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AT A GLANCE Poland is perhaps one of the most underrated countries within Europe and whilst cities like Krakow

and Warsaw make for great city breaks, they are less well known then Paris, Berlin and the other big hitters. If you do head to Poland what you’ll find is a country with a rich heritage and a turbulent but fascinating past shaped in part by the atrocities of World War Two. Although Poland has a lot to offer historically, it is also a destination rich in natural beauty. Lakes, mountains and beach all feature in this picturesque country – offering a break steeped in variety. WHEN TO GO Poland is a great year round destination. However the majority of visitors tend to flock to the country between June and September when open-air concerts and summer events pull the visitors in. Although Poland is magical around Christmas, few people visit the country during November and then from January through to March, as the weather tends to be colder and the days far shorter. Weather  Spring: Spring begins in March and although initially cold temperatures rise to around 20°C in the latter part of the season. This season is the best for hiking and mountain walking owing to the low humidity.  Summer: Summer starts in June and July is considered to be the hottest month of the year. The hottest place during this time is Wroclaw – which is the only place in Poland with an annual temperature of over 8°C.  Autumn: Autumn begins in September and this season is widely revered with many talking about the Polish golden autumn. This is a great time to get out into the countryside with temperatures of around 15°C in September.  Winter: Rain is common in the winter and snow is also frequent, making this season perfect for winter sports. It is not uncommon for the temperature to drop to -20°C in May.
Images: Polish sun by Sanj@y / Polish snow by Talliskeeton

THINGS TO DO From remnants of World War Two to Salt Mines and large swathes of forest, Poland is a destination which has all its bases covered. There’s something for everyone here, whatever your age, or whatever you’re looking to get from your holiday. Attractions Warsaw  Lazienki Park: The city’s largest park occupies 76 hectares and contains a palace complex  Old Town: The oldest district and one of its most prominent tourist attractions  Warsaw Uprising Museum: A museum dedicated to the uprising in 1944 contains exhibits  Powazki Cemetery: A historic cemetery featuring the graves of Chopin’s family members  Gestapo Headquarters Museum: Take an tour of the former headquarters of the gestapo Krakow  Oskar Schindler’s Factory: Museum tells the story of Schindler and the Jewish prisoners  Wawel Cathedral: A Roman Catholic church located on the top of Wawel Hill  Main Market Square: The huge 10 acre square is the largest in medieval Europe  Church of the Virgin Mary: A brick gothic building rebuilt  in the 14th century Franciscan Church: Famous for its stained glass window by Stanislaw Wyspianski

Nightlife Poland offers some of the best nightlife in Europe. Poznan is considered to be the home of electronic music and Wroclaw attracts groups of stags, but for pubs there’s nowhere better than Krakow! The city has more pubs per square metre than anywhere else on earth. Warsaw might lack behind other European capitals when it comes to places to let down your hair but although there is no area set aside for nightlife you’ll find ample bars and clubs scattered around the city. Warsaw  Bierhalle: A large microbrewery that churns out its own beer close to the city centre  Warszawska: Traditional bar serving vodka shots and herring. Popular with locals  Opera: A great nightclub housed in the cellars of the National Opera in the grand theatre  Klubokawiarnia: A laid back nightspot with a relaxed dress code and friendly bar staff  The Eve: Warsaw’s official after-party destination. This den of hedonism has plenty of stories Krakow  Piec Art: A traditional cellar bar that attracts a young academic crowd and runs jazz nights  Buddha Drink and Garden: An upmarket bar that takes inspiration from India  Goraczka Freak Club: Pop and R&B can be heard at this club which opens at 5pm  Carpe Diem I: An underground dungeon bar that plays rock until 4am in the morning  Faust Club: The largest club on the Market Square made from a collection of cellar houses

Day Trips from Poland: Poland is a large country so there are plenty of attractions to explore away from the two main cities of Krakow and Warsaw. Destinations such as Auschwitz are vital to understanding the cities past and tours regularly run from the city centre to the concentration camps. However, for the best prices it’s advisable to book in advance. Warsaw Czestochowa: This city is famous for its monastery and stronghold of Jasna Gora, which features the painting of Our Lady called Black Madonna. It is considered by many Catholics to be the spiritual centre of Poland and a popular pilgrimage spot. Duration: 6 hours

Kazimierz, Majdanek and Kozlowka: There are many trips from Warsaw that take in these three important destinations. Kazmierz is a picturesque renaissance town, whilst Majdanek was one of the largest Nazi concentration camps in Poland. The tour ends at Kozlowka, a stunning country house. Duration: 6 hours Krakow Auschwitz Birkenau: Pay a visit to the world’s most infamous Nazi concentration camp. This sobering trip takes in the UNESCO listed site, commemorating those who died during the holocaust of World War Two. A visit here is sure to have a lasting impact. Duration: 6 hours

Wieliczka: This is one of the oldest salt mines in Europe and has been around for close to 700 years. Visitors can still tour the oldest part of the mine which is open as a museum. The site features statues and chandeliers carved from rock salt, including a depiction of The Last Supper. Duration: 4 hours Dunajec River: Escape the city for a day and head out the limestone rocks of the Pieniny Mountains. Here you can spend time on a wooden raft navigating the scenic Dunajec River and taking in the scenic landscape. Duration: Full Day

Images: Old Town by Arian Zwegers / Wawel Cathedral by / Black Madonna by Jbquig / Majdanek by euroIL / Auschwitz by Ryarwood / Salt mines by Arian Zwegers / Dunajec by Hr.Icio

SHOPPING Poland’s towns offer a blend of high street shops and traditional boutiques. Shopping can be paired with sightseeing, and a visit to destinations like Neoromantic Mirowska Hall gives you the chance to enjoy the architecture at the same time as shopping. Be sure to bring home a souvenir of your stay, such as bottles of Polish vodka, amber jewellery and wicker baskets.

Shopping Areas:  Warsaw: Big name shopping malls can be found amongst small boutiques and markets  Krakow: Plenty of individual stores filled with character can be found within the city Markets:  Bazar Rozyckiego: At over 100 years’ old Warsaw’s largest market has a fascinating history  Photography Market: Discounted camera equipment on sale in Warsaw every Sunday  Kolo Bazaar: A fascinating flea market featuring antiques every weekend in Warsaw  Nowy Kleparz: This Krakow market sells everything from flowers and fruit to souvenirs  Plac Targowy Unitarg: Krakow’s largest market is open daily. Check out the Catholic icons  Plac Nowy (Krakow): Sat is for antiques, Sun clothes, but Tue & Fri see rabbits and pigeons  Stary Kleparz: Bargain prices and an excellent assortment of cheese and meats in Krakow Shopping Centres:  Arkadia: The largest shopping mall in central Europe contains 287,000m of shops in Warsaw  Blue City: Located within the capital many refer to this mall as the city within a city  FACTORY Outlet: Brands with discounts of up to 70% can be found in this Warsaw mall  Sadyba Best Mall: This mall in the capital features a 3D IMAX cinema and bowling alley  Bonarka City Centre: A giant western shopping mall in Krakow with over 270 shops  Galeria Kazimierz: The most popular mall in Krakow with 130 shops and a cinema complex  M1: Children love the dinosaur statues in this Krakow mall with over 80 stores  Zakopianka Centre: All the main brands can be found in this shopping mall to Krakow’s south
Image: Warsaw amber by Charlie Phillips

FOOD & DRINK Traditionally Polish dishes are hearty and warming. Food typically contains a lot of meat and ingredients such as sauerkraut, beetroot, sour cream and smoked sausage. The national dish is pierogi, which are dumplings traditionally stuffed with meat or sauerkraut and topped with sour cream. Popular Hotspots in Poland: Warsaw: Traditional bars sit alongside sushi restaurants, burger bars and Italian joints Krakow: The most important dish from Krakow is the bagel. Dishes have Austro-Hungarian influences

Image: Pierogi by SecretLondon123

CULTURE & ETIQUETTE The Polish are extremely strict about timekeeping and it’s considered extremely rude to not be on time, with applies to restaurant bookings as much as it does business meetings. Jaywalking, drinking in the street or other public places, and smoking in non-designated areas are all considered rude. If you’re sitting down and there are no seats left, make sure that you offer yours to any woman (unless you are one yourself!), an elderly or a disabled person, or women that are pregnant or with babies. Useful Phrases  Czesc – Hello  Ile to kosztuje? – How much is this?  Na Zdrowie – Cheers  Diezki – Thank you Dos and Don’ts  Don’t expect to receive milk in your tea. This is seen as English extravagance!  Do keep your voice down in public. Talking loudly is seen as rude and attention seeking  Don’t mention the Holocaust or World War Two in conversation  Do try the local hangover remedy – orgoki kiszone – it’s available in all good supermarkets  Don’t mix beer and vodka! Both these beverages are far stronger than they are in the UK  Do try the local food – it’s the cheapest in the EU so you can try plenty without going broke  Don’t say thank you when paying for a meal as it means keep the change. Say thanks later! Tipping Tipping is not obligatory but if you want to reward good service then 10-15% of the total is the norm in restaurants. While rounding up to the nearest five zloty is typical when tipping taxi drivers. TRANSPORT Getting Around  Car Hire: Due to high insurance premiums car hire isn’t cheap. One way hire can be arranged  Buses: Public transport runs until around 11pm. Be warned: timetables are often inaccurate  Trams: Tickets can be bought beforehand from Ruch or Relay newspaper kiosks  Metro: Warsaw is the only city in Poland to have a Metro. It consists of two lines  Trains: This is the most popular mode of transport around Poland and usually runs on time  Taxi: Cabs are plentiful in all of Poland’s major cities  Bike: As most of the country is flat Poland is an excellent place to explore by bike  Airport: There are 13 airports in Poland: Warsaw (Chopin and Warsaw-Modlin), Krakow, Katowice, Gdansk, Wroclaw, Poznan, Rzeszow, Lodz, Bydgoszcz, Szczecin, Zielona Gora and Lublin. Fare Information

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Taxis: A 15 minute journey in a taxi will cost about 50 Zloty Public transport: A single journey ticket on the buses, trams and metro is 2.40 zloty

Image: Train by Much Ramblings

HEALTH & SAFETY British Embassy in Poland – Foreign and Commonwealth Office Emergency number: 112 Police: 999 Ambulance: 998 Fire: 997 POLISH BLOGGERS: TOP TIPS Kelley Kagele - Never a Dull Day in Poland “When driving through Poland there are few things to keep in mind. It is required by law to drive with car lights on at all times, so if you do not have daytime running lights make sure you turn yours on. Poland recently opened a few toll road highways, take advantage of them! On a recent trip we went from a 7 hour drive to 5 hours! For what you pay in tolls you will more than save in gasoline. Now if you are not driving on a toll road, give yourself plenty of time to drive. Most roads are older, single lane and go through many towns, so leave early!” Garth Masters - The Warsaw That I Saw Was Not An Eyesore “My top traveller tips for Warsaw are going to be related to consumption: 1. On Chmielna Street, go to no.13 - it is a little window which almost always has customers and buy a pączek (pronounced pon-check), the traditional Polish doughnut (chocolate pudding or rose one). 2. As you eat walk up Nowy Światand Krakowskie Przedmieście, go to Przekąski zakąski opposite the beautiful Bristol Hotel and have some traditional Polish Tapas, a great cold beer, some red wine or of course good vodka.”