Krakow UNESCO Sites


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To get to Wieliczka salt mine or Auschwitz for a tour, it's best to take advantage of a professional local tour operator to save your money and time.

Krakow and its vicinity have no less than five entries on the UNESCO World Heritage list, which names, catalogues and conserves sites of exceptional cultural or natural importance in the development of humanity. As of 2010 there are 911 listed sites worldwide.

First mention goes to Krakow's historic Old Town - one of the best-preserved and elegantly laid out examples of a grand medieval city, streets radiating geometrically from the massive Main Market Square, itself dominated by the newly-renovated Cloth Hall in the centre, the Town Hall clock tower and the asymmetric twin towers of St Mary's Basilica.

Added to the list in the same year as the Old Town (1978) is the salt mine at Wieliczka, just outside Krakow, one of Poland's oldest and a fascinating example of man's skill and ingenuity. In 1979 another local site was added to the list, but one with a wholly different significance: Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, serving as a stark reminder of the horrors Nazi Germany visited upon its victims.

Some 35km southwest of Krakow lies Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, a popular destination for pilgrims, consisting of some 40-odd chapels and churches, a Franciscan monastery and a basilica, dating back to the 17th century. The full UNESCO listing, from 1999, describes it as a 'Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park', which sums it up pretty concisely.

The most recent addition to the list, in 2003, comprises the six selected examples of traditional southern Polish wooden churches. Situated in the villages of Binarowa, Blizne, Debno, Haczow, Lipnica Dolna and Sekowa these fascinating constructions highlight the medieval woodworker's craft. There are in fact many more such churches in the region than these six, but their unique and characteristic architecture and timber construction make them well worth seeking out.


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