Tourism in Poland
Poland is a part of the global tourism market with constantly increasing number of visitors. Tourism in Poland contributes to the country's overall economy. The most popular cities are Kraków, Wrocław, Gdańsk, Warsaw, Poznań, Lublin, Toruń and the historic site of Auschwitz - German nazi concentration camp in Oświęcim. The best recreational destinations include Poland's Masurian Lake District, Baltic Sea coast, Tatra Mountains (the highest mountain range of Carpathians), Sudetes and Białowieża Forest. Poland's main tourist offers consist of sightseeing within cities and out-of-town historical monuments, business trips, qualified tourism, agrotourism, mountain hiking (trekking) and climbing among others. Poland is the 17th most visited country in the world by foreign tourists, as ranked by World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in 2012.
The first Polish tourists were pilgrims traveling to shrines both within Poland and abroad. The development of commercial tourism began in the 19th century. The most popular regions were mountains, especially the Tatra Mountains, explored for example by Tytus Chałubiński. In 1873 the Polish Tatra Society and in 1909 the Polish Sightseeing Society were established to organize and develop tourism. The 19th century was also the time of the rapid appearance of spa resorts, mostly in Sudetes, Beskids and along the Baltic Sea coast, with some of them associated, since 1910, with the Polish Balneology Association. After Poland regained independence in 1918, Polish tourism boomed, and was encouraged by the government. The first professional Polish tour operator, Orbis, was founded in Lwów in 1923, followed in 1937 by Gromada tourist organization and tour operator.
After World War II all tourist organizations were nationalized by the new communist government. The Polish Tatra Society and Polish Sightseeing Society were combined into Polish Tourism-Sightseeing Society (PTTK) and most of the tourist infrastructure was handed over to the newly created Workers Vacations Fund (FWP). Tourism was limited to the Comecon countries. This was the era of governmentally-founded tourism, characterised by mass but low-standard tourism. A typical sight was a holiday campground with small bungalows managed by one of the state-owned companies. Holidays for children and teenagers were organized by Juventur. After the fall of communism much of the infrastructure was privatized, although many company-owned resorts were downgraded because of their unprofitability. The early 1990s saw the foundation of many new tour operators. Some of them prevailed and strengthened their position on the market, being able to compete with multinational tour operators like TUI, or Neckermann und Reisen with branches in Poland.
Tourist attractions of Poland
Poland, especially after 1989 and joining of the European Union in 2004, became a place frequently visited by tourists. Most tourist attractions in Poland are connected with natural environment, historic sites and cultural events. They draw millions of tourists every year from all around the world. According to Tourist Institute's data, Poland was visited by 15.7 million tourists in 2006, and by 15 million tourists in 2007, out of the total number of 66.2 million foreign visitors. In 2012, Poland was visited by 13.5 million foreign tourists (those who came during Euro 2012, but did not stay overnight, were not included in official statistics). In year 2013 Poland was visited by 15,8 million tourists.
Poland has a diversified natural environment, which is relatively unaffected by human development. Visitors are attracted by mountains, sea-coast, forests and the lake reserves. Among the most popular destinations are: Tatra Mountains, in which is the highest peak of Polish (Rysy) and the famous Orla Perć; Karkonosze, Table Mountains, Białowieża Forest, Lower Silesian Wilderness, Bieszczady, Dunajec River Gorge in Pieniny, Pojezierze Mazurskie, Kampinos National Park and many others.
Tourist destinations by city
- The Royal Road of Kraków
- Tourist attractions in Warsaw
- Wrocław including Wrocław Zoo, the most visited zoo in Poland
- Gdańsk Old Town in Gdańsk
- The Royal-Imperial Route in Poznań
- Jewish Heritage Trail in Bialystok
- European Route of Brick Gothic
Historic buildings and places
- Kraków (Cracow) Old Town
- Wrocław: Historic centre (pl) (incl. Ostrów Tumski, Market Square); Centennial Hall and the Multimedia Fountain
- Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
- Ostrów Tumski, Poznań and Poznań Old Town
- 13th century Salt mine in Wieliczka
- Medieval Town of Toruń in Toruń
- Mount Ślęża in the Sudetes
- Wooden Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica
- Kłodzko Fortress
- Project Riese
- Lubiąż Abbey
- Grüssau Abbey
- Wooden Vang stave church in Karpacz
- Gniezno Cathedral
- Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland
- Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa
- Sanctuary in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska
- Zamość Old Town in Zamość
- St. Mary's Church, Stargard Szczeciński
- Augustów Canal
- Muskau Park
- Wawel Royal Castle
- Malbork Castle
- Książ Castle
- Czocha Castle
- Royal Castle, Poznań
- Imperial Castle in Poznań
- Grodziec castle
- Niesytno Castle
- Gorzanów Castle
- Gola Dzierżoniowska Castle
- Kliczków Castle
- Dunajec river castles
- Pomeranian Dukes' Castle, Szczecin
- Chochołów, Lesser Poland Voivodeship
- Bączal (near Biecz known as little Kraków)
- Srebrna Góra, Lower Silesian Voivodeship
- Henryków, Lower Silesian Voivodeship
- Oleśnica Mała
- Legnickie Pole, site of the Battle of Legnica
- Gogołów (near Świdnica, World Heritage Churches of Peace)
- Wambierzyce, pilgrimage site to statue of Our Lady
- Trzęsacz with ruins of the church in Trzęsacz at the coast of Baltic Sea
- Przelewice, Pyrzyce County with Dendrological Garden
- Jewish Culture Festival in Kraków
- Floating of the Wreaths (Wianki)
- Kraków szopka nativity crèche festival
- International Film Festival Etiuda&Anima
- International Festival of Independent Cinema Off Plus Camera
- Sopot International Song Festival
- Open'er Festival in Gdynia
- Camerimage Film Festival in Bydgoszcz
- National Festival of Polish Song in Opole
There are dozens of sea resorts on the coast of Baltic Sea like Wolin Island, located close to the German border and the coast of Pomerania. In southern Poland there are resorts for skiing and hiking in the Karkonosze mountains, which is part of the Sudetes mountain range. Karkonosze includes the touristical centres of Karpacz and Szklarska Poręba. Other famous resorts for skiing and hiking include in Carpathian Mountains: Zakopane in the Tatra mountains; Szczyrk, Krynica-Zdrój, Ustroń, Wisła in Beskides or Szczawnica and Krościenko in Pieniny mountains.
Transportation in Poland
Since the fall of communism transportation in Poland has been improving. There is acceptable tourist infrastructure, especially in larger cities and in major tourist resorts. Most major Polish cities (e.g. Cracow, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk and Szczecin) have international airports with connecting services with the Frédéric Chopin International Airport in Warsaw. Intercity travel supports the PKP Intercity, Przewozy Regionalne, local trains (Koleje Dolnośląskie, Szybka Kolej Miejska (Tricity), Koleje Mazowieckie, and other) and PKS's, PolskiBus.com and many smaller companies. There are also coach connections to other countries provided by various companies. Connections by ferry to Sweden and Denmark through the Baltic Sea are for example from Gdańsk, Gdynia and Świnoujście.
- Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society (Polish: Polskie Towarzystwo Turystyczno-Krajoznawcze - PTTK)
- Mountain Volunteer Search and Rescue (Polish: Górskie Ochotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe - GOPR)
- Tatra Volunteer Search and Rescue (Polish: Tatrzańskie Ochotnicze Pogotowie Ratunkowe - TOPR)
- List of spa towns in Poland
- TripAdvisor. "Top 10 Destinations – Poland". Travelers' Choice 2013 (Winners). TripAdvisor.ca The world largest travel site. pp. 1 of 10. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- The Touropia Team (2013). "10 Top Tourist Attractions in Poland". Touropia “best of” lists. Touropia. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Touristrack. "10 Famous Tourist Attractions In Poland You Must Visit". Central Europe. TourisTrack.com. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- UNWTO Tourism Highlights "International Tourist Arrivals by County of Destination (Poland)". UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. World Tourism Organization. 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- Information about tourism in Poland (in Polish). Source: Instytut Turystyki, 2008.
- GUS (2008). "Przyjazdy do Polski (Foreign visits to Poland)". Statistics (in Polish). Instytut Turystyki. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
- Katarzyna Sobierajska, Ministry of Tourism (2012). "Pierwsze efekty Euro 2012. Resort turystyki przewiduje wzrost liczby turystów w 2013 r. nawet o pół miliona". Live interview (in Polish). Agencja Informacyjna Newseria. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
- Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa, "Wrocław – zespół historycznego centrum." (Polish)
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- Kaszynski, Tadeusz, Through Europe to Poland by Car, 1st and rev. ed., New York, 1968