The Warsaw Opera House
If your clients want a unique destination that gives them early bragging rights, suggest they try Poland. The central-European country has plenty to recommend as an up-and-coming place to visit, with a range of modern cities and one of the greatest expanses of nature in all of Europe.
Who Should Go
Culture and history buffs will undoubtedly be attracted to Poland’s many museums, concert halls, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From some of the oldest castles in Europe to the solemn and silent bunkers of Auschwitz, history comes to life all over the country. And culture mavens will be in
luck: 2010 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederic Chopin, and the nation will be celebrating the composer’s music throughout the year.
Jan Rudomina, director of the Poland National Tourist Office, adds that Poland has become popular among adventure-seekers—“mostly rafting, canoeing, horse-riding, farm stays and the most popular: mountain biking in either [the] Carpathian or Sudeten Mountains in southern Poland,” he says. Szklarska Poreba-Jakuszyce is Poland’s best-known center for cross-country skiing. The 15.5- and 31-mile-long international Piast Race is organized here every year in March for up to 4,000 participants. For hiking, nature-lovers will be fascinated by the Bialowieza Forest, one of the last and largest remains of the immense primeval forest that once spread across the European Plain. They should be sure to stop by the Bialowieska Glade, a building complex originally built for the czars of Russia when the whole forest fell within the Russian Empire. The Glade has a hotel, restaurant and parking areas, and guided tours into the protected areas of the park can be arranged by horse-drawn carriage.
Frederic Chopin's 200th birth anniversary will be celebrated this year all over the country
Where to Stay
Poland has a wide range of accommodations, from modern urban hotels to intimate boutique properties. “Most of them are small, usually 20-30 rooms, upscale and cozy, in great locations—in city historical centers—with very personal treatment,” says Rudomina. Here are a few recommendations in the two most popular cities.
Check out the five-star Le Meridien Bristol, Warsaw, which is right in the middle of town and close to all major attractions. For more information, contact Director of Sales and Marketing Anna Glabinska ([email protected]). The Sheraton Warsaw is close to the government buildings and shopping districts, and the Westin Warsaw is a 20-story modern hotel in the city’s business center. For special requests at both properties, contact Area Director of Sales and Marketing Sieglinde Willig ([email protected]).
In Krakow, major tourist attractions, including the Wawel Castle, are close to the five-star Sheraton Krakow Hotel. For special requests, get in touch with Director of Sales and Marketing Grazyna Kocylowska ([email protected]). For boutique hotels in Krakow, consider the Hotel Copernicus and the Hotel Amadeus.
Just as Travel Agent was going to press, we learned Choice Hotels International would be opening six new hotels in Poland.The flagship property, The Clarion Hotel Grand Baltic Resort & Spa, is in the town of Dzwirzyno, on the Baltic Sea. The resort hotel has 133 guest-suites with ocean views from their balconies. The other five properties are Quality brand hotels located in the cities of Krakow, Poznan, Katowice and Wroclaw.
Admittedly, as with all up-and-coming destinations, Poland may be a tough sell at first. If clients need convincing, remind them that while Poland is a member of European Union, it has not adopted the euro as its currency. “Travelers can get [world-class] services at local prices,” Rudomina says. “[They] can really enjoy great experiences at great value.”
Another misconception about Poland is that Warsaw has the country’s only international airport. “In reality, there are eight international airports served by airlines from all major European gateways,” Rudomina says. “LOT Polish Airlines flies nonstop from New York, Newark, and Chicago to Warsaw year-round and to Krakow and Rzeszow in summer.”
Agata Zborowska, a business travel consultant with Amsalem Business Travel (ABT) in London, is a Poland specialist, and is familiar with much that the country has to offer. “I wish people knew how many wonderful UNESCO heritage sites Poland has, including the Wieliczka Salt Mine, the oldest one in Europe with underground chambers where even chandeliers are made of salt,” she says. “Poland [also] owns the largest gothic castle in Europe—Malbork Castle—which houses one of the greatest amber artifact collections in the world, including a group of portable amber altars.”
Among hotels, Zborowska recommends the Mamaison Hotel Le Regina Warsaw and Castle Inn—“where all 21 rooms have been individually decorated by different artists and furnished with antiques, giving it an eclectic touch. In Krakow, I would recommend its oldest hotel with traditions going back to 17th century—the Hotel pod Roza,” which, she says, has the “old charm of a Renaissance palace.”
Another benefit of visiting Poland, Zborowska says, is that it is yet to be discovered by the general touring public, making crowds easy to avoid. “Poland remains the undiscovered gem of central Europe!”
Pictured here is Krakow's skyline as seen from one of its major tourist attractions, the Wawel Castle