Lublin

Best Sights in Lublin, Poland

27 Oct 2021
You may be considering a stop in Lublin for a few hours or a few days on your westward (or eastward) journey in Poland... but why not a week? The fact is Lublin no dusty frontier city in south-eastern Poland devoid of culture and cafés - quite the opposite. The cobblestone and lantern-lined streets of the Old Town and the centuries-old architecture are the legacy of a 1,000+ year history of people coming and going, and the cultural traditions and superstitions that travelled with them. They are now the home of many highly-rated gastronomic and accommodation venues, immersed in the character of this fascinating region. The best part of it all is - most people wouldn't have a clue that any of this exists! Kraków and Warsaw are still the centre of gravity for tourism in the region, which leaves Lublin relatively untouched. That's not to say people aren't cluing on...but there's still opportunity to beat the rush!
Zamkowa Street towards Grodzka Gate and Lublin Old Town. Photo by stepmar/AdobeStock.
Lublin has also played a crucial part in the history of Poland that is often overshadowed by the bigger names that pop up on Wikipedia. The word frontier is used quite often and it's very appropriate, even today as it lies a mere 100km from the Ukrainian border. Influences from both the east and west allowed it to grow into a thriving cultural hub and a halfway point for two great powers - Poland and Lithuania - that would one day converge on Lublin to sign their empire into existence. The same empire was a haven for the European Jewish population, who were drawn to Lublin's multicultural space and made their own mark on the region. For centuries, the city was referred to as the Jerusalem of Central Europe and, elsewhere, the Jewish Oxford. This would all change in a devastating fashion, as the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland and their xenophobic foreign policies saw both the local Jewish population and culture almost completely wiped out, along with the suffering inflicted upon Poles and other minorities in the community. Nevertheless, the legacy of this dark chapter of history is kept alive at the State Museum of Majdanek, a Nazi concentration camp that operated 4km from the city centre. It's not all doom and gloom, however, you can see charming reminders of the once-thriving community all over the Old Centre, and some of the finest examples of Jewish cusine can be sampled at Mandragora and Słodka respectively.

Lublin's unique heritage has resulted in different superstitions being associated with different landmarks, for which reason the Lubelskie region is often referred to as the ‘land of legends’. If you're travelling with children and they're not at the same level of appreciation as their elders, pay attention to the 🐐 that appear below! They offer a colourful tale behind some of Lublin's key sites!
View of the Trinitarian Tower from the Rynek in Lublin Old Town. Photo by stepmar/AdobeStock.


Lublin Old Town

After arriving in Lublin, your first port of call should be, without any detours, a visit to the historic centre. Founded in medieval times, Lublin’s old town boasts a collage of architectural patterns, including three 14th century gateways, the highlight of which being the Kraków Gate - a postcard favourite. The town square houses are mostly built in renaissance style, and recent renovations have restored many of the buildings to their former glory. With a generous 70% of these structures surviving the destruction of WWII, the old town is a wonderful glimpse into old Poland, and largely free from the buskers and kebab signs that fill Poland’s more travelled hotspots. Most of the top attractions in Lublin are located within this district, if not a short walk away!

The Rynek (ENG: Market Square) of Lublin Old Town, featuring the Crown Tribunal Building in the centre.

A lap around the picturesque rynek (ENG: Market Square) will reveal a number of great spots for drinking and dining. Notable mentions include Jewish cuisine at Mandragora and Słodka, a fantastic art-deco Polish restaurant called Niepospolita, and a quaint little coffee spot at Akwarela. Smack back in the middle is the Crown Tribunal Building, which is a starting point for the immensley-popular Lublin Underground Trail. Whist exploring through the narrow cobblestone laneways, you will eventually stumble across one of two imposing churches that reside within the old city limits. The first is the Dominican Basilica and Monastery at the end of ul. Złota, dated from 1342 and in possession of a fantastic painting depicting the fire of Lublin in the 18th century. A block to the south-west, the Archcathedral can be found, featuring the Trinitarian Tower that offers the best views of the old centre from above! Down towards Grodzka Gate and Lublin Castle complex, you can drop in at Browar Grodzki, a brewery-restaurant that offers stunning views to the east.

Lublin Old Town during one of its many fantastic public events that brings the old centre to life!
Photo by J. Scherer / Photo by the Presidential office - Marketing of the city of Lublin.

🐐 Numerous legends are associated with the old centre in general. The oldest of these is that of a three-headed dragon, known back in the day as a 'viper' who emerged from an oak grove in the Bystrzyca river valley and chose to live under the city. The viper was believed to have been responsible for bringing the rain, which was essential weather for ensuring a good harvest, as well as guarding the city from dead souls who roamed the land. Offerings to appease the three-headed beast included milk, honey and grain. Viper motifs can be found all over the city on doorfronts, and ul. Żmigród translates as Vipertown Street. 🐐 The other legend is attached to the fancy blue tenement house at Rynek 12, which was the home of Mayor Konopnica in the 16th century. His beautiful daughter, Basia, fell in love with a poor nobleman's son named Jan Rudnicki, a betrothal of which Mayor Konopnica did not approve. Rudnicki, not willing to accept Konopnica's decision, swept up Basia after mass on Christmas Eve and escaped into an oncoming blizzard. While most stories that play out like this have a tragic, ghostly ending, this one is quite the opposite - Basia and Jan Rudnicki lived happily ever after on the Rudnicki estate, despite not gaining forgiveness from old man Konopnica!

Colourful renaissance tenement houses that line the rynek (ENG: market square), including the blue Konopnica Tenement house!​​​


Krakowska Gate

Krakowska Gate (PL: Brama Krakowska) is a 14th-century gate and defensive tower complex that provides access to the Old Town in Lublin. Often referred to historically as the 'Upper Gate', with Grodzka Gate on the other end being the lower gate of the old centre, the westward road leading out of the city follows the historic trail towards the city of Kraków, hence the gate's namesake as well as the road and district on the outside of the old town - Krakowskie Przedmieście (ENG: Kraków District). The gate and defensive walls around the Lublin old town were first built in 1341, in an attempt to stave off raids from Tatars, Ruthenians and other local bandits.  A drawbridge used to be attached to front, which dropped over a moat. That particular state-of-the-art defensive measure was filled in around the 17th century!
The iconic Krakowska Gate on the west end of Lublin Old Town.

Perhaps the most iconic historical structure of the city, the brick part you see today is dated from the 17th century. The white clock tower and dial dated from the 19th century, 🐐 and the former tower master is alleged to have taken out his anger out on the clock by throwing bottles at it. Subsequently, the clock became 'drunk' and began to show the time incorrectly, often with huge deviations from the actual time of day. The old mechanics have since been replaced with an electronic system, which seems to have sobered thing up quite a bit! Nevertheless, the Museum of History of the city of Lublin, which can be found inside, allows you to see some of the intricate clockwork technology, the kind that was once used up on the tower's original dial. The view of Krakowskie Przedmieście from up top is not half bad as well!
 
View of Krakowskie Przedmieście from the top of Krakowska Gate in Lublin Old Town.


Po Farze Square

Plac Po Farze (ENG: Square along the parish) was created after the demolition of the Parish Church of St. Michael the Archangel. 🐐 The area is associated with a key legend of the city, dating back to the mid 13th century, during the time of Krakowian ruler Prince Leszek II the Black. The inhabitants of Lublin, suffering from frequents attacks from pagan tribes, appealed to Leszek to bring his army and submit their enemies. When Leszek and his forces arrived in Lublin, the pagans had retreated from the city upon hearing news of his arrival. Leszek halted the march and decided to nap in the shade of an oak tree. In his dream, Saint Michael the Archangel descended from heaven and ordered the prince to continue pursuing the pagans. He did so and his army defeated them without issue. Leszek returned to Lublin and ordered that the place where he had been visited by Saint Michael. It is here that the church was built and the oak tree was used to make the altar.

The foundations of the fire-prone Parish Church of St. Michael the Archangel, which make up the unique public space of Po Farze Square.

Whether there's any truth to the legend or not, the church is believed to have been built either at the end of the 13th century or at the beginning of the 14th century. However, the church was notoriously prone to fires, burning down a total of three times between 1575 and 1846. After the third incident, the decision to rebuild yet again was abandoned. After the remaining structure was demolished, the baptismal font, the Michał bell from the tower and a historic plaque were relocated in Lublin Archcathedral. According to local news reports, an oak trunk was found under the naive of the great altar, which had been carefully bricked around. The foundations of the church were allegedly too difficult to demolish, some say because of the holiness of the site and Saint Michael's influence. The site became properly established public space in 2002. In the 21st century, Po Farze Square is frequently used for events, such as concerts and cultural meetings. The yellow building at Grodzka 11 is a Youth Centre that once operated as an orphanage for Jewish Children until the devastating events of the Nazi Holocaust. 
 

Aerial view of Lublin's Po Farze Square, showing the foundations of the now-demolished Parish Church of St. Michael the Archangel.


Grodzka Gate

Playing back door to Krakowska Gate's front door, Brama Grodzka (ENG: Fortress Gate) was used to guard the passage in the city's defensive walls. It was also a link between the Christian and the Jewish city, which is why it was often called the "Jewish Gate". Originally, it had the form of a quadrilateral with a cupola, with a foregate later added (as it was with Kraków Gate). At the end of the 18th century, at the behest of the Good Order Commission (Boni Ordinis), it was rebuilt in the classical style and stripped of any defensive features. This is evidenced by the date MDCCLXXXV and the SAR monogram (Stanislaus Augustus Rex - Stanisław August Król), placed on the gate from the Old Town side. After 1944, the Gate was used by the Secondary School of Fine Arts, then by the Lublin Theater Studio. Since 1992, it's been the premises of the Grodzka Gate - NN Theater Centre, inside of which  a model of the Jewish district in Podzamcze (now where the nearby ground-level park and car parking area is located), showing its appearance before World War II. Aside from street performances and buskers, nearby are several boutique shops and galleries.

Lublin's Grodzka Gate lit up in the evening!


Lublin Castle

Resting upon the hill across from Lublin Old Town like a huge wedding cake, the original fortifications that stood here were constructed in the 12th century, with the Romanesque donżon tower going up in the 13th (this structure is the oldest remaining in the castle complex). The castle embraced stone in the first half of the 14th century, with a newer structure being built in a gothic style during the reign of Casimir the Great, along with the wonderfully-painted Chapel of the Holy Trinity
View of Lublin Castle from the old town.
The permanent exhibition of the National Museum of Lublin, found in the main castle building, is relatively chronological in its order. On the ground level, numerous artifact collections, small scale models and wax figurines of various primitive characters are used to tell the story of Lublin's prehistory. These models and recreations take the visitor beyond the monotony of endless pottery shards and arrowheads, and are particularly fascinating for children! Further on, a collection of armaments from the late medieval period to early 20th century will be thoroughly enjoyed by any history nark (and plenty of young boys too, no doubt!) Moving up to the first floor, this is where you gain entry to the extremely-colourful Chapel of the Holy Trinity, a roman catholic place of worship adorned in a uniquely eastern orthodox style in the 14th century.  NOTE: You'll need a separate ticket for this section, so don't forget to grab one at the cashier! After perusing a fabulous collection of eastern orthodox icons and a comprehensive regional ethnographic section of folk costumes, the top floor consists primarily of Polish Paintings from the 17th to 19th centuries, including Jan Matejko's Reception of the Jews A.D. 1096 and The Union of Lublin. Keep in mind that, when making your purchase at the cashier on the ground floor, it is possible to buy a ticket that covers the chapel, museum and Donżon tower, all of which are found within the castle complex.
Lublin Prehistory on the ground floor
of the museum.
The Chapel of the Holy Trinity
can be accessed on the museum's 2nd floor.
Polish paintings (17th - 19th century)
on the museum's top floor
 

Lublin Archcathedral and Trinitarian Tower

The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist (PL: Archikatedra św. Jana Chrzciciela) also known as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lublin. Built between 1592 and 1617 by the newly-arrived Jesuit Order in Lublin, it is one of the first Baroque churches in Poland. The stunning interior, painted with illusionist frescoes, are worth a moment of your time! After the Trinitarian brothers took over in 1773, the Trinitarian Tower, which now offers stunning views of Lublin Old Town, was added in 1821. Its height of 40 meters may not sound so impressive, but the panorama you can expect at the top of the tower is truly breathtaking.
View of both the Trinitarian Tower (left) and Lublin Cathedral (right) in Lublin Old Town.

On your ascent up the tower, you can enjoy the fascinating collection of religious art in the Muzeum Archidiecezjalne Sztuki Religijnej (ENG: The Archdiocesan Museum of Religious Art). Sculptures, paintings, textiles, sarcophagi, musical instruments, candlesticks and Orthodox icons from the surrounding region hang amongst the impressive wooden support-structures of the tower's interior, complete with perfectly calibrated lighting to enhance their divine quality! At the very top, before stepping out onto the viewing deck, you can find a cozy cafe space, complete with colourful pillows and souvenirs. While you're up there, you may as well order something so that you can tell your friends that you've dined at the highest cafe in Lublin! 🐐  Back on ground level and around the corner on ul. Jezuicka you can find a square stone (marked by a custom street sign) with a particularly dark legend attached to it. This was once a block for an axe-wielding executioner, and many guilty parties lost their heads on this corner. However, one day, an innocent man was laid on the block and the axe came down with such force that it left a mark in the stone. From that day onwards, the stone brought death to anyone who touched it. Most notably, a woman carrying soup down the street accidentally tripped and spilt it on the corner, after which a pack of local dogs strolled by and licked up the mess. All of them keeled over and died, an event which earned the area the name 'Dog hill'!
View from the Trinitarian Tower looking towards Lublin Old Town.


Dominican Basilica & Monastery

Basilica of St. Stanislaus (PL: Bazylika św. Stanisława Biskupa Męczennika w Lublinie) also known as the Dominican Church of Lublin is one of the oldest places of worship in Lublin. Together with its adjoining monastery, it is one of the longest existing institutions in Lublin, being more than 750 years old. The Dominican monastic order had been in Lublin since the 1230s and they occupied the original premises from 1253. However, the church as it stands today was built around 1342 under the patronage of Kazimierz the Great.
The Dominican Basilica & Monastery in Lublin Old Town. Photo by the Presidential office - Marketing of the city of Lublin.

🐐 The Dominican Basillica was previously the site of an original piece of the Holy Cross, a relic that was brought to Lublin in the 15th century. Escorting Bishop Andrzej of Kiev is said to have only stopped at the Monastery for the night while transporting the relic further east. However, for the next two days, his horses refused to move any further, and thus he took it as a sign that this fragment of the holy cross should remain here. Aside numerous miracles of healing, fire fighting and fending off Cossacks with angels descending from the heavens, a thief is said to have made off with the relic, only to discover that his horses also refused to move. So where is the relic now? Well, in 1991, someone did successfully steal it, though many local residents believe that it still remains somewhere in the city (because God refuses to let it leave the city!) Aside its holy prestige, the most interesting point inside of the basilica is a fantastic painting of Lublin in late the 16th century, with a small detail depicting the start of the aforementioned fire. Whilst it is uncertain where the source of the fire came from, the painting shows the culprit as a burning schoolhouse in the center-foreground with a young boy joyously celebrating the fact!
The basilica's painting of Lublin in late the 16th century, showing a burning schoolhouse in the center-foreground with a young boy joyously celebrating!
 

Underground Trails and Subterranean Brewery

One of the more obscure tourist attractions (but no less popular) in town is the Lublin Underground Trail that runs under the Market Square and tenement houses of the Old Town. With a total length of approximately 280m, the route was created as a result of joining a dozen of numerous historic cellars together, some back to the beginning of the 16th century. The history of Lublin's spatial development is presented in an exhibition consisting of a series of models showing the settlement in the area of ​​the present city, from the early Middle Ages (8th-10th century) to the 18th century. The climax of the underground story is, enriched with light and sound, a moving model of the Great Lublin Fire (1719). Lublin Underground Trail starts at the Crown Tribunal Building in the centre of the Rynek. Due to its popularity, booking at least a week in advance is highly recommended!
Caption

A short work south of the old centre is another underground experience, this time with beer in the equation! Lublin's Browary Lubelskie was founded in the abandoned ruins of a monastery in 1844, better known by its famous brand of beer - Perła. Every tour in the 'Perła Brewery Undergrounds' has the option of ending with a beer tasting session at their subterranean bar space! Their ground level operation is equally as popular with locals as it is with tourists, and is a great option for spending a night (or day out) with friends!
The historic monastery cellars where Poland's famous Perła beer was first brewed can now be experienced in the Perła Brewery Undergrounds.
 

Majdanek Concentration Camp

The destruction of the Nazi regime across Europe in WWII has been extensively documented, and Poland was the focal point for many of the worst atrocities ever committed in human history. Of the numerous concentration camps that operated in occupied Polish territory, Konzentrationslager Lublinknown locally as Majdanek, was one of the biggest and operated a mere 4km from the historic centre. From October 1941, the site first held Soviet POWs who had been captured during the initial phase of “Operation Barbarossa” - Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union. However, the camp was expanded to take on Jews, Poles and other ethnic groups, of which some 150,000 individuals would be moved through its facilities. An estimated 78,000 would never leave, murdered in the gas chambers, during mass executions, or perishing from starvation, diseases, or during forced labour.  A visit to Majdanek is essential in gaining a better understanding of what exactly these people went through, and how xenophobia and intolerance can evolve into the highest disregard for human life. This is perfectly encapsulated by the Mausoleum with the victims’ ashes and a message engraved on the front:

Los nasz dla Was przestrogą
Let our fate be a warning to you

Guard towers that line the perimeter of Majdanek, where 150,000 Jews, Poles, Soviet POWs and other ethnic groups were held during WWII.
Today the State Museum at Majdanek, established at the area of the former concentration camp, protects the memory of the place and evokes the tragic fate of the victims. The sentry towers, prisoner barracks, camp workshops, bathhouses, crematoria, and the gas chambers, altogether constitute tangible evidence of the crimes committed by the Third Reich during World War II. Located 4km from the city centre, the museum is easily accessible by bus and taxi. For assistance in getting to Majdanek, enquire at the Tourist Information Office in Lublin Old Town.
The overwhelming mass of shoes that were removed from the victims of Majdanek.


Old Jewish Cemetery

Situated on a hill 1.5km north-east of the Old Town, the city's Old Jewish Cemetery goes beyond just being the resting place of Lublin's early Jewish population. The grave of one Jakub Kopelman, who died in 1541, is the oldest Jewish tombstone in Poland that is still in its original place. The cemetery is also the resting place of many representatives of the Lublin qahal - rabbis, scholars and Jewish leaders, such as Jacob Isaac Horowitz - the Hasidic 'Seer of Lublin'. Burials were carried out there until the 19th century, until the New Jewish Cemetery was opened. Each of the preserved matzevot (ENG: Jewish headstones) is a kind of wonderful masterpiece of stonemasonry art, despite the scarring of war. The cemetery was almost completely devastated during World War II, reduced from several thousand headstones to around 200 that remain today. Sadly, acts of vandalism and the destruction of the cemetery also occurred in the 1980s and 1990s.
Some of the few remaining headstones in Lublin's Old Jewish Cemetery.

New Jewish Cemetery

Located on ul. Walecznych (near ul. Unicka), the New Jewish Cemetery has existed since 1829, with the exception of the Nazi destruction of WWII, but has since been revalorized in its new structuring. It is surrounded by a wall, shaped as a row of symbolically-damaged matzevots (ENG: Jewish gravestones). Near the entrance, a monument-mausoleum with a small synagogue houses the Memorial Chamber of Lublin Jews. In the 21st century, the cemetery is used as a burial place by the tiny Jewish community that still remains in Lublin. Other notable sights here include an obelisk commemorating the extermination of the Jews, the quarters of the Jewish soldiers serving in the Polish army in 1944-45 and an empty ohel (ENG: tent-shaped gravestone) of a grave of Rabbi Maier Szapiro, founder of the yeshiva (ENG: Orthodox Jewish seminary) in Lublin. 
 
The New Jewish Cemetery in Lublin. Photo by the Presidential office - Marketing of the city of Lublin


Lublin Open-Air Village

Picturesquely situated in the valley of the Czechówka River, the Lublin Open-Air Village is one of the largest open-air museums in Poland. It presents the cultural diversity of the region through a combination of architecture and exhibits that have been painstakingly collected with care for Lubelskie's intangible heritage. The museum exhibition has been divided into sectors reflecting the landscape and ethnographic diversity of the Lublin region - the Lublin Upland, Roztocze, Powiśle, Podlasie, Nadbuże, as well as various other towns and manor estates.
Some of the quaint traditional cottages of the Lubelskie region, which have been painstakingly moved to the Lublin Open-Air Village.

A visit to the museum is an opportunity to see souvenirs related to the former life of villages, manors and towns, but also allows you to get acquainted with the daily work, customs and traditions of people of the past era. The museum exhibition is not only a material trace of the past, but also the stories of ordinary people inscribed in the recreated interiors. It's these aspects that enhance the experience and heightens the appreciation for the human quality of each unique exhibit. When visiting successive sectors and objects, one gets the impression that time has stood still, and a visit to the museum becomes an opportunity for an exceptional journey and a close - even tangible - meeting with the past. Apart from the permanent exhibition, Lublin Open-Air Village holds temporary exhibitions, events related to the economic and ritual year of the countryside, historic reenacments, educational activities and other cultural events.
Living historians preparing Polish Easter drapanki in one of the traditional buildings in Lublin's Open-Air Village.


Lublin Flea Market and Farmers' Market

When Targ Pod Zamkiem (ENG: Market under the Castle) takes place on Sundays, many curious locals descend upon Plac Zamkowy, the Lublin Old Town's elliptical car park that once constituted a key part of the city's Jewish district, to browse through old antique wares and try grab a bargain. As this description probably hints at, this affair is very much a flea market, although its often referred to as a farmer's market because of its past history as a fresh produce fair in the early 90s. While it promotes itself as an 'every Sunday' event, the event is notoriously infrequent, and often doesn't appear for weeks at a time. What we can say for certain is that it's far more common in the warmer months than the colder ones. Your best option is to keep an eye on the facebook page and try and catch it if and when it happens! These days, Lublin farmers' market, known locally as Targ na Ruskiej, is about 800m north of the old centre and is open Monday to Saturday from 7am to 1pm give or take.
Lublin's Market Under The Castle (PL: Targ Pod Zamkiem) usually pops up on Sundays,

So much choice! Is it a little too overwhelming? Once you arrive in Lublin Old Town, we strongly recommend stopping by the Tourist Inspiration Centre and getting some advice from some fun and friendly locals. If you need food (for thought), check out our Restaurants & Cafes section for our recommendations of places to eat in Lublin. As day turns to dusk and the mood takes you, it'll be time to seek out the Pubs, Clubs and Bars section. At some stage, you might need to pick up a souvenir or have the urge to check out some local art showrooms. In that case, you should cruise over to our Shopping section!

READ MORE:

History of Lublin - City of Legendary Land Lubbers

Where is Lublin and How to Get There?

Best Sights in Lublin, Poland

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