There’s a staggering number of stunning Polish cities and towns that get lost in the shine of the major cities of Warsaw, Krakow and a few others.
But the truth is, these other cities offer so much more ‘Poland’ than the big ones. They’re less travelled but cater to tourists just as much as the major tourist cities out there.
Whether you need a relaxing getaway, want to check out some Polish history or get some unique shots for your Instagram, these towns in Poland that are off the beaten track are just for you.
If you’re worried that a lack of tourism means that it’ll be hard to get buy using English, don’t worry. Poles speak incredible English and you’ll get by speaking English in all of these towns and cities!
In this article, we’ll cover
- Beautiful towns, cities and villages that no one you know has been to
- Stunning examples of medieval history and architecture
- The best places to stay in all of these Polish towns
And sure, some of these names are hard to pronounce, so you’ll learn the easy (phonetic) way to say them, too!
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Here’s a quick overview of where we’re going today:
About the Polish cities of Warsaw & Krakow…
There’s no doubt that Warsaw and Krakow are the 2 biggest drawcards of Poland.
Warsaw, the country’s capital is stunning and full of attractions.
Krakow, the cultural capital of Poland is home to not only Wawel castle and the old town but has so much more going for it.
These two cities are without a doubt, the best places for you to visit if you’ve never been to Poland before.
But if you’re looking for the more unique places to check out, then this is the list for you:
1 – Kazimierz Dolny: The forgotten gem
Warsaw and Krakow constantly make the lists of tourist attractions because they’re old, well preserved and they’re somewhat bustling.
Now imagine the historical buildings and giant churches in cities like that, and place it right in the middle of a forest.
That’s Kazimerz Dolny.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Kazimierz Dolny was the place that vodka and wheat grain was traded along the Wisla. When trading dried up, the city did everything it could to preserve its Renaissance architecture – and it shows.
Today the city is just as beautiful as it was back in the 17th century, and it’s evolved into somewhat of an art capital. Galleries are abundant, selling everything from stain-glass, sculpture and fine art. The city is built at the base of a mountainous area, where the forest thrives. This makes is a great place to spot rare wildlife, like the Polish eagle.
The sheer lack of tourists in Kazimierz Dolny make it a fantastic place to retreat to during summer, and being only a 2-hour drive from Warsaw, it’s easy to get to for the weekend!
2 – Częstochowa. The Polish city of religion.
Częstochowa is located in the south-central part of Poland, a gateway to Krakow and the Tatra Mountains. Steeped in history and religion, it’s known for the Monastery of Jasna Góra.
This church is home to the Black Madonna painting and a shrine to the Virgin Mary.
Over 5 million Christians migrate to Częstochowa annually to see the painting and to pray. This means that Częstochowa is one of the most important locations in Europe when it comes to the catholic faith. It’s a must-see place to take in the architecture, history as well as religion.
Częstochowa is often referred to as ‘little Nuremberg’ because of the number of tourist and souvenir shops.
Częstochowa’s old town square has operated as the main square of the city since medieval times. As a result, you can see many old townhouses that adorn the square, just as they did hundreds of years ago.
Churches are also another amazing drawcard of Częstochowa. Some of the biggest and most beautiful are:
- Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family – the basilica of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese
- St James’ Church – completed in 1872, it was originally an orthodox church
- St Sigismund’s Church – a gothic church completed in the 15th century, making it one of the oldest in the area.
Another interesting attraction of Częstochowa is the Archaeological Reserve.
Built upon a 2500-year-old burial ground, this museum showcases works of the Lusatian culture with objects on show that date back to the Iron Age, between 750-550BC.
Fun Fact: Agnes Milowska, a famous Australian/Polish woman who was a prolific underwater photographer was born in Częstochowa.
3 – Sopot. Poland’s getaway by the sea
Sopot is one of three cities located on the shoreline of northern Poland, commonly referred to as TrojMiasto, the capital city of northern Poland. Made up of Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot, the latter often gets overlooked due to the tourist attractions of Gdansk.
But Sopot is inarguably one of the most beautiful cities in all of Poland. Known for its resort and spa-like tourist attractions, Sopot is a great place to escape.
Fun Fact: Sopot is home to Sopot International Song Festival, the largest event of its type in all of Europe, after Eurovision.
Sopot is synonymous with the sea. It boasts the longest wooden pier in Europe at over 650m long, with every meter of it being more beautiful than the last. Its prime location means that it was one of the first Polish populations attacked by Nazi Germany during WW2. A full timeline of those events can be found in Sopot’s Museum of the World War II.
As mentioned, Sopot is a spa town with seaside resorts and treatment centres. Many many hotels have spa and wellness facilities included in their accommodation. Why not escape to the little known but beautiful Polish seaside for a relaxing and rejuvenating weekend away?
4 – Malbork, the Polish castle city
It’s impossible to say ‘Malbork’ without immediately saying the word ‘castle’.
Malbork is home to one of Poland’s jewels, Malbork Castle. This UNESCO listed castle has played a massive role in Poland’s history and was the turning point of Poland’s history many times over.
The town of Malbork is not without a life of its own, either. While the tourist masses go to Malbork for the castle, very few see the town itself.
Situated on the Nogat river, a branch of the Vistula river, it’s a beautiful place to take in nature and wildlife on a balmy summer afternoon.
Fun Fact: Malbork is regarded as the birthplace of the Polish flag
5 – Olsztyn, the forgotten area of Poland
The North-Eastern part of Poland is known for being some of the most pristine and untouched parts of the country. After all, it’s the only part of the world where the European Bison still lives in the wild. And close to all of this, is the 14th-century town of Olsztyn.
In its life, it’s gone between being German, Russian, Prussian, part of the Teutonic Order, and now, Polish. If you’re a fan of Gothic architecture, Olsztyn’s cathedral is known for being one of the greatest monuments to Gothic architecture in all of Eastern Europe.
Olsztyn staddles the Mazury district or the ‘thousand lakes’ area.
This part of the country is flat, low, and home to, no surprises here, a lot of lakes. Used for both water sports and relaxation, Olsztyn is one of the best places to go to Poland for both actions on the water and relaxation by the water.
The American military and Polish GROM also host military games on bases in the Olsztyn area – one of a few areas home to American military bases.
Fun fact: Nicholas Copernicus once called Olsztyn home, and lived in the Warmian Bishop’s Castle, another stunning example of Gothic architecture, which is now a museum.
6 – Toruń: Birthplace of Copernicius
One can’t talk of Nicholaus Copernicus without mentioning his hometown of Toruń.
Alongside Malbork castle, Toruń happens to be one of only two UNESCO sites in all of Poland. The entire city has hardly changed since its foundations were laid in the 11th century. One of Toruń’s biggest attractions is Toruń Castle. What’s left today is nothing more than ruins, as the castle was destroyed in an uprising against the Teutonic Knights.
What’s left of Toruń Castle though it truly a step back in history, with real siege weapons, clothing and weapons from eh time showed off in a museum that’s dedicated to the preservation of the castle.
Toruń is Poland’s home of gingerbread. Poles love their Pierniki (Gingerbread), so much so that Toruń has an entire Gingerbread museum that’s built around a bakery that’s been baking gingerbread for almost 1000 years.
Fun fact: Director of 90’s TV show Twin Peaks, David Lynch loves Toruń so much that he owns a house there and houses his personal art collection in the Toruń Art Gallery.
In one of the more bizarre tourist attractions of Poland, not unlike the upside-down building in Gdansk, Toruń in the home it’s own leaning tower.
Nothing more than a normal medieval tower that’s leaning because of the sandy ground it’s built on, it’s become a real tourist attraction for both locals and foreigners.
7 – Frombork, the overlooked Polish town
Another city located in northeastern Poland on the Baltic Sea, Frombork is the smallest, but arguably the most beautiful city on this list. It’s called ‘The Jewel of Warmia’ for a reason – most notably the sheer abundances of culturally significant and historical sites.
Nicholas Copernicus, who was born in Toruń, another city on this list, spent most of his life in Frombork studying the stars. Cathedral Hill, a tower where he made most of his observations, is one of the major drawcards of Frombork. The museum in the Old Bishop’s Palace is dedicated to his life and work, including some early editions of his books.
Frombork was heavily damaged during WW2 but was painstakingly rebuilt by the Polish Boy Scouts. Most of the city is build in the goth style, with red bricks and green turrets adorning the most eye-catching landmarks of the city.
Located on the banks of the Vistula lagoon, the city is a major fishing hub. It’s proximity to Russia makes it a great place to stopover on the way to Kaliningrad, which is easily accessible by ferry.
Fun Fact: The castle in Frombork was the inspiration for Vizimia, a castle in The Witcher game and book series
9 – Zamość, the perfectly designed Polish town
Zamość is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in eastern Poland.
The old town is absolutely stunning and almost a ‘perfect’ example of Renaissance architecture, some of the best in central Europe.
This stems from the founder of the town, Chancellor Jan Zamoyski who wanted to create the perfectly planned town.
Looking at the plan below, you can see why:
He and his architects managed to create a perfect meeting of homogenous urban composition and landscape. It retains its medieval fortress surroundings, as well as a large number of original buildings.
This means that the entire city is a delight to walk around. The Great Market Square is known for being one of the most beautiful in all of Europe, and the brightly coloured houses add an unexpected touch of life to the area.
9 – Ełk, Polish Cities on the lake
With a population of over 60,000, Ełk isn’t a small village by any stretch of the imagination. Ełk is one of the larger tourist destinations on the banks of Ełk lake and has a recently renovated promenade, which is a beautiful place to relax and take in some summer sun.
Ełk is a must-see for any railway fans, as it’s home to one of the few narrow-gauge railway museums in the world.
Much of the architecture in the Ełk Old-town is in the Art Nouveau style. If you’re into Architecture, Ełk is a great place to see a mixture of art nouveau, gothic and neo-gothic.
Without a doubt though, Ełk’s biggest attraction is nature. Located in the Mazury lakes, it’s a beautiful place to take a ride or a walk through a forest and just escape it all for a while.
10 – Łódż
Łódż is the third-largest city in Poland (after Warsaw and Krakow) and is located almost precisely in the geographical centre of the country. It’s also probably the most well-known city on this list.
Łódż is a very strong city, having gone through a lot during WW2, and becoming a massive textile hub for all of the communist block during communist times.
At these times, the city went very dark – literally. The city was nothing but grey. However, the revival of Łódż has led to some stunning street art.
Massive murals adorn the sides of massive apartment buildings, bringing incredible colours to the city.
Łódz, alongside my hometown of Melbourne, Australia, is often referred to as some of the best cities in the world for street art.
Alongside art, Łódź is also Poland’s home of film and television. Most notably, it’s home to the film school that well-known director Roman Polanski learned his craft. Łódż also has its take on the Hollywood walk of fame, called HollyŁodź (or Holly-Woodge with the correct pronunciation), this strip has stars dedicated to the most famous Polish actors who star in both local and international films.
Łódż planetarium is also a must-see for scientific minds. It boasts a giant spherical screen in 8K resolution that shows high-detailed movies about space, the solar system and the universe in general.
What are your thoughts?
You’ve just seen 10 lesser-known cities in Poland, each with their own unique charm, character and attractions.
What are some of your favourites? What cities have I missed out on that you’d like to see on the list?
Let me know in the comments below!