Initially we were unaware of the delights of Zamość, but a travel colleague of ours who specialises in visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites brought this delightful Renaissance-styled town to our attention. So, when we were planning our road trip of southern Poland, Zamość was one of the first locations on list. Zamość was founded in the 16th century by the chancellor Jan Zamoysky on the trade route linking western and northern Europe with the Black Sea. Starting from scratch, the town was modelled on the Italian Renaissance theories of what made an ‘ideal city’. The task to create this town was assigned to the famous architect from Padua, Bernando Morando. Thankfully, the town has retained most of its original features and is easily covered on foot by today’s visitors.
5 Unmissable Attractions:
Old Town and Great Market Square – The picture-postcard Great Market is an impressive 100 metres by 100 metres and is lined with colourful buildings and vaulted arcades. The northern part of the Market is made up of several Armenian houses and the structure of the townhall with a tall tower and characteristic staircase. We found many lovely cafes, bars and restaurants lining the square, and since it was such a nice day when we visited, we just had to relax, have a drink and watch the ebb and flow of market.
Address: Rynek Wielki, Zamość, Poland
Town Hall – The Town Hall dominates the square and the 52-m tower in turn dominates the building. The most eye-catching feature of the Town Hall, however, is the sweeping fan-shaped double stairway, which dates back to the second half of the 18th century. Sharp-eyed travellers, however, will notice that the building is not actually symmetrical, since the left-hand side of the facade is 130 cm wider than the right-hand side. Try and visit the Town Hall at noon, because during the Summer a trumpeter plays a bugle call from the tower. The trumpeter only faces towards three of the four directions of the compass. Apparently, Jan Zamoyski did not like Krakow and forbade his trumpeters to play the bugle call in the direction of this town! The Town Hall was and still is the seat of the town council and on the ground floor there is Tourist Information Centre in Zamość.
Address: Rynek Wielki, Zamość, Poland
The Zamojskie Museum – The Zamojskie Museum is located in three Armenian Tenement Houses in the Great Market Square and consists of archaeological, ethnographic and historical departments. We found that the historical department had interesting displays devoted to the history of Zamość and the Zamoyski family.
Address: Ormiańska 30, 22-400 Zamość, Poland
The City Walls – The city walls were constructed at the same time as the inner buildings of Zamość, during the years 1579 and 1618. Over the years, the walls held out the Cossacks, Swedes and Russians. By 1866, however, the fortifications had become a defensive irrelevance, and many parts of the wall were deconstructed. We were pleasantly surprised, however, that significant stretches of the wall remained intact, and gave us a great appreciation of how formidable the once would have been.
The Cathedral of Lord’s Resurrection and St. Thomas the Apostle – The Cathedral of Lord’s Resurrection and St. Thomas the Apostle was definitely one of the most impressive churches that we visited during our Polish travels. It was designed by Bernardo Morando and built between 1587 and 1598. Most of the internal work, however, such as the magnificent Baroque high altar and the silver Rococo tabernacle, which was made by goldsmiths from Wrocław, were crafted at a much later date. Outside, the Cathedral Bell Tower is an imposing 47 m high and has a small balcony half-way to the top from which there is a magnificent view of the town and its vicinity. Unfortunately, the tower was closed during our visit, so we were unable to meet Wawrzyniec, Tomasz and Jan, the towers three large bells.
Address: Kolegiacka 1A, 22-400 Zamość, Poland
7 Hidden Gems:
Zamość Rotunda – It is difficult to avoid the horrific history of World War Two when you visit Poland, and unfortunately, Zamość had seen it’s fair share of tragedy. Originally built between 1825 and 1831 as a defensive structure for canon, the Rotunda was used by the Gestapo as an investigation prison for the upper classes of the town. According to the estimates, about 8 thousand prisoners were shot, and their bodies were burned here. On the cemetery around the Rotunda there are ashes of more than 45,000 people. After the war, the Rotunda was made into a shrine and museum. Walking round the displays and memorials, we found that it was hard to comprehend the depravities that had been inflicted on this once peaceful town.
Address: Droga Męczenników Rotundy 1, 22-400 Zamość, Poland
Zamość Synagogue Museum – Further evidence of the savagery of the Second World War can be witnessed at the Zamość Synagogue Museum. The Synagogue houses a multimedia Museum of the History of Jews from Zamość and the vicinity. The Synagogue was built in 1610 and was the centre of a former Jewish quarter. During the war the Nazis vandalised the Synagogue and it was used as stables. Over many years after the war, the synagogue was renovated and brought back to its former glory. Unfortunately, there is little or nothing left of the once vibrant Jewish community, but we felt that the museum did particularly well in keeping their memory alive.
Address: Ludwika Zamenhofa 9, 22-400 Zamość, Poland
Bastion no.7 (Nadszaniec) – Bastion No. 7. was an important strong point along the defences surrounding Zamość and we were able to get an insight into this imposing structure, both inside and out. Had we a little more time, we would have taken great pleasure in firing the small canons that they have available for visitors – hopefully they were firing blanks!
Address: Waleriana Łukasińskiego 2, 22-400 Zamość, Poland
Zoo Zamość – Marketed as the unofficial biggest attraction on the right side of the Vistula river, the zoo sounds very impressive indeed, boasting more than 2,500 animals spread over 13 hectares. We didn’t have time to visit the zoo, but it has certainly been added to the bucket list for our next Polish adventure!
Address: Szczebrzeska 12, 22-400 Zamość, Poland
Zamoyski Palace – The Zamoyski Palace was the residence of Jan Zamoyski, his successors and their families. It was here that the decisions of major importance to the town and the region were taken and distinguished guests were received. The construction of the palace started even before the town foundation charter was issued having been erected between 1579 and 1586, pursuant to Bernardo Morando’s design. We were unable to gain entry to the building, as the largest part of it is a court, but standing in front of the palace lets you appreciate the size and majesty of the edifice.
Address: Akademicka 1, 22-400 Zamość, Poland
Arsenal Museum – The Arsenal was also built to Bernardo Morando’s specifications, being completed in 1584. Currently it houses the Museum of Weapons, with a permanent exhibition of a seventeenth-century armoury with weapons such as firearms, weapons, guns, and an exhibition showing the history of the fortress of Zamość, along with a model of the city.
Address: Zamkowa 2, Zamość, Poland
Monument to Jan Zamoyski – The Monument to Jan Zamoyski can be found in from of his palace and is made of bronze. This commemoration to the founder of the town was designed by professor Marian Konieczny. It is 10 m high and was unveiled on 17 September 2005, 400 years after Jan Zamoyski’s death.
Address: Akademicka 1, 22-400 Zamość, Poland
Where to Eat:
Jack Tank – Jack Tank offers a wide contemporary menu, including a good selection of burger and pizzas with a touch of class. Situated on the edge of the square, the restaurant offers a fantastic view as you eat.
Address: Rynek Wielki 6, 22-400 Zamość, Poland
Mazagran Original Coffee House – Mazagran takes its coffee seriously and even if you are not a connoisseur, you are bound to be impressed with their hospitality and exquisite coffee. Their halva is also worth tasting!
Address: Pereca 16, 22-400 Zamość, Poland
Where to Stay:
Hotel Artis & Spa Zamość – Moderate Price – Situated just 10-minutes by car from the historic centre (35-minute walk), Hotel Artis is a very comfortable hotel, and even has a giant wooly mammoth statue outside!
Address: Sitaniec 1, 22-400 Sitaniec, Poland
Hotel Luxor – Moderate Price – When we visited Zamość, we actually did it as a day trip while being based in Lublin, which is a much larger city, with plenty of accommodation options. We found that Zamość was an easy one-and-a-half-hour drive from Lublin in our rental car. Hotel Luxor was a contemporary luxury hotel for a small price and had a superb restaurant to go with it.
Address: aleja Warszawska 175a, 20-824 Lublin, Poland
Hints, Tips and Useful Information:
Respect: Shaking hands is the normal form of greeting; an older man will often kiss a woman’s hand. Roman Catholicism plays an important role in daily life and criticism or jokes about religion are not appreciated, despite the general good humour of the people.
Electricity: Electricity is 230 volts AC, 50Hz and the power plugs and sockets are of type E.
Currency: Złoty (PLN; symbol zł) = 100 groszy. Notes are in denominations of zł200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. The coins are in denominations of zł5, 2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 groszy. Poland is required under the terms of its accession to the European Union in 2004 to adopt the Euro as its national currency sometime in the future.
Language: Polish is the official language. There are a few small German-speaking communities primarily in the southwest. English and, increasingly less so, Russian are also spoken. French is also popular.
Thank you – Dziękuję Ci
Please – Proszę
Good morning – Dzień dobry
Good evening – Dobry wieczór
Yes – Tak
No – Nie
Religion of the country: Around 87% of the Polish population are Catholic.
Telephone dialing code: +48
Emergency numbers: The 112 emergency number is an all-service number.
Payphones: You can buy telephone cards from post offices, newspaper kiosks and hotel receptions for both domestic and international calls.
Mobile Telephones: Roaming agreements for mobile phones exist with most international mobile phone companies.
Water: Mains water is normally chlorinated, and while relatively safe may cause mild abdominal upsets. Bottled water is available everywhere.
Shopping: What to buy in Poland:
- Amber jewelry
- Beer tankards
- Żubrówka – bison grass vodka
Cuisine: What to try in Poland:
- Borscht – beetroot soup
- Zurek – soup which includes sausage and egg
- Smalec – lard, served with bread
- Kielbasa – sausage
- Gołąbki – minced meat, onions and rice wrapped in a cabbage leaf
- Pierogis – sweet or savoury dumplings
- Golonka Pieczona – roasted pork knuckle
- Bigos (Hunter’s Stew) – cabbage, sauerkraut, tomatoes, onions and meat
Smoking: Smoking is banned in public places, including railway stations, restaurants and bars.
Alcohol Consumption: Buyers or persons being served must be at least 18. Drinking in public places, with the exception of designated drinking zones, is illegal regardless of age.
Tipping: Tipping is expected for good service in restaurants. The norm is to tip around 10% of the bill. The tipping etiquette when taking a taxi is to tip 10%.