I have lived in many places growing up, but when I think of home I reflectively think of Jelenia Gora, Poland. Jelenia Gora is a small city situated in the southwestern corner of Poland, with Germany to the East and Czech Republic to the South. It is nested in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountains, including Karkonosze Mountains; my childhood stomping ground. The highest peak of Karkonosze Mountains is marked by Śnieżka Peak, at 1603 meters (5256 ft) above sea level it reveals breathtaking views of Poland on one side, and Czech Republic on the other.
Bite Size Taste of Jelenia Gora's History
Jelenia Gora is a city rich in history and full of culture. Legend has it that it was built by prince Boleslaw Krzywousty in 1108, however it wasn’t officially mentioned in writing until the 13th century. Over the centuries, Jelenia Gora was under the reign of different nations, including Czech and later Prussian reign in the 18th Century. The region is marked with many castle ruins and towers that served to protect the city during its turbulent war periods.
In early 19th century, Jelenia Gora’s economy shifted from hand weaving to a manufacturing industry, and the city quickly grew to become a major tourist and cultural presence in the area.
Classical and Baroque Architecture with Pops of Modern
The beautiful Town Hall as it stands today was build in the Classical Style in 1744-1749. Its origin, however dates back to the 14th Century when it was built in Gothic and Renaissance Architectural styles. As the city was ravaged by several fires and damaged in wars, the Town Hall had to be rebuilt and renovated. The building tower is topped with a green dome with a clock, and is connected to a row of seven tenement houses (think row houses).
The square itself is surrounded by colorful, Baroque style tenement houses with arcades. It is a very picturesque town square, full of cafes, restaurants, and gift shops.
Outside city walls, many old buildings have gotten a makeover with a more modern, clean style that is more representative of the 21st Century.
Coffee or Tea?
When you visit any Polish city, you will hear this question a lot: coffee or tea? Growing up in Poland, those were the only two options given when visiting anyone, which explains my current addiction to coffee and tea. Drinking coffee or tea is a social experience, and the drinks are often served in classy glasses or cups, often accompanied by a sweet dessert. On our last trip, my husband and I frequented a nice little cafe with outdoor seating right in the middle of town, called Kawiarenka Magdalenka. It had the friendliest service and it was a great way to sit and enjoy the sights of the city.
Coffee and tea aren’t the only delicious options. If you’re in the mood for something a little more sweet, visit the iconic Wawel chocolate shop for a large variety of traditional, Polish chocolates, candies, and the most decadent hot chocolate your taste buds have ever tasted. Just be forewarned, order a small, it’s actual hot, melted chocolate, not hot cocoa. Very rich, thick, and absolutely delicious.
Take in Panoramic Views of the City and Mountains
A short hike north of the city will take you to the viewing tower Grzybek (Little Mushroom). At the top of its winding staircase is a breathtaking view of the entire city and the Karkonosze Mountains.
As a kid, I made the walk from that tower to the city and my school many times, as one of my childhood homes was just at the bottom of the hill from Grzybek.
Visit Ornate Churches and Cathedrals
Poland is a deeply religious country that takes great pride in its churches, cathedrals, and chapels. As you take a stroll through the city center, make sure to check out the Basilica of St. Erasmus and St. Pancras right outside the Old Town Square, St. Anne’s Chapel at the gate to the city, and the Holy Cross Church and the peaceful, beautiful park on its grounds.
Take a Hike and See a Castle and a Waterfall
Jelenia Gora is surrounded by mountain ranges and a number of notable castle ruins that served as defense points for the area. Put on your hiking shoes and follow a scenic trail through the Karkonosze National Park forest up to Chojnik Castle ruins. The Castle experience, as well as the views from its towers, will be worth it.
Just to the West of Chojnik Castle, a short hike up a forested trail in the town of Szklarska Poreba leads to the scenic, cascading waters of Szklarki Waterfall, one of the most popular sightseeing spots in the areas.
Karpacz and Sniezka Mountain Peak
A visit to the area would not be complete without experiencing the Mountain town of Karpacz and hiking up Mount Sniezka. Each location calls for a full-day excursion to truly appreciate the experience.
Karpacz is a small, colorful town with a main road that weaves up the mountain. The town center has lots of cafes, souvenir shops, and a Bobsleigh and Toboggan track attractions!
Following the main road to Upper Karpacz will take you to Wang Church, a 12th Century wooden church built in Norwegian Viking style. The church stands at the entrance to the Karkonosze National Park, the starting point of hiking trails to Sniezka Peak.
The top of Sniezka sits on the border of Poland and Czech Republic, giving incredible views in all directions.
Happy Exploring! If you go to Jelenia Gora, please share your experience and let me know what you enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) about the city!