The self-proclaimed ‘Pearl of the Renaissance’ and ‘Padua of the North’, Zamość (zah-moshch) has never been known for its modesty. The latter name derives from its Italian designer, Bernando Morando, a Paduan native who brought his architectural vision to life in the middle of the Lublin Upland in the late 16th century.
Every year, Częstochowa (chen-sto-ho-vah) attracts four to five million visitors from 80 countries, who come to fall at the feet of the Black Madonna. Some walk for 20 days over hundreds of kilometres with offerings for the Virgin. Others take a bus from Kraków. Poland’s spiritual heartland is not just for the faithful.
Kazimierz Dolny has various assets: it’s picturesquely situated on the banks of the Vistula, it’s surrounded by dense green countryside, it’s tightly packed with historical buildings and it boasts bread in the shape of roosters. The buildings in this Lilliputian land are so charming that they appear to have survived the tides of history untarnished.
Don’t judge a town by its outskirts. The ring of postwar suburbs around the centre doesn’t inspire exploratory enthusiasm, but Kielce (kyel-tseh) is growing into itself. Recent revamps of the main thoroughfare (ul Sienkiewicza) have injected new pride into Kielce, which is confidently flaunting its makeover.
Unlike most Polish towns, the heart of Radom doesn’t beat at its Rynek. Rather, it is to the main thoroughfare of ul Żeromskiego that Radomites go to show that their industrial town does not have an industrial attitude. The biannual Radom Air Show (during the last weekend of August of every other year) sets the town and the sky above it abuzz with activity.
Zwierzyniec & Roztocze National Park
Given what a raging success Jan Zamoyski’s model city Zamość turned out to be, it’s no surprise that his country getaway also came up trumps. Zwierzyniec (zvyeh-zhi-nyets), 32km southwest of Zamość, is picture perfect. In the 16th century, the visionary Zamoyski created a game reserve in this area, which has since become a national park.