Six Places in Poland You’ve Never Heard Of
The history of Lower Silesia is marked with border changes and identity shifts. Subsumed first under the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and then the Prussian one, Lower Silesia was German in ethnicity and demographic until WWII. After the war, the German border was pushed further west and Lower Silesia became part of the Polish nation.
Lower Silesia today is undergoing rapid development, drawing on national momentum from Poland’s recent stint as the EU Council President, as well as on regional momentum from foreign investment. After hosting the 2012 EuroCup Football Tournament, the Lower Silesian capital city – Wroclaw – was also chosen as the 2016 European Capital of Culture.
Lower Silesia is easily accessible by train from the major European capitals, and the cities and towns within the region are connected by bus. Biking and hiking trails link many of the smaller villages.
Though May to September are the best months to visit Lower Silesia if you want to avoid snow, there are festivals and events to draw interested visitors year-round. Wroclaw hosts the New Horizons Film Festival every July, one of Europe’s largest independent film screenings. There’s also the Buskerbus International Festival of Street Art which travels throughout the region in September, and a range of music festivals throughout the year. And if you happen to land in Lower Silesia during December, be sure to check out the Christmas Markets held in town centers.
Dissected by the schizophrenic branches of the Odra River and linked back together again by dozens of bridges, Wroclaw is known as the “Venice of the East”. The oldest section of the city, just north of the Rynek, is an island. Heavy with gothic church foundations that speak to Wroclaw’s roots as a medieval religious center, the pointed spires are some of the city’s highest points. The best time to walk across the island is around noon on a Sunday, when the cathedral bells ring loudly enough to resonate in your chest.
If you go:
There are a range of accommodation options in Wroclaw. Hotels and boutique B&Bs range from $50 – $150USD/night. Hostels are also plentiful, and can be as low as $20USD/night. Stay close to the Rynek, which has the most concentrated choice of restaurants, cafes, and bars.
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The Church of Peace, a massively impressive 17th-century wooden church and UNESCO Heritage Site, is located in Swidnica’s northern corner. Embodying the city’s past better than a history book, the church was built during a few years of between-battle calm and was intended to symbolize Protestant and Catholic co-existence. Its seemingly neglected German cemetery distinctly marks the point when Swidnica shifted from Germany to Poland after the war.
If you go:
As Swidnica is only an hour away from Wroclaw, it makes for a nice day-trip. Buses run nearly every hour and cost around $5USD/one way. There are a few hotel options in Swidnica averaging around $50USD/night. Learn a bit of Polish before you check-in, as English isn’t as widespread or common as it is in Wroclaw.
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Don’t forget to stop and have a photo taken in front of the life-sized pitcher and cup on the side of the road leading into town!
If you go:
Each pottery factory has its own associated outlet store, and pottery prices are 2-3 times less expensive than buying pieces that have been imported. Manufaktura is a good place to start, as they offer tours through the factory. Zaklady Ceramiczne is another option. If you go to Boleslawiec in August, be sure to time your trip with the annual Polish Pottery Festival.
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If you go:
The fortress is open from 9am – 6pm during the summer and 9am – 3pm during the off-season. Tickets cost around $6USD. There are a few hotels in Klodzko that average $50 – $70USD/night, and buses make the 2-hour trip from Wroclaw consistently and frequently throughout the day.
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While many visitors come to a health spa for an extended stay on doctor’s orders, towns like Polanica Zdroj are also great weekend stays. Laced with hiking and biking trails that link small Polish and Czech towns and villages across the mountains, the region is best explored by foot or on bike.
If you go:
A comfortable and reasonably-priced accommodation option is a pensjonat, which is a small hotel with around a dozen rooms on offer. In Polanica Zdroj, many pensjonat are located in restored turn-of-the-century homes, and even offer their own range of spa services on site. Prices range from $40 – $80USD/night.
The pleasantly walkable castle grounds expand toward the Bory Dolnoslaskie forest, and it’s possible to rent a bike and cycle to the surrounding villages.
If you go:
It’s possible to walk around the grounds of Kliczkow Castle for free, but to enter you must take a tour (around $7USD), offered on weekends or by request. Booking a room starts at $100USD/night.
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Photo credits: Shutterstock.com, CCat82 /Shutterstock.com, Grzegorz Petrykowski /Shutterstock.com, Radoslaw Maciejewski /Shutterstock.com, Andrei Rybachuk /Shutterstock.com, Avillfoto /Shutterstock.com, Stepniak /Shutterstock.com, fotolupa.