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A Short Guide to Sandomierz

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

Sandomierz rynek
Sandomierz's Rynek (market square), atop a hill - Vistula river in background

Sando where?

Small town Poland is, by and large, a fairly unremarkable affair. Unlike neighbouring Czech Republic, say, Poland's provincial places don't really match the often impressive cities, and are generally a little lacklustre. There are few genuine gems to be found. Sandomierz, located in south east Poland almost equidistant between Krakow and Lublin (about two hours from both by road), and around three from Warsaw, is the exception that proves this rule. Similar to nearby Kazimierz Dolny, it has a huge amount of character for a small town, and packs in enough attractions to justify considering a weekend stay. Visitors to Krakow or Warsaw may find a day trip to be a bit excessive, but those with a bit more time on their hands would be well-advised to consider a stop here. It would even make a a good base in itself for about a week if you plan to visit any of the surrounding attractions. In the centre of a grape-growing region which is fast becoming one of Poland's premier viticultural areas, and surrounded by pretty countryside perfect for exploration, it's not only fans of popular TV series Ojciec Mateusz who are coming to Sandomierz now: it's becoming a town of international repute, as summer crowds attest to. Come outside the busy summer months though, and you're likely to have the place pretty much to yourself. Welcome to off-the-beaten-path Poland.

This is a link to a personally-recommended guided tour of the city.

Sandomierz rynek and town hall
The famous sloping rynek, with gothic ratusz (town hall) in its centre

Best of the Beaten(ish) Path

This is a bit of a misnomer then, as you're not likely to be fighting the crowds except on a bank holiday weekend. Sandomierz is an ancient town perched on top of a hill which rises above the Vistula river, and its centre is a striking sloping Rynek (main square) which is surrounded by pastel-coloured baroque townhouses, and in the centre of which stands an impressive gothic red brick town hall. Narrow cobbled lanes lead off in all directions, and the whole place is very compact, taking no more than half a day to take in all the sights, or a day with visits to all of them. The 14th century Town Hall is the oldest building in the Rynek, and its ground floor houses the regional museum, which focuses on the town's history. The square itself is ringed by houses from different stylistic periods. One of the town's premier attractions is nearby - the Underground Tourist Route. This is a fascinating guided tour through a 500 metre section of 34 historic cellars beneath the Market Square. They were integral to the town's history, indeed the tour begins with a tale of how they saved it from a Tartar invasion in the Middle Ages. Over the next 30-40 minutes, you will learn about how Sandomierz grew in importance and influence over the centuries. Information, and indeed, guides, in English however are sadly lacking, so take a Polish speaker with you! Get a bird's eye view over the town by heading to Opatowska Gate.

Opatowska Gate, Sandomierz
Opatowska Gate - best views of Sandomierz to be had from here

Climb the 50m tower there to reach a viewing platform and get a 360 degree view and appreciate the stunning setting. Head to the Royal Castle, just down the hill, stopping on the way to admire the narrow Ucho Igielne (Eye of the Needle) Gate. The castle, the single most impressive structure in Sandomierz, was built in the 14th century by King Casimir the Great. It contains a regional museum with a modest collection of ethnographic, archaeological and art objects, but the best reason to come is to wonder around the impressive building itself and for the views it commands over the river. A better museum, and a great example of Sandomierz's under-rated assets, is the Długosz House (Dom Długosza), which contains a rich and impressive collection within a lavish and impressive interior. Of the several churches in Sandomierz, the Cathedral is of most interest - not so much for its architecture (though it's impressive) as for its unusual artwork inside. A series of twelve gruesome paintings by 18th century artist Karol de Prevot depict various unpleasant ways of dying; the twelve paintings represent the months of the year, and by each horribly maimed figure in each painting is a date 1-31. If you find the date that represents your birth, you apparently find out how you're going to die. Cheers. Finally, for die-hard fans of bicycle-riding priest-cum-detective Polish TV series Ojciec Mateusz (Father Matthew), there is a new museum in the town catering to visitors drawn to the town where the series is set. Grandly named The World of Father Mateusz, it features waxwork figures in various scenes from the series, pictures and memorabilia including the famous bicycle itself. This is one sight that non-fans might want to skip, especially as it's rather steeply-priced at 30zł (€7.50).

Sandomierz Royal Castle
Sandomierz Royal Castle: an imposing and impressive 14th century brick structure

Away From the (small) Crowds

Away from the market square area and castle - the old part of town - there isn't a great deal to discover, and the new town beyond the river is best avoided completely. There is a nice short walk though which involves walking down the Gorge of Queen Jadwiga - a narrow gully formed by rain water which has exposed tree roots and looks stunning in autumn when carpeted by reds and yellows from the trees. Walk across the road at the bottom for a stroll along the river and good views up to the castle. Strolling back up to the town from the east side also affords good views. Nearby Góry Pieprzowe (Pepper Hills) are a fine place nearby for further walking opportunities, and you'll get fine views of the town and Vistula River from here. Further afield, there is Baranów Sandomierski Palace (25km), a magnificent pile and one of the most impressive manor houses in southern Poland. This renaissance palace was built at the end of the 16th century and has a definite Italianate feel about it - not surprising, since its stuccowork and architectural detail is thought to be the work of Santi Gucci and Giovanni Battista Palconi. Guided tours are in Polish only. You'll need a car to get here - public transport in this part of rural Poland is unreliable.