If you’ve been paying attention to the highly entertaining and interesting world of the travel industry, you may have noticed how, over the last few years, slightly more unusual European countries have been chosen as holiday destinations in place of the tried and tested ones.
Whereas you can always count on countries such as Spain and Italy when you want a summer beach holiday in the sun, people seem to now be realising that there is more to a holiday than a lot of hot sunshine (although that does definitely help).
Now, people appear to want a little more culture and history in their lives, and so they are broadening their horizons and are exploring places they never previously considered.
Poland is one of the most stunning countries in all of Europe, and if you’re looking for a city break, forget the tourist traps like London, Paris, Madrid, and the like, and instead consider visiting Poland.
Here’s a look at what I, and many others, consider to be se7en of the most beautiful cities in Poland.
There’s just something about capital cities that tourists, myself included, just can’t get enough of.
As much as I’m a fan of London, and of course, Paris, Warsaw is one which I have had my eyes on for many a year now.
To explain why is that, I will tell you a random fact about my family history. My grampa worked in Warsaw as a highly trained train-engine mechanic for some 8 years, back in Romania’s communist times. Back then, working abroad was a thing almost nobody heard of (in communist Romania, of course) and so he was always fond of retelling the tale of his times there.
The tale always took a twist when sharing with us how he met and spoke at length with Pope John Paul the Second before he became world-famous, when he was “just” a cardinal. You see, the then cardinal was often visiting his sister who happened to be my grampa’s next-door neighbour.
I still don’t know to this day if he was not just making it up to impress us kids. But it left me with a strong desire to one day see this city and the country of Poland at large.
Back to Warsaw, the capital of Poland; what a capital it is! The city is a sight to behold due to the fact that it is such a mishmash of different architectural styles. You’ve got Gothic, Renaissance, Modern, and plenty more besides, all combined into one amazing city.
The city was virtually destroyed during WW2, yet like a phoenix, it rose from the ashes more beautiful and magnificent than ever before. With a stunning old town, churches, museums, cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops aplenty, there’s something for everyone here.
Of all of the cities I’ll be listing for you today, Krakow is probably the most popular, even more so than Warsaw.
Krakow is now a tourist hotspot, so it can get busy, although if you time your trip correctly you’ll miss the huge crowds. Whereas Warsaw was destroyed by the Nazis, they apparently appreciated the natural beauty of Krakow during the Second World War and spared it in the hopes of staying there once the war was over.
Krakow features the largest market square in Europe, a myriad of bars and restaurants, museums, and even a castle, and you know how much I love a castle.
Wawel Castle is one of the city’s many highlights, though, for a truly sombre and eye-opening experience, a visit to Auschwitz is also highly recommended, though be warned, it is not for the faint-hearted.
If you want to escape the concrete urban jungles of Poland and enjoy a city with more of a rural setting, Zakopane is perfect.
Zakopane is actually the winter capital of Poland’s Tatra Mountains, and come winter or summer, it is very busy and very popular.
Here, you can enjoy all of the usual conveniences you’d expect to find in a city, with the added bonus of plenty of winter sports amenities and nightlife attractions such as discos and nightclubs.
Gdansk is another very well known city in Poland that sees millions of tourists and holidaymakers every single year.
It features a vast port and a stunning water setting, and like many other parts of Poland, the city itself experienced a great deal of restoration after WW2, because it sustained so much damage, so there are plenty of different architectural styles on offer.
This is a very quaint and unique city, complete with cobbled streets, churches and steeples, family-run businesses and elegant buildings as far as the eye can see.
During the summer, you simply must enjoy a boat cruise in the sunshine, whilst relaxing with a beer or two before heading out to eat in the evening.
Torun, not to be confused with Turin, which is, in fact, a city in Italy, is another delightful city in Poland that would make the perfect setting for a city break.
This high-walled city features a Gothic old town, narrow winding streets, and buildings which have been standing for hundreds of years. Yes, you read that right, Torun was another fortune city in Poland to emerge relatively unscathed from the Second World War.
Torun is also famous for two things, the fist being Nicolaus Copernicus – the Renaissance era astronomer and mathematician.
The second thing that Torun is famous for is its amazing Gingerbread, that you simply have to sample before you leave, even if you aren’t much of a fan of ginger. Word is that it also dunks very well into a warm cup of tea.
Poznan is popular amongst the younger generations thanks to its upmarket feel, its modern architecture, its bright colours, and its lively nightlife.
Poznan is just a fun, trendy, and enjoyable place to hang out and see the sights. It may be modern, but its old town still has plenty of older historical artefacts, buildings, and attractions for visitors to enjoy as they take in the surroundings.
Because it has a large student population, you’ll find heaps of bars, restaurants, cafes, pubs, and clubs, all priced very reasonably.
There are also wonderful transport links so you can travel from one part of the country to the next with ease.
One thing I love about London is the fact that it is so culturally diverse, with people from all over the planet living there and living in perfect harmony.
For these same reasons, I find myself heavily drawn to the city of Wroclaw.
This is one of the most culturally diverse cities in Poland, and this has been the case for centuries now. You can see Bohemian, Prussian, and Austrian influences in the development and architecture of the city, which reflects the city’s past beautifully.
This city is situated on the banks of the Odra River, and it is therefore hugely popular in the summer. Here you’ll find an abundance of green parks, vast bridges, art galleries, museums, shops, cafes, and restaurants, as well as a gorgeous cathedral.
Creatives, in particular, are drawn to this city, so expect plenty of crafts fairs, live music, exhibitions, and other events during the peak seasons.
I hope by now you have a better idea of where to start your experience in Poland. Let me know in a comment if you’d like to know more about Poland’s natural attractions and I will consider it for a future post.
As usual, stay safe and stay curious. I hope I will be able to soon end the post with don’t stop wandering!