UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 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

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

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 1290–1300 the new early Gothic church wa ...
Founded: 1290-1320 | Location: Kraków, 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

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’s daughter ...
Founded: 9th century AD | 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

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 these ruins, ...
Founded: | 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

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

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

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

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 a sq ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Wieliczka, 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

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska Park

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska park is a Mannerist architectural and park landscape complex and pilgrimage park, built in the 17th century as the Counter Reformation in the late 16th century led to prosperity in the creation of Calvaries in Catholic Europe. The park was added in 1999 to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.  This extraordinary testimony of piety and culture was the first of the large-scale Calvaries built in ...
Founded: 1600 | Location: Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, 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

Swidnica Church of Peace

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 asso ...
Founded: 1656-1657 | Location: Świdnica, Poland

Jawor Church of Peace

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 asso ...
Founded: 1655 | Location: Jawor, 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

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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.