The unofficial capital of Europe’s east flank is a city of Białystok – the largest city in northeastern Poland. It has resulted in a lengthy interaction between Poles, Russians, Belarusians, Tatars, Magyars, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The fact that the city became a melting pot of minorities inspired Białystok’s most famous son, L. L. Zamenhof, to develop Esperanto. Also, forests are an essential part of Białystok’s character. Around 17% of the administrative area is occupied, by the fields of green. In recent years Białystok becomes a jumping off point for the famous Białowieża National Park. Without further ado – let’s check 10 must-see things in Białystok!
Jan Klemens Branicki was an affluent nobleman, and he is responsible for Białystok’s architectural wonder from 18th-century. Not only did he build a palace and gardens. In his courageous plans, he wanted to create a Baroque city with churches and a town hall. Today the castle didn’t lose anything from its unique charm when it was completed more than 200 years ago. Its chapel, cellars, pavilions are still fantastic, but the most breathtakingly are Great Hall, Chinese Room. And of course the magnificent baroque garden. It’s design contain all the iconic features: geometric lawns, stone vases, topiaries and fountains. Nowadays, except a museum, the palace is home to the Medical University of Białystok. It’s a great place to feel fancy!
Kościuszko Market Square (Rynek Kościuszki)
Białystok’s market square is in the shape of an elongated triangle, plotted around the Town Hall. Since taking damage during the war, Rynek has been rebuilt and its main building today is the Podlachian Museum. Among the three frontages of Kosciuszko Square, the most impressive is the western one. It has ornate sgraffito decoration with foliate patterns and portraits of people essential for the region. During all summer months, local and foreign painters put their works up for sale, behind the colourful houses. When the weather is accurate, you can sit at a cafe or restaurant table and soak up the easter view.
Podlachian Museum of Folk Culture (Podlaskie Muzeum Kultury Ludowej)
In 1982 local government in Białystok decided to safeguard the traditional wooden building methods in the northeastern region of Poland. That’s why they fund an outdoor museum, built in the Swedish “Skansen” tradition. It has over the 40 buildings and other cultural artefacts from around the Podlachian Province. In the open-air museum, objects are belonging to the so-called small architecture. We are talking crosses, chapels, wells, residential and farm buildings, as well as a nineteenth-century, Neoclassical manor house from Bóbr Wielka. This is often the only way to preserve such things as, a Belarusian cottage, a forge or a lumberjack’s hut. If you want to feel like a time traveller and experience nearly nonexistent world, definitely try some Podlachian Folk Culture.
Podlachian Philharmonic and Opera (Opera i Filharmonia Podlaska)
Podlachian Philharmonic and Opera is northeastern Poland’s most modern and the most important cultural institution. In 2012 Opera moved into a new complex. Even if you’re not a big fan of fancy entertainment, this minimalist concrete and glass construction, will impress you. With a capacity of up to 1,000, the main stage is equipped with the second largest organ in Poland. This hall also has a mobile platform in the ceiling and glass screens that help customize the hall’s acoustics. Seriously – even if you won’t understand a word, it’s worth going to a concert. Also in the complex is an outdoor amphitheatre with lush gardens.
Alfons’ Karny Museum of (Muzeum Rzeźby Alfonsa Karnego)
The most beautiful example of wooden architecture of the 19th century is a Major General Mikołaj Fiedorowicz villa. Built right in the Centre of Białystok, just for him. Since 1993 it has been updated for a museum for the famous, Białystok-born sculptor, Alfons Karny. His artistic activity spanned most of the 20th century, creating monuments in the Socialist Realist style, but also life-like figures. On display in the museum, you can see tools from his workshop, his collection of historical and contemporary art. As well as Karny’s images of famous Poles from the 20th century.
Constitution Park (Park Konstytucji 3 Maja)
This modernist park in Białystok created at the turn of the 20s and 30s of the 20th century. It used to be a part of the Zwierzyniecki Forest, but now the park is about half the size. Still big though – approximately 16 hectares. Most of the area is wrapped in dark oak, hornbeam and birch woods. In humid places in the park grow alders and elms. The best parts of this park are pleasantly wild, where you can just to cut yourself off from everything.
Ludwik Zamenhof Centre (Centrum is. Ludwika Zamenhofa)
It’s pretty logical that Esperanto was born in the city with variety of races, nationalities, religions and cultures. This museum is dedicated to the creator of the language and provides information about his life and work. The museums’ mission is to educate visitors on multiculturalism and the history of the cultural climate of the city. And how it inspired Zamenhof to create a universal language. He hoped that his life’s work would improve communication between the people of different creeds all over the world. The Centre contains an Esperanto library and also holds cultural events, such as film screenings, theatre performances, concerts and lecture. As well as workshops for young people.
Białystok Puppet Theatre (Białostocki Teatr Lalek)
Theatre was built in 1953, and that was the first spot in Poland, with performance space explicitly for puppetry. It sounds funny and bit silly, but be assured – Białystok Puppet Theatre is a respectable field of the arts. It’s a reputable institution which hosts national and international festivals. Yes, it does put on children’s shows, based on famous fairy tales and fables. It also holds experimental performances and adult-oriented literary adaptations of iconic authors. And after the play, if you still won’t be satisfied, you can also go to the “Puppets’ Cellar”. It’s a small but highly atmospheric space beneath the main stage, where numerous costumes, puppets, masks and scenery are displayed.
Białystok Cultural Centre
Białystok is not only a wooden museum from deep past. It’s an energetic cultural hub, presenting art, music, film and fashion festivals. Each year around 300 events is organized by Białystok Cultural Centre for people of all ages. From jazz concerts, dance and theatre performances, outdoor activities to annual blues festival “Autumn with the Blues”. Not without reason, Białystok was considered for the European Capital of Culture 2016. This place deserves a big buzz!
Bialowieza National Park (Białowieski Park Narodowy)
There is an area in Poland called “Green Lungs of Poland” because of its quality of the air. The very heart of it is the Bialowieza National Park. If you are in Bialystok, you just cannot miss that chance. Bialowieza Forest is the most significant remaining part of the ancient forest where certain species of animals don’t live anywhere else. The European bison is an excellent example of it. The Bialowieza National Park is the only Polish natural monument listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Within the forest is located Nature and Forest Museum, which contain educational displays about the history of the forest and its inhabitants. I know, it’s a forest – a bit bigger and fancier. But you won’t see anywhere else 800 European bison. As well as 500-year old oak trees. You don’t have to be a nature lover to be amazed by it!