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Top 5 Places To Go In Poland

Poland is a country that has been marked by a lot of war and foreign rule over the past century.  And yet, despite being a major player in the shaping of Europe, we Americans seem to know relatively little about Poland.  Here are my top 5 places:

1. Auschwitz

In WWII, under the leadership of Adolph Hitler, Germany began putting into place The Final Solution.  This was an attempt to exterminate the Jewish race.  Auschwitz is one of the most recognized concentration camps that the Germans set Jews to during this time.  I’m sure you’re thinking…. Why would I ever want to go and visit a concentration camp???  Simple answer:  We must never forget.

This event marks perhaps one of the most horrific times humanity has ever seen.  While there have been many genocides throughout human history, this one stands out in most Americans minds as one of the most horrific.  If we don’t make it a point to remember, it is easy for the world to forget.  Now, let me get off my pedestal.

Nearly 1.5 million people visit Auschwitz annually.  The main camp is located just over 30 miles from Krakow.  The site is now a museum and memorial site and is one of Poland’s most visited historic sites.

2. Krakow

This is the second largest city in Poland, and one of the oldest and most well preserved.  The Old Town district in Krakow was one of the World Heritage List’s first historic sites to be approved.  The Polish Air Museum is located in Krakow.  There are also a plethora of Museums and historic castles.  One of the most visited sites, however is Rynek Glowny or the Main Market Square.

Rynek Glowny is a part of the Old Town and is the largest medieval square in Europe.  This square is lined with several cathedrals, as well as the historic Town Hall Tower.  One of the most popular attractions in the square, however, is Sukiennice, or the cloth hall.  This was one of the largest textiles trading locations in the world some 400-500 years ago.  Today is it visited by the thousands daily and is a monument to the role Krakow has played in the shaping of Europe through the years.

3. Wieliczka Salt Mine

The salt mine is located in the town of Wieliczka, still in the metropolitan area of Krakow.  Not only is this one of the world’s oldest mines, but it was built and run by one of the world’s oldest companies.  The salt mine boasts many pieces of art carved out of pure salt rock.  The site sees over a million visitors annually and is even sometimes the host to weddings and/or funerals.  A typical visit includes a two mile tour of the mines several shafts, corridors, a lake, and chapel.

4. Warsaw

Warsaw is the largest city in Poland and serves as the city’s capital.  Unlike Krakow, which has many of its historic sites extremely well preserved, Warsaw is almost completely new.  During World War II, Warsaw suffered extreme damage and it is estimated that up to 80% of the buildings have since been replaced or rebuilt.  The Royal Route runs through the heart of Warsaw and is lined with nearly every historic building in Warsaw, including the Holy Cross Church and the Presidential Palace.

5. Gdansk (Danzig)

No, the band is from New Jersey, not Poland.  Now that we have that out of the way, Danzig is located right on the edge of the Baltic Sea.  One of the most historic parts of Danzig is along the Motlawa River.  Some of the sites include the Museum on the SS Soldek, which was the first post-war ship built in Poland, and the medieval port crane.  Today, Danzig is still a major shipping port and popular tourist destination.  Not to be underestimated as a destination, the National Museum in Danzig boasts an impressive collection of both Ancient and Modern Art.

Bonus:

Get outdoorsy!

A lot of what attracts many travelers to Poland is the outdoors.  Tatra National Park and the mountains that bear the same name (Tatra) are considered some of the most beautiful parts of Poland.  There is plenty of hiking, climbing, lakes and tons of outdoor activities throughout the National Park.

So that’s my 5…  What do you think?  Anything I missed?  Comment below!

Photos from sxc.hu

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Comments
7 Responses to “Top 5 Places To Go In Poland”
  1. gargupie says:

    I loved Krakow when I visited Poland two years ago. Discovered the best veggie-friendly restaurant of all time. 🙂

  2. Angelo says:

    should be in the itinerary for those coming to poland for the 2012 euro cup!

  3. Randy Clap says:

    This is great. I need some good ideas for my family when we visit there in a couple of months. I used to work there and now I want to show them some pretty sites. I haven’t looked into Polish tours yet. But maybe we’ll find some good tours.

  4. restlessjo says:

    I can shout up for Chimera too. I was taken there by a Polish niece and have returned alone since. Restaurant Wierzrynek, at the other end of the scale, is a bit special.
    Loved Warsaw but wasn’t there long enough. Haven’t made it up north yet. Maybe someday. Wroclaw is a beautiful and interesting city too. You may have seen my piece on the gnomes?
    http://restlessjo.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/the-gnomes-have-it/

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