Poland shines as one of Europe’s most affordable destinations, offering a superb range of quality travel experiences. Visitors gravitate to cities like Warsaw but don’t sleep on Poland’s timeless countryside. There's so much to see and do in Poland – and this video will help you experience it.

Sonia Szczesna and Adam Nawrot of Sourland Studios worked on this video. The two have also produced a film called Godspeed, Los Polacos! that tells the story of Poland’s fight for democracy through the lens of a whitewater kayaking expedition.

Sonia and Adam are both first-generation Polish-Americans, so they say working on this project for Lonely Planet was pretty special for them. We caught up with Sonia to talk more about what it was like filming this video. 

What was it like for you personally to be involved in the production of this video for Best in Travel 2024?

My parents moved to the United States from Poland after the fall of the Soviet Union, and I was born in New Jersey. Most of my family stayed in Olsztyn, so I grew up visiting in the summers, exploring different regions, and developing a strong connection to the place and the people.

Working on this piece for Best in Travel was so much fun! It’s not every day you have your whole family pitching you ideas of places to visit and people to talk to; I’m super grateful to have had this opportunity to showcase a place I consider my other home.

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Poland's Zalipie painted village is just under two hours from Krakow © Sourland Studios/Lonely Planet

Can you tell me the places you filmed?

At first, we had a tough time deciding which areas to focus on in Poland because there’s so much to do, and it’s so geographically diverse! So, we decided to narrow our focus to three major cities  – Gdansk, Warsaw, and Kraków – and then expand our reach to nearby areas from there to places like the Lakes District, the Tatra Mountains, the Dunajec Valley, and some villages along the way.

What was your favorite spot on the shoot? Which place do you think people shouldn’t miss if they come to Poland?

The City of Gdansk took me most by surprise – it’s such a charming port city on the Baltic Sea. Gdansk is best known for its Shipyard, which was home to one of the biggest social movements of the 21st Century – Poland’s Solidarity movement which kickstarted the fall of the Eastern Bloc. Now the Shipyard has been repurposed into a very cool arts and food hub called 100cznia, which is definitely worth a visit while in the city. We happened to be there during St. Dominic’s Fair, so there was an extra level of festivity; we met so many wonderful and kind people while there.

If you’re planning a trip to Poland, I think you can lean into the seasons to help you decide where to go. If you’re headed there in the summer, I wouldn’t miss the Great Masurian Lakes; there’s just so much to do out on the water and in the forests –  from sailing to biking and kayaking. If you’re going to go in the winter, I would head south to the mountains with a stop in Kraków along the way for some hot drinks and a visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mine which is the same temperature year-round.

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Don't miss the hourly 

Any memorable anecdotes from filming?

In Kraków, you can hear a bugler play every hour on the hour out of four windows in the tallest tower of St. Mary’s Basilica, right in the heart of the city. The call, Hejnał mariacki, is cut short to commemorate a bugler who was shot in the throat by an arrow while warning the city of invaders in the 12th Century. It’s something anyone can watch and listen to from the main square, but while filming, we had the opportunity to watch the bugler call from inside the tower! It was a really neat experience, even for the locals we were working with. One of the most memorable parts of the shoot was sprinting up the stairs to make it right before the top of the hour. The buglers work 24-hour shifts, and I totally understand why they stay up there the whole time.

What’s your best advice for someone visiting Poland?

Save room for dessert!
 

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May 16, 2024: We started the day at the Centro Ecuestre Los Caireles.  There we met our hosts Miguel Angel and his brother Jesus, who own and run the farm.  (Miguel Angel wore a black vest.)  The Centro is a horse back riding school.  We shot pics at their farm and then headed to the town of Consuegra.  On the mountain overlooking the town, there is a castle and several windmills.  We shot pics and video of Miguel Angel and Jesus riding around the windmills and the castle.  This area is notable because it is where the fictional Don Quixote rode around in Miguel de Cervantes’ famous novel.  Afterward, we returned back to El Centro where we filmed our hosts riding by grape vineyards and olive groves to the nearby Villafranca de los Caballeros lagoons.
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