The Best Cities to Live and Work in Poland For Expats and Digital Nomads
There are only 107 cities in Poland.
The low number is due to Poland’s distinction between towns and cities. While a town mayor is called the burmistrz, a city mayor is the prezydent miasta. Other differences are some public services, like specific courts, and so on.
There isn’t any city in Poland with less than 35,000 residents, though some towns might have a larger population.
However, 107 is not a small number, and when considering a move, many expatriates wonder where in Poland they should settle (at least this is a question I asked myself six years ago when I was planning to move here).
Yes, Poland, a place where the economy is expanding so rapidly that it is causing a reverse-immigration, and bringing back the citizens who long ago left the nation. It is also one of the best countries in the world for education.
The low crime rate draws foreigners looking for a place to settle with their families in security while also enjoying high living standards.
In this guide, we will share with you the criteria and the highlights of the best cities in this guide, as well as my personal opinion about those that I know personally.
Criteria to rank the best cities to live in Poland for expats
How happy do you feel in the city where you live?
Almost 36 thousand people living in Poland responded to this question in the survey that Otodom conducted between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022. The respondents gave their opinions on a scale from 1 (completely unhappy) to 5 (extremely happy).
The study’s objective was to determine what factors affect people’s subjective feelings of happiness in the city and its nearby areas. Therefore, in addition to providing a general assessment of their level of happiness, the respondents also provided information on the factors that had a positive and negative influence on it.
These components (in the report, some smaller cities lacked a breakdown of results by each factor) included:
- Availability of shops
- Public transportation
- Natural environment
- Availability of entertainment and cultural attractions
- Cost of living
- Availability of sports and recreation venues
- Relations with neighborhood and community
- Cleaning and maintenance of the city
- Availability of health services
- Infrastructure for kids
- Infrastructure for animals
Without further ado, let’s dive into the best places to live in Poland according to the research.
Score: 3.69 (where 1 means completely unhappy, while 5 means extremely happy)
Best evaluated factors: The things that Kraków residents liked best were public transportation (39% said it has a positive impact on their lives), commerce (36%), and entertainment and cultural attractions (34%).
A curious result is that Kraków scored better than any other large Polish city in the availability of health services (20%).
Worst evaluated factors: Living costs (54% of the respondents considered that it has a negative impact on their life) and the natural environment (48% of negative evaluations — the worst among all large cities).
Kraków figured also in our ranking of the best cities to visit in Central and Eastern Europe.
My personal opinion about Kraków
Although I live in Warsaw, I consider Kraków a more pleasant place in almost all aspects (an exception would be the job market), and it is probably the best place to visit in Poland if you have only a few days.
They do have a great (and cheaper than Warsaw) public transport system, and the city has plenty of cultural attractions that are often not present even in Warsaw (e.g., the Cirque du Soleil during the 2022 tour will make presentations both in Gdańsk and Kraków, but not Warsaw).
The critics are also in line with my own experiences, which may be shocking if you read a previous article where I put Kraków as one of the best cities in the world for digital nomads, in part because of its low cost of living. It is also a favorite among international students in Poland.
The thing is: compared to other similar cities in the European Union, Kraków is inexpensive, but compared to other Polish cities, except for Warsaw, it is expensive. That explains why locals complain about the cost of living: they are not comparing it with Valencia or Lyon, but with smaller cities in Poland.
Inflation is also hitting hard: 2 years ago, I wrote an article about cities in Europe that you could visit for less than 25 euros per day, nowadays, I doubt this is still possible.
The locals’ complaints about the environment are also understandable since during the winter Kraków has some of the worst air quality of any city in the world.
Best evaluated factors: Public transport (34% of the respondents affirmed it has a positive impact on their life), and availability of entertainment and cultural attractions (31%).
Worst evaluated factors: Living costs (49% of the respondents considered that it has a negative impact on their life) and the natural environment (31%).
My personal opinion about Poznań
While the best-evaluated factors are no surprise for me and I completely agree with them, it is a surprise to see that people in Poznań have so bad remarks about the natural environment. The city is not even close to having air as polluted as Kraków or Warsaw during the winter.
I also expected more criticism about security, since it is one of the most violent cities in Poland (however, since Poland is a very safe country, it is still much safer than other similar-sized European cities).
Best evaluated factors: Availability of shops (32% considered it a positive impact). Katowice also had the best results among all large cities in Poland in 2 factors: availability of sports and recreation venues (24%), and Infrastructure for kids (18%).
Worst evaluated factor: Katowice had the worst score among all large cities in Security, with 25% of the respondents affirming it negatively impacts their life.
My personal opinion about Katowice
Katowice has indeed a remarkable infrastructure, both for commercial activities but also for sports and recreation. Lately, the city and its metropolitan area became the host of multiple fairs and large events in Poland that before would be in Warsaw or Krakow.
The bad result in security isn’t because of the city itself, but I guess it is because of the areas around it. For example, poor towns like Bytom and Sosnowiec never got back on their feet after the coal mining industry collapsed.
Katowice itself has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country (together with Wroclaw and Warsaw) according to Forsal, and job opportunities in the tech and services sector are attractive to foreigner professionals.
Best evaluated factor: Natural environment, where 36% of the respondents considered it a factor with a positive impact on their lives.
Worst evaluated factors: Living costs (43% considered it a factor with a negative impact) and public transportation (26%).
My personal opinion about Bielsko-Biała
It is a lovely city close to the Beskid mountains (one of the most beautiful places in Europe during autumn). It is medium-sized, with close to 170,000 residents. This city has the advantage of being located 1 hour or less from major urban centers like Katowice or Ostrava (Czech Republic) but without the cons of these larger cities.
It is a bit colder than the other cities on this list, so you may spend a bit more on heating bills (although there are some extreme ways to reduce heating expenses).
If in the future I move out from Warsaw, Bielsko-Biała is on the list of the cities that definitely I would live in.
The 3rd Best Place to Live in Poland: Zielona Góra
I have never been to Zielona Góra, but from what I know, the city (which has around 140 thousand inhabitants) offers great opportunities for anyone that likes nature or students seeking higher education. The University of Zielona Góra provides a diverse range of programs, including foreign languages and computer science.
Zielona Góra is also known for its beautiful nature. There are many lakes, forests, and mountains near the city, which makes it a perfect place for hiking and other outdoor activities. Attributes enough to put Zielona Góra as the 3rd best place to live in Poland.
The 2nd Best Place to Live in Poland: Gdańsk
Best evaluated factors: Natural environment, with 37% considering it a positive factor, the same percentage that also evaluated positively the availability of entertainment and cultural attractions
Worst evaluated factors: Cost of living, with 56% considering it a negative impact, and availability of health services (23%).
My personal opinion about Gdańsk
Gdansk is one of the most popular summer cities in Poland, although its beaches may be overshadowed by those of neighboring Sopot. The city has a charming (and partially reconstructed post-WWII) old town and market square.
Since it is the big city in the urban area known as Tricity, it also makes the role of connecting the Baltic nations to Poland via multiple ferries.
The city has plenty of nice parks and one of the best air quality indicators in the entire country despite its size. It is relatively expensive if compared to other cities that are off the beaten tourist path, but still much cheaper than Warsaw.
The Best City in Poland to Live in: Gdynia
Best evaluated factors: Public transportation (39% consider it a positive factor) and natural environment (36%).
Worst evaluated factor: 57% evaluate the cost of living negatively, and this is the worst result on this factor in the entire country.
My personal opinion about Gdynia
Just like Gdańsk (which is a few minutes farther east), Gdynia has wonderful clean air, beautiful parks, and great public transport.
The city also has a very nice museum (actually a ship-museum), the Błyskawica.
The cost of living is pumped during the summer by large touristic inflows, and I guess that this, together with the proximity to Sopot, the most expensive city in Poland, inflates the prices inside the city and causes some dissatisfaction among locals.
Check also: The Most Beautiful Capital Cities in Europe
Why Warsaw is Not Among the Best Places to Live in Poland?
One could ask why Warsaw is completely absent from the list of the best cities to live in Poland, even when we consider only the largest cities.
But I would rather ask: why would Warsaw be among the best places to live in Poland?
Yes, the Polish capital does have plenty of cultural and entertainment attractions, the availability of numerous health services, very decent infrastructure for sports, and a good public transport system.
Everything goes down when we talk about pollution (although not as bad as Kraków), traffic jams, and the worst of all: the price. Warsaw is much more expensive than nearly all Polish cities, except for resort municipalities like Sopot (during the summer) or Zakopane (during the winter).
If you enjoyed this article about the best place to live in Poland, here are a few other reading suggestions for you:
Subscribe (for free) to receive my articles directly in your inbox and receive a special gift. If you enjoy this article, please consider becoming a Medium member by using this link and have access to premium, unbiased content from authors not tied to big media.
Levi Borba is the founder of the Expatriate Consultancy, creator of the channel The Expat, and best-selling author. Some of the links of this article may be affiliate links, meaning that the author will have a commission for any transaction.