Top 10 Tourist Places in Poland
1. Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka
The 13th-century Wieliczka salt mine is still important to the locals today, but for a very different reason. It is one of the world’s oldest and longest-running salt mines, having ceased commercial operations in 1996 to become an artistic attraction.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine now houses four chapels, corridors, and statues carved from the rock salt walls. The mine’s original shafts and passageways, some as deep as 327 metres underground, have been reopened, allowing visitors to explore pits and chambers while passing statues and architectural marvels. An underground lake glistens against the candlelit walls deep within the mine. The Chapel of St. Kinga, a 12-meter-high chamber where everything—including the elaborate chandeliers and furniture—is made of salt, is the mine’s main tourist attraction. The tour continues to the Erazm Baracz Chamber, which contains a lake saltier than the Dead Sea, and concludes at a museum that explains salt mining and life in the mines.
2. Auschwitz-Birkenau Camps, Oswiecim
The Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II–Birkenau concentration camps are a different kind of must-see.. The camps, located about an hour west of Krakow, provide a sobering look into the past.
Over 900,000 Jews were brought to these camps from German-occupied countries between 1942 and 1944. Political prisoners, Roma, and people of various ethnicities were also detained here. Less than 10% of those brought here survived their stay. As Soviet forces advanced into Poland at the end of the war, the Nazis destroyed the gas chambers and crematoria before fleeing. Despite the fact that they were able to destroy and burn down a portion of the camp, many structures remain standing to this day.
The camps, which include over 300 barracks and hundreds of other buildings and crematoriums, are only accessible by guided tour.
3. Warsaw’s Old Market Place, Warsaw
The Old Town Market Place, Warsaw’s oldest neighbourhood, dates back to the 13th century. Although the Nazis destroyed 85 percent of the area during WWII, it has since been restored to look exactly as it did when it was first built.
In the city’s most popular square, mediaeval, Gothic, and colourful Renaissance buildings and merchant houses coexist. The 19th-century bronze statue of a sword-wielding mermaid, which has been a symbol of Warsaw since mediaeval times, survived the war and now stands in the square. The Market Square now has many cafés and restaurants, as well as street art vendors and souvenir stalls. The main branch of the Warsaw Historical Museum is also located here, and it houses a massive art collection as well as a look through the city and country’s history.
4. Malbork Castle, Malbork
The Teutonic Knights, a religious order that served as a crusading military unit, originally built this 13th-century Teutonic castle. Although the castle began as a small fortification, it was later expanded over the centuries to become a massive structure. Malbork Castle, once the largest Gothic structure in Europe, is still the world’s largest castle in terms of land area. The castle is now a museum, with many of its original rooms immaculately preserved. A mediaeval kitchen with a six-meter-wide fireplace, a collection of armour and weapons, and the knights’ private toilet at the top of a tower are among the highlights.
Aside from historical collections, the castle also houses a number of exhibits, one of which demonstrates the conservation techniques used to restore the castle.
5. Lazienki Park , Warsaw
Lazienki Park encompasses 76 hectares of the city centre, making it one of Poland’s largest urban parks. In the 17th century, Lazienki began as a bath park for a nobleman. The Palace on the Isle, as well as the gardens surrounding it, are open to the public today.
The gardens include a classical-theater isle stage (where performances are still held), a number of smaller palaces and structures that now serve as museums or galleries, and even a classicist temple dedicated to the goddess Diana. A large statue of the classic Polish composer Frederic Chopin also stands on the park’s grounds. The statue was purposefully destroyed by German forces during WWII’s invasion of Poland, and it was rebuilt in 1958 using the original mould. Every Sunday afternoon, there are free piano concerts at the statue’s base.
6. Schindler’s Factory, Krakow
The enamel and metal factories of Oskar Schindler, made famous by Steven Spielberg’s 1994 film, are now home to two museums. Part of the building has been converted into the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Schindler’s former office — as well as much of the former factory floor —The Krakow Historical Museum now has a branch there.
Schindler’s former office, which has been preserved in its entirety since the war, is now a museum dedicated to his life and the lives of the people he saved in this very factory. In the office, a glass wall known as the “Survivors’ Ark” serves as a time capsule, filled with enamel pots made at the factory. The rest of the factory houses a number of cinematic exhibits depicting Krakow during the war and the impact the Nazis had on the city’s history and the lives of those who lived there. There are also immersive stage-like reconstructions of 1940s spaces, ranging from a typical street to tram seats to a typical Jewish apartment of the time.
7. Crooked Forest, Gryfino
The Crooked Forest, located just outside the tiny town of Gryfino, is a (possibly) natural wonder that defies explanation. A number of pine trees stand alone here, all bent northward and growing with a 90-degree angle at their base.
The pines were planted here in the 1930s, but it took about ten years for the trunks to develop their distinctive bend. Despite numerous theories, there is still a heated debate over whether the curvature was created artificially by manipulating the trees or if it happened naturally or accidentally. Whatever the cause, the trees’ eerie presence is difficult to ignore, especially given that the rest of the forest is full of healthy, perfectly straight pine trees. It’s an excellent location for a peaceful hike in the woods.
8. Warsaw Rising Museum, Wars
This is a museum dedicated to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, during which the Polish Underground Resistance fought against the German occupation of their city. The uprising lasted 63 days and resulted in massive casualties on both sides.
In retaliation for being surrounded by Polish forces, the Nazis destroyed a large number of historical buildings and structures. The uprising was a massive effort by a poorly equipped and barely armed group of civilians attempting to defeat the enemy — and the museum has done an outstanding job of capturing that spirit. Many rooms and events are brought to life through films, artefacts, recreations, and interactive displays, including replicas of the sewer tunnels used to move around the city in secret, an insurgent hospital, and a print shop where posters and underground newspapers can be seen.
9. Wawel Royal Castle, Krakó
Wawel is an architecturally diverse castle, with mediaeval elements mixed in with Baroque and Renaissance details. The castle was one of the first places in Poland to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it has always played an important role in the country’s history.
King Sigismund I the Old, who lived in the castle in the 16th century, was an avid art collector, so it’s only natural that the castle is now an important art museum, focusing primarily on paintings and curatorial work. Weapons and armour, porcelain and ceramics, a large number of textiles and prints, and a significant amount of period furniture are also on display. The museum also houses the largest collection of Ottoman tents in Europe.
10. Wolf’s Lair, Gierloz
Gierloz Hitler’s top-secret military headquarters, Wolf’s Lair, is hidden deep in the Masurian woods. When it was active, it had three fortified security zones around it, which were defended by land mines as well as heavily armed units.
The area had over 80 buildings at the time, including several air-raid shelter bunkers and watchtowers. The Nazis blew up the complex before fleeing the approaching Soviet forces in 1945, but many of the buildings were so heavily reinforced that they could not be destroyed. Visitors can now visit the area as a day trip from Warsaw. Although there are plans to add historical exhibits or even a museum to the area in the future, for the time being, it is more of a collection of ruins to walk through, discovering the corners of the history that developed here.