Poland is officially open to UK tourists! Included on the UK government’s list of ‘air-bridges’ and with direct flights having already resumed, Poland is ready to welcome back travellers to its vibrant cities once more. From Krakow’s UNESCO-listed Old Town and Wrocław’s wonderful waterways, to Warsaw’s multitude of museums and Łódź’s edgy Piotrowska Street, you can currently build a much deeper connection Poland’s distinct architecture, food, culture and history thanks to the lack of tourists. But don’t wait too long!
A cracking post-lockdown getaway in Krakow
A destination that is rapidly becoming a go-to for British tourists, Krakow is packed with Gothic architecture, Michelin star eateries, UNESCO Heritage Sites and some of Europe’s most important historical landmarks. Walk through the UNESCO-listed Krakow Old Town and the romantic Market Square without the usual throngs of tourists, take in the colourful collection of buildings without the selfie-snappers and walk in the footsteps of former Polish kings down the breathtaking Royal Route. Fancy a bite to eat? Make sure you check out Krakow’s first Michelin star restaurant, Bottiglieria 1881. Handed the prestigious award in June of this year, guests will be wowed by the century-old cellar, intimate dining experience and creative, modern dishes with a hint of Nordic style.
Warsaw, the crowd-free capital
Poland’s capital is awash with world-renowned art, enlightening museums and rich history, tied together by a patchwork of architecture that is inspired by a variety of cultures and nationalities. The focal point of any trip to Warsaw has to be the spectacular Old Town, where history goes back 700 years. Take in the charmingly cosy ‘beating-heart’ of Poland without having to jostle through busy squares, before tracing some of the capital’s recent history at the phenomenal Palace of Culture and Science, the POLIN Museum of History of Polish Jews or the Warsaw Rising Museum. All without having to queue! Recover from a long day of sightseeing along the banks of the Vistula River, with clean, well-kept and incredibly quiet ‘urban beaches’ that offer panoramic views of the city.
Gdańsk like no one’s watching
Regarded as one of the most culturally and historically significant cities in the country, Gdańsk is a perfect option for combining city life with coastal adventure, minus the crowds. Now is the perfect time to enjoy Gdańsk’s laid back treasure trove of characterful bars and cafes, seafood restaurants, amber shops and intriguing museums, not to mention a relaxed pleasure-boat cruise along the river. The European Solidarity Centre is considered one of the country’s best museums, or you can enjoy a play at the city’s own Globe Shakespeare Theatre. Gdańsk Old Town is typically the busiest part of the city, but with fewer tourists around, you’ll be in an ideal position to soak up this architectural marvel at your own pace.
Welcome back to Wrocław
One of the most beautiful cities in Poland, Wrocław is sometimes called the ‘Venice of Poland’ and consists of 12 islands separated by interweaving rivers and hundreds of connecting bridges. Having been recognised as 2016 European Capital of Culture, Wrocław offers a wonderful contrast of cobbled streets lined with pretty pastel-coloured buildings, beautiful botanical gardens and a surprisingly lively bar scene. Perhaps one of the most unique ways to enjoy the city before the crowds return is to hunt for gnomes – originally created as an anti-communist statement, the new characterful figures continue to appear across the city due to their warm reception from locals and tourists alike. Pick up a gnome map and hunt them out, from the charming Old Town Square to the revolutionary design of Centennial Hall.
Lose yourself in laidback Łódź
From textiles and trams to murals and movies, history and modernity are constantly working in harmony in Łódź. Considered to be the ‘Manchester of Poland’, this ultra-cool city is a red-brick, former industrial powerhouse that has been gradually reinventing itself since the turn of the century. Discover museums, art galleries and the hipster heaven of Piotrowska, Europe’s longest shopping promenade. The 4.9km street offers art studios, fashion designers, boutiques, bars and restaurants, taking on a much calmer feel without the usual buzz of tourists. Łódź is also home to Poland’s largest shopping, arts and leisure centre: Manufaktura. Which was transformed from a 19th Century textile mill into the cultural and entertainment centre of Łódź.
Enjoy a much quieter Katowice, Poland’s cauldron of culture
Mines, museums and music approved by UNESCO, Katowice has embarked on a noticeable metamorphosis over the past decade, breathing new life into its urban space whilst holding onto its mining and industrial heritage. Culture is the lifeblood of Katowice, recognised by UNESCO as a Creative City of Music. As concerts return to the country, be sure to book tickets for the crown jewel of the city’s musical scene, the Polish National Symphony Radio Orchestra, which will feel more like a personal performance thanks to a lesser amount of tourists. Those that fancy themselves as budding street-photographers should check out Nikiszowiec, a former mining district made entirely of red-brick housing, encapsulating the working class spirit of the city. Finally, enjoy a leisurely summer stroll through Silesia Park, twice the size of New York’s Central Park, with half the crowds.
Pretty Poznan, the palette of Poland
A city exploding with colour, Poznan is a major economic, commercial, scientific and cultural hub in Western Poland. Home to one of the most spectacular Town Halls you’re ever likely to see, take in the vibrant palette of colours on offer in the city’s (currently crowdless) Market Square. You can really feel the history here, whether you are looking out at the Renaissance Town Hall through the windows of Croissant Museum’s 500-year-old tenement or exploring the 9th century Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, believed to be the country’s oldest. Take a quiet walk along the Royal-Imperial Route for a snapshot of the deep history Poznan possesses, connecting Cathedral Island with the Old Town. Enjoy some retail therapy at Stary Browar, voted one the world’s best shopping centres, or unwind on Lake Maltańskie, an artificial lake found in the heart of the city, usually exceptionally busy in the summer but now relatively tourist-free!