With industrial buildings transformed into state-of-the-art venues, a growing reputation as the “Silicon Valley of Europe,” and a blossoming tourism industry, discover why Poland is becoming a first choice for event and meeting planners worldwide.
This content was created collaboratively by the Polish Tourism Organisation and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.
Combining old-world charm, a storied culture of resilience and innovation, and rapidly evolving contemporary cities, Poland is fast becoming a rising star in the event industry. The International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) chose Krakow as the venue for its 61st annual conference in 2022. Unsurprisingly, Krakow also rose to 23rd place in ICCA’s latest global ranking of business destinations. As Małgorzata Przygórska-Skowron, head of the Krakow Convention Bureau, said, “Thanks to the ICCA Congress, Krakow is entering the premier league of the meetings industry.”
It isn’t only ICCA that’s recognizing Poland’s upward swing. The Union of International Associations (UIA) ranked Poland 20th in the world for meetings destinations. Krakow alone climbed 11 points higher than its 2021 position, with the same number of events as Washington, D.C. Both Warsaw and Gdansk also made it into the UIA’s top 100 cities worldwide. In an online poll that drew over half a million votes from 178 countries, Warsaw took top spot as the European Best Destination 2023.
All this indicates an inflection point in Poland’s popularity as an event destination. In the words of Aneta Ksiazek, head of the Poland Convention Bureau at the Polish Tourism Organisation, “Poland, with its rich history, vibrant culture, and modern infrastructure, has emerged as a thriving hub for the meetings and events industry in Europe.”
Industry & Innovation: Poland as a Center of Business and Technology
Poland is at a unique place in its history, with rapid economic growth being catalyzed by a highly skilled workforce and investment from abroad. It’s currently home to about 3,000 startups, over 100 incubators and accelerators, and a high concentration of businesses in the energy, automotive, aviation, pharmaceutical, and IT sectors. “Coupled with an incredible conference and convention infrastructure and research institutions, this practically makes it the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Europe,” said Barbara Świderska, president of MPI Poland Chapter.
Box, Microsoft, Google, and Nvidia are all building centers in Warsaw. In a video titled “Why I left California for Warsaw, Poland,” CEO of QDC, Dominik Andrzejczuk, explains how the city’s burgeoning tech scene is leading the world on several fronts:
- It ranks fourth in Europe for total STEM graduates.
- It is number one for female STEM graduates in Europe, with close to a 50-50 split of female and male engineers.
- It is a world leader in data science, machine learning, and quantum information theory.
“I’m very excited about where Poland will be in the next 10 years, and I’m proud and privileged to be even a tiny part of what will be a very big story,” he said. Since Andrzejczuk published his video, Intel has announced they’re investing $4.6 billion in a new semiconductor integration and testing plant near Wrocław, Poland.
European Heartland: Geographic and Political Centrality
Poland has a proud history of resilience and rebirth, which it is carefully weaving into its promising future. A new congress center in Gdansk pays homage to the country’s past with a permanent exhibit dedicated to the country’s Solidarity Movement of the 1980s — a bloodless revolution that helped pave the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Indeed, Poland has always played a central role in Europe’s history and continues to do so. In the wake of conflict in Ukraine, it has served as a haven for American troops and Ukrainian refugees. It hosted the World For Ukraine Summit 2022, and President Biden paid a visit to the Rzeszow-Jesionka G2A Arena near the Polish-Ukrainian border. In the words of Senthil Gopinath, CEO of ICCA, “Poland, as a meeting place, has a bright future ahead of it. It’s a beautiful and fascinating country. The help it provides to Ukraine also deserves admiration.”
Poland stands not only at the political, but also at the geographic heart of Europe. Its proximity to other major European centers makes it a convenient destination for events and meetings with an international audience, particularly with so many direct flights available to multiple global locations. Moreover, all the major cities have international airports, often within a half-hour drive from the city center.
Convention Centers & Venues: Revitalized Meetings Infrastructure
Poland offers not just one event center, but multiple options across its hub cities. From long-established trade halls to revitalized industrial complexes and ultra-modern openings, the country is fully equipped to meet the needs of every vertical within the MICE sector. It has a strong network of CVBs, and the Poland Convention Bureau can provide recommendations for professional congress organizers and incentive travel companies that are active locally.
Major Conference Centers
Poland boasts multiple major conference centers in Krakow, Warsaw, Gdansk, and Poznan, including:
- ICE Krakow Congress Center: a multi-functional, state-of-the-art congress center with views of Wawel Royal Castle
- TAURON Arena Krakow
- EXPO Krakow International Trade Fair and Congress Centre
- European Solidarity Center (ESC): situated in the famous Gdansk Shipyard
- The Centennial Hall in Wroclaw: opened in 1913 and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- EXPO Warsaw: a large, innovative venue that can accommodate up to 13,000
- The Hilton Warsaw City: offers extensive conference facilities
- Poznan International Congress Center: includes 150,000 square meters (approximately 1.6 million square feet) of exhibition space and 77 modern conference rooms, combining historic architecture and state-of-the-art facilities
Ultra-Modern Conference Centers
Other regions of Poland offer state-of-the-art facilities that were all built within the last decade:
- Katowice International Conference Centre (2015): one of the largest venues for conferences, exhibitions, sports, and entertainment in Central Europe
- Targi Kielce Congress and Exhibition Centre (2013): organizer of the biggest International Defence Industry Exhibition MSPO, with 90,000 square meters (around 970,000 square feet) of exhibition space
- Lublin Conference Centre (2014)
- Rzeszow-Jesionka G2A Arena (2016)
Regenerated Industrial Buildings as Off-site Venues
As part of its 21st-century renaissance, Poland has repurposed multiple former industrial sites across the country into culture-rich event venues that combine an appreciation for history with a modern design sensibility:
- CKF_13 Fabryczna Conference Centre: a former industrial complex in Krakow with built-in restaurants and a 4-star hotel
- 100cznia: a cultural center and event space made from repurposed shipping containers in a former Gdansk shipyard
- EC1 Lodz – City of Culture: an industrial-building-turned-cultural-center, and host to the 12th Annual Advisory Forum on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, 2023
- Koneser Center: a culture and entertainment center located in a former vodka factory in Warsaw
- Elektrownia Powiśle: a former power station turned into a multipurpose center in Warsaw
- Browary Warszawskie: a 19th-century historic brewery now home to multiple vendors and venue options, including restaurants and microbreweries
- Norblin Factory: a former Warsaw factory transformed into an event space with its own cinema, art space, restaurants, music club, and piano bar
Travel: A Rising World-Class Destination
Whether attendees are seeking a well-equipped and comfortable hub during the event or wish to extend their trip for a little bleisure travel, Poland’s emerging reputation as a tourist destination has plenty to offer. As Joanna Montenarh, SITE POLAND’s vice president, said, “Poland’s allure lies in its rich historical tapestry, architectural juxtapositions within its cities, a multitude of tourist attractions, a remarkable infrastructure that includes cutting-edge hotel facilities and versatile event venues, an exceptional value proposition compared to Western European counterparts, and seamless accessibility via an extensive flight network.”
There is a wealth of hotel options across the country, often building on Poland’s rich historical past by updating traditional architecture with contemporary amenities. For example, the Mercure Fabryczna Hotel in Krakow merges an Art Deco sensibility with industrial chic and its own conference center. The city’s Stradom House and Warsaw’s Hotel Verte are the first and second hotels to have opened in Poland as part of the Autograph Collection, and the Polish chain PURO Hotels continues to launch in major cities, including Warsaw, Gdansk, and Poznan.
While you might associate Polish cuisine with hearty meat dishes, it’s a surprising haven for vegan cooking, with 950 vegan restaurants across the country. Warsaw is recognized as one of the top 10 most vegan-friendly cities in the world — and was ranked first by National Geographic in 2021 — offering vegan twists on everything from ramen to doughnuts.
Three Polish restaurants — Bottiglieria 1881 in Krakow, Muga in Poznan, and NUTA in Warsaw — have earned Michelin stars, seven have received the Bib Gourmand, and 39 have earned recommendations. And if you’re looking to eat like a local, the Warsaw Tourism Organization has hand-picked some of the city’s best options.
Values: Sustainability, Social Responsibility, and Security
In the wider event industry, sustainability is no longer just a nice-to-have — it’s now a must-have. Poland’s event and meetings venues are keeping pace with this shift by working hard to create “green events” — the Convention Bureau of Wroclaw, for example, has created a document outlining good green practices. There are also multiple pristine parks and landscapes across the country where attendees can appreciate the beauty of unspoiled nature.
As a testament to this growing nationwide sustainability movement, four Polish women have been nominated for the ‘Rise and Raise Others Award’ by United Nations Women. It’s an accolade recognizing outstanding women for their commitment to and enthusiasm in empowering others towards the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Here’s a snapshot of their accomplishments:
- Winner of the ‘No Poverty’ category: Dominika Kulczyk, a businesswoman and philanthropist fighting discrimination against women.
- In the ‘Climate Action’ category: Paula Fanderowska, an advocate for social impact in the Polish tourism industry and chairman of the board for the Polish Conference and Congress Association.
- In the ‘Good Health and Wellbeing’ category: Iga Świątek, a star tennis player and the Women’s Tennis Association leader involved in social initiatives with children and mental health in Poland.
- In the ‘Education’ category: Dr. Agata Kołodziejczyk, a biologist, astrobiologist, and innovator who co-founded the Analog Astronaut Training Centre.
As further proof of Poland’s welcoming social landscape, the country was also ranked the third-safest EU country in a 2019 report by Eurostat.
A Top-Tier Meetings Destination
With its rich history and world-leading innovation, Poland is rapidly rising to the top of meeting and event destinations worldwide. To discover more about how Poland offers more than you expected, visit the Polish Tourism Organization’s website. For more information on the country’s many options for meetings and events, visit meetings.poland.travel.
Did You Know?
Poland may be known for its traditional ‘meat and potatoes’ cuisine, but the country is fast becoming one of the world’s best destinations for vegan enthusiasts. It’s easy to find vegan fare all across the country, and Warsaw offers such diverse options that its reputation is spreading overseas. In recent years, the city has made it into multiple top 10 lists of the world’s most vegan-friendly cities.
This content was created collaboratively by the Polish Tourism Organisation and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.