With 15 places in total, Poland is the country in Central Europe with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Kraków’s entire medieval old town and the Salt Mine in Wieliczka were among the first sites to be chosen for UNESCO’s original list in 1978. Let’s have a look at all of them, shall we?
Historic Centre of Kraków (1978)
The Historic Centre of Kraków, the former capital of Poland, is situated at the foot of the Royal Wawel Castle. The 13th-century merchants’ town has Europe’s largest market square and numerous historical houses, palaces and churches with their magnificent interiors.
Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines (1978)
The deposit of rock salt in Wieliczka and Bochnia has been mined since the 13th century. This major industrial undertaking is the oldest of its type in Europe. Both mines have hundreds of kilometers of galleries with works of art, underground chapels and statues sculpted in the salt, making a fascinating pilgrimage into the past.
Auschwitz Birkenau (1979)
The fortified walls, barbed wire, platforms, barracks, gallows, gas chambers and cremation ovens show the conditions within which the Nazi genocide took place in the former concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest in the Third Reich.
Białowieża Forest (1979) – with Belarus
The only natural site listed by UNESCO in Poland, the Białowieża Forest, on the border between Poland and Belarus, is an immense range of primary forest covering a total area of 141,885 hectares. Situated on the watershed of the Baltic Sea and Black Sea, it is home to the largest population of the property’s iconic species, the European bison.
Historic Centre of Warsaw (1980)
During the Warsaw Uprising, in August 1944, more than 85% of Warsaw’s historic centre was destroyed by Nazi troops. After the war, a five-year reconstruction campaign by its citizens resulted in today’s meticulous restoration of the Old Town, with its churches, palaces and market-place. It is an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction.
Old City of Zamość (1992)
Zamosc was founded in the 16th century by the chancellor Jan Zamoysky on the trade route linking western and northern Europe with the Black Sea. Modelled on Italian theories of the ‘ideal city’ and built by the architect Bernando Morando, a native of Padua, Zamosc is a perfect example of a late-16th-century Renaissance town.
Medieval Town of Toruń (1997)
Toruń owes its origins to the Teutonic Order, which built a castle there in the mid-13th century as a base for the conquest and evangelization of Prussia. It soon developed a commercial role as part of the Hanseatic League.
Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork (1997)
Speaking of the Teutonic Order, its 13th-century fortified monastery in Malbork was substantially enlarged and embellished after 1309, when the seat of the Grand Master moved here from Venice. A particularly fine example of a medieval brick castle, it later fell into decay, but was meticulously restored in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of the conservation techniques now accepted as standard were evolved here.
Kalwaria Zebrzydowska (1999)
Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is a breathtaking cultural landscape of great spiritual significance. Its natural setting – in which a series of symbolic places of worship relating to the Passion of Jesus Christ and the life of the Virgin Mary was laid out at the beginning of the 17th century – has remained virtually unchanged. It is still today a place of pilgrimage.
Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica (2001)
The Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica, the largest timber-framed religious buildings in Europe, were built in the former Silesia in the mid-17th century, amid the religious strife that followed the Peace of Westphalia. Constrained by the physical and political conditions, the Churches of Peace bear testimony to the quest for religious freedom and are a rare expression of Lutheran ideology in an idiom generally associated with the Catholic Church.
Wooden Churches of Southern Małopolska (2003)
The wooden churches of southern Little Poland represent outstanding examples of the different aspects of medieval church-building traditions in Roman Catholic culture. Built using the horizontal log technique, common in eastern and northern Europe since the Middle Ages, these churches were sponsored by noble families and became status symbols. They offered an alternative to the stone structures erected in urban centres.
Park Mużakowski (2004) – with Germany
A landscaped park of 560 hectars astride the Neisse River at the border between Poland and Germany, Park Mużakowski was created by Prince Hermann von Puckler-Muskau from 1815 to 1844. Blending seamlessly with the surrounding farmed landscape, the park pioneered new approaches to landscape design and influenced the development of landscape architecture in Europe and America.
Centennial Hall in Wrocław (2006)
The Centennial Hall, a landmark in the history of reinforced concrete architecture, was erected in 1911-1913 by the architect Max Berg as a multi-purpose recreational building, situated in the Exhibition Grounds. It is a pioneering work of modern engineering and architecture.
Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region (2013) – with Ukraine
Situated in the eastern fringe of Central Europe, the transnational property numbers a selection of sixteen tserkvas (churches). They were built of horizontal wooden logs between the 16th and 19th centuries by communities of Orthodox and Greek Catholic faiths. The tserkvas bear testimony to a distinct building tradition rooted in Orthodox ecclesiastic design interwoven with elements of local tradition, and symbolic references to their communities’ cosmogony.
Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine (2017)
Located in Upper Silesia, in southern Poland, one of the main mining areas of central Europe, the property includes the entire underground mine with adits, shafts, galleries and other features of the water management system. The elements of the water management system, located underground and on the surface, testify to continuous efforts over three centuries to drain the underground extraction zone and to use undesirable water from the mines to supply towns and industry.