Warsaw, (Poland)

“Paris of the North”, The Phoenix City”, “The city that has risen from the ashes”

Warsaw, Poland, June 2019

Time for an entire remake of this travel guide for what it really deserves a city such a Warsaw, one of the most historical and beautiful not just in Poland, but in Europe itself. Yet considering how nice is always return here, this is merely my 3rd time, and very long time ago since the previous trips back in 2012 and 2004. I must say I’ve been quite busy trying to discover as many new cities as possible hence why I kept postponing a return to Warsaw, and plenty other great cities elsewhere in many other countries; however now that I am done with the 51 countries that form Europe as continent I’m glad for taking some further quality time returning. Not the last time either that’s for sure.

Now something I can say from comparing these 3 spacious in time visits is the enormous and sometimes radical change the city has experienced. An amazing gentrification and restoration with fine attention to detail in all that related the UNESCO listed Old Town area, and the incredible and fast growing shiny business district with plenty of ongoing projects to come adding to an already imposing skyline, mostly designed by world renown architects.

I recall being one of the few tourists wandering the city back in 2004, and now struggling to find local people that many years later among the hordes of tourists. Let’s not forget Poland is, over all, a very desirable tourist destination with lots to offer, and so much it has given the world in culture, the arts, astronomy, physics, science, medicine, mathematics, chemistry, biology, music, telecommunications… name any field no matter which, and there is certainly an inventor, a pioneer or a genius excelling at any of these. Are any of this familiar just as some examples?: Maksymilian Faktorowicz (founder of the Max Factor cosmetics company), Józef Hofmann (a pianist who invented paper clips), Ignacy Łukasiewicz (designed and built the world’s first oil refinery and oil well), the Warner Brothers (yeah the biggest media corporation and film studio), Frédéric Chopin (the composer), Nicolaus Copernicus (mathematician and astronomer), Marie Curie. Or stunning cities such as Krakow, Katowice, Gdansk, Torun, Poznan, Wroclaw.

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Malbork, (Poland)

“Civitas Beatae Virginis”, “Royal Prussia”

Malbork, Poland, September 2017

An unexpected visit to what’s been for a while in the back of our ears: Malbork and its fascinating Teutonic castle. The reason is simple, since we’ve pretty much been to almost every possible important and historic city and place in Poland, there are still just a small bunch in our agenda, one of them was this, and with a double reason, the other being completing a visit to another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s not a secret how passionate we are about visiting as many WHS in the world as possible, so this is always fun and excitement for being to another one. That’s close to 100 alone this year so far!

Then, unplanned visit because when we booked the tickets to Gdansk to visit our friend there, same as for the last time, we though we will be there around and that’s all, however we are very pleased she did plan this trip for us. Being that near Gdansk it was a great decision, and now I can strongly recommend should you be staying in Gdansk, (and nearby Sopot and Gdynia), to include Malbork in your plans. However visiting all these places in just a weekend, even if they are small, it’s almost impossible. So like it was for us, returning to this region was the best bet, yet it won’t be the last, it is always great to have some nice time with our great friend here, even if we are not travelling for sightseeing.

Malbork is very small, and other than its huge castle, there is not much more there to see and do. Considering it was a member of the Hanseatic League, it was very elegant, with very imposing buildings however after the destruction of WWII, the city was not rebuilt and its brick ruins were used to rebuild the old areas of Gdansk and Warsaw instead. Still, there are some buildings such as the neo-Gothic railway station and around the area at both banks of the Nogat River, but a half day visit is all you need to fully explore. (more…)

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Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia, (Poland)

“Neither rashly, nor timidly”, “The Tricity by the Baltic Sea”

A bit over 5 years have passed since our first and only time in this beautiful city by the Baltic Sea, now glad to return and enjoy the same or more than the first time. Not just the city but the great company of our Polish friend whom we came to visit once more time. What a better way to escape the horrible weather in London after all? Surprisingly, this was the end of September, however still a nicer weather over here bearing in mind it generally chills earlier than other places. A coincidental fact back in June 2012 it was the weekend of a Football Euro Cup semi-finals where Spain was playing against France. Definitely we are not football fans at all, but being Spanish and such a great ambience with all the terraces showing the game at the time we were in Sopot, made it for a great dinner time entertainment.

I take the chance to revamp this guide and further expand it in line to what I am generally doing for the past 4 years or so. While there is still a large number of travel guides from the beginning of times in my blog quite outdated or even poor comparing to what I now do, it’s great to see the speed in recreating them as I keep returning to such cities and places. It’s becoming more and more difficult anyway to get for a weekend trip to destinations we’ve not been before. It might sound silly, but yes, we are running out of flying routes with any airline within Europe!

Gdansk is the largest of the three cities, capital of the region and principal seaport of Poland. And also, one of the most beautiful cities in Poland, full of Medieval and Hanseatic buildings, remarkably well preserved even though many of these had to be painstakingly reconstructed after their destruction during WWII. All these facts, the history behind and the countless cultural places are one of the reasons for its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing.

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Katowice and Auschwitz, (Poland)

“Little Paris”, “One of the newest cities in Poland”, “Heart of Industrial Poland”, “The Holocaust”

Katowice and Auschwitz, Poland, March 2017

After many years trying to find a good deal to this part of Poland, either Krakow or Katowice in order to finally reach Auschwitz, it came when less expected. Over 6 years have passed since our first and only time in Krakow, and ever since, with the city booming more and more tourist-wise talking becoming much more expensive in every way; now it’s cheaper to fly to the Canary Islands than here as an example! That’s the only reason why we kept postponing a return until eventually, finding a good deal. In this occasion, not to Krakow but to nearby sister city Katowice. After all, when thinking in visiting Auschwitz, it does not really matter which of the two cities you fly into as it is literally in the middle of both.

Katowice is a modern city, developed from the 18th century gaining importance and great wealth because of the enormous coal deposits in this area of south Poland. Mines opened everywhere, the industrial revolution boomed here, and so the city grew. Not in the way of a merely industrial city, but in a good way, where the new architecture from the era, the art-nouveau, left a big mark, coupled with some fine examples or art-deco that followed the next decades until World War II and the Nazi occupation took the toll.

While many old buildings were demolished to make way for wide avenues and monuments typical from the Soviet era, half of the city was thankfully spared, notoriously the southern half where the most elegant buildings are, most of them former headquarters of coal mines, industries and banks. The northern part of the city is older and centralised around the old Market Square (Rynek), but do not expect to find a large old town, nor a market square typical from majority of the Polish cities completely surrounded in beautiful architecture. In fact, visiting the entire city will not take you much of the day, therefore plan your time accordingly as there are many places you could visit nearby truly worth it. (more…)

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Krakow, (Poland)

“Royal Capital City of Kraków”, “The Polish Athens”, “The Polish Mecca”

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Almost 8 years have passed since my first and only time in this beautiful city, yet my opinion and judgement has not changed but turned to even better. Now after this trip I can finally update one of my older travel guides here in my blog to a much more complete and descriptive one together with a refreshed photo album. To me this felt as visiting a new city from scratch not only for the long time not been, bur for the huge difference in the weather too!. If back in December 2009 it was super cold, grey and dark, rain and the first snow of that winter; this time in March 2017 it was a different story. A proper spring day, sunny and warm to the point of needing to remove our jackets. We could not have asked for more nor been any luckier.

Krakow is the most visited city in Poland, and the facts talk for itself: it’s been the Royal Capital city of Poland for many centuries until 1596 when it was moved to Warsaw. It has always been one of the wealthiest cities in the country, with some of the finest churches, palaces and mansions built. A very large castle growing with every king. An important merchant and trade city since the middle ages, and all this architecture and historic legacy thankfully spared from the destruction during WWII mainly because of Hitler having a special love for this city. You can expect a very large collection of historical buildings everywhere, retaining much of the Medieval urban core almost intact. No wonder why it was one of the first 12 privileged candidates to be inscribed as a World Heritage Site on the very first UNESCO list when this organisation was created in 1978.

In any case, even having so much to see, the city centre is not too big and can easily be visited in full in a day or over a weekend. Also with such a compact historical centre with most of the streets pedestrianised, following a perfect orthogonal urban grid, there is absolute no need for taking any public transportation when visiting the sights.

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Opole, (Poland)

“Historical capital of Upper Silesia”

Opole, Poland, October 2015

Another weekend flying to Wroclaw after a year we went there, yet with a different reason this time which was reaching Opole, 100 kilometres to the southeast. Not a city of special importance or any great sights, but fully meaningful to my travel companion as it is his birthplace before having to move to Germany when the borders changed and Opole returned to be a city in Poland and no Germany.

Also a good reason for returning to Wroclaw was to be with our friend whom I did not see for almost 12 years since we last worked together on a summer “work and learn English” program at Butlins Minehead in the southwest of England were we met. And of course, for the city itself. It is still among one of my favourite in Poland with so much to see and do! While the last time we visited it was almost December and the huge Christmas market was already on in the main square and streets, this time we got just in time to enjoy probably the last days of sun and warm temperatures before the Autumn drop. We’ve been very lucky on both Wroclaw and Opole with the weather, it could have been already very bad.

I know this guide is going to be quite explicit, but for the shake of it I could not pass the occasion and give it a go in creating it as I got some spare time right before our main long holidays for this year just 5 days ahead of us. But not minding the very small size of it and that there is not much to see, it was still worth to come for the day and enjoy the cute old town knowing most of it is a reconstruction since the World War II made a great loss and destruction in Opole. (more…)

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Torun, (Poland)

“City of Copernicus”, “City of Angels”, “Gingerbread City”

Torun, Poland, July 2015

Our second stop over for this weekend brought us to the beautiful historical city of Toruń. Not only famously known to be the birthplace of astronomer Copernicus, but more important, it is the only example of perfectly preserved medieval and Gothic architecture that entirely survived during the war without any damage nor destruction; no wonder why the UNESCO included it in the list of World Heritage Sites.

Yet it’s true to city is very small, in the other hand it has a large old town core with plenty to see and do. Most tourists come here as part of a day trip from wherever their main city base is. In our example, we came from Poznan some 130 kilometres to the west of Toruń. But coming here was not just pure chance. Knowing myself and while preparing the information and guide needed for visiting Poznan is when I realised with a day would be more than enough to see everything. And then what? Trying to figure out an alternative plan for Sunday, which as usual rule of thumb I googled for UNESCO sites “nearby” and Toruń popped out to be the perfect candidate at a reasonable distance to Poznan airport which was our departure point.

This trip ended up in being a great choice! And it is the fact that both Poznan and Toruń are ranking among the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to Poland so far. (more…)

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Poznan, (Poland)

“Poznany: One Who is Known”, “Stołeczne Miasto Poznań: The Capital City of Poznań”

Poznan, Poland, July 2015

Not even 2 weeks have passed since our last visit to Poland when we flew to Szczecin, and here we are this weekend back; yet won’t be the last this year as there’s another visit planned to return to the city of Wroclaw later in the year. It’s always a nice country to visit, and with so many cities and places worth to see, there are plenty more to plan for future trips. As usual anywhere in Poland I go, it is not only about the architecture and sights what makes me come to visit, but also the great food I love so much. This weekend won’t be any different in this case.

Poznan is one of the oldest cities in Poland. Residence of the oldest Polish diocese and home to the first cathedral built in the country soon becoming the prime burial place of the early Piast monarchs Mieszko I, Boleslaus I, Mieszko II, Casimir I, Przemysł I and King Przemysł II. The Cathedral is as such, one of the major landmarks and sight number one in the city, which coupled with an extensive Old Town and the “newer” area known as the Imperial District that was entirely built when the city was part of the German Empire; makes it perfect for a nice weekend city-break trip.

And if you are a fast pace visitor, pretty much as we are, then there is more than plenty of time to visit the entire city in just one day. If you came here for a weekend this means giving you an extra day to do something else or going to another city which I would highly recommend that to be Toruń. We did this combination and was more than enough time to visit both cities in full in a flexible quiet non stressful way.
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