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1 Week in Poland: An itinerary for first-time visitors

Planning your first trip to Poland and don’t know where to begin? This 1 week in Poland itinerary takes you on tour to some of the most popular places in the country. Starting the trip in Kraków and finishing it at Warsaw, allows you to expand your trip at either end and see more of Poland. Also, it includes a visit to Auschwitz, Wieliczka, Zakopane and Torun.

My 1 week in Poland

This itinerary is based on my 1-week visit in Poland during the summer of 2016 (late August to early September to be exact). Hence, this itinerary mostly applies for visits during the summer. My boyfriend and I flew from Cyprus to Warsaw using LOT Polish airlines and then we took the train to Kraków, as we realised that the most interesting places were closer to Kraków than Warsaw. We were travelling on a low to midrange budget, but because Poland is relatively cheap we could get some upgrades with the same amount of money we would spend in other cities, such as 4* instead of a 3* hotels in the city centre and even an organised tour in Auschwitz and Wieliczka Salt Mine, so that we don’t have to bother with bus/trains and to be able to visit both in a day.

Recommended places to stay:

What to book in advance?

  • Accommodation in Kraków and Warsaw
  • Train from Kraków to Warsaw
  • Tour to Auschwitz and Wieliczka salt mine
  • Bus to Zakopane
  • Train to Torun

Useful websites:

Day 1 – Kraków

Allow a morning to arrive in Kraków and settle into your accommodation. Then head to the old town to grab something to eat and start exploring the city.

Town Square in Krakow
Town Square in Kraków. The tall building in the middle is St. Mary’s Basilica. Source: Pixabay

14:00 Barbican

Visit during the summer months, and you will have the chance to get into the Barbican, one of the many medieval fortifications that used to exist in the city.

Find out more about Barbican here.

14:30 City Defence Walls

Use your Barbican ticket to ascend a part of the nearby remaining city defence walls that were used during the 13th century.

Find out more about City Defence Walls here.

15:00 St. Mary’s Basilica

A Gothic-style medieval church in the old town square of Kraków. It dates back to the 14th century and forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Make sure to be there on the hour to hear the distinctive sound Hejnał Mariacki – the trumpet call heart in every direction of the basilica.

Find out more about St. Mary’s Basilica here.

15:30 Sukiennice (Cloth Hall)

It is referred to as the “world’s oldest shopping mall”, it features a large collection of souvenirs in the main Market Square. If you are short on time, return later in the evening as the hall stays open until 9 pm. On the upper level of the hall, there is the Sukiennice Museum, a gallery of 19th-century Polish art.

Find out more about Sukiennice here.

16:00 Town Hall Tower

Another medieval Gothic-style building in the Old Town of Kraków. The tower is the only remaining of the old town hall and today is part of the Historical Museums in Kraków. Visitors can ascend to the top floor and marvel the views over the city along with viewing access to the mechanism of the tower clock.

Find out more about the Town Hall Tower here.

17:00 Collegium Maius

Part of the Jagiellonian University, Collegium Maius is the oldest building of the complex dating back to the 14th century. Today, there is a museum that shows medieval representations of lecture halls, libraries, old scientific instruments and more. Note that the museum is only open in the afternoons on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Find out more about Collegium Maius here.

18:00 Wander in Old Town

Finish the day with a horse-drawn carriage ride in the old town and a traditional Polish dinner in one of the many restaurants in the old town.

Directions:

Day 2 – Kraków – Zakopane – Kraków

Spend a day in the Tatra mountains, in Zakopane, the winter place-to-be in Kraków. It has everything from lovely chalets, to ski pistes and chimney cakes. In the summer, you can enjoy some lovely walks in nature and admire gorgeous views from the summit. Don’t forget to bring a jacket as it can get quite chilly up there.

View of Zakopane
Views of Zakopane from Butorowy Wierch chair lift, Sony DSC-TX10

08:30 Kraków Bus Station

The easiest way to reach Zakopane is to take the 2-hour bus to the mountains. Once you get there, you will have to walk a bit to reach the town centre. The map below provides directions.

11:00 Gubałówka Funicular Station

Take the funicular to get to Gubałówka Mountain, 1123 m above ground. There you can find many cute shops and cafes, and you can enjoy amazing views over Zakopane. Walk a little bit around before returning back to Zakopane. You can return using the same funicular as before, or you can walk a little bit further and use one of the two the chair lifts: Szymoszkowa or Butorowy Wierch. Szymoszkowa is 15 minutes away from the funicular and can fit up to 6 people per lift, while Butorowy Wierch is 30 minutes away and can only fit 2 people.

Hint: Have a map with you if you’re returning from Butorowy Wierch and be prepared to walk! When we visited, we bought tickets for Butorowy Wierch without realising that there were two chair lifts and this was the one further away. We only found out, when we arrived at Smoszkowa and were told that there is another chair lift further away. However, the struggle was real when we had no idea if we were on the correct route since there was nothing else around, we had no map – roaming without extra charges was not a thing in 2016, and locals didn’t speak English very well. Long story short, we found the chair lift, and although it was a bit scary to be hanging from that wire, the views were extraordinary! Oh, the best part was when we had to walk for 50 minutes to get back to Zakopane!

Learn more about Gubałówka here.

13:30 Walk around Zakopane

Walk a bit in the town centre and get something for lunch before continuing your day.

15:00 Kasprowy Wierch Cable Car

Get ready to get to the highest peak in Poland at 1987 m at the border with Slovakia. To get there, you need to take the cable car from Zakopane and change at Myślenickie Turnie (1325 m). The base cable car is an hour-walk from the Zakopane centre, but luckily there is a (paid) shuttle bus that takes you there from the Zakopane bus station in just 15 minutes (not very frequent). Once you reach the top, take some time to walk to the highest building in Poland and why not follow a short walking route from there. The views over the Tatra mountains are breathtaking.

Hint: The line to the cable car can get very long in the mornings, so it’s better to visit in the afternoon. On our trip there, we decided to change plans and visit it in the morning. It proved to be the wrong decision, as the queue was very long. After waiting for an hour, we decided to abandon the queue (we were about halfway) so that we have time to visit the Gubałówka. However, we returned in the afternoon to check the queue again, and this time there was no queue! We got up very quickly, and at least we managed to spend a few minutes there before going back. (We would like to have more time there, but with all the time we lost waiting in line, leaving the place and then going back we had barely 20 minutes to the top.)

Learn more about Kasprowy Wierch here.

17:00 Zakopane Bus Station

Early in the evening take the bus to return to Kraków.

Directions (Zakopane and Gubałówka):

Note: The route between the Polskie Koleje Linowe S.A. Stacja Dolna Gubałówka and Funicular – Gubałówka will be covered by the funicular. The same is true for the other way. On the map, both chair lift stations are shown: Górna Stacja Wyciągowa and Polana Szymoszkowa for Szymoszkowa top and base stations respectively; and Butorowy Wierch Górna Stacja Kolejki Linowej, Mountain Cable Car Butorowy Wierch for the Butorowy Wierch top and base stations respectively. The route to Kasprowy Wierch can also be covered by bus.

Buy your Tatra Mountains and Zakopane day trip from Kraków from Viator.

Day 3 – Kraków – Auschwitz – Wieliczka – Kraków

Be prepared for an emotional day as the morning involves visiting Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau concentration camps. A guide will take you to the different areas of the Nazi concentration camp and will detail the horrible events that took place there. In the afternoon, the atmosphere is more relaxed with a visit to the Wieliczka salt mines. To visit both places in one day, I recommend taking a tour since public transport connecting Auschwitz and Wieliczka can take at least 2.5 hours.

Block 4 in Auschwitz
Entering Block 4 in Auschwitz I, Sony DSC-TX10

10:00 Auschwitz

Auschwitz was used as a concentration camp by the Nazi Germans during World World II. It consisted of many buildings in a large radius. Today there is a memorial and museum at the site, and visitors can walk in the grounds of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau camps. It is best to visit the place with a guide. Auschwitz-Birkenau is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Learn more about Auschwitz here.

15:00 Wieliczka Salt Mine

Another UNESCO Wolrd Heritage Site. It used to be one of the oldest places that produced table salt, before stopping its productions in the early 2000s. Now, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Poland, featuring sculptures and statues made of salt as well as other exhibits about the production of salt. To enter the mine, visitors have to descend 350 steps to reach an initial depth of 135m below ground. The tourist route continues for about 3km and visits different thematic rooms.

Learn more about Wieliczka Salt Mine here.

Buy your Auschwitz and Wieliczka day trip from Kraków from Viator.

Note: If you visit the above as part of an organised tour, hours and order of visiting them may vary. Depending on the tour booked a guided tour may also be included in each site.

Day 4 – Kraków – Warsaw

This is the last day in Kraków, where there is time to visit the Wawel Castle and enjoy some time at the Vistula River. In the early evening take the train to go to Warsaw.

View of the Wawel Castle and the Sandomierska Tower on the left. Source: Pixabay

10:00 Wawel Castle

Start your day by visiting this UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its historical significance. The castle used to house the various kings of Poland, but today it has been transformed into an art museum of paintings, armours, ceramics and many more.

The castle is quite big and needs some time to explore, as there are five temporary exhibitions: the State Rooms, the Royal Private Appartements (only accessible with a tour), the Crown, Treasury and Armory, the Lost Wawel and Oriental Art. Depending on the weather, you can also visit the Dragon Den and the Sandomierska Tower. Don’t forget to walk in the open grounds of the castle.

Learn more about Wawel Castle here.

15:00 Wander at the Vistula River

For your last activity in Kraków, why not walk along the Vistula River or take a boat tour to marvel Wawel castle from a different perspective.

17:00 Galeria Krakowska

After collecting your luggage form your accommodation and if you have time before your train departs, pass by Galeria Krakowska, a shopping mall opposite the train station for any last-minute buys.

Learn more about Galeria Krakowska here.

17:30 Kraków Główny

Treat the above time with care as it depends on your departure time. Make sure to arrive early at the station as there is only one train per hour to Warsaw.

20:30 Warszawa Centralna

Arrive in Warsaw late in the evening and settle into your accommodation.

Directions (for Kraków):

Day 5 – Warsaw

Enjoy your first day in Warsaw by visiting the “not-so-old” old town as well as a museum in the afternoon.

Old Town Warsaw
The Old Town of Warsaw, Source: Pixabay

10:00 Castle Square

Start your day at the Castle Square. When I visited Warsaw, we did one of those free walking tours around the old town. They were very informative, and we learnt a lot about the area and its people such as Chopin and Marie Courie. The most impressive fact that we learnt was that the Old Town Market Place was entirely rebuilt after it was fully destroyed in WWII to resemble the original one and hence, preserve its historical significance. So, take some time and walk around and see what you can learn.

15:00 Copernicus Science Centre

In the afternoon, we visited the Copernicus Science Centre, the largest science museum in Poland. But, if science is not your thing that’s ok, because there are a dozen other museums that you can visit. One exhibition that we really wanted to visit, but didn’t manage to find it (!) was the Invisible Exhibition that gives you an idea of the struggles that blind people face. Other museums you can visit are the Museum of Warsaw, the National Museum in Warsaw, the Royal Castle, and the Fryderyk Chopin Museum. Alternatively, you can cross the Vistula River and visit the historic and cultural district of Praga.

Find out more about the Copernicus Science Centre here, the Invisible Exhibition here, the Museum of Warsaw here, the Royal Castle here and the Fryderyk Chopin Museum here.

Directions:

Day 6 – Warsaw – Torun – Warsaw

Spend the day in Torun, a city 2.5 hours from Warsaw. Torun is the birthplace of Copernicus, a pioneer defender of the modern solar system model.

Torun, Poland
View of Torun, Sony DSC-TX10

08:00 Warszawa Centralna

Take a morning train to Torun from the central station. Once you arrive in Torun Główny, you will need to walk about half an hour to reach the medieval town as you need to cross the Vistula River. The map below provides directions. Alternatively, you can take another train to Torun Miasto, but you will still need to walk for about 15 minutes.

11:30 House of Nicolaus Copernicus

First stop of the day is the house of the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. The place tells the story of Copernicus, as well as the history of Torun at the years that Copernicus lived there.

Find out more about the House of Nicolaus Copernicus here.

12:30 Old Town Hall

A building of great historical significance houses a small museum about Gothic Art as well as a collection of portraits. At the top floor, there is an observation deck to admire the city from the top.

Find out more about the Old Town Hall here.

13:30 Walk around the Medieval Town

While going to the next stop, spend some time walking in the Medieval Town of Torun (a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997) with its cute houses, shops and restaurants and find a place to have lunch.

14:30 Tony Halik Travellers’ Museum

A museum dedicated to the Polish explorer Tony Halik. It houses exhibits that Halik brought back from its adventures around the world as well as photographs of his travels.

Find out more about the Tony Halik Traveller’s Museum here.

15:30 The Museum of Torun Gingerbread

Torun is quite well known for its gingerbread, so a museum about its history and the way it is made sounds a must-visit attraction. Span in three floors, the museum located in an old gingerbread factory greats visitors with the taste of ginger and some bits and pieces about the gingerbread industry.

Find out more about the Museum of Torun Gingerbread here.

17:00 Torun Główny

Early in the evening, take the train to go back to Warsaw with maybe a pack or two of gingerbread biscuits! 😉

Directions (for Torun):

Buy your Torun day trip from Warsaw from Viator.

Alternative: There are other cities as well that are close to Warsaw and are ideal for a day trip, such as Gdańsk and Łódź.

Day 7 – Warsaw

Enjoy your last day in Poland by visiting the tallest building in the country and spending some time shopping in one of the largest entertainment venues in the city.

Skyline of Warsaw
Skyline of Warsaw. The building on the left of the image is the Palace of Culture and Science. Source: Pexels

10:00 Palace of Culture and Science

One of the tallest buildings in Europe at 237m height houses different entertainment and educational venues. What attracts most visitors is its observatory and terrace on the 30th floor, which offers exceptional views over the city.

Find out more about the Palace of Culture and Science here.

13:00 Złote Tarasy

A shopping hub of Warsaw, only a view minutes away from the Palace of Culture and Science. This shopping centre has about 200 shops and restaurants, as well as a cinema and a hotel. Also, next to the central train station, it’s location is ideal if you are using the station to go to the airport or to continue your trip to a nearby city!

Find out more about Złote Tarasy here.

Directions:

Szczesliwej Podrózy!

P.S. This is a new (improved) format to present itineraries, where I include some information about the attractions and also a Google Map with directions for each day. I am constantly reviewing the format of my articles, so if you have any suggestions on how to improve them, let me know!

Elina Michaelidou

Elina is a computer science graduate and a traveller enthusiastic. Read everything about her travel experiences here.

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