Places to Visit in Poland in Winter

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Travel to Poland has increased in popularity greatly throughout the last few years, as people have started to realise what a fascinating, beautiful and friendly country it is, and how deserving it is of a spot on anyone’s Europe itinerary. However, the bulk of travellers visit in the summer, when temperatures are similar to elsewhere in continental Europe.

But what about Poland in winter? The idea of visiting when temperatures plummet well below freezing may make you shiver. What is there to do in winter in Poland?

It turns out, plenty! I visited Poland in winter twice in 2018 and 2019, and again in Autumn in 2019. Poles are used to cold weather, and they do it really well. Whether that’s with skiing or snowsports (there are plenty of ski resorts in Poland!) or spreading festive cheer in the towns and cities, you’ll find plenty to do in Poland in winter!

So if you’re planning a trip to Poland in November onwards, here are some places that you might want to think about visiting – and the best things to do there.

I’ve teamed up with some other travel bloggers for this post, as I haven’t seen everywhere yet!

Weather in Poland in Winter

While Polish winters used to be absolutely freezing, they are a lot warmer nowadays due to climate change.

  • Poland in November: If you’re in Poland at the start of November, you might get the tail end of Autumn, but you’ll find that the weather plummets at some point during the month. In the cities, expect highs of around 7 C and lows of -2 C. In the mountains, it will be colder, although not quite skiing weather yet!
  • Poland in December: Expect temperatures to hover around freezing in most places. You’ll definitely be seeing snow in the mountains by now, and maybe in the cities!
  • Poland in January: Temperatures are generally 2 C to -6 C in the cities, with a high chance of snow. This is peak season for skiing in the mountains.
  • Poland in February: The start of the month will see similar temperatures to January all around, although it may start to warm up at the end with the slow start of Spring.

Things to do in Poland in Winter

Skiing

Many people don’t realise that Poland, like much of Central Europe, has excellent skiing. There are slopes for all abilities in Poland – from beginners to advanced – and what’s more, the price of ski passes, ski rentals, accommodation, and food is much cheaper here than elsewhere in Europe! For more information about skiing in Poland in winter, see the sections about Zakopane, Wisla, and Karpacz below.

Christmas Markets

Poland is a very Catholic country, which means that Christmas is celebrated in full swing here! The celebrations are a lot more traditional than some other places, so if you partake in the religious aspect of Christmas it’s a great place to spend the festive period.

If you aren’t Christian but still celebrate Christmas, there’s plenty to enjoy too! From Christmas markets selling Polish goods to pop up bars serving mulled wine, these are the perfect place to get in the festive mood.

Visit Beautiful Towns and Cities

You’ll be awed at the many charming towns and cities of Poland. Polish architecture is famous for its pastel colours and terraced, historic houses, and a dusting of snow makes them look even more charming!

Eat Hearty Polish Food

Polish food does not get the recognition it deserves – it’s absolutely exquisite. While there are certainly a lot of meat dishes on offer, it’s also one of the best cuisines for vegetarians.

From borscht (beetroot soup) to pierogi (dumplings served with potato, cheese or mushroom for vegetarian options), to gołąbki (cabbage leaf wrapped around rice), the food is wholesome and delicious.

Polish food is also made with those cold winters in mind, so you can guarantee that it will keep you full and warm for a while after!

Visit Museums

Poland also has an astounding amount of history. Some of this is very, very sad – the country suffered terribly at the hands of the Nazis in WW2, and then again during the Communist period. Pre 20th century, there is lots of regal history in Poland as it was part of the Lithuanian Polish Commonwealth.

You can learn about all of this history through the excellent museums in Poland. The POLIN Museum of the history of Polish Jews in Warsaw is probably the best museum I’ve ever visited, as is the comprehensive Second World War Museum in Gdansk. If you’re more interested in Poland’s older history, there are plenty of palaces and castles to explore throughout the country.

If the weather really isn’t on your side while you’re in Poland in winter, there are always some museums to duck into!

The Best Places to Visit in Poland in Winter

Gdansk

Yes, Gdansk – a city on the Baltic Sea – is my first recommendation. Yes, it’s cold, but not obscenely so – as you are by the sea, it doesn’t freeze on quite the same level as inland locations. In the winter, you’re looking at temperatures anywhere from 2C to -6C. So definitely dress up warm, but it’s also certainly bearable weather.

Gdansk city centre is beautiful, with architecture in the typical Polish style, and it’s even more magical when snow starts to fall. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting around Christmas, you’ll enjoy a wonderful Christmas market, with plenty of mulled wine and hot chocolate to help you thaw from the cold!

Gdansk is famous for being where WW2 began. Germany attacked Polish military at Westerplatte, which is about a 15 minute drive out of the city. It’s right by the coast, so wrap up warm if you’re heading there (there’s a reason why we call cold winds Baltic!), but it’s a must-visit for history buffs.

You can also visit the WW2 museum, which goes into great detail about most of the war. This is a great spot to visit if the weather really isn’t on your side one day!

One of the other perks of visiting Gdansk in the winter is that prices are a lot cheaper. So you can splash out on a luxury hotel or a delicious meal for less!

Toruń

Toruń is a lovely spot to visit any time of year, but particularly in winter. It had the fortune of being one of the only cities in Poland that didn’t sustain any damage in WW2, which means that most of the historic buildings – some dating from Medieval times – are still intact.

Strolling around the UNESCO listed Medieval city should be a must-do when visiting. Points of interest include the Leaning Tower of Toruń and the Cathedral of St John. Walking tours run year-round, even in winter, which will give you a great insight of the city from a local!

Toruń was the home of Copernicus, a famous astronomer who proved that the earth rotated around the sun. You can visit Copernicus’ House, where it is believed to be his birthplace.

The 13th century Teutonic Knights Castle is another great spot to visit in Toruń, and it separates the old city from the new city.

Toruń is also famous for its gingerbread, so if you’re after a sweet treat post-exploring, be sure to try one here!

It normally snows for some of the winter here, but generally the weather is warm enough for exploring, as long as you wrap up warm!

Warsaw

A great destination to visit in Poland in winter is the capital of the country, Warsaw. There are many lovely things to do here in the winter season. One of these is going to the Royal Garden of Light at the Wilanów Palace. Only in winter, you can see lots of pretty light displays in the form of plants, which is really impressive. 

Another thing you should not miss out on is walking through Warsaw Old Town. This is one of Warsaw’s most beautiful parts, and in winter, it becomes even more special. There are lights and Christmas decorations all over this area. And there is a very fun ice rink! Ice skating here in the evening in winter is also one of the best things to do in Warsaw at night

Like all of Poland, it can get very cold in winter, so you might be looking for inside places at times! Luckily, there are many museums in Warsaw that are both great to visit to learn more about art, history and culture, and are a good place to get warm. Try the Jewish Museum or the Warsaw Uprising Museum. 

Also, don’t forget to try some hot chocolate while you are in Warsaw in winter. Warsaw is known for this delicious beverage and you will find many cafes serving it!

Written by Dymphe from Dymabroad

Wroclaw

With its beautiful Christmas market, impressive cathedral, charming Old Town, vibrant culture, and lively nightlife, Wroclaw is one of the best places to visit in Poland in winter. The nearby airport is Wroclaw-Copernicus Airport; however, train and bus services are also available to reach Wroclaw from any major Polish cities.

Wroclaw is not that big, but it has plenty of tourist attractions to offer its visitors in winter. The Old Town of Wroclaw is a charming place to explore, and in winter it looks more beautiful – especially when the Old Town is decorated with a giant Christmas tree, Santa’s reindeer, and countless Christmas lights.

Another thing that you will notice throughout the city is the little statues of dwarves. Keep an eye while exploring this charming city as these are really small. These sculptures were built as a symbol of resistance in the age of communism. 

Market Square is also a popular tourist spot in Wroclaw. It is a medieval old square surrounded by colourful buildings that range from Gothic to Art Nouveau styles.

But the main highlight of Wroclaw in winter is the Wroclaw Christmas market. It is one of the best Christmas markets in Europe – here you can see Christmas trees, small wooden huts, buildings, and windmills all beautifully decorated and illuminated with Christmas lights. Don’t forget to taste mulled wine, hot chocolates, and other delicacies in the market!

Written by Trijit Mallick from BudgetTravelBuff

Lublin

Lublin is undoubtedly one of the most underrated cities in Poland. It doesn’t attract the same amount of tourists that some of the more famous cities do, but it is certainly just as interesting. Being the capital of the Lublin province it has been a significant city for trade and commerce in the region. Situated in between Krakow and Vilnius, the city has always attracted merchants and this wealthy history shows off.

Its major attraction is the city’s scenic old town with its pastel-coloured merchant homes. During the Second World war, most of Lublin was damaged, except for its city centre. The oldest parts of Lublin go back to medieval times, and the oldest entrance gate is from 1320. However, the city truly developed into a vibrant and multicultural hub in the 16th century. And there are plenty more things to do in Lublin, including excellent museums, churches, castles and restaurants. 

Some would say winter is too cold to visit Lublin. However, with the snow, the city only becomes more picturesque. Furthermore, the city hosts several events in winter, such as a Christmas festival complete with a friendly Christmas market in December. January sees the three wise men’s procession and the winter festival. With so many things to do, Lublin is a great city to visit in Poland in winter.

Written by Ellis from Backpack Adventures

Krakow

Krakow is a beautiful city in any season, but none are as stunning as Krakow in winter.

The beautiful buildings are highlighted by the twinkle lights that seem to hang everywhere, especially around the Christmas Market areas in the Old Town. Chilly days early in winter are broken at times by bursts of winter sun that warm your face quickly and cold nights are enjoyed with a hot cup of Grzane Wino as you wander the streets. Later on, as winter sets in the sun is harder to come by but hot mulled wine is much easier.

If you are lucky it may snow in Krakow but apparently, for the last few years it has been arriving late – and sometimes there has been none in the city itself.

There are countless things to do in Krakow. During Christmas time there are markets in most of the small squares that dot the city, small ice skating rinks and Christmas decorations you can wander to find. In Krakow, in winter you can visit Wawel Castle, visit the Market Hall, get views over the city from Kosciuszko Mound, take a tour of Schindler’s factory and take the tourist train or a horse and cart around the centre.  

From Krakow, there are many day trips, including a visit to Auschwitz, which is sombre but well worth going to, or the Wieliczka Salt mines.

Written by Bec from Wyld Family Travel

Auschwitz

Auschwitz is an infamous concentration camp located between Krakow and Katowice, that was used by the Nazis during the Holocaust in the Second World War. This place is sad and dark, but it is worth visiting – to pay respect to the horrors that happened there and to learn how to avoid such atrocities in the future.

In winter’s sub-freezing temperatures, the camp leaves an even stronger impression. On the Auschwitz complex there is a museum of concentration camps from WW2. There were more than 50 sites orignally but 3 main ones remain.

Auschwitz I was the first site and it started as a prison for political and war prisoners, and it was also the site of gas killings. This part is converted into a museum. The entire exhibition is emotionally fraught, as it encompasses places like the gas chamber, crematorium, death wall, the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign, and a room full of human hair and glasses.

Auschwitz II was built a year later for the sole purpose of mass killings. More than 1 million people tragically died there. Auschwitz III was a work camp for the German industry.

This site is also under UNESCO protection, to ensure that it stands as a memorial and a reminder of how dark humanity can be. As this camp symbolizes the Holocaust, it is one of the most important places to visit in Poland – we must not forget the atrocities that happened here and have hope that they will not happen again.

Written by Džangir from Dr Jam Travels

Wisla

Poland is a brilliant destination in any season but winter is one of the best times to visit Poland.

Small towns like Wisla in Southern Poland are bursting at the seams with winter activities. Once a solely popular area for local Polish travellers, foreign visitors now realise that Poland has a great ski season and it can at times be a fraction of the cost of some other European countries. You can hire your own ski chalet close to the ski runs for a great value rate, and make the short trips from there. 

Wisla has its own ski jump, and there are many different ski runs for people who are just learning and experienced skiers.

There are also activities for the young ones or people who don’t know how to ski. The town has a small market that sells traditional Polish souvenirs, lambswool items, some winter clothing and the famous Oscypek cheese (a smoked sheep’s cheese that is definitely an acquired taste but worth trying you are in the area) There’s plenty of space to throw a snowball or go on a walk in the snow, and the town comes alive at Christmas time!

For some, just being in the peace and quiet that Wisla can provide, while all the chaos of the ski runs goes on around them is a perfect reason to go. 

Written by Mark from Poland Travel Expert

Poznan

With the stunning Poznan cathedral and a charming renaissance old town, Poznan is a hidden gem of Europe. Though its population is half a million, it has a cosy, familiar feeling that makes you feel right at home. In the winter, Poznan becomes even more inviting, with a wide array of festive activities offered.

Visiting the Christmas markets in the Old Market Square and Freedom Square is a must. You can walk around and see the beautiful decorations, find Christmas gifts or go souvenir shopping for some wonderful regional crafts. Try some delicious winter snacks like gingerbread and mulled wine or beer. Make sure to not miss the Christmas tree lighting or the ice sculptures at the ice festival too!

If you aren’t visiting Poznan for the Christmas festivities, there are still plenty of fun wintertime activities. For a small city, Poznan has a lot of top-quality malls where you’ll undoubtedly find some nice winter deals. Enjoy the best of both worlds at Lake Malta by getting some traditional winter activities too like skiing and ice skating. For all the history lovers, there are also many interesting museums where you can learn about how Communism and World War II impacted Poznan.

Written by Maria from Maptrekking

Szczyrk

For beautiful snow-capped peaks and breathtaking panoramic views, head to Szczyrk. The town is located in Southern Poland amidst the Beskid Śląski mountains. You’ll find fresh mountain air and plenty of sunshine, so it’s a great location for blowing away those cobwebs.

The Szczyrk Mountain Resort is one of the largest ski resorts in Poland. A bustling ski area in winter months, it offers over 60km of ski terrain and 30 ski lifts. It is generally considered to be the best ski resort in Poland and provides comparable skiing to the more mainstream European resorts. So it’s perfect if you’d like a change from the usual ski areas.

It is a great ski resort for beginners, with a high number of wide, gentle slopes and a good quality ski school. Skiing and snowboarding aside, there are also a number of walks from the town centre. Perfect for hikers looking for some of the best views in Poland. For the thrill-seekers after an adrenaline rush, Mt Skrzyczne offers a popular spot for paragliding. Experience the rush paragliding, flying through the air while taking in the stunning mountain views.

The town itself is a charming place, with a beautiful 18th century wooden church in the centre. There are also several surviving pre-WW2 villas for visitors to view. All in all, Szczyrk is a fantastic winter destination for some skiing away from mainstream resorts.

Written by Jessie from Pocket Wanderings

Bialowieza Forest

The Bialowieza Forest and the national park is home to the world’s largest population of European bison, the continent’s largest land animal. The best-preserved remaining part of Europe’s primaeval forest is spread in the park. The forest, which stretches across the Polish-Belarusian border, was once so large that it extended all over the European Plain.

On their visit, the tourists must observe wildlife, especially bison. Some other activities include cycling, Nordic walking, hiking, enjoying the fantastic ambience of Bialowieza Forest. The main town of the forest is Bialowieza. The forest’s reserve, called Bison Show Reserve, is home to so much wildlife, including bison, boar, wild cats, and deer. Due to its remarkable beauty, the forest was added as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2014. 

In winter, the area of Bialowieza becomes incredibly scenic. Winter hikes are some of the best ways to enjoy this unique place in Europe. It’s also then when it’s the most likely to spot a bison when they come from the woods to the plains to find the last grass. Spotting a snow-covered bison will be forever a moment that you can’t forget.

While staying in the forest, travellers can entertain themselves with survival story books based on true stories!

Written by Paulina from Paulina on the Road

Zakopane

Zakopane is a small ski resort in the Tatra Mountains in the south of Poland. It can be reached in around 2 hours from Krakow and is a great winter destination in Poland whether you like to ski or not.

Zakopane the perfect ski resort for beginners with lots of beginner slopes and cheap lift passes. It is the second cheapest place to ski in Europe which is great news if you don’t want to spend too much on your first ski holiday.

If skiing isn’t for you, Zakopane also offers lots of alternative winter activities. On the south side of town is Snowlandia, a huge attraction made entirely out of snow and ice. Highlights include a giant ice maze, a large pyramid with lots of fun ice carvings inside and toboggan runs.

If this is all a bit too cold and wintry for you and you need some warming up, you can visit the Zakopane Aqua Park thermal baths. The geothermal waters maintain a temperature of 34 – 38 degrees Celsius and are said to contain healing minerals; perfect for soothing any aching muscles you may have from skiing.

There are plenty of lovely, authentic Polish restaurants in the centre of town where you will find some much-needed hearty food. Góralski Browar has a great roof terrace with amazing views and you can pop into the Upside Down House next door which is really fun.

Written by Jacquie from Flashpacking Family

Karpacz

Karpacz in winter is one of the best places for skiing in Poland. Avid skiiers will love the slopes and the ski jump of Orlinek. However, if you’d rather stay grounded, you can do other snowy activities, like snow shoe hiking or sleigh riding!

Of course, this tourist town also has an indoor ice rink, and if you don’t want to skate, you can also go for darts or table football.
Other activities include telemark skiing, cross country skiing, snow scooter riding, snow tubing, and many more.

For non-snowy activities, there are some great attractions to visit near Karpacz. The historic Wang Church was transported from Norway, and Chojnik Castle is about a 20 minute drive away and is an interesting spot to visit, with epic vistas over the snowy scenery.

Written by Chisom from Awesome Traveler Blog

Poland in Winter Travel Tips

  • If you aren’t used to cold countries, make sure that you pack right! Don’t forget a warm coat, hat, scarf and gloves, and bring plenty of light layers so you can layer up without feeling uncomfortable.
  • Poland doesn’t use the Euro, it uses its own currency called the Zloty. Euros will rarely be accepted, so make sure that you have your own Zloty ready for your trip!
  • It’s illegal to jaywalk, and people do get caught and fined for it.
  • You can drink the tap water in most places, but many older locals still won’t, and you won’t always get served tap water in a restaurant.
  • Most younger (and some older!) Poles speak very good English, especially those who work in bars, restaurants, hotels, or for tour companies. English-speaking Poles are generally more than happy to help tourists, and nearly everyone I’ve met in Poland has been very friendly.
  • That being said, it never hurts to learn a couple of phrases in the local language. ‘Dziękuję’ (jen-koo-yea) means thankyou and ‘Na Zdrowie!’ (nas-dro-v-yea) means cheers – an essential need to know for any drinks with locals!

Poland in winter – are you ready?

I hope that this guide to visiting Poland in winter has helped you plan your trip to the country! Poland is a wonderful place, with so many things to do – even in the winter time.

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