The Wooden Churches of Southern Małopolska inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list are located in: Binarowa (ca 1500), Blizne (mid-15th century.), Dębno (1335), Haczów (14th/15th century), Lipnica Murowana (end of 15th century) and Sękowa (1520). They were built using the horizontal log technique and represent outstanding examples of the different aspects of medieval church-building traditions in Roman Catholic culture.
These old wooden Gothic churches were all located within the historic region of Małopolska in southern and south-eastern Poland and were sponsored by families of nobility as symbols of their prestige.
Horizontal Log Technique
The horizontal log technique was commonplace in Northern and Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages. The wooden church style of the region was Gothic ornament and painted detail and was very different to the style of stone and brick buildings at the time due to the timber construction, structure and form of the churches.
The form of the churches was influenced by the Greco-Catholic and Orthodox presence in the region. They had an extensive spatial structure initially consisting of a rectangular nave and a narrower chancel to the east, usually terminating in a three-sided apse. Chambered towers of post-and-beam construction were added at the west end later on.
The standard of joinery was of the highest quality and the use of advanced joinery solutions allowed for a system of roof trusses binding the log structures of the nave and chancel resulting in tall, shingled roofs.
The Wooden Churches of Southern Małopolska all exhibit diverse techniques and styles of workmanship, rich iconography, outstanding artistic quality and boast valuable décors and fittings.
The oldest church is the 15th century church in Haczów, made of fir-wood and covered with shingles.
The church at Binarowa boasts a very precious wall painting depicting scenes from the New Testament and a carved wood figure of Madonna from the 14th century.
The majority of the wooden churches are located in picturesque mountain valleys and the six trails on the Route of Timber Architecture in the Małopolska region are over 1500km long. They feature 232 timber constructions including 123 Roman Catholic churches, 39 Orthodox churches, 25 rural and small-town complexes, and 27 rural architecture museums that comprise 9 skansens and 14 country manors.
Bialowieza Tours (up to 7 people)
What to expect from this tour
Participate in this day trip from Krakow and discover wooden churches of southern Poland listed on the UNESCO World Heritage.
This tour includes the service of a private tour guide-driver who will pick you up from your accommodation in Krakow, so you don't have to worry about a thing!
Visit some of the wooden churches of Southern Malopolska located in charming, picturesque villages. Admire the architecture of the temples in Binarowa, Sekowa, Owczary and Ropica. See the idiosyncratic structural solution used in their construction and appreciate the uniqueness of these Gothic buildings.
The tserkvas Of The Carpathian Region were built between the 16th and 19th centuries by communities of Orthodox and Greek Catholic faiths. Sixteen tserkvas (churches) are listed by UNESCOof which eight are located in Poland and eight are located in Ukraine.
The tserkvas were built of horizontal logs and were complex structures constructed using distinct building traditions rooted in Orthodox ecclesiastic design interwoven with elements of local tradition. The wooden tserkvas were built on a tri-partite plan surmounted by open quadrilateral or octagonal domes and cupolas with wooden bell towers on the outside and iconostases and polychrome decorations in the inside.
Outside, they had churchyards, gatehouses and graveyards bounded by perimeter walls or fences and gates, often surrounded by trees.
Exceptional carpentry skills were required to construct the wooden tserkvas particularly for the complex corner jointing that was required. The tserkvas were raised on wooden sills placed on stone foundations, with wooden shingles covering roofs and walls.
The wooden tserkvas in Poland are the Tserkva of St Parascheva in Radruż, the Tserkva of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Chotyniec, the Tserkva of St Michael the Archangel in Smolnik, the Tserkva of St Michael the Archangel in Turzańsk (Podkarpackie Voivodeship), the Tserkva of St James the Less in Powroźnik, the Tserkva of the Virgin Mary's Care in Owczary, the Tserkva of St Parascheva in Kwiatoń and the Tserkva of St Michael the Archangel in Brunary Wyżne (Małpolskie Voivodeship).
The 16 churches can be divided into four groups of different ethnographic architectural traditions.
The Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine were included on the World Heritage List in 2013 during the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee in Phnom Penh (dec. 37 COM 8B.37).
Buildings are available to visitors. The tserkvas in Radruz, Rohatyn and Drohobych are currently used as museums.
The Old City is the oldest historic district of the city of Zamość and is unique in Poland as an almost perfectly preserved example of 16th-century Renaissance town planning. It was made a Unesco World Heritage site in 1992. The district was named one of Poland's official national Historic Monuments, as designated 16th September 1994 and its listing is maintained by the National Heritage Board of Poland.
The Old City of Zamosc was founded in the 16th century by a wealthy Polish nobleman, Jan Zamoyski (1542−1605), and was modelled on Italian theories of the 'ideal city'. Jan hired a Paduan architect by the name of Bernando Morando to realise his dream.
The layout of the town was supposedly designed to resemble the human body with the palace as its head, Grodzka Street as the spine and side streets, such as Solna or Moranda acting as the arms.
International Trading centre
The city was located on the trade route linking western and northern Europe with the Black Sea and was an important multinational trading centre known for its high level of religious tolerance.
It has retained its original rectilinear street layout and fortifications and a large number of buildings that combine Italian and central European architectural traditions.
Pearl of the Renaissance
The city of Zamość is often referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Renaissance’ and the ‘Padua of the North’ and has two distinct sections. To the east is the town, which is laid out around three market squares (the Grand Market Square, the Salt Market Square and the Water Market Square) and to the west is the Zamoyski palace.
The central Grand Market Square is located at the junction of the town’s two main axial streets. Here you will find the magnificent Town Hall, arcaded galleries, restaurants, and old merchants’ houses.
Notable buildings in the Old City of Zamosc include Zamość City Hall, Zamość Cathedral, Zamość Synagogue, Zamojski Academy, and the Zamojski Palace.
The Old Town is surrounded by the remains of the Zamość Fortress.
The park is the largest and one of the most famous English gardens in Central Europe, stretching along both sides of the German and Polish border. It was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on 2nd July 2004. The park also stands as one of Poland's official Historic Monuments, as designated 1st May 2004, and tracked by the National Heritage Board of Poland.
The 559.9 ha landscaped park sits astride the Neisse River and was created by Prince Hermann von Puckler-Muskau from 1815 to 1844 who developed the park around his residence, Schloss Muskau.
The largest proportion of Muskauer Park is located in Poland (3.5 sq km) with the remaining 2.1 sq km within Germany.
Park on Terraces
The castle (Schloss) is situated on the German side of the park, the heart of the park called the. ‘Park on Terraces’ is located within Poland. In 2003 a pedestrian bridge spanning the Neisse was rebuilt to connect both parts.
Muskauer was designed to blend seamlessly with the surrounding farmed landscape, and it pioneered new approaches to landscape design and contributed to the advancement of landscape architecture as a discipline.
Unlike many landscaped parks in Europe, the objective of the park design was to use local plants to enhance the qualities of the existing landscape and to integrate the local town as part of the development using green passages that formed urban parks. It is an example of a cultural landscape in which the site’s natural attributes have been harnessed with the utmost skill and includes a reconstructed castle, bridges, an arboretum, the river Neisse, water features, buildings, forested areas and paths.
Prince Hermann von Puckler-Muskau was the definition of a cad who famously married an older and very rich woman to raise funds for the development of the park, only to formally divorce her a few years later to look for another fortune to finance the garden's maintenance. In the mid-1840s, the prince sold the park to Prince Frederik of the Netherlands to avoid bankruptcy.
Medieval Town of Torun – updated 10 September 2022
The Medieval Town owes its origins to the Teutonic Order, which built a castle in the town in the mid-13th century as a base for the conquest and evangelisation of Prussia. This acted as a catalyst for the growth, importance and popularity of the town and it soon developed a commercial role as part of the Hanseatic League.
In the old and new town, the many imposing public and private buildings from the 14th and 15th centuries (among them the house of Nicolaus Copernicus) are striking evidence of Torun’s stature.
Toruń is a remarkably well-preserved example of a medieval European trading and administrative centre. The city was founded in the period when Christianity was being spread through Eastern Europe by the military monks of the Teutonic Order, and when rapid growth in trade between the countries of the Baltic Sea and Eastern Europe was being spurred by the Hanseatic League.
The Medieval Town of Torun is comprised of three elements: the ruins of the Teutonic Castle, the Old Town, and the New Town, all surrounded by a circuit of defensive walls.
The majority of the castle was destroyed during an uprising in 1454, when the local townspeople revolted against the Teutonic Order. The ruins and the archaeological remains have been excavated and safeguarded.
An exceptionally complete picture of the medieval way of life is illustrated in the original street patterns and early buildings of Toruń. Both the Old Town and the New Town have Gothic parish churches and numerous fine medieval brick townhouses, many of which have retained their original Gothic façades, partition walls, stucco-decorated ceilings, vaulted cellars, and painted decoration.
Many townhouses in Toruń were used for both residential and commercial purposes. A fine example is the house in which Nicolaus Copernicus was reputedly born in 1473; it has been preserved as a museum devoted to the famous astronomer’s life and achievements.
The townhouses often included storage facilities and remarkable brick granaries, some of which were up to five storeys high. Because so many houses have survived from this period, the medieval plots are for the most part still preserved, delineated by their original brick boundary walls.
The Medieval Town of Torun has benefited from numerous renovation projects in recent years, in particular the Old Town area. Buildings, pavements, streets and squares have been painstakingly reconstructed reversing them to their historic appearance.
What to expect from this tour
Leave Warsaw for a day and see the birthplace of Nicolas Copernicus! Let your driver pick you up from your accommodation in Warsaw and visit Torun with a private guide.
Learn about the charming city of Torun, one of the few Polish cities to escape major damage in World War II. Snap pictures of the beautifully preserved Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the Old Town, the New City, and the Teutonic Castle. Admire the city defense walls and fortified towers that form part of the skyline. Learn about the founding of Torun by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century and see the ruins of the castle.
Visit St John's Cathedral, home to the seven-ton Tuba Dei (God's Trumpet), one of the largest medieval bells in Europe. Said to be the place where the world-famous astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, was baptized. Next, choose between following in the footsteps of Copernicus in a visit to his former home turned multimedia museum or check out the Gingerbread Museum, a former factory that popularized gingerbread all over the world. Take a break for lunch during the tour before the return transfer to Warsaw.
Historic Centre of Warsaw – updated 10 September 2022
The Historic Centre of Warsaw is the oldest part of the city. The heart of the area is the Old Town Market Place, which is very popular with tourists and contains many restaurants, cafés, bars and shops. Surrounding streets feature medieval architecture such as the city walls, St. John’s Cathedral and the Barbican which links the Old Town with Warsaw New Town.
World War II
In excess of 85% of the historic centre of Warsaw was deliberately destroyed during World War II by Nazi Germany. A meticulous restoration of the Old Town took place after the war and this included its important religious buildings, the Royal Castle, Old Town Market, townhouses, and the circuit of the city walls. It is an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century.
Where possible, original bricks and decorative elements found in the rubble were reused during the reconstruction, which was not entirely accurate to pre-war Warsaw but more of a mix between pre-war Warsaw and an earlier period. The objective was to reconstruct but at the same time, try to improve on the original.
Old Town Market Place
The 13th century Old Town Market Place was the true heart of the Old Town and until the end of the 18th century it was the heart of all of Warsaw. Prior to the great fire of 1607, the buildings around the square were Gothic in style, after the fire, they were rebuilt in late-Renaissance style.
When approaching the Old Town from the centre of Warsaw, your first view of the reconstructed Old Town is Castle Square, dominated by Zygmunt’s Column, which towers above the beautiful Old Town houses.
Royal Castle Warsaw is an exceptional copy of the original red-brick castle, which was destroyed by the Germans in WWII. The very first version of the castle was actually a wooden stronghold dating back to the 14th century built for the dukes of Mazovia and since then it has been the residence of Polish kings in addition to being the home of the president and also the seat of parliament.
Historic Centre of Krakow – updated 09 September 2022
The historic centre of Krakow has been featured on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1978. Packed full of restaurants, museums, galleries and bars, the medieval layout of the Old Town has not changed for centuries.
Main market square
The heart and focal point of the historic centre of Krakow is its graceful main market square, the largest medieval town square of any European city.
Most visitors to Krakow visit the market square with its Cloth Hall, the Church of the Holy Mary, Wawel Hill and its Royal Castle, Wawel Cathedral with its outstanding Renaissance chapel, the Barbican and St. Florian’s Gate.
Wawel Royal Castle
Wawel Royal Castle and the limestone Wawel Hill are extremely important historical and cultural sites containing one of the most important collection of buildings in Poland. Wawel was once the seat of Polish rulers, the residence of kings and the focal point of many Polish historical events. The hill is a symbol of the Polish nation and has witnessed some of the greatest moments in Polish history. Many Polish kings have been laid to rest below Wawel Cathedral.
The Jewish quarter of Kazimierz features a wealth of Jewish heritage with its 16th century cemetery and seven synagogues of which one is now the Jewish Museum.
The historic centre of Krakow was once surrounded by a 3km long defensive wall complete with 46 towers and seven main entrances. Today only a fragment of the old fortifications remains including the Florian Gate, the Barbican and a few towers.
The historic centre of Krakow is bisected by the Royal Road, the coronation route traversed by the Kings of Poland. The Route begins at St. Florian’s Church outside the northern flank of the old city walls in the medieval suburb of Kleparz; passes the Barbican of Krakow built in 1499 and enters Stare Miasto through the Florian Gate. It leads down Floriańska Street through the Main Square, and up Grodzka to Wawel, the former seat of Polish royalty overlooking the Vistula River.
The Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica, were built in the former Silesia in the mid-17th century. They were named after the Peace of Westphalia, which was the name given to two peace treaties signed in October 1648 that resulted in the end of the Thirty Years War bringing peace to the Holy Roman Empire and closing a calamitous period of European history that killed approximately eight million people.
The peace treaties effectively eradicated the Evangelical Church in the region depriving the Evangelical majority of the population any religious freedom and all of their churches.
After diplomatic intervention by Sweden, permission was granted to build three churches outside the city walls; however, this permission came with strict physical and political constraints. The Lutherans of Silesia were allowed to build three churches from wood, clay and straw without steeples and church bells with a construction deadline of just one year.
Albrecht von Säbisch
The project was handed to architect and engineer Albrecht von Säbisch who had the difficult task of meeting the requirements of the large Evangelical community whilst also adhering to the caveats imposed on the construction of the churches.
The architect created a set of buildings that represented the pinnacle of timber-framing construction technology and architectural solutions. The Churches of Peace are the largest timber-framed Baroque ecclesiastical buildings in Europe and were built to a scale and complexity unknown in European wooden architecture before or since.
Albrecht von Säbisch used traditional materials and technologies and despite the impermanence of the materials used, the building survived for hundreds of years.
The Church of the Holy Spirit in Jawor was built in 1654–1655 as a rectangular three-aisled basilica with a three-sided chancel of reduced form.
The Church of the Holy Trinity in Świdnica was built in 1656–1657 as a three-aisled basilica with a Greek cross ground plan. The third of the Churches of Peace allowed under the Peace of Westphalia was built in Głogów in 1652 but burned down a hundred years later. Since 2001, the two remaining churches are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Jawor and Swidnica Tours
What to expect from this tour
Visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Lower Silesia in one day. Admire the beauty of the wooden church in Swidnica, the largest wooden church in the world and see the largest timber-framed religious buildings in Europe in Jawor.
The wooden church in Swidnica is the largest wooden baroque church in the world. It was built in 1655 and dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It is made of non-durable materials, which survived so far more than 350 years.
The timber-framed religious buildings in Jawor are the largest wattle and daub buildings in Europe, built at the times of the old Silesia in the middle of the XVII century, at a time of religious conflicts. These buildings are a manifestation of the desire for religious freedom and a rare mixture of Lutheran ideology connected to a Catholic church.
Centennial Hall Wroclaw – updated 09 September 2022
Centennial Hall was erected in 1911-1913 by the architect Max Berg as a multi-purpose recreational building and is a landmark in the history of reinforced concrete architecture. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.
The building is frequently visited by tourists and the local populace. It lies close to other popular tourist attractions, such as the Wrocław Zoo, the Japanese Garden, and the Pergola with its Multimedia Fountain.
National Historic Monument
The building became one of Poland’s official national Historic Monuments (Pomnik historii), as designated on 20th April 2005, together with the Four Domes Pavilion, the Pergola, and the Iglica. Its listing is maintained by the National Heritage Board of Poland.
The building was designed to respond to emerging social needs and included an assembly hall, an auditorium for theatre performances, an exhibition space and a sports venue.
The hall was built as part of a Centennial Exhibition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig, won by the anti-French coalition against Napoleon Bonaparte.
Max Berg, who was the Wrocławcity architect at the time, designed the massive Centennial Hall using new reinforced concrete technology. It was a pioneering work of modern engineering and architecture and became a key reference in the design of public spaces and in the further evolution of reinforced concrete technology.
The 23m dome was the largest ever reinforced concrete dome in the world at the time and was made from steel and glass. The hall had an inner diameter of 69m and a height of 42m and was the largest building of its kind at the time of construction. It can seat around 7,000 people.
The Centennial Hall (Hala Stulecia) is currently one of the most sought-after places to organise exhibitions, conferences, congresses, and cultural and sporting events within Poland and from overseas.
What to expect from this tour
During your 2-hour trip, discover the most beautiful aspects of Wroclaw in a pleasant and satisfying way. Jump on the Segway and don't miss anything from Wroclaw Old Town has to offer.
While telling you many carefully selected trivia and pieces of information in a compelling way, your guide will take you into picturesque places such as Slodowa Island (Malt Island) and Piaskowa Island (Sand Island). Discover also Ostrow Tumski and an Archcathedral that’s located there (interested visitors might even go inside), or Ksawery Boulevard. Your route goes through the Lovers' Bridge, an exceptionally romantic place, especially in the evening when it’s illuminated by the light of streetlamps.
Get to see the Racławice panorama, the partisan hill, and the National Forum of Music. At the end of your trip, visit the four denominations district and a Synagogue. And don't forget about the dozens of dwarfs that you’ll encounter on the way.
The Auschwitz Birkenau complex has left its inglorious mark on human history. A symbol of the Holocaust, during its five years of operation over a million Jews, along with Poles, Romani and other groups, were systematically killed by German Occupiers in WWII. Confronting and emotionally charged, a visit to the complex is an essential part of the human experience.
Both sections of the camp, Auschwitz I and the much larger outlying Birkenau (Auschwitz II) have been preserved and are open to visitors. Everyone should visit Auschwitz at least once in their lives, it is a stern reminder of the horrors that human beings can inflict on each other and the only way to understand the extent and horror of the place and the atrocities that took place there.
The Auschwitz extermination camp was established in Polish army barracks on the outskirts of Oświęcim by the Germans in April 1940 and was originally intended for Polish political prisoners. It was then adapted for the wholesale extermination of the Jews of Europe in fulfilment of German Nazi ideology and pursuit of the ‘final solution of the Jewish question in Europe.’
For this purpose, the much larger camp at Birkenau was built 2km west of the original site in 1941/1942, followed by another one in Monowitz, several kilometres to the west.
Most of the killing took place in Birkenau and not Auschwitz. The 175 hectares camp was purpose-built for efficiency with 300 prison barracks housing 300 people each and four huge gas chambers, complete with crematoria. Each gas chamber could asphyxiate 2,000 people at one time and were fitted with electric lifts to raise the bodies to the ovens more quickly and conveniently.
From spring 1942 until the fall of 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. The camp’s first commandant, Rudolf Höss, testified after the war at the Nuremberg Trials that up to three million people had died there (2.5 million exterminated, and 500,000 from disease and starvation), a figure since revised to 1.1 million. Of the 1.1 million people who were murdered in Birkenau, 90 percent of them were Jews.
Others deported to Auschwitz Birkenau included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and tens of thousands of people of diverse nationalities. Those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labour, lack of disease control, individual executions, and medical experiments.
By July 1942, the SS were conducting the infamous “selections,” in which incoming Jews were divided into those deemed able to work, who were sent to the right and admitted into the camp, and those who were sent to the left and immediately gassed.
Prisoners were transported from all over German-occupied Europe by rail, arriving in daily convoys. The group selected to die, about three-quarters of the total, included almost all children, women with children, all the elderly, and all those who appeared on brief and superficial inspection by an SS doctor not to be completely fit. Auschwitz II-Birkenau claimed more victims than any other German extermination camp, despite coming into use after all the others.
SS officers told the victims they were to take a shower and undergo delousing. The victims would undress in an outer chamber and walk into the gas chamber, which was disguised as a shower facility, complete with dummy shower heads. After the doors were shut, SS men would dump in the cyanide pellets via holes in the roof or windows on the side. In Auschwitz II-Birkenau, more than 20,000 people could be gassed and cremated each day.
Sonderkommandos removed gold teeth from the corpses of gas chamber victims; the gold was melted down and collected by the SS. The belongings of the arrivals were seized by the SS and sorted in an area of the camp called “Canada,” so-called because Canada was seen as a land of plenty. Many of the SS at the camp enriched themselves by pilfering the confiscated property.
The last selection took place on October 30, 1944. The next month, Heinrich Himmler ordered the crematoria destroyed before the Red Army reached the camp. The gas chambers of Birkenau were blown up by the SS in January 1945 in an attempt to hide the German crimes from the advancing Soviet troops. The SS command sent orders on January 17, 1945, calling for the execution of all prisoners remaining in the camp, but in the chaos of the Nazi retreat the order was never carried out. On January 17, 1945, Nazi personnel started to evacuate the facility.
Nearly 60,000 prisoners were forced on a death march toward a camp in Wodzisław Śląski (German: Loslau). Those too weak or sick to walk were left behind. These remaining 7,500 prisoners were liberated by the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army on January 27, 1945.
Approximately 20,000 Auschwitz Birkenau prisoners made it to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, where they were liberated by the British in April 1945. Among the artefacts of automated murder found by the Russians were 348,820 men’s suits and 836,255 women’s garments.
On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops, a day commemorated around the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Today, at Birkenau the entrance building and some of the southern brick-built barracks survive; but of the almost 300 wooden barracks, only 19 remain: 18 near the entrance building and one, on its own, farther away. All that survives of the others are chimneys, remnants of a largely ineffective means of heating. Many of these wooden buildings were constructed from prefabricated sections made by a company that intended them to be used as stables; inside, numerous metal rings for the tethering of horses can still be seen.
The Polish government decided to restore Auschwitz I and turn it into a museum honouring the victims of Nazism; Auschwitz II, where buildings (many of which were prefabricated wood structures) were prone to decay, was preserved but not restored. Today, the Auschwitz I museum site combines elements from several periods into a single complex: for example, the gas chamber at Auschwitz I (which had been converted into an air-raid shelter for the SS) was restored and the fence was moved (because of building work being done after the war but before the museum was established). However, in most cases the departure from the historical truth is minor and is clearly labelled.
The museum contains many men’s, women’s and children’s shoes taken from their victims; also, suitcases, which the deportees were encouraged to bring with them, and many household utensils. One display case, some 30 metres (98 ft) long, is wholly filled with human hair which the Nazis gathered from people before they were sent to labour or before and after they were killed.
Auschwitz II and the remains of the gas chambers there are open to the public. The camp is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The ashes of the victims were scattered between the huts, and the entire area is regarded as a grave site. Most of the buildings of Auschwitz I are still standing. The public entrance area is outside the perimeter fence in what was the camp admission building, where new prisoners were registered and given their uniforms. At the far end of Birkenau are memorial plaques in many languages, including Romani.