Set at the crossroads of Eastern and Western Europe, Poland’s tumultuous and tragic past has shaped this country in to one of contrast, where age-old traditions meet a bright, modern future. Lively cities packed with history and culture meet densely forested countryside and rugged mountains, populated with some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.
Having risen from the ashes of World War II, Poland’s vibrant cities, unspoiled countryside and generations-old folkloric culture are just waiting to be discovered. Warsaw, Poland’s capital, was virtually obliterated in the war, but has been painstakingly rebuilt and has experienced a renaissance, with modern architecture jostling with the gothic buildings of the old town. Visit the Royal Castle, stroll through Lazienki Park and learn about Poland’s more recent history at the Museum of Warsaw Uprising. By contrast, the former royal capital of Krakow escaped the war largely unscathed. The city’s historic center is a UNESCO world heritage sight and boasts one of Europe’s finest medieval squares, Rynek Glowny. Visit the opulent Wawel Castle, the 15th century St. Mary’s Church and the Florianska Gate before making a quiet pilgrimage to the sombre Kazimierz district, Krakow’s former Jewish quarter. South of Krakow lies the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, where more than a million Jews were murdered by the Nazi occupiers during the war. This harrowing yet thought provoking site is synonymous with the Holocaust and part of the fabric of Poland’s tragic history. Having escaped the ravages of war, gothic Torun is a celebration of medieval architecture and the birthplace of Copernicus. Nestled on the banks of the Vistula River, explore the atmospheric winding streets of the UNESCO-listed old town and sample their famous gingerbread at the Gingerbread Museum. Head to Poland’s northern coast and discover the city of Gdansk, once a thriving port town and home to merchants that sailed the Baltic Sea. Today, Gdansk is a photogenic and characterful city to explore, with its maze of narrow cobbled streets, market square and fascinating museums.