It’s true that when you plan to visit Europe – and this is all the more true if it’s your first trip there – you very often choose the great classics such as Spain, Italy, France or England.
However, while these obvious tourist attractions are indeed worth seeing, we shouldn’t minimize other less popular destinations! This is the case of Poland, a country that has experienced many historical traumas such as Nazi barbarism or communist totalitarianism, but which has managed to rebuild itself and today deserves our full attention.
Between history, nature and dynamism, Poland is reinventing itself year after year. Here are the must-see attractions of this country of a thousand and one discoveries!
1. National parks
No less than 23 national parks (totalling 300,000 hectares) await you in Poland! The most interesting are the Babia Góra mountain, Białowieża, the Bieszczady, Kampinos, Karkonosze, Polesie, Slovinia and Tatras.
They are all classified by UNESCO as “World Biosphere Reserves”.
If you are a lover of walks and outdoor activities, you will find in Poland a great playground: the sea and the beaches of the Baltic Sea, vast forests, wild rivers and many lakes await you.
The country’s natural jewel is the primeval forest of Białowieża, whose unspoilt beauty has made it a World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site.
3. Religious tourism
Religion is very present and religious tourism attracts many visitors and pilgrims every year who criss-cross the country from basilicas to monasteries. Poland has a wealth of interesting places of worship and shrines to discover.
Among the must-see in this European country is the fortified monastery of the Pauline Fathers of Jasna Gôra in Czestochowa, which is the high place of Catholic worship in the country. It is there that you can admire, like millions of pilgrims, the painting of the Black Madonna.
Most of the 500 cult buildings are dedicated to the cult of the Virgin Mary. Another Catholic place of worship to discover: the village of Gôra Swietej Anny and its numerous chapels.
Discovering a city also means visiting it through its gastronomy and taking advantage of the opportunity to take your taste buds on a trip! Good news for Poland: the European Academy of Gastronomy has awarded the city of Krakow the title of European Capital of Gastronomy 2019.
Polish gastronomy is rich, at the crossroads of many influences: Mongolian, Tatar, Turkish, Russian, German, French, Italian and Jewish. Stuffed cabbage, bigos, kluski, borscht and babka are on the menu for the festivities.
5. Cities not to be missed
Warsaw: The capital of the country, which was rebuilt, is worth a visit, especially for its modern and confusing contemporary architecture, its large parks and its joie de vivre.
Gdañsk: This city is located by the sea and is a wonderful witness of history and offers a beautiful architecture. It is rightly called the “Pearl of the Baltic”.
Lublin: This university city oscillates between dynamism and ancient history. The historic centre is also worth discovering thanks to themed walking tours.
Cracow: Here is THE destination for those who want romance. It has all the Polish charm and is one of the most beautiful cities in Central Europe, where history is present at every corner.
The main market square is splendid (Rynek Główny) and what about the Wavel hill where you can find the royal castle of the same name, where you can admire the crown jewels, art exhibitions and the cathedral housing the tombs of the kings of Poland, among others.
You should know that the old town of Cracow is original and was not rebuilt after the war. Its 170,000 students make it a popular place for those who want a festive destination.
The desert of Błędów: It is the only desert in the country and one of the 5 natural deserts on the European continent. To see for a total change of scenery!
The Tatra Massif: At the highest point of the Polish Carpathians, in the south of Poland, we pass here to landscapes of cliffs and glacier lakes. Many small traditional villages can be found in the Tatras. If you are looking for a place for a mountain hike, this is the place to go. Of the 70 peaks over 1,000 metres in altitude in the country, all are located in this region.
6. Memorial tourism
Some visitors choose to go to places that are part of what is called memorial tourism (or remembrance tourism), which consists of following in the footsteps of Jewish memory through the old ghettos or visiting the Warsaw Uprising Museum.
When to visit Poland
The high season in Poland runs from May to September, with July and August being the most intense.
If you want to go to the beaches of the Baltic Sea without them being crowded, we advise you to go either in May or June or in September or October.