From the Gothic style of Gdańsk to the Romanesque buildings of Kraków, Poland displays a wide range of architectural styles. Despite many of its monuments being damaged or destroyed during World War II, the country still displays some of the best examples of European architecture, with many buildings having being restored to their original grandeur.
Western and Northern Poland are home to some of the country’s best Gothic style buildings. One of Wrocław’s most recognised landmarks, the Cathedral of St John the Baptist was the first building in the city to be made of brick when most of it was rebuilt in 1244. Having survived the Mongol invasion, several fires and World War II, it’s got to be one of the most resilient cathedrals in Europe!
Poznàn’s Archcathedral Basilica of St Peter and St Paul, however, has been standing even longer, as the oldest cathedral in Poland. Originally a Romanesque building, evidence of which is still partly visible in the southern tower, it was rebuilt in the Gothic style during the 14th and 15th centuries, when Gothic architecture was all the rage. But perhaps one of the grandest Gothic churches in Poland is St Mary’s Church, Gdańsk. Often cited as the largest brick church in the world, its construction took over 120 years. The church contains an enormous astronomical clock, and legend has it that after this was finished, the creator gouged out his eyes so he’d never be able to make a better one. Well, that’s one way to retire!
It’s not all churches and cathedrals though. One of Poznàn’s most popular tourist attractions is its town hall which, though rebuilt in a Renaissance style in the 16th century, was originally constructed around 300 years earlier. You’ll be unsurprised to hear that shortly before the reconstruction, the building was partially damaged by a fire, which seems to be some sort of rite of passage for any landmark building in Europe. That’s not the interesting part though. If you ever visit the Poznàn town hall we recommend you go as the clock strikes noon, when you’ll get to see the mechanical goats on the front of the building butting heads which, let’s face it, sounds hilarious.
The Wawel Royal Castle in Kraków is also very much worth a visit (don’t worry, we’ve got that covered). Together with the Wawel Hill, the site is the most culturally and historically important in Poland, having been the home of centuries’ worth of Polish royalty. A combination of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture, it is now one of the country’s best art museums.
The city of Kraków itself is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, being one of the most famous old districts in Poland. It was one of the first sites in Poland added to the list, along with the Wieliczka salt mine, located just outside the city. One of the world’s oldest operating salt mines when it ceased production in 2007, it is decorated with chandeliers and mythical figures carved from rock salt. It’s often referred to as the “Underground Salt Cathedral of Poland”, and if you visit it, it won’t be hard to see why!
So there you have it: churches, cathedrals and castles, oh my! Whatever your style, Poland has it all and it’s not hard to see why it’s become such a popular country to visit in Europe. If you’d like to try it out (of course you would, you read the article) or have been before and want to go back, join us on our trip to Kraków for skiing and sightseeing!