Poland is quite simply a pleasure to explore – it’s filled with medieval castles, log cabins, urban cities, heart-warming food (Bigos meat stew and a Blueberry Mazurka anyone?) and an utterly beautiful collection of woods, lakes, rivers and hills. A nice way to explore the country is by touring its major cities – if you want to indulge in Poland’s medieval side then head to Kraków or Gdańsk on the Baltic coastline – while if you want to get to grips with Poland’s urban-edge then make your way to Warsaw for a city that is equal parts modern and historic.
If you start your journey in the capital – then first take in the glittering skyscrapers that rub shoulders with grey communist-era office blocks and flats, then head north of the centre to explore the reconstructed Old Town and the pretty baroque palaces. Kraków is especially appealing to history buffs. It’s a treasure trove of overlapping architectural styles – with Gothic and Renaissance architecture taking centre stage though the baroque St Piotr and Pawel church is also worth a see. Follow the history trail taking in the Old Town’s Gothic churches and the huge market square (Rynek Glówny), then take a look at the old Jewish quarter and if you’re interested by WWII history then finish up with a tour to Auschwitz. Afterwards simply explore one of Kraków’s narrow alleyways and stumble into a more modern diversion in the form of a crammed restaurant – serving typical Polish cuisine - alongside more modern fusions, chic bar or a trendy music club. Similarly, Gdańsk is home to a large array of architectural gems in the form gothic churches, cathedrals and municipal buildings – though perhaps the most enthralling is the old town which is full of colourful houses, churches and even an old Polish Postal building. Head to Long Street (or Ulica Dluga) where you’ll find a number of pretty houses – many of which date back to the 1500′s, shops and bars.
When the time comes to head out of the city – take a trip to Zakopane in the foothills of the Tatra Mountains. It’s especially beautiful in the winter months – when snow tops the mountain peaks and the ski resorts hit full flow – though it’s equally wonderful in the summer and perfect for hiking and escaping the cities. Of special note here are the the infamous wooden mountain villas that date back tot he 19th century and now act as hotels, museums and homes. If you can stay in one of those for a few days before in-between cities.