• Norway!

    Norway: Sunnylvsfjord. Go Now!

    Known for its natural beauty, Norway is home to isolated villages, fjords, and mountains that create a culture and landscape without compare. Begin Your Journey!

  • Vatican City!

    Vatican City: Vatican Museums. Go Now!

    Vatican City
    The smallest country in the world offers the heart of Catholicism and among the world's finest art collections, including the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms (ceiling pictured). Go to Vatican City!

  • Macedonia!

    Macedonia: Traditional architecture. Go Now!

    Macedonia is a country still finding its unique identity, but its architecture is already one of a kind. Explore Macedonia!

  • Austria!

    Austria: Belvedere Palace. Go Now!

    Belvedere Palace (pictured) is just one of many palaces found in Vienna. The capital is a good start to Austria, which also features the Alps, the Lakes District, and incredible history & food. Go Now!

  • Spain!

    Spain: Guell Park and Gaudi architecture. Go Now!

    Fusion foods, lively music, historic ruins, and cultural events like the Running of the Bulls and La Tomatina make Spain and Barcelona (pictured) a favorite tourist destination. Explore Spain!

  • Ukraine!

    Ukraine: Traditional Village. Go Now!

    Ukrainian culture is based on village life, particularly that found in the Carpathian Mountains (pictured). Begin Your Journey!

Architecture of Poland

Poland has an incredible amount of preserved architecture and an enviable variety of styles throughout history, particularly given the region was never the birthplace of any architectural movement. Although many of the Romanesque (and other) structures were destroyed by the Tatars, Swedish, and later, Nazi and Soviet invaders, there are still a large number of these early buildings still standing.

Polish Architecture - Teutonic Malbork Castle
Malbork Castle

The best examples of Romanesque architecture in Poland are found in Krakow and include St. Andrew's Church (1079-1098) and St. Wojciech's Church (1000s). Moving into the Gothic style, Krakow again is home to perhaps the country's best example in St. Mary's Basilica (1200-1300s), although St. Mary's Church in Gdansk (1300-1400s) can also stake a claim for that title. In fact, much of Gdansk was built in the Gothic style, however most of the city was destroyed during World War II so what is seen today is primarily rebuilt. The town of Kazimierz Dolny is another great example of a Medieval town as this small town, for the most part, survived the war intact. The final Gothic structure worth mentioning is Malbork Castle (built by the Teutonic Knights in 1200-1400s; restored in the 1950-1960s), which is the world's largest brick castle and in a style that reflects its Teutonic German past.

Polish Architecture - St. Michael the Archangel Church in the Tatras Mountains
St. Michael the Archangel Church

Throughout Polish history, but peaking in the 1400s and 1500s, a large number of wooden churches were constructed in southern Poland, in the Tatras Mountains. Shockingly, many of these churches survive to the present. There are nearly 20 of these churches from the 1400s-1700s and they are generally found in mountain villages. One of the most impressive is St. Michael the Archangel Church (1400s), which is located in the tiny town of Debno (about 1,000 people).

Unlike much of northern Europe, Poland prospered during the Renaissance and the Zygmund Chapel (1519-1533) in Wawel Cathedral (Poland's Royal Castle and the kings' cathedral) in Krakow is often considered the best example of Renaissance art north of the Alps. During this same time, the royal castle of Wawel itself was restructured in the Renaissance style. Poznan's town hall was also constructed in the style as was the entire city of Zamosc, which was built as a defensive fortress by Italian architects.

Polish Architecture - Zygmunt Chapel in Wawel Cathedral
Zygmunt Chapel

The next significant style to arrive to Poland was the Baroque style, but as today's Poland includes lands that were historically Germany, the style vastly differs from the eastern to western part of the country. Branicki Palace (1600-1700s) in Bialystok and Aula Leopoldina (1600-1700s) in Wroclaw University are both in this style, but vastly differ. However, Wilanow Palace (late 1600s) just outside of Warsaw is perhaps the most impressive example of the style in Poland.

During this same time, traditional wooden architecture was continuous built, most strikingly in the form of churches. The most impressive of these churches from the 1600s (in addition to those in Poland's south) are in regions that were at the time part of Germany. Those include the Church of Peace in Jawor (1610–1688) and the Church of Peace in Swidnica (1600s), both in the Lutheran German style.

The late 1700s and 1800s saw the rise of the neo-Classical style and the most serene example from this time comes with the many palaces in Lazenki Park in Warsaw. This park was a private reserve for Poland's last kings and they built numerous small palaces in the style, however the park's natural beauty generally leaves a more lasting impression on the visitor.

Polish Architecture - Renaissance Sukiennice in Krakow
Renaissance Krakow

With the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s came new construction styles, techniques, and materials. One of the most impressive early buildings from this time was built in what was Germany at the time, in the Centennial Hall (1911-1913) in Wroclaw. This is essentially a monument to concrete construction today.

Few other notable structures have been built in the 1900s as communism demanded most construction be in the communist style. While many cities have communist bloc apartment buildings, Warsaw's Palace of Culture (1952-1955) and Krakow's Nowa Huta (1949-1950s) are both uniquely Polish examples of the communist style in Poland.

Polish Architecture - Modern Stock Market in Warsaw
Modern Warsaw

For modern architecture, Warsaw is the only location truly worthy of mention, however most of Warsaw was destroyed during World War II so what is seen today are primarily reconstructions from their past (such as their Old Town) and modern architecture.

For a more authentic and truly Polish representation of the country's architectural history, Krakow is the only option. Krakow's Old Town has buildings in every style, many of which are the best examples in the country. Plus, Wawel Cathedral contains mortuary chapels of the Polish kings and these spread over a time period of centuries, each being in the style of the time. There are few places in Europe that you can see such dramatic and ornate examples of each style within the same building.

This page was last updated: May, 2014