during World War II, followed by domination by the now-deduct Soviet Union,
Poland has today reinvented itself as a thriving democracy in
the very heart of Europe.
friendly and welcoming, Poles are rightly proud of their country their ancient
architecture, scenic beauty, and robust culture as they move freely
into the 21st century.
stop on anyone's list of things to see is Warsaw,
the country's rebuilt capital city, still boasting the Royal
Way lined with majestic palaces, churches and cultural museums. A walk through Warsaw Old Town is another must-see during the summer where visitors can cool their heels at nearby Multimedia Fountain Park, as colored lights and dancing water make it come alive at dusk.
is another of the country's most popular destinations for its sheer atmosphere
and physical beauty - seen in a hearty mix of Romanesque, Gothic
and Baroque architecture in its own wonderfully preserved Krakow Old
Town largely left intact since
the 13th century. While touring Old Town, it would be hard miss another of Krakow's main attractions, Main Market Square, surrounded by historic buildings as well as trendy shops, cafes and restaurants.
Poland's major tourist attractions include Warsaw's Old Town (left); Krakow's Main Market
and the stunningly beautiful Tatra Mountains -- Poland's "vacation central" (bottom).
Gdansk is another Polish urban beauty located along the Baltic, and famous for its picturesque buildings that were meticulously restored following the city's total destruction during World War II. Today, Gdansk is equally famous for being the birthplace of the Solidarity movement which played a major role in bringing an end to Communist rule across Central Europe.
Away from the major cities, Poland also offers stunning natural beauty in the Tantra Mountains in south central Poland, especially in the resort town of Zakopane, which many Poles regard as "vacation central" during the summer while remaining a mecca for winter sports enthusiasts during peak skiing season.
DID YOU KNOW? Poland Travel Fun Facts
World War II artifacts on display
at Schindler's factory in Krakow.
• If you';re traveling throgh Krakow, don't miss a visit to Oskar Schindler's enamel and metal factory — made famous by Steven Spielberg's 1994 movie, Schindler's List. Schindler's former office has been preserved intact and is now part of exhibit dedicated to his life and the lives of the people he saved by employing them in his factory.
• Located in Wrocław, Piwnica Swidnicka is the oldest restaurant in Europe, operating since 1275.
• Poland has given us scientist Marie Curie, Pope John Paul II, astronomer Copernicus, composer Frederic Chopin, director Roman Polanski, and makeup mogul Max Factor.
• Watching TV broadcasts of the hit holiday film "Home Alone" (dubbed in Polish) is a favorite Christmas tradition in Poland.
• Polish dumplings or pierogi are a national favorite, and one of the most recognizable Polish dishes outside Poland.