Sitting at the crossroads between Central and Eastern Europe, Poland is a country rich in history; sometimes tragic, sometimes happy. Many of the country’s sites and monuments are now classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which testify to Poland’s cultural wealth.
The wonders concentrated in Polish cities do not overshadow the magnificence of the country’s countryside and landscapes: the national parks are full of natural treasures. Forests, mountains, lakes, and centuries-old cities, Poland has all the needed elements to guarantee you a colorful and culturally rich trip in Europe!
Poland is full of sublime places to visit, that’s for sure! Let’s discover this central Eastern European country and immerse yourself in its majestic landscapes, its unsuspected natural and cultural resources, and its rich and intense historical past.
Tempted? Let’s find out more about this fabulous vacation destination. Where to go, and the best things to do in Poland? Coming right up!
Warsaw Old Town in Poland
The capital of Poland, Warsaw, is considered a “new” old city. The beautiful city suffered a lot during the Second World War and was almost destroyed by the fighting. So proud of their ancient city, which was unfortunately destroyed by the bombing, the inhabitants of Warsaw rebuilt it in the image of its medieval architecture.
The city’s old town is a must-see; the contrast with the modern architecture resulting from the reconstruction is rather striking. The gigantic construction site was one of the most well-known sites in the history of reconstruction.
Varying between Medieval and neoclassical styles, there are many monuments to see in the city like the Wilanow Palace, the Jewish Quarter, the various museums (Chopin, National Museum). There is also the famous Royal Castle, which housed the kings of Poland between the 16th and 18th centuries.
The castle is located at the end of the very popular Royal Road district in which you will find the Presidential Palace as well as magnificent hotels.
Take advantage of your visit to the old town to treat yourself to a real gastronomic treat at the U Fukiera restaurant, which is run by one of Poland’s most famous chefs, Magda Gessler. In there, you will taste typical dishes based on crab, trout, carp, among others. Basically, everything tastes heavenly at the U Fukiera restaurant.
Warsaw Old Town is one of the best places in Poland, and it truly deserves the trip.
The New Town of Warsaw, Poland
Warsaw is not just about the old town, on the contrary. The “new town,” built in 1791 around the old one, limited by its medieval ramparts, was not enough to accommodate the growing number of inhabitants. The New Town is designed around large parks, blocks, and Stalinist buildings, with here and there a few churches or red brick buildings surviving.
It offers an intense cultural life and museums such as the Warsaw Uprising Museum, dedicated to the Warsaw uprising against the German occupation in 1944, or the POLIN, the museum of the history of Polish Jews, which tells the story of more than 1,000 years of their history. The two museums are rightfully internationally renowned.
The new city is also a paradise for church lovers. Visit the Gothic St. John’s Cathedral or the church of the Holy Cross, which houses a statue of Jesus and Chopin’s heart in one of its pillars!
If you are a fan of Stalinist architecture, climb to the top of the monumental Palace of Science and Culture, the 8th highest building in Europe. You’ll have an unobstructed view of the city and get a life-size idea of the standards of Soviet architecture!
The second city of the country, and probably the most beautiful one, Krakow, is known as the cultural capital of Poland. Located near the Czech Republic, Krakow boasts a well-preserved medieval center and a Jewish quarter that piques the curiosity of passing travelers.
In the past, Krakow was the city of the kings of Poland, which explains its fairy-tale air and its sumptuous architecture. Start your activities in the city by taking a stroll through the small streets of Krakow to discover churches, cultural events, and medieval remains.
Unlike other major Polish cities, Krakow escaped the mass bombing of World War II. Graceful, rich in culture and heritage, and culinarily sensational, it also bears the scars of turbulent and tragic history, especially in Kazimierz, the former Jewish district.
After taking a pleasant stroll through the street, head to the Rynek Glowny, the city’s central medieval square, the largest of its kind still intact in Europe. Graphic art lovers will love to take an inspirational break at the Plakatu Gallery, where the Polish Poster Museum is located.
Then stop by Kazimierz, stroll through its narrow streets, visit the old synagogue, and don’t miss the Ghetto Heroes Square, where monumental iron and bronze chair sculptures symbolize the tragic deaths of the ghetto’s inhabitants. And to learn more about the history of the Jews in Krakow, visit the famous Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory.
Another not-to-be-missed destination in Krakow is the Wieliczka Salt Mine. A visit to Poland without visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mines wouldn’t be complete! Opened since the Middle Ages, these mines are one of the many Polish UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The guided tour of the mines will keep you busy for more than two hours and will make you burn a lot of calories thanks to the several hundred stairs. Your adventure will take you through many intricate passages, crystal chambers, salt monuments, and most importantly, underground oases, majestic lakes over 40 meters deep! It is a journey to the center of the Earth.
Next on the list of the best things to do in Krakow is heading to the historic Wawel Castle and admiring its impressive architecture while learning about the many kings who lived there. Tour the castle’s chambers and explore the secrets of the Polish kings and queens who graced these halls.
During your stay in Krakow, don’t hesitate to discover the local cuisine. The historical center or the Jewish district of Kazimierz are full of small, famous restaurants….Visiting Poland without tasting the local food would be a waste!
Lost in the mountains, Zakopane is nevertheless dynamic and open to meeting people. The city offers the best outdoor activities to do in Poland! The charming mountain town of Zakopane is an ideal starting point for hiking in the Tatra Mountains, whose highest peak, the Rysy, reaches 2,499 meters.
The Tatra National Park in the area offers more than 270 km of trails along clear lakes such as Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy, through green valleys, or leading you to caves. In winter, Zakopane dons its snow coat and is adorned with a magical atmosphere thanks to its typical wooden cottages.
This is an opportunity to go skiing and to share moments with Poles on vacation, as Zakopane turns into a popular winter sports resort. Stroll along Krupowski, the main street of the town, for its lively animation, especially in high season. Taste the local cuisine, and don’t leave without your piece of oscypek, an excellent half-cow half-sheep cheese!
Zakopane is a very popular tourist destination for Poles and more & more foreigners. If you don’t like crowds, you should visit in autumn and spring. But don’t worry, whatever the season, the atmosphere is always festive, especially at night!
The capital of the Lower Silesia region, Wroclaw, is a popular cultural destination. The strong influences of Prussian, Bohemian, and Austrian cultures make the city’s architecture unique and very diverse. Wroclaw is also known as the Polish Venice as it consists of 12 islands, connected by more than 100 bridges, and surrounded by numerous parks bordered by rivers.
Wroclaw has that special something about it that will overwhelm you and keep you coming back. Don’t be afraid to get lost in its typical alleys and pass from one island to another and from one shore to another, through the city’s hundred or so bridges and footbridges.
Relax along the magnificent banks or opt for a more sportive discovery of the city in a kayak. Everything is possible here! Besides its famous Gothic architecture, the city is also known for its nightlife, numerous festivals, and the Wroclaw bridge.
Gdansk is one of the most popular Polish cities. Its beautiful harbor is known for being the birthplace of the Polish “Solidarity” movement and also for its shipyards. The former Hanseatic city has a charm and a personality that will sweep you off your feet. Gdansk is best known for its handicrafts, ship models, and the many amber souvenirs that can be found on every corner.
The old town is small and cozy and can be explored in a day. Walk through the mesmerizing streets of the old town, and you will be transported back to the Middle Ages when Gdansk, due to its geographical location, prospered from trade between the interior and the rest of the world.
A must-see in the city is the impressive 14th century St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the largest brick church in the world, and of course, the Gdansk Royal Way, the longest urban road in medieval Europe!
Go back to the 20th century by discovering the World War II museum and the recently opened European Solidarity Center in the heart of the shipyards for a relevant look at the history of the last decades of the city.
If possible, visit Gdansk during the St. Dominic’s Fair, which lasts for three weeks starting the last weekend of July. This fair is an institution that has existed since the middle of the 13th century! During the fair, the city gets covered with stalls of antiques and second-hand goods and becomes the scene of a plethora of concerts and other street performances.
In Gdansk, there is always colorful hustle and bustle to observe and new things to discover. Gdansk is an absolute must-see on any trip to Poland!
Sopot, the Polish Deauville
Sopot is the seaside version of Zakopane on the Baltic Sea. In this Polish Deauville, where you can easily go by boat from the port of Gdansk, you will discover the riviera side of Poland. Stroll along the pine-lined lanes, which overlooks a beautiful marina and extends far out to sea.
On a clear day, you can see the industrial infrastructure of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad in the distance. Enjoy the beautiful sandy beach and to avoid the summer crowds, rent a bike to ride along the coast to the nearby town of Gdnya and discover deserted beaches where the fir trees almost have their feet in the sea.
Sopot is not only a city of idleness but also a popular destination for night owls. It is said that it has some of the best nightclubs in the country.
Located between Gdansk and the beautiful province of Masuria is the city of Malbork, which is home to one of the most fascinating medieval castles ruins in Europe: The Castle of the Teutonic Order. After being a monastery when it was built in 1309, the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork quickly grew to become the largest brick castle in the world a century later.
The castle was the residence of the Teutonic knights and then of the Prussian rulers for centuries. Later on, it fell into disrepair before undergoing meticulous repairs at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.The Castle of the Teutonic Order was damaged again during the Second World War and was then renovated and transformed into a museum.
With such a unique structure, the place is worth a visit to measure the strength and aura of the Teutonic knights of the medieval era! Plan a good day to discover the different rooms, convents, and other chapels of this vast and fascinating castle.
If you are a lover of history and architecture, Malbork is for you! The vast castle complexes and red-brick fortresses will take you straight back to medieval times and the region’s past. Tip: Before leaving Malbork, to stay in the medieval atmosphere, go to the Baszta Pub located in a 700-year-old red-brick tower. The local beer there is excellent!
Lodz is known as the Cultural Mecca for Poles, Germans, Jews, and Russians. The famous industrialists, scientists, and artists who lived in the city have left an indelible mark on the life of the city. Enjoy a walk through Piotrkowska Street and immerse yourself in one of the most remarkable architectures in Europe.
The largest city in the east of the country is known for its medieval historic center and characteristic Polish Renaissance architecture. Its authentic alleys and a few characterful houses seem to whisper fanciful legends to passers-by. Its castle and museum are not to be missed; they faithfully retrace the tortuous past of this charming town.
Ojcow National Park
If you really want to visit Poland, you have to experience the country’s breathtaking nature and scenery! Not far from Krakow is the Ojcow National Park, a beautiful introduction to Polish nature. It is one of the smallest national parks in the country and is characterized by deep ravines, numerous limestone cliffs, as well as dense forests, rock formations, and over 400 caves.
During your stay in the park, you can visit the famous Krakow Gate or the Hercules’ Club rock formation, which is a 25-meter-high limestone column, or catch a glimpse of the Łokietek Cave, which is 320 meters deep. In the village of Ojcow, there is also the well-preserved Renaissance castle of Pieskowa Skała and the ruins of the Kazimierz Dolny Castle.
Slowinski National Park
A desert in northern Poland? You may not believe it, but there is one in the Slowinski National Park in Pomerania, on the shores of the Baltic. Thanks to its breathtaking shifting sand dunes, the Slowinski National Park is also known as the “Polish Sahara.” Four lakes are located in the over 180 km² national park near the Baltic Sea coast, including, for example, Lake Leba, which has direct access to the sea.
The combination of large, deep blue lakes and the mystical shifting sand dunes gives the place a very special charm, which you should not miss at all. It is not without reason that the Slowinski National Park has been a UNESCO biosphere reserve since 1977. Its lakes and the enchanted spruce forest are home to about 250 different animal species.
Tip: As a starting point for your day in the national park, the tourist fishing town of Leba is a good choice. Here, you will find numerous sandy beaches worth seeing, a varied gastronomic offer, and the corresponding tourist infrastructure with street musicians and co.
Traveling in Poland also means connecting with a sumptuous nature that is still wild and preserved. In the heart of the Białowieża Forest, you will have the opportunity to observe a unique fauna and flora. The Białowieża Forest is a highly preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there is no wonder why here!
The Białowieża Forest is known for being the only forest in Europe, stretching over 3000 square kilometers from the Polish eastern border to the Belarusian western border, straddling both!
Bialowieza has a rich flora and fauna as it is home to a wide variety of trees, such as oaks that are over 500 years old! But the forest is also the home of bison- the last ones on the continent-, wolves, deer, lynx, and even golden eagles!
Being a protected forest, you can only access it with a guide, who can lead you to walk the paths, plunging you deep into the dense and untouched forest. The Białowieża Forest is a must-see in Poland!
A popular site on the Polish Baltic Sea is the lighthouse of Kolberg, whose light burned for the first time in 1666. The old lighthouse is located right on the beautiful harbor of Kolberg and offers visitors a wonderful view over the harbor and the sea – and for little money, because the entrance fee is just 8 zloty, which is less than 2.5$.
Kolberg is a very popular place among beachgoers, spa guests, and active sportsmen, which you should not miss on your trip to Poland.
Poland is attracting more and more travelers, whether for its history and culture or for its nightlife and low cost of living; the country is a wonderful vacation destination to add to your bucket list!