What to see in Poland and the Czech Republic?
January 28, 2008 3:41 AM   Subscribe

Looking for things to see and places to go in Poland and the Czech Republic.

In the process of planning a trip to Poland, Czech and Germany in October this year for a few weeks. Basic plan is Gdansk, Warsaw, Krakow, Prague, Dresden and finishing in Berlin. Any specific suggestions on what to see, do, eat and how to get between them would be appreciated, particularly in Poland and the Czech republic. History, cultural (pop and/or traditional), geographical preferred, and the more unique to the area the better. I have a general dislike of the overly touristy, and I've done enough concentration camps to not have to see Auschwitz.
posted by kjs4 to Travel & Transportation around Poland (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Salt mines! Do not miss the salt mines.
posted by barnacles at 4:22 AM on January 28, 2008

I'm studying abroad, and I did that exact trip last October from Krakow to Prague to Dresden to Berlin. Very easy with trains.

Take a train out of Prague to Kutna Hora and see the bone church.

Prague is supposed to have the best beer in the world-- not sure if I agree but I'd rank the beer from the Strahov Monastery Brewery in my top three.

I'd second the salt mines as well, although I think they'd be best to visit in summer.

If you like to visit religious sites, I thought the churches in Krakow were very beautiful and unique.

The Berlin Wall Museum "Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie" was a place I could have spent an entire day in. Very worthwhile.

I'm a student so we travelled on a shoestring budget, so if you are looking for hostel recommendations I know of some great places, just send me a message.
posted by pumpkin11 at 4:41 AM on January 28, 2008

Just looked through my pictures and I found two more ideas... climb to the top of the Reichstag in Berlin at night.

And as someone who is not interested in cars at all, I still absolutely loved and would HIGHLY recommend the VW "Transparent Factory" in Dresden, where they build VW Phaetons by hand.
posted by pumpkin11 at 4:49 AM on January 28, 2008

For travel between Prague and Dresden, check out http://www.studentagencybus.com/ (we caught it from berlin to prague and just rocked up and bought tickets on the spot, depends how plannish you are). The bus is every bit as comfortable as the website says. We caught an overnight train from Krakow to Berlin, which was a little expensive but also very comfortable.
In Berlin, take a free (for tips) tour: ours was led by a USian history phd student who'd moved there 10 years earlier to study and just never left, and I learned heaps. Their pub crawl was also fun, but definitely touristy. I was also pretty impressed by the Holocaust museum.
I agree with pumpkin11 about the churches in Krakow, they were great. We had dinner one night at a 'home-cooking' type cafeteria just north of the old centre, which was absolutely delicious and very cheap as well - unfortunately I can't remember the name, but I think there were lots of them around anyway.
posted by jacalata at 5:11 AM on January 28, 2008

In czech republic: Czesky Krumlov. I was going to spend a few days, ended up staying for 2 weeks.
posted by signal at 5:14 AM on January 28, 2008

And by 'churches in Krakow', I also mean synagogues.
posted by jacalata at 5:16 AM on January 28, 2008

If you can make it down to Ceske Budejovice, it's got the original Budweiser brewery. It's also a very charming town.
posted by notsnot at 6:14 AM on January 28, 2008

Karlovy Vary is a pretty cool place to hang out, even if you're not James Bond.
posted by somanyamys at 6:21 AM on January 28, 2008

The only sane way to travel around Poland is by train. A first class intercity train between Gdansk and Warsaw, then Warsaw and Krakow will run you about 40 euro each leg and there is absolutely no way to get between Warsaw and Krakow faster.

Gdańsk/Sopot/Gdynia: Check out the old town in Gdansk and walk the boardwalk (Monte Casino all the way to the end) in Sopot. Gdynia is sort of an industrial town and nothing comes to mind as far as sightseeing.

Warsaw: Standard fare for sightseeing would be the Old Town, but personally, I'd skip it. You'll be visiting Old Towns in each of these cities and Warsaw's is by far the poorest... not to mention that it's only 60 years old as it was rebuilt after WWII. Depending on how long you plan on staying check out:
* The Palace of Culture and Science - take the elevator up to the top floor for a view of the entire Warsaw skyline.
* The Łazienki Park
* The Warsaw Uprising Museum - probably the best and most interesting museum in Poland right now. Very interactive, very multimedia.
* The Royal Gardens in Wilanów

Kraków: I'll 4th or 5th the salt mines in Wieliczka, truly an amazing sight. The Old Town here is very large and makes up most of the city center. That said, cracovians have sort of written it off for the tourists, so if you want something a little more authentic, hang out in the Kazimierz district (the old jewish quarter). Some specific things to see:
* The Auschwitz concentration camp is about 20km outside of Kraków.
* The Wawel Castle. Walk around it from the side of the river and see the metal dragon breathe fire.
* Make a round around the Planty park that surrounds the old town. It can take you from Kazimierz to the Castle in an hour or two (5 minutes for the direct route :))

There's a lot of stuff happening in each of these cities all the time, so checking local activity calendars for when you visit is a good ida too.
posted by jedrek at 6:28 AM on January 28, 2008

In Berlin I recommend the DDR Museum. It's fairly new and I visited there for the first time in May; the museum is very well done. Everything in the museum is translated into English.

I think there is no better place to get a crash course on life in the former East Germany.
posted by kosmonaut at 6:45 AM on January 28, 2008

If you're willing to make a detour into Eastern Slovakia, you could go out to the Andy Warhol Museum in Medzilaborce where he was born. Not necessarily easy to reach and doesn't actually have much real Andy Warhol art, but interesting to check out, accessible by train or bus and definitely not touristy. (For great art in obscure places, there's the amazing Savitsky in Nukus, Uzbekistan.)

When I was there not long after it opened there was a giant Campbell's soup can in the central square where the Lenin statue would have been in the socialist days.

More here, here, and here.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 7:52 AM on January 28, 2008

Seconding Kutna Hora.

There are a lot of cool, small towns in Czeck Republic. Three of my favorite are Olomouc (pronounced ole-uh-moats), Ceske Budejovice, and Cesky Krumlov.
posted by nitsuj at 10:32 AM on January 28, 2008

There's not a lot to see in Gdansk, so plan this part of you trip for maybe a day, maybe just passing through. Unless it's a lovely, sunny day, of course, and then you could hang about outside in Sopot (the beach and outdoor cafes on Monte Cassino Street) and Gdansk (outdoor cafes on Dluga Street). But you could do that in a lot of places, and you said you're coming in October, so: make this part of your trip short and bring an umbrella, or just skip this place, save a four-hour train ride, and go straight to Warsaw.

It's a good thing I don't work for the tourist board, eh?
posted by pracowity at 10:32 AM on January 28, 2008

I know you say you've seen many concentration camps, but if you're in the Lublin area, you should go and see Majdanek. It's practically in the middle of the city and is...uniquely frightening
posted by j1950 at 6:21 PM on February 23, 2008

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