The genesis of the name ‘Bialowieza’ is a matter of some debate, although the supposition is that a white tower once stood somewhere in the village, and hence the name (‘biala wieza’ means ‘white tower’ in Polish). It is commonly believed that the name was first mentioned by that great Polish historian and chronicle writer, Jan Dlugosz, in his chronicle from the second half of the 15th century. He relates that in the winter of 1409, King Wladyslaw Jagiello went to Bialowieza and hunted there for eight days in order to supply his troops with meat.
The village of Bialowieza was a witness to many bloody combats from almost all wars and national uprisings. Throughout the centuries, the Bialowieza Forest served a number of Polish kings as a hunting ground – with the elected kings Kazimierz Jagiellonczyk, Stefan Batory, August II Mocny, August III Sas and Stanislaw August Poniatowski visiting the village.
Bialowieza boasts a rich history dating back to the 14th century, when a hunting lodge for Lithuanian princes – and later for Polish rulers - was built in this almost impassable forest. In time the place began to be known as Bialowieza. The hunting mansion was destroyed at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries and rebuilt in the mid-18th century as a hunting palace belonging first to kings and then to Russian czars.
As a result of the third Partition of Poland in 1759, Bialowieza was annexed by Prussia. In 1807 it became a part of the Warsaw Principality and in 1815 of the Kingdom of Poland.
The settlement developed at the turn of the 18th and 19th century, causing the destruction of the forest through increased hunting and the felling of trees.
In the mid-19th century Czar Alexander II had a hunting lodge built in Bialowieza. Between 1889 and 1893 a pompous palace was erected for Czar Alexander III according to the design by Count de Rochefort.
In 1919, following a period of Russian and German occupation, the village was returned to Poland. Its rebuilding began the same year and was completed by 1923. The Bialowieza National Park was set up in 1932, and during the same period it was more served as a representative hunting ground.
Heavily damaged during World War II, Bialowieza had to be rebuilt afterwards and then the National Park was reactivated in 1947, two years after the war ended.