Unspoilt countryside, ancient forests and medieval architecture are just some of the reasons why you should go on holiday to Poland. And with 16 UNESCO World Heritage Sites under its belt, it’s no surprise that it’s becoming an increasingly popular country to visit. Find out some of our favourite things to do on a holiday to Zakopane or Kraków.
You can see Poland’s highest waterfall, the Wielka Siklawa, at 1,615m above sea level on a trip to the Tatra National Park near Zakopane. Jump on the Kasprowy Wierch cable car from Kuźnice for jaw-dropping views and plenty of scenic walks. The emerald-green Lake Morskie Oko, also known as the Eye of the Sea, is nearby too – its name comes from an old legend that says the lake was connected to the sea via an underground passage.
Lake Morskie Oko
Take a stroll down Zakopane’s most popular street, Krupówki, to see shops, restaurants, pavement cafés and street performers. The Targ Pod Gubalówka market is the best place to buy gifts – with stalls selling traditional Goral clothing, handicrafts, paintings and the famous smoked sheep’s cheese, oscypek. If you need to escape the sun, head to the Tatra Museum to learn about the region’s history, or take a trip to the Upside Down House, an amusing sight with an underlying political message.
The Goral (or highlander) culture is rich in unique foods, music, costume and architecture. In Zakopane, there are buildings dating back to the late 19th and 20th centuries that were designed by resident painter and writer, Stanisław Witkiewicz. His gingerbread-style villas are known for their pointy turrets, wood cladding and bay windows, as well as elements of Art Nouveau style. See them for yourself at the Museum of Zakopane Style or at the fascinating Chochołow village.
Zakopane Style architecture
Kraków has the largest medieval square in Europe, which is surrounded by historic buildings that now house restaurants and bars, as well as St Mary’s Basilica and the Renaissance Cloth Hall. Also worth a visit is the 14th-century Wawel Castle, perched on a hill above the town – once said to be the home of a mighty dragon, it’s now one of Poland’s best art museums. Or head just outside the city and visit the famous Wieliczka Salt Mines, only a 30-minute metro ride away. You can venture 327m underground for a tour of the chambers and chapels, filled with sculptures and carvings made completely out of rock salt.
View of St Mary’s Basilica from the square
Delve into the city’s past to learn more about the Nazi occupation during the Second World War. There are lots of memorials dedicated to the conflict, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, 60km from the city, is one of the most widely visited. You can also go to see the Oskar Schindler Enamel Factory, made famous by Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List, to learn about the city’s wartime experiences. The Ghetto Heroes Square, a memorial made up of 70 iron and bronze chairs, is another poignant sight.
Compared to other European cities, you won’t pay an arm and a leg for high-quality food in Kraków. You’ll find excellent restaurants in Kasimierz (the Jewish District) and just off the main square. Zapiekanka is the city’s street-food staple – an open-faced baguette covered with a range of toppings and toasted. For a mid-morning coffee, head to a Bar Mleczny, which translates to ‘milk bar’. Dating back to the 1890s, these cafés tended to offer cheap meals to workers without canteens.
Why not bundle up both Kraków and Zakopane into one great trip? Check out our multi-centre holidays to Poland to get your perfect balance of nature and culture.
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Author: Mia Jones
Published: November 8, 2019
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