The Wooden Architecture Route - World Heritage Site in Małopolska

A wooden church in Kwiatoń visible from the side.
Historic wooden architecture is a European rarity. You hardly ever come across such old and well-preserved wooden architecture in the West, even the Gothic ones! It is the treasure of Małopolska, and it is here that it has been best preserved, and the most beautiful and valuable objects can be found on the Wooden Architecture Route.

World heritage

The Wooden Architecture Route in Małopolska is over 1,500 km long and includes 255 buildings and complexes of buildings. Among them are gems on a global scale, i.e. monuments inscribed on the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List: churches in Powroźnik, Binarowa, Dębno Podhalańskie, Lipnica Murowana and Sękowa. Orthodox churches in Owczary, Kwiatoń and Brunary Wyżne are exceptional. The UNESCO-listed Saint Leonard’s Church in Lipnica Murowana is one of the oldest and most valuable wooden churches in Little Poland. It was built, according to tradition, as early as in 1141, on the site of a pagan stave temple, from which, according to legend, comes the so-called Światowid's Pillar, supporting Saint Leonard's altar from behind. It could therefore have been built shortly before the Second Crusade and long before the era of the great geographical discoveries.



Churches and Orthodox churches are only a substitute for the extremely valuable historical wooden buildings located on the Małopolska Wooden Architecture Route. The route also includes manor houses (Łopuszna and Laskowa), spa villas (Krynica-Zdrój), buildings in small towns (Lanckorona, Ojców, Stary Sącz, and Muszyna), country cottages (Chochołów) and wooden buildings in the Zakopane style (Villa pod Jedlami, Jaszczurówka), Małopolska open-air museums, ZalipieWygiełzów, Nowy Sącz, Sidzina, Zubrzyca Górna, Szymbark, Jurgów and their wealth - authentic peasant cottages, manor houses, hundred-year-old inns or wooden windmills – all the aforementioned will make you move into a historical space and feel it with all your senses.

Religious architecture that still lives

Small charming churches with beautiful polychromes and slender orthodox churches with unique iconostasis are the most spectacular wooden buildings of the Wooden Architecture Route in Małopolska. Firstly, they were built mainly by professional carpenters from the most durable and noble wood species, using only healthy and massive specimens, which were carefully debarked, properly dried, and carefully edged after cutting. Secondly, churches and Orthodox churches were built in carefully selected places, usually on small hills, and surrounded by a wreath of trees. They still stand and function today, and Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic and Orthodox services are still held there. Some have become film sets: in the orthodox church in Owczary, Wojciech Smarzowski's "Bad House" (Dom Zły) was filmed, and in the church in Dębno Podhalańskie, scenes of the wedding of the robber king Janosik and Maryna were filmed.

Towns made of wood

The Wooden Architecture Route intrigues and also delights us with our encounter with Małopolska’s secular buildings. The wooden spa buildings of Krynica-Zdrój within the Villa Romanówka (the Nikifor Museum) formed the background of the film "Nikifor" that was about the extraordinary self-taught artist. In turn, another exceptional place, eagerly photographed by tourists and known in Poland and throughout the world, is Małopolska Zalipie. The beautiful, flower-painted wooden Zalipie cottages, homesteads, fences and wells will delight anyone. Currently, there are about 20 painted houses in Zalipie. The real gems are the Zakopane style buildings; in Zakopane, on the Wooden Architecture Trail there are 11 of them, mainly villas, including the Villa Pod Jedlami, Koliba, Harenda or Witkiewiczówka. The Zakopane style is also represented by the Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Jaszczurówka designed by Stanislaw Witkiewicz, a painter, writer and architect. Everyone will be impressed by a visit to Chochołów. The ensemble of the wooden folk architecture in Chochołów characteristic for the Rocky Podhale, in Chochołów, constitutes a priceless historical value. Houses, set up with their gables to the road, create a traditional village layout, called the “village street”. Beautiful, well-preserved wooden buildings and time-worn urban layouts can also be found within the towns of Małopolska, in living open-air museums, such as Lipnica Murowana, Muszyna, Stary Sącz, Ojców or Lanckorona.

Among the charming, beautiful wooden buildings that remind one of the old times and still tell old stories, modern, everyday life goes on, writing new stories on their wooden pages.

In the open-air museums of Małopolska

Not all wooden buildings in Małopolska were lucky, and not all have been preserved in good condition. Wood makes for a surprisingly fragile heritage. Without a human presence, without life inside them, wooden peasant cottages, manor houses, hundred-year-old inns or wooden windmills collapse and disappear. Małopolska tries to protect and save its unique heritage. The open-air museums of Małopolska on the Wooden Architecture Route are places where the wooden heritage of Małopolska can be felt through the use of all the senses and when one can truly appreciate their character and beauty. The Ethnographic Park in Nowy Sacz is the biggest open-air museum in Małopolska. Almost all its objects are original; they were disassembled in their original location, moved, conserved and reassembled. They present the wooden architecture and traditional folk culture of local ethnographic groups (Lachs, Pogórze Highlanders, Sącz Highlanders) and ethnic groups (Lemkos, Galician Germans, Carpathian Gypsies). Within the area of about 21 hectares, there are more than 80 sites: peasant homesteads, windmills and smithies, sawmills and mills, roadside crosses and chapels, 18th-century religious constructions (Roman Catholic from Łososina Dolna, Greek Catholic from Czarny, Protestant from Stadła). The site includes the 17th-century manor house from Rdzawa surrounded by a manor park. A neighbour to the Nowy Sącz Ethnographic Park, Galician Town reconstructs a fragment of 19th century small-town architecture. It brings to life the atmosphere of small towns in the former province of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. We will see here the town hall, an inn, burgher houses from Stary Sącz, a manor house from Łososina Górna and a fire station.

The enchanting beauty of wood

All objects on the Wooden Architecture Route are marked with signs, and road signs indicate access to them. Many of them, mainly open-air museums, churches, and Orthodox churches, are open to visitors in the summer season. This creates a unique opportunity to take in their charm and beauty, travel back in time, smell the old wood, field flowers and herbs, hear and see the unprecedented bustle and palette of colours, calm down and relax.

One more attraction worth recommending is the music resounding in the buildings that have been included in the Wooden Architecture Route in Małopolska since 2007. That is due to the Music Enchanted in Wood Festival, which starts every year with Christmas carols and ends with a concert on All Souls' Day. In the summer months, as part of the Festival, one can listen to artists presenting various genres, styles, and musical climates - from folk through jazz, improvised and experimental music, sung poetry to classical music. There is also room for shows combining music and dance or events dedicated to children. Churches, Orthodox churches, open-air museums, manor houses and cottages are magical places. All this can take you to another dimension, primarily when accompanied by the sounds and colours that have been lost in today’s hustle and bustle.

For those who already want to plan to discover the treasures of the Małopolska Wooden Architecture Route or who, for various reasons, cannot afford it yet, we recommend the animations of twenty objects digitised in 3D. They can be seen on the Facebook and the Instagram pages of the Małopolska Tourist Organisation, as well as on the YouTube channel of the Wooden Architecture Route in Małopolska (the Wooden Architecture Route on YouTube).


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