Mikołajki is a lakeside town in the Great Masurian Lakes and lies on the main waterway linking Giżycko with Ruciane – Nida. Read any guide book and it will tell you, that this town that means Thanksgiving when translated, is one of the prettiest towns in the area. The town is in the centre of two lakes, the Talty to the north and the Mikolajskie to the south. My first impression was that this was indeed a very handsome town but the more I walked through the town centre to the marina and all the cafes and restaurants bordering the waterfront, I realised that it is completely geared to tourism.
The Great Masurian Lakes are swamped with tourists in July and August and I should imagine life in Mikołajki is a wee bit hectic with the town doubling in size for two months. We visited in June and there were already a lot of people around and a buzz around the waterfront.
Finding somewhere to park can be tricky. There are designated spots outside the main square but you have to be quick. A very eccentric lady dressed in a sort of Robin Hood outfit came to our car as we pulled in to park. She gave us a ticket and we had to pay 5 zloty (£1 for 2 hours).
The square is dominated by the Hotel Mazur and Restaurant, an attractive building painted yellow ochre with a brand new red tiled roof. People were sat out on their balconies when we arrived and it was a bit noisy, it was very hot though so I guess they were trying to cool down with a beer. Outside the hotel were a selection of gleaming motorbikes and I came across more bikes near the marina so this is obviously a popular resort for bikers.
There are some interesting shop and apartment facades dotted around the square with small wrought iron balconies filled with geraniums. I liked the building with the clock face showing at the top and washing blowing in the warm breeze.
Flower arrangements decorate the square as well as a fountain where children could step in to cool off. My grandchildren were very happy splashing around in this fountain. I liked the two rowing boats that were filled with pebbles and grasses and the focal point of the fountain, a jade coloured fish with a beady eye and wearing a crown.
There are numerous shops and pizza restaurants situated around the edge of the square but beware the shops are expensive for everyday groceries. If you need to do shopping for food I suggest that you drive around the back of the town where there is a large supermarket called Bierdronka.
Whether you take a left turning or a right turning from the market square you will find yourself near water. Right of the square takes you to a more secluded part of the lake where you can walk along the front without feeling claustrophobic. From here you can see the full span bridge and passenger boats.
At the opposite end of town is the main waterfront and marina. Hundreds of boats and yachts anchor here. I quite enjoy walking the full length of the quay looking at the different boats, their colours, and sizes and finding out where they come from. You can hire sailing boats although in July and August you have to be quick off the mark as they soon go. A train carrying small children runs along the waterfront, there are many stalls selling balloons and cheap toys and numerous ice cream parlours, fish restaurants, all set out with canopies to keep out the sun and rain, of course. This region of Poland can have downpours in the summer.
There is only one restaurant that opens all year round and that is the Taverna Portowa, on the lakeside, only a few steps from the main square. In July and August a wealth of small eateries are open and serve a variety of light dishes. Król Sielaw is one of the best seasonal restaurants in the town.
We were only in the town for a couple of hours and I thought that was enough time spent there. Mikołajki is pretty enough but I have seen prettier towns and marinas. I don’t think I would go again, perhaps just pass through. The town is too geared towards tourism and not really my cup of tea. I should think in the high season it will be unbearable. I much prefer Giżycko, it may not be as stylish but it is more peaceful.
If using public transport I suggest travelling by bus than train as trains are infrequent and very slow. The bus station is in the centre. Buses to Mrągowo (25km) run every hour; change there for Olsztyn or Kętrzyn. There are two or three Express buses that leave for Warsaw in the high season.