Americans who think of Poland as run-down — full of rusting factories, smoggy cities, and gloomy natives — are speechless when they step into Kraków’s vibrant main square, Gdańsk’s colorful pedestrian drag, or Warsaw’s lively Old Town. While parts of the country are still cleaning up the industrial mess left by the Soviets, Poland also has some breathtaking medieval cities that show off its kind-hearted people, dynamic history, and unique cultural fabric.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Kraków Poland’s cultural, intellectual, and historical capital, with a huge but cozy main square, easy-to-enjoy Old Town, thought-provoking Jewish quarter, and important castle.
▲▲▲ Auschwitz-Birkenau The largest and most notorious Nazi concentration camp, now a compelling museum and memorial.
▲▲ Warsaw Poland’s modern capital, with an appealing urban tempo, a reconstructed Old Town, and good museums.
▲▲ Gdańsk and the Tri-City Historic Hanseatic trading city, with a cancan of marvelous facades and the shipyard where the Solidarity trade union challenged the communists in 1980.
▲ Pomerania The Teutonic Knights’ gigantic, Gothic Malbork Castle and the red-brick, gingerbread-scented city of Toruń.