Bialystok is not a "must" for tourists visiting Poland, however intriguing it may be. Unlike most cities in Poland, Bialystok is settled by various nationalities (Poles, Russians, Belorussians and Tartars) and religious groups (Catholic and Orthodox) who coexist there peacefully. The most attractive sight in Bialystok is a palace dubbed the "small Versailles". The whole region is dotted with Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish temples, attracting both pilgrims and tourists, but it also has unrivalled natural features, including wild woods and meandering rivers.
Bialystok, with a population of almost 300,000 people, ranks among the larger Polish cities. As the capital of the Podlachia province, Bialystok is in fact the main industrial centre of north-eastern Poland and an important academic city.
Bialystok is the largest city in north-eastern Poland, situated in the Podlaska Lowlands. The city owes its name to the Biala River (literally "white river"). It is surrounded by the wild woods of the Bialowieza Primaeval Forest and the Narwianski Park Narodowy, making the region particularly attractive for active leisure enthusiasts. Another truly unique feature consists of the two natural reserves which are located within the city’s borders. Bialystok's climate is a bit colder than Poland’s average.
The first settlement on the site of today’s Bialystok was first mentioned in the 15th century as Bielszczany Village. Two hundred years later, it was already a town with a market square and a wooden church. It was at that time,in the 17th century that Bialystok was presented to Stefan Czarniecki, the Polish commander who had defeated the Swedes, as a prize for his victory.