Warsaw (Warszawa), Cracow (Kraków), Częstochowa, Katowice, Oświęcim, Wadowice, Wrocław, Zakopane, Szczecin, Tri-City (Gdańsk, Gdynia, Sopot)
Poland is a very beautiful country visited by a great number of tourists. There are a lot of special and interesting monuments, buildings and places that we are proud of. This article is not only for those foreigners who want and plan to visit Poland, but also for all who are interested in our country and would just like to read and get to know about Poland more.
This is the biggest city in Poland situated in the East in województwo mazowieckie (Masovian voivodeship). It became stolica (the capital) of our country in 1596. Due to this fact, the majority of important institutions are located there. These are, for example:
- Budynki Parlamentu (the buildings of the Parliament),
- Sąd Najwyższy (the Supreme Court of Poland),
- Najwyższa Izba Kontroli (the Supreme Chamber of Control),
- Narodowy Bank Polski (NBP) (the National Bank of Poland),
- Telewizja Polska (Polish Television),
- Uniwersytet Warszawski (University of Warsaw),
- Uniwersytet Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego (Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University),
- port lotniczy im. Fryderyka Chopina Warszawa-Okęcie (Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airport),
- Teatr Narodowy (National Theater),
- Filharmonia Narodowa (the National Philharmony),
- Narodowa Galeria Sztuki Zachęta (the National Gallery of Art Zachęta),
- Muzeum Narodowe (the National Museum).
Besides, Warsaw has a lot of tourist attractions to offer. First of all, I would like to concentrate on zamki (castles) and pałace (palaces). Here, one can differentiate:
£azienki Królewskie (the Royal Lazienki Park with Palaces):
Once, this was letnia rezydencja (the summer residence) of Stanisław August Poniatowski (one of Polish kings). As the name suggests, it is a good place for walks in its park. Various cultural, sports, etc. events take place there as well. One should name buildings that are on the premises of this park which are:
- Pałac £azienkowski/pałac Na Wodzie/pałac Na Wyspie (Lazienki Palace/the Palace on the Water/the Palace on the Isle) – here the tourists can visit pałac (the palace), ogród (the garden) and jezioro (the lake),
- Biały Domek (the White House) – a very interesting building containing a lot of rooms where Ludwik XVIII (Louis XVIII of France) used to live when in exile,
- Pałac Myślewicki (Myslewicki Palace) – similarly to Biały Domek (the White House), its interior with original decorations is worth seeing,
- Stara Oranżeria/Pomarańczarnia (the Old Orangery) – it was the place of meetings and theatrical performances and now it is a museum,
- Nowa Oranżeria/Pomarańczarnia (the New Orangery) – with a garden and a stylish restaurant,
- Pomnik Fryderyka Chopina (Frederic Chopin Monument).
Zamek Królewski (the Castle Square):
It is a Baroque castle situated at Plac Zamkowy (the Royal Square). Polish monarchs used to live there and a lot of tourists visit it when in Poland. It consists of numerous special rooms like e.g. Sala Rycerska (the Knights’ Hall), Pokój Marmurowy (the Marble Room), Sala Rady (the Council Chamber), Sala Tronowa (the Throne Room), Pokoje Dworskie (the Court Rooms), Sala Senatorska (the Senate Chamber).
Pałac w Wilanowie (Wilanów Palace):
It is a very valuable monument which was built for King Jan III Sobieski. The main center of its cultural life is Muzeum Pałac w Wilanowie (Wilanów Palace Museum). However, there are also beautiful ogrody (gardens) which have different styles: barokowy (Baroque), różany (rose), krajobrazowy (landscape), angielsko-chiński (English-Chinese); Mauzoleum Potockich (Potocki Mausoleum); Kościół św. Anny (St Anne’s church); Świątynia Opatrzności Bożej (Temple of Divine Providence).
Zamek Ujazdowski (Ujazdowski Castle):
It is the castle with which we associate such Polish rulers as Zygmunt III Waza (Sigmund III Vasa), Bona Sforza, Stanisław August Poniatowski. Later it also served as koszary (barracks), szpital wojskowy (military hospital) and szkoła sanitarna (sanitary school). Now, it is especially famous for Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej (the Center for Contemporary Arts) which it houses.
Pałac Kultury i Nauki (the Palace of Culture and Science):
This is the highest building in Poland ‘given’ to us by the Soviet nation. It was Józef Stalin’s (Joseph Stalin’s) idea. It has got 3288 rooms and it is the seat of a lot of instytucje (institutions), firmy (companies); there are teatry (theatres), kina (cinemas), muzea (museums), księgarnie (bookshops), Sala Kongresowa (the Congress Hall), etc. It is also there where various kinds of events are organized: wystawy (exhibitions), konferencje (conferences), koncerty (concerts), targi (fair), for example, very well-known Międzynarodowe Targi Książki (the International Book Fair).
Belweder (Belvedere Palace):
The palace in Park £azienkowski (the Lazienki Park) which was the seat of Polish Prezydent (President) and now it is used for cele reprezentacyjne (ceremonial purposes) and important ceremonie (ceremonies).
Pałac Prezydencki (Presidential Palace):
Built in 1643-45, it is the place of living of the President. In the past, important events took place there such as, for example, podpisanie Układu Warszawskiego (signing of the Warsaw Pact) or rozmowy Okrągłego Stołu (the Round Table talks).
Secondly, there are a few noticeable place (squares) in Warsaw:
Plac Zamkowy (the Royal Square):
It is the most recognizable and vast square in Warsaw located at Stare Miasto (the Old Town). In its centre there stands Kolumna Zygmunta (Sigmund’s Column) which is the oldest monument of Warsaw. Thousands of tourists visit this square where they can find a lot of places to sit, have something to eat and drink as well as be the witnesses of various entertaining and cultural events.
Plac Piłsudskiego (Piłsudski Square):
It is especially associated with Grób Nieznanego Żołnierza (Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) commemorating unnamed soldiers fighting and defending Poland. It is interesting to see zmiana warty (changing of the guard) when in Warsaw.
Plac Trzech Krzyży (Three Crosses Square):
Another square in the centre of Warsaw with its well-known kościół św. Aleksandra (St Alexander’s Church).
Other places recommended to be seen and visited are:
Stadium Dziesięciolecia (10th Anniversary Stadium):
The biggest Warsaw stadium was the place of quite important sports events and other festivals. Now it is especially known for being an enormous market place and bazaar called Jarmark Europa (Europe Market).
Ogród Saski (Saxon Garden):
It is the oldest public park in Warsaw opened in 1727. Originally, it represented the French style and later it was changed into the English style. It contains rzeźby (sculptures), fontanna (fountain), Pałac Błękitny (Blue Palace), Żelazna Brama (Iron Gate), pomnik Marii Konopnickiej (the monument of Maria Konopnicka).
Cmentarz Powązkowski/Stare Powązki (Powązki Cemetery):
It is the oldest and the most well-known Warsaw cemetery. There are graves and tombs of famous Poles, soldiers, writers, actors and actresses, bishops, doctors, scientists etc. Some of them are buried in the so-called Aleja Zasłużonych (Avenue of the Meritorious).
Barbakan Warszawski (Barbican of Warsaw):
It is a budowla obronna (the defensive building) which ‘defended’ the city just once in its history – during potop szwedzki (Sweden Deluge).
Cytadela Warszawska (Warsaw Cytadel):
It was built by the emperor Mikołaj I (Nicholas I of Russia) to be able to control the city. Later, it was also a hard więzienie (prison).
Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego (Warsaw Rising Museum):
It was opened in 2004 to give honour to those who died fighting in Powstanie Warszawskie (Warsaw Uprising) which took place in 1944.
Pomnik Bohaterów Getta (Monument to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto):
It commemorates the fights of Żydzi (Jews) with hitlerowcy (Nazi) during powstanie w gettcie warszawskim (Warsaw Ghetto Uprising) in 1943.
Pomnik Warszawskiej Syrenki (Monument of the Warsaw Mermaid):
Warszawska Syrenka (the Warsaw Mermaid) is the symbol of Warsaw; it is also one of the elements of herb (the crest) of this city.
Pomnik Mikołaja Kopernika (Nicolaus Copernicus Monument).
Miejski Ogród Zoologiczny (Municipal Zoological Garden).
Ogród Botaniczny Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego (Warsaw University Botanic Garden).
Another great Polish city is Kraków (Cracow) which was also the capital of Poland before Warsaw. It is rich in culture, history and traditions as well and it belongs to the beloved cities of a great number of both Poles and foreigners. Among the most important and interesting places and things to see and visit are:
Wzgórze Wawelskie or Wawel (Wawel Hill):
This is the most significant place which includes:
- Zamek Królewski na Wawelu (the Wawel Castle) – Polish kings and monarchs lived there until 1596. The visitors can see komnaty królewskie (royal chambers), Prywatne Apartamenty Królewskie (Private Royal Apartments), skarbiec koronny (the Crown Treasury), Zbrojownia (Armory);
- Katedra Wawelska or Katedra na Wawelu pw. świętych Stanisława i Wacława (Wawel Cathedral or the Cathedral Basilica of St Stanislaus and St Wenceslaus) – it is there where koronacje królewskie (royal coronations) took place and Polish kings and other famous and noble people are buried there – groby królewskie (royal tombs) are in krypty (crypts) under the cathedral;
- Smocza Jama (Dragon’s Den) – it is jaskinia (a cave) on Wawel (Wawel Hill) associated with the legend of Smok Wawelski (the Wawel Dragon); at the entrance of the cave there is the statue of Smok Wawelski ziejący ogniem (the fire-breathing Wawel Dragon);
- Dzwon Zygmunta (Zygmunt Bell) – this is the most famous and one of the biggest Polish bells whose founder was Zygmunt Stary (Zygmunt the Old); 8-12 strong men are needed to make the bell ring and it rings only on the most important events of the country.
Rynek Krakowski or Rynek Główny w Krakowie (Cracow’s Market Square or Main Market Square in Cracow) – it is actually the most important part of this city where tourists spend a lot of time; it is surrounded by zabytkowe kamienice i pałace (historic tenement houses and palaces); there, we can see and admire:
- Kościół Mariacki (St Mary’s Church) – it is the most popular bazylika (basilica) in Poland known for Ołtarz Wita Stwosza (the Altarpiece of Veit Stoss); also every hour, we can hear the sound of Hejnał Mariacki (Cracow’s Bugle Call or Hymn to Our Lady) played by trębacz (the trumpeter) from the highest tower of this church;
- Sukiennice (Cloth Hall) – this is the part of Rynek Krakowski (Cracow’s Market Square) everybody knows; this place was the trade center and now it is a kind of ‘shopping center’ with kramy i stoiska (stalls and stands) that offer a variety of goods;
- Pomnik Adama Mickiewicza (the Monument of Adam Mickiewicz) diminutively called Adaś (little Adam); a lot of different events, manifestations and meetings concentrate around this monument.
Besides, tourists can pay attention to:
- Barbakan (Barbican);
- Brama Floriańska or Brama św. Floriana (the Florian Gate or St Florian’s Gate) – it leads to the city;
- Kopiec Kościuszki (Kościuszko’s Mound) – it was built to commemorate one of the our national heroes Tadeusz Kościuszko;
- Cmentarz Rakowicki (Rakowicki Cemetery) – great, important and noble figures of Cracow’s life and Polish life are buried there.
Near Cracow there are the following towns:
- Nowa Huta – it is the district of Cracow which was to be a separate town and also the industrial center – these were plans of the Communist Government;
- Błonia Krakowskie (Błonia Fields) – it is the vast terrain where people gather during big and important events, for example, the visit of Papież (the Pope);
- Wieliczka – it is a town near Cracow particularly famous for its Kopalnia Soli (Salt Mine).
This is the city in the south of Poland, in województwo śląskie (Silesian voivodeship). It has kościół (the church) and Klasztor Paulinów (Pauline Monastery) on Jasna Góra with cudowny obraz Matki Bożej Jasnogórskiej/Czarnej Madonny (the miraculous painting of Our Lady of Częstochowa/Black Madonna). Thousands of pielgrzymi (pilgrims) visit this place which is ośrodek kultu maryjnego (the centre of Marian cult) in Poland.
The city situated in the south of Poland as well which is considered to be stolica Górnego Śląska (the capital of Upper Silesia) and centrum Górnośląskiego Okręgu Przemysłowego (the center of Upper Silesian Industrial Region). When in Katowice, one can see:
- Teatr Śląski im. Stanisława Wyspiańskiego (the Silesian Theatre);
- Filharmonia Śląska (the Silesian Philharmony);
- Spodek (Saucer) – this is a famous enormous building in the shape of a saucer where various kinds of events take place such as concerts, exhibitions, shows and others; there is also lodowisko (a skating rink) there;
- Wieża Spadochronowa (Parachute Tower) – the only existing tower of this kind in Poland used during II Wojna Światowa (World War II);
- Pomnik Powstańców Śląskich (the Monument of Silesian Insurgents) – it commemorates three Powstania Śląskie (Silesian Uprisings) which took place between 1919-1921.
Located in województwo małopolskie (Lesser Poland Voivodeship), Oświęcim is very often visited by tourists due to the fact that during II Wojna Światowa (World War II) there was the biggest niemiecki obóz koncentracyjny (Nazi concentration camp) Auschwitz-Birkenau where a lot of Jews, Poles and people of other nationalities died.
This a special place for Poles as Papież Jan Paweł II (Pope John Paul II) was born there. Thus, it has become one of Polish tourists attractions where such places are visited as:
- Bazylika Mniejsza Ofiarowania Najświętszej Maryi Panny (Minor Basilica of the Virgin Mary’s Presentation);
- Dom Rodzinny Papieża Jana Pawła II (the Native Home of the Pope John Paul II) which is a museum.
Another bigger city in województwo dolnośląskie (Lower Silesian Voivodeship) where it is recommended to visit:
- Muzeum Narodowe (the National Museum) which has Panorama Racławicka (the Racławice Panorama) – a panoramic painting depicting Bitwa pod Racławicami (the Battle of Racławice);
- Stare Miasto (the Old Town) – with Rynek (the Market Square) and Plac Solny (Solny Square),
- Ogród Botaniczny Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego (Wrocław University Botanic Garden);
- Park Szczytnicki z Ogrodem Japońskim (Szczytnicki Park with the Japanese Garden);
- Ogród Zoologiczny (the Zoological Garden) – as far as the number of animals exposed, it is the biggest zoo in Poland;
- Stary Cmentarz Żydowski (the Old Jewish Cemetery).
The southern city in województwo małopolskie (Lesser Poland Voivodeship). It is called zimowa stolica Polski (winter capital of Poland) as it is surrounded by Tatry (the Tatra Mountains) and it offers a lot of attractions for tourists who come here in winter like:
- Kolej linowo-terenowa na Gubałówkę (Gubałówka Hill funicular);
- Kolejka linowa na Kasprowy Wierch (Kasprowy Wierch funicular);
- Skocznia narciarska Wielka Krokiew (Wielka Krokiew ski jump).
Besides, Zakopane has Krupówki (Krupówki Street) which is a famous street in the center of the city.
When going at the Polish sea – Morze Bałtyckie (the Baltic Sea), there are such towns as:
Szczecin in województwo zachodniopomorskie (West Pomerania Voivodeship).
Trójmiasto (Tricity) which includes, as the name indicates, three cities in województwo pomorskie (Pomerania Voivodeship):
Gdańsk with famous:
- Stocznia Gdańska (Gdańsk Shipyard);
- Fontanna Neptuna (Neptun Fountain) at the Old Town;
- Pomnik Obrońców Westerplatte (the Munument of Westerplatte).
Gdynia – in its harbour, tourists can see old statki (ships): Dar Pomorza (it means ‘the gift of Pomerania) and niszczyciel ORP Błyskawica (ORP Błyskawica destroyer).
Sopot is the resort town with its longest wooden molo (pier) in Europe, plaże (beaches), Opera Leśna (Forest Opera) where the international Sopot Festival is organized, latarnia morska (the lighthouse).
Undoubtedly, there are more cities and towns in Poland which have a lot to offer and which can be proud of some buildings, palaces, monuments, castles, etc. however, I have chosen the most important ones which belong to the most popular tourist attractions in Poland.