Currently, more and more Polish cities are joining the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Kraków, 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 its world-famous film school.

Poland can also boast 17 heritage sites on the international World Remembrance List. Each of the documents and collections is a separate chapter in the history of Poland.

For example, the Boards of 21 Gdańsk Postulates written on wooden plywood remind us of the Poles’ fight against communism. It is symbolically the most important document of August 1980, of 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, but are not limited to: the autograph of the most famous work by Mikołaj Kopernik / Nicolas Copernicus “De revolutionibus,” kept by the Jagiellonian Library in Kraków; unique collections of Fryderyk Chopin’s manuscripts held at 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 places, Kraków and Wieliczka, were entered in 1978. The newest is the Krzemionkowski region of prehistoric striped flint mining, entered in 2019.



  1. Old Town in Kraków


The Old Town in Kraków was the first monument from Poland to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The merchant city established in the 13th century has the largest town square in Europe, and retains historic tenement houses, palaces, and churches.

The testaments of Kraków’s great past are: the Jagiellonian University, the Renaissance Royal Castle and the Gothic Wawel Cathedral, in which 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. For hundreds of years, the cityscape of the town square consisted of the Cloth Hall with dozens of stalls, St. Mary’s Basilica with the altar of Veit Stoss and the bugle call played from the tower, the Town Hall Tower, and the tiny Church of St. Adalbert. In 2013, Kraków’s Main Market Square was chosen as the most beautiful square in the world by Lonely Planet guides.


2. The royal salt mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia


The Wieliczka Mine is the oldest active salt mine in the world. The mine can be used to trace all the development stages of mining technology in individual historical periods. It stretches over 9 levels, has 2040 chambers, and 360 km of pavements that form a mysterious maze. Visitors pass lakes, which are unique on world scale, and carved out of salt are altars, statues, and entire underground chapels with bas-reliefs and chandeliers that transport visitors into a fairy-tale, unusual 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 started operating in the 13th century, 40 years earlier than the mine in Wieliczka. The excavations of the Bochnia salt mine have unique chambers with a characteristic geological shape and layout, such as the Ważyn chamber, the largest underground room in Europe made by man, with a healing microclimate. You can admire the chapels carved in the rocks. Tourist attractions of the Bochnia Mine include an underground boat crossing, an underground cableway ride, and an exit along the longest 140 m slide that connects the mine’s two levels. 


3. The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork


The Teutonic castle in Malbork was built at the turn of the 13th to 14th centuries and is the most powerful Gothic stronghold in Europe. It consists of three castles and covers 20 hectares. From 1309, it was the seat of the Grand Master of the German Order, called the Teutonic Knights.

It 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-eastern Europe.

Currently, the castle hosts knight tournaments, monumental performances, and battle productions, among which the impressive siege of Malbork deserves special attention. 


4. The wooden churches in the south of Lesser Poland: Binarowa, Blizne, Dębno, Haczów, Lipnica Murowana, and Sękowa


The wooden churches in the south of Lesser Poland show the tradition of building medieval Roman Catholic churches. It involves the use of logging technology, of horizontal stacking of wooden logs. This technique has been widespread since the Middle Ages in Northern and Eastern Europe. Lesser Poland facilities, after the Norwegian stave churches called Stavkirke, are the oldest cluster of wooden temples in Europe. These unique churches, containing treasures of old paintings and sculptures, were created thanks to the foundations of noble families.

The entire Wooden Architecture Trail in Lesser Poland is a total of 1500 km in length.


5. Muskauer Park


This is one of the most extensive historical park establishments in Europe, in which the composition program of the English park landscape was implemented. It belongs to the most outstanding achievements of European garden art. The park 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 invites patrons on charming walks. 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 open 24 hours a day and can be visited by bicycle.


6. The Old Town in Warsaw


The Old Town in Warsaw is the only example in the world of a planned and completed reconstruction of monuments created between the 13th and 20th centuries. According to modern conservation theory, all of the reconstruction and rebuilding 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. In five years, faithfully and with preservation of the original fragments of buildings, Poles reconstructed the entire Old Town. The reconstruction was carried out based on preserved historical documentation, including paintings and drawings by Canaletto.



7. The Old Town in Zamość


The city was founded in the 16th century by Chancellor Jan Zamoyski on a trade route connecting Western and Northern Europe with the Black Sea. It was built in the middle of nowhere, according to Italian models of the ideal city, following Bernardo Morando of Padua’s urban and architectural plan. 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 typically surrounded by 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.


8. Auschwitz-Birkenau, the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp of occupied Poland, 1940-1945


Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest extermination camp built by the German Nazis during World War II. It is a testimony to the genocide committed by the Nazis during the war. Looking at the fences, barbed wires, watchtowers, barracks, gallows, gas chambers, and crematoria, it is hard to imagine that “people prepared this fate for people,” as Polish writer Zofia Nałkowska wrote. The camp was built in German-occupied Poland, initially as a concentration camp for Poles. It later housed Soviet prisoners of war and 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.


9. The wooden Orthodox churches in the Polish and Ukrainian Carpathian region


The Orthodox churches from the turn of the 15th to 16th centuries are the oldest objects of this type preserved in the Polish and Ukrainian Carpathian region and are great examples of Lemko and Boyko culture. Sixteen temples have been added to the UNESCO list, eight of which are on Polish territory. The Orthodox churches are the best achievements of the wooden church architecture of their time. They amaze with their diversity of forms and types and the perfection of carpentry solutions and style, and that’s why they stand out against the background of wooden sacred buildings of the rest of Europe.


10. Białowieża Forest


The Białowieża Forest is the last patch of virgin forest that once covered all of Europe.

The Białowieża Forest (Białowieża National Park) was added to the UNESCO list in 1979. In 1992, the protected area was expanded to include a part on the Belarusian side and the Cross-Border World Heritage Site “Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Białowieża Forest” was created. The World Heritage Committee’s last decision in 2014 was to increase the protected area to 141 thousand hectares on both sides of the border. The total area inscribed on 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 renamed “Białowieża Forest.” The largest lowland bison population in the world lives in the Białowieża National Park.


11. Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: a Mannerist architectural and landscape complex and 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 the marvelous image of Our Lady of Calvary, a monastery, and 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.


12. Toruń’s medieval city complex


Toruń was founded by the Teutonic Order in the 13th century. Soon after, as a member of the Hanseatic League, the city gained an important position in the trade field. The city’s wealth is demonstrated by 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 13th and 14th centuries, leaning like the famous tower in Pisa.


13. Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica


Built in the 17th century in Silesia, these churches are the largest skeletal wooden 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 in 1618-48, which ended in Silesia with the defeat of the Protestants, all churches were taken from them. Built of wood and clay, without towers, they amaze with their splendid interiors. Attention is drawn to the richly decorated galleries, which were lodges for Protestant nobility. The church in Świdnica can hold 7500 people, and 6000 in Jawor.


14. The Centennial Hall in Wrocław


Recognized by the American Getty Foundation as one of the 10 most important buildings of modernism in the 20th century, the Centennial Hall (Hala Stulecia) is one of the largest monuments in Wrocław.

It was erected in 1911-1913 by architect Max Berg, on the premises of the Centenary Exhibition as a multifunctional building for recreation. 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 approximately 6000 people. The dome is 23 meters high and is topped with a steel and glass lantern.


15. Lead, silver, and zinc ore mines with a groundwater management system in Tarnowskie Góry


This is an unusual example of a huge scale mine complex consisting of 50 km of draining 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 metallogenic provinces.


16. Krzemionkowski region of prehistoric striped flint mining


The prehistoric mining region in Krzemionki Opatowskie is located on the northeastern edge of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains. The prehistoric flint mines were operated between about 3900 B.C. and 1600 A.C. period from the Neolithic to early bronze periods. The Krzemionki Complex is one of the largest elements of the prehistory of the 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 in a huge area.