Stary Sącz (stah-ri sonch) is the older and smaller sister of Nowy Sącz, with a pretty, cobblestoned main square and some fetching churches. There’s also an excellent restaurant in the centre, making it an ideal day trip planned around lunch.
The town owes its existence to 13th-century Duchess Kinga, wife of King Bolesław Wstydliwy (Bolesław the Shy), who in the 1270s founded the convent of the Poor Clares here. After the king’s death, Kinga entered the convent, where she lived for the last 13 years of her life, becoming its first abbess.
Though there’s a small regional museum here, the main sights are two historic churches. The Church of the Poor Clares was where the town was born. It was originally Gothic in style and completed in 1332, though it was later given opulent baroque fittings. The traces of its creator, Kinga, are clearly visible: the baroque frescoes in the nave depict scenes from her life, and her chapel on the south side boasts a 1470 statue of her on the altar. The pulpit (1671) on the opposite wall is an extraordinary piece of art.
The nearby Parish Church of St Elizabeth of Hungary, two blocks south of the Rynek, dates from the town’s 13th-century beginnings but was changed considerably in the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s now a textbook example of unbridled baroque, with five large florid altars.
For lunch or dinner, look no further than Restauracja Marysieńka. It's nothing fancy – just good Polish food served in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.