A 5-Day Focus on Jewish Heritage
Five days is barely enough time to begin to scratch the surface of Poland's immense and important Jewish history. This tour assumes you're beginning in Warsaw and includes a stop in the industrial city of Lódz, which was made wealthy by Jewish industrialists in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as stops in Kraków's former Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, and at the Nazi extermination camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. The eastern city of Lublin is not included in this tour, though there are numerous Jewish heritage sites there that are worth visiting.
Day 1: Warsaw
Arrive in Warsaw and find your feet. Spend the afternoon walking Warsaw's former Jewish ghetto, taking in sites such as the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, which recalls the heroic Jewish uprising in 1943, and a concrete-bunker-type memorial at the "Umschlagplatz." The Jewish Cemetery is a poignant reminder of the lost Jewish heritage. Time might be tight, but it's possible to make it out to Treblinka, an extermination camp 100km (62 miles) outside the city, where most of Warsaw's Jews perished.
Day 2: Lódz
Get an early start and drive or take the train to the former industrial powerhouse of Lódz. Before World War II, Lódz's Jewish population numbered more than 200,000 -- the largest concentration of Jews in Europe after Warsaw. Today, just a handful remain. The Jewish sites here, however, are some of the best in the country. A tour of the former wartime ghetto is an absolute must, as is a stop at the former Jewish cemetery and the Radegast train station, where trains to the concentration camps left from. Be sure, too, to stop by the History of Lódz Museum, housed in the former residence of Jewish industrialist par excellence, Izrael Kalmanowicz Poznanski. Have dinner at Anatewka, an informal Jewish-themed restaurant.
Days 3 & 4: Kraków & Auschwitz
From Lódz, take the bus to Kraków, once one of the most important centers of Jewish life and scholarship in Europe. Save plenty of time for an enthralling walking tour of Kazimierz and the adjoining wartime ghetto of Podgórze across the river. Try to get a room in Kazimierz and experience its new lease on life in the evening as one of Poland's liveliest clubbing districts. For dinner, book a table at Dawno Temu Na Kazimierzu, a great mix of excellent food and just enough kitsch to keep it interesting. On your second day, plan an all-day trip to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. Spend the night back in Kraków.
Day 5: Return to Warsaw
The trip to Warsaw will take around 3 hours by train, leaving you a little time left in the morning to explore Kraków's Old Town and Wawel Castle if you haven't already seen it. Alternatively, return to Warsaw as early as possible for a trip to Tykocin, 170km (106 miles) east of Warsaw, to see a 17th-century synagogue and its sensitively restored interior.