In this article, the growing body of literature on transition within central and eastern Europe is developed by exploring how discussing the senses may illuminate the experience of change to post-socialism for urban dwellers. After situating the study within the rich ethnographic heritage on urban transition, the key tenets of 'geographies of smell' are outlined as a means of inquiry which emphasises the lived, sensually embodied experience of transition. The empirical study is focused upon the interrogation of the meanings created by, and attached to, olfactory experience in contemporary Poland, discussing three motifs that highlight the symbolic and transformative role of smell in relation to transition. In understanding smell as playing an active role in the creation of meaning, not only are current debates surrounding geographies of smell extended, but it is argued that addressing the relatively neglected sensual dimension of the social provides an avenue into more nuanced dimensions of urban transition. © 2011 Urban Studies Journal Limited.