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Lublin

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The colourful, charming capital of the Lubelskie province attracts tourists in droves thanks to its fascinating history, cobbled streets and vibrant architecture. Bursting with museums, historic buildings, traditional flavours and with legends hidden among its streets, lanes and tenement walls, this dynamic city is fast becoming one of Poland’s most popular… 

City of Inspiration 

It’s impossible not to agree with the motto chosen to promote the capital city of eastern Poland and the Lubelskie province. For centuries, Lublin was a city of key importance for relations between Poland and Lithuania. In fact so important it was, that it was right here in Lublin in 1569 where the papers were signed to form the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This historic union took place in a castle from Casimir the Great’s time that was unfortunately destroyed during a 17th-Century war. The original building was replaced with a new castle, built in an Anglo-Saxon neogothic style, which served as a prison for 128 years; first for the Tsarist authorities, then the Second Republic of Poland, followed by the Nazis and finally, the Stalinist secret police. Today, as the Lublin Museum, it is a cultural institution and the city’s number one historic building. It’s hard to find a building with more stories to tell! 

Your list of Lublin Musts 

Number one: The Old Town. South of the castle, you’ll find this charming Old Town, which fortunately emerged largely unscathed from the war. Although it has since undergone several renovations, it still boasts as much as 70 percent of its original buildings. This most historical part of town delights visitors both visually, with its eye-catching, colourfully decorated Renaissance and classical houses, and also through the delicious tastes and smells of the regional dishes served by numerous restaurants and cosy cafés. Just one square kilometre of the Old Town is packed with as many as 110 historic buildings. Don’t worry – you don’t have to see them all in a day! They include the old Town Hall and the Basilica of the Dominican Order, representing styles from Gothic to classical and housing the famous painting The Fire of Lublin as well as the magnificent Tyszkiewicz and Firlej chapels. There’s also the Stary (Old) Theatre, the second oldest in Poland after the one found in Kraków, which offers a varied and dynamic repertoire. 

In Katedralny Square stands the Metropolitan Cathedral of Lublin, the city’s largest religious building. Dating back to the 17th Century, it was one of the first Baroque buildings ever built outside of Italy, and boasts beautiful, authentic polychromes by Józef Meyer, the court painter to King Augustus III the Saxon. People from around the world come to catch sight of the painting of the Crying Virgin Mary, a copy of the famous painting from Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa, which was seen to be shedding actual tears on 3rd July 1949 (those believers who witnessed the “Lublin miracle” were subsequently subjected to harsh repression by the Stalinist authorities at the time). The sacristy’s impressive acoustics enable words whispered in one corner to be heard clearly in the opposite one, so careful what you say whilst visiting, you never know who’s listening! The Treasury is filled with priceless religious objects of special importance. In fact, according to Wojciech Górski, author of several books on Lublin, “whoever hasn’t seen the Treasury, doesn’t know Lublin”.  

Right next to the cathedral, the Trinity Tower, with its emblematic turquoise spire, rises 65 metres above ground level. If your energy levels allow it, the 207 steps winding up to the terrace at the top reward you with unrivalled panoramic views of the city. And just behind the tower lies the stone of misfortune. The story behind its name is that the town executioner beheaded an innocent man on it, and to this day the stone is said to give off bad vibes... judge for yourself but don’t say we didn’t warn you! In the basement rooms of the Lubomelski burgher house, better known as the Wine Cellar Under Fortuna, you’ll discover exhibitions, presentations and galleries covering Lublin’s past and, most importantly, exquisite frescos dating all the way back to the Renaissance, that are unique in Poland due to their secular nature. 

A tale of Two Gates and a rich Jewish history 

To reach the Old Town, you can pass through one of two gates, positioned at opposite ends of the quarter in what little remains of the historical city walls. To the south-west of the Old Town stands the Kraków Gate, which, as its name suggests, was the point of entry for visitors from Krakow. Its red-brick base is crowned with an elegant white tower with a pointy roof, and its interiors house part of the provincial Lublin History Museum, which is definitely one to visit. On the other side of the Old Town, the beautiful, pale yellow Grodzka (Town) Gate, was once known as the Jewish gate, owing to the fact that it linked the part of the city belonging to Christians to the Jewish quarter. In the 16th and 17th centuries, after King Stephen Báthory founded Europe’s only Jewish parliament, called the Council of Four Lands, Lublin was actually the seat of the strongest Jewish community in Poland, and boasted a thriving Jewish and Hebrew culture, which was sadly completely destroyed during the Holocaust. Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer, who had ties to the Lublin region and especially the Biłgoraj shtetl where his grandparents lived, immortalised the atmosphere of bygone times in his novel The Magician of Lublin.

You can get a better appreciation of what the Jewish quarter looked like thanks to a model at the Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre Centre. Photographs from those times can also be viewed at the Alter Hotel and the Jewish yeshiva, home to two preserved Jewish cemeteries. Anyone especially interested in Jewish culture and history should definitely follow the Heritage Trail of the Lublin Jews.  

Bees, Beer and a Fire Eater or two… 

Of course, there’s much more to Lublin than the Old Town. The Perła Brewery in Bernardyńska Street is a unique historical site of Lublin’s industry. The interiors of what used to be the monastery and church belonging to the Order of the Reformati were subsequently converted into a brewery, where beer was produced from 1846-2001. The one-hour tour of the Perła Brewery cellars gives visitors the chance to learn about the brewery’s history, the secrets of beermaking, the evolution of bottle shapes and labels and of course, after so much talk of beer, the tour ends with a well-deserved tasting! 

Located on the observation decks on the roof of the über-modern Centre for the Meeting of Cultures (CSK), you’ll find the Urban Artistic Apiary. A popular and very trendy chillout zone, the CSK organises theatre and opera performances, concerts, conferences and even film screenings. In addition to the Opera, Chamber Performance, Ballet and Cinema rooms, the CSK also houses open and enclosed exhibition spaces and is definitely a place to keep an eye out for if you’re something of a culture lover.  

A big hit for all the family is the multimedia fountain, which puts on regular light and sound shows and is the pride of Litewski Square, the city’s largest. Its numerous benches invite visitors to make themselves comfortable while they enjoy the many events that take place in the square, and while they’re there, to also admire the monuments dedicated to Marshal Józef Piłsudski, the Unknown Soldier, the May 3rd Constitution and an obelisk commemorating the signing of the Poland-Lithuania Union in 1569. 

Another popular square, this time located at the foot of the castle, is Zamkowy Square, which is sometimes the venue for the main circus performance of the Carnaval Sztukmistrzów festival. This flagship event, which takes place in the Old Town, Krakowskie Przedmieście Street and Litewski Square, is a great celebration of circus performers, magicians, jugglers, fire eaters and buskers and is one of Lublin´s main drawcards. Other popular events include: The Night of Culture; The East of Culture – Different Sounds festival; the Legends of Lublin Festival, the Jagiellonian Fair and the European Festival of Flavours. The only real problem you’ll have with Lublin is deciding what to do first! 

Discover more by visiting Lublin’s tourism website. 

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