Piwniczna-Zdroj is part of the administrative district of Nowy Sacz which is located in the Province of Lesser Poland. The city is the seat of the rural and urban municipality of Piwniczna-Zdroj which is made up of six towns, Kokuszka, Glebokie, Mlodow, Wierchomla, Lomnica-Zdroj and Zubrzyk as well as seven smaller villages. It is situated on the banks of the River Poprad and has the characteristics of a piedmont spa as it lies in the foothills of the Beskid Sadecki Range. A road and a railway line run through the city which linked Nowy Sacz with a former nearby border crossing. The mountain climate, that is moderately stimulating, is tempered by the thickly wooded slopes, with the predominance of coniferous trees, of the surrounding valleys. The basic therapeutic elements of the Piwniczna-Zdroj resort are its climate and the natural spring waters that are rich in magnesium, calcium and iron.
The Royal Free City of Piwniczna was founded in the Poprad Valley by decree of King Kazimierz III Wielki in 1348 as part of a national defence policy which entailed the placement of settlements along Poland’s borders. Piwniczna, by virtue of its location, was also intended to support the income of the Royal Treasury. The town planner, under Magdeburg Law, was Hanko, a burgher from Nowy Sacz. The original name of the settlement, Piwniczna Neck, referred to, according to documents, the characteristic narrowing of the River Poprad at this location. This name was used until the end of the 18th century. Located on a busy trade route to Hungary and thanks to numerous royal privileges, caused the rapid and dynamic development of the city. Already by the 18th century Piwniczna had its water supply on tap and by the end of the century a school, a tavern, five mills, a water reservoir, a paper mill and a hospital had been built. Unfortunately, a city fire in 1876 destroyed the wooden church and about forty residential houses. The history of the spa resort at Piwniczna-Zdroj began in 1880, when a doctor from Lwow, Juliusz Korwin Gasiorowski, recommended the mineral waters found in the vicinity of the town for treatments. Studies on the occurrence and properties of the mineral waters were carried out across the entire Poprad River valley by a variety of scientists but were directed specifically towards naturally occurring sources and certain boreholes. By 1932 the resort has become a famous therapeutic and leisure centre with mineral water from a specially drilled borehole pumped directly into the Spa Centre. All development projects were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II but these resumed after its end with the rebuilding of the spa facilities and ancillary accommodation. Piwniczna was given official spa status in 1967.
The natural mineral medicinal waters found here have become known as „Sour Water”. Because of their high content of magnesium and calcium ions, they have a neutralising effect on gastric juices, thus working favourably in the treatment of peptic ulcers, gastritis, diabetes and inflammatory bowel and pancreatic diseases. The spa’s medical and therapeutic centres use mineral water baths, mud, hydrotherapeutic showers, massage, gymnastics, inhalation and drinking in their range of available treatments.
Today, Piwniczna-Zdroj is a hospitable spa and tourist destination that attracts mainly with its serenity, landscape, climate and welcoming atmosphere of a small resort. The numerous hiking trails attract walkers in the summer and skiers in the winter. Mountain bike enthusiasts also have specially prepared trails of varying length and degree of difficulty, some which should only be attempted by experts in this sport. In winter there are very good conditions and facilities for winter sports in the nearby Sucha Valley, Wierchomla Mala and Kokuszka where dozens of drag-lifts, button-lifts and chairlifts take skiers to the tops of surrounding mountains.