Poland’s roots date all the way back to the 10th century, so if there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s good monuments. Famous for its vast expanses of wilderness, woodlands, rivers and hills, it’s also a country rich with preserved ancient villages, vibrant towns and a fun-loving capital city – with plenty of sites to see in between. From medieval churches to modern-day war memorials, here are some of the most famous monuments in Poland.
Most Famous Monuments in Poland
This 33-foot (9.8 metre) bronze statue sits on the southern side of Krasiński Square. It’s been described as “the most important monument of post-war Warsaw” and today it’s one of the most visited landmarks in the country. It depicts a group of fighters in combat, running to a crumbling building.
The memorial commemorates those who bravely fought against Nazi occupation and honours those who fought in the famous Warsaw Uprising. It had been planned to coincide with Allied forces approaching Poland, but Soviet troops never arrived, leaving Poland to fight alone. After 63 days of fighting, food shortages and little water, German forces captured the city, expelling the population and looting the buildings. It was later used as Soviet propaganda as evidence for the Polish Home Army’s failure. When the Iron Curtain fell, they were finally given the recognition they deserved.
3. Crane Gdansk
The Crane is one of the defining symbols of Gdansk, which was once a defensive fort, port crane and town gate. In its heyday, it was the biggest working crane in the world, with a lifting capacity of four tonnes to a height of 36 foot (11 metres). It used to transfer cargoes and place masts on ships, with the wheels powered by men walking (or running) inside them. Sadly, 80% of it was destroyed in The Battle for Gdansk in 1945.
After the war, it was rebuilt and you can now see part of it at the National Maritime Museum. There are also permanent exhibitions detailing life in the port between the 16th and 18th centuries, as well as models of lighthouses and life-size recreations of counting houses.
More than a million Jews, Poles and Roma were murdered at Auschwitz–Birkenau by German Nazis during World War II. The preserved site is open to visitors, providing you book onto a tour. Auschwitz survivor Tadeusz, along with other survivors, founded the museum in 1946. The Polish Ministry of Culture formally opened the museum in 1947. The 200 hectares of grounds include insightful exhibits, as well as ruins of the crematoria and gas chambers. It’s now a place of pilgrimage and remembrance.
Krakow was once the political and cultural heart of Poland. Wawel Castle, which sits on a limestone hill in the city, is one of the country’s most important historic sights. The collection of Romanesque, Renaissance and Gothic architecture dates back to around the 14th century. It’s now a museum with five different attractions inside: Crown Treasury and Armoury, State Rooms, Royal Private Apartments, Lost Wawel and the Exhibition of Oriental Art.
Once upon a time, the Kings of Poland would have been coronated and buried here. As you might expect for such a stately location, its collections are impressive. In the State Rooms, you’ll find seven floors of gilded and frescoed reception rooms, the Crown Treasury houses Poland’s Crown Treasures and the Cathedral features 18 different chapels. It’s now a Unesco World Heritage Site too.
Built between 1639 and 1651, Zamosc Town Hall is the most famous monument in Zamosc. Over the years people have added extra details to the originally mannerist and baroque style building. Apparently, the city founder Zamoyski didn’t want the town hall to overshadow the palace or interrupt the view, so it sits on the northern edge of the square, instead of in the centre as per tradition. Throughout the summer, you can hear a bugle call from the tower at noon. It only plays in three directions because Zamoyski, ever the character, forbade the trumpeter from playing in the direction of Krakow – which he hated.
The Town Hall is still the seat of the city authorities.
This peculiar wooden church has a fascinating history. It’s actually from the Norwegian town of Vang, its namesake. Built in around 1200, the four-post single-nave stave church would have been one of around 1000 similar structure. Today, there are only thirty stave churches remaining.
By the mid-19th century, the parish had outgrown the Vang Church and it needed costly renovations. Painter Johan Christian Dah sparked the movement to save the church. After his attempts to preserve the church failed he realised he would need to buy it. Countess Frederica von Reden of Bukowiec then convinced King Wilhelm IV to move the church to the Karpacz. Barges transported the church along the river and nine horse wagons took it the rest of the way. To make way for the church, the rectory, school and cemetery were all blown up.
Around 100,000 tourists visit every year to explore the fairytale cabin-like structure.