FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019

23 May - 15 June

Five cool things about Poland

© AFP

Krakow ('Kraków' in Polish)

Krakow, which lies on the banks of the Vistula River, was for centuries the capital of Poland. A visit to this city is a unique experience as it is an encounter with the most glorious era in Polish history. Krakow’s Old Town, along with Wawel Castle and the city’s Kazimierz district were placed on the First World Heritage List, created by UNESCO in 1978. The Main Square or Main Market Square is the core of Krakow and a place that every tourist must visit. Designed in 1257, it has remained the same since then in terms of the layout and structure. The 40,000-square metre area is considered one of Europe’s biggest medieval squares. Wawel Castle is a Gothic castle that was built by Casimir III the Great during his reign between 1333 and 1370, with modifications being made by successors. It is one of the most important historical places in Poland, the symbol of Polish royalty which lasted for centuries. Kazimierz was the centre of Jewish life in Krakow for over 500 years, before it was systematically destroyed during World War II. During the communist era it was gradually falling into disrepair. Rediscovered in the 1990s, Kazimierz is Krakow’s most exciting district today full of historical sites, cafes and art galleries.

Tatras ('Tatry' in Polish)

Tatras is the highest range of the Carpathian Mountains and lie along Poland’s border with Slovakia. A two-hour drive from Krakow, one will find stunning views and amazing nature, as well as skiing in the winter, hiking, cave exploration and cycling through the rest of the year. Visitors to the Tatras usually go to Zakopane, the biggest Polish mountain resort. The town receives more than three million holidaymakers a year. Zakopane is the most ideal gateway to the whole area. It is difficult to pick out Tatras' must-see places as there are so many. There's the famous lake called The Morskie Oko (“Sea Eye”), and then there's Czarny Staw Lake – both worth visiting for their great views, hiking and climbing. Then there's Kasprowy peak (1,985 metres above sea level). Hop on the cable car, which offers great views and skiing. And last but not least, there's the Koscieliska Valley for more great views, easy hiking and wildlife.

Warsaw ('Warszawa' in Polish)

Warsaw's Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been the city’s heart for centuries. However, when one crosses the Vistula River and looks at the Old Town from a distance, one will be struck by the unusual panorama of the city, as skyscrapers rise above the red roofs of the Old Town. There are 95 parks with the outstanding Lazienki heading the list. In the summer, the famous Chopin Concerts are organised in a unique outdoor setting, while in the historical interiors of the theatre founded by King Stanislaw August one can hear music performed by contemporary composers. There are several interactive museums that help explain the history of the city. One of them is the Warsaw Rising Museum, dedicated to a major World War II operation in the summer of 1944 by the Polish underground resistance to liberate Warsaw from German occupation. The uprising was fought for 63 days with little outside support. Also worth mentioning is the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which received the prestigious title of European Museum of the Year in 2016, demonstrating the Jewish presence in Warsaw throughout the centuries. Football fans should also visit the National Stadium, home of the Polish national team, one of the most modern and beautiful arenas in Europe and one of the host stadiums for the UEFA EURO 2012 finals.

Tri-City ('Trójmiasto' in Polish)

It is not a homogeneous urban entity, but three cities: Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot. A thousand-year history and a unique seaside location make Gdansk one of the most beautiful cities in Poland. Located in the north on the Baltic Sea coast and the Motlawa and Vistula river estuary and the Bay of Gdansk, it is a cultural, scientific and economic centre, with a large commercial port. Gdansk is the city of freedom, where the ideas of Polish solidarity were born. Sopot has wide, sandy beaches, and with the longest pier in Europe, attracts lots of tourists. In the summer, Sopot is one of the most crowded places in Poland. The city is also well known thanks to the legendary music festival held at Forest Opera (Opera Leśna). Gdynia is a contemporary port city called The Nautical Capital of Poland. Less than 90 years old, Gdynia is one of the youngest Polish cities. Described as "The city made of sea and of dreams" , it was a dream come true for the people who created it from a tiny fishing village into a large port city.

Warmia and Masuria ('Warmińsko-Mazurskie' in Polish)

A northeastern region in Poland, Masuria has over three thousand lakes, the most in the Great Masurian Lakes area. Many of them are connected by channels and rivers, so it is possible to sail hundreds of kilometres. The outstanding natural environment makes Warmia and Masuria a truly unique area. The varied landscape of the lake districts, plateaus, plains and river valleys delight with exceptional views. But Masuria is not only made of lakes. The famous Wolf’s Lair is situated there. It was Adolf Hitler's first Eastern Front military headquarters in World War II. Despite the security, the most notable assassination attempt against Hitler was made at the Wolf's Lair on 20 July 1944.