A beautiful port city laid against the Baltic Sea, Gdansk is sometimes called the Pearl of the North. Its thousand year old history has seen it all -- medieval wars, a 300 year golden age of prosperity, Nazism, and even Soviet authoritarianism. World War II began here, as did Solidarność, a powerful trade union that challenged the communist regime and altered the soviet power structure forever.
Krakow, Poland's second-largest city, is a captivating destination. Perched on the banks of the Vistula River, this city was the capital of Poland for centuries, and has the historical artifacts to prove it. Krakow’s Old Town, along with Wawel Castle and the city’s Kazimierz, the former Jewish district, were placed on the UNESCO’s first World Heritage List. Grand churches, the Schindler factory, and a day trip to Auschwitz will remind you of Krakow’s sometimes glorious, sometimes devastating past.
Don’t let the grey, soviet-era suburbs fool you -- this bustling city, the biggest in the region, has a charisma of its own. Its picturesque Old Town in the center of the city is certainly Olsztyn’s main attraction, with its quaint northern European architecture and its broad, cobbled streets. Olsztyn is also home to a soaring Gothic Cathedral and a hulking red-brick castle, both of which are worth the visit.
Toruń is one of the few Polish towns that escaped the ravages of the Second World War. It’s an unspoiled medieval haven, chock-full of red brick and gothic architecture.
Warsaw has been ravaged by troubled history, from medieval wars, to Napoleonic rule, to its near-destruction under a brutal Nazi occupation, and finally to Soviet authoritarianism. Somehow Warsaw has survived through it all, and is now a flourishing eastern European capital.
Wroclaw (pronounced Vrotz-wahv) is one of Poland’s true gems. Once under the rule of Austria, Prussia and Bohemia, Wroclaw is home to eclectic architecture and an intriguing cultural landscape. Colorful renaissance-style buildings line its cobbled streets, exuding a quaint charm that is uniquely its own.
Zakopane is a beautiful town tucked in the foothills beneath the Tatra mountains. It’s home to a top notch ski resort in the winter and a myriad of hiking trails in the summer. Though primarily used as a jumping off point for visitors’ alpine pleasures, the town itself is quaint and quirky.