Explore the rich history of Poland. Wrocław, Gdańsk and Poznań

Wrocław, Poznań and Gdańsk among Poland's most beautiful cities

The former and present capital have been already talked about and to fulfill the image of historical sites in Polish Cities, we’re taking a peek at the most attractive cities in terms of the presence of monuments of the nation’s past! In the third part of the series,, Explore the rich history of Poland” we’ll guide you through three major checkpoints. To begin with, you’ll learn about the heritage of the heart of mountainy Lower Silesia, Wroclaw. Then, it will be followed by the gem of Greater Poland, Poznan. Finally, we’ll reach the Baltic Sea and the biggest coastal city, Gdansk!

Gdańsk Poland

Wrocław – The heart of Lower Silesia in the shadow of Karkonosze and Table Mountains

Wroclaw, flourishing on the banks of the Oder River is an exceptional city which in its over 1000 years old history has been held by 4 different nations! Originally it was founded by Poles, who in XIV century lost it for over 600 years! During that period, it passed from hand to hand among Czech, Austria and Germany and finally got reunited with Poland after the World War II. The heritage of all listed nations can be seen in there, as they create a unique Wroclavian consistent mix of cultures seen in architecture, art and city design.

Wrocław in Poland

Wroclaw Cathedral Island | Ostrów Tumski

The oldest part of the city is located on the island of the river the city stands on, Ostrow Tumski (Ostrów Tumski), also known as the Wroclaw Cathedral Island, a true testament to the city's medieval heritage. It's a mesmerizing chronicle of architectural evolution, predominantly featuring the Romanesque and Gothic styles. Strolling through its charming cobblestone paths provides one with exceptional views fulfilled with the city’s oldest structures dating back to the X century! A group of various temples dominates the landscape of this unique district, with the Gothic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (Archikatedra św. Jana Chrzciciela) being the most iconic of them all, nesting a wonderful observation deck on one of its towers at the height of 97 meters! The Cathedral can be seen from many points of the city, as it ascends well above the roofs of its neighbouring tenements and churches. The island is also home to the The Ostrow Tumski Castle, which originally functioned as the abode of Silesian princes of the House of Piast, first major polish dynasty which ruled over the Kingdom of Poland until 1370. Ostrow Tumski not only prides on its heritage due to the maintained architecture but also a very particular custom, which is cultivated up to this day already for two centuries! There are remarkable city gas lights, requiring special services of a lamplighter, who’s path goes along 98 of these light beacons as he restores them back to life every single day right at the dusk and puts them to rest once the daylight of a dawn awakens the city.

Cathedral Wrocław
Wrocław Ostrów Tumski

Wrocław main square

The heart of Wroclaw's social and cultural life has been pulsing vividly for centuries at its Main Square or Market Square (Rynek Wrocławski), one of the largest market squares in Europe. The central point is the striking Gothic Wroclaw Town Hall which is surrounded by exquisite, colourful, wonderfully maintained townhouses and tenements. The hall’s construction began in early medieval and got well developed over the centuries. In the basements of this historical building, we can visit one of the oldest restaurants in Europe, the Swidnicka Cellar (Piwnica Świdnicka), which has functioned since 1273! Considering the dynamic history of Wroclaw and the fact, that Poland was known for being a very diverse country in terms of beliefs, we can observe particular fragments of the city where some testimonies regarding that matter remained. There is a square within the Wroclaw’s old town called Four Denominations District (Dzielnica czterech wyznań), where temples of four different faiths exist in peace and mutual respect: Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish and Protestant. There are also sites like the 800 years old grandeur complex of Dominicans’ Gothic church and monastery to which the neighbouring square, street and shopping mall owe their names, or the Gothic and Romanesque Cathedral under the patronage of St. Mary Magdalene (Katedra Św. Marii Magdaleny) with exquisite Bridge of Penitents offering its visitors wonderful view of the square from the height of 45 meters! The old town besides the architectural wonders stands out due to its unrepeatable dwarves! Well, to be honest they can be found everywhere in the city, however, their quantity there definitely tops any other part of Wroclaw, making it a wonderful place for seeking this little figures! Most people aren’t aware these little folks originated as brave fighters against the communist's oppression in the 80s, as primarily they appeared in a form of graffiti ridiculing the censorship of contemporary USSR dependent government. Today they’re one of the symbols of Wroclaw as well as historical fight against Soviet’s influence.

Wrocław in Poland

The Centennial Hall

The Centennial Hall, a masterpiece of early 20th-century architecture, heralds the innovative spirit of Wroclaw. As Wroclaw was still under the influence of Germans at that time, the grand project was designed by the eminent architect Max Berg in 1913. This iconic structure exemplifies the use of reinforced concrete on a grand scale, earning it a place as not only historical site of Wroclaw, but also a UNESCO list of World Heritage. The hall, intended to commemorate the centenary of Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Leipzig, fortunately wasn’t damaged due to any warfare and now serves as a versatile venue for exhibitions, concerts, and events, symbolizing the city's dynamic cultural life in truly historical surroundings the whole complex creates.

Wrocław Centennial Hall
Wrocław Unesco

Poznań | Main Square and the premises

The heart of Poznan’s historical heritage, as in the case of many other polish agglomerations, is the Old Market Square (Stary Rynek), the bustling epicentre of the city's social and cultural life since the Middle Ages. Encircling the entire square colourful tenement houses highlight the crucial structure of the Old Town, the Renaissance-style Town Hall (Ratusz Poznański), crowned with an elegant clock tower. Each day at noon, visitors witness a quirky display as two mechanical goats butt heads beneath the clock, presenting a charming tradition that brings to life the legend of which main four-legged heroes became the symbol of Poznan. A short stroll from the square leads to the Royal Castle (Zamek Królewski), a symbol of Poznan's regal heritage. Initially raised in the 13th century in Romanesque style, the castle has undergone various transformations, reflecting the history of the region. Today, its restored Gothic facade and interiors serve as a cultural venue, offering a deep dive into Poland's monarchic epochs, as the castle remembers some of the most vital events of nation’s history! For example, the homage paid to Kingdom of Poland by The Teutonic Order in 1493! It was one of the most prominent factors resulting in Order’s ultimate fall less than 3 decades later. There is also the Imperial Castle (Zamek Cesarski), constructed in the early 20th century for William II, German Emperor, what exemplifies Poznan's as well as Poland’s meandering history. Finally, nearby the Old Town stands a particular hotel Bazar, which is a symbol of Greater Poland Uprising, the only successful event of such sort, which eventually led to liberation of the entire region and unification with the rest of newly formed Republic of Poland after the Great War.

Poznań Old Town
Poznań Rynek

Poznań's Cathedral Island, Polish medieval king's rest

Another jewel in Poznan's crown is the Cathedral Island (Ostrow Tumski), revered to as one of the beacons of Polish Christianity, similar as the aforementioned Ostrow Tumski in Wroclaw! Poznan’s island, however, nests the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, an impressive Gothic structure, or the tombs of Poland's rulers of House of Piast, the first dynasty which would rule for over 400 years! The kings of this dynasty rest in a Golden Chappel (Złota Kaplica) which proudly stands as an important, silent witness to the country's historical foundation. The island's serene atmosphere and architectural grace make it a unique retreat from the city's lively pace.

Poznań Ostrów Tumski
Poznań Cathedral

Gdańsk, the pearl of Polish seaside and the first witness of World War II

The pearl of Polish coastline, Gdansk, one of the most impressive cities in Poland for number of reasons, historical ones included! There are tons of things to do within the city as well as its proximity, however considering the tracks of the past and their importance they can’t be missed out during your journey! As it’s quite often for polish cities, its best to begin the path at the vibrant City’s Main Square, the epicentre of Gdansk's historical district. Filled with colourful facades it's a perfect starting point to immerse in the city's past and present. A short walk at the square leads to St. Mary's Basilica (Bazylika Mariacka Wniebowzięcia Najświętszej Maryi Panny w Gdańsku), an awe-inspiring monument of brick Gothic architecture. As one of the largest brick churches in the world, its towering presence and incredible interior captivate all who enter. Gdansk is known for its historical gates which serve as iconic markers of the city's former defensive system. Each gate emphasizes how well the city’s defensives were designed and prepared by architects at the turn of Middle Ages and Rennaissance due to which Gdansk has always been a crucial trading point on the southern coastline of the Baltic Sea! Brama Wyzynna, once the main entry point for visitors which led to the very main square, welcomed guests with its imposing structure and carvings. Brama Straganiarska on the other hand, remind us of the thriving trade which fuelled Gdansk's economy, making it absolutely of utmost importance to the Kingdom of Poland. Having mentioned trade, it’s impossible to omit the legendary Gdansk Crane (Brama Żuraw w Gdańsku), the oldest and best maintained medieval structure of such sort in whole Europe, which also functioned as a gate! As a fun fact, the Crane has found its way into the most famous polish game of all time, based on the novel of polish author Andrzej Sapkowski -The Witcher 3. While not being very truistic, it's absolutely mandatory to highlight the presence of the Gdansk Shipyard (Stocznia Gdańska) which stands as a symbol of Poland's fight for freedom and solidarity. The anti-communistic movement Solidarnosc has begun right at the premises of this district, eventually taking a pivotal role in shaping contemporary Central and Eastern Europe. While strolling through the city you might be willing to keep that in mind while coming across the view of its ascending, ship operating cranes.

Gdańsk Poland
Poland beach


A visit to Gdansk would be incomplete without paying a visit to Westerplatte, a site of profound historical significance. It was here where the first battle of World War II unfolded, starting the horrible conflict and marking the beginning of Poland's valiant resistance against invasion. Venturing through Westerplatte, except the iconic Monument to the Defenders of the Coast, we can run into many ruins of fortifications and various bunkers, as well as information signs precisely describing who was defending the coast from the sudden attack. Today, the whole site stands as a solemn reminder of the resilience and courage of those who fought in defence of attacked nation. We’ve gone through the most important sites in each major city of Poland! Of course, as always, there are dozens of sites for you to discover on your own, however, by following the ones we’ve provided you with we’re certain, that you’ll come across everything that deserves your attention! In the last part of this series, we’ll guide you to remote locations filled with most impressive medieval castles remains and eerie abandoned hidden World War II bunkers!

Westerplatte Gdańsk
Westerplatte Poland
This site uses cookies to provide services in accordance with the Privacy Policy. You can independently determine the conditions for the storage or access of cookies in your browser.