One of the wealthiest towns in Silesia during the Middle Ages, Świdnica (shfeed-nee-tsah) escaped major damage in WWII and has retained some important historical buildings, including its Unesco-protected Church of Peace. Though not a prime tourist destination, it’s still an agreeable place for a stopover, and a convenient springboard for the impressive Książ Castle, 15km southwest.
Founded in the 12th century, Świdnica became the capital of the Piast Duchy of Świdnica-Jawor in 1290. For centuries it was a flourishing commercial centre, well known for its beer, which ended up on the tables of Kraków, Prague and Buda. Until the Thirteen Years’ War (1454–66) it was one of the largest Polish towns, with some 6000 inhabitants. By 1648, however, the population had dropped to 200, and Świdnica has ever since been dwarfed by its former rival, Wrocław.