• Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland

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    In winter

    Iceboats - especially in Masurian Lake District where various championships are held

    Skiing  - mostly in the Carpathians (Zakopane at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, Szczyrk in the Beskid Slaski, Szklarska Poreba in Karkonosze)

    In summer


    Hiking - most popular in Polish mountains. Experienced alpinists can visit beautiful the Tatra Mountains (highest pick Rysy, 2499 m.). The Pieniny, the Bieszczady or the Karkonosze are great for less experience hikers.

    Canoeing - Mazury Lake District offers some of the best kayaking in the country. Almost  untouched by civilization, Krutynia and Czarna Hancza are a real paradise for kayak-lovers.

    Sailing - mostly on the Masurian lakes - most famous resorts are Gizycko, Mikolajki, Ruciane Nida. Sailers are also fond of picturesque Kaszubian lakes or Jeziorak lake near Ilawa. There are also plenty of sailing clubs and marinas all along Baltc Sea shore.

    Caves - mostly in the uplands near Krakow and in the Tatra Mountains

    Hunting - beautiful and mysterious forests full of animals lie mainly in the east part of Poland. Hunters can arrange hunting with the assistance of licensed companies.


    UNESCO heritage sites

    Ten sites in Poland have been put on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. There are four cities, one castle, two monasteries, the Holocaust museum, a historic object of technological interest, and a forest.
    The first UNESCO heritage list was devised in 1978. At that time, only the 12 most important heritage sites in the world received this prestigious distinction, and Cracow (Kraków) was among them.



    Cracow, with its a thousand years of municipal history and erstwhile capital of Poland, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The entire mediaeval layout of the Old City has been preserved. Some buildings, for instance St. Adalbert's Church on the Rynek Główny (the Main Market Square) and St. Andrew's Church in ulica Grodzka, date from Poland's early Middle Ages, the 10th and 11th centuries. Cracow is a city of students - there are over 100 thousand of them studying at 12 institutions of higher education, thanks to which one of the country's oldest cities is simultaneously one of the youngest in spirit. One of Europe's oldest academic institutions, the Jagiellonian University, founded in 1364, is based here .
    The heart of the city is the Market Square, the biggest mediaeval square in Europe. Just as in previous centuries, the cultural, commercial, and public life of Cracow is concentrated here. It's the favourite place of street artists, travelling musicians, and pigeons. There are cafés, restaurants, bars, galleries, museums and shops in almost every historic townhouse. In the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice), which stands in the centre of the Market Square, there are souvenir stalls selling folk art and amber jewellery, just as in the 13th century. On the corner of the Market Square in St. Mary's Basilica you can see the biggest and one of the most beautiful mediaeval altars in Europe, carved in limewood by Veit Stoss.


    Close to the Old City, the Royal Castle on Wawel Hill has also been registered on the UNESCO list. It was the centre of power and chief residence of the kings of Poland from the 10th to the late16th century. Wawel Castle and Cathedral overlook the River Vistula, and both edifices have had numerous conversions and additions over the centuries, which has resulted in a mixture of styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque.

    In Wawel Castle you'll see the biggest and most valuable collection of Renaissance arrases (Flemish tapestries) in the world - over a hundred of them.

    But there's one more place in Cracow that is fascinating in every respect, and that's Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter, founded in the 14th century as a separate borough. Kazimierz is the world's second biggest and most valuable group of Jewish historic buildings after Prague's Josefov. There are synagogues here (the oldest, the Remuh, dates back to the 15th century, with an adjacent 16th-century Jewish cemetery, and a cluster of historic houses.



    There are tourists who come to Poland just to see the Wieliczka Salt Mine. It's the world's oldest commercial enterprise still in business - salt has been mined here since the 13th century with no interruptions, although it's no longer done on an industrial scale. Today's mine is a labyrinth of corridors and chambers 350 km long, 2 km of which are accessible to visitors. The route winds through 20 chambers located on three levels (from 64 m to 135 m underground), past lakes, and chapels, bas-reliefs, and chandeliers sculpted in the rock salt. The most spectacular sight is Saint Kinga's Chapel, although, in fact, it deserves to be called an underground salt church in deference to its dimensions.

    The mine also has an underground post office, a restaurant, and cinema and even some tennis courts. Concerts, theatre performances, banquets and charity balls are held in the majestic chambers. Thanks to the curative properties of the air, a subterranean health centre has been opened on the fifth level (211 m below ground level), for the treatment of bronchial asthma and allergies.



    Warsaw is also on the UNESCO list. It's hard to believe, looking at this city, that it was almost razed to the ground during the Second World War. Once known as the "Paris of the North", this city, boasting 13th-century buildings, ceased to exist having been bombarded. Little coloured houses surrounded by defensive walls, the spires of the churches and the Royal Castle; it's all the result of reconstruction carried out in the post-war years. Warsaw's Old City was entered on the UNESCO list as an example of faithful reconstruction including the preservation of original sections of the architecture.


    Among the glass skyscrapers and wide, hectic streets of Warsaw, you can seek out restored palaces, historic houses and, sometimes, whole streets which have been harmoniously reconstructed: Krakowskie Przedmieście, for instance, or Nowy Świat or Aleje Ujazdowskie. There's no shortage of romantic lanes, you just have to look for them. The parks are the pride of the city, a real treasure being the Łazienki Park, an 18th-century complex of palaces, parks and pavilions.

    It's famous for its alfresco piano recitals, which are held by the Chopin monument. Some people come to see the Socialist Realist architecture of the Communist era. The most famous exemplar is the Palace of Culture and Science, built in the 1950s according to a Soviet design and still the highest building in the country, and sixth highest in Europe.


    Toruń and Zamość

    There are also two other towns on the UNESCO list, Toruń and Zamość. Toruń, birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus, is famous for the over 300 buildings in it making up a singular part of European art history. The layout of Toruń's markert-place and surrounding streets hasn't changed for 700 years. One of the special attractions is the leaning tower built at the turn of the 14th century, rather like the famous tower in Pisa. Somewhat younger than Toruń, Zamość was founded in the 16th century by Lord Chancellor Jan Zamoyski as the capital of his estates, and built in an Italian Renaissance style. It is a real Renaissance pearl.



    Another UNESCO site which arouses excitement and admiration is Malbork Castle, erstwhile headquarters of the Teutonic Order and the largest Gothic fortress in Europe. It consists of three wards surrounded by separate fortifications and occupies about 20 hectares. There's also a museum with an amber collection . The Castle organises special night-time tours and son et lumière shows in its courtyards.


    The Białowieża Forest

    There's also a work of nature on the UNESCO list; the Białowieża Forest, the biggest naturally afforested area in Europe and the last remaining section of primaeval forest, with an abundance of flora and fauna unmatched anywhere else in Europe. The Białowieża National Park is also on the World Biosphere Reserve list. It's the habitat of the European bison, the continent's largest mammal, 26 species of trees and 56 species of shrubs. The average age of the trees is 126 years.



    The Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp museum has been entered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Several hundred thousand people visit it every year. During the Second World War, the Nazis murdered Jews, Poles, Romany People, Russians, and people of several other nationalities; the majority of those who died were Jews deported from all over occupied Europe.
    Entry to the Auschwitz museum is through the gates immortalised in many films and photographs, inscribed "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("work makes you free"). On the other side you can see clusters of brick buildings in which the prisoners lived. In the prison cell blocks there are horrifying displays of objects looted from the imprisoned.
    The neighbouring Birkenau is the location of the largest former concentration camp; nearly 300 austere wooden barracks built by prisoners. It is open to visitors.


    Other UNESCO sites

    In 2002 two historic Lutheran churches, in Świdnica and Jawor, were put on the UNESCO list.

    Gdańsk, a thousand-year-old city with the biggest historic quarter in the country, is also waiting its turn. It was designed, built and decorated by the greatest European architects. Gdańsk also has the largest Gothic, brickwork church in the world, St. Mary's Basilica. Oliwa Cathedral ,with its famous organ, is in the neighbourhood.


    When travelling around Poland, don't miss the chance to see Wrocław either. Situated on the River Oder, interlaced by numerous canals, it has 12 islands and scores of bridges. This city grew up around the cross-roads of ancient trade routes, which left its mark on Wrocław's layout and prosperity. It has one of the largest groups of mediaeval Gothic religious buildings in Poland. The jewel in Wrocław's crown is the island Ostrów Tumski,packed with historic churches and quiet lanes. Like Cracow, Wrocław is said to be one of the planet's foci of energy - a blue chakra of consciousness.
    Kazimierz Dolny on the River Vistula is another must for the visitor; it's a place particularly favoured by painters and photographers. Centuries ago, this town lay on an important trade route and rich merchants built splendid, elegantly decorated town houses there. Today, the town looks like an extraordinary open-air museum. The market-place is not only an architectural jewel, but also a crowded, jolly place in which you can buy beautiful handicrafts and the well-known pastries that come in the shape of Kazimierz roosters and other animals. Other mementos of the glorious past preserved in Kazimierz are the storehouses, reminding visitors that the town was once a river port. A natural landscape park which combines green stretches and natural monuments with a grid of paths and wild loess gorges, envelops the town. In late June the colourful All-Poland Festival of Folk Groups and Singers takes place in Kazimierz.

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