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Following a long history of outside influences, Poland now stands on its own as a robust nation of unspoiled countryside, bustling urban centres and friendly residents. Warsaw, destroyed in WWII, was rebuilt to become the nation’s resilient capital and manufacturing centre. Krakow, called ‘the cultural capital’, has a historical Old Town packed with galleries, coffee shops and cultural monuments.

Beetroot soup, pierogi (Polish dumplings) and stuffed cabbage rolls can be found in bar mleczny (’milk bars’), communist-era remnants that serve cheap Polish fare. In Krakow, bagels are common, as is oscypek, a salty hard cheese that goes well with its pilsner lagers. While the vodka flows freely, Poles are also big tea and coffee drinkers.

For local wares like amber jewellery and sheepskin rugs, check out Rynek Główny, the centuries-old market in Krakow’s Old Town. Warsaw has three large shopping malls where you can get Western brands at a cheaper price than in many other European countries. Both cities also have extensive Christmas markets.

Must See

Trace Krakow’s medieval and Jewish past in this historic, UNESCO-listed district.

Palace of Culture and Science
Warsaw’s best panoramic views are from atop this building, Stalin’s gift to the city.

Warsaw Uprising Museum
Details city life during WWII, including how the capital’s residents bravely resisted German forces for two months.

Wawel Royal Castle & Cathedral
In Krakow, the medieval royal seat is a trove of national treasures. Poland’s kings, queens, bishops and various national heroes are buried in the cathedral.

Fabryka Schindlera (Schindler’s Factory)
State-of-the-art museum about Krakow’s Nazi occupation on the site of Oskar Schindler’s factory, made famous in the film Schindler’s List.

Must Do

Take a day to visit the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps, 50 kilometres from Krakow.

Relax in Warsaw’s Lazienki Park, with its magnificent gardens, ponds and 18th-century, neoclassical palace.

Cruise down Krakow’s Vistula River to admire the Wawel Royal Castle and Cathedral, Tyniec Abbey and Bielany Priory.

Sample Polish vodka or a local craft beer before hitting a Warsaw nightclub.