10 Best Cities in Poland to Visit (+1 Can’t-Miss Extra!)

July 10, 2023

best cities in poland

Life has not been easy for Poland; this beautiful and spirited country in the center of Europe has been invaded and destroyed many times over the centuries. Even the best cities in Poland have endured much.

Poland is known for its success story in the post-communist era with its emergent resilience as a proud, independent country. Known for its stunning medieval architecture, rich Jewish heritage, and delicious food, Poland has risen like a Phoenix from the ashes to become a desirable vacation destination

Poland’s main attractions for its bourgeoning tourism are the magnificent cities. The more tourists who explore the country, the more enchanted they become with the medieval charm of Poland’s cities and complicated history.

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Poland may not rank at the top of many people’s bucket lists as a top European vacation destination, but it should be. Here are the ten best cities in Poland to visit.

10 Malbork

best cities in poland

Medieval Malbork is best known for its sprawling 13th-century Malbork Castle, the world’s largest brick castle. Originally built in the 13th century as a fortress by Teutonic Knights, the Gothic castle, stunning both inside and out, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

9 Zakopane

best cities in poland

Once a small village nestled in the Tatra Mountains, Zakopane is now a thriving town popular with both domestic and international tourists.

Located in the southernmost region of Poland, the charming town offers wooden villas surrounded by breathtaking mountain views and lots of hiking opportunities. There are also a ton of skiing trails if you visit in winter, hence the nickname “the winter capital of Poland.”

Some things to do include Tatry National Park, Siklawica Waterfall, Gubalowka Cable Car, Krupowki Shopping Street, Zakopane Ski Jump, Tatra Museum, and the Old Church and Cemetery, with ornate wooden headstones that resemble giant chess pieces.

8 Sopot

sopot

15 minutes from Gdansk, Poland has its own Riviera on the Baltic Sea. Sopot, the swanky beach and spa resort is Poland’s popular summer capital.

Sopot offers glitzy resorts. The highlight is walking all the way out on the longest wooden pier in Europe (1678 feet) and looking back to shore.

In the small downtown area, don’t miss Monte Casino Street, and Krzywy Domek (aka the Crooked House), a famous Gaudi-style Instagram spot.

Click here to read my guide to Sopot and the Polish Riviera.

7 Torun

best cities in poland

Known as the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), Torun, located on the Vistula River, escaped bombing during World War II so still has an in-tact architecture that dates back to the Middle Ages, making it one of the oldest cities in Poland.

Visitors will want to spend their time in the old marketplace, see the Gothic town hall, and try some of the city’s famous gingerbread.

6 Kazimierz-Dolny

best cities in poland

Kazimierz Dolny is one of the most picturesque towns in all of Poland, yet somehow this gem manages to fly under the radar of most tourists. Dubbed “the pearl of the Polish Renaissance,” architecture from the 17th century includes luxuriously decorated townhouses, some of which have been converted into upscale art galleries, cafés, and swanky bars.

Like most historic Polish towns Kazimierz-Dolny has a beautiful market square, known as the Rynek. Other sites to visit include the Renaissance market square, castle, Loess Gorges, Hill of Three Crosses, and Vistula Museum.

5 Poznan

poznan

Poznan is best known for its Renaissance old town, which, like most of Poland, was completely destroyed during WWII and has been painstakingly rebuilt. It’s one of the best places in Poland to visit if you want to explore the diversity of old and new Poland in one city, plus the large student population infuses the city with an energetic vibe.

Things to see include the Royal-Imperial Route, the Gothic town hall, the vibrant market square, rebuilt 13th-century Imperial Castle, Ostrów Tumski Cathedral, and the Monument to the Victims of June 1956 on Plac Mickiewicza. Visitors can head over to Lake Malta to enjoy water activities.

4 Wroclaw

best cities in poland

Wroclaw (pronounced vrowt swaaf), located on the Oder River, is the largest city in western Poland and the fourth largest overall. The city was charted to Claudius Ptolemy‘s map as early AD 142–147, and over the centuries it has been part of the kingdoms of Prussia, Poland, Germany, and Bohemia, but has been part of Poland since 1945. Its heritage combines many of the cultures and religions of Europe.

Wroclaw is a stunningly colorful beauty and without a doubt one of the best cities in Poland. The main attractions include the beautiful Old Town, Salt Market Square, UNESCO Centennial Hall, 13th-century St. Mary Magdalene Church, and St. Elizabeth’s Church with its observation deck overlooking the city, Cathedral of St John the Baptist, and the famous gnome statues scattered throughout the city. Sailing on the Oder River, which runs through the city, is a scenic way to get a feel for this medieval city.

3 Warsaw

warsaw

Warsaw is Poland’s vibrant capital and largest city, hosting two million residents with many more commuting daily from the surrounding areas.

Once known as the “Paris of the North,” the location in the center of Poland makes it convenient to visit Poland’s other major tourist cities, e.g. Gdansk, Krakow, and Poznan, particularly by train. It’s also inexpensive, which makes it a popular destination.

Warsaw is the pulsating heart of the country. Originally founded in the 12th century, it was the last residence of the Polish royalty and the location of the 1944 uprising. There are several outstanding museums dedicated to the city’s horrific history, and dedications to its favorite homegrown composer, Frédéric Chopin.

After being decimated mercilessly during World War II, the city refused to let its spirit be crushed. Rising from the ruins, Warsaw rebuilt the Old Town and continued to expand and modernize and become the eclectic and intellectual center of Poland, adding glitzy skyscrapers, museums, and burgeoning gastronomy.

After exploring the beautiful Old Town, visitors should seek out Castle Square, the Warsaw Rising Museum, and the Palace of Culture and Science (aka “Stalin’s Penis”).

Click here to read my full guide on what to do in Warsaw.

Click here to read Warsaw: 30 Years After the Fall of Communism in Poland.

2 Krakow

best cities in poland

In the south of Poland near the Czech border, the UNESCO World Heritage city Krakow tops many lists as the oldest and most beautiful city in Poland.  It’s a picturesque city with an Old Town brimming with historic architecture and Gothic spires, and a massive, eclectic castle, all centered around the Vistula River.

Krakow went from being a seventh-century village to the second-most important city in Poland. It was rebuilt in the 13th century, after being ransacked by the Mongols. It reached its height of power in the 14th century under Casimir III the Great. Unlike much of Poland, which was destroyed during World War II, Krakow today looks much the same as it did back then.

Places to visit include Wawel Castle, home of the Polish kings for almost 600 years, the Jewish quarter (where Nazis herded Jews during WWII), Rynek Glówny (market square), one of the largest markets in Europe, 14th century St. Mary’s Basilica, and Cloth Hall, a stunning Renaissance-era marketplace.

Also, visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau and Wieliczka Salt Mine are worthy of your time.

Click here to read my full guide on what to do in Krakow.

1 Gdansk

gdansk

Unexpectedly, I fell in love with Gdansk. It’s one of the most captivating cities in all of Central Europe.

Famous as the place where the Solidarity movement in Poland started, Gdansk is the largest city in northern Poland, sitting on the Baltic Sea. Founded around the 10th century, it has a varied and often troubling political history.

Here’s what I love best about Gdansk:  their post-war passive-aggressive defiance. After the massive and devastating bombings of World War II, Gdansk began the process of rebuilding its Old Town. But they did not rebuild the city as had looked. No, they stuck their thumb in the eye of their former German oppressors and rebuilt it in one of the former styles – Mannerist – which makes it look different than the Austro-Hungarian architecture prevalent in Germany and other European cities. The cobblestone pedestrian streets, surrounded by pastel gabled facades of patrician tenement houses, and churches with spiky towers are absolutely gorgeous!

Not to be missed are the colorful facades, shops, and restaurants of Royal Road on which Polish kings traveled and St. Mary Basilica, the largest brick church in the world – it’s an absolute killer to climb to the top but the views of the old town are magnificent.

This fairytale town is one that I’d go back to – which is saying a lot because I seldom return back to the same place twice.

Click here to read my full guide on what to do in Gdansk.

Click here to read Gdansk: 80 Years After the First Shot of World War II.

Disclosure:  The author was honored to be the guest of JayWay Travel during her stay in Gdansk, Sopot, Warsaw, and Krakow – four of the best cities in Poland, but as always, the opinions, reviews, and experiences are her own.

Bonus: Tatra National Park

tatra

Tatra, the most visited national park in Poland was established in 1954. the park covers more than 30 lakes, alpine forests, the Wielka Siklawa waterfall, meadows, and numerous rock formations in the Tatra Mountains.

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About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and the southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.

She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the new few months.

Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.

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  1. Pingback: A First Impression Tour Of Krakow, Poland

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