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Visit Poland

Banish your preconceptions of Poland; this happening Eastern European destination is far from grisly or grey. While reminders of the country’s turbulent World War II past are everywhere, Poland’s cities have undergone a recent renaissance. Bombed-out buildings have been rebuilt or replaced with modern architecture and there are few better places in Europe to have a night on the town, courtesy of vodka.

Decimated by bombing during the Second World War, large parts of Warsaw’s medieval and neoclassical city centre have been carefully restored to their pre-WWII state. And this is one of the greenest cities on the continent – Lazienki Park and Palace complex, with its semi-tame red squirrels and peacocks, is about 76 hectares and a prime spot to picnic with the family. Half of the city comes here on Sunday for an afternoon stroll, so it’s ideal for rubbing shoulders with the locals.

Krakow is viewed as Poland’s cultural capital – it is famous for its bohemian atmosphere, world-class theatres, galleries and museums, Renaissance architecture, and also for its complex melange of tradition, history and modernity. It is a city for the hopeless romantics; fanciful spires and cobblestone streets, where lovers dine at pavement cafes and candle-lit bars to the sound of clip-clopping horses and accordionists. Stroll to the Kazimierz and the Old Town to get a feel for the city’s Jewish heritage and its years as the royal capital.

From Krakow, charming Renaissance towns such as Sandomierz, Tarnow and Zamosc are easily reachable. The locals of the Tatra and Pieniny mountains (along the border with Slovakia) are beloved for their hospitality. Or travel to Poland’s "wild east" – Bieszczady National Park – home to some of Europe’s last remaining wild bisons, wolves, bears or eagles.

Pozna is another noteworthy city to visit, known for its vibrant university culture and Renaissance-style buildings in Old Market Square. This square is buzzing any time of day and jumping at night. Auschwitz Concentration Camp, the death camp built by Adolf Hitler to exterminate Jews, homosexuals, political opposition and those with disabilities, is a reminder to not forget or repeat the atrocities of the past. Poland's small but prominent Jewish community is working hard to promote a fuller picture of the 1,000-year history of Polish-Jewish life (60% of Israelis and 70% of American Jews have roots in Poland), including its long periods of autonomy, creativity and success.

Best for: 

Arts + Culture Lovers; Backpackers/Budget Travel; History Buffs; Nature Lovers

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