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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!