Poland is a country rich in history and cultural wealth as evidenced by the 13 heritage sites that UNESCO has included in its World Heritage List. Even though parts of the country suffered damage during World War ll, Poland has managed to preserve a large number of its buildings, manuscripts and other works of art and most of these are already under the care protection of the Polish government. The country has worked very hard to market its places of cultural interest to tourists and to develop these into viable tourist attractions.
Krakow is the perfect introduction for the first time visitor to Poland. The city was left unscarred by the Second World War and today stands as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Take a seat at one of the many pavement cafes in Krakow’s Main Square (also known as Rynek Glowny). Walk along the Royal Route to Wawel castle and cathedral. Visit one of the oldest universities in Europe at Jagiellonian University or go to the Czartoryski Museum to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Lady with Ermine”. Explore the old Jewish quarter at Kazimierz. Scratch your head at the rather bizarre giant burial mounds dotted around the city. Wieliczka Salt Mines are not far from Krakow and a trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps is an unforgettable experience.
The capital of Poland and starting to rediscover it’s identity after 50 years of Nazi and Communist rule, Warsaw is a city with a point to prove. Overlooked by many tourists for the more obvious delights of Krakow, Warsaw has more than enough sights to cater for the “city break” tourist. Visit the Old Town of Warsaw, painstakingly rebuilt after complete destruction by the Nazis. Take a walk around the delightful Lazienki Park and Palace where peacocks roam free and red squirrels eat out of your hand. Take a trip to Wilanow Palace, the summer residence of many Polish Kings and Queens and wander around the exquisite gardens there. Go to the Palace of Culture and take a trip to the viewing deck for unrivalled views of Warsaw. Everywhere around Warsaw lie memories of World War Two, simply wander the streets and discover commemorative wall plaques in memory of fallen citizens at the hands of the Gestapo and SS.
Tri City (Gdansk, Sopot & Gdynia)-Travel Guide
The neighbouring seaside towns of Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia are collectively known as the Tri City area and are only a 15 mins drive from each other. Largely undiscovered by British and American tourists the Tri City area offers outstanding natural beauty with it’s sandy beaches and forests. The Old Town of Gdansk has been lovingly restored to it’s former glory and is very easy to explore on foot. The bohemian resort of Sopot, now with an impressive choice of luxury hotels and villas, has a great choice of bars and restaurants and also hosts many art and music festivals. The seaside port of Gdynia hosts the Heineken Music Festival every year which attracts top bands and singers from around the world. The town also has a strong reputation for it’s sheer choice of shopping. Take a 1 hr trip to the Hel Peninsula, a finger of land that curls into the Baltic Ocean. At it’s narrowest point it’s wide enough to accommodate a road and a rail track. Further down, the peninsula widens out and it seems incredible to see fishing villages and holiday resorts.
Wroclaw is carving a reputation for itself as one of the most sophisticated and cosmopolitan cities in Poland. Nicknamed the “Venice of Poland”, Wroclaw is surrounded by canals and rivers and is crisscrossed by scores of bridges. The city is a delight to explore with Wroclaw’s Market Square in the Old Town being particularly beautiful. Take a walk to Wroclaw University and gawp at the exquisitely decorated Aula Leopoldina. Stroll around the botanical Japanese Gardens or climb to the top of St John’s Cathedral for stunning views of the city. Don’t miss out on one of the most memorable paintings you’re ever likely to see, the Panorama Raclawicka.
Known as the Winter Capital of Poland, the ski resort of Zakopane is nestled in the foothills of the Tatry mountains in southern Poland. Extremely popular with skiers and snowboarders Zakopane isn’t just a one trick pony. The area also offers area of outstanding natural beauty with mountain trails and glacial lakes making Zakopane a very popular destination all year round. Be sure to climb to the picturesque Morskie Oko lake or walk around the old cemetery in Zakopane and admire the rather unusual headstones carved out of wood.
Arguably the most popular destination for Poles within their own country is the Mazury region in North East Poland. This region is famous for it’s many lakes and and forests earning it the nickname the “Land of a thousand lakes”. The Mazury region is the perfect place to enjoy the “great outdoors” as it lends itself perfectly to so many activities. Naturally, sailing and kayaking are very popular here but also rambling, cycling, fishing and bird watching. There is an abundance of accommodation choices in the region from basic chalets to lakeside villas.
Regarded as the spiritual heart of Poland, Czestochowa is the home of the Black Madonna which has been venerated by Poles over the centuries. The picture is said to have miraculous qualities and the late Pope John Paul II had a special affinity with the painting and the monastery of Jasna Gora. The bullet holed sash the Pope was wearing during the failed assassination attempt on him was donated by him to the monastery and now hangs by the side of the painting. In August, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims walk from all over the country to pay homage to the Black Madonna and gives the town a very warm, feel good atmosphere. There’s plenty to explore at the Jasna Gora monastery apart from the chapel of the Black Madonna. The monastery contains a treasury and armoury which are well worth seeing. A climb up the steeple rewards you with fabulous views of the monastery and the surrounding area. The ruins of Olsztyn castle lie about a 40 minute drive from Czestochowa and visitors can climb the hill to explore what remains of the white limestone castle.
Kazimierz Dolny-Travel Guide
Virtually unheard of outside of Poland, this quaint little town is a real gem waiting to be discovered. Located on the Vistula river about a 2 hour drive south from Warsaw, Kazimierz Dolny has been charming visitors for centuries. This small town is a perfect weekend retreat. The market square is surrounded by medieval houses with the square leading upto the Parish Church. Kazimierz Dolny regularly hosts art exhibitions and music festivals and has acquired something of a bohemian reputation. A few minutes from the market square lies the Landscape Park (an protected National Park). Throughout here are plenty of footpaths leading you to spectacular views over the Vistula rivers and also castle ruins and towers. Boats regularly take tourists for cruises up and down the river where you can fully admire the natural beauty of the area. Several nature reserves exist within the town’s boundaries and Kazimierz Dolny is well known for the large varieties of water fowl that breed there