Home What to do? The Best of Poland Top 10 Things to See in Poland by Aileen Miller

Top 10 Things to See in Poland PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 14 May 2012 23:16

If the active life is not for you, or you would just rather take a step back to look at the world then here is myr Top 10 best things to see.

1. The Bialowieza National Park

bialowieskiparkPoland enjoys several areas of natural beauty spread out all over the country, but some of these areas can be seen as not just a step into nature, but a step back in history.

Białowieża National Park contains the Białowieża forest, which is situated on the border between Poland and Belarus, is home to primeval tree specimens, wild Bison and some of the most stunning scenery in the country. The Białowieża Glade can also be found in the depths of the forest, hiding the hotel, restaurant and car park, which are housed in buildings originally owned by Russian Tsars, and the village of Białowieża itself.

Outdoor pursuits such as hiking, cycling and bird-watching are available for tourists with experts and tour guides on site to show you the best sites of the park and answer any questions.

2. The Krakow Gate

floriansgateDating from the 14th century, St Florian’s Gate was once a proud tower on the extensive city defences, but now remains only as the elaborate gateway to the old town of Krakow. The Gate itself is connected to three gothic towers, which were funded and held by various factions of merchants: The Carpenters’, The Haberdashers’ and The Joiners’, the only of the forty-seven defensive towers left that once surrounded the city.

The majority of the defences were dismantled in the 19th century during the ‘modernizing’ of Krakow, but we can still enjoy the intricate detail and beautiful architecture of the remaining Gate, and the state museum inside, providing a window to a city where the defences were not run by the royal armies, but by the people themselves.


3. The Collegium Maius

collegium maius, krakow, jagiellon universityAlso found in Krakow’s old town, the Collegium Maius is the oldest building in the famous Jagiellonian University, the onetime Alma Mater of renaissance astronomer and revolutionary polymath Nicolaus Copernicus.

As well as the expected lecture halls and libraries, it is home to a treasury containing gothic maces once owned by previous rectors and the Jagiellonian Globe, believed to be the oldest known globe to display the Americas.

But it’s not just history that brings us to this six hundred year old building, the college courtyard is accessible to the public and offers free entry for those looking to enjoy peace from the busy town at just a few steps from the street. There is also the occasional open-air theatre event and a permanent educational show called “The World of Senses” housed downstairs, where a cafe and gift shop can also be found.

4. Malbork Castle

malbork4If there is one thing that Poland is not short of it is historic buildings on a grand scale. The jewel in the crown of medieval fortresses has to be Malbork Castle, in the Pomeranian Voivodeship, the largest castle in the world. It has been previously used as a poorhouse, an army barracks, a hospital and an arsenal and was considered for demolishment in the 18th century, but thanks to Friedrich Gilly, the son of the architect in charge of the decision, published a series of engravings of the castle and was responsible for the castle’s re-discovery.

The castle was half destroyed by the ravages of WWII, and suffered further damages in fire in 1959, but since 1962 restoration has been ongoing, and much has been rebuilt. The main cathedral at the heart of the castle is however, still in ruins, a poignant reminder of the castles history.

5. The Wieliczka Salt Mine

wieliczka1If you are interested in historic buildings, but are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary, the Wielicska Salt Mine is the perfect option for you. Once described as “No less magnificent than the Egyptian Pyramids” by an 18th century traveler, the mine was built in the 13th century and was producing table salt right up until 2007, making Zupy Krakowskie the 14th oldest company in the world.

The mine is no longer just for producing salt these days, with attractions such as a chapel carved from rock salt, numerous salt statues and a subterranean museum. It is also occasionally used as a music venue as the underground acoustics are unrivalled, and there is a sanatorium for those suffering from asthma or allergies who find the endless labyrinths difficult or tiring.

6. The City of 100 Bridges – Wroclaw

marketplacewroclawNamed alternately as “The Venice of -” and “The Meeting Place of Poland” Wroclaw is the fourth largest city in Poland, and has become an important cultural centre over the course of its history. In recent years it has been selected as a host for the UEFA Euro 2012 and a European Capital of Culture for 2016.

The city itself is connected by hundreds of bridges, which span between the twelve islands that make it up. Perhaps the most well-known, and most often found on postcards, is the Grunwaldzki Bridge, which acts as one of the emblems of the city and was finished in 1910. However, there is also the Sand Bridge, previously known as St Mary’s Bridge, which has the distinction of being the oldest bridge in the city with origins as far back as the 12th century.

7. The Raclawice Panorama

panorama_bajakOne tourist sight to visit in Wroclaw is the Panorama of the Raclawice Battle of 1794. Completed in 1894 to coincide with the hundred year anniversary of the battle, the panorama has been visited by such esteemed tourists as Pope John Paul II and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

The building that houses it is an unassuming grey rotunda, but when you step inside you find a mindboggling work of teamwork and dedication to detail. With the viewer at the centre of the room, the enormous painting lines the circular walls, surrounding the viewer in the experience. There are also dioramas of props and vegetation, and real dirt is laid out to create a ground for the scene. The sheer level of work done by the hands of the artists is too impressive not to be drawn in by the sheer spectacle.

8. Zelazowa Wola - Chopin’s Manor House

800px-Poland_Zelazowa_WolaOne of Poland’s greatest sons is the world famous pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin, and no trip to Sochaczew in the Masovian Voivodeship is complete without taking in the birthplace of this remarkable musician.

Although born here in 1810, Chopin didn’t live here for long and often visited for family events and holidays, however by 1918, the house was lotted out to local farmers through disuse and was largely forgotten, however “The Chopin’s House Friends Society” purchased the house in 1928 and restored it.

The house may be hard to find, but it is worth looking. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and boasting a statue of the man himself, distinguished musicians are regularly to perform. A labour of love for the society who created it, the museum is an affectionate homage to the son of a tutor whose music affected the whole world.

9. Auschwitz

aushwitz1This historical site should not be called an attraction per say. 3 Million People died at the hands of the Nazi regime at this notorious concentration camp, and not everybody who visits the relatively small and unassuming town of Oświęcim is prepared to take the trip to the State Museum that now occupies the site under the notorious iron sign “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes Freedom) sign.

Although the visit is definitely a difficult and grim experience, the whole point of the museum is that we do not forget the atrocities committed and the innocent lives lost during WWII. Auschwitz will stay with you long after you have left the grounds, and remain a constant reminder of that which must never occur again.

10. The Black Madonna Icon

blackmadonnaIn direct contrast to the devastation of Auschwitz, the Pauline Monastery on Jasna Góra hill is the home to Poland’s most revered Holy Relic, the Icon of the Black Madonna, a symbol of hope for thousands of Catholic pilgrims every year who visit the monastery to worship the six hundred year old painting.

Reputed to have been painted by St Luke, the painting has had a long and interesting history. From being damaged by a pagan warlord, whom it is believed caused the painting to bleed, to being declared the Queen of Poland in 1717, the painting has always held an important place both in the heart of the country and its people.

Article Copyright © TraveltoPoland.pl. All rights reserverd. Author: Aileen Miller
Collegium Maius photo source Wikipedia.org author: Cancre (GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation)

Last Updated on Monday, 23 July 2012 19:08
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