Exploring Krakow & Warsaw

15/04/2016

More so than many countries, Poland has endured periods of oppression and internal struggle, however, the past 20 years have witnessed dizzying economic development.  With its breathtaking mountains, unspoilt forests, idyllic lakes and windswept beaches, this beautiful country remains relatively unknown to many of us.  However, it is its’ impressive cities, where the old and the new stand together, that will always be a reminder of their both glorious and tragic history - and in so doing make for a fascinating trip.

Krakow

The former royal capital of Krakow is a well-preserved architectural gem with so much to explore.  With an incredible Royal Castle, a Cathedral, countless medieval churches and endless cafes and museums, you can keep yourself busy for days. And, it is not just the Old Town that provides the attractions, today the city is the Cultural capital of Poland with its plethora of museums, exhibitions, concerts and theatrical performances too.

Don’t Miss:

The Market Square, the vast Rynek Glówny, in the Old Town is the largest medieval Square in Europe!

The Cloth Hall, the main feature on the Market Square, was once a major centre of international trade but is now an excellent starting point for souvenir shopping.

Visit some of the many medieval churches – there are too many to see them all, but the Franciscan Church and Church of the Virgin Mary are truly magnificent with their ornate decorations and stained glass windows.

The Wawel castle dating back to the 11th Century is now home to one of the country’s finest art museums and collection of Italian renaissance paintings.

Wawel Cathedral (Pictured to the right), over 900 years old, it was the coronation site of the Polish monarchs.

Kazimierz, the former Jewish quarter, is where remnant synagogues reflect the tragedy of the 20th century, this area is now home to ultra cool cafes, lively squares and nightclubs.

Oskar Shindler’s Factory – the Shindler’s old enamel factory has been turned into a modern museum devoted to the wartime experiences of Krakow under Nazi occupation during WW2.

Also, the death camps of Auschwitz- Birkenau, 50km west of the city, are an unmissable symbol of the Holocaust, a truly life changing experience requiring at least half a day to do it justice .
 

Warsaw

Warsaw became the capital of Poland in 1596 and soon become one of Europe’s most prosperous cities.  However, in 1815 the Russians conquered the city and, despite a series of rebellions, it was not until the outbreak of World War I that this control collapsed. Warsaw again became the capital of an independent Poland in 1918, but the German invasion of 1939 meant this was to be short-lived. In 1944 after the Warsaw Uprising, Hitler ordered the total destruction of the city, leaving 850,000 Varsovians dead and 85 percent of Warsaw in ruins.

Having survived such a turbulent past, the city centre is now a jumbled collection of neighbourhoods and landmarks spread across a broad area with architecture ranging from restored Gothic to Communist concrete and modern glass and steel.  Today, the overriding impression of Warsaw is one of a thriving capital with excellent museums, restaurants and entertainment scene.

The main sights are on the western bank of the Wisla River where you’ll find the central business and shopping district, Sródmiescie, The more picturesque Old Town (Stare Miasto) is just to the north

Don’t Miss:

The Royal Castle, housing some of Eastern Europe's finest art, is still in the process of reconstruction having been totally destroyed in WWII.  Among the permanent exhibitions is one on the ‘Destruction to Reconstruction’ of the Castle itself.

One of three cathedrals in Warsaw, the magnificent gothic Cathedral of St John was destroyed in WWII.  Rebuilt after the war, the current exterior reconstruction is based on the presumed appearance of the original 14th-century church.

The Wilanów Palace – 30 mins out of the City was built by King Jan III as the royal summer palace, the huge Baroque palace miraculously survived WW2 unscathed.

The 42-storey controversial Stalin's Tower, a gift from Stalin to the people of Poland is now the Palace of Culture and Science. Go to the 30th floor observation deck for the best views of Warsaw.

Don’t miss some of the excellent museums in the city include The Warsaw Uprising Museum, Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Chopin Museum, an interactive museum dedicated to the Polish composer.

Restaurants, beers, clubs, nightlife…

Why not combine these two great cities in to one itinerary with our Krakow and Warsaw Twin Centre, or combine them with other European destinations.

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