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Located across seven hills – like Rome - Przemyśl is a pictureque town set in the stunning scenery of one of Poland’s landscape parks. Torn between periods of conflict, and peace and prosperity, you can expect stunning scenery, attractive architecture, and a rich military heritage. 

History lovers will find lots to explore in Przemyśl, which was founded in the 8th century. There are over a thousand historical sites here, including Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque buildings. Thanks to its strategic position in European trade routes, Przemyśl has seen historical – and more recent - conflict and has wartime defences, fortresses and bunkers to explore.  

Przemyśl highlight: one of Europe’s largest fortress complexes   

Przemyśl has a very rich history. Poles, Hungarians and Ruthenians fought fiercely over the town for four centuries, before it returned to Poland in the 16th century, becoming one of its biggest and wealthiest cities.  

The Austrians built Przemyśl Fortress – one of the most powerful in Europe. Three rings of fortifications – the largest some 45km long – surrounded the city. At the beginning of WWI, this fortress housed 130,000 soldiers, 14,500 horses, over 1,000 cannon and 4,000 military vehicles. 

Most of the fortifications - with military barracks, the former military hospital, and headquarters - survive to this day. The complex provides an excellent insight into the military past of Europe from the late-19th century to early-20th century and is picturesquely set into the surrounding hills.  

Three consecutive sieges during World War I cost the lives of over 100,000 soldiers in what was one of the biggest battles in 20th-century Europe.  

Another notable point in  Przemyśl’s history is the acheivement of one of its residents, Captain Henryk Jaskuła. Despite being 800km away from the Baltic, Przemyśl is the home of the first Pole to circumnavigate the globe single-handedly.  

Captain Jaskuła trained on the River San, on the border with Ukraine, which runs through the town. His yacht – which completed the epic journey in 1980 – is called Dar Przemyśla (the Gift from Przemyśl). 

Things to see in Przemyśl 

Lose yourself in the charm of Przemyśl Old Town 

Przemyśl is full of charm, with traditional architecture overlooking green squares and quaint streets. Spend time explore the narrow lanes and you will stumble across fountains, statues and fabulous old churches. Tuck into some local cuisine at one of the town’s popular restaurants before setting off up the hill to reach the castle. Here you can enjoy the park and stunning views of the town and river below. 

Discover wealthy traders’ townhouses 

Thanks to its trading history, Przemyśl was home to wealthy burghers who built their homes in the town. The Old Town Square is surrounded by these Renaissance townhouses which are well worth exploring. 

 

  • Go underground at No 1, the Town Hall, and explore the medieval cellars on the Przemyśl Underground route 
  • Take a look at the graffito decorations, one of the most valuable examples in southern Poland, at No 5 
  • See if you can spot the Eye of Providence watching you from No 19 

You can explore a fully furnished burgher home and a late 19th-century photography studio at No 9 – the Museum of Przemyśl History.  

Exhibitions explore the peace and prosperity enjoyed by Przemyśl, as well as the town’s wartime history. The museum extends into 16th-century cellars and rooms of the neighbouring tenement at Serbańska 7.  

Get hands-on with the Good Soldier Švejk 

The Old Town Square features the statue of the Good Soldier Švejk, the fictional hero of a famed satirical comedy by Czech author Jaroslav Hasek 

A large part of hapless Švejk’s adventures take place in Przemyśl and local guides offer tours following his footsteps.  

The comic statue, wearing Austro-Hungarian uniform, comes with instructions.  

 

  • Touch his epaulette – your promotion is guaranteed 
  • Wipe the dust from his boots – you won’t get fired 
  • Grab his beer jug – your glass will always be full 
  • Stroke his pipe – you will gain peace of mind 
  • Pinch his nose – you’ll know who your friend and who your enemy is 

There is a popular Švejk festival at the fortress each year.  

Soak up spectacular scenery 

Przemyśl is set in a landscape park - the equivalent of an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ in Britain - so you can expect spectacular scenery all around the town.  

Within the city, you can soak up nature at the town’s arboretum, which was a grand estate before being turned into a public park in the 1970s.  

There is also a nature reserve outside the town, accessible by bus, from which you can see all the way to the Ukrainian border.  

Climb Castle Hill  

Built by King Casimir the Great in the 1340s to guard his kingdom's eastern flank, Przemyśl's castle has been partial restored. Visitors can see fragments of a rotunda and palatium from the times of Boleslaus the Brave and admire more recent Renaissance additions.  

The castle is the headquarters of Fredreum, Europe’s longest-operating amateur theatre, and hosts many concerts and performance during the summer months.  

Explore the crypts in the Cathedral 

Castle Hill also features the Roman Catholic cathedral – the 1,000-year-old ‘mother of Przemyśl churches’. Notable sights include a Gothic alabaster figure of Our Lady of St. Hyacinth, saved during the wars with the Tatars and famous for many miracles.  

There are also priceless gravestones, including those of the Fredro family, and a fascinating exhibition about burial customs in the cathedral crypt. If you are feeling energetic, you can climb the 71m bell tower, one of the city’s symbols and a great vantage point. 

Another notable church in the town is the Church of St Mary Magdalene, which was built between 1754 and 1778 in late-baroque and classical style. The church has a beautiful rococo interior with a vaulted and frescoed nave.  

Museum of Bells and Pipes 

Reflecting Przemyśl’s long history of manufacturing pipes, the Museum of Bells and Pipes is housed in an 18th-century baroque clock tower. As the name suggests, it contains vintage bells, elaborately carved wooden pipes, and cigar cutters. Enjoy a panoramic view of the town from the roof of the museum.  

Events and festivals in Przemyśl 

It is worth visiting Przemyśl during cultural events such as: 

 

  • Fredro’s Spring in Przemyśl, a theatre event based at the town’s castle. It attracts theatre groups from Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungry and across Poland 
  • the Great Švejk Manoeuvres at Przemyśl Fortress, based on the beloved character Good Soldier Švejk. Held in July each year, it features feasts, fetes, and entertainment, and attracts thousands of visitors. 
  • the Tobacco Pipe Festival celebrates Przemyśl’s pipe manufacturing history 

 For more information, please visit Przemyśl official website.

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