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POLAND

Poland is an eastern European country on the Baltic Sea known for its medieval architecture and Jewish heritage. Warsaw, the capital, has shopping and nightlife, plus the Warsaw Uprising Museum, honouring the city’s WWII-era resistance to German occupation. In the city of Kraków, 14th-century Wawel Castle rises above the medieval old town, home to Cloth Hall, a Renaissance trading post in Rynek Glówny (market square).

 

VISA REQUREMENTS

South African nationals who wish to travel to Poland must be in possession of a visa, in order to cross external borders for stays in the Schengen Area of no more than three months (90 days) in a period of six months (180 days) from the date of entry into the Schengen Area.

Please apply for your visa at the consulate or embassy of the country of your main destination.

Visa Cost: ZAR896.00 ex VAT.

Compulsory Vaccinations Required: No.

Please note: Visa and vaccination information is correct at time of publish and are subject to change

BEST TIME TO TRAVEL

Cultural: The best time to visit Poland is during spring (March-May) and Autumn (September-November). This country has a typical European temperate climate with six distinctive seasons where summers are mostly hot and wet while winters are freezing.

AREAS TO VISIT AND THEIR MAIN ATTRACTIONS

KRAKOW

A southern Poland city near the border of the Czech Republic, is known for its well-preserved medieval core and Jewish quarter. Its old town – ringed by Planty Park and remnants of the city’s medieval walls – is centred on the stately, expansive Rynek Glówny (market square). The buzzing, bar-packed, café-spotted heart of the UNESCO-attested Krakow Old Town, the Market Square, is where all the action has played out since the Middle Ages. Come here for people watching, history, beautiful architecture and more.

The medley of Gothic, Renaissance, Rococo and Romanesque architecture that is the great Wawel Castle can be seen towering over the whole city. It was once the home of the Polish kings and queens, and still has great museums and court rooms as a testimony to its former glory.

Cutting through the very heart of the northern half of the Old Town district, the bustling drag that is Florianska Street hosts everything from craft beer bars to souvenir emporiums to vodka tasting joints. It’s one of the beating nerves of Krakow, and fills to bursting with visitors during the high season.

The redbrick façade and great twin spires of St Mary’s Basilica have become veritable symbols of the city of Krakow. Looming high over the Market Square, they were first raised in the 14th century, have weathered Mongol invasions, and still host the hourly trumpet call.

Set within walking distance of the Old Town, the historic Jewish Quarter of Krakow was once a separate city in its own right. Today, it’s totally subsumed into the fabric of the town, but still retains a unique culture and vibe with its crumbling tenement blocks, great synagogues and oodles of cool bohemian beer joints.

Dark, emotional, moving, and sobering in the extreme, there’s really nowhere in Europe quite like Auschwitz-Birkenau. It remains one of the top activities to do in Krakow, offering an informative and sensitive insight into the horrors of the Holocaust and the destruction wrought by the Nazis on the Jews and minorities of the continent. The memorial and museum are around an hour from the city centre.

Hidden behind the old walls of the Wawel Castle, arguably the most important church in all of Poland can be found looming high with its Baroque and Gothic frontispieces. Attractions are both high and low, going from the soaring lookouts of the Belfry to the national crypts under the main basilica.

WARSAW

The sprawling capital of Poland. Its widely varied architecture reflects the city’s long, turbulent history, from Gothic churches and neoclassical palaces to Soviet-era blocks and modern skyscrapers. The city’s Old Town was restored after heavy damage during WWII. Its heart is Market Square, with pastel buildings and open-air cafes. The Monument of the Warsaw Mermaid at its centre is the city’s symbol.

Constructed in 1955, the Palace of Culture and Science divides Warsaw’s inhabitants into those who still hate it and those who learned how to live in its presence. This ‘gift of the Soviet people to the Polish nation’, offered by Joseph Stalin himself, has become one of the city’s most widely recognised symbols. The Palace houses a cinema, a swimming pool, four museums, four theatres, four universities and numerous coffee stores and bars. Visitors can also take advantage of the terrace located on the 30th floor, offering a mesmerising view of the city’s panorama.

Included on the UNESCO World Heritage list, Warsaw’s Old Town was completely rebuilt after World War II, based mostly on 18th century paintings by the Italian painter Canaletto. The heart of the area, guarded proudly by the Warsaw mermaid, is the Old Town Market Place with its restaurants and cafés. Visitors should also make sure to see the Barbican and St. John’s Cathedral, as well as explore the picturesque winding streets.

Royal Castle – Formerly the royal residence between the 16th and 18th centuries, the castle currently houses a museum and is open to the public. Restored and furnished with repossessed furniture and works of art, it transports visitors to the time of Stanisław August Poniatowski, the last kind of Poland.

Warsaw Uprising Museum – Commemorating the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, this state-of-the-art museum tells the story of Polish rebellion against the Nazi occupation. Comprising video, audio and photographs, mixed into an interactive experience, this truly unique, tactile exhibition gives an interesting glimpse not only into the city’s history, but also into the country’s historical narrative around one of the most traumatic events in its recent history.

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