6 Reasons to Visit Poland
Imagine you’re laying down on a sandy, pristine beach. It’s midday, the sun’s beating down, and all you can hear are the sounds of waves gently lapping against the shore. Despite the weather and the crystal-clear water, the beach is practically deserted. The fine, sun-bleached sand, which stretches for miles in either direction, is upset only by a lone fishing boat and, bizarrely, a couple of tractors.
So, where are you? (No cheating by looking at the title of this piece) Jamaica? Or Hawaii, perhaps? Or maybe even Fiji? After all, such scenery must belong somewhere in the Caribbean or the Pacific, mustn’t it?
Not necessarily. We were amazed to discover that this landscape actually belonged to Poland, of all places. And this was just one of many surprises the country had hidden up its sleeve.
Often seen exclusively as a destination for stag dos and visits to Auschwitz, we found a whole host of reasons to leave Krakow and the south behind and, instead, head to the North of Poland. From the food to the beer, to the architecture to the prices, here are our reasons why you should seriously consider Poland as the destination of choice for your next European break.
Mention Poland and alcohol in the same sentence and you’ll probably think of two things: vodka and shot glasses. After all, vodka is integral to the country’s history. In fact, one form of the drink, known as Żubrówka (vodka flavoured with bison grass — try it, if you haven’t already), has been around for more than 600 years. That’s plenty of time for shots.
However, over the past couple of decades Poland has seen a surge in something entirely different: microbreweries; all of whom have been producing their very own ranges of ales and lagers.
We had a look around Browar Gościszewo, one of the country’s oldest microbreweries, and loved their unpasteurised Pils, although there are hundreds of other craft beers and ales to try.
WE RECOMMEND: If you’re visiting Gdansk, try the Hotel Gdansk, which boasts its own in-house microbrewery linking directly to the bar’s beer tap. Price for a pint: £1.50
London’s oldest Polish restaurant, Daquise, may have first opened its doors in 1947 but, on the whole, Polish food has yet to make a big impact in the UK. Which is great news for anybody looking to try something new. Some of the traditional dishes you need to try include:
– PIEROGI: No Polish menu would be complete without these little dumplings, served either baked of fried. Typical fillings include either ground meat, potato, sauerkraut, or cheese;
– BORSCHT: A type of clear, strained beetroot soup, often served with uszka (mini mushroom-filled dumplings) – a classic central European dish;
– DUCK: Commonly served roasted with groats (i.e. hulled and cooked grains), duck is one of the many game meats served across the country;
– SERNIK: Sernik, or polish cheesecake, is made from curd cheese, resulting in a very light filling. Definitely worth a try.
WE RECOMMEND: If you’re hiring a car and visiting the beach, try the Ewa Zaprasza, which is located in Sasino, just beside the coast. Price for a three course meal: £10 – £15.
Of course, no trip to Poland would be complete without taking in at least some of the country’s history; and there’s not exactly a lack of it. The atrocities committed during the Second World War—including the holocaust, the uprising, and the general wide scale destruction—remain subjects of immense historical significance. However, equally pertinent are the events of 25 years ago, when Poland finally became independent of the Soviet Union.
Museums, events, and exhibitions have been springing up all over the place to commemorate this landmark date. This is particularly true of Gdansk, where the Solidarity movement first came about in the early ’80s.
You can also check out the Gingerbread Museum in Toruń, Europe’s only fully operating gingerbread bakery that was established back in the 16th century. It’s rather, erm, different!
WE RECOMMEND: The European Solidarity Centre, Gdansk. This newly-opened permanent exhibition is a must-see for anybody interested in Poland’s recent history. Highlights include a recreation of a ’50s Polish living room. Ticket price: £3
Like ‘Sahara’ and ‘snow’ or ‘McDonald’s’ and ‘healthy’, the words ‘Poland’ and ‘beach’ don’t exactly go together easily. In fact, they seem completely unsuited to one another. This, however, is something that needs to change, because Poland has some great beaches.
Like the one east of Gdansk. Or the particularly good spot north of Gdynia, near the town of Debki, where the fine white sun-bleached sand stretches for miles in both directions, and the water is shallow and clear, if a little cold.
The best thing about Polish beaches, however (at the moment, at least), are the relatively small number of tourists. We’ve no doubt that this will change as word gets out but, for the time being, most of the beaches are relatively pristine. Just make sure you don’t tell anybody else about them. Mum’s the word.
WE RECOMMEND: The beach at Debki, north of Gdynia, where you can sunbathe on the white sand before taking a stroll through the nearby pine woods. Accessibility isn’t too easy, though, so you’ll probably need a hire car.
Unlike most of mainland Europe, Poland hasn’t yet joined the Euro, which means two things: firstly, you’ll end up constantly working out the złoty-to-pound rate (around five złotys to one pound, conveniently) and, secondly, and most importantly – everything is really cheap.
As you can probably tell by the prices we’ve already given you, Poland is a lot cheaper than the UK. The average price for a pint is around £1.50, a meal at a restaurant costs around £10, and a swanky hotel room is equally reasonable. During our time in Warsaw, for instance, we stayed in the H15 Boutique, one of the most luxurious hotels in Poland, for £70 per night. That’s barely half the price of a night at Greenwich Travelodge.
One thing that’s often overlooked when discussing Poland is its broad range of architecture. From the brutalist architecture of Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science to the medieval church-filled city of Torun, Poland has architecture in spades.
WE RECOMMEND: Two particular highlights are the ‘old town’ areas of Warsaw and Gdansk, both of which were rebuilt significantly using original blueprints and photographs following their destruction in the Second World War.
So there you have it 6 fantastic reasons to give Poland a try next year. Miłej podróży!