Is Zamość Poland’s best kept secret?

Is Zamość Poland’s best kept secret?

About an hour’s drive South East of Lublin lies the old city of Zamość, a nearly perfectly preserved example of an ‘ideal’ renaissance town.

A UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Zamość was modelled on the Italian concepts of the ‘perfect’ city, and was founded in the 16th Century by Jan Zamoyski, a Polish nobleman and magnate. He wanted to create new town from scratch, one that would become a centre for trade, culture and academia.

Zamość has a distinct chessboard layout of streets, with a main square in its centre and two small markets situated on each side. An anthropomorphic plan was also used in the city’s design, with Zamoyski’s home being the head, or brain, the church being the lungs, the town hall the heart, and the main street the spine.

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

To protect its inhabitants, fortress walls were built around the private town, and over the years these have evolved and expanded to become the ‘open fortress’ it is known as today. Zamość is renowned for the fact that even though it was attacked many times over the centuries, it has never been conquered as no one was able to penetrate its impressive defences.

I had never heard of this place before coming to Lublin, but having now visited, I’m truly surprised that it isn’t talked about more. Why you ask? Well it’s a truly beautiful town with an amazing history. It may be tiny, but it has so much to offer visitors!

Being shown around by a 16th century noble

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

Small, but perfectly formed, exploring the city is like stepping back in time – even more so when you have a guide like Grzegorz, who showed us around his hometown dressed as a 16th century noble, complete with decorative sword, thick fur cape and jangling chains. It was a bit embarrassing at first, but we quickly got used to his garb, eventually not even noticing it, well, until people would come and ask to have a photograph with him!

As special guests (we’d won a competition to visit) we were given the VIP treatment during our tour and even had the opportunity to go up the town hall tower; the city’s centrepiece. Although it was a very tough climb for me, I’m glad I made the effort as we were graced with amazing views of the main square and beyond.

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

Rynek Wielki – The Great Market Square of Zamość

Understandably so, the Rynek Wielki is still known to this day as one of Poland’s most beautiful squares.

It’s here you’ll see the best of Zamość’s beauty in the pretty arcades and amazing town houses, many built by Armenian traders that made the city their home. These guys liked to show off their wealth and so decorated their homes extrovertly with sculptures and bright colours.

The square is also home to the town hall, with its amazing architecture and gorgeous fan steps. It’s well worth coming into the square in the evening, to see these lit up.

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

Stories from Zamość

Grzegorz really brought the city’s history to life, sharing many great, and often funny, anecdotes about the people and the city itself. One of my favourites was discovering why Zamość has a centuries old dislike of Kraków. Apparently Zamoyski had trained to be a lawyer and went to teach in the city but was declined a job there as the people there disagreed with open forwarding-thinking renaissance views. Ever since the locals have shunned Kraków, even refusing to play ceremonial trumpets in the direction of the city on special occasions.

Then there’s the tale of the haunted house. Look for the building with two busts in the walls. Supposedly the story goes that when the house was discovered to be haunted, the owner called in a priest to do an exorcism. This didn’t solve the problem, so he worked his way up the church’s hierarchy. However, even the bishop couldn’t rid the house of its spooky occupant. In a last ditch attempt to free himself from the ghouls within, the owner decided to try the gods themselves, and had two busts of Greek gods added to the building’s frontage. I wonder if brought this haunting to an end?

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

Walking Zamość’s streets and exploring its buildings its well worth keeping your eyes open for surprise little features hidden all over the old town.

For example, down one side street you’ll find a cannonball still embedded in a wall. Then, hidden away at the back of a shoe shop off the main square, look up and you’ll see the building’s original ceiling beams, covered in writing from the time when it was home to an Armenian trader.

Head down a short corridor off one of the arcades you’ll find the tiniest photography museum, essentially a one man venture by a gentleman who clearly adores photography. From floor to ceiling, every inch of space is covered with old cameras or photographs and it was a pleasure peering through all the knick-knacks, with the owner kindly showing us some of his favourite old cameras and even some black and white family photos.

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

Seriously, it’s a tiny town of hidden gems. But at the other end of the scale, our tour also showed us the grand side of Zamość, which includes everything from a palace, cathedral and fortress gates through to its many churches, museums and green spaces.

Zamość Cathedral

In full, the Cathedral of the Resurrection and St. Thomas the Apostle, although quite ‘bland’ outside, walk through the doors and you’ll find Zamość Cathedral is full of ‘bling’, overflowing with gold and silver. This is because the city was never ransacked, meaning the over the top decorations throughout the cathedral still remain to this day.

Hidden away amongst all the glitz, you’ll find an image of the Mother Mary with a rather quirky origin story. Supposedly this was painted onto a cell door by a prisoner wrongly jailed by the Russians. After it was completed miracles began to happen across Zamość, which were attributed to his painting. Over time the locals rose up to help him, one day dressing him up and smuggling him out of the prison. The image was later cut from the prison door and eventually hung in the cathedral.

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

The Armoury

One of the most interesting and fun places to visit in the city is the fortress itself. It’s best to start your tour at the Armoury Museum, where you can watch an immersive video about the city’s history, the many attacks it faced and how its defences evolved.

The museum houses weapons from across the ages; some of the earliest snipers through to weaponry from the World Wars and a section dedicated to modern warfare. Not so much my kind of thing, but I found the historical stuff very interesting and of course I also made a beeline to the virtual reality game where you can play with a tank. I’m always a gamer at heart!

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

Tourist Route Bastion No 7 – traipsing through the tunnels of Zamość

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

Then – my personal highlight – was taking a trip through the Bastion VII tourist route. Basically visitors can access a small section of the fortress’ tunnels, moving underground between two of Zamość’s bastions, getting a real feel for how the city was defended, and the tools they had to do so. Larger underground rooms even had fireplaces and a bread oven, so if under siege the soldiers had places to sleep and eat.

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

As you exit the tunnels and reacclimatise to the light, for those who’ve really got into the spirit there’s a chance to practice your own soldiering skills by firing a cannon. I was a bit of a scaredy cat at first, but after a little cajoling I gave it a go.

A butch 16th century soldier shows you how to clean, pack and light the cannon and then it’s over to you. Yes I quickly scampered a safe distance away after lighting the fuse, but to be fair, it’s quite loud you know?! All in all a hilarious and cheesy experience, but good fun nonetheless!

For my bravery I was declared a defender of Zamość in a short ceremony. I was even given my own certificate that states I can be called up to defend the city if it’s ever attacked in the future. Let’s hope not, eh?!

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

How long do you need in Zamość?

In all honesty you can see the highlights of Zamość easily in just one day, and explore everything it has to offer fully in two.

It’s pretty easy to make a day trip from Lublin, however, many people actually use Zamość as a base and then go on to explore the local countryside outside the fortress walls. The area is known for its cycling, walking and off-roading and there’s also some beautiful farm stays on offer if after you’ve had your fill of history you want to get back to nature.

However you decide to visit Zamość, do take the time to come here. It’s well worth a visit, not just to explore its vibrant history and beautiful design, but also to enjoy the city’s relaxing ambience and spend time with its friendly people, all strongly passionate about their home.

Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel


Zamość Poland | Ladies What Travel

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Two Traveling Texans

By day Co-Editor Keri is a freelance journalist and copywriter, but spends most of her free time either travelling or planning her next trip!  A complete travel fanatic, she has a love of tropical climates, wildlife and afternoon tea (hence the creation of her Global Afternoon Tea Challenge!)

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  1. Sebastian
    September 11, 2017 / 10:14 am

    I`m from Zamość, and all You writing about my City is true. It has most clear air in whole country, idyll, and calm

    • September 11, 2017 / 1:03 pm

      It’s definitely a quaint, relaxing place Sebastian. Very peaceful!

  2. andrzej
    September 11, 2017 / 5:01 pm

    Yo, the founders name was Zamoyski, youre one letter short 😉

    • September 13, 2017 / 8:18 am

      Ah thanks for letting me know Andrzej – I’ve corrected this now! 🙂

  3. Monika
    September 12, 2017 / 5:53 pm

    I am also coming from this town, thaks a lot for this nice text, I will share with my friends 🙂

    • September 13, 2017 / 8:18 am

      Ah that’s lovely of you to say. Thank you Monika! 🙂

  4. September 13, 2017 / 1:20 pm

    Maybe from not die hard travel fanatics like myself as I’ve heard of this town and definitely want to go, but you’re the first I’ve seen who’s written about it! Pinned! 🙂 #WanderfulWednesday

    • September 13, 2017 / 4:42 pm

      Ah that’s so lovely to hear! I hadn’t heard of it myself, but can say it’s well worth a visit. Hope you get there soon!

  5. September 13, 2017 / 4:39 pm

    I’m heading to Warsaw/Lublin in October! I don’t think I’ll have time to make it here, but I really enjoyed this post and will make it a priority for the future. It’s beautiful laid out, what a treasure! Do you have any posts about Lublin?

  6. September 13, 2017 / 7:09 pm

    Oh wow the photograph museum looks epic I would love that. What a wonderful place to visit the architecture is just stunning , somewhere you would happily wander and I find chess board layouts of towns so much easier to navigate x

    • September 14, 2017 / 2:26 pm

      Yeah, totally with you on that Sarah, so much simpler to find your way around!

  7. September 13, 2017 / 8:29 pm

    Thanks for showing me around! I have never thought of visiting Zamosc so it’s always great to hear about places that you know so little about, especially when it looks this lovely!

    • September 14, 2017 / 2:27 pm

      My pleasure Marcella! 😉

  8. September 14, 2017 / 8:58 am

    Wow, what an amazing place, there’s so many highlights! The guide sounds really good, he had some great tales to tell, I love the fact that they don’t play their trumpets towards Krakow, so many places have unforgotten feuds like that don’t they? My kids would love the cannons! #farawayfiles

    • September 14, 2017 / 2:27 pm

      Yeah he totally brought the place to life Annabel! Those little stories are the things I love hearing about a place the most! 😀

  9. September 14, 2017 / 5:50 pm

    What a fantastic find! Like you, I’d never heard of Zamość. Great that you got to experience (and defend) it as a VIP! #FarawayFiles

    • September 18, 2017 / 4:33 pm

      It was great fun Nell!

  10. September 15, 2017 / 3:53 am

    If you write about Poland, you will have me visiting your blog for sure! I fell in love with the country when I visited last year. I am not sure I have heard about this town but really like every aspect of it. The idea of learning about history and culture from a “noble” sounds good. The museum of photography had a very nice appeal (at least to me). #FarawayFiles

    • September 18, 2017 / 4:35 pm

      Same for me Ruth. We visited Warsaw last summer on the kids’ request and I loved it. I think it was in part because I didn’t have any expectations so everything was wondrous and new.

  11. September 15, 2017 / 7:10 pm

    I’ve been wanting to visit Poland for ages! It looks like the country is full of hidden gems and Zamosc certainly seems to be one of them. I for one, had never heard of the town before! Definitely putting it on my to-visit list 🙂

    • September 18, 2017 / 4:36 pm

      I think Poland probably has a lot to offer that currently isn’t shouted about. So far my experiences have been great. I look forward to visiting again!

    • September 20, 2017 / 11:55 am

      It really is Emma – tie it in with Lubin for a great weekend getaway! 😉

  12. Anisa
    September 17, 2017 / 12:46 pm

    I think it is so neat that your guide got all dressed up. Zamosc looks beautiful and so many unique experiences. I would love to climb the tower, see the underground tunnels, and fire a cannon. I would move away from the cannon too. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • September 18, 2017 / 4:36 pm

      Im glad Im not alone in my cannon fear Anisa! 😉

  13. September 17, 2017 / 6:26 pm

    SO pretty! Great find, I would definitely like to check it out when I’m in the area 🙂

    • September 18, 2017 / 4:37 pm

      It really was pretty Jessi – you get that whole ‘ideal town’ feel from it for sure!

  14. September 18, 2017 / 1:56 pm

    This definitely looks like a city I’d love to visit – the colours of the buildings on the square alone would be enough to entice me. I love all the stories you’ve managed to tell us. It’s one of the great advantages of having a tour guide – it’s these stories that make a place come alive, I think. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • September 18, 2017 / 4:37 pm

      I totally agree Clare – especially if its a guide you click with. I love really learning about a place and it’s people, I think you enjoy your visit so much more this way!

  15. September 20, 2017 / 7:42 am

    After our amazing trip to Poland this year I’m keen to learn more about it. Such a fascinating and beautiful country, it really surprised me. Zamosc looks stunning, it must have been fab exploring those tunnels. I really need to go back there and find some new places like this to visit. #MondayEscapes

    • September 20, 2017 / 11:56 am

      I think it surprises a lot of us Lauren, it’s been a joy to discover it’s beauty! Yep, I love a good tunnel, it was great fun!

  16. September 20, 2017 / 7:56 am

    What a gorgeous place and interesting place Zamość seems. And Grzegorz sounds like the perfect guide. I really need to see this pretty place for myself. You are doing a great job of uncovering special finds in Poland! Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • September 20, 2017 / 11:57 am

      My pleasure Katy – I need to find some new gems to uncover now! 😉

      • Yvonne
        September 20, 2017 / 1:27 pm

        Have you been to Kazimierz Dolny?

        • September 20, 2017 / 2:57 pm

          No I haven’t Yyvonne. Where can I find this?

          • Yvonne
            September 22, 2017 / 9:48 pm

            Lublin is the closest major city, but it’s also reachable from Warsaw. Kazimierz is on the Vistula.

          • Yvonne
            September 22, 2017 / 9:49 pm

            Lublin is the closest major city, but it’s also accessible from Warsaw. KD is on the Vistula.

  17. Yvonne Kowalczewska
    September 20, 2017 / 12:41 pm

    Zamosc is indeed a (mostly undiscovered) gem off-the-beaten-tourist-track. This is either fortunate or unfortunate, depending on one’s point of view.
    I am curious as to whether the guide spoke of the horrific ethnic cleansing suffered by the people of Zamosc and that region during the German occupation.

    • September 20, 2017 / 2:58 pm

      No he didn’t Yvonne. I heard about the horrors that took place in Lublin, but not Zamosc. I’m guessing the jews there suffered the same awful treatment?

  18. I love learning of places like this – one of my favorite parts of Faraway Files. I wouldn’t even have known to look up a place like Zamosc – but what a lovely place! I think it is hilarious that the guide is in full regalia for the tour. Thanks for sharing!

    • September 25, 2017 / 4:38 pm

      He was such a fun guide Erin, really made you get into the spirit of things!

  19. Yvonne
    September 22, 2017 / 9:46 pm

    Not only Jews. The entire Polish population was to be uprooted to make way for German colonists.

    • September 25, 2017 / 4:39 pm

      Ah really, thanks for letting us know Yvonne.

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