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Following a long history of outside influences, Poland now stands on its own as a robust nation of unspoiled countryside, bustling urban centres and friendly residents. Warsaw, destroyed in WWII, was rebuilt to become the nationâ€™s resilient capital and manufacturing centre. Krakow, called â€˜the cultural capitalâ€™, has a historical Old Town packed with galleries, coffee shops and cultural monuments.
Food and drink
Beetroot soup, pierogi (Polish dumplings) and stuffed cabbage rolls can be found in bar mleczny (â€™milk barsâ€™), communist-era remnants that serve cheap Polish fare. In Krakow, bagels are common, as is oscypek, a salty hard cheese that goes well with its pilsner lagers. While the vodka flows freely, Poles are also big tea and coffee drinkers.
For local wares like amber jewellery and sheepskin rugs, check out Rynek GÅ‚Ã³wny, the centuries-old market in Krakowâ€™s Old Town. Warsaw has three large shopping malls where you can get Western brands at a cheaper price than in many other European countries. Both cities also have extensive Christmas markets.
Things to see and do
- Kazimierz - Trace Krakowâ€™s medieval and Jewish past in this historic, UNESCO-listed district.
- Palace of Culture and Science - Warsawâ€™s best panoramic views are from atop this building, Stalinâ€™s gift to the city.
- Warsaw Uprising Museum - Details city life during WWII, including how the capitalâ€™s residents bravely resisted German forces for two months.
- Wawel Royal Castle & Cathedral - In Krakow, the medieval royal seat is a trove of national treasures. Polandâ€™s kings, queens, bishops and various national heroes are buried in the cathedral.
- Fabryka Schindlera (Schindlerâ€™s Factory) - State-of-the-art museum about Krakowâ€™s Nazi occupation on the site of Oskar Schindlerâ€™s factory, made famous in the film Schindlerâ€™s List.
- Take a day to visit the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps, 50 kilometres from Krakow.
- Relax in Warsawâ€™s Lazienki Park, with its magnificent gardens, ponds and 18th-century, neoclassical palace.
- Cruise down Krakowâ€™s Vistula River to admire the Wawel Royal Castle and Cathedral, Tyniec Abbey and Bielany Priory.
- Sample Polish vodka or a local craft beer before hitting a Warsaw nightclub.
Things to do in Poland
Weather in Poland
Our month-by-month guide to the weather and climate in Poland