Famous for friendly, welcoming locals and cheap, but brilliant, food and drink, Poland is fast becoming one of the best short break destinations around.
Overview, traditions & history
A proud, historic nation right in the heart of eastern Europe, Poland has a chequered and enthralling history all its own. After spending some time down and out, the country has recently been revitalised as a major tourist hotspot.
Poland’s climate is generally temperate, however it more closely resembles the continental European climate towards the south, as it gets warmer and sunnier. Summers are usually warm, ranging from 18-30 degrees Celsius, while winters often see temperatures plunge below freezing.
Why visit Poland?
Poland’s popularity has been on the rise with British tourists in recent years. The most popular areas to visit are the capital, Warsaw, and Krakow, Poland’s second city. Outside of the city, Poland has lush, green landscape including forests, hills, lakes and rivers, all of which are suitable for outdoor activities. As well as its ancient and medieval history, Poland was also caught right in the middle of the Second World War, something which it still bears the scars of to this day.
Warsaw was completely destroyed by the Nazis in the Second World War and rebuilt shortly afterwards, meaning it is packed full of fascinating architecture. There are classical, baroque-style buildings and brutalist examples of Soviet might, depending on which side of the city you are in. Warsaw is a large, sprawling city with an urban outlook, but also has an art and culture scene unrivalled in Poland. There are excellent museums for history fans, such as the fantastic Warsaw Rising Museum or POLIN, the Museum of Polish Jews. The Polish capital is also a nightlife hub, with an excellent live music scene and everything from cutting-edge cocktail bars to homely taverns.
As the former Royal Capital, Krakow is the more beautiful of Poland’s two biggest cities, with everything from glorious churches and museums housed in wonderful eastern-European architecture to Europe’s largest market square, Rynek Główny. Wawel Castle and Cathedral are both spectacular buildings in their own right, but the Castle is now also one of Poland’s finest art museums. The city is great for nightlife, but also glistens in the daylight and begs you to explore further.
Just 60km from Krakow lies the site of Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi concentration camp. The site has now become a symbol of terror and genocide, as well as a stark reminder of the horrors of the holocaust and the Second World War. A large number of tourists visit Auschwitz and the neighbouring Birkenau camp each year, and after 3pm every day entry is free.
Gdansk, on the Baltic coast, is the starting site of World War II and was almost entirely levelled by 1945, but the original architecture has been restored so well that you would never have guessed. From sharp church spires to merchant houses, the 17th and 18th century architecture makes this coastal town one of Poland’s most beautiful, so it’s no surprise that it is slowly becoming one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions.
The warm Polish welcome is legendary, and with literally hundreds of bars, restaurants and cafes to choose from in Krakow, Gdansk and Warsaw, you’re sure to find somewhere to enjoy a drink and take in the friendly atmosphere.
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