“You’re upside down; I’m in the air” – Rapid Eye Movement.
Travel blogs blur into one eventually and we get bored of the same old places being hyped and written about. You know how it goes – it’s the 80-20 rule as always. 20% of Poland’s cities attract 80% of travel blog articles – we are talking the top 10 here, and it bores the Hel(l peninsula) out of most of us when it becomes way too commonplace and predictable, you’ve read about all of these many times over…
Warszawa, Kraków, Gdańsk, Poznań, Bydgoszcz, Łódź , Zakopane, Rzeszów, Lublin, Katowice.
Let’s turn the top 10 upside down and force them to move over for a day, bring the new kids into this tourism game…
“Slowly my soul evaporates” – Nicky Wire.
Yes I have visited most of those top 10 places and love them too, don’t get me wrong, BUT I prefer when I head out into the unknown and cover a place nobody else heard of, or even photographed, or slashtagged, or wrote about (aside of course from Polish people, and the occasional tourist). In many ways, this passion inspired my global travel blog as I ventured to unknown countries in days of yore. Here in Poland, this site might not even exist if it wasn’t for my trips to Starogard Gdański, Pelplin and Tczew. So with the help of some other cool Polish based travel bloggers, here are 10 places in Poland, you might not have heard of and why you should visit them! Thanks to everyone who contributed! Get your backpack on and exploragate these off the wall locations!
“Off the wheaten craic” – Northern Irish for ‘off the beaten track’.
Submitted by Anda from The Twisted Red Ladybug
What is it? A town with 25,000 people.
Where is it? Southern Poland, Silesia
Located in southern Poland, Pszczyna might not be the most obvious place to visit when touring Poland, it is even a difficult city to pronounce! The town of Pszczyna is in the Silesian Voivodeship; previously a part of the Katowice Voivodeship (another city that is not that popular yet it is filled with branches of international corporations).
Pszczyna is perfect for a one-day trip, as it comprises many locations that would provide fun for each taste: you can have the ladies enjoying the Pszczyna Castle (baroque castle with 19th century decor), the kids can go see how the bisons are being fed (at the European Bison Open Air Muzeum – Pokazowa Zagroda Zubrow) or enjoy sightseeing the open air ethnographic park. The men can relax and have a local beer
I, for one, absolutely loved Pszczyna – also know as “The Pearl of Princess Daisy”. The Castle reminded me both of Versailles and of the large house in the series Downton Abbey. The owner of the Castle was Daisy Hochberg von Pleas nee Mary Theresa Olivia Cornwallis West (ain’t that a mouth full!). There are even concerts inside, so you might wanna catch that! that’s a secret tip! Either way I am sure you will enjoy Pszczyna immensely!
Read more on The Twisted Red Ladybug
Submitted by Jonny, Northern Irishman in Poland
What is it? A city with 113,000 people.
When I visited Włocławek in September 2018, it was my 70th different Polish settlement to visit, and a city which really surprised me. With a plethora of sights, and a complete lack of tourists, this is a city which is truly begging to be found. Eagerly, I donned my backpack and headed here with my Polish friend Julia. It was an action packed weekend in the city the Lonely Planet neglected.
If I can convince even one person reading to go backpacking in Włocławek, I’ll feel satisfied. From the quirky arty cafe Mistrz i Małgorzata to the riverside views to the Polish champions basketball stadium, this is a real gem of a place. It even has an airport where you can watch sky divers in action. The saddest part of the tour of Włocławek however has to be when I saw the Cross and tribute to Jerzy Popiełuszko, the Polish priest brutally murdered in 1984.
Read more on Ulsterczyk w Polsce
3.Wilczy Szaniec (Wolfschanze, Wolf’s Lair)
Submitted by David from Chido Fajny
What is it? The place where Hitler and Nazi Germans hid, lived and planned during World War II
Where is it? Northern Poland in Masury, near Kętrzyn
Living in Poland, it is essential to understand the brutal history that took places in this land. Let’s just say that 1944 was a pivotal moment in Warsaw’s history and that the German Death camps such as Stutthof, Majdanek and Auschwitz are grim reminders of Nazi German evil. Innocent Polish and Jewish people were killed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi War machine. Head into the lonely forest at Gierłoż in Kętrzyn County and come face to base with the man himself. 🙁
Wilczy Szaniec (Polish) is Wolfschanze in German, and Wolf’s Lair in English. Adolf Hitler nicknamed himself the Wolf, and this grotesque place was the location where he hid, and planned murders for over 800 days during the Second World War. Despite the huge importance and significance of Wilczy Szaniec, it remains unbackpacked by many. Polish based blogger David (aka Chido-Fajny, Mexican in Poland) and myself (Northern Irishman in Poland) both made a visit to explore, both coming away with a sense of peace and freedom from a venue where Hitler lived, planned, and also escaped an assassination attempt.
It’s a truly hard place to smile in, and one for a cold, windy Autumn day. You can get a guided tour, or walk around yourself. It can be done on a day trip, or you can also stay overnight in nearby Kętrzyn.
Read more on Chido Fajny
Submitted by Jonny from Northern Irishman in Poland
What is it? The capital of the Kociewie region, a town of 48,000 people.
When I first headed to the (at the time unknown to me) city of Starogard Gdański in 2016, I really didn’t know what to expect. It was my first real off the wall adventure in Poland (since I count Łeba, Sopot and Gdynia as fairly mainstream). This shining light is the pearl of Kociewie, a region which boasts its own dialect and culture. It’s the regional capital and entices the intrepid tourist with its intriguing curiosities, as I discovered.
Starogard Gdański contains an island inside the city. This island boasts a football stadium named after Polish World Cup hero Kazik Deyna, plus a top division basketball side and a traditional Polish hotel. Away from that, Browar Kociewski here is one of the best breweries in Poland, and the Sobieski Vodka distillery is also here. The city has some great quirky local bars and cafes too including Małe Piwko, Browar Stary Rynek and Dzienna Dawka Kawiarnia.
Read more on Northern Irishman in Poland – Starogard Gdański
Submitted by Doreen from Indian Girl in Poland
What is it? A village of 2,100 people
Where is it? Southern Poland, near to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska
A small mountain village in southern Poland sounds like pure bliss, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what you get when you visit Lanckorona, a tranquil and quaint little spot which comes highly recommended as a non-touristic spot. Especially for foreign tourists. Yes, locals are aware of it and they come to visit it, but mainstream tourism hasn’t quite taken off here yet. The town itself sits very close to the famous UNESCO world heritage site at Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, so it makes for a great double header visit.
Doreen Pinto, the Indian Girl in Poland and I both visited this cool place and came away wondering why it isn’t more popular. On Doreen’s blog you can read all about her day trip to Lanchorona. The town itself has a pretty main square (Rynek) which has some market stalls in the busier months. Nearby, there is the town church which sits atop a hill, looking down on the town. Lanckorona sits on the Skawinka river, among the hills of the Besciady mountains at a lofty 545 metres above sea level. It was established during the 12th and 13th centuries by Germans who built a small castle on a hill. During the 14th century, King Kazimierz Wielki (Kasimir the Great) improved the fortress and made it a stronghold. You can now visit the remains of the fortress.
Aside from this, the town has some cool restaurants and cafes. I toured with my friend Aleksandra and we had coffee and played scrabble on the main Rynek (square) at Cafe Pensjonat and enjoyed a tasty lunch in the quirky animal themed restaurant, which is called Arka Cafe.
In terms of getting to Lanckorona, there is no train station or large bus station here so mostly you will need your own transport. This applies to a few of the places on this list.
Read more on Indian Girl in Poland – Lanckorona
Submitted by Jonny at Northern Irishman in Poland
What is it? A town of 10,000.
Where is it? Northern Poland in the Masury region, blisko Olsztyn
A cold winter snowstorm calmed my soul in January 2017 when I backpacked my way to little known Biskupiec. The town will always hold a place in my heart as this was the first ever live town I toured under my new Northern Irishman in Poland moniker. I had no idea that people would read my stories. At the time, I had a mere 54 Facebook fans and about 10 page views on the website (mostly myself and my Mum!). But Biskupiec acted as a game changer. The local media promoted my visit and I spent a full weekend in this tranquil town in Poland’s ‘Lake District’, the Masuria Province.
In terms of sights, the main square and the lake were my highlights, as well as my nights in the bars around town. There are two nice churches and a district known as the Zatorze, which I also toured. You can also try local beer (Kormoran) and the pierogi in Na Rynku restaurant and bar (Bar in the Square).
Read more on Northern Irishman in Poland – Biskupiec
Submitted by Lois from Polish Housewife
What is it? An island with beaches, parks, cities and villages on it
Where is it? Western Poland, right by the Germany border
It’s time to put an island on the list. And what better or more interesting island than Wolin…
Wolin boasts a national park, a nudist beach and is the gateway to Germany; the border lying on the adjacent island of Usedom. Wolin also sits on Poland’s stretch of the Baltic Sea, providing the visitor with no shortage of gorgeous sandy beaches, especially in and around Międzyzdroje.
Lois from the Polish Housewife also enjoyed the stunning relaxation of Wolin and you can play golf here. Finally, I infamously did my nudist beach visit on Wolin, losing my clothes and inhibitions at Lubiewo in 2017 after the reader poll voted for it. Close your eyes.
Read more on Polish Housewife – Wolin
Submitted by Jonny from Northern Irishman in Poland
What is it? A city of 60,000 people.
Where is it? In the Kociewie region of Pomorskie, sitting on the banks of Poland’s longest river, the Wisła
When I visited Tczew for the first time in July 2016, I had no idea of the thrills that lay within. Inspired by my once travel friend Karolinka Bueller, I headed to Tczew and Pelplin for 4 days of fun. Tczew has so many curiosities, I was intrigued from the offset. A genuine and rare 5 sailed windmill sits on one of the city’s main streets, murals aplenty, Poland’s best Wisła River Museum are three of Tczew’s surprises.
However, as much as the river side view is marvellous, the historic relevance and sadness will never leave you here. The long bridge in Tczew is the ill-fated place where World War II really began, not in Westerplatte as many believe. The bridge here was bombed a few minutes before the attacks in Gdansk.
Read more on backpacking in Tczew
9.The Crooked Forest (Krzywy Las)
Submitted by Karolina Klesta from Karolina and Patryk
What is it? A wacaday Forest with crazy twisted trees!
Where is it? West side baby almost in Deutschland.
Poland has a crazy “crooked forest”, which is known as Krzywy Las. This is a truly unique place in world terms and one of the hidden gems of Eastern Europe. The forest is in the western Pomorskie Province and is located near to Nowe Czarnowo in West Pomerania, Poland. The forest houses this crazy crooked section, which is an arbor of roughly 400 pine trees. These trees, which were planted around 1930, all bend 90 degrees at their base. It is not an optical illusion, check it out…
Despite the mystifying C-shaped tree bases, they remain healthy, loud and tall. Tree experts have reported that something unusual occurred during the growth of the trees, which resulted in such a wacky, peculiar and unorthodox appearance. Bring your camera and be ready for the obscure.
Read more on Karolina Patryk – Krzywy Las
Submitted by Jonny from Northern Irishman in Poland
What is it? A town of 8,320 people.
Where is it? Near Tczew in the Kociewie region of Poland’s Pomorskie Province
I’ve been a bit biased here by including a third Kociewie based location! It is probably my favourite mini region of Poland, and I have visited the area at least once a year, writing a lot about it. So how could I neglect the holiness of Pelplin?! This is the town which houses one of only 19 original Gutenberg Bibles, in the town’s Diocesan Museum.
Another reason I have to include Pelplin on this list is for the holy aspect of it. Aside from the glorious Cathedral and Pelplin Abbey, I made the pilgrimage walk to Pope John Paul II Hill on the edge of town. Here sits a huge cross in deep and peaceful Polish countryside. A fitting tribute to the man himself, at a location where he once performed a rousing speech. Stay in the town’s only hotel – Hotel Nad Wierzyca.
Read more on Northern Irishman in Poland – Pelplin
Thanks to Doreen, David, Anda, Lois and Karolina for their contributions to this post!
So I hope this is some travel inspiration for you to escape the normal, popular haunts in Poland and head to these super places of intrigue. Just missing out on the list are these cool places…
Zalipie – a village of flower art
Nieciecza – a village of 750 people which houses a 4,500 Polish top flight football club
Kokoszkowy – rural charm in Kociewie
Swidnica – UNESCO listed church of awe and the embassy of San Escobar
“Waddle doesn’t need light for inspiration” – English football commentator.