Last Updated on April 17, 2023
From the sparkling Baltic beaches of the north to the jagged Carpathian mountains of the south, Poland has oodles up its sleeve for the summer months. Yep, when the temperatures crank skywards and those winter snows finally melt, this corner of Central Europe bursts into life. The cities get packed with beer drinkers and sightseers; the countryside fills with hikers.
Our list of 10 of the top places to visit in Poland in summer is a 101 for first-time travelers on the hunt for great spots when the sun is a-shining. It’s got a good mix of potential stops, from sprawling metropolises a la Warsaw to hiking havens deep in the southern peaks. Let’s begin…
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Morskie Oko, meaning the “eye of the sea” in English, is a highland lake that’s tucked deep into the Tatra Mountains of southern Poland. It’s a real stunner during the summer months, as it glows a shimmering hue of azure blue beneath a ring of jagged mountains.
The walk there is beautiful, taking you through thick pine woods to a 100-year-old alpine hut that’s still in operation (you can even stay there if you book early enough!).
The best views of Morskie Oko are probably from the south side of the lake. There’s a lookout point there that frames the water with the twisted top of Rysy (Poland’s highest mountain) in the background.
You can also go on longer hikes from here, through the Valley of the Five Lakes – an amazing corner of the Carpathians that has, you guessed it, five lakes – or even into the Slovakian mountains further south.
The nearby town of Zakopane is a great base, from there you can drive or take a bus to Palenica Białczańska, the starting point of the trail to Morskie Oko, it takes about 30 minutes. There are also tour operators that offer the excursion as a day tour from Krakow.
Try to arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds (especially during peak summer months) and bring appropriate hiking gear and clothing as the weather can change quickly in the mountains.
Zakopane might be known as the “Winter Capital of Poland” for its ski fields and ski jumps but the mountain town is downright gorgeous in the summer too.
In fact, what the ski aficionados won’t tell you is that Zako – as the locals like to call it – is actually busier in July and August than in January and February. The draw? The soaring peaks and hiking trails of Tatra National Park, which open up through idyllic alpine valleys just south of the town.
You’ll want to set aside some time to enjoy Zakopane itself. The center straddles lovely Krupowki Street, a one-kilometer run of hearty highlander taverns and outdoors shops. Notice the traditional Podhale timber architecture – the buildings look plucked from the pages of a Dr. Suess book!
The port city of Gdansk is the middle member of the so-called Tri-City. It’s a combined urban conglomeration that spans the central Baltic coast of Poland, with one foot in the shimmering beaches of Sopot and another in the gritty port areas of Gdynia to the east.
You can see it all if you base yourself in Gdansk itself, which is definitely the way to go because the city has an enchanting Old Town topped with Gothic churches and quaysides with preserved medieval docks.
Krakow is one of Poland’s must-see destinations no matter if it’s the summer or the winter. But, ask any local here and they’ll tell you that it’s the warmer months that really make this city worth living in.
Summer is the season for open-air bars and beer gardens, which spill off the boats that line the Vistula River and pop up on the cobbled streets of the town’s vibrant hipster quarter, Kazimierz.
The parks in Krakow also hit a zenith between May and August, from the famous Planty Park that surrounds the Old Town to Krakus Mound, high up on the hills above the city.
Of course, no trip to Krakow could possibly be complete without seeing the amazing Old Town area. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved medieval areas in Europe. The Main Square there is a mosaic of 700-year-old palaces and trading halls that have been around since the Old Silk Road.
Free walking tours meet every two hours or so just outside of the big church in the center.
Bieszczady National Park
The Bieszczady National Park is a swathe of some of the most untrodden highlands in Poland. It wedges up to the Ukrainian border in the far southeast of the country, offering rolling ridges topped by tussock grasses and pine woods.
Now and then, the landscape is punctuated by a quaint country town or spa town, where hikers fresh off the trails gather in a solitary beer tavern.
Talking of the trails…the best of them include the ridge walk over Ustryki Gorne and the summit up and back to Tarnica, which reveals 360-degree panoramas of the Bieszczady mountains.
Masuria is the Polish answer to the Lake District. Dashing across more than 100 miles of eastern Poland, it lies between the historic city of Olsztyn and the sailing hub of Elk. There are a couple of gorgeous driving routes that pierce right through the middle. Hit those to watch as farm fields whizz by and great waterways spread with lily pads and reeds come into view.
In the summer, thousands of Polish people head to Masuria to go sailing. The largest lake of Śniardwy is the most popular of the lot. It’s ringed by empty beaches and wild-camping grounds that are the perfect antidote to city living.
Just be sure to bring bug spray, the mozzies are notorious in this region of marshes.
If you’re looking for beaches in Poland, look no further than Hel. While the name might not be the most inviting, the region certainly is. It’s a long, finger-thin spit of land that pokes out from the Baltic coast into the Baltic Sea. For just over 21 miles, it’s a montage of undulating dune hills topped by sea oats and yellow-tinged beaches washed by the waves.
The summer is peak season in Hel. Certain areas of the beaches get busy, mainly around the charming town of Władysławowo at the top of the peninsula and around Jastarnia, the resort center that’s roughly midway along.
Our advice? Rent a car and drive the 216 coast road looking for a secret spot.
Karkonosze National Park
Karkonosze National Park is a part of the great Sudety ranges that span the whole of the Polish-Czech border in the southwest of the country. Occupying 55 square miles of land, the reserve peaks at the summit of Śnieżka mountain (some 1,600 meters up). It’s a sculpted bulk of mound with a fantastic ridge walk on uneven rocks that leads to a haunting weather station at its top.
Lower hikes in the Karkonosze will take you through valleys packed with old-growth oak and hemlock, past inky mountain lakes, and roaring waterfalls (the Kamieńczyk Waterfall is the best!).
Use the lovely ski town of Karpacz as your base. It’s got spa hotels and highland taverns selling smoked sheep’s cheese and vodka.
No list of the best places to visit in Poland in the summer could skip out on Warsaw. This is the great capital of the whole country; a city that was ravaged by WWII but now reigns as one of the great economic success stories of the EU.
The Old Town is a truly fascinating thing to behold. Totally razed by the Nazis, it was meticulously rebuilt brick by brick. Sitting alongside that are UFO-like shopping malls, and – crucially for summer visitors – the grand parklands of Łazienki, where you’ll see royal palaces next to Chinese Zen gardens.
Arty Kazimierz Dolny is a country escape plonked on the Vistula River somewhere between Lublin and Warsaw. It’s a charming place where time seems to have stood still since the 1700s.
Back then, this town was a major trading outpost and it got rich off the back of grain and salt merchants moving their goods up the river.
Later, it became a gathering place for painters and poets – you can still see the one-time homes of some of Poland’s greatest portrait makers lining the cobbled streets.
Our summer tip: Head to the riverbanks to find yourself a quiet place between the reeds and the rocks – it’s perfect for getting lost in a book.
Travel Tips and Things to Know When Visiting Poland in the Summer
If you’ve been tempted to hit Poland in the summer months by the enthralling destinations listed above, then be sure to read on. What follows are seven of our top tips and information points, which detail some of the most important ins and outs of traveling the land of pierogi dumplings and vodka between May and August…
- Poland gets hot in the summer – Despite a reputation for sub-zero winters, Poland can get positively balmy in the summer months. Regular temperatures in the region of 30 C (86 F) and more swing around, so be sure to pack sunscreen and suitable clothing.
- Bring bug spray – There are some spots on our list of the best places to visit in Poland in summer that suffer pretty darn badly from mosquitos and gnats, most notably the lakes of Masuria and the mountains around Zakopane.
- Thunderstorms – Poland’s continent climate means that the weather is often humid during summer mornings before a big thunderstorm rolls in for the afternoon. Be sure to pack waterproofs. The sudden downpours that come with them can be heavy.
- Crowds – European schools break between June and August. These are the busiest times of the summer. To avoid the crowds and the hike in prices they cause, choose to travel in May or September, which still should be lovely.
- Tap water – According to the European Environment Agency, tap water in Poland is safe to drink. However, some old buildings in the cities have aged piping and that can make it taste not so good. Bottled water is cheap and readily available.
- Learn some basic phrases – The Poles generally speak great English but try to learn a few basic phrases before you travel. That should help in more rural regions such as the Podhale and Masuria where English isn’t as widely spoken.
- Cash in countryside, cards in cities – Poland is currently transitioning from a cash society to a card society. It’s a good idea to carry both, but cash is still usually the go-to outside of bigger cities like Krakow, Gdansk, Wroclaw, and Warsaw.
Written by Rich Francis
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