Our traveller Vijay Ram discovers and falls in love with Krakow and more with this 3 day Poland itinerary. Fall in love with travel with Pickyourtrail.
This Poland trip has been equal parts historical retreat to all the World War 2 locations and equal parts basking in the beauty of Krakow. Beginning from Berlin, then to Auschwitz and finally the Birkenau Nazi camps – a must visit if you want to understand the grave havoc Nazis left behind. Nazi camp had ruled most of Europe and these camps massacred almost 150,000 Jews. This a dark chapter in history that must never repeat itself.
After this informative tour, I headed to the prettiest city in Poland – Krakow. With its beautiful Wawel castle, a buzzing old market square, the St. Mary’s Basilica, art galleries, pubs, and museums around old town. Later, I tasted many Polish dishes and desserts in local restaurants.
What I loved most – the Polish hospitality. People here are so friendly and good hearted! Further this is a great trip idea for those looking to visit Europe sans the wallet strain. 😉
Handy Tips before flying to Poland
Winters are extremely cold if you’re flying anytime between December to February.
Make sure you carry local currency Polish Zloty. Euros aren’t accepted in Poland.
Veggies should be careful. It is meat-eaters’ nation and you might not find much of vegetarian dishes in most restaurants.
Learn a bit of Polish language – you can make amazing friends. I did with my broken Polish!
Be careful not to have drinks in public. It’s an offense in Poland and you may get fined.
Another rule to remember – cross the street only at proper pedestrian crossings. You may be fined otherwise.
Check out for free walking tours here. You get to meet the friendly locals and enjoy city life as well.
Poland has a well-connected public transport system. While there use the Jakdojade to plan your commute better!
Inquire about tourist cards. Cities like Krakow offer tourist cards which give you unlimited access to public transportation and free or discounted access to museums.
Top things to do in Poland
Auschwitz Concentration Camp
I visited Auschwitz camp first – one of the largest Nazi concentration camps. I’d recommend you take the guided tour – it is very informative. Entering the camp felt quite eerie – given millions of innocent lives had been taken here. Built in 1940, the camp is close to the German border and few miles from Krakow. Looking at the various torture chambers and their poor living conditions sent chills down my spine. Many of the Jew occupants suffered from diseases and died without proper medical facilities. Two more camps were built as more Jews were deported from various places in Europe. Make sure you go early and get your tickets. It would take at least one full day to cover both Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.
Tips: There are direct buses and trains from Krakow/Berlin taking you to these camps.
There will be a lot of walking and wear suitable shoes as walking is on an uneven surface.
Birkenau Concentration Camp
After completing Auschwitz camp, the next stop was Birkenau camp. Constructed in 1941, people who survived the Auschwitz camp were transferred here. Again, most of them died due to starvation and diseases. Hitler decided to kill all the Jews and Birkenau served as the perfect death chamber. Filled with poisonous gases, thousands of people were killed in the gas chambers. Crematoriums were also constructed for the victims. It was disturbing seeing the conditions under which the Jews suffered at the hand of Nazis. Very few words can describe being in those camps – never have I seen and felt so much sadness and desperation. The guides are very informative and the museum itself is very tastefully and respectfully done.
Tip: Allow yourself an entire day for this experience. Give this site the respect and time it deserves because it is something that will forever be etched in your memory.
I headed next to Krakow and was lucky enough to secure a 5-star hotel to stay for cheap. Next day I set off on my Krakow city tour. A 15-minute-walk from the old town, my first stop was Wawel castle. Located in the heart of Krakow, the castle looked magnificent from the outside. A beautiful marriage of Romanesque, Renaissance and Gothic architecture, the Wawel castle is actually considered one of Krakow’s architectural jewels!
Inside, the castle is divided into several museums and you must purchase a ticket for each exhibition. You get to soak up the history of Krakow – worth spending at least 2-3 hours here. Here, definitely check out:
Crown Treasury and Armory – Here, you can catch a glimpse of Poland’s very own crown jewels. The highlight here is Szczerbiec – Poland’s original coronation sword.
The Lost Wawel – An archaeological and architectural reserve, you can peek a look at stonework, tiles dating back to the Renaissance period.
Dragon’s Den – A legendary cave that sits on the western slope of the Wawel hill. Quite a collection of stories about this place – go hear it yourselves!
Tip: On Mondays up until 1 pm, free admissions are available for the armory and Lost Wawel attractions. From November 1, free admissions change to 10 am – 4 pm on Sundays. More info here.
Old Market Square
A must visit to experience the hustle of the city and the Polish life. With a beautiful Renaissance Hall, ancient houses, quaint streets, and lots of museums, cafes, and restaurants; there is so much to see and do around the square. I visited the Cloth Hall, Rynek Underground, St. Marys Basilica and hit some of the local bars and restaurants. It’s best to walk around, learn about the history of the city and shop for local souvenirs. The people around here are very friendly and won’t mind helping out if you ever feel lost. It was really safe and I even roamed around till midnight. Even the nights are colourful with fountain lights and street music playing in the background.
Tip: Don’t miss out on local food and drinks in the Old Market Square. Rates are also very cheap.
Royal Horse Ride
It was one of my most cherished memories of Krakow. Although it costs around 100 Zloty, it is worth the ride. The more company, the better, as costs can be shared. Majority of the carriages and the horses are in top notch shape. Aboard the carriage, I felt like a king riding around Krakow. A nice way to end your day, watch the old town come to life with its ancient buildings and city when you take this ride at night.
Wroclaw, Warsaw, and Gdansk: As I had clubbed my Poland trip along with Berlin it was a short 2-day-trip. Poland has other beautiful cities such as Wroclaw, Warsaw, Gdansk which can be planned along for another 3 days. History lovers have lots to see around these cities and enrich their knowledge about world war 2 and ancient glory.
Food to Try in Poland
Traditional Polish dumplings filled with meat, fruits, potato, and vegetables.
Also called Rasol, a chicken soup with vegetables
Mostly with pork, rice, and onion wrapped up deliciously.
I tried the cheesy one with fruits and jam mixed. Not bad!
National drink of Polish people, local vodkas are available to try out.
Zywiec & Okocim
Some local beers worth a try!
Best Time to Visit
April to September would be ideal as the weather is warm/hot and pleasant. Winters are extremely cold and might not suit most travelers.
Signing off with few beautiful memories of Poland ~
Vijay is a techie, globetrotter, a bookworm with an endless bucket list. Began with a trip to Asia with his friends, he has travelled across Africa, Middle East, United Kingdom and Europe. 39 countries and counting.