Snowshoeing in Europe: Poland’s Tatra National Park

Snowshoeing in Europe: Poland’s Tatra National Park

This post was originally published in May 2017.

It’s a Saturday morning, 31 December, and the sun is blazing in a blue sky as I strap on my snowshoes. I’m in the small town of Szczawnica in the far south of Poland, close up on the Slovakian border, and I’m about to try snowshoeing for the first time in my life. The sun is glittering on the white snow as I look up at the hill we are about to climb, down at the strange plastic contraptions attached to my feet, and wonder if this was a good idea.

When I booked a short group tour in Poland’s Tatra National Park for the end of December, I’ll admit I was seduced by the romantic image of sleigh rides, sparkling snow and Polish vodka to ring in the New Year. I knew snowshoeing was on the itinerary, but the image in my head was stuck somewhere around the era of Scott or Amundsen: wooden tennis rackets strapped to their shoes as they pulled their sleds over the flat, frozen wastes. The first part of this image which appears to be significantly wrong is the gradient. I am in the Tatra mountains, so why I was expecting a flat surface is a mystery, but I’m not convinced my legs are going to be up to this. Still, we have been promised a mountain hut at the top, with food and beer and cake and… well, it’s worth a try.

The second part of the image that has turned out to be a bit off is the tennis rackets. Having said that, the basic principle of the snowshoe hasn’t actually changed all that much in the last 100+ years. The modern day snowshoe has more in common with a plastic tray than a tennis racket, but it is still strapped to the foot to spread the weight of the wearer and stop them disappearing ankle- (or even knee-) deep in the fresh snow. Hinged at the front and free at the heel rather like a cross country ski, it has studs on the underside and built-in crampons at the toe, designed to grip the snow on uphill slopes as the foot tilts forward.

After a short time at the valley bottom to get the hang of walking on our plastic tea-trays (top tip: keep your legs apart!), we set off up a slope that is thankfully not as steep as I had feared. Pacing myself as best I can within the group, I begin to get used to the snowshoes and am able to look around me. The Tatra mountains in winter are beautiful; with a fresh fall of snow blanketing the landscape, the views across the surrounding hills are stunning, and copses of trees and picturesque wooden chalets dot the landscape. I am aching to get my camera out, but the need to keep up with the group, maintain my balance, and juggle thick gloves and two walking poles mean photography is tricky, so I am forced instead to enjoy the scenery with my own eyes for once instead of through a lens. Not a bad thing, I must admit.

Up the hill we trek, some group members forging on ahead on the well-marked trail. I have never been the athletic type and will admit to not being as fit as I could be, but the rest of the group maintains a slow and steady pace which suits me fine. Getting confident, I follow our guide across a short cut, taking a direct route across the fresh snow. Here, the snowshoes really come into their own as we seem to float above the ground; the fresh snow is spread out all around us, covered with a layer of ice crystals that make it sparkle and glitter in the sunshine. I have never seen anything like it before, and it’s magical.

Ever considered snowshoeing in Europe? This gentle sport is gaining in popularity, and is the perfect way to experience Tatra National Park! Zakopane Poland | Tatra Mountains in winter | Where to go snowshoeing | Snowshoeing 101 | How hard is snowshoeing? | What is it like to go snowshoeing? | Snowshoeing trips | Best places to snowshoe | Snowshoeing tours | Snowshoeing for dummies

I get a little braver and cut up a steep slope, my toe crampons doing their job as I haul myself up to the path above, beaming with a sense of achievement at a challenge conquered. But the route gets more and more difficult as time goes on, my legs eventually protesting at the long uphill walk on the snowshoes, which force your muscles to work that bit harder than they normally would. Our walk is 3 kilometres, all uphill, and by the time we reach the mountain hut at the top I am red-faced, breathless and aching. But the sense of achievement is worth all the pain.

Then comes the fun bit, and the payoff for all our hard work. After a break at the top for food and drink, we set off on the three kilometre return trip. But this time, we’re heading downhill. And I love it. The technique for going downhill on snowshoes is very similar to going down a sand dune: put one foot down, let it slide until you get a grip, then repeat with the other leg, half stepping, half sliding your way down the slope. The group spreads out on the downhill run, me alone in the middle, and I relish having the beautiful scenery and peaceful environment to myself as I seek out every possible stretch of fresh snow, laughing happily as I slither and scramble my way back down the mountainside.

But pride comes before a fall – in my case, literally. Right as we approach the bottom of the hill, the path divides. One route I know is the gentle slope we came up; the other is a much steeper path down to the road where we will rejoin our minibus. Full of confidence and relishing the idea of sliding down the last 100m or so of the route, I head for the steeper section. But halfway down I realise I’ve made a terrible mistake. There is the road at the bottom, and there are some of my fellow travellers who were ahead of me, waiting for the rest of the group and watching my descent. But it isn’t the path I thought I was on. With only two choices, continuing on or climbing back up a very steep slope to try again, I opt to persevere, but of course the inevitable happens: I get my showshoe stuck in a narrow gully, stumble sideways and fall over. Unable to stand on the steep slope, with my backpack throwing me even further off balance than I would be already, I have no choice but to slide the rest of my journey on my bottom with the whole group watching. With my only options being embarrassment or seeing the funny side, I run down the last of the hill, brushing snow off my trousers and laughing all the way.

Ever considered snowshoeing in Europe? This gentle sport is gaining in popularity, and is the perfect way to experience Tatra National Park! Zakopane Poland | Tatra Mountains in winter | Where to go snowshoeing | Snowshoeing 101 | How hard is snowshoeing? | What is it like to go snowshoeing? | Snowshoeing trips | Best places to snowshoe | Snowshoeing tours | Snowshoeing for dummies

Photo evidence that pride comes before a fall!! (Photo credit: Angela de Stefano)


How hard is snowshoeing?

If you fancy trying snowshoeing, you don’t need any particular level of fitness but check in advance with your guide if you feel gradient will be a problem. As I mentioned, I am not especially fit, but I managed just fine; if you would be able to walk up a similar gradient, you will be OK in snowshoes. If you have knee or breathing problems, however, it may not be for you – take advice from the professionals.

I fell a couple of times (not including the steep slope incident!) but the snow makes for a soft landing. Snowshoeing is a fun way to enjoy the winter landscape, so give it a go!


If you fancy checking out the beautiful Tatra National Park in summer, check out this post from Tasha’s Oyster for summertime inspiration! The region is just as beautiful all year round…

To discover more of fascinating Poland, how about one of my other posts?
Top things to do in Warsaw: The perfect Warsaw itinerary
Getting around Warsaw by public transport
Vegetarian in Poland? Here’s how to cope!
Auschwitz: a photo essay


Fancying trying snowshoeing in Europe for yourself, or simply checking out Poland’s beautiful Tatra National Park in winter? Pin this post for later!

Ever considered snowshoeing in Europe? This gentle sport is gaining in popularity, and is the perfect way to experience Tatra National Park! Zakopane Poland | Tatra Mountains in winter | Where to go snowshoeing | Snowshoeing 101 | How hard is snowshoeing? | What is it like to go snowshoeing? | Snowshoeing trips | Best places to snowshoe | Snowshoeing tours | Snowshoeing for dummiesEver considered snowshoeing in Europe? This gentle sport is gaining in popularity, and is the perfect way to experience Tatra National Park! Zakopane Poland | Tatra Mountains in winter | Where to go snowshoeing | Snowshoeing 101 | How hard is snowshoeing? | What is it like to go snowshoeing? | Snowshoeing trips | Best places to snowshoe | Snowshoeing tours | Snowshoeing for dummies

Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

Getting around Warsaw by public transport

Getting around Warsaw by public transport

The Polish capital, Warsaw, is an up and coming destination which is finally starting to get noticed. Combining a rich history with affordable prices, it’s a great place for a city break. If you’re on a budget (or even if you’re not), check out this guide to getting around Warsaw by public transport!

Warsaw’s public transit network is made up of 4 methods of transportation: train, metro (subway), tram and bus. All of them use the same tickets, which can be easily purchased from automatic ticket machines.

Planning a trip to Warsaw, Poland? Check out everything you need to know about getting around Warsaw by public transport! | Warsaw Poland | Public transport Warsaw | Warsaw public transport | Warsaw train | Warsaw metro | Warsaw bus | Warsaw tram | Visit Warsaw | #visitwarsaw #warsawtransport #warszawa #warsawpoland #warsawpublictransport

The entrance to Stadion Narodowy metro station

Buying your tickets

Ticket machines can be found at all metro stations and most tram stops. On routes without machines, you can often buy your ticket on the tram, but it’s best to plan ahead for the day just in case. Tickets are also sold in some convenience stores.

Tickets are valid for a specific period of time, either 20 or 75 minutes, and cover either Zone 1 only or Zones 1 and 2. The entire city centre, including the Praga district and the airport, is in Zone 1. There are reduced rates for children and young people under 26 years of age; children under 7 go free. 1-day, 3-day and weekend tickets are also available.

Fares as at August 2018 (Zone 1 only) were as follows:

Age 26+Age 7-25
20 minutes4.40 PLN2.20 PLN
75 minutes3.40 PLN1.70 PLN
1 day15.00 PLN7.50 PLN
3 days36.00 PLN18.00 PLN
Weekend24.00 PLN12.00 PLN

Weekend tickets are valid from 7pm Friday to 8am Monday. 1- and 3-day tickets are valid for 24 and 72 hours respectively from the date of activation.

A full list of current fares can be found on the ZTM Warszawa website.

Planning a trip to Warsaw, Poland? Check out everything you need to know about getting around Warsaw by public transport! | Warsaw Poland | Public transport Warsaw | Warsaw public transport | Warsaw train | Warsaw metro | Warsaw bus | Warsaw tram | Visit Warsaw | #visitwarsaw #warsawtransport #warszawa #warsawpoland #warsawpublictransport

One of the ticket machines found at most tram stops and all metro stations

How to use the ticket machines

To use a ticket machine, select your language and then follow the prompts. The machines are simple to use as long as you know what ticket you need! Most accept either cash or credit card; machines on trams may only take cash.

Using the trains

Taking the train is probably one of the first things you will do in Warsaw, as it is the cheapest way to get from the airport to the city centre.

On arrival at Warsaw Chopin International Airport, follow the signs for Trains. Purchase your ticket at the machine before heading to the platform. You will need a zone 1 ticket valid for 75 minutes.

The main station for the city centre is Warszawa Centrum, and you can take either train S2 or S3. From Centrum, you can take a metro, bus or tram to your final destination using the same ticket.

Note that, for your final journey back to the airport, there are no ticket machines at Warszawa Centrum selling the local transit tickets you will need for this train. Buy the ticket ahead of time from a metro or tram stop, or pick one up from a convenience store at the station. The ticket machines inside the station only sell tickets for the intercity Polish railway network.

Planning a trip to Warsaw, Poland? Check out everything you need to know about getting around Warsaw by public transport! | Warsaw Poland | Public transport Warsaw | Warsaw public transport | Warsaw train | Warsaw metro | Warsaw bus | Warsaw tram | Visit Warsaw | #visitwarsaw #warsawtransport #warszawa #warsawpoland #warsawpublictransport

One of Warsaw’s immaculate metro stations

Using the metro

Warsaw’s metro network is relatively small and still growing, however it is modern and immaculate. Tickets are the same as for the rest of the transit network, and it is possible to combine a metro ride with another form of transport on the same ticket as long as you remain inside the time limit.

Buy your ticket, then validate it by inserting it into the entry barrier at the station. You will not need your ticket to get back out through the barrier at your destination, but keep it with you in case of a ticket check.

Planning a trip to Warsaw, Poland? Check out everything you need to know about getting around Warsaw by public transport! | Warsaw Poland | Public transport Warsaw | Warsaw public transport | Warsaw train | Warsaw metro | Warsaw bus | Warsaw tram | Visit Warsaw | #visitwarsaw #warsawtransport #warszawa #warsawpoland #warsawpublictransport

Inside a metro train

Using the trams

Warsaw’s trams are probably the simplest and most efficient means of getting around the city. The network is extensive and stations are easy to find; signs above the platforms indicate the numbers of the various lines and when the next tram is expected. Note that the stop for trams going in one direction may be slightly up the street from the stop going the other way, and interchanges may require you to head down an adjoining street.

Most trams have electronic boards and voice announcements indicating the name of the next stop. All trams also have maps showing the names of the stops, so it is easy to keep track of when you need to get off.

When boarding your tram, make sure you insert your ticket into the validation machine to stamp it (this can be skipped if you have made a connection and this is not your first journey on the ticket). Failure to validate your ticket can result in fines.

Planning a trip to Warsaw, Poland? Check out everything you need to know about getting around Warsaw by public transport! | Warsaw Poland | Public transport Warsaw | Warsaw public transport | Warsaw train | Warsaw metro | Warsaw bus | Warsaw tram | Visit Warsaw | #visitwarsaw #warsawtransport #warszawa #warsawpoland #warsawpublictransport

Onboard ticket machine

Planning a trip to Warsaw, Poland? Check out everything you need to know about getting around Warsaw by public transport! | Warsaw Poland | Public transport Warsaw | Warsaw public transport | Warsaw train | Warsaw metro | Warsaw bus | Warsaw tram | Visit Warsaw | #visitwarsaw #warsawtransport #warszawa #warsawpoland #warsawpublictransport

Ticket validation machine

Using the buses

While Warsaw does have plenty of bus routes, these are probably less useful for visitors simply because the tram network is so clear and extensive. Bus tickets work in the same way as trams: insert your ticket into the machine to validate it on the first stage of your journey.

Planning a trip to Warsaw, Poland? Check out everything you need to know about getting around Warsaw by public transport! | Warsaw Poland | Public transport Warsaw | Warsaw public transport | Warsaw train | Warsaw metro | Warsaw bus | Warsaw tram | Visit Warsaw | #visitwarsaw #warsawtransport #warszawa #warsawpoland #warsawpublictransport

Interior of one of Warsaw’s modern trams

Recommended transport app for Warsaw

During my stay in Warsaw, I downloaded and used the app Warsaw Public Transport Pro, which I found invaluable. The app has a small charge (currently less than $1.50), but is well worth the investment.

Planning a trip to Warsaw, Poland? Check out everything you need to know about getting around Warsaw by public transport! | Warsaw Poland | Public transport Warsaw | Warsaw public transport | Warsaw train | Warsaw metro | Warsaw bus | Warsaw tram | Visit Warsaw | #visitwarsaw #warsawtransport #warszawa #warsawpoland #warsawpublictransport

Get the app from the iTunes App Store or Google Play Store.


Want to save “Getting around Warsaw by public transport” for later? Pin it!

Planning a trip to Warsaw, Poland? Check out everything you need to know about getting around Warsaw by public transport! | Warsaw Poland | Public transport Warsaw | Warsaw public transport | Warsaw train | Warsaw metro | Warsaw bus | Warsaw tram | Visit Warsaw | #visitwarsaw #warsawtransport #warszawa #warsawpoland #warsawpublictransport

Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

Top things to do in Warsaw: The perfect Warsaw itinerary

Top things to do in Warsaw: The perfect Warsaw itinerary

Capital of Poland since the late 16th century, the historic city of Warsaw in eastern Poland has not always had a lot of love. Devastated by the Nazis in World War II, and one of the capitals of the Soviet Bloc for much of the 20th century, it has always played second fiddle to the southern city of Kraków in the world’s attentions. But modern Warsaw is a delight to visit, brimming with history both ancient and modern. Wondering what are the best things to see in Warsaw? If you are considering a trip to the Polish capital, begin compiling your Warsaw itinerary with a look at these 12 top things to see and do in the city.

Communist bus tour
Old Town
Royal Castle
River cruise
Palace of Culture and Science
Jewish ghetto
Museum of Life Under Communism
Traditional pierogi
Copernicus Science Centre
Marie Curie Museum
The World of Chopin
Warsaw’s modern business district
Where to stay
Where to eat
Getting around

Warsaw’s historic Royal Palace, on the edge of the Old Town

1. Take a communist bus tour

One quirky way to get your bearings in the city is to take a tour in a replica Communist bus. The buses, built in the 1990s to 1950s specifications, are run by Adventure Warsaw, and are a great way to get an overview of Warsaw and its history before striking out on your own.

Explore Warsaw in a quirky, communist-style bus!

2. Explore Warsaw’s Old Town

Warsaw’s old town is one of the newest in Europe. Razed to the ground by the Nazi occupiers in August 1944 (they took exception to the people of Warsaw’s decision to fight back in the Warsaw Uprising of the same month – check out the excellent Warsaw Uprising Museum to learn more), the city lay in ruins – but not for long. Painstakingly rebuilt from memories and photographs, many of the most significant buildings were almost entirely reconstructed to their original design, and the area retains a medieval feel with its cobbled streets and brightly painted buildings. Today it is one of the most popular places to see in Warsaw.

Check out the historic Market Square with Warsaw’s very own Little Mermaid statue – a rather more pugnacious version than her Copenhagen counterpart with sword and shield, she has become the symbol of the city. Visit the magnificent Gothic St. John’s Archcathedral, with its distinctive stepped vaulted roof; outside the cathedral is a stone commemorating 1000 years of Christianity in Poland from 966AD to 1966. Or simply wander the streets and soak up the atmosphere; the old town may have been rebuilt, but because of this the visitor can enjoy the splendour of the buildings as they would have been back in the Middle Ages when they were new.

Warsaw’s historic Old Town

3. Admire the Royal Castle

Warsaw’s Royal Castle, on the edge of the Old Town, is another building which was rebuilt after the Second World War. Fortunately, though, the people of the city anticipated the arrival of the German forces and many of the priceless contents were hidden safely away and still remain today, including the stunning gilded throne and a magnificent room full of Canaletto paintings, which allow the visitor to get truly up close to these masterpieces. But the Castle itself has also been lovingly restored to its former glory; beautiful parquet floors take the visitor around the royal apartments, including a ballroom to rival anything at Versailles with its glittering mirrors, golden ornamentation and spectacular ceiling mural, repainted as close as possible to the original by a modern artist. On the ground floor, the palatial apartments give way to a series of more castle-like rooms containing exhibits of crown jewels and an incredible collection of Rembrants.

The King’s bedroom in the Royal Castle. We were surprised at how small the bed was!

4. Take a cruise on the Vistula River

Warsaw’s river is surprisingly undeveloped for a capital city. Although wide, it is shallow and difficult to navigate, so the only boats navigating these waters are smaller craft, making a river cruise a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the leafy river banks and city skyline beyond. We cruised with Po Wiśle, which has luxurious boats with panoramic windows and light refreshments on sale.

Approaching the Old Town from the Vistula River

5. Check out the view from the Palace of Culture and Science

Known locally, with a healthy dose of irony, as Stalin’s Gift, the Palace of Culture and Science is hard to miss. This 1950s skyscraper, built in the triangular “birthday cake” style so beloved by the Soviet dictator, was presented to the city of Warsaw by the man himself, ostensibly as a gift, but in reality as an unavoidable reminder of who really ran the country during the Communist era. You don’t refuse gifts from Stalin, but the people of the city took matters into their own hands and decided that if they had to build it, they would build it bigger and better, and the building standing on this site today is twice the height of the original plan. Housing theatres, cinemas and many other treasures for the enjoyment of Warsaw’s citizens, the skyscraper is a fine example of communist might with its awe-inspiring marbled halls and Soviet-style statues. Take the elevator to the viewing gallery to see the inside of the Palace for yourself; there are spectacular views from the top to the Old Town and river in the distance, as well as the mini-Manhattan of Warsaw’s new business district as it grows by the day. Sixty years on, the Palace of Culture and Science is still the tallest building in the city – but not for long.

Stalin’s Gift – the Palace of Culture and Science

6. Learn the tragic history of the Warsaw Ghetto

It’s impossible to come to Warsaw and ignore the legacy of World War II. At the outbreak of war there were over 400,000 Jews living in the city, and the Nazi invaders were quick to take them under their direct control, creating the Warsaw Ghetto in late 1940. The ghetto, in the Muranów district of the city, covered a vast area but not vast enough for the number of inhabitants, who were housed at an average of more than 9 people to a room.

Some 92,000 Jewish residents died of starvation and disease in the Ghetto, while more than 300,000 perished by gas or firing squad at the concentration camps, mainly the camp at Treblinka to which some 250,000 Ghetto residents were dispatched en masse in summer 1942. In 1943 the remaining residents began to fight back, culminating in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in late April, after which the remaining Jewish residents were either killed or transported to concentration camps.

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews (POLIN) stands within the old ghetto district, which has not been rebuilt and today houses more modern buildings. The museum is well worth a visit; allow at least 2 hours. Outside the museum is a monument to Polish Jews and to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

The monument to Warsaw’s Jewish community stands outside the POLIN museum in the heart of the old ghetto

7. Experience a bygone age at the Museum of Life Under Communism

After the conclusion of World War II, Poland found itself on the eastern side of the Allied divide, and almost 5 decades of Communist life began. Communist buildings are still very visible in the city, but communist life itself has all but completely disappeared.

For a taste of life in the 1970s and 1980s, and a step back in time, visit the Museum of Life Under Communism (Czar PRL) in the Praga district east of the river. This small museum, spread across two rooms in an abandoned factory, lovingly assembles communist memorabilia to recreate a home and office, as well as displays of homeware, sporting equipment and many other aspects of communist life. Westerners who grew up during this period may recognise more than a few of the items on display, but many more are unfamiliar to anyone who didn’t live in the Soviet bloc. For those who are too young to remember the fall of the Berlin wall, the museum is an excellent way to get a taste of what life was like when Poland was just a satellite of the Soviet Union.

The museum is a little hard to find; take trams 3, 6, 22 or 26 to Bliska or Gocławska. The museum is tucked down a side street but is well signposted if you are looking in the right place!

70s communist chic at the Museum of Life Under Communism

8. Eat your fill of traditional pierogi

International foods dominate in modern-day Poland, but for a taste of real Polish cuisine, check out the ubiquitous pierogi, small dumplings traditionally made with minced meat, sauerkraut or local cheese and potato. Pierogi can be found in many restaurants, but especially in the Old Town where specialist restaurants such as Gościniec and Zapiecek offer a chance to sample this slice of Polish life! Wash your pierogi down with a glass of Polish beer for that authentic experience…

Pierogi – a traditional Polish dish found all over the country

9. Challenge your brain at the Copernicus Science Centre

The world-class Copernicus Science Centre is a great place to get a break from the sightseeing. Suitable for all ages, but especially children and teenagers, the museum opened in 2010 and today houses interactive science displays on a rotating basis, as well as an excellent section for teenagers away from the hyperactive little kids! Most displays have information and explanations in Polish, English and Russian, although we did find some displays were in Polish only. Well worth a visit if you are of a scientific mindset!

The Copernicus Science Centre, Warsaw

10. Learn about Marie Skłodowska Curie in the heart of the New Town

Perhaps most easily associated with her adoptive home of Paris (her husband, Pierre Curie, was French), the young Maria Skłodowska was in fact born and raised in Poland, a fact commemorated in the name of the chemical element she discovered, polonium. Warsaw’s New Town (in fact dating from the 15th century!) was also rebuilt after WW2 and Mme Curie’s home along with it, but a house on the spot where she lived has been turned into a small museum of her life and work. Check out a recreation of her laboratory and admire photos and instruments from the period.

Explore the Marie Curie museum to learn more about Poland’s most famous daughter

11. Explore the world of Chopin, Warsaw’s musical legend

Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin was born near Warsaw in 1810, and the city is proud of its famous son. Visit Chopin’s birthplace at Żelazowa Wola 46km west of the city, where there is a large park and museum, or check out the Fryderyk Chopin Museum in the heart of the city. On Sunday afternoons in summer, free concerts of Chopin’s music are performed in Royal Łazienki Park; as of summer 2018, performance times are 12 pm and 4 pm, and the concerts run from mid-May to late September.

If you are wandering the city centre, look out for the commemorative benches which play excerpts from Chopin’s classics at the touch of a button!

One of the musical Chopin benches scattered around the city

12. Admire the modern business district as Warsaw looks to the future

Warsaw may be steeped in history, but it is also looking to the future. The business district to the west of the city centre is a mini-Manhattan of glass-and-chrome skyscrapers which form a dramatic backdrop to the Palace of Culture and Science which used to dominate the skyline. Plans for the district are ambitious and new buildings are going up all the time; views of the skyline at night are spectacular and showcase the dynamism of the modern city. Whatever your preconceptions of Poland, and of Warsaw in particular, they are sure to be blown away.

Warsaw’s Manhattan – a magical view of the business district by night


Where to stay

Warsaw has hotels to suit all budgets. We stayed at the Hampton by Hilton Warsaw City Centre, a mid-range hotel with air conditioning and an impressive breakfast spread, located close to the main Warsawa Centrum railway station and with good transport links to the rest of the city.

Where to eat

For traditional Polish fare in a historic environment, check out the many restaurants in the Old Town market square. You will pay for the location, but it is hard to beat.

For a local gem, visit the Kafka Café (Kawiarnia Kafka) close to the Copernicus Science Centre. This relaxed coffee shop offers delicious filled sweet and savoury pancakes and the fresh fruit lemonades are to die for! The café also has a wide range of books, magazines and board games to while away an afternoon if you are in no hurry to move.

Getting around

Warsaw has an excellent public transport system, made up of buses, trams and a limited (but ever-expanding) metro system. Prices are comparatively cheap – an adult ticket to anywhere in the city cost approximately $1.20 in summer 2018. I found the Warsaw Public Transport Pro app invaluable for finding my way around; although not free, it is very low-cost and well worth the investment.


None of the activities in this post were sponsored; we paid our own way around the city, and any recommendations are personal and independent.

Want to check out another side to beautiful Poland? Try this post!
Snowshoeing in Europe: Poland’s Tatra National Park


Looking to create your own Warsaw itinerary? Pin this post for later!

Poland's capital city overflows with history. Create your own Warsaw itinerary by exploring these 12 top things to do in Warsaw Poland! | Visit Warsaw Poland | Top things to do in Warsaw Poland | Places to see in Warsaw | Best things to see in Warsaw | Copernicus Science Centre | Warsaw Ghetto | Jewish Ghetto Warsaw | Warsaw Old Town | #visitwarsaw #warsawpoland Poland's capital city overflows with history. Create your own Warsaw itinerary by exploring these 12 top things to do in Warsaw Poland! | Visit Warsaw Poland | Top things to do in Warsaw Poland | Places to see in Warsaw | Best things to see in Warsaw | Copernicus Science Centre | Warsaw Ghetto | Jewish Ghetto Warsaw | Warsaw Old Town | #visitwarsaw #warsawpoland

Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

Auschwitz: a photo essay

Auschwitz: a photo essay

While I was in Poland I was lucky enough to grab the opportunity to visit Auschwitz. I had been to Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum in Jerusalem, back in September 2016 and really felt that Auschwitz was somewhere I needed to go to complete the picture of what I had learnt in Israel.

It’s a surreal experience, walking around and hearing what happened on the very spot where you are standing. For me, it is something I am processing gradually over time. I’m not prone to sentimentality, but the feeling is hard to shake and is best expressed by sharing the photos I took on the day.

For more information on Auschwitz and the Holocaust in general, see the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Yad Vashem World Holocaust Museum websites.


 

visit auschwitz

The famous “Work makes you free” gates to Auschwitz I. Millions passed under these gates. Unlike today’s visitors, most were never free again.

 

visit auschwitz

The converted army barracks that make up Auschwitz I. Unlike Auschwitz II and many other concentration camps, the main buildings of Auschwitz I had a previous life before they were converted to prison cells and torture chambers.

 

visit auschwitz

Some of the thousands of pairs of spectacles taken from prisoners sent to the gas chambers.

 

visit auschwitz

Shoes of every shape and size. Their owners would never need them again.

 

visit auschwitz

Block 10 – where sterilisation experiments were carried out on female prisoners.

 

visit auschwitz

One of the guard towers overlooking Auschwitz I.

 

visit auschwitz

The Wall of Death. In this courtyard, against this wall, many thousands of people were executed by firing squad.

 

visit auschwitz

The slanting posts were used to suspend prisoners by their arms, tied together behind their backs. This resulted in dislocations and fractures, which rendered them unfit for work, and resulted in them going to the gas chambers.

 

visit auschwitz

Building used for medical experiments, Auschwitz I. There was an official “hospital”, but nobody came out alive.

 

visit auschwitz

The bleak landscape of the prison blocks, Auschwitz I.

 

visit auschwitz

Fence, Auschwitz I. This was electrified with such a strong current it would kill on impact.

 

visit auschwitz

A fence – and an all-too-familiar cry. Auschwitz I.

 

visit auschwitz

Between the fences separating the prisoners from the SS guards.

 

visit auschwitz

Inside a gas chamber at Auschwitz I – the only one still standing. Of all the places we visited at Auschwitz, this gave me the biggest chills. I was lucky: I got to walk back out through the door.

 

visit auschwitz

The crematorium. Immediately though the door from the gas chamber.

 

visit auschwitz

The outside of the last remaining gas chamber, Auschwitz I. There was snow on the January day we visited, and the cell blocks were cold and draughty. I can only imagine what it was like in winter for the prisoners.

 

visit auschwitz

Railway platform at Auschwitz II Birkenau – the end of the line for the transported prisoners. Of the millions of prisoners, who arrived here by wooden rail wagon, 90% were Jews.

 

visit auschwitz

The railway tracks converge on Auschwitz II Birkenau. It’s the end of the line in every sense.

 

visit auschwitz

A guard post looks out over Auschwitz II Birkenau.

 

visit auschwitz

One of the trucks used to transport the prisoners. This was donated by a survivor’s family; it may or may not have actually been used in the transport of Jews but is certainly of the same model. On the back of the wagon are stones laid in memorial, in the Jewish tradition.

 

visit auschwitz

The barracks of Auschwitz II Birkenau.

 

visit auschwitz

Entrance to the camp, Auschwitz II Birkenau. On arrival, the new inmates were assessed. Those deemed unproductive, such as the elderly, children and the infirm, were sent directly to the gas chambers. The lucky ones were admitted to the camp, where all that awaited them was hard labour and horrific living conditions – until they, too, became too ill and frail to work.

 

visit auschwitz

The memorial at Auschwitz II Birkenau. Each of the plaques commemorates the dead in one of the different languages used by the prisoners at the camp. The Hebrew plaque is somehow the most moving.

 

visit auschwitz

One of the mass graves where the ashes of the dead were deposited.

 

visit auschwitz

Auschwitz II Birkenau. There’s not much left of most of the barracks, but it conveys even more starkly the barrenness of the landscape.

 

visit auschwitz

The barracks at Auschwitz II Birkenau. In these buildings, prisoners were housed in terrible conditions; they were cold and draughty with mud floors, and prisoners often slept 6 to a bunk.

 

visit auschwitz

A guard post is visible between the barracks, Auschwitz II Birkenau. Really no chance of escape.

 

visit auschwitz

Inside one of the buildings where the prisoners were held before execution.

 

visit auschwitz

Each section of shelf could hold 6 prisoners, so disease spread like wildfire. The building wasn’t heated.

 

visit auschwitz

Auschwitz II Birkenau. The memory of this place will be with me forever, but I am so glad I went. If you get the chance to visit Auschwitz, do go – but be prepared to be respectful and considerate. The experience is eye-opening, and a vivid reminder of what humans are capable of if we let them. Let’s not let them.

 

 

 


visit auschwitz

Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

Vegetarian in Poland? Here’s how to cope!

Vegetarian in Poland? Here’s how to cope!

So I’m vegetarian. Or not really; I eat fish, which makes me a pescatarian, but that always sounds pretentious so I usually go with “vegetarian who eats fish”. Which normally either (a) confuses people or (b) prompts them to say “don’t you mean pescatarian”? But I digress.

Anyway, I have recently returned from a wonderful New Year trip to Poland, where we stayed in a spa town on the southern border with Slovakia, ate and drank far too much, went on wintery hikes, and memorably tried snowshoeing (which is much more fun downhill than uphill… at least until you go the wrong way, reach a bit which is steeper than you meant to attempt, fall over when you try it anyway, and have to shuffle the rest of the way down on your bottom because you can’t stand up again in snowshoes on a steep hill. And people are watching. Oops, digressing again. But for more on my snowshoeing experience, check out this post).

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Wonderful as the trip was, however, I learned a valuable lesson: it’s not easy being vegetarian in Poland.

I’ve travelled a lot in the last 10 years, and for the last 9 of them I have been vegetarian. Sometimes it’s easy – I love you, India – and other times it’s not so easy. You try being veggie in Argentina, home of the best steaks in the world.

But none of them can hold a candle to Poland. It’s fine, I thought, I will just order something with no meat in it. My choices will be limited, but so be it. So for my first meal in Poland, I ordered pierogi, traditional dumplings with cheese and spinach. And they turned up… with bacon on the top. Granted the menu didn’t specifically say they were suitable for vegetarians, but who misses bacon off a description?!

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Pierogi ruskie – traditional Polish dumplings (meat-free!)

I quickly learned to ask the question EVERY time I ordered anything. For this, our Polish guide Kasia was invaluable, as something else I wasn’t really expecting what how few people spoke English. In many respects that’s great – I mean, it’s Poland, why should they speak English anyway? – but it’s not so useful when you’re trying to ask vital culinary questions.

On New Year’s Eve, after our lovingly prepared vegetarian starter turned up with a large helping of gelatine on the side, I asked Kasia to produce a sign to speed things along. Needless to say, I never needed it again… but I’ve got it for next time!

And on the plus side, the vodka was veggie…

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How to cope with being vegetarian in Poland…


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poland vegetarian

Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting 65 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!