The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites are places of importance to cultural or natural heritage as described in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, established in 1972. Cultural heritage consists of monuments (such as architectural works, monumental sculptures, or inscriptions), groups of buildings, and sites (including archaeological sites). Natural features (consisting of physical and biological formations), geological and physiographical formations (including habitats of threatened species of animals and plants), and natural sites which are important from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty, are defined as natural heritage. Poland ratified the convention on 29 June 1976, making its historical sites eligible for inclusion on the list.
As of 2021[update], there are 17 World Heritages Sites in Poland, 15 of which are cultural, and two are natural sites. The first two sites inscribed on the World Heritage List were Wieliczka Salt Mine and Historic Centre of Kraków, in 1978. The most recent addition is the Bieszczady National Park as an extension to the Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe, listed in July 2021. Four of the sites are transnational. The Białowieża Forest is shared with Belarus, the Wooden Tserkvas of Carpathian Region with Ukraine, the Muskauer Park / Park Mużakowski with Germany and the Primeval Beech Forests is shared among 18 European countries. In addition, there are five sites on the tentative list.
UNESCO lists sites under ten criteria; each entry must meet at least one of the criteria. Criteria i through vi are cultural, whereas vii through x are natural.
|Site||Image||Location (voivodeship)||Year listed||UNESCO data||Description|
|Historic Centre of Kraków||Lesser Poland||1978||29bis; iv (cultural)||The city of Kraków, chartered in 1257, is the old capital of Poland. The historic centre encompasses three urban ensembles, the medieval City of Kraków, the Wawel Hill complex (the royal residence together with the Wawel Cathedral where several kings of Poland are buried), and the town of Kazimierz, including the suburb of Stradom, which was shaped by Catholic and Jewish residents. Kraków was a city of arts and crafts, a meeting place of East and West. The city retains a high level of integrity and includes buildings and features in styles from the early Romanesque to the Modernist periods. A minor boundary modification of the site took place in 2010.|
|Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines||Lesser Poland||1978||32ter; iv (cultural)||The areas around Wieliczka and Bochnia contain deposits of rock salt, which has been mined since the 13th century. Hundreds of kilometres of tunnels in both mines also contain works of art, such as sculptures carved in salt and underground chapels. The mines illustrate the development of mining technologies in Europe. Wieliczka was first listed individually in 1978. Eleven years later, it was added to the list of World Heritage in Danger due to the threats posed to the sculptures by the humidity. Following a conservation program that saw the installation of efficient dehumidifying equipment in the mine, it was removed from the endangered list in 1998. A minor boundary modification took place in 2008. The Bochnia Mine was added in 2013.|
|Auschwitz Birkenau, German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940–1945)||Lesser Poland||1979||31; vi (cultural)||Auschwitz was a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II. It was the largest of the German concentration camps. The World Heritage Site covers Auschwitz I (the base camp), Auschwitz II–Birkenau (the extermination camp), and a mass grave of inmates.
The site was originally listed as "Auschwitz Concentration Camp", but upon Poland's request renamed as "Auschwitz Birkenau" with the subtitle of "German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940–1945)"
|Białowieza Forest*||Podlaskie||1979||33; vii (natural)||Białowieża Forest is a large forest complex, including extensive old-growth forests, on the border between Poland and Belarus. It is an example of the Central European mixed forests terrestrial ecoregion, and a range of associated non-forest habitats, including wet meadows, river valleys, and other wetlands. The area is home to the largest free-roaming population of European bison, as well as wolf, lynx, and otter. The Polish part of the site was first added to the list in 1979. The part in Belarus, Belovezhskaya Pushcha, was added in 1992, while the year 2014 saw a large extension of the protected area.|
|Historic Centre of Warsaw||Masovia||1980||30; ii, vi (cultural)||Warsaw, the capital of Poland, was deliberately demolished by Nazi troops following the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. More than 85% of the historic centre was destroyed. After the war, a five-year restoration campaign took place, and it resulted in a meticulous restoration of the Old Town. The reconstruction process continued in the 1960s and concluded with the opening of the Royal Castle to visitors in 1984.|
|Old City of Zamość||Lublin||1992||564; iv (cultural)||Zamość was founded in the 16th century by Jan Zamoyski. Designed by the architect Bernardo Morando of Padua, it is a perfect example of a late-Renaissance town. The original town layout has been preserved, as well as the fortifications and several buildings that blend the architectural influences from Italy with those from Central Europe.|
|Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork||Pomerania||1997||847; ii, iii, iv (cultural)||Malbork Castle was built by the Teutonic Knights, a German Roman Catholic religious order of crusaders, after the seat of the Grand Master was moved to Malbork from Venice in 1309. The castle is a classic example of a medieval castle in Brick Gothic style. It was damaged during World War II but later carefully restored.|
|Medieval Town of Toruń||Kuyavia-Pomerania||1997||835; ii, iv (cultural)||Toruń was founded by the Teutonic Knights who built a castle there in the mid-13th century, as a base for evangelisation of Prussia. It was later a member of the Hanseatic League and an important trading post between the Baltic area and Eastern Europe. The medieval town has been well preserved, including several important houses in Brick Gothic style, such as the home of the mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.|
|Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park||Lesser Poland||1999||905; ii, iv (cultural)||The religious complex (a calvary) was founded by the voivode of Kraków Mikołaj Zebrzydowski in the early 1600s. It consists of a monastery and a number of churches, chapels and shrines that were built in the Mannerist style. It is an outstanding example of calvary shrines in the Counter-Reformation period. Virtually unchanged since the construction, it remains an active pilgrimage site in the 21st century.|
|Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica||Lower Silesia||2001||1054; ii, iv, vi (cultural)||The Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica in Silesia were named after the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 which permitted the Lutherans in the Roman Catholic parts of Silesia to build three Evangelical churches from wood and clay outside the city walls. The conditions were also that the churches should not feature a tower and that their construction was to be completed within one year. The third church was built in Głogów in 1652, but burned down a century later.|
|Wooden Churches of Southern Lesser Poland||Lesser Poland||2003||1053; iii, iv (cultural)||The six churches (Church of the Archangel Michael (Binarowa), Church of All Saints (Blizne), Church of the Archangel Michael (Dębno), Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Archangel Michael (Haczów), Church of St Leonard (Lipnica Murowana), Church of St Philip and St James the Apostles (Sękowa)) represent the best preserved and the oldest wooden churches in the region. They were built in the Gothic style, but are different from the contemporary stone or brick buildings in the cities. These churches were sponsored by noble families and are richly decorated.|
|Muskauer Park / Park Mużakowski*||Lubusz||2004||1127; i, iv (cultural)||The park is set along the banks of the Neisse River and is shared by Poland and Germany. It was created by Prince Hermann von Puckler-Muskau from 1815 to 1844, using local plants and natural settings. The park design influenced the development of the landscape architecture profession. Sustaining severe damage during World War II, it has been since restored in both countries.|
|Centennial Hall||Lower Silesia||2006||1165; i, ii, iv (cultural)||The Centennial Hall is an early Modernist building made of reinforced concrete. It was designed by Max Berg as a multifunctional venue to serve as an exhibition ground or an assembly hall and to host sport events, concerts, and theatre performances. Built in 1911–1913, it had the largest reinforced concrete dome in the world at the time of its construction. It served as a reference point for later buildings constructed of this material.|
|Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine*||Lesser Poland, Subcarpathia||2013||1424; iii, iv (cultural)||This property comprises 16 wooden churches (tserkvas) in the Carpathians, half of which are in Poland and the rest in Ukraine. The churches were built between the 16th and 19th centuries by the communities of Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic faiths. The designs are based on the Orthodox ecclesiastical traditions with local influences. They feature wooden bell towers, iconostasis screens, and interior polychrome decorations, as well as churchyards, gatehouses, and graveyards. The St. Michael Archangel's Church in Smolnik is pictured.|
|Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine and its Underground Water Management System||Silesia||2017||1539; i, ii, iv (cultural)||This historic lead, silver, and zinc mine is located in the Tarnowskie Góry. Due to its location on a plateau, it had substantial problems with water drainage as opposed to mines that are located in mountainous terrains. In over 300 years of the mine's operation, different techniques have been employed to remove the water from the tunnels, including steam-powered pumps in the 19th century.|
|Krzemionki Prehistoric Striped Flint Mining Region||Świętokrzyskie||2019||1599; iii, iv (cultural)||Krzemionki is an ensemble of four striped flint mines from the Neolithic and early Bronze Age periods (about 3900 to 1600 BCE). Flint was mostly used to make axes. Over 4000 shafts and pits, as well as flint workshops have been found in one of the most comprehensive prehistoric underground flint extraction and processing systems identified to date.|
|Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe*||Subcarpathia||2021||1133quater; ix (natural)||This site comprises forests in 18 European countries. These forests demonstrate the postglacial expansion process of European beech forests and exhibit the most complete and comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure and mixed stands of European beech across a variety of environmental conditions. The site was first listed in 2007 and subsequently extended in 2011, 2017, and 2021 to include forests in several other countries. The Bieszczady National Park in Poland has been added to the list in 2021.|
In addition to sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, member states can maintain a list of tentative sites that they may consider for nomination. Nominations for the World Heritage List are only accepted if the site was previously listed on the tentative list. As of 2020, Poland lists six properties on its tentative list.
|Site||Image||Location (voivodeship)||Year listed||UNESCO criteria||Description|
|Gdansk—Town of Memory and Freedom||Pomerania||2005||ii, iv, vi (cultural)||The city of Gdańsk has witnessed some of the key events in European history, including the first battle of World War II at Westerplatte and the beginning of the Solidarity movement in the Gdańsk Shipyard. Furthermore, the historic Main Town features a number of buildings in Gothic and Renaissance styles.|
|Augustow Canal*||Podlaskie||2006||(cultural)||The Augustow Canal was built in 1823–1839, to provide a direct link between the two major rivers, Vistula River through the Biebrza River – a tributary of the Narew River, and the Neman River through its tributary – the Czarna Hańcza River, and it provided a link with the Black Sea to the south through the Oginski Canal, Daugava River, Berezina Canal and Dnieper River. It allowed the trade routes to bypass the territory of East Prussia, which had earlier introduced high customs duties for transit of Polish and Lithuanian goods through its territory. Technical heritage of the canal includes locks, weirs, towpaths, as well as roads and bridges. The canal is now located in the territories of Belarus and Poland, thus making the nomination transnational.|
|The Dunajec River Gorge in the Pieniny Mountains||Lesser Poland||2006||(natural)||The Dunajec River Gorge in the Pieniny National Park is rich in flora and fauna. As the Pieniny Mountains were not glaciated, the site can be used to study the evolution of vegetation since the Last Glacial Maximum.|
|Modernist Centre of Gdynia — the example of building an integrated community||Pomerania||2019||ii, iv, v (cultural)||After World War I, the city of Gdańsk received the status of a Free City, thus the Polish state could not use it as a port. The nearby village of Gdynia was conceived as the new primary economy hub and a modernist city centre was built as its core in the 1920s and 1930s. In that time, the population grew from 1200 to 120,000 and the city became a symbol of modernisation and the maritime ambitions of the young state.|
|Paper Mill in Duszniki-Zdrój||Lower Silesia||2019||iii, iv (cultural)||The Paper Mill in Duszniki-Zdrój is one of the oldest preserved paper mills in Europe. It was built in the 16th century and brought wealth and prosperity to the owners in the 17th century. In 1968, it became a museum. At the time of nomination, the mill still maintained the production of traditional hand-made paper.|