With Poland and Ukraine about to jointly host this year’s UEFA European Football Championship, or Euro 2012 if you’re feeling casual, attention is being focused anew on the two countries, albeit attention of a football-oriented variety.
Fans from all participating nations are converging on them now, but mainly with beer, burgers and the odd match on their mind. For the more eclectic visitor, we give you five notable attractions for visitors to Poland and Ukraine:
One of Poland’s most historic cities, famed among historians and historically-minded tourists alike for its beautifully preserved Old Town, with an unparalleled array of old Gothic and Renaissance buildings, Krakow celebrated its 750th anniversary in 2007. Visitors can literally spend days uncovering all the artistic and architectural treasures, before sampling one of its many lively bars, restaurants and nightclubs, but a must-see is Wawel Castle and the former Jewish quarter Kazimierz.
The capital of the Wielkopolska region, Poznan is primarily an industrial city, but more than makes up for that with its lively and varied nightlife, based around the old square Stary Rynek. For lovers of outdoor attractions, it boasts the huge and splendid Malta Lake and the Citadel Park.
For those who prefer their fun indoors, however, the city has a surprising variety of museums, including one of the three museums of musical instruments in Europe, the National Museum and the Motoring Museum. It also contains the oldest church in Poland, the Archicathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul.
The capital of Ukraine is usually the first place that visitors to the country fly into, and many spend their entire holiday there, uncovering its layers of history. A beautifully laid out city, some 1,500 years old, it can sometimes seem very Russian, especially those parts of it that give a strong impression of life in the Soviet era. Unlike Russia, however, you will not need a visa to enter the country, so it’s a lot easier to access delights such as the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Kievo-Pecherskaya Caves Monastery, with its spooky candlelit network of catacombs full of glass coffins containing mummified monks!
Known as “The Lion’s City”, Lviv is seen as the opposite of Kiev – that is to say the least Soviet-style city in Ukraine. It lives up to its name with its yearly “Parade of Lions”, in which artists show of their lion-based sculptures, and the annual Iron Lion festival of ironworked arts and crafts. Wander round the city and drink in its staggering range of architectural styles – everything from Gothic and Renaissance to rococo, baroque and neoclassical can be found here.
The Ukrainian countryside
Boasting some of the most beautiful and unspoilt countryside in the world, Ukraine has much to offer hikers, bikers and campers. Travel in the west and take in the majesty of the Carpathian Mountains in the west of the country, or enjoy great value winter sports in the country’s ski resorts. If you are seeking a more traditional sea, sand and sunshine combination, then there are many resorts waiting for you along the country’s Black Sea coast.