As promised in the previous article, our tour across Poland continues with the second part of the series. If Part 1 took us all the way from Krakow and Auschwitz to the Tatra Mountains, Zakopane and the Dunajec, Part 2 focuses on three of the most impressive cities in Poland, Wrocław, Poznań and Toruń, whose secrets and wonders I will reveal to you right away.
Heading north-west from Krakow, we will reach Wrocław, the historical capital of the region of Silesia, situated on the river Odra. Wrocław had a tumultuous past, which has shaped it into the shimmering city it is nowadays. Throughout history, it has intermittently belonged to The Kingdom of Poland, Kingdom of Bohemia and that of Hungary, the Habsburg Empire and, later, it fell under German sovereignty.
These various influences are best visible in the architecture of the townhouses and buildings in the Main Market Square. The most notable are the Old Town Hall (Stary Ratusz), a beautiful Gothic building dating back to the 13th century, St. Elisabeth’s Church (Bazylika Św. Elżbiety), and John and Margaret House (Jaś i Małgosia), all of which you can find in the beautiful Old Town.
Apart from the charming Market Square, another wonderful place to explore in Wrocław is Ostrów Tumski (the Cathedral Island), the oldest part of the city, which – as suggested by its very name – is home to several cathedrals and churches. This may not sound so appealing to some of you, but trust me, those cathedrals are architectural jewels that anyone should see! Not to mention the serene landscapes you will witness on both banks of the Oder river! Another beautiful thing to watch here is how a lamplighter manually lits the gas lanterns every evening.
Other must-visit attractions in Wrocław are the National Museum, the University (and its beautiful Baroque Aula), Panorama Racławicka (for a small history lesson), the Four Denominations District, the Royal Palace. Oh, and watch out: the city is full of dwarfs! And if you want to embark on a dwarf hunt, there’s even a map for that.
Next on the list, at about 180 to the north, we have Poznań – the city which is considered the very birthplace of the Polish State. The trip across Poznań should start from Ostrów Tumski (the Cathedral Island), where the Poznań Cathedral gives the tourists the unique chance to have a look at the beginnings of the Polish state. The cathedral houses in its basement the remains of the old 10th-century church, where the first two rulers of Poland are believed to have been baptised. These kings, Mieszko I and Bolesław the Brave are both buried in this cathedral.
On the other side of the river Warta, one can find Brama Poznania – a modern multimedia centre that will indulge you in the history of the Polish State through interactive learning.
Like every other big city in Poland, Poznań has a delightful Old Market Square (Stary Rynek) filled with picturesque colourful houses that bear some Germanic traces. In the centre of the square, there is the Renaissance Town Hall with its interesting clock with mechanized billy goats, the symbol of the city.
Though not very tall, the Royal Castle (Zamek Królewski) can offer you a beautiful panorama of the Old Town, and the Imperial Castle (Zamek Cesarski) contains a cinema, art galleries and pubs where you can enjoy your time.
We will finish the second part of our tour across Poland with Toruń, one of the oldest Polish cities, dating back to the 8th century. It escaped the destruction of World War II, thus preserving its medieval part almost untouched. Toruń enchants its visitors with monuments and buildings of unique beauty, all built from brick, which have given it a well-deserved place in the UNESCO heritage.
The Old Town Market is one of the first touristic attraction to catch the eyes, with its beautiful townhouses and historic buildings. Back in the day, this was the place where tournaments took place. The Old Town Hall (Ratusz Staromiejski) takes us straight back to the Middle Ages when it was erected. There is a museum inside it, and it offers a fantastic viewpoint of the Old Town. In front of the Town Hall, there is the Monument of Nicolaus Copernicus, as Toruń boasts with being the birthplace of the famous astronomer.
Another landmark of the city is the Gingerbread Museum, Toruń having an old tradition of baking gingerbread. You cannot miss the mighty Toruń Cathedral, a Gothic brick church that has wonderful paintings and sculptures, and one of the biggest medieval church bells in Europe, the Tuba Dei.
Toruń counts many more remarkable highlights, among them being the Ruins of the Teutonic Castle and the Medieval Walls, the Leaning Tower of Toruń, Copernicus’ House, or the Planetarium.
Yet more incredible places to visit in Poland you will discover in Part 3 of this series. Next stop, Gdańsk!