Getting to know Poland
Poland is a historic country with 14 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a stunning collection of natural wonders, including mountains, national parks, a craggy coastline, and some unexpected natural wonders, such as the world’s oldest salt mine. Poland is the ideal destination for history aficionados and architecture enthusiasts, with its medieval buildings, difficult WWII history, and many villages that appear to have stood still in time. Polish cities are brimming with artistic and cultural energy, and they serve as an excellent foundation for seeing everything the country has to offer. Plan your trip to Poland with our list of top tourist sites, whether you’re interested in history, art, or nature.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Wieliczka The Wieliczka Salt Mine, which dates back to the 13th century, is just as significant to residents now as it was hundreds of years ago, but for a totally different purpose. It is one of the world’s oldest salt mines, which halted operations in 1996 and has subsequently been converted into an aesthetic attraction. Four chapels, corridors, and statues have been carved into the rock salt walls of the Wieliczka Salt Mine. The mine’s original shafts and corridors, some as deep as 327 meters down, have been reopened, allowing visitors to explore the pits and chambers while passing statues and marveling at the architecture. In the mine’s depths, a candlelit underground lake gleams against the walls.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Camps, Oswiecim
The concentration camps of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II–Birkenau are a different kind of must-see. The camps, which are about an hour west of Krakow, provide a grim glimpse into the past.
Over 900,000 Jews were taken to the camps here from German-occupied countries between 1942 and 1944. Political prisoners, Roma, and people of all races have all been transported here. Only around 10% of those who were brought here survived their stay.
As Soviet forces marched into Poland at the conclusion of the war, the Nazis demolished the gas chambers and crematoria before leaving. Despite the fact that they were able to damage and burn down part of the camp, many of the structures are still intact today.
The old market
The Old Town Market Place, Warsaw’s oldest district, dated from the 13th century. Despite the fact that the Nazis destroyed 85 percent of the region during WWII, it has subsequently been reconstructed to look exactly as it did when it was first erected.
In the city’s most prominent square, a mix of medieval, Gothic, and colorful Renaissance structures and merchant homes coexist. The 19th-century bronze statue of a sword-wielding mermaid, which has been a symbol of Warsaw since medieval times, has survived the war and exists in the square today.
Malbork Castle, Malbork
The Teutonic Knights, a monastic order that acted as a Crusader military army, built this Teutonic stronghold in the 13th century. Although the castle began as a tiny stronghold, it was eventually developed over the years to become an imposing building. Malbork Castle, once Europe’s greatest Gothic castle, is still the world’s largest castle by area. The castle now functions as a museum, with many original objects in excellent condition. A medieval kitchen with a six-meter-wide hearth, a collection of armor and weaponry, and the knights’ private bathroom atop a tower are just a few of the highlights.
Lazienki Park, Warsaw
Lazienki Park is one of Poland’s largest urban parks, with 76 hectares in the city center. In the 17th century, Lazienki began as a bathing park for a nobleman. The Palace on the Isle, as well as the gardens surrounding it, remain open to the public today.
In the grounds, there is a Classical-theater isle stage (where plays are staged), a number of smaller palaces and constructions that are now museums or galleries, and even a classicist temple devoted to the goddess Diana.
On the park’s grounds, there is also a big statue of renowned Polish musician Frederic Chopin. During WWII, German forces purposefully damaged the statue, which was recreated in 1958 using the same mold.
Schindler's Factory, Krakow
Two museums have opened at Oskar Schindler’s enamel and metal factory, which was made famous by Steven Spielberg’s 1994 film. Schindler’s former office — as well as part of the previous factory floor — has been turned into a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow.
Schindler’s former office, which has been preserved in its original state since World War II, is now a museum dedicated to his life and the lives of those he saved in this plant. A glass wall in the office known as the “Survivors’ Ark” serves as a time capsule, filled with enamel pots similar to those made at the factory.
Crooked Forest, Gryfino
The Crooked Forest, located just outside the tiny village of Gryfino, is a (perhaps) natural wonder that defies explanation. A handful of pine trees stand alone in this area, all twisted northward and growing at a 90-degree angle at their base.
The pines were first planted in this location in the 1930s, but it took roughly ten years for the trunks to begin to bend. Despite many suggestions, the question of whether the curvature was formed purposely by manipulating the trees — or whether it happened spontaneously or accidently — is still aggressively argued