Poland has become a favored travel destination for millions of tourists each year. From the lively beaches of Gdansk, Gdynia, and Sopot to the remote and unspoiled natural beauty of Bialowieza Forest, Ojcow National Park, and the Tatra Mountains, Poland offers visitors a range of experiences. Yes, visit Krakow, Warsaw, and Gdansk, but don’t cheat yourself out of the rest of these 25 amazing places to visit in Poland.
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Warsaw is Poland’s largest city and has been the capital for over 400 years. It is known for being the political, economic, and cultural center of the country. This bustling metropolis boasts an unforgettable history with one-fourth of the landscape covered by parkland. Warsaw is the perfect blend of historic opulence from its churches and palaces and contemporary design to cozy cafes and lively clubs. The Royal Castle, Presidential Palace, and Mostowski Palace are just a few of the 30 castles and palaces that can be found here. Modern attractions like the Multimedia Fountain Park, Warsaw Zoo, and the Heaven of Copernicus make up a small fraction of the multitude of entertainment opportunities.
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Krakow is Poland’s cultural center and its most popular tourist destination. Among the city’s architectural treasures is the former Wawel Castle that is a must-see, along with the numerous monuments of Old Town. At its center, visitors will find the largest market square in Europe, including the iconic Sukiennice (Cloth Hall), a Krakow landmark since the 14th century. Old Town is encircled by a charming ring-shaped park called Planty, perfect for a tranquil break from sightseeing. Artistic treasures include the Polish Art Nouveau masterpieces and the art galleries of Kazimierz, the former Jewish District. The vibrant ambiance of the city is enhanced by the eclectic mix of restaurants, pubs, bars, and clubs.
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Bialowieza Forest is the largest and last remnant of Europe’s primeval forest, and it is home to over 800 European bison. The bio-diverse forest on the border between Poland and Belarus has a variety of trees, including 500-year-old oaks, and it supports bison, deer, wolf, lynx, and golden eagles, among others. The forest is as culturally diverse as it is bio-diverse with a smattering of villages scattered throughout that represent Poles, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, and several other cultures. Visitors will want to see Bialoweiza National Park inside the forest; the protected area can only be visited with a guide. The European Bison Show Reserve is also a must-see. There are numerous bike paths through the forest.
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There are literally hundreds of historical buildings in Bialystok, 150 of which are registered relics of architecture. Branicki Palace is among the best of them with its baroque gardens. Visitors will also want to see the House of Equerry, Lubomirski Palace, and the Neo-gothic Holy Mary Cathedral along with several other palaces, buildings, and churches. There are numerous villages and towns near the city to explore, including Choroszcz, which is where the aristocratic Branicki summer home is, and Knyszyn, a favorite of King Sigismund August. The Bialowieski National Park is nearby, as well as Narwianski National Park and Biebrza Valley Marshes for nature lovers.
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Bydgoszcz is a buzzing city with numerous universities and colleges and a strong international business presence. It’s also known for being the biggest Polish inland navigation center. This cosmopolitan city is a finalist in the World Travel & Tourism Council’s “Tourism for Tomorrow” competition. In this major cultural center, visitors can explore numerous artistic, musical, and theatrical venues, including the Municipal Center of Culture, which holds frequent events and performances. The city has no less than 18 must-see attractions, including the Old Mill by the Brda River, Nicolaus Copernicus Square, and Bydgoszcz Pantheon. The city is also an important professional sports hub with numerous world events taking place at Zawisza Sports Complex.
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Gdansk is a beautiful port city on Poland’s Baltic coast, best known as the birthplace of Poland’s Solidarity movement. Visitors will want to see the shipyards where it all began, learn about the city’s maritime history, and take a riverboat excursion, followed by Polish a beer or two dockside. Other attractions include a walking tour of the Royal Route of Gdansk, Long Market and Neptune Fountain, Old Town, and the European Solidarity Center. Westerplatte is a must-see island steeped in WWII military history. It can be accessed by either bus or boat. Gdansk is also a hub for the amber trade with many boutique shops selling amber goods.
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Gdynia is a port city located on Poland’s Baltic coast. The Museum of the City of Gdynia tells the story of this modern city – a good starting place. Other attractions include the Gydnia Aquarium with an amazing array of ocean life, the Polish Navy Museum and WWII destroyer Blyskawica warship, and the Polish Maritime Museum aboard the 1909 Dar Pomorza tall ship. Both museum ships are moored at Southern Pier. Tourists can stop by Kosciuski Square and relax by the water fountain on the way back to the city center. Those interested in antique cars won’t want to miss the collections of cars, motor bikes, and sidecars at the Motorization Museum.
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Above all else, Karpacz is a delightful ski resort nestled in the Karkonosze Mountains of southwestern Poland with a world renowned ski jump. But this mountain town has the makings of a family dream vacation with dozens of other attractions that are guaranteed to thrill. There are two interactive Lego venues where families can have hours of fun. Fairytale Park is a series of cottages with animated fairytales, plus a children’s playground and summer tubing track. Cris Kolorowa, a year-round bobsled track, and an interactive Kingdom of the Mountain Ghost museum are among many family-friendly attractions. Nature lovers will adore the region year-round.
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Emerging out of a decades’ long coal-dusted post-industrial slump, Katowice is reinventing itself as a sophisticated center for small business and trade. Visitors won’t want to miss two interesting areas: Nikiszowiec, a historical workers area, and Giszowiec, a garden town. UFO-shaped Spodek is worth seeing. Katowice is not where people go to enjoy nature due to its industrial past. One bright spot for nature lovers is Voivodship Park of Culture and Recreation. At the end of a day exploring Katowice, travelers can stop in Biala. Malpa where they’ll find the largest selection of craft and bottled beers in the city, including many tasty Polish microbrews.
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Travelers who love the outdoors will be smitten with Kielce in the heart of the Holy Cross Mountains. Along with plenty of places to sit outdoors and enjoy the city’s many green areas and several walking routes passing numerous historic monuments, there are also five nature reserves in the city. Market Square is the logical starting place for exploring Kielce. Visitors will find a 12th-century cathedral, 17th century bishop’s palace, a Neo-Gothic palace, and a plethora of museums, churches, and towers. The city has made exploration easy for tourists with a marked scenic trail 80km long for both walking and biking. Numerous outdoor recreational activities are available.
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Travelers who chase the sun will love summers in Leba where lazy beach life rules. Each summer, this little village swells with tourists who come to play in the Polish coast’s clearest waters and lounge on a wide, soft sand beach. Visitors can take advantage of an abundance of fish stalls selling savory smoked and fried fish. Riding the dunes on horseback, hiking and biking the many developed trails, and windsurfing the waves are other relaxing summertime distractions. Slowinski National Park is probably the most unique aspect of Leba where visitors can watch the sand dunes disappear and reform with the way the wind blows.
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Lodz is a cultural mecca of Poles, Jews, Russians, and Germans all living harmoniously and producing an established community of scientists, industrialists, and artists. They have all left indelible marks on the city. A visit to Lodz should begin with a stroll along Piotrkowska Street for an overview of the best architecture, and many of the buildings have become historical monuments. Visiting Ghetto Litzmannstadt is a somber reminder of the city’s grim Shoah history. Other places to see in Lodz are the Izrael Poznanski’s Complex, including Manufaktura, Edward Herbst Mansion, Oscar Kon Palace, and Radegast Station. Lodz is also famous for its film school with notable graduates in the film industry.
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For centuries, Lublin has been a shining example of tolerance with Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, and other religions and nationalities living harmoniously. Visitors should begin at the Tower of the Trinity for epic views of picturesque Old Town, Poland’s best-preserved medieval town. Visiting Old Town starts at the 14th-century Krakovian Gate where there are over 100 mansions and buildings to see, as well as an underground tourist trail. Downtown Lublin is the city’s social center with coffee shops and artsy basement bars and restaurants. There are universities, theaters, gardens to see, including the Maria Curie Sklodoska University Botanic Garden.
14.Ojcow National Park
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An easy daytrip from Krakow, Ojcow National Park is one of Poland’s smallest national parks. It sits in the dramatic Saspowska and Pradnik river valleys and is characterized by limestone cliffs and rock formations, deep ravines, dark caves, and thick woodlands. The most well-known rock promontories are Krakow Gate, Hercules’ Club, and Deotyma’s Needle. Other interesting places include two castles – Kazimierz Castle at Ojcow Village and Renaissance Castle in Pieskowa Skala where visitors can ride horse cabs. Dark Cave and Lokietek’s Cave are the largest of 400 registered caves and are open to the public. It’s useful to hire a guide to get the most out of the park experience.
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Poznen is a modern city situated along the Warta River in western Poland. It’s best known for its Old Town district, its many universities, and its international trade fairs. The Old Town district is the epicenter of action in Poznan with historical attractions, museums, and loads of restaurants, clubs, and pubs. Architecture fans will like the Renaissance-style buildings of Old Market Square. History buffs will like Poznan Town Hall where they’ll find the Historical Museum of Poznan that tells the city’s story. Visitors may be amused by the mechanical goats butting heads when the town hall clock strikes noon. Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, a three-aisled basilica, is worth the visit to Ostrow Tumski Island.
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Rzeszow’s sleepy small town feel belies its reality as a progressive cultural, economic, and academic provincial capital. It is situated in the southeastern corner of Poland. Medieval Market Square and the Underground Tourist Route of Rzeszow Cellars with about 50 cellars are worth a visit to learn about the city’s history. Guided tours of a portion of the labyrinth of tunnels are available. Some of the most important historical buildings are Town Hall, Gothic Parish Church, Piarist Convent, a castle, and the Lubomirski family summer palace. Visitors can also indulge in the city’s traditional culinary dishes featuring organically grown produce. Silver jewelry, contemporary paintings, original handmade glass pieces, and other folk art can be found in galleries and local markets.
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Enchanting Sopot is a seaside town on the Bay of Gdansk flanked by hilly woodlands, making it a popular summer vacation destination. Because the bay is protected from the open ocean, the waters here are warmer. A wide, sandy beach stretches 4.5 km along Sopot’s coastline and is lifeguard protected. The World Sailing Championship, Wind-surfing Baltic Cup, and Sopot Triathlon can be viewed from the Sopot Pier. There are also public events on the pier, and visitors can take cruises to Gdansk, Gdynia, and Hel from here, or they can catch a water taxi. Monte Cassino Street is a lively pedestrian street leading from Sopot to the Pier. Sixty percent of Sopot is green space, filling it with natural beauty.
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Swinoujscie is a health-resort and port city on the Baltic Sea. It has the unique characteristic of being completely located on forty-four islands. This is the destination for families who enjoy the beach life, with gently sloping beaches that are great for kids. The 170-year-old Spa Park is one of the major attractions where visitors can walk the grounds and peruse the abundant vegetation. Maritime history fans will want to visit the Museum of Sea Fishing in the old town hall. Bird watchers will love Karsibor Island bird reserve and Wolin Island’s historic lighthouse – the Baltic Sea’s tallest – for panoramic views of Swinoujscie.
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The largest city in northern Poland, Szczecin sits along the Odra River a mere ten miles from the German border. Although it was destroyed in World War II, the city’s historic center still includes the 15th-century Gothic Town Hall and 16th-century St. James Cathedral, a Gothic basilica and tower that offer panoramic views. The 13th-century Castle of the Pomeranian Duke should also make the must-see list. Just north of the castle is the Chobry Embankment. After a 13-meter climb up the stairs, visitors are rewarded with two viewing platforms and a fountain of Hercules and the Centaur. It’s a popular area to kick back and enjoy the views of Odra River.
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A couple hours outside Krakow, travelers can find themselves in the Tatra Mountains, dubbed the “Polish Alps.” The highest range of the Carpathian Mountains is shared with Slovakia where the two country’s border slices through the mountains, with national parks on either side. In winter, visitors will discover the epitome of Polish skiing as well as treacherous mountaineering that challenges the will. During summer, there’s hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, spelunking, and paragliding, among other outdoor activities. The town of Zakopane provides the home base for recreation with a variety of accommodations, restaurants and cafés, art galleries and shops, and nightlife. Highlights include alpine lakes, panoramic views from Rysy Peak, Kasprowy peak and cable car, and climbing Orla Perc.
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Torun is a UNESCO World Heritage site and birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus, world famous 15th-century astronomer and mathematician. Locals refer to Torun as the “Krakow of the North” due to its prominence as a trade center in the Middle Ages and present-day medieval cultural heritage center. Three must-see areas of the city are Old City, New City, and the Teutonic Knights’ Castle. Torun is also a significant science and cultural center, and it is home to the oldest university in the North. Other highlights include numerous Gothic cathedrals, Old City Town Hall, Teutonic Castle, Leaning Tower, and Nicolaus Copernicus Museum. Interestingly, it’s also home to the Gingerbread of Torun and Chelmno Land.
22.Isle of Usedom
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The Isle of Usedom is situated in the northeastern area of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania that is known for its wealth of water. This popular holiday destination is just east of Poland in the Baltic Sea offering a vast number of hotels, guest houses, and charming bed and breakfast inns. Its unspoiled nature and pristine Baltic Sea beaches are the biggest draw, but its cultural diversity, especially in the summer, is equally enticing. Visitors will find several international fashion events, theatre performances, museum exhibitions, and outdoor concerts. Trassenheide, Europe’s biggest butterfly farm, Zinnowitz pier’s diving bell, and Heringdorf aerodome are among Usedom’s top attractions.
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23.Weiliczka Salt Mine
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The Weiliczka Salt Mine is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience that shouldn’t be missed. Visitors can take a two-hour tour of this underground oasis passing through labyrinthine passages and crystal chambers that appear to lead right into the Earth’s center. While over 140 feet below the surface, guests will come across lakes, one-of-a-kind salt monuments, and even complete churches. Open since the Middle Age, this UNESCO-listed World Heritage Monument has continued to be a popular site due to its microclimate consisting of a temperature that remains between 44 and 53-degrees Fahrenheit with remarkably mineralized humid air. The highlights are the gorgeously decorated chambers, especially the Copernicus and Pilsudski chambers.
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Wisla is beautifully situated at the beginning of the Wisla River and is encircled by magnificent forests on neighboring mountain slopes. This stunning holiday destination is known as the “Pearl of the Beskid Mountains,” featuring various pension houses, multiple landmarks, and a diverse collection of restaurants. Its close proximity to fascinating places like the triple village Istebna-Koniakow-Jaworzynka, Ustron, and Szczyrk make it a walker’s paradise, and it boasts several walking expeditions in and around the city. There are also numerous cycling paths along mountain ridges, and many winter sport activities. Additional attractions include the Catholic Church, the Protestant church, the Museum of Beskidy, the President’s Castle, and the Habsburg’s Hunting Castle.
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Wroclaw is the capital of Lower Silsea, a popular destination due to its entertainment and cultural attributes that have absorbed Prussian, Bohemian, and Austrian influences, making it a unique cultural and architectural city. This cathedral island resides on the Odra River, featuring 12 islands, riverside parks, and over 100 bridges. As Poland’s fourth biggest city, it boasts a wealth of large festivals, various theatres, Gothic architecture, and a lively nightlife. Rynek and Ostrow Tumski neighborhoods are must-see historic neighborhoods that feature exquisite architecture, beautiful museums, and monuments. Hydropolis, the center of water knowledge, Centennial Hall, a 20th century architectural gem, and Afrykarium, a themed oceanarium, are among its best highlights.
25 Best Places to Visit in Poland
- Warsaw, Photo: Courtesy of FilipWarulik - Fotolia.com
- Krakow, Photo: Courtesy of Boris Stroujko - Fotolia.com
- Bialowieza Forest, Photo: Courtesy of pyty - Fotolia.com
- Bialystok, Photo: Courtesy of FotoDruk.pl - Fotolia.com
- Bydgoszcz, Photo: Courtesy of Artur - Fotolia.com
- Gdansk, Photo: Courtesy of rh2010 - Fotolia.com
- Gdynia, Photo: Courtesy of Mike Mareen - Fotolia.com
- Karpacz, Photo: Courtesy of LianeM - Fotolia.com
- Katowice, Photo: Courtesy of ArTo - Fotolia.com
- Kielce, Photo: Courtesy of Andrey Shevchenko - Fotolia.com
- Leba, Photo: Courtesy of masar1920 - Fotolia.com
- Lodz, Photo: Courtesy of Senatorek - Fotolia.com
- Lublin, Photo: Courtesy of stepmar - Fotolia.com
- Ojcow National Park, Photo: Courtesy of krisbet - Fotolia.com
- Poznan, Photo: Courtesy of Boris Stroujko - Fotolia.com
- Rzeszow, Photo: Courtesy of CCat82 - Fotolia.com
- Sopot, Photo: Courtesy of pyty - Fotolia.com
- Swinoujscie, Photo: Courtesy of Maciej Bledowski - Fotolia.com
- Szczecin, Photo: Courtesy of whitelook - Fotolia.com
- Tatra Mountains, Photo: Courtesy of great photos - Fotolia.com
- Torun, Photo: Courtesy of whitelook - Fotolia.com
- Isle of Usedom, Photo: Courtesy of danbert - Fotolia.com
- Weiliczka Salt Mine, Photo: Courtesy of kanuman - Fotolia.com
- Wisla, Photo: Courtesy of Artur - Fotolia.com
- Wroclaw, Photo: Courtesy of fotolupa - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of FotoDruk.pl - Fotolia.com