pearl of tourism in Europe
Polish zloty, PLN
Poland is one of those rare pearls underestimated by tourists, which amaze from the first moments and open from a special fabulous side. It is difficult to imagine that you are in Europe here, since its currency, language and traditions make it very different from its western neighbors. However, if you decide to discover this colorful country, then feel free to choose a path away from the popular Warsaw and Krakow, and you will never regret it!
Top 10 interesting places and activities:
Appreciate the wealth of Polish kings in the palaces of Warsaw: the Royal Castle, Wilanow Palace and azienki Park
Learn about the country's history at the National Museum in Warsaw
Visit the fabulous city squares of Poznan, Wroclaw, Zamosc, Krakow and Warsaw
See the majestic Catholic monasteries on Tumski Island in Wroclaw and on Jasna Gora in Czestochowa
Get to know the legacy of the Teutonic Order in the fortresses of Marienburg and Torun
Stroll the vibrant streets, squares and embankments of Gdansk, then plunge into the waters of the Baltic Sea in Sopot
Feel Polish romanticism in Ksiaz and Moszna castles
Commemorate the victims of the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz
Go hiking in the high-altitude national parks in Bieszczady, Tatras and the vicinity of Zakopane
Enjoy nature in Belovezhskaya Pushcha and Mazury Lake District
Sights map of Poland
Travel in Poland
The history of Poland is the history of great conquests, religious conflicts and cultural Renaissance. Since its founding in the 10th century, Poland has experienced several periods of decline and extensive development, several vassal oaths and a great many wars. Poles fought with the Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, Kievans, Prussians and even the Tatar-Mongols. At the same time, Poland has always been a strong state in Europe, which was reckoned with and feared to fight. In the period of 13-17 centuries, Poland repeatedly united with neighboring states, creating large-scale Polish-Lithuanian unions and finally the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which the Austrians, Prussians and Russians tried to conquer as many as three times, and it was revived like a phoenix! But after the third division, Poland as a state for a short time ceased to exist altogether.
After Napoleon’s military campaigns, the Duchy of Warsaw was created, which was transferred to the management of the Polish governors. Thus began the new history of the Polish state. However, at the end of the 1812 war, it was again divided between the winners, and as a result, the autonomous Poland Congress was created only in the Russian Empire. Due to the numerous attempts of the local population to achieve independence in a rebellious way, Polish territories were increasingly subjected to Russification and assimilation with the Russians, but the First World War and the followed October Revolution in Russia changed these plans, and after the end of the war the Second Polish Republic was formed, which is the start of the chronology of independent Poland. Attempts of the Soviet soldiers to return the Polish lands ended in failure, as a result Poland ceded some lands in Ukraine and Belarus. Poland sought to develop the economy and improve the welfare of the population, but the ensuing Second World War, with its German occupation and the genocide of the Jewish population, practically destroyed the remnants of Polish statehood and led to huge mortality among the local population. After the war, Poland actually became mono-ethnic.
Attempts to restore the country occurred with great difficulty. Due to falling into the sphere of influence of the USSR, Poland was not given independence, and the planned economy pulled out many resources for the common good of Soviet citizens. Only after the cessation of the influence of the USSR on Poland in 1991 did the country manage to rebuild the economy on a "market foots", and today it continues to actively develop industry and the agricultural sector. The local population gradually merges into active cooperation with other countries of the European Union, and the competent policy of the authorities gradually improves the general welfare. At the same time, the number of well-kept places and attractions is growing, which every year attract more and more tourists from all over the world!
Poland is one of those rare, undervalued tourist gems that hit from the first moments and open with a special fairy-tale side. It is very difficult to imagine that you are in the center of a civilized and multiethnic Europe, since its own currency, language and cultural traditions strongly distinguish the country from other Western states. However, if you suddenly decide to discover this beautiful country, then feel free to choose a path away from the popular Warsaw and Krakow, and you will never regret!
One of the most beautiful and well-kept cities in Poland is the ancient city of Gdansk, which was founded back in the 5th century and until the middle of the 20th century was one of the largest seaports in the Baltic. Its successful territorial location at the outfall of the Vistula River helped it to become a prosperous metropolis and maintain its free privileges longer than any other European cities! On the other hand, its geography often did not play at hands. Permanent military actions strongly undermined its well-being, as a result, the city was periodically under the rule of Germany, Prussia and even the Russian Empire. The last time the city was owned by Prussia until the end of the Second World War, which liquidated this state and transferred 2/3 of its land to Poland. So Gdansk returned to its historic citizenship. The historical appearance of the city was shaped in large part by the influence of Western traditions of architecture, which came to it along with the troops of the German Teutonic Order. In the XIV century, the city was captured by it and became the main seaport, annually replenishing the treasury of one of the richest Catholic orders in Europe. For more than 100 years Gdansk was under the control of the Order Masters, thanks to which it flourished and actively developed. Protection of the city from the east provided by the Castle-fortress of Malbork (located in the city of Malbork), which was the capital of the Teutonic Order and was an impregnable military structure. Just imagine: this is the world's largest medieval castle, built entirely of dark red brick in the best traditions of Polish Gothic! Its size and scale are striking: three levels of walls with high defense towers, a massive complex of internal structures, the main of which is the residence of the Grand Master of the Order that has a height of over 100 meters. On the facade of the residence, a pedestal with a statue of the Virgin Mary was created by skillful architects, whose statue alone is over 40 meters high...
As you know, the knights of the Order were devout Catholics, and the main mission of the Order was the spread of the Catholic faith in Europe. The castle endured more than one siege and was never taken by force, but was almost completely destroyed during the liberation of Poland by Soviet troops. The non-judgmental fact is that most of the beautiful places in Poland (including Marienburg and Gdansk) were completely destroyed during the Soviet bombardment, which could not but leave a black spot on the assessment of their actions by the Poles themselves. The Malbork Castle today is completely renovated and included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as attracts many tourists. The center of Gdansk, which was completely destroyed during World War II, has now been rebuilt according to historical architectural patterns in the Renaissance and Baroque style, thanks to which it is now one of the most beautiful cities in Europe! The rich decoration of the buildings, the cobbled pedestrian streets and the incredible embankment - all this makes Gdansk a must-see spot for enjoying the best sights of Poland. Another plus when visiting Gdansk: half an hour’s drive from it is the urban agglomeration Sopot, which has a 30-kilometer beach strip with all kinds of marine leisure. The sea here is much warmer and cleaner than in the nearby Kaliningrad region (except for the Curonian Spit), and the opportunity to get to the sea from work in half an hour is truly priceless...
One of the most convenient and fastest ways to move around Poland is trains. The railway network covers almost all major cities, and high-speed communication allows you to move between them for a couple of hours. Add to this the low cost of travel throughout the country at the weekend - just 20 euros, and you can safely begin an exciting journey. For example, go to the large city of Poznan, which history goes back over 800 years. Originally this city belonged to the Kingdom of Poland, which can be judged by the ancient royal castle located in the city center. Next to the castle is an incredibly beautiful square, built in the 13-14 centuries in the Renaissance style! Just imagine: for all the numerous military operations, diseases and redistribution of the territories that tormented Poland, the central square of Poznan has never changed its appearance, and the destroyed buildings were rebuilt according to historical patterns! Many city planners can take an example from a local approach to architecture.
The Old Town square of Poznan is amazing. It seems that you find yourself in a medieval city: old, low-rise building with narrow cobbled streets and richly decorated buildings lined up close to each other. In its center stands the building of the Town Hall, and next to it are numerous shopping arcades, forming the central square in the form of a large "square". Merchants and artisans settled right here, as a result, the houses at the mall acquired an absolutely fantastic look: two floors up with an arched structure below, and each house was painted in its own color - either the guild to which the merchant belonged, or to isolate from total mass. Such medieval marketing has left an indelible imprint on the facades of these buildings, which today attract thousands of tourists every year due to its unique appearance. From the middle of the 18th century, the city, like the whole of Western Poland, was strongly influenced by German burghers, who greatly influenced the local architecture. Most of the city today is represented by business centers and industrial districts, and the buildings reflect the traditional for Germany architectural constructivism. But the city center remains unchanged, as did the residence of the archbishop of Wielkopolska on the ancient Tumsky Island, which has its history since the adoption of Catholicism by Poland.
A similar story characterizes another southern Polish city of Wroclaw. Mention of it dates from the beginning of our era, but the official date of foundation is 1000 AD. For a minute, this city is more years old than Moscow! Today it is a thriving center for business, commerce and industry. There are several universities here, the oldest of which is the University of Wroclaw, built in the rich Austrian style during the time of the Holy Roman Empire. Its interior is amazing and looks like a luxurious Austrian palace, worthy of the House of Habsburgs. In Wroclaw is one of the most beautiful market squares in Poland. Its size is larger than the Red Square in Moscow, and the beauty of the surrounding buildings brings fabulous images in mind. The area is decorated with long trading rows and a gothic town hall, the atmosphere of a thriving medieval city reigns here, and everyone can feel like a participant in a huge performance! Right in the center of the city on the Tumsky Island a huge Christian monastery was built, the central part of which is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It was founded at the time of the city foundation, so this complex is more than 1000 years old! Here are the residence of the Archbishop, two cathedrals, consecrated by the Pope himself, the Catholic University and many other buildings. Today it is a walking area for citizens, where everyone can touch the ancient history of the city and country.
Poznan and Wroclaw could not develop and flourish if they were constantly destroyed during hostilities. Their protection was largely due to the line of fortresses, stretching along the coast of the Vistula from north to south during the Teutonic Order times. Gdansk was the source of replenishment of its treasury, Malbork served as the capital and the main military fortress, and the next cities along the river turned into a fortresses. They were surrounded by thick brick walls, with towers and moats, which served both as a defense and as a demonstration of the Teutonic military power. Torun is considered to be one of the most famous fortified cities, which are now included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Its fortress walls, which stretch more than 20 km around the entire old town, throughout the centuries inspire respect. This is especially noticeable when you cross to the other side of the Vistula, where you can see the whole panorama of the city. The city itself is rather small, it lives mainly due to agriculture. Its streets are quiet and well-groomed, flowers and trees are planted everywhere, and buildings with Baroque decorations delight the eye. On the central square rises the former military castle with an arsenal and a Town Hall, as well as a huge Catholic cathedral. Everything is built in the classical style of brick Poland Gothic, which strongly distinguishes it in comparison with other Catholic countries of Europe. Moreover, since Torun was practically not destroyed during the Second World War, the entire old town presents original buildings of the 15th and 16th centuries! Just unbelieveble. By the way, Nicolaus Copernicus was born and lived in Torun - the famous astronomer and scientist, author of the heliocentric model of the world. And also the famous Torun gingerbreads are being cooked here. Undoubtedly, Torun is of particular interest for lovers to immerse in the history of the country, its cultural and military heritage.
In Poland, there are many ancient and beautiful castles that are worth seeing. For example, Ksiaz Castle that is located an hour away by train from Wroclaw and another hour’s walk on foot through the wonderful forest park. It rises on the steep slopes of the Walbrzych Heights, thanks to which its stunning panoramas open up from the surrounding hills. The castle was rebuilt over 700 years ago and is still one of the largest castles in Poland after Malbork and the Wawel Castle in Krakow. It does not look like the classical German castles or palaces, it is rather a military fortress in which a wealthy Polish prince lived. Actually, it was so - the castle served both for defense and for life. Throughout history, the castle has repeatedly changed owners (Polish and Germanic), each of which rebuilt it to suit their tastes and needs. As a result, today it looks like artificially cobbled together, from two different parts. The northwestern and central parts were built in the 14th and 15th centuries and are harsh fortress walls, towering hundred meters above the ground in strict colors. The facade of the castle was rebuilt much later, in the 18th century, in the classical rococo style by the Italian architect Antonio Rossi. Under his control, castle gardens were constructed, which are located directly under the castle, on mountainous slopes and gives it a special charm. Walking through the romantic flower garden directly above the towering bulk of the castle-fortress, you feel yourself at the same time relaxed and awaiting the attack of ancient barbarians - an extremely contradictory feeling. This architectural structure, away from busy trade routes, represents an excellent target for seizure and robbery. To protect them from the owners of the castle were built several military fortresses on the surrounding mountains, which housed military garrisons. Unfortunately, they were completely destroyed during the Second World War (surprisingly, the castle itself was not badly damaged!) and today they are actively wooded and almost forgotten. But walking through the surrounding mountains, here and there you can meet stony ledges of towers, walls and paths in the rocks, feeling the spirit of the time on your skin.
The same thing can not be said about the Moszna Castle, located in the vicinity of the small town of Opole. It was originally built as a county estate for a rich Polish prince, so it never had defensive or military installations. The history of the castle is quite prosaic: it was rebuilt in the 17th century in a practically current form, expanded and completed a couple of times (as a result, the number of Gothic towers reached 99!), burned down once. During the possession of this territory by Germany, German wealthy merchants lived in the castle, but at the end of the Second World War, they emigrated to Germany, leaving the castle almost unowned. Soon the local authorities made him a sanatorium, and later a hotel, and in this role it functions to this day. The castle is associated with many amusing secrets and legends that can be explored in detail during a romantic night in one of its towers. During the visit of the Moszna Castle you should definitely look into the neighboring town of Opole. Its central square is decorated with an expressive town hall in the form of a castle complex, and the surrounding buildings in a single laconic style will create a peaceful atmosphere for a romantic walk. The Ksiaz and Moszna castles, although located very far from each other and from the nearest large cities, are of undoubted interest for those who want to learn about the history of the country, to marvel at the particular Polish Gothic and fancy facades. Already for this they should be seen it with their own eyes!
For the sake of the beautiful Polish heartland you do not need to go far. Not far from Warsaw there are two extremely colorful cities: Lublin and Zamosc. The history of Lublin dates back thousands of years, while the city reached its peak in the 16th century, during the Union of Lublin - a document on the unification of Poland and Lithuania into a single confederal state of the Commonwealth. In an effort to protect their peoples from constant threats from the West and the East, Poland and Lithuania often coordinated their efforts, which made such a union possible. It existed for more than 300 years, but was eventually destroyed with the Third Division of the Commonwealth at the end of the Russian-Polish War in 1792. Throughout its history, the city was repeatedly attacked by Tatar-Mongols, Swedes, Russians and Ukrainians, which greatly influenced its appearance. In fact, it is built on a high hill and is surrounded on all sides by a brick fortress wall, most of which has been preserved to this day. Opposite the old town is the Lublin Castle - a defensive fortress, today restored and hosting few tourists. At the end of the 16th century, several major fires happened in the city, as a result the entire center of the city was rebuilt in stone in a new architectural style, later called the Lublin Renaissance. This very unusual style characterizes the general enthusiasm of the rulers for Renaissance art, thanks to which many Polish cities were decorated with frescoes, statues, bas-reliefs and all sorts of tiles. In Lublin, they invented a special reflection of these architectural delights, having built buildings in the form of low fortress towers. It looks unusual and interesting, and such architecture can only be seen in these places. In the old town there is a small square with the town hall, as well as a beautiful cathedral, which you should visit stands for the incredibly rich decoration!
In all its beauty, the Lublin Renaissance showed itself not in Lublin, but in the small town of Zamosc located nearby. Founded in the 16th century, it is a literally impregnable fort, for it is surrounded by high brick walls with moats, battlements and towers for defense weapons. This fortress could not take neither Ukrainian, nor Swedish, nor Russian troops. In fact, the city was taken only twice: during the division of the Commonwealth territories in the 18th century (it went to Austria-Hungary) and during the possession of this territory by the Russian Empire in the 19th and 20th centuries. Zamosc is known not only for its impressive military fortifications, but also for the incredible beauty of the old town, designed by Italian architect Bernard Morando and therefore reminiscent of Northern Italy. This is the only city in Poland where all buildings in the old town have a height of 2-3 floors, while the first floor is decorated with arched pedestrian walkways, like on the streets of Italian Bologna. There are no similar architectural styles in any other part of Poland. But its most beautiful part is located on the central market square, which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as a stunningly beautiful Renaissance style sample. This is so openwork and romantic creation that it is a pearl among all Polish sights! Take a look at this and try to imagine: on the square in front of the town hall with the bell tower and these wonderful buildings they still hold Sunday fairs and trade in local goods and handicrafts. Truly, time sometimes has no power over the places where people want to live in such beauty!
One of the most visited cities in Poland is, of course, the old Krakow. For more than 500 years, it was the capital of the Polish state, right up to the beginning of the 17th century, when flourishing Warsaw became the new capital. However, Krakow retained its influence on the development of Poland: until 1734 the rulers were crowned here, and the city itself is still the main industrial center of the country. But tourists in Krakow are attracted not by its numerous factories (although who knows), but by the winding streets of the Old Town, where you can feel the real atmosphere of a medieval city. Although Krakow is not as bright and fabulous as cities in western Poland, its central square will give odds to most squares in Europe! Just look at these elongated stalls, built in the image of the classic royal palaces! In ancient times, here the merchants provides the city with goods from the most remote parts of Poland, and today it is a home to the best Polish souvenirs, including home-made works. The area of the Old Town is beautiful day and night. Here the carriages are on duty around the clock, which can give you an unforgettable equestrian excursion through the old town. All drivers are dressed in uniform, the horses are decorated with colored tufts, and Versailles-style carriages are not as simple as they seem - at night they are highlighted! At night, the accordion and the violin sound on the square, the local bohemian tries to take the jackpot from numerous tourists, and the restaurants around the square are packed to capacity. Next to the shopping arcades, the St. Mary's Basilica rises - the main cathedral of Krakow, which in its inner beauty overshadows many others. Its ceiling is lined with blue cloth with a star ornament, the walls are decorated with gilded tiles and Renaissance paintings, and a huge altar with stained glass behind completes the magnificence. This cathedral is as beautiful as it inspires Poles' worshipers to faith (and they are very religious). Also near the square stands the famous Wawel Castle - the second largest castle in Poland, the historical residence of the Polish kings. It is worth visiting it for the sake of numerous museums, ancient Polish history and beautiful landscapes of the Vistula River.
Today, Krakow is happy and safe thanks to industry and a huge flow of careless tourists, but its history has tragic and sad moments for the whole world. The main one is the German Nazi Holocaust, the main part of which took place in the vicinity of Krakow: from the creation of a Jewish ghetto in the Kazimierz district to the largest concentration camps of death - Plaszow and Auschwitz. This horrible page of world history will be revealed further.