Poland stepped into the 21st century with a determination to flourish, memories of devastating World War II well and truly put in the past. The once glorious cities of Warsaw, Gdansk and Krakow are glorious once again, their medieval architecture, cobbled streets and imposing cathedrals enchanting visitors with their romance and culture.
Poland’s remarkable survival is honoured in its museums and monuments dedicated to those who suffered, and the country has an impressive 16 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From the bucolic countryside woven by rivers, lakes and forests, to the enigmatic cities, Poland has managed to retain its long traditions and proud cultures, whilst stepping forwards with enthusiasm and fervour.
Krakow flies somewhat under the radar when it comes to Europe’s big-draw cities. Yet Poland’s former capital gives Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam a real run for their money with its cobbled streets lined with horse-drawn carriages, pretty squares, grand architecture and a majestic fairy tale castle.
Krakow’s medieval old town and Jewish quarter have seen centuries of wars and occupation, yet the buildings and medieval walls have remained intact. Rynek Główny is the heart of the old town, a bustling central square – the largest in Europe –presided over by the magnificent St. Mary’s Basilica. Begin your explorations in the square, where the culture and buzz of the city is evident at every turn. Soak up the fragrance, colour and chatter of the flower market and search for curios in the Cloth Hall market before entering the 14th century Gothic cathedral to watch the light stream through the stained glass windows.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine
Krakow’s cultural treasures are many, and days can easily be spent sipping fresh coffee whilst enjoying Polish delicacies in delightful little cafes, or gazing up at the architecture as you get lost in the old town. Yet be sure to leave a day free to explore a truly outstanding UNESCO World Heritage just 30 minutes from the city centre. The 13th-century Wieliczka Salt Mine takes visitors on a fascinating and stirring visit into the belly of the earth, a lift transporting them 100 metres underground.
The mine is gargantuan, nine levels and 1,100 feet of warren-like tunnels having been mined for centuries. Yet great chambers open up revealing statues and carvings, a startling and moving sight in this underground world. The largest is the King’s Chapel, a 5,000 square foot chapel adorned by vast salt-hewn chandeliers and scenes of Biblical stories etched onto the walls.
Few cities can attest to the tumultuous past that Warsaw has had. Yet today Poland’s capital has been reborn, the ravages of World War II firmly in the past. The buildings destroyed in the war have been gloriously rebuilt, and there is a profound respect for those who suffered with the creation of world class centres such as the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Yet contemporary life is very much entwined with the past and you can visit the Radziwill Palace, where Chopin first performed in the morning, and the cutting edge Copernicus Science Centre in the afternoon.
Risen from the ashes after World War II, the “Phoenix City” has earned its comeback. Most of the destroyed buildings in Warsaw’s Old Town were rebuilt to their original specifications and moving monuments appear across the city, including fragments of the Jewish Ghetto Wall. The city offers both historical and modern marvels, from Radziwill Palace, where Chopin first performed, to the infamously cake-shaped Palace of Culture and Science.
Nobu Hotel Warsaw is the latest hospitality gem on the horizon in Warsaw. Located in the heart of the historic city, it will have 117-rooms, a fitness centre, and signature Nobu Restaurant, and will follow in the glittering footsteps of this luxury chain created by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro and Meir Teper. It is currently taking bookings for 2020.
If you’d like to experience Poland please contact Caroline on 1300 767 237 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.