What Are Poland’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

No European country has quite so storied a history as Poland. Norman Davies memorably referred to the country as God’s Plaything in a 1981 history of the country (himself inspired by the words of the great Polish Renaissance poet Jan Kochanowski), and we can think of no better way of putting it…

In Poland’s thousand-year history, it has been a towering European force rivalling its Western neighbours but also a perennial victim, plagued by invasions. The country has been maligned, betrayed, and even wiped off the map, but impetuously, it has risen again and again – the white eagle, forever bloodied but never unbowed. 

Today, the country is a proud independent republic, enjoying a period of intense development and long-deserved and hard-fought prosperity. Poland should undoubtedly be proud of this; her major cities are as vibrant and filled with cultural centres and international restaurants as those in any other European nation. But Poland is also a veritable memorial site, the country dotted with the sites of famous battles, infamous invasionary attacks, and, of course, the haunting remains of Nazi Germany’s Holocaust apparatus. 

Despite the tragic nature of such chapters in the country’s past, Poland is an ideal destination for anyone interested in history, particularly that of the 20th century. So, it should not surprise anyone to learn that the country has 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a further five that are on the tentative list for future consideration.

Today, we’ll outline the existing sites for your consideration. If you’re planning a trip to Poland and are passionate about history, please browse our Multi-Day Guided WW2 Tours of Poland range.

Historic Centre of Kraków

Given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1978, the former Polish capital possesses some of the best-preserved medieval architecture in the country. Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral should be of particular interest to the visitor.

The castle is shrouded in legend, including stories of a dragon that lived in a cave under the fortification. Entombed in Wawel Cathedral are the bodies of some of Poland’s most illustrious figures, including many Polish kings and queens and Józef Piłsudski.  

Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines

The Wieliczka Salt Mine and Bochnia Salt Mine have been operating since the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, they have attracted many famous guests, such as Copernicus, Goethe, and Chopin. Today, the cavernous mines are a wonder to behold. Only a fraction of this underground world is open to the public, but it contains breathtaking galleries, sculptures, and even a church carved from salt by miners and artisans. 

Auschwitz Birkenau, German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940–1945)

The site of the most horrific mass murder in all of human history, the museum at Auschwitz Birkenau works relentlessly to ensure the memories of Holocaust victims are remembered and that the world does not move on from or distort German crimes from the wartime era. You’ve undoubtedly studied the subject, possibly read books, and watched films telling the story, but being at the camps brings home the scale of the cruel slaughter.  

We recently wrote about the moral impetus for preserving the site of the death camps as a memorial and museum with our Why Should Auschwitz Concentration Camp Be Preserved? blog. 

Białowieza Forest

A transnational site (shared with Belarus), the Białowieza Forest is Poland’s only natural UNESCO site. Home to wolves, lynx, and European bison, these ancient forests are one of Europe’s most extensive old-growth forests.

Historic Centre of Warsaw

In revenge for the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, Nazi Germany decided to try and remove Warsaw from the map. 85% of the historic centre was totally levelled, with 30% of the destruction occurring after the end of the Uprising on 2 October 1944, even after the Armia Krajowa (the Polish Resistance Home Army) surrendered.

At the time, some said it should never be rebuilt. However, rebuilt it was, and it was rebuilt meticulously – Warsaw rose from the ashes like the phoenix. You can investigate Warsaw’s story further by reading our Was Warsaw Totally Levelled? blog.

Old City of Zamość

Established in the 16th century by Jan Zamoyski and designed by the Paduan architect Bernardo Morando, the Old City of Zamość is an immensely well-preserved example of a central European renaissance town. Walk the city’s charming streets and imagine you’re back in time. 

Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork

Built by the Teutonic Knights in the 14th century, Malbork Castle holds the proud title of being both the largest brick castle and the largest castle by land area on Earth. Its labyrinthine rooms and courtyards are hard to imagine before you arrive there. The Teutonic Knights were in Poland following the Northern Crusades when the Polish crown and the Pope had asked them to head into the Baltic regions and Christianise the indigenous pagans – a must-see for fans of medieval history.

Medieval Town of Toruń

One of Poland’s many fairytale-esque locations, the Medieval Town of Toruń has a wonderfully preserved medieval heart and many activities great for the whole family. Much like Malbork, Toruń was founded by the Teutonic Knights, and you can still see the ruins of their castle to this day. The city was also the birthplace of Nicolas Copernicus, and his family home can be visited. 

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park

Virtually unchanged since its construction in the 16th century, this site is home to a monastery and churches, all built in the Mannerist style. Christian pilgrims continue trekking to this complex of great religious significance to this very day. Kalwaria Zebrzydowska 


Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica

In 1648, with the Peace of Westphalia, protestant Lutherans were permitted to build three churches in this part of Silesia. The resulting timber frame churches are marvellously evocative spaces that give an insight into the period of the Counter-Reformation. The Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica physically embody the struggle for religious freedom. 

Wooden Churches of Southern Lesser Poland

These six Wooden Churches of Southern Malopolska were built in the Gothic style and capture the architectural styles of the 15th and 16th centuries wonderfully. The churches are The Church of the Archangel Michael (Binarowa), The Church of All Saints (Blizne), The Church of Archangel Michael (Debno), The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael (Haczow), The Church of St. Leonard (Lipnica Murowana), and The Church of St. Philip and St. James the Apostles (Sekowa). 

Muskauer Park / Park Mużakowski

The landscape park known as Muskauer Park / Park Mużakowski on the edge of the Neisse River borders Poland and Germany. Established by Prince Hermann von Puckler-Muskau between 1815 and 1844, the park design was influential in the evolution of landscape architecture. 


Centennial Hall

Built by Max Berg between 1911 and 1913, this Modernist masterpiece continues to serve its original purpose as an events and assembly hall to this day. When it was first built, it featured the world’s largest dome of reinforced concrete. The Centennial Hall (Hala Stulecia) is an iconic part of the Wrocław cityscape. 


Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine

The Wooden Trserkvas of the Carpathian Region comprises sixteen churches (tserkas). Half of them are on Polish territory, while the others are in Ukraine. Built from wooden logs between the 16th and 18th centuries, the churches were established by Eastern and Greek Orthodox Christians. Fascinating buildings in truly beautiful, peaceful landscapes. 

Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine and its Underground Water Management System

Part of the European Route of Industrial Heritage, the Historic Silver Mine in Tarnowskie Góry is an excellent site for exploring the once sizeable silver industry present in this part of Silesia. Dating back to the 16th century, the mine offers an extraordinary insight into the industriousness of our ancestors who were working under gruelling conditions with limited technological resources. 

Krzemionki Prehistoric Striped Flint Mining Region

On to a much older mine…the Krzemionki Prehistoric Striped Flint Mining Region features flint mines that were first used around 2,500 BC! Today, you can explore sections of the mines that would once have been used by members of the Funnelbeaker culture, a Neolithic and Mesolithic people who inhabited northern Europe. 

Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe

The final UNESCO World Heritage Site on our list incorporates 94 areas across 18 European countries. The Polish part of this site is found within the Bieszczady National Park. These primeval beech forests are beautiful places to hike and home to an array of enchanting creatures. 

This brings to an end our list of Poland’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. If you’re coming to Poland to explore the country’s fascinating past, please browse our selection of World War Two Tours of Poland.  

Want to continue exploring Polish history and culture? Why not read our Guide to Historical Gdańsk next?

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