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Retaining its old-world ambiance and charm, Krakow is the prettiest of Poland's main cities, having escaped the worst of WWII bombing. The former Polish capital's atmospheric Old Town and Kazimierz's streets in the Jewish district are crammed with exciting galleries, cafes, pubs and restaurants. Multi-day Krakow Tourist Cards offer museum entry and free bus and tram travel between sights such as Wawel Royal Castle, the striking 14th-century St. Mary's Basilica and the huge 10-acre Main Market Square.
Palaces and parkland abound in the Polish capital. Public transport - buses, metro, trams and trolley buses - make it accessible. See the city spread before you from the monumental Palace of Culture and Science. Visit the Royal Castle and the Gothic, cobbled alleys and baroque palaces of the Old Town - destroyed by German troops but now masterfully reconstructed. The Old Town sights include the moving Uprising Monument and lovely Krasinski gardens. Walk the Royal Way to see the best of Warsaw.
One of Poland’s most beautiful cities, Gdansk, on the Baltic Sea, has played major roles in history, especially in the 20th-century. It was the 1939 flash point of World War II, and then in 1980, the birthplace of the Solidarnosc labor movement, ushering the end of Communist domination in Eastern Europe. Gdansk’s Old Town, painstakingly reconstructed to its Hanseatic League glory after being leveled in World War II, is a highlight. The 14th-century Town Hall houses the city’s historical museum.
Surprisingly (except to Poles) pronounced VRAHTS-wahv, Wroclaw is Poland’s fourth-largest city and the capital of the Viovodship of Lower Silesia. Originally (in medieval times) built across several islands, the city still has many lovely bridges and beautiful architecture. Not far from the German border in the country’s southeast, Wroclaw gets lots of German tourists, who call it Breslau. The Rynek (central square), lined by colourful buildings, is one of the city’s most popular destinations.
Poznan was once the capital of Poland and is still the capital of the Wielkopolska region. Poznan lies midway between Berlin and Warsaw, which has helped make it an important town for centuries. Badly damaged in World War II, the city (especially its Old Town) has been beautifully restored. The huge Old Town Square (Stary Rynek) is one of Europe’s nicest, and is lined by fabulous historic attractions, restaurants and nightlife. The Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is Poland’s oldest cathedral.
Just a few miles from the Slovak border in south central Poland, Zakopane is a resort town in the Tatra Mountains, popular with skiers in winter and with hikers and climbers year-round. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Zakopane grew into Poland’s most visible art colony, a hotbed of culture ended by Soviet influence after World War II. Today it harkens back to an earlier time, complete with gorgeous wooden houses. Learn about these buildings and more at the Museum of Zakopane Style.
Famous for its native son, the astronomer Copernicus, Torun was founded by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century. You can still see the ruins of their castle, left pretty much unchanged from when it was destroyed by disgruntled medieval townsfolk. Torun was one of the few Polish cities to escape major damage in World War II. Its beautifully preserved Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss the striking Old Town Hall. Torun is also famed for its gingerbread.
Lublin is a nerve centre for the arts, absolutely brimming with opportunities to experience world-class theatre, dance, cabaret, museums, music, and film. Stroll through historic Old Town to see gorgeous cathedrals, splendid architecture, and landmarks like the Castle of Lublin and the Chapel of the Holy Trinity. When the weather’s warm, Lublin springs to life with myriad festivals that celebrate food, fashion, folk art, and more.
The third-largest city in Poland, Lodz's historical and global significance is largely due to the ghetto that was built there during World War II. Strolling the picturesque central streets will give you an appreciation for the strength of this city and its citizens. Explore the Muzeum Sztuki modern art museum, which houses one of the most important collections of modern art in Poland, or spend the day thrill-seeking at Lunapark amusement park.