Poland became one of the destinations for Brits in the last decade. Why? Firstly, it’s easily accessible, with cheap flights from the UK to a choice of 11 cities, and it is also great value when you’re there. Poland took the coveted top spot as the cheapest country to visit in our recent Real Value study.
Despite being a popular stop on the stag-do circuit, there is much more to crow about Krakow than its tolerance of groups of inebriated men dressed as superheroes. Two words: Old Town. No other city in Poland boasts as much fine original gothic and renaissance architecture. Take that Katowice!
You could easily spend your time in cool Katowice finding the best ‘smalec’ in town, but there is more to life than appetisers, so once you’ve had your fill of animal lard spread on bread, cruise slowly around the Communist-conceived Park of Culture and Rest on a horizontal chairlift.
Followers of football will know ‘The Poznan’ as a Manchester City fans’ choreograph, but others won’t have a clue what we’re on about, so let’s just say Poznan is a vivacious, energetic city with buzzing nightlife and a veritable collection of museums that includes the Motoring Museum, appropriately located under the city’s busiest roundabout.
There is much, much more for the visitor to Poland than its cities. Go boating, walking and wildlife-watching in the Mazury Lake District, with its 2700 lakes, the Pieniny and Czorstyn Lake Region in southern Poland, and Woliński National Park on the country’s Baltic Coast.
We can’t resist mentioning beer, but we will because, according to PintPrice, Ukraine takes the prize for the cheapest beer in Europe, at an average of just 49p. In comparison, a pint in Poland will set you back a whopping £1.25. Lviv hosts a month-long beer festival each summer which 'sets a high standard for the consumption of heady drinks'.
Kiev offers travellers a taste of Soviet history, without the red tape (unlike Russia – you don’t need a visa to enter Ukraine). The stunning Kievo-Pecherskaya Caves Monastery, which has UNESCO World Heritage status, houses a network of candle-lit catacombs where Ukrainian saints lie in glass coffins.
Nicknamed ‘The Lion’s City’, after the son of the city founder who is the ‘mane’ man around here, Lviv holds an annual Parade of Lions. No, not an public exhibition of the detainees of a local circus, but a festival of lion sculptures. Lion lovers will also enjoy the annual Iron Lion (Zion?) festival of forged arts.
Famed for its coal mining, chemicals and metallurgy, industrial Donetsk is actually a very green city. According to the Ukrainian tourist board, the City of a Million Roses is ‘often considered to be an unwelcoming place for tourists’. “We assure you that that’s not true”, they say. One must-see is the truly unique park of forged figures, ornamented with the work of the winners of an annual blacksmiths festival.
In summer, outdoor enthusiasts can hike, bike and camp in the Carpathian Mountains in the west of the country, while the ski resorts of Bukovel, Slavakso, Drahobrat and Tysovets attract skiers and snowboarders come winter. Sun and sand-seekers will lap up the sub-tropical climate (yes indeed!) of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast.
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