Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Poland – an Emergent European Destination

Poland is a rising up travel destination with beautiful cities, new attractions, lively nightlife, and fine cuisine with attractive prices. Poland was usually associated with the historical sites of World War II but it has so much to offer beyond that - natural sites, attractions, museums, shops and a booming nightlife scene on the cheap!

To my surprise, Poland has turned out to be a culinary destination with fine restaurants, including some Michelin recommended ones. It currently offers some fine dining in different styles with up-to-date fusion, creative chefs and attractive prices.

As part of the European Union, Poland is in an impressive momentum of renewal. It has high-speed trains that connect the cities and enable an urban trip through multiple cities of the country with ease. On our trip, we visited the cities of Warsaw, Wroclaw and Krakow. We took the Pendolino fast train to Wroclaw in the evening, a ride that turned out to be particularly comfortable and made it possible to save valuable travel time. The train has a restaurant caravan, thus one can utilize the travel time for a meal. The food on the train was quite good and inexpensive.

This article includes recommendations on these three cities for new attractions off the beaten path as well as recommendations for restaurants.


Warsaw is a regenerative city, 80% of the city was destroyed in World War II and was rebuilt. The facades were restored based on pictures so that the old town is beautiful and looks as it once did. In clever planning, the destruction was leveraged to build a city in a new architectural design – wide streets with many parks.

The main must-see sites in Warsaw include the Old Town and the Market Square (Rynek), the Palace, the Polin Museum of Judaism, the Copernicus Science Museum, and more. Here are 5 unique recommendations for Warsaw:

1. Elektrownia Powiśle – a shopping mall with a food court and a beauty hall. As its name suggests, it was a power plant erected in 1904 and for many years it was abandoned. Recently, it has been converted to what it is now using a delicate design of preserving the unique architecture.

2. Polish Vodka Museum – situated in a historical neo-Gothic building housing a Vodka plant, the museum tour shows the history and manufacturing process of Vodka in Poland – what is Vodka made of, how it is made and if it is Polish or Russian?! The tour is quite fascinating and at the end of it, awaits a “hands on” experience - a guided Vodka tasting session to learn to distinguish between different types of Vodkas! The location is called Praga Koneser Center is also a place of entertainment and dining, so one can plan to spend an evening here!

3. The VARSO – a new observation deck will be opened soon at the Varso tower. It is a new building, which is the highest Skyscraper in EU (excluding Russia) – 310 meters high. We were able to get a pre-opening tour of it; it has a breathtaking view of the city!

4. Dyletanci Restaurant – a chef restaurant, wine shop bar, highly rated, one of 50 best discoveries and recommended by Michelin. It carries over 500 European wines.

5. Indigo Hotel - a stunning modern boutique hotel in the city center.


Krakow is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It has been almost completely preserved (except for bridges that were blown up during the war). It has lots of ancient sites such as the old Town, Wawel Castle, Market Square, churches, and the Jewish Quarter, the ghetto and surrounding sites. Krakow can be reached by direct flight from Israel so it is definitely possible to take a shorter trip that does not include Warsaw.

1. The Salt Mine in Wieliczka – one of UNESCO world heritage sites. The mine is over 700 years old, it is active from the 13th century and spans over more than 300 km that reaches 327 meters deep. A fascinating guided tour along 2.5 km of tunnels and chambers led us to see the impressive structures including salt sculptures and enchanting chapels with salt crystals chandeliers.  After that we had lunch nearby at the Karczma pod Wielką Solą, an authentic Polish restaurant with tasty food. The portions are huge and the prices small. We ate a 3 course meal including alcoholic beverages and paid just 19$ per person.

2. Krakow Arcade Museum – an interactive game house featuring classic game machines such as pinball, Sega games, Star wars, and many more. It is fun for the entire family.

3. Sightseeing balloon – a ride on a tethered balloon with a viewing platform up to 150 meters for a unique overview of Krakow.

4. The Szara Gęś w Kuchni – a highly recommended restaurant on the main square. Besides the excellent food, take the “Grey Goose” dessert - it is like an egg in the nest!

5. Paczki - don’t miss this Polish donut shaped like a sphere and filled with comfitures or cream for only 1.5$.


The city of Wroclaw has won the best tourist destination competition in Europe for 2018. It has lots to do and is worth dedicating a few days to exploring it. Wroclaw was restored after the war and is in a resurgence boom. As in Polish cities, it has a main town square, a market (Rynek) and also a unique entertainment area called Four Denominations District that is named after the tolerance to all religions in this welcoming town. This is also where you can find the only standing synagogue that survived the war (it is now a museum and a concert hall). The synagogue’s roof was renovated by the church, which is one of the signs of tolerance. Also, an impressive Organ with the writing in Hebrew “Yehova” at St Elizabeth church was reconstructed after a fire, and to honor it, writing in Hebrew was painted on one of the houses in the district. Throughout Wroclaw, cute dwarf statues are scattered (as part of a protest during the communist era). On weekends, there are street artists and young people dancing in the streets. 

My five unique recommendations for Wroclaw are:

1. Neon Side Gallery – an old neon signs enterprise on Ruska 46c that was converted into businesses including a hotel and art workshops now functioning as an entertainment area with bars and music in the evenings. A collection of 30 neon signs of various institutions are illuminated at night on the buildings of this small yard. It is recommended to visit during the day and then again at night to enjoy the spectacular change.

2. Kolejkowo world in miniature – situated at Sky Tower, this miniature world includes 335 meters of model area, 510 meters of railway tracks, 15 trains, and much more. It is an attraction suitable for the entire family. It is best to get there after exploring the town to identify the buildings seen in the streets of Wroclaw.

3. Hydropolis – a water museum exposing the wonders of the sea and the role of water, educating for the protection of the planet and against sea pollution.  The museum is very interesting and includes some extraordinary visual exhibitions.

4. Boat Ride on the Odra River and a meal at the Przystań & Marina Restaurant  the restaurant is situated on the river banks and overlooks the university building. It serves high quality dishes of fish and seafood local dishes. Our group loved this restaurant and thought that it is an excellent example of affordable dining with good ambience and fine food.

5. Centennial Hall Complex – the area around the largest concrete dome is a recreation area where one can spend a whole day there. Except the Dome museum, it is worth visiting the Four Domes Pavilion Contemporary Art Museum. The building’s architecture is impressive and the changing exhibitions that we saw there were extraordinary. One current exhibition includes some sensual exhibits with Braille transcripts. The other is of the sculptures of Magdalena Abakanowicz that were influenced by the war. The exhibits, including headless figures, left a very strong impression on us. The complex includes also the zoo, Japanese gardens, and dining services. At the nearby Park, the largest Multimedia Fountain in Poland performs in the summer evenings.

The writer was a guest of the Polish Tourism Organization: https://www.polin.travel/  fb: https://www.facebook.com/polintravel

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