We’ll begin with the easy one. When many people think of Poland, they think of this nation’s (mostly sad) history in WWII. For anyone interested in this tragic part of human history, Poland is a must-visit nation.
The most evident is the haunting and upsetting Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camp, situated about one hour outside of Krakow. It’s required to pre-book a tour round the camp. The guide offers great perspective on what could otherwise be an entirely surreal experience. No matter how much you have read about what happened at Aushwitz throughout the atrocities of this war, being there’s a sobering and psychological experience.
Walking around Krakow, you can research the former Jewish ghetto and Plaszow concentration camp. These are well known as the true location of lots of the events depicted in Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List. The relatively new museum in Schindler’s former mill is one of the finest WWII museum’s we have ever visited (and we have been to a lot), and must be a must-see for anybody visiting Krakow.
Somewhat more off the beaten path is Westerplatte, just outside the northern city of Gdansk. This is where the first official shots have been fired of WWII, between the Germans and the Poles on September 1, 1939.
“Beauty” and”Poland” are not two words most men and women put in exactly the exact same sentence, but that is a mistake. Despite considerable destruction during WWII, some older cities lived, and many others have been rebuilt in much the same manner as they existed prior to the war.
Most travelers think of just Krakow. Granted, the old city of Krakow is as amazing as it’s overrun with tourists. The old city of Warsaw is quite underrated. While most (or all) of it had to be rebuilt after the war, it’s still a beautiful and interesting place to explore, full of restaurants, bars, churches, and monuments.
We’re pleasantly surprised by the northern port city of Gdansk, which was probably our favorite city to explore in the whole country.
To get off the beaten path a little, try Wroclaw. This town is know as the”Venice of Poland” because of the many canals throughout the city centre. Spend your time trying to find the 300 gnomes scattered through town.
Or Escape the center of Krakow to check out the neighborhood of Nowa Huta, a planned community given as a”gift” in the USSR to Poland and intended to be a communist utopia. Who knew? An (optimistic) two hour bus ride south of Krakow brings you to Zakopane, and alpine city that would not be out of place in Austria or Switzerland, but happens to be in the Polish Tatra Mountains. The opinions from popular Mt Giewont are magnificent if you’re able to take care of the crowds coming up the cable car on busy evenings. Consider going in the shoulder season for a quieter experience. What more do you require? Done! You need something sweet? No problem. How can such a simple dish be so yummy? For the true connoisseur, get to Krakow for the yearly Pierogi Festival each August.
In the event you ever get tired of meat/potato/cheese/fruit stuffed dumplings, we found great pizza (CZIKAGO in Zakopane), amazing kebabs (Sapko Kebab in Warsaw), and even good sushi (Sushi Corner in Wroclaw), even though the latter took a little searching on our part.
Ensure you wash all that terrific food down with a few local vodka!
5. And Finally, the Beaches!
Yes, you read that right. Beaches. In Poland. Granted, the Baltic Sea can be a little nippy, but these Poles are hardy men and women. The shore at Sopot, near Gdansk, was busy and beautiful.