Culture, For Foreigners

Expecting visitors? What to do with your friends in Poland

I had a busy holiday season to say the least. My parents visited for 10 days, then I had a day visit from a WorldTeach (the program I came to Poland with originally) friend who was passing through Gliwice, then 1 week with my best friend Laura and her husband. It was my friends’ first time in Poland and we had an amazing time with them. They love food so we tried to center their trip around that but also visiting must-see sites in Poland. Are you expecting visitors in Poland? Here are some interesting things they might enjoy doing.

Milk bars. If your guests are eager to try Polish food, you have to take them to a milk bar (bar mleczny). Not only is the food good and cheap but it’s an experience that you can’t really have in other countries – at least not in America. We don’t have any restaurants with such low prices and such good food. Only fast food restaurants have those kinds of prices. The best bar in Gliwice, Bar Teatralny is a bit like a factory. When you walk in the line is always about 10-people deep but they serve everyone so quickly that by the time you’ve decided what to eat, you’re already at the front of the line. The four of us ate and had something to drink for 40 zł – which is about $10 right now. My friends were utterly shocked that it’s possible to eat so much for so little. We had żurek, gołabki, pierogi ruskie and with meat, kotlet mielony, bigos, kompot and fresh carrot juice.

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Auschwitz. This is one of those requisite “I have to do this in Poland” things which I have to unfortunately also do every time I have a visitor. I’ve been there a total of 3 times and I’m sure I’ll have to go in the future as well. As long as the trips aren’t too close together, it’s not that bad and I always learn something new. For sure it’s worth seeing, especially for people who are visiting Poland for the first time. Pro tip: this time we went without a tour guide and I have to say that this is the best way to visit. Granted you don’t learn as much as with a guide but you can walk around at your own pace, read the things you’d like, go to the exhibits which they don’t take you to on the tour, and you don’t have to be squished around all the other people on the tour. Oh and it’s FREE if you do it without a guide. How I never knew that, I don’t know. All you have to do is go to the ticket counter and they’ll give you free tickets and you can just walk around as much or as little as you’d like. Highly recommended.

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Kraków. Given the proximity of Kraków to Gliwice, it’s the obvious choice for sightseeing for all visitors. This year alone I’ve taken 3 separate groups of visitors to see Kraków. I think it’s probably the most famous city for sightseeing period, so it’s good the trip is quick for us. So what did we do with our friends? Well they’re foodies so I wanted to focus on authentic Polish food as much as possible. I thought about taking them on a Kraków food tour like the Delicious Poland tours because they have a general food tour, a vodka and culture tour, a pierogi making class and a craft beer tour – all of which sound really cool. Sadly that didn’t work out as they were fully booked so we decided to do a tasting menu at the restaurant Pod Aniołami. It turned out to be a good Plan B as the menu had many dishes – barszcz, pierogi, lard (smalec), żurek, Polish cheeses, etc. on the menu that you’d want your visitors to try. Oh and the Christmas market was still going on so lard/kielbasa/onions on bread??? YES.

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Muzeum Śląskie in Katowice. If you’ve thought about going there and haven’t yet, you better get on it. This museum is great for so many reasons. Firstly, the buildings are incredible. It’s built next to/among/between an old coal mine so you have old brick buildings, a mine shaft, and then the new buildings which house the art. The first gallery it takes you through Polish art from a few centuries so you get a bit of each period, no matter which you prefer. They have a really well done exhibition about the history of Silesia, which, as a resident of Silesia, was very interesting for me but generally it’s just a good Polish history lesson. Free on Tuesdays and with a nice cafe, it’s a great way to spend a lazy day with visitors. 

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The mountains. We took my friends to Szczyrk in the Beskidy mountains so my husband could snowboard. Even though it was winter, it’s still nice to see the mountains and spend a day in nature getting some actual fresh air. Szczyrk has a chairlift so it makes it easy to go to the top of the mountain and it’s kind fun for people who don’t live in places with snow. During the trip we ate blueberry cake and smalec in the shelter and later took a walk since the weather was so nice. Great views and good food made it worth the trip. It’s also a good idea to take someone to a karczma (a mountain inn) so they can eat some traditional food from the mountains and experience the cute atmosphere.

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After that, your guests will be able to brag that they’ve seen many of the most interesting sites in Poland and they can advocate that Poland is a nice place to visit with roads and cities and all that kind of newfangled stuff. Do you have any suggestions – perhaps interesting places in your area? If so, be sure to leave them in the comments!

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14 Comments

  • Reply Piotr 9 January 2017 at 18:53

    I was reading your newest post and I started wondering if you prefer southern and western part of Poland. Have you ever been at north of our beautiful country? If not, I highly recommend visiting Toruń. This is really beautiful place who was built in 1233 if I remember correctly. Therefore, this city is famous from their medieval churches and castles. There are things you definitely should visit:
    – Leaning Tower (Krzywa wieża) located at Krzywa Wieża Street-the part of fortress begun in 13th century, extended in 15th, partially demolished in 19th
    -Ruins of Teutonic Knight Castle (Zamek Krzyżacki)-built between 14th and 15th century but heavily damaged during a town rebellion in 1454. Partially rebuilt in 1966.
    -Old Square (Stary Rynek) with Copernicus monument in the center. The figure is very characteristic-it holds a globus in its left hand and look as it considered about something. There is City Hall (Ratusz Miejski) from 13th century as well.
    -Philadelphian Boulevard (Bulwar Filadelfijski)-This fortress embraces whole right side of the Vistula river. The name is related to Toruń and Philadelphia cooperation.
    There are the most landmarks of Toruń that came to my mind. You ought to taste widely known gingerbreads. They are really various and delicious, covered with sugar coat, poured with chocolate and/or stuffed with fruit jam. The best ones are sold at the Żeglarska 24 street-close to the Vistula coast. If you want to buy fresh made sweets you can get to Copernicus Factory (Fabryka Kopernik) located at Żółkiewskiego 34. I hope my tips will be useful for you. Have a nice trip if you decide to go! During writing I had some help from English Wikipedia mainly, I received some information from my parents too. These sources might not be quite reliable so I`m not responsible for possible mistakes ;-).

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 9 January 2017 at 19:27

      Hey Piotr – I haven’t spent much time in the north honestly. I’ve only been to Gdańsk and Sopot and that’s about it. I’d love to visit Toruń but I’ve just never had the chance! It’s pretty far from us so we mostly explore the south. I’d say I’ve been to most of the big cities and major areas to visit but there are still a lot of places that I’m dying to go to like Bieszczady or Sudety.

      • Reply Piotr 9 January 2017 at 19:58

        You answered to me as I though-Toruń is too far away from the south of Poland. It`s really shame you have never had the chance to get there. Anyway, It would be really nice if you wrote down my information. Maybe it will be needed someday-who knows?

  • Reply another piotr 9 January 2017 at 19:14

    I agree with the Piotr above, Toruń’s old town rocks.
    And a little notice:
    – I don’t think „bar mleczny” can be translated this way
    – Karczma is not a mountain inn, but just a generic, obsolete term for a venue where u can eat/drink

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 9 January 2017 at 19:22

      Piotr – I have to disagree with your notices. Bar mleczny is definitely milk bar. I’ve even been to a restaurant called “Milk Bar”. Also, an “inn” is also an old style, obsolete term in English (or from fantasy novels) for a place you can eat/drink/stay the night and I’m guessing you used to be able to stay the night in a karczma, but I’m only assuming that.

    • Reply Piotr 9 January 2017 at 20:03

      I meant *thought obviously.

      • Reply Diana 10 January 2017 at 21:05

        I think that Another Piotr wanted to say that karczma is a general term for inns, not only inns located in the mountains 🙂

        • Reply Leah Morawiec 12 January 2017 at 14:53

          Ah well that does make sense, yes. Well the one we went to was in the mountains so that’s why I wrote it that way.

      • Reply Suri Lanka 29 January 2017 at 02:53

        Bar mleczny is not a milk bar. I think, this term can’t be translated literally due to polish typical foods that are specialized in such bars. On the other hand, milk is not usually served there. Bar mleczny is a type of cheap, run-down bar or restaurant serving greasy and fried foods. It is resemble to a ‘greasy spoon’.
        Milk bar is a snack bar that sells milk drinks and other refreshments associated with dairy products or bakery products. It’s a ‘coner shop’ in Australia.

  • Reply Magdalena Łaskawska 9 January 2017 at 19:53

    Leah-if we’re talking about northern Poland,what about Mazury?have you ever been there?if yes,did you like it?:)

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 9 January 2017 at 20:08

      I have actually but I wasn’t really that interested honestly. Maybe that’s because I grew up in Florida where there are lots of lakes and I like mountains more because of it 🙂

  • Reply Nancy Southers 12 January 2017 at 18:25

    Sign me up for the vodka and culture tour our next trip in Krakow;) Sounds extremely interesting!!

  • Reply Jem 16 January 2017 at 19:23

    Since you’re close to Krakow, have you taken anyone to the Wieliczka salt mine? I know my husband loved that when we visited Poland after I had returned to the US.

    Obviously there are many other cities and areas in the country to take people…especially return visitors who have seen your area!

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 17 January 2017 at 07:22

      Actually I haven’t but we tried on this trip. When my guests found out the tour was 3 hours they decided they didn’t want to go :/ Too bad cause it would be a unique experience. Perhaps next time!

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