More and more Polish cities are joining the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.
Krakow – the City of Literature – chairs the Steering Committee of Creative Cities of UNESCO and acts as a representative of the Cities of Literature on this Committee. Katowice – the City of Music – is the first City of Music from Central and Eastern Europe. Łódź – the City of Film – joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in 2017 as the third Polish city with the world-famous film school.
Poland can also boast 17 objects on the international World Remembrance List. Each of the documents and collections is a separate chapter in the history of Poland. For example, Polish fight against communism is reminded on Boards of 21 Gdańsk Demands written on wooden plywood. It is the most symbolically important document of August’80 – events that played a huge role not only in the process of regaining freedom by Poland, but also on an international scale, in the overthrow of communism throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Other entries include, among others: the manuscript of the most famous work of Nicolaus Copernicus ‘De revolutionibus’, kept by the Jagiellonian Library in Krakow, the unique collections of the manuscripts of Fryderyk Chopin collected in the National Library and the Fryderyk Chopin Institute and the underground archive of the Warsaw Ghetto (Ringelblum Archive), stored by the Jewish Historical Institute.
There are sixteen unique places from Poland on the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List that you must see. The first buildings – Kraków and Wieliczka – were entered in The newest – Krzemionkowski region of prehistoric striped flint mining in 2019.
Old Town in Krakow
The Old Town in Krakow was the first heritage site included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The merchant city from the 13th century has the largest square market in Europe, historic tenement houses, palaces and churches.
The rich past of Krakow is apparent through: the Jagiellonian University, the Renaissance Royal Castle and the Gothic Wawel Cathedral, in which the Polish kings are buried, as well as the Jewish district of Kazimierz, which was an independent city from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. In the Old Town Market Square landscape you can find centuries old Sukiennice with dozens of stalls, St. Mary’s Basilica with the altar of Veit Stoss, the Town Hall Tower and the tiny Church of St. Adalbert. In 2013, Kraków’s Main Market Square was chosen the most beautiful square in the world by Lonely Planet guides.
Royal salt mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia
The Wieliczka Mine is the oldest active salt mine in the world. It can be used to trace all stages of mining technology development in individual historical periods. It stretches over 9 levels, has 2040 chambers and 360 km of pavements that form a mysterious maze. Visitors can enjoy lakes, unique altars carved in salt, statues and entire underground chapels with bas-reliefs and chandeliers which take visitors into an amazing, fairy-tale like world. The mine has an underground post office, restaurant, cinema, tennis courts, as well as a sanatorium where allergies and asthma are treated. Concerts, theater performances and balls take place here. There is the lowest playground in the world (approx. 125 m) for children and the hotel.
The salt mine in Bochnia began operating in the 13th century, 40 years earlier than the mine in Wieliczka. The excavations of the Bochnia salt mine contain unique chambers with a characteristic geological shape and layout, such as the Ważyn chamber – the largest underground room in Europe made by men, with a healing microclimate. You can admire the
chapels carved in the rocks. Tourist attractions of the Bohemian Mine include an underground boat crossing, an underground cableway ride, and a 140 m long slide that connects the mine’s two levels.
Malbork Teutonic Castle
The Teutonic castle in Malbork was built at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries and is the most impresive Gothic stronghold in Europe. It consists of three castles and covers 20 ha.
From 1309, it was the seat of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order.
This is a unique architectural work on a global scale, with innovative technical solutions for those times, especially by the method of constructing vaults, gables and portals, as well as using sculpture and ornaments. The solutions used in Malbork were later used not only in many castles built by the Teutonic Knights, but also in other Gothic constructions of north-
Currently, the castle hosts knight tournaments, monumental performances, battle productions, among which the impressive siege of Malbork deserves special attention.
Wooden churches of southern Lesser Poland – Binarowa, Blizne, Dębno, Haczów, Lipnica Murowana, Sękowa
Wooden churches in the south of Lesser Poland present the traditional way of building medieval Roman Catholic churches. It involves the use of logging technology – horizontal stacking of wooden logs. This technique has been widespread since the Middle Ages in Northern and Eastern
Europe. The Lesser Poland churches, after the Norwegian Stavkirke, are the oldest cluster of wooden temples in Europe. Unique churches, rich in old paintings and sculptures, were funded by the noble families.
The entire Wooden Architecture Trail in Lesser Poland is a total of 1500 km in length.
This is one of the most extensive historical park projects in Europe, in which the composition of the English landscape park was implemented. It is one of the most outstanding achievements of European gardening craftsmanship. It influenced the development of landscape architecture in
Europe and America. Designed as a “picture painted with plants”, it uses the qualities of local vegetation and provides charming walks to its visitors. It stretches on both sides of the Nysa Łużycka, along which the Polish-German border runs. It was founded by the Prussian prince Herman von Puckler-Muskau in 1815-45, and its area is about 1000 ha, of which 800 ha is in Poland. Admission to the Polish and German parts of the park is free. The park is available 24 hours a day and can be visited by bicycle.
Old city in Warsaw
The Old Town in Warsaw is the only example of a planned and complete reconstruction of monuments created between the 13th and 20th centuries in the world. According to modern conservation theory, all reconstruction and reconstruction is falsification of history. The exception, which was made for the Old Town, was dictated by moral considerations and the
desire of the entire Polish society to revive the ashes of the ruined city. In 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising, over 85% of the Old Town was turned into ruins by German Nazis. The buildings were bombed and blown up. Colorful houses surrounded by defensive walls, churches, palaces, the Market Square and the Royal Castle were completely destroyed. The decision to rebuild Warsaw as the capital of the state was made in January 1945. During five years, faithfully and preserving the original fragments of buildings, Poles reconstructed the entire Old Town. The reconstruction was carried out based on the preserved historical documentation, including
paintings and drawings of Canalletta.
Old Town in Zamość
The city was founded in the 16th century by the Chancellor Jan Zamoyski on a trade route connecting Western and Northern Europe with the Black Sea. It was built in the middle of nowhere, following the Italian models of the perfect city, in accordance with the urban and architectural plan of Bernardo Morando of Padua. The work of the architect was commissioned
by Jan Zamoyski in 1580. Zamość is sometimes called the “pearl of the Renaissance” for several reasons: the city is surrounded by typical Renaissance bastion fortifications, most of the buildings are Renaissance
tenement houses, and the cathedral is one of the most outstanding achievements of late Renaissance architecture.
The symbol of Zamość is the town hall crowned with the attic, with fan-shaped stairs and a high clock tower, from which a ceremonial bugle call sounds at 12:00 noon.
Auschwitz-Birkenau. German Nazi concentration and extermination camp in occupied Poland 1940-1945
Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest extermination camp built by the Germans during World War II. It is a testimony to the genocide committed by the Nazis during World War II. Watching fences, barbed wires, watchtowers, barracks, gallows, gas chambers, crematoria, it is hard to imagine that “people prepared this fate for other people”, as Polish writer Zofia Nałkowska wrote. The camp was built in German-occupied Poland, initially as a concentration camp for Poles, later also for Soviet prisoners of war, and then also for prisoners of many other nationalities. In the years 1942–1944 it became the main camp for the mass extermination of Jews. Historical research has shown that 1.5 million people were killed in the concentration camp. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum was founded in 1947. It is a symbol of the terrifying cruelty of man towards man, a warning for a still prejudiced world.
Wooden Orthodox Churches in the Polish and Ukrainian Carpathian region
Orthodox Churches from the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries are the oldest buildings of this type preserved in the Polish and Ukrainian Carpathians and are great examples of Lemko and Boyko culture. 16 temples have been added to the UNESCO list, eight of which are on
Polish territory. Orthodox churches are one of the greatest achievements of the wooden church architecture of their time, they represent an amazing diversity of forms and types, the perfect of carpentry craftsmanship and stylistic diversity – that is why they stand out amongst the wooden sacral architecture of the rest of Europe.
This is the last patch of the ancient forest that once covered all of Europe. The Białowieża Forest (within Białowieża National Park) was included in the UNESCO list in 1972. In 1992, the protected area was expanded to include a part on the Belarusian side. The “Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Bialowieza Forest” Cross-Border World Heritage Site was created.
With the latest decision of the World Heritage Committee in 2014, the protected area was increased to 141 thousand hectares on both sides of the border. The total area covered in the list, together with the buffer zone, is currently over 308 thousand hectares. The name of the protected area is also new – the Cross-Border World Heritage Site was named “Bialowieza
Forest”. The largest european bison population in the world lives in the Białowieża National Park.
Kalwaria Zebrzydowska – a Mannerist architectural and landscape complex as well as a pilgrimage park
The sanctuary in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska was established at the beginning of the 17th century and was modeled on the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem. The originator of its construction was the voivode of Kraków, Mikołaj Zebrzydowski. There is a baroque basilica with a miraculous image of Our Lady of Calvary, a monastery, a complex of baroque and mannerist churches and chapels. All the objects and symbolic places of the Passion and life of the Mother of God are picturesquely integrated into the Beskid landscape. Tens of thousands of pilgrims are continuously coming to the sanctuary, especially in the Holy Week before Easter and in August on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Toruń’s medieval city complex
Toruń was founded by the Teutonic Order in the 13th century. Soon afterwards, as a member of the Hanseatic League, the city became an important Trade centre. Its wealth is clearly visible in impressive buildings from the 14th and 15th centuries in the Old and New Towns, including the Copernicus House. The layout of the market square and adjacent tenements has not changed for 700 years. A big attraction is the 15-meter Leaning Tower, built at the turn of the 12th and 14th centuries, leaning like the famous tower in Pisa.
Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica
Built in the 17th century in Silesia, churches are the largest timber-framed sacral buildings in Europe. The Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica are two of the three Protestant temples that survived to this day, built in Silesia under the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. As a result of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), which ended in Silesia with the defeat of Protestants, all churches were taken away from them. Built of wood and clay, without towers, they amaze with their splendor of the interior. Attention is drawn to the richly decorated galleries -lodges for Protestant nobility. The church in Świdnica can hold 7.5 thousand. people, and in Jawor – 6,000.
Hala Stulecia in Wroclaw
Recognized by the American Getty Foundation as one of the 10 most important buildings of modernism in the 20th century, Hala Stulecia is one of the largest monuments in Wroclaw.
It was erected in 1911-1913 by architect Max Berg on the premises of the Centenary Exhibition as a multifunctional building for entertainment actvities. It is a breakthrough structure in the history of architecture, using reinforced concrete. Built on a circular plan with four apses, it houses a cylindrical auditorium for approx. 6000 people. The dome is 23
meters high and is topped with a steel and glass lantern.
Lead, silver and zinc ore mines with a groundwater management system in Tarnowskie Góry
This is an extraordinary example of a large-scale mine complex consisting of 50 km of drainage tunnels, over 100 km of access tunnels and numerous chambers and shafts covering an area of 38 square km. They are one of the largest and best preserved metal ore mines in the world. They are located on the Silesian plateau in the southern part of Poland, in one of the classic European metalic provinces.
Krzemionki prehistoric striped flint mining region
Located on the north-eastern edge of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains. The prehistoric flint mines operated in this place between about 3900 B.C. and 1600 B.C. from the Neolithic to early bronze age. The Krzemionki Complex is one of the largest examples of the prehistoric industrial archaeological heritage known to humanity. Its uniqueness lies in the clear preservation of traces of prehistoric human activity, focused on the extraction and processing of flint over a huge area.