We are back on the road for Part 3 and the last of the series A tour across Poland. In Part 1 and Part 2, we have explored 8 of the most beautiful places in Poland. We started from the south, in Krakow, and heading north-west, we stopped in the north-central part of the country, in the beautiful city of Toruń.
If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest you check out the first two parts for a complete Polish experience. This last part is dedicated to Gdańsk, the Malbork Castle and, last but not least, Warsaw – the capital of Poland.
Leaving Toruń, we will head north. 160 km later, we’ll arrive on Poland’s Baltic Coast, in Gdańsk – the city of freedom, where the Solidarity movement was born, the place where it is said that the fall of the USSR and communism began.
Being a seaport and a prosperous city, Gdańsk has been exposed to various influences, which have acted concurrently to shape a uniquely-looking city with a rich and diverse culture. This explains Gdańsk’s Nordic vibe and appearance that you notice as soon as you take the first steps on its cobblestone streets, of which the most famous are Ulica Długa and Ulica Mariacka. Everywhere you look in the city centre, there are eye-catching tenements that are standing tall across the streets, among which some buildings and monuments of cultural importance, like Artus’ Court (Dwór Artusa) and the Neptune’s Fountain, the Golden House (Złota Kamienica), or the three Gates, Brama Wyżynna, Zielona Brama and Brama Złota .
St. Mary’s Basilica (Bazylika Mariacka), a huge Gothic Roman Catholic church majestically sticking out among the crammed buildings of the Old Town is one of the two or three largest churches in the world made of brick . Another symbol of Gdańsk is the spectacular medieval Crane (Żuraw), which most of you will probably recognize from the game The Witcher.
Gdańsk has too many worth seeing places to be covered in this article, so I will only list the most popular: the Gothic-Renissance Main Town Hall (Ratusz Głównego Miasta) whose tower is a perfect lookout point, the Museum of the Second World War and The European Solidarity Centre (Europejskie Centrum Solidarności). The last two places I highly recommend visiting if you want a complete image of the recent history of Poland, the communist era and the fall of communism in Europe. Just bear in mind that it takes hours to complete the tours.
2. Malbork Castle
Only a stone’s trow away to the south, we will find the Malbork Castle, a medieval fortress built in the 13th century by the Teutonic Knights. According to Wikipedia, it is “the largest castle in the world measured by land area”  and “the largest brick complex in Europe” . It is also on the list of UNESCO heritage.
Back in the day, Malbork served as the Teutonic Order’s administrative centre. Then it fell under Polish rule, being one of the places of residence of the Polish kings for several hundreds of years. It later belonged, in turn, to Sweden and The Kingdom of Prussia, and it was not until 1945 that it again became part of Poland. World War II caused severe damage to the castle, with more than half of it being destroyed. This undoubtedly needed significant reconstruction works.
The interior of Malbork makes the main attraction, with numerous rooms and exhibitions that throw visitors back in time. The Chapter House, The Convent Chamber, The Grand Refectory, The Low Vestibule and Entrance Hall, together with The Blessed Virgin Mary Church are only some of the many breathtaking rooms that make the Middle Ages arise in front of our eyes. The museum hosts different collections, including the Amber collection with some unique exhibits.
The courtyard and gardens of the castle, known as “The Green Route” are a must-see, as they offer incredibly beautiful sights of the outside of the castle. Also, take a stroll around the castle for a fantastic view. Upon arrival, you will be given an audio guide that will lead your steps through the castle and tell you the history of all places you are visiting. You can book tickets and find valuable information on their website.
3. Warsaw (Warszawa)
Taking a turn to the South-East, we’ll arrive to our last destination: Warsaw, a modern, cosmopolitan city – a European capital in its rights. Unlike the cities visited so far that have a predominantly old appearance, Warsaw is more on the modern side. Roaming around the city centre, you’ll notice high, futuristic buildings, fancy skyscrapers made of glass, and an overall contemporary, fresh and western-like atmosphere.
It may strike you as a little bit surprising that Warsaw has such a modern vibe. That is not to say that it lacks a historic charge. On the contrary, it has as rich and twisted a past as the other cities, but its recent history was more tragic: it suffered massive destruction in the Second World War, which left about 85% of the city lay in ruins.
Therefore, today’s Warsaw is the result of a complex and ambitious process of reconstruction. We can roam around the Old Town Market and admire the stunning buildings, churches, the Royal Castle and the barbican due to Poles’ remarkable effort to rebuild from scratch the historic centre, as closely as possible to its original architectural and urban form.
The most emblematic monument of Warsaw is the Palace of Culture and Science (Pałac Kultury i Nauki), a sumptuous yet controversial edifice in the heart of the city, gifted to Poles by the USSR. It contains several exhibitions, museums and theatres that are open to the public. Wilanów Palace, Łazienki Palace, Museum of the History of the Polish Jews or Warsaw Uprising Museum are just some of the many touristic attractions Warsaw has for its visitors.
Our long trip has come to an end, and it’s time for us to say goodbye. Thanks for joining me, and I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour across Poland as much as I did. If so, pack your stuff, book the tickets and get this show on the road!