This underrated country in Eastern Europe prides itself on award-winning Christmas markets, snow-covered cities, ski destinations, comfort food, and hot beverages. All of this barely scratches the surface of what Poland in winter can offer.
When is the Best Time to Visit?
The winter season in Poland starts in November and lasts until February. November tends to have more rainy and windy days in cities like Warsaw, Gdańsk, and the Baltic shore. December is ideal for gorgeous Christmas markets and decorations in the major cities, such as Kraków, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Warsaw, to name a few.
If you enjoy the snow and want to ski or snowboard in the Tatra Mountains, be sure to plan your travels for January or February.
What’s the Winter Weather like in Poland?
Average winter temperatures during the day range 33-39°F (about 1-4°C) and drop at night to hover around 15-20°F (about -9 to -6°C). The weather in the mountains is known to keep a frigidly cold temperature into the negatives.
And while the winter season in Poland sees the sun quite rarely, there’s still plenty to enjoy whether you’re an outdoorsy or city type.
What to Pack for Winter in Poland
Depending on what you plan on doing in Poland, you need to pack accordingly. You won’t feel the chilly weather if you’re smart about packing and bringing warm clothes.
A winter jacket, hat, mittens, and scarf are the essentials. Take an umbrella for sleet weather days or a coat with a hood.
For ski destinations, throw thermal t-shirts and leggings or pants in your suitcase, along with your skiing outfit.
Practical Tips for Traveling to Poland
One of the essential tips to know before traveling to Poland is that 90% of shops are closed on Sundays, including most Kantors (money exchange offices). You may find an odd one open in a touristy spot, but bear in mind the rate will likely be more expensive.
During the winter season, it gets pitch dark at 4 p.m., which means that you’ll need to wake up early to get your sightseeing done while it’s light out. Also, keep in mind that in many cities, museums close as early as 4 p.m., and milk bars, the can’t-miss-buffet-style eateries, usually close around 6 or 7 p.m.
Best Winter Destinations in Poland
Poland has a varied landscape dotted with stunning mountains and charming towns. These places are covered in snow blankets in the colder months, turning the country into a winter wonderland.
Gdańsk, or the ‘City of Amber’ as it’s sometimes called, is a magical town no matter the season. Its pastel-colored houses lined with snow-sprinkled streets illuminated with Christmas lights make it a fairytale in winter.
Warm up with mulled wine or beer (yes, mulled beer!) at its historic Christmas market before strolling through the city’s main sights. And don’t forget to carve out time for a lunch of local goodies at the market stalls.
As an epicenter of World War II, history and culture lovers will find a lot to admire and appreciate in Gdańsk’s museums. Don’t miss visiting the Museum of WWII, one of the most respected museums in Poland with priceless exhibits on the nation’s most significant period in history. Then be sure to stroll through the local amber museum to learn how the town earned the nickname the ‘City of Amber.’
Oozing with Christmas charm and a plethora of historical and cultural sites, Kraków is another excellent winter destination in Poland.
Although there are many things to do in Kraków, the main attraction here is the Wawel Royal Castle, known for the legend of the dragon who lives underneath it.
Kraków is also an ideal home base for day trips to Wieliczka Salt Mine or Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Note that visiting concentration camps is not for the faint of heart.
The nation’s capital has a charming old town surrounded by a fortified wall. During the festive season, the area lights up at night with Christmas displays and a central square tree.
Warsaw has plenty of museums for you to visit to escape the cold. Don’t skip the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews or the Polish Vodka Museum, the latter of which includes guided tours and tastings to get into the local spirit.
And for breathtaking light displays, go to the Royal Garden of Lights at Wilanów Palace in the evening. Have a nice walk admiring the decorations of the courtyard.
Zakopane and Tatra National Park
Suppose you are a skier or just enjoy being in the surreal stillness of the mountains. In that case, Zakopane in the sky-high Tatra mountains is a must-visit during winter.
Kraków is the closest big city to Zakopane, taking two hours by bus. Even if you are not a skier, Zakopane offers many fascinating sights to explore, including typical highland cuisine, unique architecture, and award-winning museums.
Wrocław is another winter-worthy getaway home to the county’s most spectacular Christmas market, quiet snow-swept streets, and a vibrant food and drink scene. Don’t miss out on exploring Ostrów Tumski (Cathedral Island), one of the city’s oldest parts.
However, the most quirky and fun thing to do is to hunt down the 600-odd statues of dwarfs scattered across the city and count how many you can find. After all, Wrocław isn’t known as the ‘City of Dwarfs’ for nothing!
Find what Poland has to offer in the way of its stunning landscapes at The Land of the Fields: Poland’s Great Outdoors.