First mentioned in a document dated 1124, Tarnów was granted city rights by King Władysław Łokietek in 1330 – an event celebrated by a fine monument of the King on ul. Wałowa before the stairs leading up to Plac Katedralny. It was at this time that the medieval layout the city retains to this day was created, with the market square and Town Hall at its centre.
A privately owned city until 1787, Tarnów’s greatest period of growth came under the illustrious, avant-garde nobleman Jan Tarnowski during the 16th century when the Old Town was largely reconstructed in the manner that today earns it the accolade of being Poland’s ‘Pearl of the Renaissance.’ The Tarnowski clan expired without an heir in 1567 and the city was later incorporated into the Austrian-Hungarian Empire during the era of Polish partitions. Tarnów’s citizens were quick to join the Polish legions when WWI broke out and the region saw many battles between the Russian and Austro-Hungarian armies, resulting in a trail of WWI memorial sites and cemeteries in the city’s vicinity.
In October 1918 Tarnów gained notoriety when it became the first Polish city to reclaim independence after 146 years of occupation, and again on August 28th, 1939 when German terrorists detonated an explosive in the city’s train station killing 20 people, injuring 32, and leading some historians to claim that WWII officially started here in Tarnów. The bombs would start falling from the sky six days later and by September 7th the Nazis had captured the city.