Poland is an incredibly diverse country: Centuries-old cities, beautiful mountain landscapes, primeval forests, enchanted lakes and medieval castles attract millions of tourists every year. So it is not so easy to choose the right vacation destination. The following list of Top 10 things to see in Poland should help you with your travel planning. If you are interested in practical tips, what to see in Poland, look no further.
Top 10 things to see in Poland
Krakow was the Polish capital for centuries and is still considered the cultural center of the country. Miraculously, Krakow was almost completely spared during the Second World War. Therefore, you will find a collection of different architectural styles that is unique in Europe and you will feel like you are in a huge open-air museum. Whether on Europe’s largest market square with its legendary cloth halls or on the Wawel, the castle of the Polish kings – there is no shortage of historical sights. Also exciting is the Jewish quarter Kazimierz, where there are still several synagogues and cemeteries that tell of the rich history of Polish Jews, which make Krakow one of the Top10 things to see in Poland.
The complete contrast to all these magnificent buildings can be found in Nowa Huta. The socialist planned city at the gates of old Krakow was supposed to symbolize the city’s departure into modernity and is an absolute highlight on every trip to Poland. Here you can find the top 10 most important Krakow sights.
The former concentration camp Auschwitz was the largest German extermination camp on Polish soil. The complex consisting of several camps and stands for the Holocaust, the extermination of over 6 million Jews, like no other place. In Auschwitz alone, an estimated 1.1 to 1.5 million people died in the gas chambers, in executions or systematic extermination through labor. In the impressive memorial site and its subcamps, you can get an overview of this terrible place by visiting the barracks, the gas chamber and understand to some degree what was done to people here.
The Masurian Lake District is also called the Land of a Thousand Lakes and of course it cannot be missing in the Top 10 things to see in Poland. Probably nobody has counted all the lakes yet, but the number could be right. In the north of Poland, nature is still relatively unspoiled. There are no big industrial cities here, but pure nature, vastness and a quiet time. If you want to spend a relaxing vacation, Masuria is the right place for you.
Besides the impressive nature, there are also old castles, dreamy little towns and much more to discover. You can also visit the remains of the Wolfsschanze, which was used by the Nazis as the Führer’s headquarters. In one of the bunkers Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg committed an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler in 1944, which was portrayed in a movie with Tom Cruise called Valkyrie. We have compiled the most beautiful sights of the Masuria region for you here.
The far southeast of Poland is for many foreigners still a touristic no man’s land. But there is a lot to discover here. Historical cities like Lublin or Kazimierz Dolny offer exciting discoveries. But all these attractions are topped by the small city Zamość. The old town of the “Padua of the North” has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. On the gorgeous renaissance-style market square stands the famous town hall with its curved staircase, which has often been used for film sets.
Jasna Góra Monastery in Czestochowa
Poland is considered one of the most religious nations in Europe. If you don’t believe us, feel free to travel at least once to the Upper Silesian city of Częstochowa. Here, the most important pilgrimage site of the country is located on the Luminous Mount (Jasna Góra). Every year, several million believers make a pilgrimage to the monastery on the mountain to worship the famous Black Madonna. The painting, a copy of which hangs in almost every Polish church, is said to have been painted on the wood of the dining table of Jesus Christ and is surrounded by countless legends. The most important national sanctuary is surrounded by a huge monastery complex. This is guarded by its own fortress, to protect the painting from any attacks.
Warsaw has been the capital of Poland for more than 400 years and is of course also in the Top 10 things to see in Poland. 1.7 million people live here in a huge area on both sides of the Vistula. In Warsaw there are countless classic sights. On almost every street corner you can feel the spirit of old Warsaw with its rich history, which also had its dark sides. In the past, one of the largest Jewish communities in the world lived here, whose traces can still be found in the city today. Unfortunately, this world was destroyed forever with the German occupation during the Second World War and the Holocaust.
But Warsaw also presents itself as young and modern and has many creative districts. Click here for an article with the Top 10 things to see in Warsaw. And here you will find all the important practical tips that can help you on your Warsaw trip.
The Polish town of Malbork in Pomerania has less than 40,000 inhabitants. It is hard to believe that the largest castle in Europe is located here. Next to the Nogat river, the Teutonic Knights built a fortress in the 13th century, which resembles a small town within the city. No wonder that the Malbork castle is listed as a UNESCO world cultural heritage site. Today, you can visit most parts of the castle on a tour* lasting several hours. The panoramic view of the malbork castle from the other bank of the Nogat is also impressive. In this article we will introduce you to the Marienburg and its history in detail.
Gdansk offers maritime flair like no other Polish city. Once the pride of the Hanseatic League, today tourists from all over the world gather here. Some walk in the footsteps of the German writer Günter Grass, who set a literary monument to the city in his Gdansk Trilogy and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999. Others come here because of the beautiful old town. But the Westerplatte, which became a symbol of Polish resistance against the Germans at the beginning of the Second World War, is also one of the highlights of a visit to Gdansk. The decline of communism in Poland began here when the trade union Solidarity (Solidarność) around its leader Lech Wałęsa from the local ship yard challenged the Communist authorities in Poland.
The two cities of Sopot and Gdynia are located just outside of Gdansk and together with Gdansk they form the so-called Trójmiasto. While Gdynia is mainly interesting because of its port, you can walk on a mole far into the sea in the glamorous seaside resort of Sopot. Click here to get to our article about Gdansk.
On an area of 140,000 hectares lies one of the last European primeval forests. The Białowieża forest is divided into a Polish and a Belarusian side, and in fact much of it here looks as if no one had ever been there before. The woods are especially famous because of the bisons living here, of which many Poles are especially proud of, that they even decorate beer and vodka bottles with them. On the Belarusian side of the Białowieża forest historical events took place in 1991: Here the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian presidents agreed on the end of the Soviet Union. In 2017 the Polish government planned to clear parts of the forest. Fortunately, this did not happen, so that this unique natural beauty will probably be enjoyed for a long time to come.
High up in the Tatra Mountains one can find Zakopane, Poland’s most popular winter sports resort and a clear candidate for the list of the Top 10 things to see in Poland. Whether for downhill or cross-country skiing or ice skating, the city and its surroundings are perfect for a relaxing winter vacation. There are many winter sports resorts in Poland. But what makes Zakopane so unique is the combination of wild nature, its own regional cuisine, a special architectural style with many wooden buildings and the kindness of the local mountain people. The “Góraly” have preserved their culture for centuries and guard it like a treasure. From Zakopane it is also not far to the so-called Sea Eye (Morskie Oko). The idyllic mountain lake was voted one of the five most beautiful lakes in the world by the Wall Street Journal.