Poland is a fascinating country with a rich history, culture, and natural beauty. It is also home to some of the most vibrant and diverse cities in Europe, each with its own charm and personality. Whether you are looking for historical monuments, modern architecture, cultural events, or delicious cuisine, you will find something to suit your taste in Poland’s urban centers.
In this article, I will introduce you to the top 10 largest cities in Poland by population, according to the data from the Central Statistical Office in 2023. I will also give you some tips on what to see and do in each city, as well as some fun facts and trivia. Let’s get started!
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland, with a population of 1,795,569 people. It is located on the Vistula River, in the east-central part of the country. Warsaw is a city of contrasts, where the old and the new coexist in harmony. You can admire the royal splendor of the Old Town, which was rebuilt after World War II, or marvel at the towering skyscrapers of the modern city center. Warsaw is also a cultural hub, with numerous museums, theaters, galleries, and festivals. Some of the must-see attractions include:
- The Royal Castle, which was the residence of Polish kings and the seat of parliament for centuries. It houses a collection of paintings, furniture, and historical artifacts.
- The Palace of Culture and Science, which is the tallest building in Poland and a symbol of the city. It offers a panoramic view of Warsaw from its 30th floor terrace.
- The Warsaw Uprising Museum, which commemorates the heroic resistance of the Polish people against the Nazi occupation in 1944. It displays original documents, photographs, weapons, and personal stories of the fighters.
- The Lazienki Park, which is the largest and most beautiful park in Warsaw. It features a palace, a theater, an amphitheater, a lake, and various monuments and statues.
Fun fact: Warsaw is known as the “Phoenix City” because it rose from the ashes after being almost completely destroyed during World War II.
Krakow is the second largest city in Poland, with a population of 779,115 people. It is located on the Vistula River, in the south of the country. Krakow is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Poland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the capital of Poland until 1596, and it still retains its medieval charm and royal legacy. Krakow is also a vibrant city with a lively nightlife, a rich cultural scene, and a delicious cuisine. Some of the highlights include:
- The Wawel Castle, which was the residence of Polish kings for over 500 years. It consists of various buildings, courtyards, gardens, and chapels. It also hosts a museum with priceless artworks and treasures.
- The Main Market Square, which is the largest medieval square in Europe and the heart of Krakow. It is surrounded by historic buildings, such as the Cloth Hall (a former trading center), the St. Mary’s Basilica (a Gothic church with a famous altar), and the Town Hall Tower (a remnant of the old city hall).
- The Kazimierz District, which was once the Jewish quarter of Krakow and a center of Jewish culture and heritage. It has many synagogues, museums, restaurants, and cafes. It was also featured in Steven Spielberg’s movie Schindler’s List.
- The Wieliczka Salt Mine, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest salt mines in the world. It has over 300 kilometers (186 miles) of tunnels and chambers filled with sculptures, chapels, and lakes made of salt.
Fun fact: Krakow is said to be protected by a legendary dragon that lives under the Wawel Hill. You can see a statue of the dragon near the river bank that breathes fire every few minutes.
Lodz is the third largest city in Poland, with a population of 682,679 people. It is located in the center of the country, on the Lodzka River. Lodz is a city of industrial heritage, artistic innovation, and multicultural diversity. It was once a major textile manufacturing center, known as the “Polish Manchester”. Today, it is a creative hub, with many museums, galleries, cinemas, and festivals. Some of the attractions include:
- The Piotrkowska Street, which is the main street and the longest commercial street in Poland. It stretches for over four kilometers (2.5 miles) and is lined with historic buildings, shops, cafes, and pubs.
- The Manufaktura, which is a former textile factory that has been transformed into a modern shopping and entertainment complex. It has a museum, a cinema, a hotel, a spa, and an artificial beach.
- The Museum of Art, which is one of the oldest and most prestigious museums of modern art in Poland. It has a collection of over 20,000 works by Polish and international artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Andy Warhol.
- The Lodz Film School, which is one of the most renowned film schools in the world. It has produced many famous directors, such as Roman Polanski, Andrzej Wajda, and Krzysztof Kieslowski.
Fun fact: Lodz is known as the “Hollywood of Poland” because it has been the location of many movies and TV shows, such as The Pianist, The Promised Land, and The Witcher.
Wroclaw is the fourth largest city in Poland, with a population of 643,782 people. It is located on the Oder River, in the southwest of the country. Wroclaw is a city of bridges, islands, and gardens, with over 100 bridges and 12 islands within its boundaries. It is also a city of culture, science, and education, with over 20 universities and colleges. Wroclaw has a rich and diverse history, having been part of various kingdoms and empires over the centuries. Some of the sights include:
- The Market Square, which is one of the largest and most beautiful squares in Europe. It is dominated by the Gothic Town Hall, which houses a museum of art and history. The square is also full of colorful buildings, cafes, and restaurants.
- The Cathedral Island, which is the oldest part of Wroclaw and a place of spiritual significance. It has several churches, monasteries, and bridges. The most prominent is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, which has a pair of towers that offer a stunning view of the city.
- The Centennial Hall, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an architectural masterpiece. It was built in 1913 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig. It is a massive dome-shaped structure that can host up to 10,000 people.
- The Wroclaw Zoo, which is the oldest and largest zoo in Poland. It has over 10,000 animals from 1,000 species, including elephants, giraffes, lions, and pandas.
Fun fact: Wroclaw is famous for its dwarfs, which are small bronze statues that can be found all over the city. They represent different professions, personalities, and stories. There are over 400 dwarfs in Wroclaw, and they have become a popular tourist attraction.
Poznan is the fifth largest city in Poland, with a population of 538,633 people. It is located on the Warta River, in the west-central part of the country. Poznan is a city of trade, industry, and innovation, with a strong economy and a high quality of life. It is also a city of history, culture, and sports, with many attractions and events. Poznan is considered to be the birthplace of Poland, as it was here that the first Polish rulers were crowned in the 10th century. Some of the places to visit include:
- The Old Market Square, which is the oldest and most picturesque square in Poznan. It is surrounded by colorful townhouses, each with its own unique facade and history. The square also features the Renaissance Town Hall, which has a famous clock that shows two mechanical goats butting heads every day at noon.
- The Imperial Castle, which was built by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1910 as his residence in Poznan. It is now a cultural center that hosts various exhibitions, concerts, and festivals. It also has a museum that showcases the history of Poznan and its role in the Polish-German relations.
- The Malta Lake, which is an artificial lake that was created in 1952 as a result of damming the Cybina River. It is a popular recreational area that offers various activities, such as sailing, kayaking, rowing, cycling, and skiing. It also has a thermal bath complex that has a spa and a water park.
- The Poznan International Fair, which is the largest trade fair in Poland and one of the oldest in Europe. It attracts over one million visitors and exhibitors every year from various sectors and industries. It also hosts many cultural and sporting events, such as the Eurovision Song Contest in 2023.
Fun fact: Poznan is famous for its St. Martin’s croissants, which are pastry rolls filled with white poppy seeds, almonds, and raisins. They are traditionally eaten on November 11th, which is St. Martin’s Day and also Poland’s Independence Day.
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Gdansk is the sixth largest city in Poland, with a population of 466,631 people. It is located on the Baltic Sea, in the north of the country. Gdansk is a city of maritime history, trade, and freedom. It was once a major port and a member of the Hanseatic League, a powerful alliance of merchant cities in the Middle Ages. It was also the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, which led to the fall of communism in Poland and Eastern Europe. Gdansk is a city of beauty, culture, and diversity, with many attractions and events. Some of the places to see include:
- The Long Market, which is the main street and the most elegant part of Gdansk. It is lined with magnificent buildings, such as the Artus Court (a former meeting place of merchants and nobles), the Neptune Fountain (a symbol of the city’s connection to the sea), and the Golden House (a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture).
- The St. Mary’s Church, which is the largest brick church in the world and can accommodate up to 25,000 people. It has a 78-meter (256-foot) high tower that offers a panoramic view of Gdansk. It also has a famous astronomical clock that dates back to 1464.
- The Westerplatte Peninsula, which is where the first shots of World War II were fired on September 1, 1939. It is now a memorial site that honors the Polish soldiers who defended the peninsula against the German invasion.
- The European Solidarity Center, which is a museum and a cultural center that tells the story of the Solidarity movement and its role in the fight for democracy and human rights. It also has a library, a conference hall, and a rooftop garden.
Fun fact: Gdansk is famous for its amber, which is a fossilized resin that comes from ancient pine trees. Amber has been used for jewelry, art, and medicine for thousands of years. You can find many amber shops and workshops in Gdansk, as well as an Amber Museum that displays various amber specimens and artifacts.
Szczecin is the seventh largest city in Poland, with a population of 402,465 people. It is located on the Oder River, near the border with Germany. Szczecin is a city of water, greenery, and history. It has over 100 bridges and 12 lakes within its area. It also has over 20 parks and forests that cover more than 40% of its surface. Szczecin has a rich and turbulent history, having been part of various kingdoms and empires over the centuries. Szczecin is a city of culture, education, and innovation, with many attractions and events. Some of the things to do include:
- The Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle, which was the residence of the rulers of Pomerania for over 500 years. It was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt in the 1970s. It now hosts a museum, a theater, an opera house, and a concert hall.
- The Wały Chrobrego Promenade, which is a scenic waterfront that offers a splendid view of the Oder River and its islands. It is also where you can find some of the most impressive buildings in Szczecin, such as the National Museum (which has a collection of art and history), the Maritime University (which is one of the oldest and largest maritime schools in Europe), and the City Hall (which has a distinctive red-brick facade).
- The Underground City Trails, which are a network of tunnels and bunkers that were built by the Germans during World War II as part of their defense system. They are now open to visitors who can explore them with guided tours.
- The Philharmonic Hall, which is a modern building that resembles an iceberg or an origami. It is one of the most acclaimed architectural works in Poland and Europe. It is home to the Szczecin Philharmonic Orchestra and hosts various musical events.
Fun fact: Szczecin is famous for its sailing traditions and events. It hosts several international sailing competitions every year, such as The Tall Ships Races (which features some of the largest sailing ships in the world) and The Baltic Sail (which celebrates maritime heritage and culture).
Bydgoszcz is the eighth largest city in Poland, with a population of 348,190 people. It is located on the Brda and Vistula rivers, in the north-central part of the country. Bydgoszcz is a city of water, music, and industry. It has a well-developed network of canals and waterways that connect it to other cities and regions. It is also a city of culture and art, with a renowned opera house, a philharmonic orchestra, and several festivals. Bydgoszcz has a long and diverse history, having been influenced by various cultures and nations over the centuries. Some of the things to see include:
- The Mill Island, which is an island in the middle of the city that was once a center of milling and trade. It is now a green oasis that has many historical buildings, museums, and monuments. It also hosts various events and concerts.
- The Opera Nova, which is a modern opera house that was built in 2004 on the site of an old granary. It has a unique design that resembles a ship or a wave. It is one of the most advanced and prestigious opera houses in Poland and Europe. It hosts various performances of opera, ballet, musicals, and drama.
- The Bydgoszcz Cathedral, which is a Gothic church that dates back to the 15th century. It has a 75-meter (246-foot) high tower that offers a splendid view of the city. It also has a rich interior that features stained glass windows, paintings, sculptures, and organs.
- The Museum of Soap and History of Dirt, which is a quirky and fun museum that showcases the history and culture of soap making and hygiene. It has various exhibits, workshops, and activities that teach visitors about the science and art of soap.
Fun fact: Bydgoszcz is famous for its musical traditions and events. It hosts several international music competitions every year, such as the International I.J. Paderewski Piano Competition (which honors one of the most famous Polish pianists and composers) and the Bydgoszcz Music Festival (which features various genres of music from classical to jazz).
Lublin is the ninth largest city in Poland, with a population of 339,850 people. It is located on the Bystrzyca River, in the east of the country. Lublin is a city of history, culture, and education. It was founded in the 6th century and became an important center of trade and administration in the Middle Ages. It was also a place of tolerance and diversity, where different religions and ethnicities coexisted peacefully. Lublin is a city of learning and innovation, with over 10 universities and colleges. Lublin has many attractions and events that reflect its rich heritage and identity. Some of the places to visit include:
- The Lublin Castle, which was built in the 12th century as a royal residence and a fortress. It was later used as a prison and a museum. It has a chapel that has some of the best preserved Byzantine frescoes in Poland.
- The Old Town, which is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved old towns in Poland. It has many historical buildings, such as the Town Hall (which has a neoclassical facade), the Crown Tribunal (which was the highest court in Poland), and the Krakow Gate (which is a symbol of the city).
- The Majdanek Concentration Camp, which is a former Nazi death camp that was located on the outskirts of Lublin. It is now a memorial site that preserves the original barracks, gas chambers, crematoria, and mass graves. It also has a museum that displays various artifacts and documents related to the Holocaust.
- The Lublin Open Air Village Museum, which is a museum that recreates the rural life and culture of eastern Poland in the 19th and 20th centuries. It has over 120 buildings that represent different regions, such as farms, cottages, churches, schools, and workshops.
Fun fact: Lublin is famous for its theater traditions and events. It hosts several international theater festivals every year, such as the Theater Confrontations (which features experimental and avant-garde theater) and the Carnival Sztukmistrzów (which features street theater and circus arts).
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Katowice is the tenth largest city in Poland, with a population of 294,510 people. It is located in the south of the country, in the heart of the Upper Silesian Industrial Region. Katowice is a city of transformation, modernization, and creativity. It was once a major coal mining and steel production center, but it has undergone a remarkable change in the last decades. It is now a city of culture, business, and innovation, with many attractions and events. Katowice has a unique and diverse history, having been part of various nations and cultures over the centuries. Some of the things to do include:
- The Spodek, which is a futuristic building that resembles a flying saucer or a UFO. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Katowice and Poland. It is a multipurpose arena that hosts various events, such as concerts, sports, exhibitions, and conferences.
- The Silesian Museum, which is a museum that showcases the history, art, and culture of Silesia, a historical region that spans parts of Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic. It has a collection of over 90,000 items, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, and documents. It is also located on the site of a former coal mine, which adds to its industrial atmosphere.
- The Nikiszowiec District, which is a historic district that was built in the early 20th century as a housing estate for coal miners and their families. It has a distinctive architecture that features red brick buildings, courtyards, and churches. It has a strong sense of community and tradition, and it hosts various events and festivals throughout the year.
- The Katowice Street Art Festival, which is an annual festival that celebrates street art and urban culture. It features various artists from Poland and abroad who create murals, graffiti, installations, and performances on the walls and streets of Katowice.
Fun fact: Katowice is famous for its music scene and events. It hosts several international music festivals every year, such as the OFF Festival (which features alternative and indie music), the Rawa Blues Festival (which features blues and jazz music), and the Tauron Nowa Muzyka Festival (which features electronic and experimental music).
Poland is a country that has something for everyone. Whether you are interested in history, culture, nature, or entertainment, you will find it in Poland’s cities. Each city has its own character and charm that will make you fall in love with it. If you are planning to visit Poland soon, make sure to include these top 10 largest cities in your itinerary. You will not regret it!
Most Asked Questions and Answers
Here are some of the most asked questions and answers about Poland’s cities:
Q: What is the best time to visit Poland? A: Poland has four distinct seasons: spring (March-May), summer (June-August), autumn (September-November), and winter (December-February). The best time to visit Poland depends on your preferences and activities. Generally speaking, spring and autumn are the most pleasant seasons, with mild temperatures and colorful scenery. Summer is the peak season for tourism, with warm weather and many festivals and events. Winter can be cold and snowy, but it also offers some opportunities for skiing and ice skating.
Q: How to get around Poland? A: Poland has a well-developed transportation system that includes trains, buses, trams, taxis, and car rentals. The most convenient way to get around Poland is by train, which connects all major cities and regions. You can buy tickets online or at the stations. Buses are another option for traveling within or between cities. They are cheaper than trains but slower and less comfortable. Trams are available in some cities and offer a fast and cheap way to get around. Taxis are easy to find in most cities but can be expensive depending on the distance and traffic. Car rentals are also available in most cities but require a valid driver’s license and insurance.
Q: What are some of the best foods to try in Poland? A: Poland has a rich and varied cuisine that reflects its history and culture. Some of the best foods to try in Poland are:
- Pierogi: dumplings filled with various ingredients such as cheese, potatoes, meat, mushrooms, or fruits.
- Bigos: a stew made of cabbage, sauerkraut, meat, sausage, mushrooms, onions, and spices.
- Zurek: a sour soup made of fermented rye flour, sausage, boiled eggs, and vegetables.
- Kotlet schabowy: a breaded pork cutlet served with potatoes and salad.
- Oscypek: a smoked cheese made of sheep’s milk that has a distinctive shape and flavor.
- Sernik: a cheesecake made of cottage cheese, eggs, sugar, and raisins.
- Paczki: doughnuts filled with jam, custard, or chocolate and sprinkled with powdered sugar or icing.
Q: What are some of the best souvenirs to buy in Poland? A: Poland has many souvenirs that reflect its art, culture, and tradition. Some of the best souvenirs to buy in Poland are:
- Amber: a fossilized resin that comes in various colors and shapes and is used for jewelry, art, and decoration.
- Pottery: a ceramic ware that has various patterns and designs and is used for dishes, cups, vases, and ornaments.
- Wooden toys: a traditional craft that features various animals, dolls, cars, and puzzles made of wood and painted with bright colors.
- Lace: a delicate fabric that has intricate patterns and motifs and is used for tablecloths, napkins, doilies, and scarves.
- Vodka: a distilled alcoholic beverage that comes in various flavors and brands and is considered the national drink of Poland.
Q: What are some of the best places to see in Poland besides the cities? A: Poland has many places to see besides the cities that offer natural beauty, historical significance, and cultural diversity. Some of the best places to see in Poland are:
- The Tatra Mountains: a mountain range that forms part of the Carpathian Mountains and borders Slovakia. It offers stunning scenery, hiking trails, ski resorts, and wildlife.
- The Bialowieza Forest: a primeval forest that spans parts of Poland and Belarus. It is one of the last remaining habitats of the European bison and other rare animals and plants. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve.
- The Wieliczka Salt Mine: a salt mine that dates back to the 13th century and is one of the oldest and largest in the world. It has over 300 kilometers (186 miles) of tunnels and chambers filled with sculptures, chapels, and lakes made of salt. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a health resort.
- The Malbork Castle: a castle that was built by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century and was the largest brick castle in the world. It has various buildings, courtyards, gardens, and museums that display the history and culture of the medieval order. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum: a former Nazi concentration and extermination camp that was the site of the mass murder of over one million people during World War II. It is now a memorial site that preserves the original buildings, barracks, gas chambers, crematoria, and mass graves. It also has a museum that displays various artifacts and documents related to the Holocaust. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.