HISTORIC OLD TOWN AND THOUSANDS OF MASURIAN LAKES; GDAŃSK & MASURIA, POLAND
Day 1 – Arrive Gdańsk and Sopot
There are direct flights to/from Gdańsk, Poland from the European hubs of Frankfurt, Germany and Amsterdam, Netherlands. Upon arrival at the Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport, we take our rental car and drive approximately 30 minutes to our hotel in Sopot. We spend an afternoon on the beach, walk on the wooden pier and have a relaxing dinner. Note: There are high-end restaurants within walking distance to our hotel.
Day 2 – Gdańsk
We schedule a multi-hour taxi for our transfer to the historic sites of Gdańsk. We drive about 25 minutes from Sopot to visit Westerplatte, an outdoor museum and monument. Next, we drive 15 minutes to the Gdańsk Shipyard and the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers 1970. Afterward, we drive around 10 minutes to the Old Town of Gdańsk and spend the day exploring its historic sites. We enter the Old Town through the Upland Gate, then continue to the Foregate and the Golden Gate. We walk on Long Street (Ulica Długa) toward the Long Market (Długi Targ) and the Green Gate (Zielona Brama), exploring the Town Hall (Ratusz), the Neptune Fountain, the Church of St. Mary (Bazylika Mariacka) and the Artus Court. Along the way, we stop for lunch and relax in a café. We walk through the Green Gate and arrive at the Motława River Embankment. We photograph the historic Crane and colorful architecture along the riverfront promenade, then walk a few minutes to Restauracja Kubicki for dinner. After dinner, we take a taxi back to our hotel. Note: The taxi service in Gdańsk is more practical than driving.
Day 3 – Sopot Departure; Malbork Castle; Arrive Giżycko
We depart our hotel in Sopot in the morning and drive over one hour to the Malbork Castle, a 13th century castle and fortress set along the Nogat River. The Malbork Castle served as the capital of the Order of Teutonic Knights. We take a multi-hour guided tour and learn about the castle’s history and architecture. During our visit, we have lunch at the Gothic Cafe & Restaurant in the castle complex (it closed down in 2020). After lunch, we drive east for around 3-4 hours to the Hotel St. Bruno in Giżycko. We have dinner at the Hotel Masovia Giżycko, situated within 15 minutes’ walking distance.
Day 4 – Giżycko, Mikołajki
In the morning, we walk to the Łuczański Canal running in front of our hotel to observe the scheduled opening and closing of the 19th century Swing Bridge. A short walk away, the Boyen Fortress is a 19th century Prussian fortress and a landmark of Giżycko. After the visit, we walk along the Łuczański Canal to Lake Niegocin and the Port Ekomarina Giżycko where passenger vessels offer leisurely boat cruises on the lake. Next, we return to our hotel to pick-up the car, then drive around 40 minutes to Mikołajki and have lunch at the lakeside Tawerna Pod Złamanym Pagajem. We visit the town, browse for souvenirs and take a leisurely cruise on the lake. In the evening, we dine at the Spiżarnia Restauracja, then drive back to our hotel. Note: Giżycko and Mikołajki can be reached by driving or by taking a boat cruise.
Day 5 – Węgorzewo, Mrągowo, Ryn
We pass a relaxing morning in our hotel, then drive around 30 minutes to the small town of Węgorzewo. We explore the town, observe the exterior of the Węgorzewo Castle and follow the Węgorapa River to Port Keja Węgorzewo (Węgorzewo Marina). We have lunch at the casual tavern in the marina, degusting fresh eel and admiring the tranquil lake. After lunch, we drive 1 hour south to Mrągowo, a charming lakeside town with a historic town hall. Finally, we drive around 20 minutes to Ryn, a small town set along Lake Ryńskie and Lake Ołów. We visit the town and have dinner in the Ryn Castle, functioning today as a hotel, the Hotel Zamek Ryn. After dinner, we drive for around 25 minutes, back to our hotel.
Days 6 – Augustów, Biebrza National Park
In the early morning, we drive north approximately two hours to Augustów, a resort town set along the Natta River and Augustów Canal. We arrive at the Port of Augustów and take a scenic three-hour cruise offered by Żegluga Augustowska, traversing the Netta River, Lake Necko, Lake White, Przewięź Lock, the sixth lock of the Augustów Canal, and Lake Studzieniczne. After our cruise, we drive a few minutes to the town’s center and have lunch at the lakeside Ogródek Pod Jabłoniami Restaurant. We depart Augustów and drive an hour to the Biebrza National Park (Biebrzański Park Narodowy - biebrza.org.pl) to explore its protected meadows, unique red marshlands and diverse fauna. In the evening, we return to our hotel (approximately 2 hours’ drive).
Days 7 – Ruciane-Nida, Krutyń, Pisz
Early morning, we drive an hour to the charming town of Ruciane-Nida. We arrive at the Port “U Faryja” and take a cruise offered by Żegluga Mazurska, traversing diverse lakes and canals. After the boat excursion, we drive about 15 minutes to Krutyń Village, starting point of popular kayak expeditions on the Krutynia River. We have lunch at “Krutynianka" Stacja Turystyczna i Restauracja, then start our multi-hour kayak expedition on the river overlooking the Puszcza Piska Forest. Afterward, we drive 20 minutes to briefly visit the historic town of Pisz. On the way back to our hotel (a 45 minutes’ drive), we stop for dinner at the Gospoda pod Czarnym Łabędziem in Rydzewo.
Day 8 – Gdańsk Departure
After breakfast, we drive for 4-5 hours, including a few stops, from Giżycko to the Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport to take our international flight. Note: An alternative route is driving from Giżycko to the Warsaw Chopin Airport (the international airport in Warsaw, capital city of Poland).
Pomeranian Voivodeship – Poland, a country situated in the Eastern European, is divided into 16 Voivodeships, corresponding to provinces. The Pomeranian Voivodeship, situated in the northern Poland, is bordered by the Baltic Sea to the north, the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship to the east, the Kuyavian-Pomeranian and the Great Poland Voivodeship to the south and the West Pomeranian Voivodeship to the west. Pomeranian Voivodeship, also called Pomerania, is a historic, cultural and economic center. The coastline of the Baltic Sea, a beloved summer holiday destination, boasts lovely seaside towns and spectacular beaches. The Tri-City, including Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot, are historic regional enclaves and popular tourist destinations. Sopot boasts beautiful sandy beach, a long wooden pier extending 450 meters from the shore and a historic Sofitel Grand Sopot Hotel set along the Gdańsk Bay. Gdynia and Gdańsk are coastal cities and major sea ports on the Baltic Sea. Gdańsk, capital city of the Pomeranian Voivodeship, has a beautiful Old Town and a fascinating history.
Gdańsk – Situated along the Baltic Sea, Gdańsk is a historic city, a famous seaport and the birthplace of Solidarność (Solidarity in English). The Gdańsk Shipyard became the symbol of the labor union movement led by Lech Wałęsa that toppled the communist system. At the entrance of the Gdańsk Shipyard stands the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers 1970, dedicated to those who perished under the communist regime. Visitors interested in history should also visit the Westerplatte, an outdoor museum and monument dedicated to the Battle of Westerplatte in 1939, Germany’s invasion of Poland and the start of World War II. The heart of the city is the Old Town, showcasing magnificent Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. The perfectly aligned houses have pastel-colored facades, embellished with statues and coats of arms. The Upland Gate (Brama Wyżynna), constructed in the 16th century, is the main entryway on the western side to the Old Town and the location of ceremonies held for the Polish Kings who traveled to the city. After entering through the gate, the Royal Way (Trakt Królewski) passes the Foregate complex, consisting of the Torture House (Katownia) and the Prison Tower (Wieża Więzienna). The route continues to the Golden Gate (Złota Brama), the 17th city gate designed by Abraham van den Blocke. The Golden Gate stands in close proximity to the Court of the St. George’s Brotherhood, founded in the 16th century as a meeting place for brotherhood’s members and wealthy merchants. The Upland Gate, the Golden Gate and the Prison Tower were constructed as part of the city’s fortifications. The Long Street (Ulica Długa), the most beautiful street in Gdańsk, runs from the Golden Gate to the Long Market (Długi Targ) and to the Green Gate (Zielona Brama). Magnificent buildings and historical landmarks beautify the Royal Way. The Town Hall (Ratusz), an impressive restored Gothic and Renaissance building, houses the History Museum of Gdańsk. The nearby Neptune Fountain showcases a beautiful fountain design with a bronze statue of the sea god. The Church of St. Mary (Bazylika Mariacka), a magnificent brick church erected in the 14th century, dominates the landscape of the Old Town. In the center of the Old Town, the restored Artus Court is a beautiful building with lavish interiors, used in the past by wealthy merchants for banquets and meetings. A walk through the Green Gate reveals the Motława River Embankment (Długie Pobrzeże), a channel of the Vistula River and a picturesque riverfront promenade with restaurants and cafes. The Crane (Żuraw) is a historic port crane that until the 19th was used to transfer cargo to the ships. A walk through the Old Town leads to the Polish Post Office, a historic monument that documents Polish sacrifices during the first days of the Second World War.
Malbork Castle – Set along the Nogat River, the Malbork Castle is Poland’s extraordinary historic treasure and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Malbork Castle, situated in the Pomeranian Voivodeship, is a Gothic castle and fortress constructed in the 13th century by the Order of Teutonic Knights. Three-part innovative fortifications, including the High Castle, the Middle Castle and the Fore-Castle, clearly stand-out along the picturesque river. Historically, the Malbork Castle served as the seat of the Grand Master and the Grand Commander, and was the capital of the Order of Teutonic Knights. The Great Refectory represents a reception room used during the Middle Ages to host dignitaries from all over Europe. The Palace of the Grand Master and the Golden Gate reflect architectural grandeur, progressive designs and historic significance. The Malbork Castle, situated within a one hour drive from Gdańsk, warrants a few hours visit and multi-hour guided tour to discover the castle’s intriguing history and magnificent architecture.
The Great Masurian Lakes – In northeastern Poland, the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship is a peaceful natural paradise and preferred summer destination for the water sports enthusiasts and lovers of nature. The Great Masurian Lakes, an expansive lake district, boasts abundant lakes and rivers connected by canals, wetlands, lowlands and national parks. The lush forests, hills and expansive grasslands surround the region’s quaint towns and picturesque villages. During the summer, many sailboats and kayaks traverse the countless lakes and waterways of Masuria. Lovers of the great outdoors head out to the luxuriant forests to explore its beautiful trails, while the lovers of cycling choose the pretty paths beside the canals. Visitors can also enjoy the summer music festivals and delectable regional cuisine. We visit a few select towns, villages and parks that showcase the beauty and charm of Poland’s Great Masurian Lakes.
Giżycko – Centrally situated along the Lake Niegocin and Lake Kisajno, Giżycko is the ideal holiday base to explore the Great Masurian Lakes. The 19th century Swing Bridge that crosses the Łuczański Canal retains its original design and is a popular tourist attraction. The picturesque promenade along the Łuczański Canal is perfect for walking, cycling and relaxing. It leads to the scenic Lake Niegocin and to the Port Ekomarina Giżycko, a modern yacht and boat marina. Żegluga Mazurska has an array of passenger vessels that offer leisurely boat cruises on the lake, connecting the neighboring towns. The history of Giżycko is on display at the Boyen Fortress, a 19th century Prussian fortress. Situated at a short drive from the town center, the Giżycko Water Tower is a red brick structure built in 1900 that offers panoramic views of the town and the surrounding lakes.
Mikołajki – Mikołajki is a lively and beautiful town, a pearl of the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship. Mikołajki, located along the Mikołajskie Lake and Tałty Lake, has an attractive promenade stretching along the plentiful yachts docked at the marina. In the summer, the town turns into the nature lovers’ playground with visitors enjoying sailing tours, fishing, kayaking excursions and leisurely cruises. A short distance from Mikołajki is the Łuknajno Village and the Łuknajno Lake, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and habitat for diverse wild birds, including the beautiful mute swans.
Węgorzewo – There is a spirit of old Europe in the small tourist town of Węgorzewo. The Węgorzewo Castle, originally constructed in 14th century by the Teutonic Order, was burned down in 1945 and then later rebuilt. It is inaccessible to tourists as it is privately owned and under construction. The pathway by the Węgorapa River leads to the Port Keja Węgorzewo (Węgorzewo Marina), the location of yachting services and a casual tavern serving regional specialty, fresh eel (fresh węgorz). The Węgorzewski Canal connects the Węgorapa River and Lake Mamry, revealing the beauty of an undisturbed nature.
Mrągowo – The artistic expression and the sounds of music can be felt and heard in the small town of Mrągowo. The town of Mrągowo boast a quaint architecture, a historic town hall, churches, museum and a lovely promenade by the Magistrackie Lake. The Festival Amphitheatre, set along Lake Czos, hosts diverse musical, dance and art events. The summer season brings many visitors to Mrągowo who appreciate music festivals, boat cruises and the pleasant lakeside setting.
Ryn – The small town of Ryn is situated along two lakes, Lake Ryńskie and Lake Ołów. Ryn boasts pretty houses with red tile roofs and a 19th century Dutch windmill. The Ryn Castle, the town’s historic landmark, was originally a fortress constructed by the Teutonic Knights. The Ryn Castle serves today as a hotel, the Hotel Zamek Ryn, offering accommodations, and culinary and entertainment events that recreate medieval traditions. This lovely town offers a bit of everything, beautiful nature, medieval history and good regional food.
Augustów and Biebrza National Park – Augustów is a charming resort town, situated along the Natta River and Augustów Canal. The small Port of Augustów offers regularly scheduled cruises with scenic routes along the Netta River, Lake Necko, Lake White, Przewięź Lock, the sixth lock of the Augustów Canal, and Lake Studzieniczne. The Lake Studzieniczne, a spiritual place, was visited in 1999 by Pope John Paul II. The Augustów Canal is a 102 kilometers long historic waterway regulated by locks (80% located in Poland and 20% located in Belarus). This tranquil summer destination with lakes, rivers, marshlands and historic canal attracts many tourists and visitors. The town’s center shows off its main cobblestone street, quaint architecture, boutiques, cafes and lakeside restaurants. An hour drive from Augustów leads to the Biebrza National Park (Biebrzański Park Narodowy), a protected natural biosphere of meadows, red and green marshlands, plants and wildlife. The Biebrza River Valley includes the Biebrza Marshes, a wetland complex and habitat for diverse plants and wildlife, including elks, wolfs, swans, wild boars, deer, moose and birds.
Ruciane-Nida and Krutyń – The charming town of Ruciane-Nida is surrounded by the Puszcza Piska Forest, Lake Nidzkie and Lake Guzianka Wielka. This unspoiled nature is ideal for cycling, kayaking, sailing and fishing in the summer, and cross-country skiing in the winter. The Żegluga Mazurska and the Port “U Faryja” offer organized cruises along the lakes, canals and nature. A short drive from Ruciane-Nida leads to the Krutyń Village, starting point of popular kayaking excursions on the beautiful Krutynia River. Set along the river, “Krutynianka" Stacja Turystyczna i Restauracja offers kayak expeditions and rentals and serves a wonderful regional cuisine. The multi-hour kayak expeditions reveal the beautiful lowlands, tranquility of Krutynia River and the thriving Puszcza Piska Forest.
Pisz – Located close to the Puszcza Piska Forest is the historic town of Pisz, established in the 14th century by the Teutonic Knights. A walk through the town shows its beautiful architecture, the St. John’s Church with its remarkable tower, and the stunning Neo-Gothic Town Hall. The town’s premium location, on the banks of Roś Lake and the Pisa River, attracts water sports enthusiasts and lovers of the outdoors.
Lakes, Rivers and Nature – The Great Masurian Lakes is the beautiful lake district in Poland with thousands of lakes, beautiful forests, lowlands, winding rivers, picturesque canals and diverse wildlife. Masuria is an idyllic destination for outdoor adventures, including sailing, kayaking and canoeing excursions, boat cruises, cycling tours and hiking vacations. Giżycko, a lovely town situated along Lake Niegocin and Lake Kisajno, has picturesque promenade along the Łuczański Canal that is perfect for walking, cycling and relaxing. The charming resort town of Augustów, situated along the Natta River and the Augustów Canal, offers multi-hour boat cruises across the rivers, lakes and the long historic waterway. The leisurely drive through the countryside of Masuria reveals stunning images of farmland hay fields, rustic red barns and abundant nests of white storks. In Masuria and across Poland, the rooftops of houses and barns, and even the tops of electricity poles are adorned with elaborate nests made by the beautiful white storks.
Smoked Meats and Cheeses – Curing and smoking are ancient food preservation techniques practiced in Poland. High quality ingredients, aromatic spices and herbs, and naturally fragrant wood yields delicious food products. The smoked meats, pâtes and sausages flavored with garlic and spices are staple foods in the Polish cuisine. The southern part of Poland, defined by mountainous terrain and farmlands, produces traditional smoked cheeses.
Pierogi – Visitors to Poland should sample pierogi, delicious dumplings stuffed with various fillings. Pierogi are made of wheat flour dough, stuffed with sweet or savory fillings and shaped into half-moons. The savory pierogi, traditionally stuffed with meat, sauerkraut and mushrooms, potatoes and white cheese or only potatoes (Russian Pierogi), are boiled and topped with sautéed bacon and onions. Sweet pierogi are filled with lightly sweetened white cheese or with different fruits, including our favorite, the wild blueberries.
Eel – The Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship boasts a diverse regional cuisine. The Great Masurian Lakes charm visitors with their beautiful scenery and delicious fish. The Smoked Eel (Węgorz Wędzony) is a regional specialty with a soft and oily texture. In the town of Węgorzewo, we degust fresh eel, lightly battered with flour and flash fried. The fresh eel has a succulent flavor, a soft texture and a crispy skin.
Sernik and Szarlotka – When it comes to Polish desserts, sernik and szarlotka are our favorite. Sernik is a traditional cheese cake, made with soft white cheese, flour, raisins, orange zest and a few other ingredients. Szarlotka, a traditional apple cake, is made with shortbread dough, shredded sour apples sweetened with sugar and crumble on top. These classic desserts showcase the simplicity of the Polish country baking.
Restauracja Kubicki, Gdańsk is situated along the canal, has indoor and outdoor seating and serves high-end Polish cuisine since 1919.
Gothic Cafe & Restaurant, Malbork, previously situated on the grounds of the Malbork Castle, has closed in 2020. It is worth checking if the restaurant opens in another location in the future.
Tawerna Pod Złamanym Pagajem, Mikołajki overlooks the picturesque lake and marina, and features a nice selection of regional fish and meat specialties for lunch.
Spiżarnia Restauracja, Mikołajki has a quaint indoor and outdoor seating and is an interesting dinner venue.
Hotel Masovia, Giżycko houses an elegant restaurant in its cellar that serves a sophisticated traditional and modern Polish cuisine.
Tawerna Siwa Czapla, Giżycko, a casual dining venue with indoor seating and an outdoor patio along the canal, serves traditional Masurian and Polish cuisine.
Gospoda pod Czarnym Łabędziem, Rydzewo, situated just 20 minutes’ drive from Giżycko, is an eclectic lakeside restaurant that serves a delicious Polish cuisine.
Ogródek Pod Jabłoniami, Augustów boasts a lakeside setting, lovely patio and a superb Polish cuisine.
"Krutynianka" Stacja Turystyczna i Restauracja, Krutyń, set along the Krutynia River, offers kayaking excursions and rentals, and has a charming restaurant serving fresh river fish.
Sofitel Grand Sopot Hotel – Situated in the heart of Sopot on the beautiful sandy beach, the Sofitel Grand Sopot Hotel offers luxurious and comfortable suites and rooms. The hotel’s interiors showcase a modern stylish décor, while its exteriors and façade preserve the original classic design from 1927. The Sofitel Grand Sopot Hotel overlooks the Gdańsk Bay and the long wooden pier extended into the sea. This centrally located beachside hotel is the ideal getaway to enjoy the sea and to explore the historical sites of the Tri-City.
Hotel St. Bruno, Giżycko – In the small town of Giżycko, the Hotel St. Bruno is a charming boutique hotel built in a restored 14th century castle. The historic Teutonic castle, situated along the Łuczański Canal, affords views of the 19th century Swing Bridge and sailboats passing through the canal. The hotel has stylish interiors and an array of charming rooms. We recommend the Łuczny Wing, where a few higher floor rooms provide views of the Łuczański Canal. A stylish restaurant with an elegant sunroom serves a superb breakfast buffet featuring fresh breads, cold meats, smoked fish, regional cheeses, vegetables and warm dishes. Hotel St. Bruno, situated near the Giżycko Ekomarina, Lake Niegocin and Lake Kisajno, is the ideal central holiday base to enjoy driving excursions and boat tours to neighboring towns, parks and lakes.