A Backpacker’s Route: Poland

If you ask someone whose never been to Poland what it’s like, they’ll tell you it’s all industrial and drab. And sure, in certain areas it is, but for the most part Poland is beautiful. What people don’t know is that Poland is home to quite an array of different landscapes: cobbled cities, snow-capped mountains, golden sand beaches, forests and lakes. This 2-3 week backpacking route around Poland encompasses all of those cityscapes and landscapes.

Wrocław, part of Poland since 1945, sits in the south-west corner of the country. The city is abuzz with university students and quirky bars, but also steeped in history, full of museums, churches and cathedrals, and a cobbled Old Town. (2 days)

Wrocław Town Hall backpacking poland
Wrocław’s Town Hall by night.

From Wrocław, you can head into the forested mountains surrounding the small village of Karpacz. There’s not much up there except for a small castle and some nature trails, but it’s a good place to find peace and quiet. We journeyed up there to the winter venue of the Angloville programme, located right next door to the Czech border. (2-3 days, or 5 if you’re attending Angloville)

castle near Karpacz backpacking poland
The view from the castle near Karpacz.

Retrace your steps back through Wrocław and head to one of Poland’s oldest and most touristic cities, Kraków. Put on your World War II history hat and explore the Jewish Quarter (the former ghettos), Oskar Schindler’s Factory, and Auschwitz. (2 days)

Kraków Art backpacking poland
As well as history, Kraków is also full of plenty of art, which can be found along the streets in the Old Town.

Flee the busy city for the snow-capped Tatra Mountains in Zakopane. If you’re keen for hiking then get a map and set off to Kościelec, a peak on the border of Solvakia in the High Tatras. If you’re not fond of walking, you can take a gondola up there for 40 PLN (£8). (3 days)

Kościelec Poland backpacking poland
Me standing, staring in awe on top of Kościelec. It certainly wasn’t an easy hike up in all that ice and snow, but it was worth it.

Pass back through Kraków on the way to Poland’s capital city, Warsaw. Walk along the Royal Road to take in the castle before stopping for coffee in one of the many boutique cafés lining the streets. After that, I unfortunately couldn’t wait to get out of the gloomy streets of Warsaw and I wouldn’t suggest a visit except for the fact it’s positioned bang in the middle of Poland. (2 days)

Gdańsk houses backpacking poland
Warsaw was lame, so here’s a picture of Gdańsk.

Gdańsk, gorgeous Gdańsk, is a sight for sore eyes after Warsaw. The city is one of three adjacent cities which make up Poland’s tri-city area. Amble, breakfast, drink wine and enjoy the atmosphere in Gdańsk before taking a tram to the golden sand beach that connects it to the other two cities, Sopot and Gdynia. (4-5 days for the tri-cities)

Beach between Gdańsk and Sopot backpacking poland
Did you ever expect a beach like this to be in Poland!? I sure didn’t!
Gdynia backpacking poland
A view of Gdynia in the distance from Westerplatte.

You can also take a day-trip to the small but beautiful Malbork. Despite what local advertisers would have you believe, one day is more than enough in Malbork – although the largest Teutonic castle in the world should not be missed. (1 day)

Malbork Castle backpacking poland
Malbork is home to this huge Teutonic castle which you can wander around for hours.

After our first taste of travelling in Poland, we’ve already planned another trip. The Polish were so welcoming towards backpackers and we stayed with some really lovely couchsurfers, so we can’t wait to return. Next time we visit we’re keen to take a road-trip down through Latvia and Lithuania and around the lakes in Poland’s north-east side. Ending, of course, with another visit to Gdańsk. We’ve also heard great things about Torun and Lublin, so we’ve penciled them in on the list too. If you’d like to know how much this trip cost, check out our cost breakdown.

How do you fancy travelling around Poland?
Or do you know somewhere awesome that I’ve missed?

Charlie Marchant

Charlie is a long-term traveller from the UK who writes about simple ways to travel sustainably, including how to become a house sitter and slow traveller, eating local and vegetarian, and making responsible travel choices.

21 thoughts to “A Backpacker’s Route: Poland”

  1. I’m really happy that you enjoyed you route so much. You have to know that you have seen only the small part of Poland. I hope you will find time to come back here again.

    1. Thanks, Mihal :) Yes, I know it’s only a small part of Poland, but it has made us really, really want to see more! Especially because we mainly saw big cities, and we would like to spend more time in different areas like the lakes. I hope that we will be able to come back in a few years time.

      How’re you? How is work?

  2. Nice itinerary! We travelled to Poland for the first time in September and really loved it. We only had time to visit Warsaw and Krakow. Wished we had more time to visit other places like Gdańsk. Everyone always speaks so highly of it! While I can see how it can feel gloomy, we actually really enjoyed Warsaw; notably the Copernicus Science Centre, the World’s Thinnest House and a photo walk we went on with some locals who showed us around and told us some interesting stories. I’d definitely go back to Poland too. Interested to hear about what you get up to on your next adventure there.

    1. I think other places definitely topped Krakow and for sure Warsaw. Gdańsk was definitely my favourite, I liked Zakopane was excellent because it was different being out in the snowy mountains, and Wroclaw was a cracking city (similar to Krakow but a different atmosphere).

      I’m glad to hear you liked Warsaw! A photo walk with some locals sounds like fun. Also I hadn’t known the world’s thinnest house was there, looks quite strange from google images haha. But I guess living in a really thin house would be strange!

  3. A great introduction to Poland! Although when I look at the map of your itinerary I can see you were so close to Lodz! You must go next time because it’s very different to other Polish cities, it’s no where near as typically beautiful but it’s a fascinating city with a very gritty vibe – I guess what some people may call ‘industrial and drab’ but you just need to google street art in Lodz or read David Lynch’s passion for the city to make you wonder what it must be like.

    I’ve not been to Gdansk yet so I’m really looking forward to going, but I’m surprised to read you thought Warsaw was gloomy, didn’t you think the old town was picturesque? I went during Christmas so perhaps it looks extra vibrant during that time of the year… another city which I love in Poland is Poznan – check out photos of its Main Square – it’s the most colourful one in Poland! Nice blog by the way, I just discovered it today.

    1. Actually I googled street art in Lodz and it was pretty awesome looking, but I never heard much about it from travellers or Poles. Thanks for the tip, I’ll definitely put it on the list – I don’t mind gritty and arty at all!! =)

      Definitely get to Gdansk when you have the opportunity! Yeah, unfortunately I really didn’t think much of Warsaw.. I felt super guilty about it at the time, and was kind of nervous to tell the Polish couchsurfing hosts we stayed with afterwards that I didn’t like it – it’s not really something you say about a country’s capital city. But actually, both hosts and another Polish friend said that no one likes Warsaw, only the people who live there, and they only live there because they work there. I’m sure the time of year definitely affects it, I felt like nothing was going on at all, I guess at Christmas there’s a better atmosphere and more festivity. I thought the Old Town was picturesque, yes, but not as nice as Wroclaw or Krakow or Malbork.

      Aw, thanks Shing :) I’m also fond of your blog.

  4. Sure that was a suprise! The nature, and the beaches!!! Wow! I never thought Poland were like this indeed!! And I never visited your blog before, so I don’t know if you are wearing a hat in the mountain picture or have a David Bowie kind hairstyle :)

  5. Interesting! If you’re planning to go back to Poland, don’t miss Toruń and the Copernicus house. Toruń is really nice! Lublin is ok as well. Check out Hel peninsula. Very busy during summer time. In Łeba you’ll find amazing dunes. If you are in Warmia and Mazury you might like Reszel, little town with awesome castle where you can stay for a night.

    1. I had some gingerbread from Toruń, which was delicious, so definitely want to go and explore there! These places sound great – Poland just has so much to offer! Thanks for all the suggestions :)

  6. I come from Moscow, came to Polish a year ago and now live in Krakow. Wonderful country and cool people :) Beautiful places … I lived so far in Warsaw, Wroclaw, Poznan and Katowice. In Katowice and Warsaw, there is nothing interesting. Poznan and Wroclaw are nice, but Krakow is the most beautiful city … In the beginning I visited the sights and surroundings of the company zamującą transport. The driver was driving the car, Driving us in different places and telling fun in them has. Best impressed by the salt mine. The largest concentration camp in Auschwitz … something tragic.

  7. Thanks for interesting information, I’ve just back from Poland, and I visited some of this places,it is amsing, but I also had a great chance to get to know with a breathtaking history of one of the oldest castle in Poland and I would recommend everybody to have a look at this ancient beauty – The Castle in Niemodlin,
    The place is absolutely amazing, it can’t be missed by anyone who wants to see the real beauty of the past.
    I am totally sure that this is one of the most memorable and fascinating historic landmarks in Poland.
    For more information Check out Niemodlin Website.

  8. Hi!

    I know this post was from 2 years ago but im hoping I can catch your eye! My friend and I are looking to walk from Wroclaw to Krakow and I was curious if you had any tips and advice. I was wondering where you stayed? Camped out? Hostel? Couchsurfed? If you have the time I would much appreciate it if you would share any life experience from that part of your journey. Sounds wonderful!

    1. Hi Brittny! Wow, that sounds like an awesome but tough trip. We Couchsurfed in Wroclaw and also stayed in a rural hotel as part of the Angloville programme. We Courchsurfed our whole way around Poland and absolutely loved it – the Polish were incredibly hospitable and we met some really interesting people.

  9. You should also visit Szczecin. It’s really interesting city. Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle and Chrobry’s Walls are very impressive. There is an aiport near the city, so it’s easy to get there. If you are wondering, where to stay, you could choose four-star Dana Hotel. It is located in the city center.

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