Poland Travel Guide
Poland’s history is not always pretty, but it serves as a strong reminder of human strength and determination in the face of adversity. Nothing shows this better than Warsaw; the capital that was decimated by the Nazi’s in WWII and has since been meticulously rebuilt in order to give Poland’s tourists a glimpse into their historical past.
Traveling to Poland you will find varied landscapes like granite rock formations, rolling hills, rivers, lakes, wetlands and beaches not to mention 23 National Parks scattered throughout. Although Poland is surrounded by neighboring countries on most sides, its north does boast a coastline on the Baltic Sea allowing for beaches and great vacation destinations.
Warsaw today is a bustling city center with many interesting things for the Polish tourist to see. Old Town is a World Heritage Site and features quaint cobble-stoned streets, alleyways and baroque palaces, churches and burghers’ houses along with shops, restaurants and bars. This is one of the areas that was completely rebuilt after the war and has been lovingly restored to its original condition. The Royal Castle has also been restored with its 17th century architecture and now houses paintings, carpets and intricate wooden floors as well as furniture and artifacts from the past.
Lazienki Park offers tourists palatial gardens and the Palace on the Water which boasts canals, ponds and monuments. This park is a great place to mosey around taking in the sights in a peaceful and quiet setting amid the hustle and bustle of the city.
Because Warsaw was occupied by the Nazi’s in the war, Poland travelers can visit the Gestapo Headquarters Museum which offers a haunting reminder of the war with timelines and things to see like the original holding cells and the messages that were inscribed on their walls by the prisoners held there. It also serves as a history of what life was like for Poles during the occupation and in the years since.
At the Monument to the Warsaw Uprising Fighters and museum, guests can see a collection of documents, photos, and other memorabilia from when the Polish people staged an uprising against the Nazi’s. The stone monument serves as a reminder of what was lost in not just in this uprising but in the war as a whole.
In the Jewish Cemetery visitors can walk among the tombstones in this centuries old site. It is a profound and spiritual journey and a touching experience as a final resting spot of Jewish leaders, teachers, rabbis and ordinary citizens.
Krakow lies to the South of Warsaw and is close to the infamous Auschwitz labor camps. In 1947 the site was turned into a museum that chronicles the atrocities that took place there. Poland’s tourists can tour the site today for a sobering look back in time to see where thousands of innocent people were imprisoned and tortured in this atrocious by-product of the war.
Krakow’s Main Market Square is the largest in any European Medieval city at 10 acres. Built in the 16th century, this square is home to Cloth Hall, the world’s oldest shopping mall and the 14th century Basilica of the Virgin Mary. For an added touch you can tour the square in a horse drawn carriage, or you can simply walk around taking in the sights and sounds that make the area so popular with tourists and locals alike.
Travelers to Poland can also tour Oskar Schindler’s Factory, now a museum recounting the story of Schindler and the Jewish prisoners he helped save. This museum is not just about Schindler, but the history of the war and the holocaust as well, documented with photos, pictures and historical displays.
St. Florian’s Gate is in the Old Town district and is what remains of the 14th century city wall. Its gate and four towers still stand, the gate being the main entrance to Krakow centuries ago. Today it serves as a tourist attraction and is a great piece of architecture to behold.
The Twelve Apostles are sculpted outside St. Peter & St. Paul Church and make a lovely foreground for the beautiful church itself. The church is still in use and hosts classical concerts throughout the year as well.
Getting away from the history of the city and surrounding areas for a little while, travelers to Poland will love to check out the Park Wodny. This water park has tons of water slides, pools, sprayers, geysers, and massage fountains, as well as a sauna, climbing wall, and a multitude of other things to do in and around the water. This makes for a great family day out, especially since so many hotels in the city don’t have swimming pools of their own.
Although Poland tourism does offer a sad history, it also shows the spirit of a people who rebuilt and pushed through their adversity to reclaim their land. The old world charm and beautiful countryside makes this a great destination for your next European vacation.