10 essential places to see in Poland
This list features the best places to see in Poland and will help you prepare a trip to one of the most fashionable and visited countries in Europe. With a tragic past, marked by World War II and still unknown to many travelers, this country has everything from beautiful medieval towns and cities with historic World Heritage sites to fantastic natural landscapes dotted with numerous lakes, among which you can move between the Main cities using the efficient Polish bus and train or enjoy more freedom by renting a car and making a circular route.
Although any time is good for a trip, the best time to visit Poland is between May and October, when the temperatures are pleasant and there are more hours of light since the winters are cold and dry with temperatures below 0 degrees. Here’s a selection of the 10 essential places to visit in Poland:
Krakow, with an old town declared a World Heritage Site, is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and one of the essential places to see in Poland. The jewel of the city is the Market Square, located in the center of the old town, surrounded by colorful palaces and buildings of medieval origin, in which the Basilica of Santa Maria stands out. In addition to seeing this square from all viewpoints, we recommend walking through the streets Kanonicka and Florianska, see the beautiful historic buildings such as the Collegium Maius, cross the old wall through the Florian Gate and climb the Wawel hill to visit the castle and the Cathedral.
Warsaw, the largest city and the capital of the country, is another of the best places to visit in Poland. After resurfacing from its ashes after being almost completely destroyed during World War II, Warsaw is currently a modern city with a large agenda of cultural and leisure activities, which I am sure, will hook you from the first moment, especially for its old town that was restored so faithfully that it was declared a World Heritage Site in 1980. Without forgetting its tragic past, visiting the ghetto and the Jewish cemetery, you can visit the city to see places like the Royal Castle, the Palace of Culture and Science, the Łazienkiel Palace and Park, the Market Square and the Barbakan, among many others.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp
Visiting the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau is one of the most difficult things to do in Poland, although tremendously necessary to become aware of the barbarity that occurred within its barracks. In this complex of several camps, more than one million innocent people were murdered, the vast majority solely for being Jews and others for political reasons, race or religion, between May 20, 1940 and January 27, 1945. You can visit Auschwitz from Krakow, located 70 kilometers away, by car or by taking a bus taking into account that the visit to the field is free before 10am and after 16pm, but between these two hours it is mandatory to visit with a guided tour.
Wrocław known as the city of elves or gnomes, is another of the most beautiful places to see in Poland. This picturesque city known as «the Venice of the East», has 12 islands and 130 bridges that make it ideal for walking and relaxing in its many green spaces. Another of the best things to do in Wroclaw is to find the more than 180 bronze gnome figurines hidden in its vast old town. You can start a route through the old part of the city in Rynek Square, then go through tourist attractions such as Cathedral Island, Solny Square, Ossolineum Garden or Hala Targowa Market, among others.
Wieliczka Salt Mines
The Wieliczka Salt Mines are next to Auschwitz, one of the most tourist heavy places to visit in Poland and one of the best excursions in Krakow. htese Salt Mines, located 10 kilometers from Krakow have been a World Heritage site since 1978 and are the oldest and most spectacular mines in Europe.
Poznan, located on the banks of the Varta River, is one of the largest and oldest cities to see in Poland, with more than 1000 years of history. This city, like most major cities in the country, marvels at its colorful facades and medieval-style buildings, concentrated in the historic center where you can make a route through the old part of the city starting with the Plaza Mayor or the Market, located in the heart of Poznan and where the impressive city hall stands out.
The city Zakopane, located in southern Poland at the foot of the Tatra Mountains and 100 kilometers from Krakow, is another essential place to visit in Poland. This city, considered the winter capital of the country, stands out for its sloping roof wooden houses and churches and for being the place from where hiking trails leave through the Tatra Mountains National Park.
Gdansk, located on the banks of the Baltic and with the largest port in the country, is another of the most beautiful cities to see in Poland, which will take you to past times when you walk through its cobbled streets of the historic center and those located on the bank of the Motlawa River.
Route of the wooden churches
In the Malopolska region, in the south of the country, there are numerous wooden churches resulting from the union of Catholic architecture with the architecture of the Eastern Orthodox Church, with six of these middle-aged churches declared World Heritage Sites.
The medieval castle of Malbork is the largest Gothic fortress in Europe and my latest recommendation of essential places to see in Poland. This castle, initially built as a military fortress by the Teutonic Order and later as one of the residences of the Kings of Poland, currently looks its best after a great reconstruction that ended in 2013 to repair the damage caused during World War II.