“But why are you going to Poland?” these words, combined with a rather horrified and slightly confused look, were the reaction to Anne's and my common travel plans. After we had already been on a road trip in Romania in the summer, we were already familiar with these reactions. I have only been to Warsaw before and Anne knows a few other places near the German border. But what can you really see in Poland and what is it like to travel there? Is a trip to Poland worthwhile at all and what can you discover in the East of Poland? In this blog post I will take you on our road trip through Eastern Poland including Warsaw, Lublin, Lodz and many other small towns:
Road Trip Eastern Poland Itinerary
On our road trip through Poland, we travelled for 6 days/5 nights and drove 860km. Here is our route:
Day 1: Arrival and Warsaw
Anne and I both travel individually by train from Berlin and Linz. Her train from Berlin takes about 6 hours to arrive in Warsaw and from Linz it's about 9 hours (from Vienna about 7 hours). We both arrive in the afternoon in Poland's capital city. Since we haven't seen each other for a few months, we fall in each others arms!
We then take the tram to our Airbnb apartment, leave our luggage there and stroll on foot into the old part of town. It is especially beautiful along the Krakowskie Przedmieście, where we like to stretch our feet after many hours on the train. At the end of our little trip, we planned extra time to get to know Warsaw better and so we start our search for a Polish restaurant.
Already during my first visit to Warsaw, I was thrilled by the cuisine at Specjały Regionalne (Nowy Świat 44), and so this restaurant is our destination this evening as well.
Tip: Pierogi are filled dumplings – not unlike the Carinthian Kasnudeln – and taste simply great! At Specjały Regionalne also has by far the best and freshest apple juice we have ever had.
On the way back to our accommodation, we stroll along the street Chmielna up to the Palace of Culture and Science and then both look forward to our beds.
Day 2: Kazimierz Dolny and Lublin
In the morning we get to the airport to pick up our rental car for the next days. After we have received our little four-seater, we're ready to start! Unfortunately not as fast as we would have wished because the traffic out of Warsaw costs us an additional 45 minutes.
Warsaw Airport – Kazimierz Dolny 140 km | approx. 2:10 hours
We both immediately fall for the sleepy little Kazimierz Dolny. We park a little outside and then walk over the small marketplace to the church and then over some steps to a hill on which the Three Crosses stand. From up here, we have a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape and the little town lies at our feet. Afterwards, we set out to explore the castle ruins, but we don't pay the entrance fee, but only look through the gate (and are not very enthusiastic). Last but not least it is the turn of the bigger marketplace and we could imagine spending the afternoon in one of the cosy cafés, but due to time constraints we go back to the car and drive towards Lublin.
KZ Majdanek, Lublin
Kazimierz Dolny – Majdanek, Lublin 65 km | approx. 1 hour
We arrive at the Majdanek concentration camp near Lublin when the sun is already setting. Majdanek was one of the worst and most brutal concentration camps and the area in which 25,000 prisoners had to live and work under the most adverse conditions at peak times, is open to visitors today. Some of the barracks have been preserved and are freely accessible. In one of the wooden huts we find boxes as high as the room filled with shoes of deceased prisoners on display. We also visit the poor washing facilities and the very sparsely lit gas chamber. A total of about 50,000 people were brutally gassed there. There are various figures on the exact number of victims, ranging from 78,000 to 1,700,000.
Shortly afterwards we check into our accommodation and start looking for food. We get a first impression of the city and feel at home right away. We find the Jewish restaurant Mandragora in the old town of Lublin quite fitting for today and enjoy a great meal there.
After the many impressions of today we both fall into bed tired.Book your hotel in Lublin via hotels.com Book your hotel in Lublin via booking.com
Day 3: Lublin, Zamosc and Sandomierz
We start the day early with a great breakfast in the Cafe Mari. Anne raves about her bread with porchetta (roast pork) right after the first bite and also my wholemeal toast with egg and avocado is simply delicious. We both like the Cafe very much, and if we would be more often in Lublin, it would be certainly one of our regular spots.
The waitress then asks us what brings us to Lublin and when we answer that we are simply here to visit, she is amazed and can't believe it. Her look tells us that she doesn't like Lublin too much. But since we already walked through the old town in the evening yesterday, we can't understand it. We both like Lublin very much.
Right afterwards we start venturing out to explore the old town of Lublin and find that it's a lovely city by day too!
From Plac Litewsi we stroll along Krakowskie Przedmiescie towards the Old Town to Krakow Gate. There we pass the gate and are again at the marketplace. At this very moment, the sun is shining over the roofs and bathes the pastel-coloured houses in a magical light. From the square Po Farze, we walk down the stairs in the direction of Castle Lublin. The white outer walls somehow seem to be out of place and the axes at the towers above the entrance portal spark my interest – but we can't get inside as it is closed on that day.
Street Art Tip: On our walks through Lublin I also discovered a nice Street Art Murals. At the following three addresses I saw some impressive walls:
- Lipowa 1
- 3 Maja/Zolnierzy Niepodleglej
- Baszta Gotycka (Krolewska 8)
We leave Lublin behind with a heavy heart and drive on to our next stop.
Lublin – Zamosc 87 km | approx. 1:10 hours
I chose Zamosc on the one hand because of recommendations, but also because I found the city map very interesting from a bird's eye view. The car-free alleys of the old town are decorated with colourful and pastel-coloured houses and the absolute highlight is the marketplace. The pastel pink city hall with its curved freestanding stairs reminds more of a film set than of a small city in the east of Poland. Anne and I are completely thrilled and again we'd like to stay longer.
Zamosc – Sandomierz 133km | 2 hours
Sandomierz welcomes us at nightfall. After a quick (and unspectacular) dinner in the hotel, we turn off the light and drift off into the dreamland.
Day 4: Zamek Krzyztopór, Kielce and Lodz
We start the day with a surprisingly good breakfast in our small hotel before going outside to explore Sandomierz. Especially beautiful is the marketplace and the view from the Opatower Gate to the small town. We skip the castle at the foot of Sandomierz and drive on.Book your hotel in Sandomierz via hotels.com Book your hotel in Sandomierz via booking.com
Castle Ruins Krzyztopór
Sandomierz – Zamek Krzyztopór 38km | 0:37 hour
Almost in the middle of nowhere lies the castle ruin Krzyztopór. When I researched about this place online, I was a little bit uncertain about whether I would like the ruins. Fortunately, we had the time for a visit. Even if there are only remains of the castle wall as a skeleton, it is an impressive building. We are both enthusiastic about the many angles and the medieval music in the background lets us go on a journey through time. Somehow it seems like a Coloseum.
Zamek Krzyztopór – Kielce 60km | 0:55 hours
On the way to Lodz, we chose Kielce from the map for a short break. In the other Polish cities the marketplaces were quite impressive and beautiful, not so in Kielce. But the park and the pond (Staw Podzamecki) are good to stretch your legs. After the hunger overcame us a bit, we find a place according to our taste in the Plac Cafe. Anne orders carrot cake and I opt for a light pizza adaptation. On the way back to the car, we pass the Bishop's Palace more by chance and are once again enthusiastic about the surprises that Poland has in store for us.
Kielce – Lodz 152 km | 2:00 hours
To be honest, the first impression of Lodz isn't the best. Maybe it's because our accommodation doesn't look like the photos at all, it's smelly, very dirty and for the supposedly free parking spot 30 zlotys are suddenly charged. We try to make the best of the evening and treat ourselves to a really great dinner at Sendai Sushi.Book your hotel in Lodz via hotels.com Book your hotel in Lodz via booking.com
Day 5: Lodz and Warsaw
Lodz – Warsaw 140 km | 1:30 hours
Even before we start looking for breakfast, we head out to discover some street art murals and quickly find what we are looking for! Then we stop at the Café Monday and treat ourselves to avocado toast, fresh grapefruit juice and a hot drink. The owner is quite chatty (in a good way of course) and a true host who likes to interact with his guests and help non-Polish speaking guests translate the menu.
After our breakfast, we continue our exploration of Lodz. OFF Piotrkowska is an old factory that was transformed and brought back to life with small shops, coffee shops and restaurants. On the main pedestrian axis – Piotrkowska Street – we discover a somewhat hidden side street, Pasaz Rozy. What we see here seems absolutely surreal: the entire alley is covered with mirror fragments.
In the centre of Lodz, we make sure not to miss the reconstructed area around the shopping centre Manufaktura in industrial style. The red brick buildings look like a film set or a leisure park, it'st still impressive. We also wanted to visit the city museum of Lodz – at least from the outside – but it is renovated during our visit and the outsides are covered too so we couldn't catch a glimpse.
Street Art Tip: there are many murals and art installations found all over Lodz. This blogpost by Bianca was a great help locating some of them!
Before we go back to Warsaw by car, we drive to the former train station Radegast. From here thousands of prisoners were loaded onto the trains and shipped off to different concentration camps. We would have liked to see the museum there, but it is currently being rebuilt.
Wilanow Palace & Warsaw
Before we return our rental car at the airport in Warsaw, we start one last expedition. Just outside the capital lies Wilanow Palace. Architecturally it looks like the little sibling of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. Although we cannot visit the palace as it is rather late, we can still explore the gardens. In the cold months in the late afternoon and evening hours there is a lightshow here. To be honest, I didn't really feel like it, but I really wanted to see the castle (even if only from the outside). And I'm glad that we still made this little detour! It was just magical:
When we arrive it is already dark and first of all we see a tunnel with thousands of lights. The music of the Nutcracker fills the cool air around us as we make it to the gardens: Hedges, bushes, fountains, pavilions and much more are decorated with chains of lights. Christmassy feelings come up as well as a feeling of home and not being far from it. At the back of the castle there is a light show, where the lights seem to dance to the music. Anne and I are completely in a trance and have a hard time tearing ourselves away from this wonderland, but the car has to be returned and so we drive to the airport.
Tip Royal Garden of Light: The Lightshow can be visited from 13 October to 24 February in the period 5 to 9 pm. Tickets cost 10 PLN (2.30€) Monday to Thursday and 20 PLN (4.60€) Friday to Sunday; students with ID pay half.
Back in Warsaw, we go out for an evening stroll through the old town and wanted to have a hearty Polish meal again. We had chosen the restaurant Zapiecek for it. But we didn't know that there are several restaurants with the same name in Warsaw. And only afterwards we found out that we didn't actually eat where we wanted to (which is also explained by the Pierogi poor menu).Book your hotel in Warsaw via hotels.com Book your hotel in Warsaw via booking.com
Day 6: Warsaw and Departure
As we want to enjoy the day as much as possible before we go back to Austria and Germany around noon, we start our tour through Warsaw at 7 am. First we go to Fort Legionow, which we both would not recommend. In the New Town (Nowe Miasto) we like it better and the marketplace there is just as beautiful as in the many other cities we visited in Poland in the past days. Then through the gate Barbakan we enter the old town and can hardly get enough of the pastel-coloured and richly decorated facades of the houses. Via the alley Kanonia we get to the royal castle and have a look at the other side of river Vistula to the stadium. Since it is so early, there are hardly any people on the way and we enjoy the peace and quiet along the wide street of the Krakow suburb (Krakowskie Przedmiescie).
Breakfast tip in Warsaw: Anne has again chosen a breakfast place for us and so we are shortly before 9 in front of the Café Bulke Przez Bibulke (Zgoda 3) – by the way, they serve breakfast the whole day! We are surprised to see a line before the coffee shop – but we are lucky and get one of the last tables. The breakfast was probably the best we had on our journey. The “New Soft-Boiled Breakfast” with eggs, avocado, salmon and salad was a good choice for both of us. In addition we had fresh grapefruit juice and we also had a Macaron. Yummy!
Afterwards, we make a short detour to Café Wedel where we try the famous hot chocolates. Conclusion: ok in taste, but definitely below our expectations. Also, the coffee house was disappointing and the waiters not very attentive.
Since we've seen some really amazing street art murals in Lodz, we just go and look for one particular mural in Warsaw. Again it's a masterpiece by artist Roa at Nowy Swiat 22c – he's also left his tracks in Linz, too.
On the way back to our apartment we pass the Palace of Culture and Science again and we have to admit that our wonderful trip has come to an end again. At the station Warszawa Centralna our ways separate again as Anne gets on the train to Berlin and two hours later I take the train back to Austria.
Costs of a Road Trip in Poland
Getting there: My train ticket from Linz to Warsaw and back in the 1st class cost me 125€ including seat reservation. It was an ÖBB Sparschiene offer – the 1st class only cost 10€ more per route.
Rental car: the rental car cost 40€ for 4 days with fully comprehensive insurance without a deductible. Gas in Poland is also cheaper than back home, for the 860km we paid less than 60€ for fuel.
Accommodations: on average Anne and I paid 50€ per night. We mostly slept in Airbnbs and once in the hotel.
Food: for our dinners we never paid more than 50 PLN (12€) per person.
Admissions: many sights are very cheap and the admissions have cost us 6 to 20 PLN (1.40 – 4.65€)
Tips Road Trip Poland
Driving time: on our road trip through Poland we noticed again that the calculated arrival times of Google Maps, maps.me and co were usually not correct and we were always longer on the road.
Low Season: we were on the road at the end of October/beginning of November and never had any problems finding accommodation or parking. Also the towns, restaurants and sights were not crowded and we were often the only non-Polish visitors.
Conclusion Road Trip in Poland
It was simply brilliant! And beautiful and just perfect! Anne and I let ourselves be surprised by Poland and were definitely not disappointed. We will come back – hopefully together again!
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