Euro 2012: Know the travel score

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

What can host nations Poland and Ukraine offer football fans next year? Ahead of Friday's draw, here's our guide to the venues

At 5pm next Friday, all sporting eyes will be on the Ukrainian capital, Kiev - venue for the draw for the finals of Europe's biggest football tournament.

From 8 June to 1 July, Poland and Ukraine jointly host Euro 2012; the event will introduce two much-neglected nations to fans who like to combine football with travel. Football's moving east, which spells adventure. Two decades after they broke free from state communism, both host nations remain far less popular among British holidaymakers than they deserve to be. In the late 1980s, Richard Branson heralded holidays in the Ukrainian resort of Yalta. They never happened, and since then travel agents' shelves have not been overburdened with brochures featuring Ukraine. And Poland, easily the most accessible nation of the "New Europe", attracts few tourists to delve much deeper than the charms of Krakow.

Euro 2012 should change all that, with England and the Republic of Ireland safely in the draw. Whether your team is there or not, it's always good to be ahead of the crowds. Only one of the eight host cities, Gdansk in Poland, is a recognised tourist destination. Yet all of them – with the possible exception of the Ukrainian mining city of Donetsk – have much to offer besides world-class sporting venues.

Despite the ravages of war, they are steeped in heritage. They offer a warm welcome and convivial hospitality. And, more pragmatically, they are both refreshingly cheap destinations, with everything from beds to beer a fraction of the prices in the hosts for the previous tournament: Austria and Switzerland in 2008.

This your essential guide to their tourism potential of these six fascinating cities. Keep it by your side as the drama of the draw unfolds...

Poland

Warsaw:

The tournament begins here at 6pm on 8 June next year when Poland take to the field at the National Stadium. At first glance, the centre of the Polish capital looks like a typical middle-European city, with ageless buildings crowding around a market square. In fact, almost everything you see is a post-war reconstruction. Warsaw was flattened in the closing stages of the Second World War. To recreate the city, the builders used everything from old photographs to sketches by a nephew of Canaletto.

For some unrestored history, head for the Lazienski Gardens, which form the real highlight of the city. The old royal hunting grounds have become pleasure gardens, studded with palaces and other indulgences that are a delight to explore.

Feels like home for: Russia, as some of the city's post-war architecture is straight from the Kremlin catalogue.

Away you go: British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) and LOT Polish Airlines (0845 601 0949; lot.com) compete from Heathrow. Wizz Air (0906 959 0002; wizzair.com) flies from Luton, Doncaster-Sheffield and Liverpool.

Gdansk:

The fans of the teams that play in the Baltic city will be obvious by the later stages of the competition: they'll be the ones with the tans. Besides being a Hanseatic port with great maritime credentials – and the Lenin Shipyard, where anti-communist insurrection began – Gdansk is also the gateway to some fine beaches.

For your pre-tournament inspection, base yourself in the resort of Sopot, less than 20 minutes by frequent trains from Gdansk. You will be able to revel amid early 20th-century loveliness, for example at the Villa Baltica (00 58 55 52 800; villabaltica.com.

Spend the morning enjoying the eastern sun on the beach, then head into the city to explore its churches and museums, or chilling wartime history, followed by some of the finest cuisine in the old Warsaw Pact area. Or go to Hel, the fishing village at the end of the peninsula of that name.

Feels like home for: Germany, who knew the city fondly as Danzig (though a similar past tenure applies to both Poznan and Wroclaw).

Away you go: Wizz Air flies from Luton, Liverpool, Doncaster/Sheffield and Prestwick. Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) flies from Stansted, Leeds/Bradford, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Bristol.

Poznan

This city, strategically located halfway between Berlin and Warsaw, has played midfield in too many conflicts to retain much of its original grace – but the old Town Hall is a fabulous confection. Today it has become the Museum of the History of Poznan, where the elaborate interiors are as much a draw as the contents. But as capital of the region known as "Greater Poland", Poznan also serves as a hub for a couple of fascinating day trips.

The first is the trip on Europe's last remaining steam-hauled main line, wheezing its way 45 miles south to the town of Wolsztyn – where you can roam around the locomotive workshops and turntables.

The other is the town of Zagan, close to the German border, and location for Stalag Luft III – the prisoner-of-war camp featured in The Great Escape.

Feels like home for: Greece. Not because of climate or cuisine – but because the railway from Poznan is redolent of the surviving train services in Greece.

Away you go: Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Stansted are the four UK airports connected to Poznan by Ryanair; Wizz Air offers Luton and Doncaster-Sheffield.

Wroclaw

A walk across the city formerly known as Vratislav (in Czech) and Breslau (in German) is to take a hike through the history of central Europe. Wroclaw has, over the years, been part of Bohemia, Austria, Prussia and Germany – which has left the deepest impression on the city. The main square is a contender in the "most attractive in Poland" stakes, while on the far side of the Oder river you can visit the restored cathedral.

Stay at the 16th-century Dwor Polski (00 48 71 372 3415; dworpolski.wroclaw.pl), a gabled city-centre gem where a double room at weekends costs only 260 zloty (£60), including breakfast. A similar hotel across the German border would cost three times as much.

Wroclaw is also temptingly close to the mountains that rise to the south and west – and offers an unusual day out in the shape of Zittau, the town located where Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic all meet.

Feels like home for: Czech Republic, because the city centre is a carbon-copy of many Bohemian towns.

Away you go: again, it's a carve up between Ryanair (from Bristol, East Midlands, Liverpool, Prestwick and Stansted) and Wizz Air (Doncaster-Sheffield and Luton).

Ukraine

Kiev

Moscow and St Petersburg, the other great cities of the former USSR, cannot compare with Kiev in terms of its dramatically beautiful location high above the Dneipr River. The original settlement, based around the Caves monastery in the south of the city, provides a great starting point for a walk through the centuries – past churches and graves, palaces and Parliament to the modern centre of the Ukranian capital. Kiev deserves time for you fully to appreciate the way that the brutal might of Soviet-era architecture coexists with 19th-century grace and medieval monasteries. To the west stands a good contender for the greatest railway station in the world – at least in terms of the number of great places you can reach direct, from Berlin to Odessa to St Petersburg.

One tour that may appeal to football fans is the day trip from Kiev out to the location for the Chernobyl nuclear reactor: "Visitors get to see a reactor, the 'dead town' of Pripyat, and the 'red forest' where pine trees turned reddish orange because of radiation," says the organiser, SoloEast (00 380 44 279 3505l; tourkiev.com).

Feels like home for: France, perhaps surprisingly. Like Paris, Kiev is a three-dimensional city on an impressive scale, with a great Metro and dominance of the nation it governs.

Away you go: BA flies from Heathrow to Kiev's Borispol airport, but Wizz Air flies from Luton to the far more convenient Zhulyany airport.

Lviv

The former Polish city of Lwow is one of the leading contenders for the tiresome category of "New Prague", due to the Unesco-listed confection of gothic and renaissance architecture.

Lviv was location for one of the poignant population shifts at the end of the Second World War; this Polish city found itself cut adrift in Ukraine, and many of its people were shipped of to near-deserted Wroclaw.

Its cosmopolitan nature is best seen in the many churches, with Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian congregations, as well as a functioning synagogue.

Feels like home for: Poland, spiritually if not territorially.

Away you go: All three of the provincial Ukrainian host cities are bereft of direct links from the UK. The best gateway for Lviv is Rzeszow in south-east Poland, served by Ryanair from Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands and Stansted. The cross-border journey takes a couple of hours.

Kharkiv

"Ukraine's Oxbridge" may be pushing it a bit, but the nation's second city is a huge student town. The main attractions are Soviet relics: life revolves around the vast Ploshcha Svobody, designed in the 1920s as a parade ground as well as civic hub; the Hotel Kharkiv is the place to find Soviet chic. The other great municipal treasure is the three-line Metro network, as ornately aspirational in station design as Moscow's.

Feels like home for: Ireland, with two Irish pubs in the city.

Away you go: the best hubs for connecting flights from the UK are Vienna (Austrian Airlines) and Istanbul (Turkish Airlines).

Donetsk

By the time you reach the coal-mining city of Donetsk, you're almost at the eastern end of Ukraine – and probably close to the last page of your guidebook. In the case of Lonely Planet, that reads "There's almost nothing to lure the casual visitor". But anywhere twinned with Michael Palin's home town of Sheffield must have a saving grace. In Donetsk's case, that will be classical music, either at the palatial Opera and Ballet Theatre, or 900ft below ground level in the nearby Soledar Salt Mine, where the Donbas Symphony Orchestra occasionally plays.

Feels like home for: England. Besides being united with Sheffield, the city has strong British connections; it was founded as recently as 1869 by a Welshman John Hughes, and since Wales cruelly missed qualification the next best fit are England.

Away you go: Austrian Airlines has the best connections via its Vienna hub, but Istanbul (Turkish Airlines), Munich (Lufthansa) and Prague (Czech Airlines) are the other possibilities.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices