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Zamość: a UNESCO World Heritage Site 

Zamość’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is easy to see why. Modelled on Padua – and designed by visionary Great Crown Chancellor Jan Zamoyski and Italian architect Bernardo Morando - this Renaissance town has been exquisitely preserved.  

Explore the stunning Market Square, with the striking architecture of the Town Hall and colourful Armenian townhouses, before getting to grips with the military history of the town at its fortress and arsenal. 

Zamość history: an ideal Renaissance town beset by invaders 

The ideal Renaissance town 

Zamość is named after the man who founded it, Great Crown Chancellor Jan Zamoyski. He created this private city in the middle of nowhere, far from the main towns of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The foundation charter was issued in April 1580. 

Working with Paduan architect, Bernardo Morando, he created this Renaissance town inspired by his love of Italy. The first castle was constructed in 1579, followed soon after by the arsenal, which would be the saviour of this besieged town.  

Buried with other family members in the vault of the Renaissance cathedral he founded, he continues to watch over the town from the equestrian statue in front of the former Zamoyski Palace, today a secondary school.  

A great fortress 

Surrounded by a ring of fortified walls, Zamość was one of the greatest fortresses of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The fortress went through six sieges, the first of which was the Khmelnytsky Uprising of 1648. This saw the town surrounded by joint Cossack-Tatar forces and many surrounding villages torched. But the town’s defences finally deterred the insurgents and a truce was called.  

Only a few years later, it resisted the attempts of Swedish forces to capture it during The Deluge of 16556. The Swedes attacked the town with artillery barrage, but the fortifications frustrated their attempts and the forces withdrew.  

The fortress was also considered the toughest prison of Congress Poland after 1813. Walerian Łukasiński, founder of the Patriotic Society, was held here by the Russian imperial authorities. You can explore the history of the town’s fortifications and military history in the Arsenal Museum. 

Things to see in Zamość 

Immerse yourself in the Italianate Old Town 

The immaculately preserved Old Town is the main attraction in Zamość. It includes a Renaissance cathedral and synagogue, an arsenal, historic churches and market squares. As you’d expect, there are a myriad of handsome boulevards and quaint lanes housing shops, cafes and restaurants, as well as a number of museums.  

Start at the stunning Town Hall and Market Square

At the heart of the Old Town is the perfectly proportioned market square, measuring exactly 100m x 100m. Lined with cafes and restaurants, this pleasant plaza is dominated by the Town Hall on its northern boundary. This magnificent dusky pink building has a sweeping double stairway and 52m clock tower crowned by a distinctive cupola. If you’re visiting in summer, try to catch the trumpeter who plays from the tower at noon. Note they don’t play in the direction of Krakow, which – legend has it – Jan Zamoyski had taken a dislike to.   

Tour guides in period costume will take you to the Underground Route in the Cellars of the Town Hall with fantastic archaeological finds like a water tank from 200 years ago, to the Laces, Bustles, Velvets exhibition of historical costumes and an enclosure with a model of Zamość. 

The Market Square also features Poland’s longest-operating pharmacy from the early 17th century, called the Rector’s Pharmacy in honour of its founder Szymon Piechowicz, Rector of the Zamoyski Academy.  

Admire the handsome Armenian Tenements 

Next to the Town Hall is an iconic rainbow of merchants’ townhouses, the Armenian Tenements. These historic homes have delicate white ornamental facades and decorative crenulations, designed to reflect the wealth and refinement of their Renaissance burgher owners. They are a colourful reminder of the times when Poles, Italians, Germans, Ruthenians, Armenians, Greeks and Jews lived here in harmony. 

Find out more about the history of the town in the red townhouse, which houses the Zamojskie Museum. Another popular museum in the town is the Museum of Photography, which houses old cameras and historic photos.  

Get a history lesson from a hologram  

The Arsenal Museum is located in the remains of the Old Town fortress. It houses weapons and equipment from the 17th to the 19th centuries, including cannon that remember Khmelnytsky’s siege. There are two permanent exhibitions: one features historical uniforms and weaponry such as cannons; the other houses more modern military technology including tanks, heavy artillery and a helicopter.  

Your guide at the Arsenal will be a hologram of Andrea dell’Aqua, successor to the town’s first architect Bernardo Morando. At the fortress, hear from a hologram of Jan Mallet-Malletski, the last fortification engineer to work on the Zamość fortress, about how the town held off invaders through the ages.  

Explore the religious architecture of Zamość  

Two notable religious buildings in Zamość are the cathedral and the synagogue, reflecting the pre-war period when Jewish communities made up a large proportion of Poland’s population. The cathedral has beautiful Baroque decorations and Renaissance paintings inside. The synagogue has been preserved as a memorial of the Jewish people of Zamość and Lublin province.  

Follow a tourist trail on foot or by bike 

Hire a bike, scooter or just explore on foot, following one of the marked routes around the town. Discover sights on a specific theme, including:  

  • the Scenic Trail 
  • the Fortress Trail 
  • the Nature Trail 
  • the Zamość Women’s Trail, which focuses on the suffragettes and female patriots of bygone centuries 

See big cats at the town’s bijou zoo 

Visitors with children might like to take time out from the historic grandeur of the town. Indulge your little explorers’ interest in animals and meet lions, tigers, giraffes and monkeys at this bijou zoo right in the city centre.   

Events in Zamość 

The Storming of Zamość Fortress is a spectacular theatrical re-enactment of the defence of the town against the Cossack insurgents in 1648 and against the Swedish Deluge in 1656. It features clashing troops, tournamens, displays of sword fighting and archery as well as courtly customs and old crafts.   

Zamość Theatre Summer features open air performances in the Market Square, fortifications and backstreets (including Grodzka Street and its Avenue of Stars, with shoe imprints of many Polish celebrities). It attracts theatre troupes from across Poland, who perform and compete for the honour of opening the festival next year.  

The Old Town’s main square is the site of many regular events, including: 

  • the Street Art Festival 
  • the Zamojski festival of culture 
  • the summer film festival 
  • the Eurofolk International Folklore Festival, the Hetman Fair 
  • Arlekinada, a Venetian-style carnival 

 For more information about please visit the official Zamość travel website.

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