Poland Travel Guide: Beautiful Lublin
Lublin is one of those cities which is off the beaten track when it comes to exploring Poland. Flung out in the eastern parts of the country near the Ukrainian border and surrounded by fields and tractors, Lublin for me is not very touristy but very unique to go for a wander. The city itself is not to be missed and can be easily reached. On my discovery I would say a day or two is enough. There is plenty of history, culture, sights to see and cuisine to try out at this time.
Easily reached by main motorway if coming by car or a two hour train journey from Warsaw and with a nearby airport, there is no excuse to skip Lublin. Within the city there is a very good trolleybus, bus and taxi service but in the centre, everything can be reached just by walking. On my visit to the city back, I had great times exploring Lublin and learning a lot of history from the sites I visited. Here are the top things to do and see in the city which must not be missed.
Located next to the eastern gate of the old town, the castle looks like a palace from the outside but inside the main courtyard there is a tower which is one of the remaining parts of the old castle from many centuries ago The castle buildings surrounding the courtyard look like they have been rebuilt and painted in a bright colour to look more like a palace.
The tower itself has been used for different purposes but the main one I was interested in was the history of the Nazi Germans using this as a prison during the Second World War (as I am into the World War history). In the several years they were here, over 40,000 people were held. Inside the tower there are a few rooms which have displays of the history of the castle but at the top there are amazing views of the city to be had. Mind you I had to mind my head on several occasions while walking up the dim-light, brick staircase with a low ceiling.
The buildings of the castle host various displays such as coins and weaponry found in the local area to some splendid paintings but the highlight of walking around the castle (and the city) has to be the Chapel of the Holy Trinity. This historical monument is very unique and I noticed it has a combination or architectural elements of the West and the East. Built in the 12th century, all the walls of the chapel have fully preserved Byzantine-Ruthenic paintings (with some having graffiti on them which was done back in the 16th century!). The frescos here are also original and have not been reconstructed. Walking around the place I was totally gobsmacked as I never come across anything like this on my travels and was looking up all the time in amazement with eyes and mouth wide open.
The Old Town
Known as ‘little Krakow’, the old town has a lot of historic architecture and there is an ‘feel-good’ ambiance in the air around the market square. As well as the buildings which host churches, restaurants, hotels, bars, there is a feel of magic in the air when I was walking around along the cobbled streets. Lublin is a university city so there are a lot of students around, which means this area has a vibrant music and nightclub scene and some fantastic bars.
I am not going to blabber on about the churches and the cathedral here because like all other cities, towns and villages in Poland, the country is very religious (one of the most religious countries I have come across in Europe and everyone takes it very seriously here, even a group of students who I met up with on a Saturday evening stop drinking around 01:00 and went home as they had church service the next morning. Anywhere else in Eastern Europe and we wouldn’t have left the bar or club until breakfast time!) but the market square is one of the main places to be as I found several top restaurants here (and possibly the only place in Lublin to do a cooked breakfast until lunchtime!).
Underneath the market square is a hidden gem where there is a series of tunnels to explore. The entrance located on the side and leads down a set of stairs going underneath the building known to locals as the Stary Ratusz-trybunał koronny, is where tours of this network starts. There are not many tunnels to walk along as a lot of it is closed and not open for the public but where the tour did take me, it led me into several rooms where the tour guide (speaking in Polish) talks about the history and the layout of the city over the centuries. The tour was finished with a wooden moving display on what happened when fire struck and spread across the city and was saved by three wise men (I won’t say more about the story, it is nice to see and I don’t wanna spoil the outcome). Lucky for foreign visitors the tour does come with a script in English and is good to follow while the tour stops in the rooms (just don’t bother reading this in the tunnels as the lighting is not so good).
I hope this post is helpful to those who want or planning to explore Poland and to visit places which are quieter and feel more connected to the locals. Lublin is a very beautiful city and has a village-like feel to the place (but overrun with students if that makes any sense). In terms of ‘tourist attractions’ there aren’t many and maybe not as famous as places in Krakow or Warsaw. However the alleyways, cobble streets and the architecture make Lublin make up for that and makes it an excellent place to explore.
Hint: also combine a trip to Lublin to the nearby UNESCO World Heritage site of Zamość, a two hour train journey away and makes a great day out. See my post here.