It has the vibrant natural scenery of Austria and the Gothic castles of Germany — all without the crowds— but somehow Poland has remained mostly under the radar as a travel destination. Now, though, the cultural offerings and flourishing business districts of its lively cities are bringing it into the spotlight for travelers of all types. Here's how to enjoy café culture, fascinating history, and more in some of the country's most stunning cities.
Warsaw's Old Town has many beautiful streets perfect for a stroll.
Poland's capital city is a great introduction to the country's unique culture. To understand Warsaw's complicated history, a stop at the Warsaw Uprising Museum is essential. Here, you'll learn about the Polish people's struggle to free themselves from German occupation during World War II. The exhibits contain everything from military uniforms to love letters, giving visitors a fuller understanding of both Poland and its citizens. The central location of the Sheraton Grand Warsaw Hotel makes it an ideal starting point for business travelers, with both the city's Central Business District and best tourist attractions within easy reach. To see how Warsaw residents live today, wander over to the Old Town Market Square, which is full of bars, cafés, museums, and even a monument to the city's guardian, the Mermaid of Warsaw, who watches over the city with a sword and shield.
If you're hungry after all your exploring, then it's time to participate in a quintessential Polish pastime: making pierogi. These half-moon-shaped dumplings are stuffed with a variety of fillings, from potatoes to sweet cherries. You can learn about the history of this celebrated dish in a private group cooking class taught by a local, where you'll also get to fill and fold your own dumplings and then enjoy the fruits of your labor together with a meal. Smacznego! Enjoy your meal!
Krakow's Old Town has a rich history to explore.
There are plenty of unusual things to see in this medieval city, from the memorial to Elvis Presley to the supposed dragon bones that reside outside the city's stunning Wawel Cathedral. From there, you'll be just steps away from the Sheraton Grand Krakow, which offers incredible views of the river and the castle. Business travelers will find that the city center is just 15 minutes by train from Eximius Park, where many multinational companies have moved over the last few years to take advantage of the modern amenities and workspaces.
If you're looking to learn more about Krakow, what better way than exploring its past? Traverse the city's Old Town at night with Mysterium Tours and learn about the various vampires, ghosts, devils, and more that haunt the city's darkest corners. You might hear the macabre story of the Vampire of Krakow, who terrorized the city streets in the 1960s, or Esther, the ghost said to wander the Old Jewish Quarter looking for her lover, King Casimir. You might want to bring along a piece of silver for protection: It's said to keep you safe from evil.
After the tour, swing by Mercy Brown if your group wants to debate the existence of the ghosts and ghouls you just learned about. (The name is another vampire reference.) It's Krakow's first speakeasy and home to some of the city's best bartenders, so you'll see plenty of Krakow's coolest locals bellied up to the bar. You'll have to find the hidden entrance first, though.
Poznan's Old Town Square is filled with brightly colored buildings. Located on the winding Warta River, the colorful city of Poznan is often overlooked when it comes to Polish tourism, which is a shame because it has plenty to offer. The brightly painted facades of the buildings on the Old Town Square are the perfect introduction to Poznan's quirky spirit. Or visit the trendy Jeżyce neighborhood, right near the Sheraton Poznan Hotel, and explore the area's farmer's market, boutiques, and theaters.
If you're here for work, there are dozens of cafes to explore near Poznan's bustling business parks on the east side of the city. The lush, gorgeous Weranda is a community hub in Poznan for a reason: Flowers, vines, and trees surround the outdoor terrace and decorate the rustic tables indoors, making you feel as though you've stepped out of the city and into an enchanted forest. Fresh, seasonal food with plenty of vegetarian options and a variety of coffee drinks mean you can linger all day with your laptop and it'll barely feel like work.
As sleek and modern as Weranda is homey, Świetlica is located inside of the cultural center in Zamek, the imperial castle. Often filled with locals stopping by for an afternoon pick-me-up, the café serves freshly squeezed green juices, gourmet pour-over coffee, and a great selection of beer and wine, as well as tasty pastries and snacks. Got a sweet tooth? Don't miss the Poznan Croissant Museum, which takes you through the history of the St. Martin's Croissant, a local Poznan specialty made with a sweet white-poppy-seed filling.