Whenever I have the opportunity to visit a new country with a local (or semi-local) guide, I take it. I book flights and ask questions later.
It’s my absolute favourite way to see any city or country and really brings a different perspective into the experience. I’m extremely grateful for the friends and family who take the time to show me around and really help me enjoy their country and cities.
In this case, back in 2017 a friend of mine had taken a position at a university in Lublin and was living in Poland for a year. By the time I visited in March she had already become confident in her knowledge of Lublin and had practised her Warsaw tour guide skills on several other guests before me.
I had not been to Poland before but had always wanted to visit and it was the perfect opportunity. So I booked my cheap RyanAir flights, packed lightly, and made the several hour journey across to Lublin one Friday morning for a long weekend in the utterly charming and incredible Poland.
Day 1 – Friday in Lublin
I took an early morning flight from London Stanstead to Lublin with RyanAir. I have flown with them enough to be prepared for anything but it was a particularly painless flight with absolutely no frills. Since I left in the morning and arrived in Lublin quite early I had the benefit of having the better half of the afternoon touring around Lublin with my friend.
She came and met me at the airport and together we took a taxi to my hotel to drop off my small backpack. We grabbed lunch nearby in a cute Polish cafe before heading to the old town of Lublin.
Lublin is a city located in eastern Poland, in the Lublin Province. The city has a population of almost 340,000 and is in the top 10 largest cities in Poland. The history of Lublin is rooted in trade and commerce dating back to 1385 when it was a major stop on the route between Vilnius and Krakow. Like many Polish cities, it faced tremendous destruction during the Second World War but the Old Town was preserved.
We spent the afternoon walking around the small but well preserved Old Town. The historic district of Lublin had a quaint charm that was all it’s own. Much of the rest of Lublin is more modern architecture so it was really quaint to walk through the pedestrianized streets of Old Town.
The entrance to Old Town is through the Krakow Gate, which features a gorgeous bell tower and is reminiscent of a fortress. It’s a really unique structure. There is a Museum within the Krakow Gate as well that can be visited, though we ran out of time during my visit to Lublin, and it is highly rated on various travel websites and review aggregators.
We did make it up to Lublin Castle for a fantastic view of the setting sun over the skyline of Old Town Lublin. Beyond having the best views of Lublin the Castle also has a length history as well that dates back to medieval times. It’s a short walk from Old Town to Lublin Castle but beware of the many stairs to climb.
The original stone keep from the 12th century still stands at Lublin Castle but the complex grew organically throughout the years, and eventually served as a prison for 80 years between 1831-1915. Lublin Castle is now the home to Lublin Museum and has some fantastic exhibits. We were able to explore it for an hour before closing and caught views from the top of the Keep and throughout the courtyard.
We grabbed dinner at the charming Mandrogora Zydowska, located in Old Town. I quickly discovered on this first day of travel that I loved Polish food.
The atmosphere of the restaurant was fantastic, with a nod to the traditional, and charming curved ceilings.
The last place we visited in the evening was a new brewery bar that has opened and had become highly popular. It had the longest bar in Lublin with a mirrored ceiling and a fantastic atmosphere.
The Perlowa Beer House was put on by the local brewery, Perla, and I naturally had to get a flight of their beer offering. It absolutely loved the bar and had a fabulous evening taste testing the local beers with my friend and several of her colleagues. It was a great way to finish a long day of travel and a unique experience in the charming city of Lublin.
Day 2 – Saturday in Warsaw
My friend had started her time in Poland in Warsaw before moving out to Lublin so she had great insight into the city and it was something I had hoped to take advantage of during my visit. She had recommended that we travel there for the weekend and we found an Airbnb to share.
Saturday morning we took the bus to Lublin Train Station and purchased our tickets there. The journey to Warsaw by train takes about 2-3 hours, depending on whether you take the express train (the InterCity, or IC).
Based on my experiences travelling in Europe I expected the express train to cost significantly more but when we booked our tickets I was surprised to discover that the journey had cost me only £10 in my currency.
We boarded a beautiful train, very new and in fantastic condition, which my friend explained was not always the case. I was very impressed with the public transport and the comfort we had on the 2 hour journey from Lublin to Warsaw. I am far more familiar with the trains in England which are far more expensive, significantly more cramped, and often overcrowded.
This was a pure delight by comparison.
After dropping our bags off at the Airbnb we headed over to Old Town Warsaw for a wander and to find something to eat. While there were similarities between the Old Towns in Lublin and Warsaw in architecture, use of colour, and general vibe the size difference was significant. Furthermore, while Old Town Lublin had been preserved during World War II the Old Town in Warsaw had been devastated. The Polish had chosen to rebuild Old Town in its original image so while the buildings were more recently built they were replicas of those that had originally stood in Old Town.
One of the most magical things in Warsaw for me was the Chopin benches. These benches can be found throughout the old town and play the music of Chopin when you use the QR Code.
The afternoon was spent wandering Old Town, visiting a craft fair, shopping and try all sorts of nice treats along the way. And for lunch we found an unusual variety of pierogi that I’d not had before – fried (really just grilled off and seared). It was delicious and I have to admit I went on a pierogi hunt during our visit where we tried a variety of different ones to discover which I loved best.
In the afternoon we headed over to POLIN, the Museum of the history of Polish Jews. It was an incredibly moving museum that detailed the history of the Jewish people over centuries, and of course to the atrocities of World War II. It was a fascinating exhibit that I was grateful to have visited and a unique perspective. It’s a new museum, only opened in 2014, but is a must-visit for anyone travelling to and visiting Warsaw.
For dinner, we went to a traditional restaurant that my friend knew about and then followed it up with drinks with her friends and colleagues in a more modern and popular part of town. It was an interesting outing to see all these different areas of Warsaw and enjoy the variety of food and culture that the city had to offer.
Day 3 – Sunday in Warsaw
I had a mid-afternoon flight back to London so we have limited time on our final day in Warsaw. We headed back to Old Town for a final wander in the quiet of the morning before crossing town to get to the Palace of Culture & Science.
During our visit, we were able to explore and appreciate more fully the area without as many tourists around.
And we also took the chance to stop by and visit the Marie Curie statue, in honour of the incredible woman who was born in Warsaw.
The architecture of the Palace of Culture & Science is positively stunning. It was a gift from the Soviet Union and is the tallest building in Poland. The interior architecture is as beautiful as the exterior and is absolutely a building you should visit.
On the 30th floor, there is an observation deck that will give you an unparallel view of the city of Warsaw. We took the opportunity, after a wander and lunch in Old Town, to visit the observation deck for the incredible view of the city and to see this unusual building up close.
We had our final meal at Warsaw Central, the train station that would see me off to the airport and my friend back to Lublin.
I had an absolutely fabulous visit to Poland – not just because I had my own guide but also because of how warm and welcoming the Polish were. Every meal we ate was exceptional and I tried more variety of pierogi than I had been aware even existed. The two cities, Lublin & Warsaw, were incredible and so very rich with history and architecture.
If you’re looking for a long weekend escape to Poland I can highly recommend this itinerary and these sites.
3 Day Itinerary for Lublin & Warsaw
- Fly into Lublin
- Visit Lublin Castle
- Tour Old Town Lublin
- Eat traditional Polish food at Mandrogora Zydowska
- Try a beer taster flight at Perlowa Bar
- Take the train to Warsaw
- Visit the POLIN Museum
- Grab lunch in Old Town
- Explore Old Town, visiting craft markets
- Visit the Royal Castle in Warsaw
- Walk the walls of Old Town Warsaw
- Eat a Kolacze treat
- Grab a traditional Polish meal
- Visit the Marie Curie statue
- Take one final wander through Old Town
- Visit observation deck at Palace of Culture and Science
- Head to Airport
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