Poland, located in Central Europe, is a lesser-known destination for many European tourists. However, it offers a rich experience for history, culture, architecture, and nature enthusiasts.
But, if you’re wondering where to spend a weekend in Poland, then this article will provide you with some ideas for cities to visit during a 2-3 day trip.
1. Krakow: a vibrant city with a rich history
Krakow is a city located in southern Poland on the banks of the Vistula River. It is full of interesting places to visit, such as the market square and its splendid Saint Mary’s Basilica, the lively Jewish district of Kazimierz, which is rich in bars and street art, the huge Wawel Castle and its cathedral, the historical center and its pedestrian streets, numerous museums, Oskar Schindler’s Factory which has been transformed into a fascinating museum, and the former concentration camp of Plaszow, part of whose history was retold in Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List.
Krakow is also close to the magnificent Wieliczka Salt Mines, an underground exploration through caves decorated with salt statues, lakes, and chapels buried underground.
You can also visit a place of memory, the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, which is a very powerful visit that will leave you with deep memories.
Krakow is also full of great places to go out, to eat, or to have a gourmet break.
I would highly recommend this city if you want to have a well-balanced weekend of culture, walks, and relaxation. The locals are very welcoming, and you can easily adapt your itinerary, whether you come for three days or longer.
How to get there? Krakow has an international airport, so you can fly there from many countries. The website Omio allows you to compare prices and schedules between the different means of transportation available.
Where to stay? The list of my favorite places to stay in Krakow includes the Unicus Hotel, the Unicus Palace, the Sky Hotel, the Hotel 32, and the Wentzl. All of them are centrally located in the historic center.
A few must-see activities to book ahead of your trip:
- A visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp
- A visit to the Wieliczka salt mines with transfer from Krakow and an English-speaking guide
- A guided tour of Wawel Castle in English
2. Gdansk and Sopot: gateway to the Baltic Sea
Gdansk is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland, located in the Pomerania region on the Baltic Sea in the north of the country. Its origins date back to the 12th-13th century, when the merchant cities of Northern Europe formed an alliance called the Hanseatic League. Gdansk boasts stunning architecture, with light-colored facades lining canals and river branches.
There are three districts to explore:
- The oldest, “The Capital” (Glowne Miasto), was once mainly occupied by Germans when the city was called Danzig and was part of Prussia.
- The Old Town (Stare Miasto) was mainly inhabited by Poles.
- The Old Suburb (Stare Przedmiescie) was attached to the historic center in the 14th century.
Take a stroll around the Long Market Square, which is full of restaurants and stores. You can visit a high-quality museum about the Second World War, opened in 2017, which is one of the most comprehensive in Europe on the subject. Gdansk was not chosen by chance as the location of this museum; it was where the first attacks of the conflict took place on September 1, 1939. There are many other museums of interest such as the National Museum, Maritime Museum, and Artus Court, which is dedicated to local history.
Gdansk also has a beautiful Gothic church, St. Mary’s, an exciting Amber Museum (housed in a former prison), an air-conditioned Ferris wheel (AmberSky) to enjoy an aerial view of the city, and two parks to enjoy nature: Orunski Park and Ronald Reagan Park.
If that’s not enough, you can easily visit the nearby town of Sopot, just 15-20 minutes away by train. It’s a popular seaside resort in Poland, and if you’re in the mood for beaches, this is the place to go. The Oliwski Park, Gdansk Zoo, the pier, and pedestrian streets are among the must-see attractions.
As you can see, there’s plenty to occupy a weekend in Poland, especially if you can go for 4 or 5 days, like during a long weekend!
How to get there? Gdansk has an international airport. You can also fly to Warsaw, then take the train to Gdansk. To compare flight prices, check out the Omio website. For train schedules and travel times, visit the E-Podroznik website, and enter “Warsaw” as the departure point and “Gdansk” as the arrival point. The fastest trains take about 2 hours and 36 minutes for the journey.
Where to stay? In Gdansk, some good options include:
- The Hanza, a friendly 4-star hotel located on the Motlawa river, which offers a massage service on site
- The Puro, a hotel that allows you to visit most places of interest on foot
- The Grano Old Town, a hotel with a swimming pool, located close to everything, and featuring an indoor swimming pool and a jacuzzi
- The Sadova, a 4-star hotel with a swimming pool, a bit farther away, but with very nice decor
Activities to book before your weekend:
- 1 hour and 10 minutes river cruise on the local river, the Motlawa, which allows you to discover the shipyard, the monuments and the history of the city.
- Visit to the Stutthof concentration camp, built by the Nazis, where more than 110,000 people were deported.
- Visit to Malbork Castle – To the southeast of Gdansk, Malbork is home to a gigantic UNESCO World Heritage castle, considered to be one of the largest castles in the world today.
3. Wroclaw: a hidden gem in Poland, unknown to many tourists
Located in the southern part of the country, Wroclaw is an ideal destination for a weekend trip to Poland lasting 2 or 3 days. The historic center is charming, with its colorful facades, cathedral, and numerous churches that offer magnificent views of the city. Visitors can also explore some interesting museums, such as the National Museum of Art, the Hydropolis Museum – dedicated to water – installed in an underground reservoir, and another one dedicated to old computers and video games.
Wroclaw is also a perfect destination for nature lovers. The city boasts a beautiful botanical garden, a large park called Szczytnicki Park that’s great for walking, and a huge multimedia fountain that offers sound and light shows.
By taking the train, visitors can also take a day trip to a nearby town and visit the splendid Ksiaz Castle, which played a significant role during World War II, as the Nazis constructed a vast underground network of tunnels and secret rooms known as the “Riese Project” in the area.
Another excursion that’s worth a detour is crossing the border to the nearby Czech Republic to see Adršpach-Teplice Rocks Park, which I loved visiting for its beautiful natural surroundings.
How to get there? There are a few direct flights to Wroclaw, or flights with layovers in cities such as Warsaw or Amsterdam. You can compare prices on Omio for the best options.
Great hotels in Wroclaw – In the city center, you can find the Puro Stare Miasto and The Monopol Wrocław, which both offer excellent amenities like a beautiful swimming pool and terrace. Additionally, The Grand City is perfect for those who want to explore the historical center by foot. For those on a tighter budget, you can check out the Korona Hotel, which offers reasonable prices if you book your room in advance, or B&B Wrocław Centrum, which is centrally located and affordable.
Activities to book before your trip:
- Take a 2-hour tour of Wroclaw in English via an electric car to see the highlights;
- Visit Auschwitz-Birkenau from Wroclaw: While it’s recommended to go to Auschwitz from Krakow, it’s still possible to visit the camp from Wroclaw which is a bit further away;
- Guided tour of the Riese project and Ksiaz castle
- Excursion to the Adrspach park and rocks in the Czech Republic
4. Torun: a walled city and the birthplace of Copernicus
Although there are not many places to visit in Torun, they are all interesting and more than enough to keep you busy for a weekend in Poland! You can discover the local castle, dating back to the 13th century. Although it is largely in ruins, you can easily read the explanatory panels with the help of Google Translate in photo mode, making for a very interesting dive into history.
There are also several interesting museums to explore, including the gingerbread museum with gingerbread-making and tasting, the house where Copernicus was born with a modern and interactive exhibit, and the ethnographic museum (Muzeum Etnograficzne), which allows you to immerse yourself in the life of the local people in the past.
Additionally, you can walk along the banks of the Vistula River, climb to the top of the City Hall tower to enjoy the view, or visit the “Invisible House”, which aims to simulate the experience of being blind with the support of a guide. It’s a very memorable experience!
How to get there? There is no airport in Torun. You can fly into Gdansk (and combine the visit to both cities), Poznan, or Warsaw (which is further away) depending on the flights available from your place of residence (you can compare prices and schedules here). From there, you can take the train using the E-Podroznik website to find the timetable.
Where to stay in Torun – You can easily find well-located hotels in the center of Torun. For instance, check out the Eter Hotel, which is within walking distance of everything. The Spichrz, also located in the old town, is a great option, and the Solaris and Gotyk are also situated close to everything.
Activities to book before your weekend in Poland
- Explore Torun with a private guide: discover the must-see spots of the old town, the best addresses for restaurants and bars, and hear fascinating anecdotes about the history of Torun.
5. Zakopane: breathe in the mountain air
Zakopane is a charming town in southern Poland, at the foothills of the Tatras, the mountain range that separates the country from its neighbor, Slovakia. It is a popular ski resort for Poles and offers numerous opportunities for hikes, discovery of the local wooden architecture, and relaxing in thermal baths. Additionally, you can find delicious food here at reasonable prices.
In the vicinity, you can walk to Morskie Oko, a glacial lake that was ranked by the Wall Street Journal as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. You can also take the Kasprowy Wierch cable car or the Gubalowka funicular to enjoy a stunning view of the mountains.
How to get there? The easiest way is to take a bus or train from Krakow (where the nearest international airport is), which will take about 2.5 hours. You can also book an excursion to Zakopane from Krakow that includes access to the thermal baths.
Where to stay in Zakopane? The beautiful Aries Hotel has a spa, while The Sabala is located in the heart of the resort. Another option is The Grand Hotel Stamary, which is close to everything and has a beautiful swimming pool.
6. A weekend in Warsaw, the capital
To be honest with you, Warsaw is not necessarily my favorite city in Poland. I find it a bit “cold” and prefer Krakow in terms of atmosphere. Nevertheless, it is a very interesting city to visit and ideal for a long weekend, and you can even stay longer.
The city was heavily impacted during World War II but has been largely rebuilt and is now very beautiful, especially the central square, Rynek Starego Miasta, which is lined with colorful facades. Warsaw has plenty of great museums to visit, such as the Palace of Culture and Science, the Museum of the Uprising, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the National Museum of Warsaw which is dedicated to art, the Chopin Museum, the Neon Museum, and the Museum of the Polish Army.
There are also beautiful parks to enjoy, such as Molotowskie Park, Ujazdowski Park, Lazienki Park, Szczęśliwicki Park, and Saxon Garden. You can visit the Royal Castle, the famous zoo, and an old Jewish cemetery which is one of the largest in Europe. In short, you will definitely not be bored!
How to get to Warsaw? As the capital of Poland, Warsaw is often easy to reach by plane from many cities (see flight offers here).
Where to stay in Warsaw – The Nobu is a very stylish hotel with a wellness area. The Nyx is well-served by the metro and offers a comfortable stay. The Warszawa has a very nice indoor swimming pool. The Intercontinental is located in a skyscraper and offers a swimming pool with a breathtaking view of the city. For those on a tight budget, the Motel One offers excellent value for money.
Some activities to book before your weekend in Warsaw
- Traditional boat cruise on the Vistula River;
- Chopin recital in the old town;
- Guided tour of the former Warsaw Ghetto, including the only synagogue that survived the war;
- Private walking tour customizable according to your desires, to discover the old town of Warsaw with an English-speaking guide.
7. Poznan, the croissant capital (oui oui !)
Poznan is an amazing city for those who want to explore beyond the classic tourist destinations.
The market square is beautiful, with splendid facades that will delight photographers. In Poznan, there are monuments that you can’t miss, such as the Basilica and Archcathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, the Imperial Castle, and the Royal Castle. Additionally, there are also interesting and sometimes surprising museums to explore. For example, the National Museum or the Croissant Museum (which may sound like something you would find in France, but it is actually a local tradition that has been around for more than 150 years!).
The city is also connected to nature, featuring an artificial lake called Malta Lake, which was created following the flooding of the area by an old channel built by prisoners under the Nazi regime. You can do various sports activities here, including jogging, swimming, etc. There is also a water park, a zoo, and a small winter sports station (ideal for beginners or children). Other parks in and around the city worth visiting include Woodrow Wilson Park, the Citadel Park, and the Morasko Meteorite Nature Reserve, which houses meteorite craters.
How to get there? There is an international airport in Poznan so depending where you live, you may find direct flights or flights with stopovers (often in Amsterdam or Munich). You can check flight offers here.
Where to stay in Poznan – For 4-star accommodation, check out the Puro Poznań Stare Miasto, the boutique hotel with room service City Solei, and the Liberte 33 BW, all very well-located. For 3-star options, the B&B Hotel Poznań Old Town and the Hampton By Hilton are also great choices.
Activities to book in Poznan:
- Take a tour of the Old Town in an electric shuttle bus with an audio guide in English to get a basic understanding of the city and find your way around.
In 2019, before Covid, Poland welcomed approximately 16 million tourists during its peak season, including over 5 million Germans, 2 million Ukrainians, and only 450,000 French visitors. After the start of the war in Ukraine, the country also welcomed a significant number of refugees, which caused concern for some tourists who preferred to change their travel plans and choose other destinations.
Nonetheless, Poland is still considered a safe country as I write this article. It has a lot to offer in terms of cultural and natural attractions, with welcoming locals and a much lower cost of living compared to France, for example. This allows travelers to fully enjoy their stay in Poland on a reasonable budget or even splurge on luxury hotels while keeping expenses under control. A considerable advantage!
By the way, I have one last piece of advice for you: when booking a hotel for your weekend in Poland, consider looking at higher-end establishments than those you usually frequent. You might be surprised to find “affordable” 5-star hotels with beautiful places to discover!
Hello! I am on maternity leave until summer 2023. I take this time to focus on my family so the comments are temporarily closed on the site :)