UNESCO in Poland - the greatest hits from the world heritage list
From impressive medieval castles to modernist industrial installations, Poland combines the best historical traditions of multiculturality, wild nature and the national folklore. Travelling through the land on the Vistula River is an unforgettable experience that allows one to discover a new fact of the country. The UN appreciated its uniqueness by including 17 places in Poland on the prestigious list of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. How can they be found? Which of them should be visited at least once in a lifetime? Read our brief guide and discover the most important places on the cultural map of Poland!
UNESCO w Polsce – what to see?
UNESCO - Poland – the Old Town, Krakow
The former capital city of Poland and the tourist capital of the Małopolska region is a true treasury of the national memorabilia. Krakow is often called the cradle of the Polish culture, which is not extraordinary as the quantity of historical monuments there can make you dizzy. One of the oldest and most characteristic places is the mid-13th-century Main Market Square. Surrounded by rows of several hundred years’ old townhouses and palaces, it is the largest medieval city square in Europe. Two magnificent buildings dominate the site: there are the Sukiennice with stalls that continue a centuries-old tradition of trade and the Mariacka Basilica with a beautiful Gothic altar by Wit Stwosz. While visiting Krakow, one has to see places such as the Royal Castle on the Wawel Hill, Collegium Maius and the Czartoryski Museum with the Lady with an Ermine, one of the greatest paintings by Leonardo da Vinci. The Kazimierz, a former Jewish district famous for its artistic cafes, art galleries and great nightlife, starts just a few steps from the Old Town. This district is not only about parties; the Szeroka Street with its historical synagogues, the Podgórze with the remnants of the Jewish ghetto and Oskar Schindler’s factory known from the Schindler’s List, an iconic 1993 film by Steven Spielberg can be found in the area. Trade, arts and high culture can make a holiday in Krakow memorable for everyone!
UNESCO - Poland – the Old Town, Warsaw
The UNESCO World Heritage Site list also includes the Old Town in Warsaw, the current capital of Poland. Almost entirely destroyed during World War II, it raised from its ruins like a phoenix from the ashes in just a few years to delight anew with burghers’ colourful townhouses, elegant palaces and the majestic Royal Castle. This historical part of Warsaw is teeming with metropolitan life these days. There are traditional restaurants, café gardens, souvenir shops and art galleries – everything at hand! To appreciate the size of the area, climb the belltower of the St. Anna’s Church; the view is breathtaking! At the end of your tour, do not forget to reach for a local delicacy: the Zygmuntówka cake. This untypical meringue with an almond base, chocolate cream, whipped cream and cranberry jam looks and tastes great!
UNESCO – Poland – Centennial Hall, Wrocław
Wrocław is not only the European Capital of Culture and the seat of the Dolnośląskie Voivodeship authorities but also a place where you can see one of the engineering marvels of the 20th century. The Centennial Hall was built in 1913 to house exhibitions focused on the history and economic achievements of Lower Silesia. The design created by a local architect, Max Berg, contained an innovative reinforced concrete technology not used on such a large scale before. The local councillors did not like the proposal and compared the hall frame to a hat box. Fortunately, they changed their mind rather quickly and Wrocław gained a building that has made a permanent mark on the history of world architecture. These days the Centennial Hall serves as an entertainment and conference centre where business, sports and cultural events are held. The surroundings also offer many attractions to visitors: the nearby Japanese Garden and the Wrocław zoo are as impressive as the UNESCO building.
UNESCO - Poland – the Old Town, Zamość
Built far from large urban centres, Zamość is an excellent example of the Renaissance concept of an ‘ideal city’. Established by Chancellor Jan Zamoyski in 1580, the town combines the sublime Renaissance beauty with the functionality of a town located on an important trade route. The plan created by architect Bernardo Morandi included the best Italian and central European architectural traditions. The magnificent Great Town Square with a tall town hall tower and a wonderful St. Thomas Collegiate Church is the central spot. Townhouses with arcades surround the square, including historical Armenian townhouses decorated with beautiful bas-reliefs and other ornaments. The town used to be surrounded with mighty fortifications including seven bastions whose remains are open to the visitors – they should not be missed during a visit to Zamość. A walk along the Grodzka Street will make the tour complete; the Zamoyska Academy, the ‘Synagoga’ Centre, the former Chancellor’s Palace and the Arsenal are historical buildings worth seeing that create the unique atmosphere in the town. All these marvels are located only 90 kilometres from Lublin!
UNESCO – Poland – Castle of the Teutonic Order, Malbork
The UNESCO World Heritage List could not fail to include the largest brick stronghold of medieval Europe. The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork is the first known example of a regular four-wing defensive fortress. Built out of 4.5 million bricks, it consists of three main buildings: the High, Middle and Lower Castles separated from one another with a high defence wall and vast dry moats. It is worth starting the sightseeing tour of the site from the oldest part of the complex with the Chapel of St. Anne known as the place of burial of grand masters of the Teutonic Order. The Great Refectory and a collection of amber await the visitors in the Middle Castle and they can see what life was like in ages ago in the Lower Castle. The arsenal, the bell-foundry, stables and the brewery are interesting not just for history buffs, so check out the flights to Gdańsk and plan your unique journey to Malbork!
The UNESCO World Heritage List is full of exceptional cultural and natural objects of interest. Castles, palaces, big-city old towns and small, charming squares – there is something of interest in every region. Do not hesitate to plan your holiday in Poland and let the charm of the land on the Vistula River sweep you off your feet!