Poland Tour - 8 Days – 7 Nights
Arrive in Warsaw
Arrive in Warsaw. Poland’s capital is a wonderfully dynamic and modern city, but reminders of its turbulent history are easy to uncover. After World War ll around 85% of its buildings were left in ruins; however, the city has been impressively rebuilt and restored to its former glory with the Old Town ‘Stare Miasto’ as its centerpiece. Buskers, street artists and open-air cafes give the area a unique energy and atmosphere, making a visit that little bit more special. For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Warsaw at any time.
Explore Warsaw Old Town
This morning we head out on foot to explore the Old Town district. With cobblestone streets, historic squares and Gothic churches, it’s easy to understand why the Old Town is top of every visitor’s ‘must see’ list. We take in all the main sites including the 17th century rust red Royal Castle and the Lazienki Palace or ‘palace on the water’ with its attractive architecture and lush gardens. There are several options for your free afternoon; Warsaw has plenty to keep you occupied if you wish to continue exploring the city centre independently. Alternatively, you can visit the splendid 17th century Wilanow Palace, often referred to as the ‘Polish Versailles’, or the fascinating Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which was voted as the European Museum of the Year in 2016. Another popular choice is the Warsaw 1944 Rising Museum, which is a tribute to the local residents who fought for their independence against German occupation. One of the exhibits here features a replica of a Liberator B-24J bomber aircraft.
Train to Wroclaw
The morning train takes us to the ‘Venice of Poland’, Wroclaw, a charming old city built on 12 islands surrounded by canals and rivers. More than 120 bridges link the islands which are adorned with delightful buildings reflecting the city’s past. You’ll see Bohemian, Hungarian, Austrian, Prussian and German influences as the city has been coveted by all of these empires throughout its long history. Keep your eyes peeled and after a while you’ll start to notice something popping up in doorways, alleyways and on street corners; perhaps Wroclaw’s most famous inhabitants, Gnomes! An important part of Polish folk law they also became associated with the protest movements of the 1980’s and a symbol of resistance to communist control.
Free time in Wroclaw
Today you’ll have free time in Wroclaw or you may choose to visit the Panorama of Raclawice, an enormous circular painting (more than 100 metre long) depicting the battle of Raclawice. Wroclaw is home to many small and quirky bars and micro-breweries so there are plenty of options available to quench your thirst after a day spent exploring. Further afield you might like to join an excursion to the historic city of Zagan, which was formerly the German city of Sagan and home to the prisoner of war camp for captured allied airmen, which is famous as the location of ‘The Great Escape’. It will take either 2 hours by minibus or 2.5 hours by train per way to get there. Whilst here you might like to visit the 13th century Augustine monastery and library which houses many old books and globes and is known for its whispering gallery and unusual acoustics. Alternatively you could visit the castle which was previously owned by the wealth Bohemian Lobkowitz family or spend time discovering the charming Old Town and climb to the top of the Post-Evangelical Church Tower to get the best views over the streets below. Instead you might like to visit Ksiaz Castle and Landscape Park, which is best known for its stunning Rococo architecture. It will take either 1 hour by minibus or by train per way to reach here. If we travel by train then we will pass near to the location of the reputed ‘gold train’ site where many people believe a train packed with Nazi gold from World War II was hidden in a secret tunnel that has yet to be found. At the castle you can either visit just the main fort or also the World War II tunnels which formed part of the Nazi ‘Riese’ complex. This 13th century castle was home to the powerful Hochbergs family, but in 1941 it was confiscated by the Nazi’s and received significant damage during this time, but they also created a network of mysterious tunnel under the castle. The castle was fully restored in the 1950’s to its former grandeur and today you can explore many of the rooms, terraces and gardens.
Train to Krakow
This morning’s train journey sees us arriving in Krakow, Poland’s capital until 1596 and still its most charming city. Dating from the 13th century, Krakow is a picture-postcard city of narrow streets, grand buildings and al-fresco cafes just begging to be explored. In the afternoon we begin to uncover the city’s delights with a visit to the fabulous Rynek Glowny, Europe’s largest medieval square. The square is still now very much at the heart of Krakow local life. Quirky town houses and historic buildings adorn the square with the most famous being the Sukiennice, a vast cloth hall where goods would have been sold in Medieval times, which is still in use now as a covered market. Inside you’ll find vendors peddling a multitude of local wares from wooden toys to beautiful amber jewellery.
Discover the Wieliczka Salt Mines
We start today by visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mines, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, by local train (the journey takes us around 20 minutes each way). At up to 300 metres underground we’ll see a 400 year old chapel, a subterranean salt lake and chambers large enough to take the Eiffel Tower! The Chapel of Saint Kinga is the mines most spectacular feature and we will no doubt be amazed by what can be sculpted from salt. Please note that there are 350 steps down into the mine at the beginning of the tour and then a further 450 on the route through the various corridors and 20 chambers visited. The temperature underground can be much cooler than on the surface, so be sure to bring a jumper. Back in Krakow later this afternoon we head out on foot with a local guide to explore the delightful Old Town; another UNESCO World Heritage Site! and the only major Polish city to escape the war unscathed. Many of the streets are still very much as they were hundreds of years ago with historic buildings and elegant frontages. Overlooking all this is the fairy-tale Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral, where past kings and queens rest in peace. We will go inside the castle which houses exquisite treasures collected by the monarchy of Poland over the years. This evening you will have the opportunity to join a cooking class at a local restaurant where the chef will show you how to create a tantilising polish speciality.
Chance to go to Auschwitz
This morning is free for you to discover more of Krakow or you may choose to join an optional excursion to Oswiecim, the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp; an eerie and haunting place that drives home the terrible atrocities which took place here during World War II. This afternoon we visit the UNESCO listed Jewish Podgorze District, the location of the Jewish Ghetto in World War II and the setting for the film ‘Schindler’s List’. Along the way we will grab a ‘zapiekanka’, an open faced toasted baguette sandwich, which is a popular local fast food option. Whilst in this area you’ll have the opportunity to visit the Old Synagogue, Schindler’s Factory and the Museum of Jewish Life, which provide fascinating insights into the life of Krakow Jews and the war years. In the evening we commiserate the end of a great tour with a traditional Jewish dinner accompanied by Klezmer music with its expressive melodies, said to be reminiscent of the human voice. Following dinner, if you wish to join them, your Leader will take you to a few local bars and pubs to give you the chance to try the typical Polish beers and the extensive local vodka varieties.
Trip ends in Krakow
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Krakow. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Krakow at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from John Paul II Krakow-Balice International Airport (KRK), which is about 30 minutes’ drive.