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Krynica-Zdroj: Sights, spas, sports in Poland

The best of home: Ambassadors to Singapore provide an insider's guide to their favourite destinations

Who: Mr Zenon Kosiniak-kamysz, 59, Ambassador of Poland to Singapore

Favourite destination in Poland: Krynica-Zdroj, situated in the heart of the Polish Beskid mountain range, for its scenic beauty, healing climate and its fame as a winter sport destination.

The country's biggest spa town, commonly known as Krynica, is also an important cultural location, home to a well-known music festival and unique museums.

Situated within easy reach of Krakow, Poland's second-largest city, Krynica and its region are a great and convenient holiday destination. I visit Krynica every time I go back to Poland; it feels like a second home to me.


The Wooden Architecture Route (, a driving route in and around Krynica, will take visitors to the most beautiful wooden churches, some as old as 400 years.

One of the most charming wooden buildings is Villa Romanowka, which houses the unique Nikifor Museum ( A self-taught artist born to a beggar woman in Krynica, Nikifor is among the world's most outstanding naive art painters.

The slopes of Gora Parkowa (the Park Mountain) and the Spa Park make a relaxing oasis in the heart of Krynica. You can reach the top of the mountain in 15 minutes by a funicular, but walking for about an hour to the top will allow you to discover many charming spots, such as ponds with swans and ducks or 19th-century wooden arbours.

Take a stroll or relax on a bench along the Krynica Promenade, a great place to people-watch. There, you cannot miss the Main Pump Room, where you can try the region's famous natural mineral water.

The town has five natural springs and 18 wells, often with different mineral contents. Each type of water has its own health benefits, depending on its minerals.

For the best views of the region, go to Jaworzyna Krynicka (, the highest mountain in the area at 1,114m above sea level. On a clear day, you can even see the majestic Tatra Mountains which form the border between Poland and Slovakia. You can get to the top easily in a modern cable car and sample regional dishes at one of the inns at the peak.

A less-known attraction is a large fumarole, a volcanic opening, in the neighbouring historical village of Tylicz. This is where natural carbon dioxide of volcanic origin comes to the earth's surface and can be seen bubbling in the natural calcium- rich mineral water.

In the past, the fumarole was the site of a secret experiment to grow freshwater algae, aimed at producing superfood for Soviet astronauts.


In Krynica, visit the famous local inn, Cichy Kacik (, which means The Quiet Corner. Open since 1936, it is repeatedly on the list of Poland's Best 100 Restaurants in the Best Inn category.

For starters, order the pan-fried saffron milkcap mushrooms or grilled oscypek (salted and smoked sheep's milk cheese) served on toast with cranberry sauce. For mains, try oven-baked veal with chanterelle sauce or freshly caught trout fried with butter and herbs.

  • Getting there

  • The quickest way to get to Krynica-Zdroj is to fly to Krakow via Zurich on Swissair, then drive from Krakow to Krynica for roughly two hours.

    There are also regular coach services between Krakow and Krynica (, which take 2 1/2 to three hours. The trains are infrequent and may take four to five hours.


    • Krynica is worth visiting at any time of the year, but for Singaporean travellers I recommend the warmer part of the year in spring (May) or summer (June to August), when the trees are green and the meadows and gardens are in full blossom. It is also stunningly beautiful in autumn (September to October), with leaves turning golden, brown and red. Winter is perfect for skiing.

    • The town is generally safe, although visitors should observe the usual precautions. The spa town has a well-deserved reputation as a tourism destination. People are friendly. The older generation may not speak English, but most of the young people can speak it. Knowing a few words in Polish, like dzien dobry (good morning), dziekuje (thank you) and pierogi (Polish dumplings), will be well appreciated by the locals.

    • Drive for 15 minutes south of Krynica and one will enter Poland's neighbouring country, Slovakia, often without one realising it. There is no need to panic: Poland's membership in the Schengen zone means people can freely travel to other European Union countries. It is a great excuse to visit other destinations such as Bardejov, a small but well-preserved Slovakian mediaeval town that is a 30-minute drive from Krynica.

    • Stay for about a week for sightseeing and spa treatments. In winter, you may want to spend a few more days to enjoy the scenic ski slopes.

    • Poland does not use the euro - its currency is the zloty (1 zloty is S$0.34). ATMs offer the most convenient access to cash and credit cards are accepted, but check with your bank if your card works abroad before the trip. Singapore dollars cannot be exchanged there.

    • For more information on Krynica in English, go to

One of my favourite dishes is the hand-made pierogi (Polish dumpling) that comes stuffed with blueberries and served with creme fraiche and sugar.

Another favourite place is Klynec Lemko Inn at artNikifor(, a Nikifor-themed hotel and cultural complex in Krynica.

The Lemkos are an ethnic minority group in the area, to which Nikifor belonged. They are historical inhabitants of the Carpathian Mountains in Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine, and have a distinctive culture, language and religion.

The inn's interior is made from 150-year-old logs from Lemkian houses. It has many original items associated with a traditional Lemko village, as well as a gallery of statues and icons. Try the Lemko sour soup served in a bread pot, potato cake with cheese sauce or venison in cranberry sauce with roasted plum.

Prices at both restaurants are similar: A two-dish meal of a starter and main costs $15 to $25 a person.

A traditional breakfast spread includes fresh bread, scrambled eggs, a selection of famous Polish sausages and traditional cold cuts, as well as Polish quark, a type of cheese made by warming soured milk. It is often served with creme fraiche and spring onion.

One of the best restaurants in Krynica, Dwoch Swietych (it means two saints), in the Malopolanka hotel ( serves a sumptuous breakfast buffet.


The cultural highlight of the year is the Jan Kiepura Festival in August ( During the two-week musical celebration, great works of opera, operetta, ballet and theatre as well as promenade concerts take place throughout the town. Named after Jan Kiepura, a world-famous Polish tenor who was a frequent guest in Krynica before World War II and who owned the luxurious Villa Patria hotel, the festival draws an international audience.

I recommend a side trip to the spa town of Muszyna, just a 15-minute drive from Krynica, where you can see the ruins of a 14th-century castle and historical churches. A highlight is the Sensory Gardens, which is divided into several zones. The gardens were designed to have therapeutic and educational functions, each appealing to different senses. It is free to enter and the observatory tower offers panoramic views.

If you feel more adventurous, try rafting on the Poprad River near Muszyna and admire the majestic views of the Poprad Landscape Park.


A jar of Poland's best honey from Kamianna, near Krynica, is a perfect souvenir.

Kamianna is one of Europe's few apitherapy (bee therapy) resorts. The local honey comes in many varieties and is highly regarded for its taste and alleged healing properties.

There are also regional items and souvenirs at the newly refurbished Bulwary Dietla marketplace. Good buys include leatherware such as slippers, sandals and purses as well as wooden crafts.


Hotel Prezydent ( is set in the former Presidential Villa, which was built in 1931 by then-Polish president Ignacy Moscicki. The luxury hotel has the best location in the town centre, next to the Krynica Promenade.

If you seek pure relaxation, try the Dr Irena Eris Hotel Spa (, next to the lower cable-car station to Jaworzyna Krynicka mountain.

Dr Irena Eris is a renowned Polish cosmetics and spa brand. The hotel boasts a spa centre and a high-tech skincare institute.

From there, the region's most beautiful landmarks, mountain routes and trails, as well as the ski slopes in winter, are within easy reach.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 05, 2017, with the headline 'Sights, spas, sports in Poland'. Print Edition | Subscribe