A medieval landscape, a buzzing capital and a hipster city—
Poland delivers a range of destination options.
The first thing that most people mention when you bring up traveling to Poland is the Auschwitz concentration camp. As surreal and thought-provoking a visit to Auschwitz proves to be, the Polish National Tourist Office wants travel advisors to, yes, recommend clients visit significant historic sites such as these within the country, but to suggest travelers explore farther afield. The message is that Poland is more than its World War 2 past—it’s a hefty part of it, of course, but as one travels through the country, it becomes apparent that the World War 2 atrocities that occurred here are only part of its story. As I journeyed through Warsaw, Lodz (pronounced “Woodge”) and Krakow, I got a broader and mesmerizing picture of this Central European country.
Krakow—A Medieval Gem
My tour guide pointed to a building within Krakow’s Old Town and said, “This is a new building, from the 18th century.” I couldn’t help but laugh. “A new building?” I asked. “Where I’m from, in Florida, 18th century buildings are not new.” She chuckled and responded, “Well, when you have a 13th century market square right around the corner, something built in the 18th century is certainly new.” While strolling through this magnificent and picturesque Old Town, I took a few minutes to take in the enormity of what it meant to be surrounded by structures that hark back several centuries, including one of the most historic buildings in Krakow, Jagiellonian University’s oldest building, Collegium Maius, built in the mid-1300s and now a museum.
Another museum your clients won’t want to miss is located under the main square, the Rynek Underground museum, which narrates the turbulent history of medieval Krakow (it’s both chilling and delightful). Back on the main square, tell clients to visit the Cloth Hall (a shopper’s delight), and dine at the very chic Szara Ges w Kuchni. Wandering along the Royal Route to visit Wawel Castle and the Wawel Cathedral is a must, as is taking a walk down Vistula Boulevard to view the river and see the city’s famous dragon lair (there’s a legend there, of course). Krakow is also famous for its Old Jewish Quarter in Kazimierz, located south of the Old Town, and for the churches that are seemingly around every corner.
One of my favorite spots in the city, though, is Jozefa Street, with art galleries, vintage shops and graffiti (the Kazimierz Historical Mural, featuring five portraits of Polish historical figures, is quite cool).
Book your clients into the contemporary 139-room Golden Tulip Krakow Kazimierz, within walking distance of many of the city’s marvels.
Recommend a day trip to the outskirts of Krakow: A river rafting trip down the
Dunajec River; and visits to the town of Zakopane, at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, as well as to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. At recommend.com we’ve got the full story on these delightful excursions.
Street art, massive industrial age factories turned entertainment complexes, its own Hollywood Walk of Fame, and hidden nooks all make Lodz one of Poland’s most fascinating, “I’ve never heard of it” cities. This is the place you want to send your hipster clientele who wants to “been there, done it” before the rest of their friends—it’s creative, energetic, stunning, and completely raw, without any predisposition as to what a “serious” tourist-centric city should look and feel like, and that’s what makes it so ideal for travelers who want to jump right off the beaten track. One of the city’s must-sees is the Manufaktura center, made up of historic, red brick industrial buildings that now serves as an entertainment complex. True bohemians, however, will want to venture to the OFF Piotrkowska center, which has taken over an old cotton mill and is home to offbeat local businesses and hip restaurants (recommend mitmi restobar). While there, suggest clients take a stroll down Piotrkowska Street, which runs from Wolnosci Square to Niepodleglosci Square for some two miles and is lined with magnificent architecture, although it’s what lies behind this street that truly dazzles: backstreets that have become small worlds unto themselves offering an array of eclectic vibes—think buildings turned into art pieces, picturesque Mexican restaurants, cool pubs, galleries selling eclectic art, and cinema-inspired street art. Which brings me to your film buffs—Lodz is the center of filmmaking in Poland, home to one of the world’s best film universities, an exquisite film museum and on Piotrkowska Street, a Lodz “Walk of Fame.” Beyond the cinematic spotlight, Lodz is also home to Europe’s largest Jewish cemetery—it’s one of the most spellbinding and beautiful spots in the city, with haunting tales that are sometimes hard to hear, but offer visitors a better understanding of what occurred here during WW2.
Clients can call the funky Hotel Tobaco home during their stay in Lodz. This former wool factory, which was also the headquarters for a tobacco factory, hence its name, offers 115 rooms and a restaurant serving Polish, Russian, Jewish and German cuisines. For more on Lodz, visit recmd.it/Lodz.
Imagine topping off one’s daytime sightseeing with an afternoon Chopin concert in the park, or taking a stroll along the lively Vistula River promenade come sunset, or perhaps wandering through one of the world’s most impressive reconstructed Old Towns. Warsaw offers a world of places to see and do and your clients can take it all in, literally, if you recommend they go up to the 30th floor of the Palace of Science and Culture to get a bird’s-eye view of the capital of Poland. Warsaw’s culinary scene, too, is vibrant, offering cool joints such as butchery & wine and Warszawski Sznyt, and its museums span an array of interests: the Museum of Warsaw on the Old Town square, with thematic rooms that put the spotlight on the city’s long history; the Vodka Museum in the hip area known as Praga; and the Neon Museum, located in the Soho Factory and displaying Cold War neon signs. For a more somber look at the city’s history, recommend clients visit the Gestapo Museum, the former Gestapo HQ that operated as a brutal interrogation center. Of course, the city features a castle, a Royal Route, an old Jewish Quarter, elegant promenades, and the stunning Royal Lazienki Museum and Gardens (the place for a stolen kiss). And you might not know this, but Warsaw is an outdoor lover’s delight, with a long list of parks, as well as beaches, hiking and biking trails and watersports such as kayaking on the river.
The gorgeous Raffles Europejski Warsaw has opened across from Pilsudski Square (where visitors will be able to stand in awe of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument), but for clients who want to stay near Lazienki Park, recommend the Regent Warsaw Hotel, with 246 rooms and 19 suites.
We’ve got more on Warsaw at recmd.it/Warsaw, giving you recommendations for a handful of city highlights.
Getting Around & Getting There
Before they depart on their travels, recommend clients purchase their train tickets with Rail Europe, providing an extensive array of rail products throughout the continent. It makes for a seamless journey—when I arrived at the train station in Lodz for my two-and-a-half-hour journey to Krakow, I was glad I had my Rail Europe ticket in hand as I did not have to wait in the fairly long line, I already had my seat assignment and the information is written in English. The trains in Poland are comfortable, offering snacks and refreshments, and on time, so be sure to tell clients to arrive with ample time to find their platform. We recommend that clients traveling beyond Warsaw to explore the rest of Poland hop on a train as there are many city-to-city connections in both first and second class. Visit recommend.com, where we’ve got the 4-1-1 on why you should be recommending clients buy a Rail Europe ticket.
For getting to Poland, visit recmd.it/LOTPolishAirlines to learn more about LOT’s new nonstop from Miami to Warsaw, launching in June 2019. In addition to LOT’s flights from the U.S., Austrian Airlines offers flights into Vienna for direct transfers to Poland.
Austrian Airlines: austrian.com
Golden Tulip Krakow Kazimierz: goldentulip.com
Hotel Tobaco: hoteltobaco.pl/en
LOT Polish Airlines: lot.com/us/en
Polish National Tourist Office: poland.travel/en
Rail Europe: agent.raileurope.com
Warsaw Regent Hotel: regent-warsaw.com/en