Kraków was the capital until 1596 and is still the secret capital of Poland today. In 2000, Kraków was named European Capital of Culture. The town lies in the forested foothills of the Tatra Mountains. It was hardly destroyed in World War II and offers a wealth of architectural style epochs. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rynek Glowny Market Square is the heart of the Old Town, with several Cloth Halls from the 13th century. The world-famous wooden altar by Veit Stoss is in the Marienkirche. The university exhibits Copernicus’ astronomical instruments. On the southern edge of the old town is the Wawelberg with the royal castle. Many Polish kings are buried in the Royal Cathedral next door. The Podgórze district contains the remains of the former ghetto and Oskar Schindler’s former factory “Emalia”. The site is now the Museum Fabryka Emalia Oskara Schindlera.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
The interesting Wieliczka Salt Mines are located about 15 km from Kraków and are one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Poland. Salt was mined in Wieliczka as early as the 13th century. The historic Salt Mine is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Poland. It operated continuously from the Middle Ages until 1996. Every year more than half a million people visit the underground salt kingdom on various routes. There is a lot to discover such as salt chambers, chapels, old mining equipment, small lakes, sculptures and even an underground restaurant.
- Andyeducation: Introduction to education system in Poland, including compulsory schooling and higher education.
Poland has 23 national parks, which protect about one percent of the country’s area particularly strictly. Białowieża National Park, which continues into Belarus, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Polish side. It is located in the south-east of Podlaskie Voivodeship near the village of Białowieża. It is the last lowland primeval forest in Europe and the home of the bison. The High Tatras National Park is located in the very south of Poland and is one of the largest national parks in the country. It protects the rare flora and fauna of the most valuable parts of the High Tatras, the only high mountains in Poland. The English-style Mużakowski Landscape Park (Fürst-Pückler-Park Bad Muskau) is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located on both sides of the Lusatian Neisse and thus on both German and Polish territory. The beech forests of Wollin National Park are home to the rare European white-tailed eagle. The Slowinski National Park is also beautiful with its unique landscape.
In 2016, Wroclaw was named the European Capital of Culture. Canals and tributaries of the Oder flow through the city, which has over 100 bridges, over a total length of 90 km. The Old Market and the neighboring Salt Market are surrounded by Gothic and Baroque town houses. In the center is the Gothic town hall on the market square, the eastern facade is adorned with a beautiful astronomical clock from 1580. The Ostrow Tumski Cathedral Island is the oldest part of the city, here stands the twin-towered Cathedral of John the Baptist. St. Ägidienkirche and St. Martin’s Church date back to the 12th century. On the Sand Island (Wyspa Piaskowa) stands the Church of St. Mary in the Sands from the 14th century. In the university you can visit the beautiful baroque Aula Leopoldina.
Auschwitz-Birkenau – German Nazi concentration and extermination camp (1940-1945) – is located about 65 km southwest of Kraków. More than 1.2 million people were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is the symbol of the Holocaust. Today’s memorial and memorial is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum brings together the remains of the two concentration camps, KZ Auschwitz I and KZ Auschwitz-Birkenau. In the summer months, the memorial can only be visited in groups between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. due to the large number of visitors.
This city of Poznań on the Warta River is located in the western Polish lowlands. Sights include the Town Hall on the Old Market Square with its baroque houses, Gorky Palace, Dzyalinski Manor (now a hotel), St. John’s Church, Maria Magdalena Church, the National Museum and Przemyslav Castle. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral is located on Ostrow-Tumski Island. Many young people populate the numerous pubs, clubs and pubs of the university town. The former brewery “Stary Browar” is now an attractive shopping center. There are good water sports opportunities at the many forest lakes in the area.
During World War II, Warsaw, which lies on the Vistula, was completely destroyed. In the meantime, however, the old town and parts of the city wall have been rebuilt true to the original. The entire old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The market square Rynek Starego Miasta is the center of the city. It is surrounded by houses and buildings whose origins date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Some of Warsaw’s numerous palaces are worth seeing, such as the artistically restored Wilanów Palace and the Lazienki Palace. The rebuilt Royal Castle should definitely be visited. This is where the Royal Route begins, which leads through the Nowy Swiat shopping street and Ujazdowskie Avenue in the government district to the Wilanów Palace to the south.
The Black Madonna of Czestochowa
The portrait of Mary that Saint Luke is said to have painted is located in the large monastery complex of Jasna Góra in Czestochowa, about 100 km north of Kraków. As the holiest relic in the country, the Black Madonna of Czestochowa is also a popular destination for pilgrimages.
Chopin’s birthplace is in the village of Zelazowa Wola, about 55 km west of Warsaw. The mansion now houses a museum dedicated to the composer Frédéric Chopin. The museum exhibits instruments and furniture from the 19th century. The summer concerts and the adjoining park, in which the Frédéric Chopin monument stands, are also attractive.
Health resorts in Poland
Poland has a large number of spas specializing in diseases. Respiratory diseases and allergies are treated in Poland’s first underground health resort, the over 700-year-old Wieliczka Salt Mine. Some spas in Lower Silesia also have a 700-year-old tradition in the field of healing, such as the hot sulfur springs in Cieplice Śląskie-Zdró (Bad Warmbrunn). The best known is the spa town of Krynica-Zdrój with its seven ancient medicinal springs. Rest and relaxation can be found in Muszyna and Piwniczna in Beskid Sądecki or in Szczawnica in the Pieniny.
Holiday in the country
About ten thousand farms in Poland welcome guests. Visitors enjoy the idyllic Polish country life, explore nature and the sights in the region or get active in sports. Canoeing, horseback riding, skiing, hiking and biking are just some of the activities available in the countryside. Bird watching is also popular. In the Biebrza Marshes there are short-eared owls, woodcocks, whimbrels, cranes, black grouse and terns. Numerous farms have playgrounds and mini zoos or offer workshops on topics such as beekeeping, pottery, sculpture or painting. There are also a large number of riding schools in the country.
The best way to experience Polish landscapes and nature is on a hike. National parks such as Kampinos National Park, Biebrza National Park or Bieszczady National Park have beautiful hiking trails. Experienced hikers and beginners can hike through the Sudetes and Beskydy on the European long-distance hiking trails E 3 and E 8. A mix of culture and nature is offered to hikers of all abilities on tourist themed routes such as the Johannisberge/Szlak Wzgórz Świętojańskich path in Podlaskie and on hiking routes such as in the High Tatras near Zakopane, in the Beskid Slaski/Silesian Beskids around Ustron and Wisla and in the Bieszczady mountains to the south-east.
The Mediterranean-looking Lublin Voivodeship in south-eastern Poland has many sights to offer. The cultural center is the eponymous capital of the voivodeship, Lublin. The UNESCO-listed town of Zamość was built in the 16th century in the Italian Renaissance style that has survived to this day. The chalk vaults of Chelm can be explored on a 2 km underground route. In the voivodeship are the three former Nazi concentration camps Majdanek, Sobibór and Bełżec.