the Poznan town hall and its colorful construction houses of Poznan (Domki Budnicze). Right by the corner of the square is the Royal Castle which I think it is cool, but it looked too new for my taste so I would recommend spending your one day in the square instead.
Wroclaw (2 nights)
Wroclaw is another fun city to travel to with plenty of things to do ranging from hunting down the gnomes in the market square to the learning about the Battle of Raclawice through a panoramic painting.
Within the market square, you will find all these little gnomes scattered all over the area near Wroclaw town hall. It was fun to look out for these gnomes while exploring the Market Square.
Once you are done with the square, head northeast towards the river to the observation deck where you can get a nice photo of Ostrów Tumski, the Oldest part of the city.
Ostrów Tumski is by far my favorite area of Wroclaw and I highly recommend you spending as much time there as you can. With the beautiful Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and the peaceful vibe of the area, it was a great break from the craziness of the central market square.
Krakow (3 nights)
Krakow is where I based myself of when I was living in Poland for 3 months and it is by far the best place to travel to as a traveler with the balance between the medieval vibe of the city center, chilled vibe of Kazimierz (the Jewish quarter) and the many things you can as a day trip such as the Salt mine or Auschwitz. I can easily suggest things to do for a week in Krakow but since not people will have enough time in Krakow, I'll limit the suggestions to only the best of the best.
First I recommend you spend your first day in Auschwitz learning the dark past of Poland so that you can understand the country a bit more. I believe it is important to learn what happened no matter how bad it is so that we do not make the same mistake again (which is something I can't say we humans are great at with all the tension happening around the world).
After spending a day in Auschwitz, it is time to head back to the city and spend a nice evening treating yourself with excellent food. Kazimierz is a great place to spend your evening in with delicious street food, Zapiekanka (a must try) and a nice wine outside while listening to the Jewish live music.
The next day, spend some time in the city center and check out the stunning interior of the St. Mary's Basilica and all the attraction surrounding the square such as the Town Hall Tower and Krakow Barbican. Also be sure to buy a ticket to go up the tower to get a nice view of Krakow from above.
Walking south towards Kazimiercz and you will see the Wawel castle, located on top of a hill overlooking the city. Wawel castle is one of the most important landmarks in Krakow, and a must visit when you are in Krakow. The architecture of Wawel castle is a mixture of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Early Baroque due to it being occupied and captured by different rulers over its existence. I recommend you spending at least a few hours there to learn more about its importance among the Polish people.
At night, be sure to go further south from the Wawel Castle, cross the bridge and take a nice stroll around the Vistula river for a grand view with lights illuminating the castle and its surroundings.
If you have time to spare, be sure to visit the Kościuszko Mound and hike up to the top for a nice view of the city in its entirety or do a day trip to the Salt Mine in Wieliczka an hour away from Krakow.
Zakopane (2 nights)
Last but not least, Zakopane, a city located under the shadow of the Tatra mountain range between Poland and Slovakia. The place is popular for hikers in the summer and skiers in winter so you will often find this city occupied by local and foreign travelers alike most of the time. Everything is fully booked fast, so do prepare prior to arriving.
If you like hiking and you have a day in Zakopane, I would recommend you go and hike the Morskie Oko trail which should take you around 5 - 6 hours total and you will have a grand view of the Morskie Oko lake. Start early in the morning (no later than 8 AM) to avoid crowds and make your way to the Kościuszki bus station. Take the bus to Palenica Białczańska and walk up to the lake along an 8km road and walk back the same way.
If you don't like hiking or it is too cold outside then I would recommend you book a ticket and go up the cable car to the Kasprowy Wierch where you will be able to see the mountain range from the top. Be sure to check the weather and book the ticket from there website before arriving to avoid disappointment and long lines.
After spending the first half of your day up there, you can relax at the city center with some delicious smoked cheese with jam (oscypek) and cozy up with a glass of mulled wine which you can get from almost anywhere in the city center.
In the evening, go out and have a nice traditional dinner at Karcma Zapiecek, listen to live traditional folk music and drink away your last night in Poland. The location of the restaurant is shown below:
From Zakopane, you can take an early morning bus back to Krakow and from there you can either continue your journey down to Kosice, Slovakia or head back to Warsaw and end your trip there. There you have it, 2 weeks itinerary for Poland. I hope you will find this itinerary useful and if you do, please share and comments in the comments section below.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.