The 10 Most Beautiful Towns in Poland

| Bartosz Żygadło / Unsplash
Joseph Richard Francis

Teutonic knights, Polish kings and queens, majestic castles, gothic side streets, sprawling market squares, snow-tipped mountain settings. This guide to the most beautiful towns in Poland is a must-read for anyone thinking of hitting this Eastern European country soon.

1. Kraków

Architectural Landmark

Aerial view of the main square in Krakow, Poland
Kevin Perez Camacho / Unsplash

In the heart of Kraków Old Town, the gothic church spires loom overhead, above a patchwork of baroque frontispieces and romanesque buildings. Nearby, the winding Vistula river snakes past the bars and bohemian cafes of the Podgórze district and the elegant outline of the great Wawel Castle glowing in gold, ochre and red brick atop the craggy Wawel Hill. Elsewhere, cobblestone alleys give way to smoky jazz joints and bubbling squares loaded with local trinket markets hidden in Kazimierz. No wonder upwards of 7m visitors hit this one every year.

2. Chochołów

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Straddling the border between Poland and Slovakia, charming little Chochołów sits on the cusp between the High and Low Tatra mountains. It’s famed primarily for its wealth of split-timber homes, which dominate the smattering of streets here in a show of rough-hewn, bucolic woodwork. And just as the town fizzles out at the edges, dense forests of evergreen pines rise in walls of deep and shadowy green, concealing a snow-packed woodland realm in winter and oodles of enticing hiking trails in summer.

3. Zakopane

Natural Feature

Hala Gąsienicowa, Szlak pieszy niebieski, Zakopane, Polska
Mateusz Bajdak / Unsplash

Shrouded by the ice-caked summits of the great Tatra Mountains, Zakopane has long been hailed as the winter capital of Poland. As soon as the first snow falls, oodles of visitors make their way to its charming centre, where the rustic exteriors of traditional gorale cabins ring the roadways, and curled lampposts illuminate plumes of cold air between the snowflakes. The action mainly focuses on bubbling Krupowki Street, a mass of earthy beer halls and aromatic grills touting regional smoked cheeses and blood-red sausages to skiers and snowboarders fresh from the pistes.

4. Poznań

Historical Landmark

Old Town of Poznan, Poland
Alexandra / Unsplash

While known far and wide for its hedonistic edge, Poznań is also a chocolate box of historical and cultural treats for the traveller in Poland. Granted, the Old Town underwent huge reconstruction projects following the destruction of World War II, but its display of ice cream-coloured frontispieces and the lively flagstone central square still do well to evoke an air of authenticity that rarely fails to impress.

5. Toruń

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Toruń, Poland
Dominika Jakubiec / Unsplash

This Unesco-attested town clinging to the Vistula vein, midway between Warsaw and the Baltic Sea, has been repeatedly hailed as one of the most beautiful urban centres in the country. Like so many of the settlements in the northern half of Poland, Toruń has felt heavy Germanic influence over the centuries. Today, it’s still imbued with many original Teutonic fortifications, along with a smattering of exquisite Franciscan churches, gothic facades and some wondrous pieces of medieval revivalism.

6. Gdańsk

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Polska
Krzysztof Maksimiuk / Unsplash
Gdańsk is adorned with one of the most magical and historic centres in Northern Europe and oozes a distinct Germanic character from its soaring gothic spires, ancient harbour and cobblestone alleys. Also, the seaside resort of Sopot lurks just down the coast, threaded with golden-sand beaches and some of the liveliest nightlife on the Baltic.

7. Olsztyn

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Rynek Starego Miasta, Olsztyn, Poland
Bartosz Żygadło / Unsplash

The gateway to the rolling wetlands and lush hills of Warmia, the elegant historic town of Olsztyn can be found draped over some rocky outcrops above the winding course of the Łyna River. Today, its centre is full of all the culture you would expect of somewhere shaped for more than 700 years by the Teutonic Order, the Prussians and the Poles. Visitors can see the historic influence at every corner, with beer halls filling gaps between the Market Square and cobblestone side streets, timber-framed homes dressed in ivy, and a castle bursting at the seams with old Teutonic relics.

8. Kazimierz Dolny

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Kazimierz Dolny, Poland
Tomasz Zielonka / Unsplash

Once a grain-trading boomtown on the banks of the Vistula river some 150km (93mi) southeast of Warsaw, Kazimierz Dolny is now arguably the best-preserved historic centre in all of Poland outside of Krakow. And it’s not just urban beauty that abounds here either; lush, green woodland dresses the hillsides all around, sandbars are lapped by the slow-flowing waters of the Vistula, and rolling farm fields stretch as far as the eye can see.

9. Malbork

Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark

Malbork Castle, Malbork, Poland
Kevin Perez Camacho / Unsplash
Malbork, on its pretty perch between the wetlands and waterways of the Vistula delta, has a beautiful Unesco World Heritage castle. Hailed as one of the largest fortifications on the planet by surface area, and standing commandingly over the Nogat river, this one really does defy all expectations. Red-brick ramparts rise up, tapered turrets cap the keeps, 13th-century gatehouses bar the entranceways, and the mysterious tombs of Teutonic grandmasters lurk in the crypts below.

10. Zamość

Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark

Signature parapets of colourful buildings showcasing renaissance architecture style in Zamość, Poland.
Tomasz Zielonka / Unsplash

Poking its way deep into the heartlands of eastern Poland, just on the cusp of the border with Ukraine, this proud and splendid city is adorned with a truly sublime array of renaissance and baroque constructions. Don’t miss the colourful line-up of curiously arabesque municipal buildings that ring the central square, or the opulent town hall with its soaring metal spire.

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