Krakow: Culinary Delights

Photo by Susan Tuckey, Penguins2PolarBears

Foodies, unite! Krakow is full of fabulous food tours. Perhaps you’ll spend an afternoon with a small group to tour the Kazimierz District, sampling local favorites, Polish vodka and craft beer. Or, taking a street food tour around Rynek Glowny, tasting pierogi, obwarzankek, sour rye soup, pickled cucumber and cabbage and homemade liquor. Don’t worry about your overindulgence - all that walking along the tour helps work it off! 

Note: For those interested in the area’s sobering history, Auschwitz-Birkenau is easily accessible from Krakow via bus tour. You can add on a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, as well. 

Warsaw: Cycling Through History

Photo by Susan Tuckey, Penguins2PolarBears

With a constantly evolving network of cycle paths - more than 310 miles - Warsaw is perfect for a bike tour. On the left bank (west side) of the Vistula River, you’ll pass the Multimedia Fountain Park, Warsaw University Library (with its unique roof garden) and Copernicus Science Center. Delight in the west side’s patio restaurants, bustling squares and Old Town. Be sure to explore the less-often-visited, regentrifying, east side of the city, with its rich culture and history. You can find the Koneser Vodka distillery here, a great example of Gothic-style industrial architecture in the midst of an entrepreneurial scene (and the Google Campus!). The surrounding neighborhood offers a peek at what Warsaw looked like before World War II. Bicycle tours range from 3 to 7 hours. You want to find one that does both the east and west sides.

Gdansk: A Slice of Polish Life 

Photo by Susan Tuckey, Penguins2PolarBears

This principal seaport on the Baltic is one of the country’s biggest tourist destinations, with its Royal Way - where Polish kings promenaded - historic cathedrals and cool cafes on Mariacka Street. Do yourself a favor and read up on Polish history before walking the main Old Town street - it will give you all the perspective you need to admire the Golden Gate, Neptune Fountain and more, dating back to the 14th century. Perhaps you’ll be in town for one of Gdansk’s famous festivals, including the widely recognized summer Shakespeare festival or lively St. Dominic’s Fair with its stalls and stalls of antiques and handmade goods, as well as excellent cultural events. Private tours to Gdansk and Malbork Castle are also available.

Sopot: Seaside Bliss 

Join the locals-in-the-know at their favorite vacation spot: Sopot. Near, Gdansk, this seaside resort on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea is just the spot for a waterside stroll or beachside meal. Trendsetters flock to the club scene, the classy crowd heads for the old Polish literary-themed cafes and families hit the beach to build sandcastles.

Wroclaw: the Bohemian stronghold 

Photo by Susan Tuckey, Penguins2PolarBears

Pronounced “vrowt-swaaf,” the university city of Wroclaw is considered one of the most livable places in Europe. Often referred to as “Poland’s Venice,” this likeable city is home to more than 100 bridges, all of which cross one of three arms of the Oder River. Pick up flowers in the Plac Solny, climb the tower at St. Elizabeth’s, people watch in Market Square and take a walk on pretty Cathedral Island, the oldest part of the city. If no longer under renovation, take a meandering walk to the Panorama of the Battle of Raclawice, a 360 degree painting of the 1794 battle.

Poznan: Likely birthplace of the Polish state

Photo by Susan Tuckey, Penguins2PolarBears

Lovers of history and architecture should not miss Poznan. Iconic landmarks are everywhere you look, including Old Town (listed as a National Historic Monument), Town Hall, Merchant Houses full of modern-day cafes, restaurants and galleries, and the Baroque St. Stanislaus Parish Church (go inside to see the massive organs with 19-foot-long pipes). Tour the medieval Royal Castle and the Neo-Romanesque Imperial Castle. 

Malbork: Castle of the Teutonic Order

Photo by Susan Tuckey, Penguins2PolarBears

Take the train to link Sopot, Gdansk and Malbork in one full day, but two will be more relaxed. And you won’t want to bypass Malbork for its impressive UNESCO-listed castle - Europe’s largest Gothic castle. The castle is a fine example of a medieval brick palace, formed from a 13th-century fortified monastery in 1309, and restored in the 19th and early 20th century.

Ready to tour Poland? Let’s chat about a rail journey or self-drive tour to explore this storied and beautiful country.