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Envelope Yourself in Culture and New Experiences

The extraordinary Carpathian and the Sudety Mountains stretch in the south while the vast lowlands and uplands occupy the central part of the country. The northern part of Poland, comprising of Pomeranian and Masurian Lakelands contain beautiful forest scenery covered with hundreds of magnificent lakes. Still further to the north of Poland are the incredible sandy beaches of the Baltic Sea coast.

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Things To Do

Activities

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Outdoor Activities
Active leisure amidst beautiful nature is exactly what Poland is about. Breathtaking natural landscapes, peace and quiet, and the pure air of Polish National Parks create ideal conditions for outdoor sports and activities.

Cycling
Poland is worth exploring by bicycle. International EuroVelo cycling routes are highly recommended. Other much suitable routes are available along the Baltic coast, Mazurian Lake District, in national and landscape parks and more extreme trails in the Polish mountains. Poland is also famous for one of a kind, glow in the dark bike lane. Cycling is also common and popular mode of transportation in Polish cities. Bike street rentals are pretty common in all major cities.

Agritourism
Polish agritourism farms are tempting with visitors with holidays amid unspoiled nature so You can find relaxation and peace of mind in simple, off the grid rural surroundings. More than a thousand farms provide not only accommodations but also delicious, homemade dishes often made with local, organic ingredients. Many of these farms organize workshops in folk arts and crafts as well as local excursions, mushroom picking, animal watching, fishing and horseback riding.

Golfing
Poland is also a golfing country with immaculate greens minus the crowds. Interest in golf has begun growing only recently in Poland but is expanding very quickly now. Golf courses blend nicely into natural surroundings throughout the whole country. There are sixty-three golf clubs in Poland with beautiful, modern courses, some designed by prominent designers known and respected around the world. Golf courses are now available everywhere in Poland: from the Baltic Sea to the Tatras, near major cities and in the countryside.

Sailing
Poland has access to the sea and thousands of lakes. Navigable rivers and canals connect to the network of Western water routes. Sailors love Masuria: the land of thousand lakes, large and small interconnected by waterways, wrapped in forests. The biggest attractions of the region are the Great Lakes. They are connected by 55-mile-long waterway, which makes them ideal for a few days sailing cruise. Along the waterway, you will find modern, friendly marinas, harbors and places to spend the night- from campsites to luxury hotels. Kayakers should hit the Krutynia River with its 65-mile rowing route. The route runs through enchantingly beautiful landscapes of forests, hills, and swamps, rich in flora and fauna.

Windsurfing & Kitesurfing
The Polish coastline of the Baltic Sea is roughly 480 miles long. Baltic’s waves carry amber inshore to wide, clean and sandy beaches that run along it. You will often find empty stretches of coast, where you can freely walk, jog, and even ride horses. Coastal town are separated from the beaches by wild dunes and scenic cliffs. Watersport schools operate all along the coast. In the Bay of Puck, where the waters are calm and temperate schools offer rental equipment and win and kitesurfing classes. In the winter, the vast bay turns into a huge ice rink perfect for ice boating and ice kiting.

Skiing & Snowboarding
In the winter, skiing in Poland is a very popular activity and the mountains on the southern border of Poland are perfect for this sport. In the Polish Tatras you will find numerous skiing centers with ski slopes and snow parks. These are so versatile in nature that all levels of skiers will find one appropriate to their skill. In Szczyrk and Pilsko, there is a total of about 35 miles of ski slopes with breathtaking panoramas of the Tatras in the background.

Urban Entertainment
Poland is full of interesting places and sights to enjoy during the day, from gazing at the scenic Tatra mountains to visiting one of Krakow’s intriguing museums. However, Poland’s big tourist cities like Warsaw, Sopot, Wroclaw, and Krakow do not shut down once the sun goes down. On the contrary, the cities come to life as night falls and the streetlights switch on to illuminate the many hotspots full of restaurants and clubs waiting to offer you a very memorable evening of entertainment.

Dancing is a very popular pastime in Poland, and you will find no shortage of clubs where you can dance the night away. The dance clubs here are much different than what you might be used to in the U.S. Clubs that play a variety of music such as rock, retro, new wave, and jazz are easy to find and appeal to guests of all ages. If you’re not interested in participating, you might want to check out a performance of Polish folk dancing.

Spectator sports are another form of entertainment you can enjoy while in Poland. Local soccer matches and hockey games are a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and marvel at the fans’ enthusiasm.

Dining out in Poland is a form of entertainment as well. Many restaurants are experiences in and of themselves as they all try to offer the most remarkable atmosphere in an attempt to stand out from the pack. You can follow your meal with a stroll through the neighborhood, admiring the ambiance and the architecture and perhaps pop into a small café for dessert or a bar for a nightcap.

Music and cultural festivals are great ways to pass time while visiting Poland as well. The bigger cities tend to have very full calendars of festivals and other happenings, particularly in the summer months when open-air concerts and festivals can be enjoyed. Theaters, cinemas, and film festivals are also appealing to many travelers, and you should be able to find shows in English in most of the tourist areas.

Wherever you are in Poland, you are sure to have plenty of very exciting entertainment options to choose from. It doesn’t matter if you want to do something intense and interactive or prefer something more passive and relaxing: There is something for every type of traveler here!

Arts

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Poland is not just the music of Chopin! Polish have Moniuszko, Szymanowski, Lutoslawski, Penderecki, Szymanski, Mykietyn, and Gryka. Polish music performed by foreign artists can be heard during the Polish Music Festival in Krakow.

Music lovers coming to Poland can choose from among almost 180 orchestras, ensembles and choirs who perform throughout the festivals. The National Philharmonic Orchestra in Warsaw, The Polish Radio National Symphonic Orchestra in Katowice, Sinfonia Varsovia and Simfonietta Cracovia are those in the first league.

The Poznan Arte dei Suonatori Orchestra is considered to be one of Europe’s most interesting ensembles playing ancient music. The Royal String Quartet from Warsaw performs with the most renowned world artists. The Lodz Ladies First Symphony Orchestra is a unique, worldwide phenomenon as it is made up only of women.

Polish operas stage classical repertoire, for example, the bold, modern productions by Mariusz Trelinski in the National Opera in Warsaw. The ‘Alpha Kryonia Xe’ ballet by Aleksandra Gryka - an uncompromising composer of the young generation – was one of the biggest events of the 2005/06 season, when Trelinski was the Opera’s director.

Excellent performances can also be seen in the Wielki Theatre in Poznan and the Dolnoslaska Opera in Wroclaw, which specializes in spectacular Wagnerian stage settings. These performances take place in the modernist Centennial Hall or on a floating stage on the Odra River.

There are also specialized festivals, devoted to the work of several composers: Mozart, Beethoven and Bach.

World famous stars are present at the festival of ancient music, ‘Song of our Roots’, in Jaroslaw and two events in Krakow, ‘Sacrum Profanum’ and ‘Misteria Paschalia’. The, ‘Chopin and his Europe’ Festival, where a pleiad of concert piano stars have performed over the years, and where the highlight of previous seasons was Martha Argerich.

Beaches

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People are often surprised to learn that Poland has a multitude of beautiful beaches lining its Baltic Coast. If you’ve already been to Poland, perhaps you’ve discovered for yourself precisely why the sunny beaches in Poland attract beachgoers from all over the world.

The beaches of Poland offer a welcome reprieve from the overcrowded beaches of more popular seaside destinations in Europe such as the Mediterranean. While the beaches of Poland do draw a decent crowd during the peak season of July and August, there is never an uncomfortable amount of people vying for a place to set their towels. The beaches here are far less commercialized than many other European beaches, which make them ideal for those seeking to unwind and enjoy the sounds and sights of the beach as nature intended. The coastline is not overrun with skyscrapers. Most of the beaches are bordered by protected areas of pine trees, thus ensuring that their beauty remains unspoiled for the foreseeable future.

Another big draw of Polish beaches is the water. The water along the Baltic coast is quite shallow. Usually it doesn’t get much deeper than five feet unless you venture hundreds of yards off the coast, which not only makes it a safe and enjoyable depth for swimming and wading but also means it warms up quickly and retains heat well. The sand is soft and white, making it perfect for sunbathing or barefoot walks along the shore. Volleyball and windsurfing are the most popular activities in Polish beach resorts, but you can find a good variety of other exciting options as well. Most of the bigger beaches on the Baltic Sea are manned by lifeguards and offer clean facilities.

There are several beach resort towns along the Baltic Coast that are worth visiting. There is an airport in Gdansk that is conveniently located near most of the Baltic resorts. Sopot is one of the most popular Polish beach resort towns, which makes it the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a well-developed resort with lots of recreation and shopping options. It also has the longest wooden pier in Europe. You can find some of the Europe’s biggest sand dunes in Slowinski National Park. You can even try sandboarding along the dunes for a really different experience. Kolobrzeg is a charming old-fashioned seaside town if you want to feel like you’ve traveled back in time. Krynica Morska on the Vistula Spit is another good choice, especially for families. The water here is rich in minerals and is considered therapeutic.

If it’s sun and sea you’re looking for, Poland will not disappoint you. You can spend a few days at the beach unwinding after touring urban locations like Krakow and Warsaw or plan an entire trip to the Baltic shore for some rest and relaxation.

Culture

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Traditions

Although modern lifestyles draw heavily on the Western culture, many old Polish traditions are still alive and kicking.

Poles love to entertain guests. Although the ancient practice of entertaining guests for weeks on end has long been forgotten. The first commandment of Polish hospitality is still observed, that you should always find the means to make your guests feel welcome.

One of the most peculiar social rituals, kissing a woman’s hand, is an old court custom which originated in Spain.

Perhaps the most important occasion for demonstrating respect for traditional values is the Polish Christmas. Many customs, ceremonies and beliefs center around Christmas Eve, a special day in Polish homes.

Folklore

Bukowina, Kartuzy, Koniakowa, Zalipie – in these places you will find not only respite from the hectic city life, but also elements of Poland’s original and unique folk traditions still part of everyday life.

Beskid Slaski is the center of Polish lace-making. In openwork patterns crocheted from cotton threads, the numerous products, such as tablecloths, blouses, net curtains, collars, decorations and recently also string briefs from Koniakow and Istebna, are famous even in lands far from Poland’s borders. Exceptionally elaborate masterpieces are kept at Koniakow’s museum of lace-making.

Another very special place is Zalipie, a village in the Malopolska region famous for its houses covered with joyful paintings of flowers. One of these houses has even been turned into an open-air museum. The painting tradition is still very much alive, and every spring there is a competition among the citizens as they daub their flowery decorations, even on wells and dog kennels.

Folk traditions are also kept alive in Kurpie, whose name comes from a word for footwear made of lime-tree base. Kurpie’s cut-out patterns and colorful costumes can be admired in all their splendor during the Palm Sunday and Corpus Christi processions. The inhabitants of Kurpie practice forest bee-keeping, which gives rise to the annual honey collecting event in Myszyniec.

UNESCO Sites

Centennial Hall in Wroclaw

The Centennial Hall is a pioneering work of modern engineering and architecture, exhibiting important influences taking hold at the beginning of the 20th century. The design became a key reference in the later development of reinforced concrete structures.

Krakow - Magical City

The Old Town, together with the Wawel Hill and the Kazimierz district, are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Every visitor should see Europe’s largest medieval market square with its Cloth Hall, St Mary's Church with its Gothic pentaptych altarpiece carved from lime wood, Wawel Hill and its royal castle and the Wawel cathedral, with its outstanding Renaissance chapel.

The Jewish quarter of Kazimierz features a wealth of Jewish heritage sites, including a 16th century cemetery and seven synagogues of which one is now the Jewish museum. Each summer the Jewish Culture Festival is held there, attracting followers of the Jewish culture from the whole world.

Muzaków (Muskauer) Park - Landscape Formation

The park stretches on both sides of Nysa Luzycka River, which is part of the natural border between Poland and Germany. After WWII, the new Polish-German state border divided the Muzaków/Muskauer Landscape Park into two parts. The Polish and German authorities started the regeneration program in the 1980s. The project has become a leading example of fruitful European cooperation in the conservation of common cultural heritage.

Bialowieza Forest - a miracle of nature

The unique value, not only for Poland, of the Bialowieza National Park is recognized by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage and the World Biosphere Reserve. This large expanse of the natural forest is located on Poland's eastern border and distributed roughly in halves between Poland and Belarus. Bialowieza is the only remaining original lowland forest in Europe, retaining much of its primeval landscape, plant and animal life.

Wooden Churches in Southern Malopolska

Some of these churches are several hundred years old, and are listed as UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage sites. The oldest church was built in the 15th-century church in Haczów. It is made of fir wood and roofed with wooden shingles. There is also great artistic value attributed to the shingle roofed church in Blizne. Erected at the turn of the 15th century, it also contains fragments of Gothic and Renaissance wall paintings. The harmonious silhouette of the church has an original spire roof.

Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica

The Protestant half-timber churches were erected in the mid-17th century, following the end of the Thirty Years’ War that ravaged large parts of Europe. By signing the Peace Treaty of Westphalia (1648), the Emperor of Austria let the Protestants of Lower Silesia erect three ‘churches of peace’. They were to commemorate the end of the war and hail peace that followed the devastating religious conflict. Both temples were not supposed to be reminiscent of traditional churches. They were to be constructed with the use of low quality materials and located within the range of a cannonball from the city walls.

The castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork

The Malbork castle is the mightiest fortress of medieval Europe. The immense castle was started in the 13th century and built by the Teutonic Knights in stages. During the next century, when Malbork became the capital of the Order’s state, the fortress was expanded considerably by the addition of the Great Refectory and the Grand Master’s Palace.

The Museum offers many attractions, including a number of exhibitions showing ancient arms, amber, porcelain and fadence, and handicrafts. Another attraction is 'son et lumière', which is staged in the castle courtyards, and includes night-time tours of the castle. For some years a re-enactment event called 'The Siege of Malbork' has been organized on the last weekend of July.

Old City of Zamosc - The Pearl of the Renaissance

Zamosc is a unique urban and architectural complex, quite close to the idea of a ‘perfect city’. It is often referred to as the Pearl of the Renaissance as it features buildings of great beauty and historical value. The Old Town Square is dominated by a lofty town hall and lined with arcaded burgher houses. Some of them are richly decorated and belonged to Armenian merchants. The mighty basilica contains outstanding art pieces. Very impressive are the former fortifications, in places seven meters thick, which surround the Old Town complex. The Old Town of Zamosc is on UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage List.

Historic Center of Warsaw

Although Warsaw's Old Market Square was entirely destroyed, it was rebuilt according to the original plans and the Old Town has retained much of its charm. Today, crowds of visitors flock to its cafes, restaurants and museums. Warsaw is not only the political, administrative, scientific and cultural center of the country, but it has also become the business center for commercial activities between the west and east. In 1996, Warsaw celebrated its 400th anniversary as the capital of Poland. Warsaw's historic center is a major UNESCO listed World Heritage attraction.

Auschwitz - Birkenau Museum

The concentration camp named Auschwitz I was established in April 1940 on the outskirts of Oswiecim. The first transports came in June of the same year. After entering the site through the camp gate with the inscription “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes Free), the visitors tour prison blocks in which an exhibition of the Auschwitz- Birkenau State Museum is arranged. The display contains evidence of the genocide, including personal items taken from the victims as well as photographs and documents.

Krakow

Krakow – the best known of the Polish cities has everything to offer to tourists. The focus point of Krakow, the Main Market Square with the Cloth Hall, has always been the trading place and has kept its function for ages. Today most of the wood craft, stained-glass items, woolen sweaters, chess-cases, amber jewelry and many more are purchased over there. That area is transformed into a Christmas Market every winter, and during the summer, numerous local fairs take place there.

Jewish Heritage

Warsaw: Remains of the Warsaw Ghetto are few, namely the restored Nozyk Synagogue, and the Jewish Cemetery. Of particular interest are the exhibits at the Jewish Historical Institute that focus on the history of the material and spiritual culture of Polish Jews from their beginnings to the present day. Warsaw is also home to the only European theatre performing in Yiddish, the State Jewish Theatre.

Krakow: A walk in the Kazimierz Quarter takes you to the 1557 Remu Synagogue, its adjoining Old Cemetery and the Jewish Museum (formerly the Old Synagogue). One might even pass by the Memorial honoring the victims of Plaszow camp. Schindler’s List was filmed on location in this quarter.

Tykocin: In this picturesque village in eastern Poland, the 17th century Tykocin Synagogue is the oldest preserved structure in Poland and the second largest synagogue, after Krakow.

Lubin: In the 18th century, the town was Europe’s center of Hasidic study. Its Jewish Cemetery is considered to be the oldest in Poland.

Lodz: The city is often described as the city of four cultures, among which the Jewish one had a very strong impact on its everyday life; there was the biggest Ghetto in Lodz and today is one of the remains is the Jewish cemetery.

Events

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Cultural Events in Poland 2017

Wroclaw Jazz on the Oder Festival – Wroclaw (26 – 30 April 2017)
Jazz nad Odra Festival is one of the oldest jazz festivals in Poland, it has been organized since 1964 and it has become essential for Polish music scene. Every spring we present the most interesting jazz acts as well as jazz events from all around the world including almost every jazz subgenre.

International Festival WRATISLAVIA CANTANS- Wroclaw (7- 17 September 2017)
The International Festival Wratislavia Cantans in one of the most important European events in the field of classical music. The Festival presents the human voice in different forms and genres, and in various performance makeups – from vocal recitals, through consort performances, down to choral and oratorio music involving dozens of singers. The festival is intended to present works in all musical styles, created in various music centres in all epochs of history.

Jewish Culture Festival – Krakow (June 24 – July 2 2017)
From that small, local event, the festival has grown to one of the most important cultural events in our city and country. Outside of Poland, Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow is one of the best known, recognized and appreciated by both artists and audience cultural events from Poland.

Every year the Festival features almost 300 events during 10 days. 30,000 participants from many countries of the entire globe take part in workshops, lectures, discussions, guided tours, and of course in various musical events: from concerts to DJ-parties to jam sessions. 150 artists, instructors and lecturers share their experience with our audience.

Grunwald Festival – Grunwald ( 12- 16 July 2017)
The event is part of celebrations of Grunwald Days organized by the municipality Grunwald based in Gierzwaldzie. It’s one of the largest annual events and festivals in Poland.The main point of the meeting is the re-enactment of the battle on the anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald. There will be 1400 knights on the field to take part in the largest open-air staging of medieval battle in Poland with over 100,000 viewers watching the spectacle.

Open’er Festival – Gdynia (June 28 – July 1 2017)
Open’er is an annual festival host to tens of artists from all over the world and attracts music enthusiasts from all over Europe and beyond. It’s held in Gdynia by the Baltic sea and is one of the highlights of the summer season in Northern Poland

Good Beer Festival – Wroclaw (June 9 - 11 2017)
The Wroclaw Good Beer Festival is now the largest event of its kind in Poland anld one of the largest in Europe. It promotes unique beer from small and medium-sized breweries from Poland and abroad.

Sunrise Festival – Kolobrzeg (21-24 July 2017)
Sunrise Festival is a world- class festival of electronic music. It is one of the biggest electronic festivals in Poland and legendary for its beach afterparties.

Open Air Chopin Concerts – Warsaw (Summer 2017)
Open-air piano concerts with music by Frederic Chopin have been taking place in Warsaw’s Royal Lazienki Park, at the foot of the monument to the great composer, for 49 years. From the middle of May to the end of September, fans of Frederic Chopin’s music meet every Sunday afternoon at noon and 4p.m. in front of his monument in Lazienki Park to listen to piano concerts.

Explore The Outdoors

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If you thrive on staying active and crave fresh air and plenty of sunshine, Poland is a great place for your next vacation. Travelers who are not content to spend their entire vacation sitting on a tour bus will be pleased with all the active ways to enjoy the impressive natural beauty that abounds in Poland.

One of the biggest attractions of Poland is its wealth of natural beauty. Poland has been blessed with spectacular mountains, vibrant forests, and alluring lakes. The best way to enjoy some of Poland’s most remote natural scenery is via bicycle. Bikes are ideal for reaching places cars cannot- places of unspoiled beauty that have remained unchanged for centuries.

The infrastructure that exists in Poland for bicycling is impressive. Well-planned routes and signage make it convenient for even those unfamiliar with the land to navigate. Biking guides are available from local bike clubs. Avid cyclists will be thrilled with the number of routes available. The varied terrain means you can find everything from easygoing level paths ideal for casual riders to steep mountain trails that will challenge even the most experienced mountain bikers. If you’re planning a long journey, you can find camping with good facilities and farms that rent rooms along the way.

Poland’s Baltic Coast offers all of the summertime fun you’d expect from a world class beach resort with a few unexpected surprises thrown in to set it apart from the rest. Where else can you swim, or windsurf along a seashore dotted with exquisite amber? You can get to know the sea better by renting a yacht or sailboat and exploring the captivating coast.

Poland’s Baltic Coast attracts throngs of windsurfers each year but it never feels overcrowded because there are plenty of great spots along the coast to go around. The Hel Peninsula is considered the windsurfing capital of the country. Its moderate winds and sunny weather draw wind and kite surfers from all over the world. The Bay of Puck is a great place for new wind and kite surfers to come to grips with the sport. Its shallow waters make for a safe and relaxing place to enjoy the sport.

Poland’s lake districts boast thousands of lakes and almost just as many choices when it comes to staying active. Although plenty of visitors are content to just marvel at the awe-inspiring scenery, the area’s natural beauty also makes a great backdrop for more vigorous activities. Spend the morning fishing on an enchanting lake and then pass the afternoon on horseback trotting along the charming nature trails. Horseback riding is so popular in Poland that there are even horseback riding trails marked with signs in many areas. Poland is well-known in equestrian circles for its famous Arabian horses, a breed that has been revered by nobility for centuries for its strength and grace. Rowing down the Biebrza River is ideal for those hoping to spot some wildlife in action. It is spectacular for birdwatching and spotting animals like beavers and elk.

The mountainous regions of Poland spring to life with the arrival of snowy weather. The country’s many slopes beckon skiers and snowboarders looking to avoid the crowds of other alpine resorts and enjoy Poland’s reasonable prices. The mountains in the southern part of Poland offer some of the same excitement and beauty of skiing in the Alps without the crowds and high prices. The Tatra Mountains provide excellent conditions for skiing during much of the winter. There you’ll find lively ski resorts with plenty of nightlife as well as smaller, quieter places to enjoy your favorite winter sports as well as majestic views and plenty of fresh mountain air. In the spring and summer, the trails in the High Tatras near the Slovakian border offer some of the most remarkable sights, from crystal clear lakes to rainbow-colored rocks. This may be the smallest alpine range in Europe but it packs a big punch.

Poland’s bigger cities like Krakow and Warsaw are certainly cultural hotspots with plenty to see and do, but if you don’t like to spend too much time in urban settings, you can plan a very enjoyable vacation in Poland without ever stepping foot in a big city. No matter what time of year you visit Poland, you are sure to find a fun adventure sport that will send your pulse racing and create unforgettable memories.

Family

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Holidays can be a great time to visit Poland. Travelers who enjoy experiencing different cultures will delight in the opportunity to observe or participate in customs that might be different from their own. Many Polish holidays also coincide with American holidays, which means time off of work or school for travel might be less of a problem than usual.

Christmas is a great time to visit Poland. Poles celebrate Christmas on the same day as Americans, December 25. If you prefer to stay home for the holiday itself, you can still enjoy the festive atmosphere by visiting Poland in the days leading up to Christmas. Christmas markets in Poland are magical places where you can browse the stalls, purchase handcrafted Christmas decorations, and sample traditional cold-weather treats like mulled wine. The biggest Christmas market in Poland takes place in Krakow’s Market Square and is complete with carriage rides. Other cities that host smaller Christmas markets include Wroclaw and Warsaw.

Easter is perhaps the most celebrated holiday of the year in Poland and visiting at this time enables you to get a first-hand look at all the interesting customs surrounding this holiday. Whether you want to observe Poles bringing their carefully arranged baskets of food to church for blessing on Holy Saturday, enjoy traditional Easter foods like soups and pastries, or compare the painted eggs to the ones your family makes, you are sure to leave Poland with an even greater level of respect for its culture. On the day after Easter is Smigus Dyngus. On this day, a fun tradition takes place whereby people soak each other with water, which is particularly memorable for kids. Throughout all of Holy Week, you can find a market in Krakow and a classical music festival in Warsaw.

It is important to keep in mind that if you do visit Poland on a holiday, most businesses will be closed. Of course, you will be too busy taking part in the local celebrations to notice but if you were hoping to do some sightseeing as well, be sure to add a few extra days onto your trip before or after the holiday.

Food

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The traditional Polish cuisine combines the refined and elegant tastes introduced to Poland centuries ago. The French court of Henri de Valois – the first elected Polish king, brought the wild, mysterious flavors of the Lithuanian forests, the sweet aroma of the dishes served for the Jewish Sabbath supper, and the fierce, rare taste of the sanguineous steak Tartare – originally made by the horse riders of Genghis Khan who used to place a slice of raw beef under the saddle for extra tenderness.

Polish dishes include white or red borscht, tripe soup, pork chops, beef rollanti with buckwheat, and golabki (cabbage rolls). Such famous delicacies as boiled or deep-fried pierogis (stuffed dumplings) and kielbasa (smoked sausage) are available everywhere. The most national of dishes is bigos (sauerkraut and meat or Hunter’s stew”) and barszcz (Easter beetroot soup).Some of Poland's staples include: grains, breads, dumplings, soups, mushrooms, berries, nuts, herbs, pork, fowl, game, fish, cheeses and many more.

Drinks

Poles are passionate tea drinkers, consuming their tea with each meal and then in between. Wine and beer are often imported in Poland, although Zywiec, Tyskie and Okocim are just a few of the good local beers. Home grown, of course, is vodka, the country’s signature alcoholic brew and as much a national drink here as in Russia. Vodka is not a cocktail or mixed drink ingredient; it is served and swallowed neatly. Further vodka comes from sweet to dry, as well as in various colors. One brand, Zubrowka Bison, is flavored with grass on which the bison feeds in the Bialowieza forest. There’s always a blade of grass in the bottle. Other popular spirits include Sliwowica, made from plums, and Krupnik honey liqueur, made from mead. Na zdrowie (to your health) is a useful word to learn.

Museums

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Poland is home to countless museums, from grand structures encompassing a variety of themes to smaller museums that focus in depth on just one or two aspects of culture. There are so many great options that you could visit Poland several times and still not manage to see all of the museums that exist!

The Historical Museum of the City of Krakow provides a well-structured and interesting look at the development of the city over the years. One particular part of the museum that can’t be missed is the Underground Market Square Exhibition, which gives visitors a one-of-a-kind opportunity to look at life as it was a thousand years ago in Krakow thirteen feet under the ground. By combining modern technology with archaeological discoveries, you can walk down ancient streets and peruse ancient relics as you journey into the past. You can see how the topography of the square has changed over time. There are remnants of medieval settlements and buildings dating as far back as the 13th century. The original artifacts are presented alongside three-dimensional visualizations and realistic sounds that enable visitors to get a true taste of the old atmosphere.

The Warsaw Uprising Museum contains interactive exhibits and multimedia presentations that are used to transport visitors to the events surrounding this famous historical event. Also in Warsaw is the Polish Army Museum, which takes a look at all aspects of the military during Poland’s long history. The world’s only Museum of Caricature is here as well as the Chopin Museum. You can enjoy the contrast of viewing modern art in a 17th century castle in the Center for Contemporary Art or view 3D photos of Old Warsaw at the Photoplasticon.

Recently opened the Museum of the History of Polish Jews (POLIN) stands in what was once the heart of Jewish Warsaw – an area which the Nazis turned into the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. The Museum is dedicated to restoring and preserving the memory of the history of Polish Jews through various images, interactive media, artifacts and witness accounts.

The National Museum of Wroclaw is home to an impressive display of Polish art that spans several centuries and includes medieval works. The large display of Silesian art and cultural artifacts are what set this museum apart from others. With more than 120,000 objects that run the gamut from paintings and drawings to wood and stone sculptures, you could easily spend a whole day here marveling at all the treasures.

A visit to Auschwitz is a grim reminder of one of the most horrific periods of history. The former Nazi concentration camp is now home to the biggest museum and exhibition about the Holocaust. Most Americans have read about the Holocaust but seeing the places where some of the most unspeakable crimes against humanity took place in person enables you to better understand the reality and gravity of what happened here not that long ago. The Wall of Executions display of clothes, shoes, and even the hair from those murdered in the camp is particularly powerful. Visiting the concentration camps and museums at Auschwitz is a very emotional experience that you will never forget.

Art has a special way of capturing moments in time and portraying events, scenes, and feelings in ways that people can relate to. Poland’s many art galleries are a rich resource of paintings, sculptures, and other art by Polish artists.

National Parks

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If you want to enjoy unspoiled nature, Poland is the perfect place to go. Lakes and rivers, rare species of animals and birds, forests, and the sea all combine to give the land plenty of natural attractions. Poland is proud of its beautiful wildlife diversity and has protected much of the land by bestowing it with national park status. Poland's natural parks are open to visitors but some rules are in place to ensure that their natural beauty remains undisturbed so it can continue to flourish. The sheer size and range of wildlife native to these parks makes them unique in Europe. There are 23 national parks in all, with plenty of other beautiful natural sites that are not officially national parks.

Bialowieski National Park is one of Europe’s oldest. This evergreen forest is home to rare mammals and is a great place to observe a wide range of flora and fauna when visiting Poland. This World Heritage Site is one of the oldest preserved primeval mixed forests and visitors are able to step back in time when they enter the park. The trees here are some of the biggest and oldest anywhere, and you can find a variety of animals from the gigantic bison to the tiny pygmy shrews.

The Slowinski National Park near the Baltic Sea in the north is famous for its gigantic sand dunes and one area in particular of moving sand dunes. It’s a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve site with 20 miles of coastline. Seven rivers and a handful of lakes pass through the grounds of this park. It is also home to several rare bird species. The Biebrza National Park’s swampy marshes are home to mud and water birds, snipe, elk, and owls.

Birds and bird watchers will find plenty of spots throughout the country to admire some of the world’s most elusive avian species. The lake districts are a good place to find fish, birds, and animals of all shapes and sizes. You can enjoy nature by climbing the mountains, hiking through the forests, or sailing on the lakes. If it’s nature you want to see, Poland is the place to go.

Restaurants

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Warsaw:

Belvedere: Located in the New Orangery of Royal Lazienki Park, this elegant restaurant offers an international menu composed by chefs from Paris, London, Milan and Warsaw.

Warsaw:

Gessler Restaurant: Located right on the Main Market Square in the old town, the setting is an aristocratic residence, and the culinary delights are the classic Polish dishes, traditional dishes - boar, venison and pheasant in season.

Krakow:

Wierzynek: Probably the most famous restaurant in Poland, this landmark venue (dating to the late 14th century) serves up mostly Polish specialties, such as pierogi stuffed with cabbage and wild mushrooms and succulent pork loin; soup lovers will enjoy crayfish, wild mushroom or beetroot with dumplings soups. U.S. presidents, the Shah of Iran, President Nehru of India are among the dignitaries who have dined here. 

Chlopskie Jadlo: The name translates to “peasant kitchen,” and the décor is authentically rustic. Popular with visitors and locals alike, the country-style menu includes golabki (stuffed cabbage), fried potatoes with garlic sauce and any kind of pierogi.

Pod Aniolami: Located in a 13th century dwelling, this fine restaurant is famous for its marinated meats, cooked on a beech wood grill, as well as other Polish specialties.

Shopping

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Shopping is an indispensable part of each trip. We shop for souvenirs and gifts for ourselves and for our loved ones. But shopping abroad is a kind of pass-time or entertainment where we discover local fashion trends and compare them with those back at home. However in a country like Poland, where each city is different in terms of its culture, style, and history, shopping may be a unique and distinctive experience in each of them.

If you’re looking for souvenirs, all of the popular tourist sites are well-equipped with shops offering trinkets and other gifts to commemorate your stay in Poland. If you want to bring gifts to your family in the States, there are countless options. The children in your family will be delighted with a doll decked out in Polish dress or a fun science-related gift from the Copernicus Science Center Gift Shop. The adults on your shopping list will always welcome Polish vodka and culinary delicacies. Jewelry crafted from local amber is another popular souvenir that is easy to find and very affordable. Bath and body products made from natural ingredients native to Poland are always well-received.

Every town has its share of specialty shops where you can find anything from furniture to books to clothing. There are also some large shopping centers where you can find everything in one place. The Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) in Krakow is said to be one of the oldest shopping malls in the world. Even those who aren’t keen on shopping should check out this interesting market full of handcrafted Polish goods and souvenirs simply for the architecture and ambience. This is also the place to find a one-of-a-kind gift for someone who already seems to have everything under the sun. If you’re looking for a mall that is more like those back at home, Galeria Mokotow in Warsaw is a gigantic mall that houses typical mall stores that will be familiar to American shoppers as well as a supermarket and cinema. You can also find an American bookstore there. Of course, there are plenty of small unique shops throughout the city where you can buy distinctly Polish goods and shop among the locals.

Inside an old brick industrial building in Lodz awaits an unexpected surprise: a very modern shopping mall called Manufaktura that is rife with modern technology. The architectural wonder is a giant mall that houses everything from large name brand stores to smaller shops and restaurants and has won several European shopping excellence awards. It’s not just a shopping center but also an entertainment complex and cultural center where many interesting events take place. It is also home to one of the city’s best hotels, Andel’s Hotel Lodz.

Although you can easily fill up a week or two in Poland with plenty of other more intellectual pursuits, you should definitely carve at least an hour or two out of your itinerary to take advantage of the low prices and good exchange rate for Americans in Poland and do a little bit of shopping.

What kind of vacation would you like to take?