Sandomierz is one of the oldest towns in Poland, and probably one of the most fascinating too.
Founded in the Middle Ages, the town of Sandomierz quickly became one of the most important in the Kingdom of Poland, until it obtained the status of Royal City and became the capital of the homonymous county. For centuries it has been one of the three main cities in Poland, along with Krakow and Wroclaw.
Travelers are fascinated by Sandomierz’s peaceful atmosphere, its picturesque alleys and its beautiful, perfectly preserved Old Town.
What you will find in this travel guide to Sandomierz:
- Sandomierz: where is it and why should you visit it?
- Things to see and do in Sandomierz
- Top 3 Best Restaurants in Sandomierz
- Top 3 Hotels in Sandomierz
- How to get to Sandomierz from Krakow
Sandomierz: where is it and why should you visit it?
The historic town of Sandomierz is located about 160 km north-east of Krakow, Poland. It was once one of the most important cities in South Eastern Poland, and is now certainly one of the most popular destinations in the Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, between Krakow and Lublin.
Sandomierz stands on seven hills near the Vistula River, in an area famous worldwide for the extraction of striped flint, a quartz mineral dating back to the Jurassic era, used for the manufacture of jewelry, appreciated by famous people and royal families. The area around Sandomierz and the nearby Krzemionki Prehistoric Striped Flint Mining Region (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) are the only places in the world where it is mined.
Although over time it was destroyed several times by wars and invasions, the town of Sandomierz has maintained its original appearance for the most part, becoming today one of the oldest and most fascinating cities in Poland.
Things to see and do in Sandomierz
The Opatowska Gate
The Opatowska Gate in Sandomierz is the only preserved city gate, built in 1362 at the behest of King Casimir the Great.
Sandomierz’s defense system consisted of mighty walls that surrounded the city for about two kilometers. The walls were up to nine meters high and were supported by 16 watchtowers. The entrance to the city was through four doors. The defensive system was largely destroyed by the Swedish invasions and later by the wars against the Austrians.
Today, travelers can access the picturesque Old Town of Sandomierz through the Opatowska Gate, the only surviving of the original four.
This magnificent tower can now be visited and is about 30 meters high. Climbing its 130 steps allows you to enjoy a beautiful view of the town and the surrounding area.
The ticket office is located at the foot of the tower and the entrance ticket costs 10 PLN (reduced 8 PLN).
The opening hours are:
High season from 9.15 to 19.00
Low season from 9.15 to 17.00
Sandomierz Market Square
The heart of the city is the beautiful medieval-style historic center, with the typical colorful baroque terraced houses that overlook the large central square, the ancient Market Square.
Square in shape and famous for being slightly inclined, it is the ideal place to stop for a coffee or a drink, and take some nice photos of the picturesque Town Hall.
The central square of Sandomierz is very famous among the locals, because the TV series Ojciec Mateusz, one of the most famous in Poland, was filmed here.
Here you can come and buy some souvenirs from the artisan shops, and from here you can take a pleasant walk through the narrow streets of the town.
The Town Hall of Sandomierz
In the center of the square it is impossible not to notice the Town Hall, a Gothic-style building flanked by the clock tower, quadrangular at the base, then octagonal and finally surmounted by a dome.
On the south side of the town hall you can see the sundial made by the Polish artist Tadeusz Przypkowski with the graffiti technique, while on the east side there is a statue of the Immaculate Conception from 1776.
Part of it can be visited, inside there is a café-restaurant, while temporary artistic and historical exhibitions are often hosted on the first floor.
Every day at noon, a trumpet can be heard from the town hall tower.
Sandomierz Underground Tourist Route
Right in the subsoil under the Main Market Square of Sandomierz it is possible to visit the Underground Tourist Route, which makes you visit some cellars built between the 13th and 17th centuries by merchants as storage warehouses for goods destined to be traded in the Market Square above.
The route is almost 500 meters long and includes the visit of more than 30 cellars built on various levels, up to the lowest point which is about 12 meters underground.
During the visit it is possible to see several archaeological finds and ethnographic exhibits, and the guides will tell you legends and secrets of the city.
The entrance is from the courtyard of the Kamienica Oleśnicki, located in Rynek 10.
The entrance ticket includes the guided tour, and costs 20 PLN (reduced 16 PLN).
The opening hours are:
High season from 9.15 to 18.00
Low season from 9.15 to 17.00
Cathedral Basilica of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Behind the Main Market Square of Sandomierz, we can see the Sandomierz Cathedral, dating back to 1360 and characterized by its beautiful Gothic style, except for the Baroque facade which was added later.
Inside there is a beautiful marble altar, Russian-Byzantine frescoes and an imposing organ with a Baroque-style tribune.
But the 12 paintings on the interior walls representing macabre representations certainly catch the eye. In particular, the Martyrologium Romanum collection depicts the tortures suffered by the inhabitants of Sandomierz and the Dominican friars by the Tartars in the thirteenth century.
The victims are represented in the act of being tortured in the most brutal ways: burned, flogged, hanged or quartered. Each of the 12 paintings represents a different month of the year, which is indicated on the side of each canvas. According to a bizarre legend, those who find their birth month will be able to find out how he will die.
It is worth taking a look at the gardens of the Sandomierz Cathedral, from which you have a wonderful view of the Vistula River.
The Church of St. James in Sandomierz
The oldest church in the town is the Church of St. James, also nicknamed the church of Odrowąż, as it was built between 1226 and 1250 by the homonymous bishop of Krakow.
It consists of three naves and two twentieth-century chapels, one dedicated to St. Hyacinth of Krakow and the other to Our Lady of the Rosary.
In the bell tower next to the church, there are two of the oldest bells in all of Poland, built around 1300.
Of particular note are the ornamental ceramic decorations of the late Romantic period on the facade, including those of the great North Gate, and the magnificent altar painting dating back to the 16th century.
The church preserves a 13th-century tomb containing the bones of the city’s martyrs, which if you look closely you can also see traces of arrow shots, and the wooden sarcophagus of Princess Adelaide.
From this church starts the Lesser Poland Way, one of the routes of the Way of St. James, a medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. This route goes all the way to Krakow, from where you can continue to Santiago de Compostela via the Via Regia, which passes through the historic Tyniec Abbey and continues on to Wroclaw.
Royal Castle of Sandomierz
Perched on one of the hills overlooking the city is the Royal Castle of Sandomierz, built by King Casimir the Great.
Over time it was destroyed several times as a result of various invasions and enemy attacks. Only the western wing has been preserved, and in the following years the various owners rebuilt the various parts in different styles.
This is already visible from the outside with the clear difference between the brick known as “zendròwka” typically arranged in a rhombus shape and the rest much more modern. The tower represents the oldest part of the whole castle.
The Royal Castle of Sandomierz was initially built as a residence, it later became a court and a prison.
According to an ancient legend, inside the building there are also three secret passages (to date have not yet been found) which were used in case of need: one is assumed to arrive at the Cathedral and was used in the past by the king to go to attend the Holy Mass; the other two are said to lead one to the other bank of the Vistula river and the other to the village of Skotniki, more than 10 kilometers from Sandomierz and used as an escape route in case of emergency.
Today the castle houses the Regional Museum of Sandomierz, which boasts permanent and temporary exhibitions, a very rich collection of archaeological finds from the various excavations carried out in the city and in the Sandomierz region. It also houses works of Polish art with two splendid sections dedicated to the iconographic art of the cities and to Polish art from the 17th century with landscapes and portraits.
Part of the exhibition is dedicated to ancient medals, coins and ancient photographs. There is also a literary department with a collection of works by some of the greatest Polish writers (Sandomierz is quite important for his literary culture) and a library with a fine collection of texts and prints.
The ticket for the visit of Sandomierz Castle costs 15 PLN (reduced 10 PLN).
The opening hours are:
High season from 11.00 to 18.00
Low season from 10.00 to 17.00
Jan Długosz’s House
One of the small town museums is housed in the former home of Jan Długosz, who was an important Polish historian and priest. The Gothic building built in red brick and with a gable roof, houses the Diocesan Museum.
Here are exhibited several collections of sacred art, with paintings and sculptures and ceramics and architectural decorations of considerable value.
The opening hours are:
High season from 9.00 to 16.30
Low season from 9.00 to 15.30
On Sundays and public holidays it is open in the afternoon only.
Regiment Armory of Sandomierz Land
The Regiment Armory of Sandomierz Land (in the signs you will find it as Zbrojownia Rycerska Chorągwi Rycerstwa Ziemi Sandomierskiej) is one of the most interesting museums in Sandomierz, located in the basement of a Gothic building near the Main Market Square.
In the six exhibition rooms, banners, weapons, armor, swords, cannons and many other objects and costumes that belonged to the knights of the 15th and 17th centuries are displayed.
During the guided tour you will discover many interesting things about local history, fascinating tales about the knights and you will have the chance to try on tools, weapons and even costumes.
Among the various rooms, there is also the torture chamber with handcuffs, axes, masks and the garrote. During the visit it is allowed to take pictures with weapons, tools and costumes.
The ticket for the guided tour costs 9 PLN (reduced 7 PLN).
The opening hours are from April to October from 10.00 to 16.00.
Cruise on the Vistula River in Sandomierz
An alternative way to visit the city is with a beautiful cruise on the Vistula River. On the way you can admire the beautiful panorama of the city with its iconic monuments, including the Church of San James, the Castle and the Cathedral.
The cruise lasts about half an hour but upon reservation there is the possibility to purchase both longer routes and alternative routes with stops in the best viewpoints. It is worth going there at sunset.
Tours are organized by the local company Żegluga Śródlądowa w Sandomierzu Tadeusz Prokop, which is located right on the river bank.
Top 3 Best Restaurants in Sandomierz
Lapidarium pod Ratuszem
Charming pub located in the basement of the Town Hall in the Market Square. It offers a menu with some local specialties, excellent burgers, grilled meats and good craft beers. In summer, the restaurant has a few tables right on the square.
W Starej Piekarni
This is our favorite in Sandomierz. On the surface it is a traditional bakery, but there is more: upon entering you will discover that it is one of the most charming restaurants in Sandomierz.
It boasts a short but good traditional menu, with local soups and main courses. The table is shared with other guests, and there is a buffet dedicated exclusively to bread where you can serve yourself freely.
Famous for being one of the best restaurants in Sandomierz, it is located in Sandomierz Old Town and offers an excellent menu of traditional Polish specialties, served in an elegant way.
The restaurant has four themed dining rooms and a wonderful garden. It is recommended by the locals for an elegant and delicious dinner.
Top 3 Hotels in Sandomierz
Hotel Pod Ciżemką
Hotel Pod Ciżemką is located right on the Market Square of Sandomierz, inside a historic building from the 16th century.
The very elegant rooms are clean, comfortable and equipped with private bathroom and everything you need.
On the top floor it has a beautiful summer terrace. There is also a restaurant serving regional specialties and a café. In the morning they serve a good and abundant breakfast.
Hotel Sarmata Zespół Dworski
Hotel Sarmata Zespół Dworski is located near the Opatowka Gate in a historic building dating from the 19th century.
Guests have access to free and private parking, a large garden with a play area for kids and comfortable rooms with private bathroom.
The hotel also has a good restaurant, which serves excellent local specialties and boasts an interesting selection of local wines.
At an additional cost, you can use the hotel’s small spa, with sauna and hot tub.
About 1 kilometer from the historic center, Hotel Mały Rzym offers rooms with all comforts and private bathroom. The reception is open 24 hours a day and guests have free parking and a nice garden where it is possible to have a barbecue.
At no additional cost you can use the indoor pool and a hot tub, while for a small fee you can also use the sauna. The hotel restaurant serves good local and international specialties.
How to get to Sandomierz from Krakow
Sandomierz is located 160 km from Krakow. It can be reached by car in two and a half hours of driving, via the DK79 road.
There are also guided tours departing from Krakow or Warsaw, which include round-trip transport and guided tour of major attractions, with some tickets included in the price.
If you want to go there by bus, there are several buses departing from Kraków Główny MDA bus station which will take you to the city in about 2.5 hours.
Useful Tips for Your Trip
Many people choose to visit Sandomierz on a day trip from Krakow, so here you can find the best useful tips to better plan your trip to Krakow and the wonderful region of Southern Poland: