Wish you were here? Google Street View reveals top virtually visited places in Poland
Google Street View has revealed which places in Poland draw the most virtual traffic.
As part of a global ranking of most visited locations, the software giant released the data to coincide with its launch 15 years ago.
Of Poland’s cities, Warsaw topped the list, with Katowice coming a somewhat surprising second. In third came the tourist mecca of Kraków, with Gdańsk and Poznań following.
Łódź failed to make the Top 5 despite being the first Polish city to be embraced by Google Street View – debuting on February 22nd, 2012, the town’s epic Piotrkowska street became the first place in Poland to be virtually accessed using Google’s technology.
Completed in 1619 after King Sigismund III Vasa shifted the capital from Kraków (and subsequently rebuilt in the 1970s and 80s after being destroyed during WWII), the Royal Castle in Warsaw was the most visited landmark in Poland, with Auschwitz-Birkenau coming second.
Opened just before the first lockdown, the Suntago water park in Mszczonów came third, perhaps justifying the hype behind a staggering investment that included the creation of 18 swimming pools and a 67,000 sq/m floorplan featuring zones themed around such flights of fancy as Ancient Egypt and Valhalla.
The Westerplatte Peninsula – where the opening salvos of WWII were fired – came fourth, whilst fifth place was taken by Poland’s best-known example of Socialist Realist architecture: Stalin’s gargantuan ‘gift’ to the people, the Palace of Culture & Science in the epicentre of Warsaw.
Demonstrating the diversity of Poland’s attractions, the list also includes the Sky Walk Tower (positioned in seventh) in Świeradów-Zdrój – opened last year, and following a curling and vertiginous 800-metre pathway that rises 60-metres in the air, this curiosity has already become one of Poland’s most photogenic landmarks and features, among other things, a terrifying glass footbridge at the top.
Practical in parts (the shortlist includes Warsaw’s Chopin Airport and Poznań’s train station), the list presents several treasures such as the 395-metre long pier in Międzyzdroje (ranked ninth) and Jaworzno’s stunning Gródek Park (placed tenth).
Occupying the area of a disused quarry, the latter has become known as ‘the Polish Maldives’ after a meandering trail of partially-submerged wooden walkways and vantage points placed on top of the turquoise waters of its placid, manmade lake.
Museums have also been presented on a separate list, and in this regard it is the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial & Museum that has topped the rankings. Though physical visitor numbers have dropped drastically with the pandemic (563,000 visited in 2021, down on a pre-Covid high of over two million), the interest the museum has maintained in the virtual world can been seen as enduring evidence of the site’s international importance.
With such a wealth of modern-minded museums dealing with WWII, neither is it a surprise to see many of these institutions also rating highly: the Warsaw Rising Museum (fourth), Gdańsk’s Museum of the Second World War (sixth), and Kraków’s Oskar Schindler Museum (eighth) all feature in the rundown.
Again, however, what impresses the most is how mixed the list actually is. Planted in second place is the Museum of King Jan III's Palace at Wilanów, evidence that the Baroque glory of this former royal residence still resonates with the modern generation.
Likewise, in third sits Czocha, a fairytale castle whose magical atmosphere has continued to enthrall a young demographic – sometimes likened to “a real-life Hogwarts”, its appeal has not been lost on the castle’s guardians who frequently host ‘schools of magic’, ‘mystery tours’ and live action roleplaying events.
Of the other places noted by Google, Wawel Castle is perched in fifth, the Copernicus Science Center in seventh, and the Museum of the Land on the Noteć River in ninth.
The rest of the placings, meanwhile, are occupied by a mixed bag of experiences that include the multi-media based Hydropolis (tenth) achingly romantic Renaissance castle in Pieskowa Skała (eleventh), the iconic Panorama of Racławice (fourteenth).
The first Polish museum ever presented by Google, POLIN, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, has been ranked in thirteenth place.
Beyond culture, beaches were also featured in the round-up, with Kraków’s Bagry the most popular.
This was followed by the Dubai beach in Jarosławiec, a five-hectare manmade space. Originally created to prevent landslides, its warm waters and clean sands have made it the town’s principal calling card.
Premiering internationally in 2007, Street View has since mapped ten million miles of the world and shot over 220 billion images in the process.