The people of Poland have been celebrating Christmas for over a thousand years now, and they know how to do it right. Wander the brilliant Christmas Markets in the medieval Market Square in Krakow and the Main Market Square of Warsaw, both of them UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Experience a traditional torch-lit sleigh ride through the mountain snow, followed by a bonfire with roasted kielbasa and hot mulled wine. Join a Polish family in their home for the Christmas Eve feast, called Wigilia, the vigil, where you can sample 12 different traditional dishes. This wintry journey brings you close to the warm heart of Poland’s long-standing customs.
Days 1-5: Krakow
In Krakow’s UNESCO-listed medieval Market Square, browse the Christmas Market where some of the country’s finest artisans display their hand crafted gifts, such as hand-painted pottery, crèches and gingerbread ornaments. Make Polish pierogi under the guidance of your own private chef. Sample regional delicacies and hot mulled wine in a snowy mountain town lined with 19th century log buildings. Take a magical torch-lit sleigh ride bundled in blankets, then warm yourself at a bonfire, roasting kielbasa and tasting Polish vodka. Participate in a workshop showing how old-time Polish village people made their Christmas decorations by hand. Tour a small factory where Poland’s famous hand-blown glass ornaments are created and travel by train to Warsaw.
Days 6-8: Warsaw
Travel by train to Warsaw and take a walking tour of Warsaw’s Royal Road, a gracious avenue festooned during the holiday season with swags of elegant white lights. Visit some of the city’s churches to admire their Nativity scenes. Gather in a Polish home for a traditional family-style Wigilia, the Christmas Eve vigil and dinner, beginning as the first star appears in the eastern sky. Taste each of the 12 dishes served at a Christmas Eve dinner, as well as desserts such as the poppy-seed pastry called makowiec. Join the family at the midnight church service of Christmas carols sung by the whole congregation together. This yearly service is so much a part of Polish Christmas traditions that a participant does not have to be a believer to enjoy the joyful ritual.