UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Poland

Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Auschwitz concentration camp was a network of German Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. It consisted of Auschwitz I (the original camp), Auschwitz II–Birkenau (a combination concentration/extermination camp), Auschwitz III–Monowitz (a labor camp to staff an IG Farben factory), and 45 satellite camps. Ausch ...
Founded: 1940 | Location: Oświęcim, Poland

Historic Centre of Kraków

The urban layout of Cracow, an outstanding example of medieval architecture, is based on four core areas: the centre, around the market square; the Wawel, the hill inhabited since the Palaeolithic and the site of the imperial palace; the urban district of Kazimierz; and the Stradom quarter. The historic centre of Cracow, the former capital of Poland, is situated at the foot of the Royal Wawel Castle. The 13th-century mer ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Kraków, Poland

Historic Centre of Warsaw

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 of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century. From th ...
Founded: | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Kraków Cloth Hall

The Cloth Hall in Kraków dates to the Renaissance and is one of the city"s most recognizable icons. It is the central feature of the main market square in the Kraków Old Town (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978). The hall was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, the hall was ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Kraków, Poland

Church of St. Phillip and St. Jacob

St. Philip and St. Jacob the Apostles' Church in Sękowa was built at the beginning of 16th century. It was made using manually hewed larch wood covered with shingle. The church is a one-nave one with the chancel closed off at three sides. The interior is meagre, since the church was devastated during the wartime at the turn of 1914 and 1915. Wooden elements from the church were used to build trenches and consumed as fire ...
Founded: 1520 | Location: Sękowa, Poland

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter&rs ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Kraków, Poland

St. Mary's Basilica

Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven (also known as St. Mary"s Church) is a Brick Gothic church famous for its wooden altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss. According to chronicler Jan Długosz the first parish church at the Main Square in Kraków was founded in 1221–22 by the Bishop of Kraków, Iwo Odrowąż. The building was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of Poland. Between 1290&ndas ...
Founded: 1290-1320 | Location: Kraków, Poland

Warsaw Royal Castle

The history of the Royal Castle goes back to the 14th century when the Great Tower was erected. In the 16th and 17th centuries during the reign of Sigismund III Vasa, the Castle underwent large-scale expansion and was transformed into a five-winged edifice with an inner courtyard. It was a royal residence, the place where parliamentary deliberations were held and the administrative and cultural centre of the country. Des ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Wieliczka Salt Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine was built in the 13th century and produced table salt continuously until 2007, as one of the world's oldest salt mines still in operation. From its beginning and throughout its existence, the Royal mine was run by the Żupy krakowskie Salt Mines. The mine's attractions include dozens of statues and four chapels that have been carved out of the rock salt by the miners. The oldest sculptures are aug ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Wieliczka, Poland

Malbork Castle

The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork (Ordensburg Marienburg), completed in 1406, is the largest castle in the world by surface area, and the largest brick building in Europe. The castle is a classic example of a medieval fortress. UNESCO designated the 'Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork' and the Malbork Castle Museum as the World Heritage Site in 1997. The castle was built by the Teutonic Order after the con ...
Founded: 1274-1406 | Location: Malbork, Poland

Medieval Town of Torun

Toruń is a small historic trading city that preserves to a remarkable extent its original street pattern and outstanding early buildings, providing an exceptionally complete picture of the medieval way of life. These buildings in Toruń represent the highest achievements of medieval architecture in brick. The unique spatial layout of Toruń has survived almost intact and provides valuable source material for the history ...
Founded: 1233 | Location: Toruń, Poland

Muskau Park

The Muskau or Muskauer Park is the largest and one of the most famous English gardens of Germany and Poland. Situated in the historic Upper Lusatia region, it covers 3.5 square kilometers of land in Poland and 2.1 km2 in Germany. The park extends on both sides of the Lusatian Neisse, which constitutes the border between the countries. A fortress on the Neisse at Muskau was first mentioned as early as the 13th century und ...
Founded: 1811 | Location: Bad Muskau, Germany

Bochnia Salt Mine

The Bochnia Salt Mine is one of the oldest salt mines in the world and the oldest one in Poland. The mine was established between the 12th and 13th centuries after salt was first discovered in Bochnia, and became part of the Royal mining company żupy krakowskie (Kraków salt works). The mine was closed some time after World War I. In 1981 it was declared a heritage monument. The site is one of Poland"s of ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Bochnia, Poland

Centennial Hall

The Centennial Hall was constructed according to the plans of architect Max Berg in 1911–1913, when the city was part of the German Empire. The building and surroundings is frequently visited by tourists and the local populace. As an early landmark of reinforced concrete architecture, the building became one of Poland"s official national Historic Monuments, as designated April 20, 2005, together with the Four Domes ...
Founded: 1911-1913 | Location: Wrocław, Poland

Archangel Michael Church

The wooden church of the Archangel Michael in Debno is first mentioned in 1335. The present building, the second on the site, dates from the late 15th century. This church has a unique example of medieval decorations. The ceiling and the interior walls are painted using stencils from the 15th and 16th centuries. The decoration contains more than 77 motifs: architectural recalling Gothic forms, animal, human and religious. ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Dębno, Poland

St. John's Archcathedral

St. John's Archcathedral in Warsaw stands immediately adjacent to Warsaw's Jesuit church, and is one of the oldest churches in the city. St. John's Archcathedral is one of Poland's national pantheons. Along with the city, the church has been listed by UNESCO as of cultural significance. Originally built in the 14th century in Masovian Gothic style, the Cathedral served as a coronation and burial site for numerous Dukes o ...
Founded: 1390 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Church of the Archangel Michael

The Church of the Archangel Michael in Binarowa was built around 1500. In 1595 a tower was added to the west end, and at the beginning of the 17th century the church was enclosed by an external arcade. Window openings were enlarged and new polychrome decoration replaced the earlier stencilled work. The church is decorated with numerous sculptures and paintings of angels. The church is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Si ...
Founded: 1500 | Location: Binarowa, Poland

St. Leonard's Church

The Church of St Leonard was built at the end of the 15th century. From this date have survived parts of the polychrome decoration stencilled on the ceiling of the nave. The church was situated outside the defensive wall of the township and had the function of a cemetery church, a function that it still fulfils. It has been renovated many times, but this has not significantly affected its form or spatial arrangement The ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Lipnica Murowana, Poland

Zupny Castle

Żupny Castle is a Gothic castle, the former headquarters of the Wieliczka and Bochnia Salt Mine. The castle is located in the former mine complex and was designated as part of the Wieliczka and Bochnia UNESCO World Heritage Site, since an expansion in 2013. A castle was built on top of the hillside in the 13th century, under the reign of Casimir III the Great and Sigismund I the Old. The current castle was built in ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Wieliczka, Poland

Old City of Zamosc

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. It has retained its original layout and fortifications and a large number of buildings t ...
Founded: 1580 | Location: Zamość, Poland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Royal Palace of Aranjuez

Palacio Real de Aranjuez is a former Spanish royal residence. It was established around the time Philip II of Spain moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid. Aranjuez became one of four seasonal seats of government, occupied during the springtime (from about holy week). Thereafter, the court moved successively to Rascafría, El Escorial and wintered in Madrid. Aranjuez Cultural Landscape is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After the Christian conquest, Aranjuez was owned by the Order of Santiago and a palace was built for its Grand Masters where the Royal Palace stands today. When the Catholic Monarchs assumed the office of Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, Aranjuez became part of the Royal estate. This fertile land, located between the Tajo and Jarama Rivers, was converted into the Spanish monarchy's most lavish country retreat: during Spain's Golden Age, Aranjuez became a symbol for the perfection of nature by mortal hands, as El Escorial was for art.

Such excellence was based on strong Renaissance foundations, as Charles V envisaged this inherited estate as a large Italian-inspired villa, a desire continued by Philip II who appointed Juan Bautista de Toledo to design leafy avenues that ran through the gardens and farming land. A series of dams was constructed in the 16th century to control the course of the Tajo River and create a network of irrigation canals.

The splendour of the estate was only enhanced by the Bourbon monarchs, who would spend the whole spring, from Easter to July, at the Palace. Phillip V added new gardens and Ferdinand VI designed a new system of tree-lined streets and created a small village within the estate, which was further developed by Charles III and Charles IV. As Ferdinand VII and Isabella II continued to visit Aranjuez during the spring, the splendour of this site was maintained until 1870.

The Royal Palace, built by Phillip II on the site of the old palace of the Grand Masters of Santiago, was designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo –under whom construction began in 1564– and later Juan Herrera, who only managed to finish half the project. Although glimpses of the original layout still remain, the building itself is more characteristic of the classicism favoured by the Hapsburg monarchs, with alternating white stone and brick. The original design was continued by Phillip V in 1715 but not finished until 1752 under Ferdinand VI. The rectangular layout that Juan Bautista de Toledo had planned, and that took two centuries to complete, was only maintained for 20 years, since in 1775 Charles III added two wings onto the Palace.

Real Casa del Labrador

As the Prince of Asturias, Charles IV was a frequent visitor to the pier pavilions built by Ferdinand VI and grew up playing in the Prince’s Garden. When he became King, he decided to build a new country house at the far end of these gardens, known as the Casa del Labrador (the labourer's house) due to its modest exterior that was designed to heavily contrast the magnificent internal decor. It was built by chief architect Juan de Villanueva and his pupil Isidro González Velázquez, who designed some of the interior spaces. These rooms, developed in various stages until 1808, are the greatest example of the lavish interior decor favoured by this monarch in his palaces and country retreats. Highlights at this Site include the combination of different types of art and the luxurious textiles, in particular the silks from Lyon, as well as wealth of original works on the main floor, where Ferdinand VII added various paintings and landscapes by Brambilla.

King's Garden, the Island Garden, Parterre Garden and the Prince's Garden

Phillip II, a great lover of gardens, paid special attention to this feature of the Aranjuez Palace: during his reign, he maintained both the Island Garden, designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo, and the King's Garden, immediately adjacent to the Palace and whose current layout was designed by Philip IV. The majority of the fountains on this island were commissioned by Phillip IV, while the Bourbons added other features such as the Charles III benches.

Phillip V made two French-style additions to the existing gardens: the Parterre Garden in front of the palace and the extension at the far end of the Island Garden, known as the Little Island, where he installed the Tritons Fountain that was later moved to the Campo del Moro park by Isabella II.

The Prince's Garden owes its name and creation to the son and heir of Charles III who, in the 1770s, began to use Ferdinand VI's old pier for his own enjoyment. He also created a landscaped garden in the Anglo-French style that was in fashion at the time and which was directly influenced by Marie Antoinette's gardens at the Petit Trianon. Both Juan de Villanueva and Pablo Boutelou collaborated in the design of this garden.