The Most Beautiful Towns in Poland

Colourful Zamosc is blessed with a wealth of renaissance and baroque architecture
Colourful Zamosc is blessed with a wealth of renaissance and baroque architecture | © Curioso.Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Kraków

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Basilica at Krakow old town city square at twilight drone view
© nevodka / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Chochołów

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Picturesque village Chocholow with old wooden houses, Tatras Mt, Poland
© Pegaz / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Zakopane

Natural Feature
Map View
Aerial landscape of Zakopane, Poland during the winter season. Small houses and forest covered in snow with mountains in the background. High quality photo
© Camera Craft / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Poznań

Historical Landmark
Map View
Stary Rynek square with small colorful houses and old Town Hall in Poznan, Poland
© Sergey Dzyuba / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Olsztyn

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Olsztyn (ger.: Allenstein), Warmian-mazurian province, Poland. The old townhall on the Old Town Marketplace
© Piotr Borkowski / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Kazimierz Dolny

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Aerial view of historic town Kazimierz Dolny nad Wisla in Poland
© Łukasz Szczepanski / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Malbork

Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark
Map View
Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, Poland on the river Nogat. The castle complex is the largest brick building in Europe
© Gunter Kirsch / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Toruń

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Holy Spirit Church seen from tower of the Old Town Hall in Torun, Poland
© Piotr Domarecki / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Gdańsk

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Gdansk sunset above the Motlawa and Zuraw Port Crane, Poland.
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Zamość

Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark
Map View
Panorama of Zamosc. Zamosc, Lublin, Poland.
© Henryk Sadura / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

These recommendations were updated on May 20, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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