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Krakow is one of the most culturally and politically significant cities in Poland. It was the central site of the Nazi General Government during WWII, and there’s still a residual feeling of solemnity here that’s especially apparent during visits to the Plaszow Concentration Camp and the Oskar Schindler Factory. Both the Historic City Centre and the Jewish District are brimming with cafés, shops, and pubs, and the 10-acre Main Market Square is a medieval feast for the senses.
Warsaw is a mixture of relaxing green spaces, historic sites and vivid modernity. Discover the charming Old Town, Wilanów Palace and amazing Lazienki Park, where you can watch free Chopin concerts every Sunday during the summer. Experience a few of the dozens of interactive museums, including the Warsaw Uprising Museum, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Copernicus Science Centre. For exciting nightlife, visit the vibrant Vistula boulevards and upscale clubs.
Surprisingly (except to Poles) pronounced VRAHTS-wahv, Wroclaw is Poland’s fourth-largest city and the capital of the Viovodship of Lower Silesia. Originally (in medieval times) built across several islands, the city still has many lovely bridges and beautiful architecture. Not far from the German border in the country’s southeast, Wroclaw gets lots of German tourists, who call it Breslau. The Rynek (central square), lined by colorful buildings, is one of the city’s most popular destinations.
One of Poland’s most beautiful cities, Gdansk, on the Baltic Sea, has played major roles in history, especially in the 20th-century. It was the 1939 flash point of World War II, and then in 1980, the birthplace of the Solidarnosc labor movement, ushering the end of Communist domination in Eastern Europe. Gdansk’s Old Town, painstakingly reconstructed to its Hanseatic League glory after being leveled in World War II, is a highlight. The 14th-century Town Hall houses the city’s historical museum.
The storybook city of Bydgoszcz is a stunning mélange of Gothic and Art Nouveau architecture, 18th-century granaries, cobblestone streets and outdoor cafes. Cruise the scenic Brda River, wander the charming streets of historic Old Town, or picnic and people-watch at Mill’s Island. Thoughtful public art, a thriving jazz scene, an opera house and an extraordinary concert hall add cultural dimension to Bydgoszcz’s beauty.
Poznan was once the capital of Poland and is still the capital of the Wielkopolska region. Poznan lies midway between Berlin and Warsaw, which has helped make it an important town for centuries. Badly damaged in World War II, the city (especially its Old Town) has been beautifully restored. The huge Old Town Square (Stary Rynek) is one of Europe’s nicest, and is lined by fabulous historic attractions, restaurants and nightlife. The Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is Poland’s oldest cathedral.
A small city with big appeal, Bialystok is a charming Polish town. Visit the impressive Branickis' Palace or admire the beautiful 19th-century architecture of Warszawska Street or follow the historic Jewish Heritage Trail. Performances at the Białystok Puppet Theater are fun for the whole family, as is the dining experience at a local milk bar.
Famous for its native son, the astronomer Copernicus, Torun was founded by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century. You can still see the ruins of their castle, left pretty much unchanged from when it was destroyed by disgruntled medieval townsfolk. Torun was one of the few Polish cities to escape major damage in World War II. Its beautifully preserved Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss the striking Old Town Hall. Torun is also famed for its gingerbread.
The third-largest city in Poland, Lodz's historical and global significance is largely due to the ghetto that was built there during World War II. Strolling the picturesque central streets will give you an appreciation for the strength of this city and its citizens. Explore the Muzeum Sztuki modern art museum, which houses one of the most important collections of modern art in Poland, or spend the day thrill-seeking at Lunapark amusement park.