The Charm of Zamosc’s Old Town – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Zamość, a town of Renaissance charm, has been on the UNESCO list since 1992. The town is proud of its well-preserved original street plan, the remains of ancient fortifications and a large number of historical buildings. You can literally feel the harmonious mixture of Italian and Central European architectural styles. The city was founded in 1580 by Chancellor Jan Zamoyski. He wanted to create a city based on the Italian ideal. He hired Bernardo Morando from Padua to help him realize this vision.

Zamość was carefully designed from scratch, with a pentagonal layout that included a large central square and two smaller market squares – the Water Square and the Salt Square. The city was laid out like a chessboard, with streets extending from the squares in all directions. There were designated neighborhoods for settlers, mainly Jews and Armenians. Their presence was no accident; it was a deliberate invitation to be part of the community.

Zamość was strategically located on a major trade route connecting northern and western Europe to the Black Sea. The town’s market square and surrounding streets were bustling with commerce. Reminders of the town’s commercial past include the imposing town hall, former warehouses, and ornate tenements. The palace now houses the courts and other government offices, and a secular university, the Zamojska Akademia (now converted into a prestigious high school and the headquarters of the National Vocational College).

The city was also a stronghold that successfully repelled the Swedish troops during the Flood (1655-1660). The fortifications of the city, including the VII Bastion, the Zamosc Rotunda and the Old Lublin Gate, still stand today as a proud reminder of its defensive power.

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If you are interested in great places in Poland, you may also want to check this article I wrote. You will find out more about other scenic sites in Poland that might be nearby: Exploring Poland’s Cultural Riches: A Guide to UNESCO Cities

How to Get to Zamosc and Where to Leave Your car?

Zamość is located in the southern part of Lublin province. It’s a 75-minute drive from Lublin and a 2-hour drive from Rzeszów. The old town of Zamość is surrounded by several small free parking lots. There is also a larger parking lot marked on the map for your convenience.

You can also get to Zamość by train. The IC 62100 train runs from Wroclaw to Zamość. It stops in Kraków and Rzeszów on the way. Another option is to take the train from the Lublin railway station. If you’re coming from Warsaw, you’ll need to catch a connecting train. However, there is a convenient bus option through Flixbus, which offers direct connections and takes about 3 hours.

How Much Time Should I Plan to Spend Exploring the City?

Exploring the city of Zamosc can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a relaxed and leisurely weekend. Walking around the Old Town, visiting the City Park and the Zamosc Fortress can easily take about 3 hours. You can also visit the Museum of Fortifications and Weapons „Arsenal”, which is a branch of the Zamosc Museum, as well as the Zamosc Zoo. The city is even more beautiful at night and is definitely worth a visit. If you have time, don’t miss nearby Zwierzyniec and the stunning Roztocze National Park, which needs no recommendation. You may find that your visit to Zamosc and its surroundings lasts longer than you planned.

Attractions in Zamosc

Zamość may be a small city, but it’s packed with a variety of attractions, especially breathtaking examples of sacred and secular architecture. The best part is that most of the city’s highlights are located in a compact area. This makes it easy to take a leisurely stroll, discover hidden gems, and fully immerse yourself in the experience.

Let’s start our Zamość tour from the free parking lot and make our way to Lviv Gate. On the way, we’ll come across a number of sights. At the end of this guide, you’ll find a map with all the must-see attractions.

1. Zamosc Fortress

We literally travel back in time as we explore the magnificent Zamosc Fortress. These impressive walls were conceived by the visionary Jan Zamoyski and built between 1579 and 1618 by the master architect Bernardo Morando.

The fortress was built at the confluence of two rivers, Wieprzec (now Topornica) and Kalinowica (now abuka), on the site of the former village of Skokówka. It was strategically located to protect the city from the southwest. Thanks to the damming of the rivers, a lake was created, and the ditches around the walls were filled with the water of the rivers.

After a series of renovations, the fortress became one of the strongest in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and later in the Duchy of Warsaw and the Kingdom of Poland. In the course of its history, it endured five epic sieges. First, the Cossacks led by Khmelnytsky approached the fortress. Unfortunately, the attackers were not strong enough to overcome the city, and the inhabitants were unable to survive the winter due to lack of provisions. So a pact was made. Khmelnitsky agreed to give up the siege in exchange for 20,000 thalers.

After that the Swedish troops appeared, but they were not successful in their attack. It is worth mentioning that the Zamosc fortress was the only one that resisted the Swedes, along with Jasna Gora, Gdansk and the fortress in Lancut, despite the comparatively insignificant siege.

The troops of the Duchy of Warsaw managed to retake the city from the Austrians and besieged it. However, it was the Russians who maintained control of the city walls the longest – an impressive 10 months! At times, the siege seemed more like blockade than combat.

The Zamosc fortress was also involved in the November Uprising, and it was the Russian force that finally subdued it. This was the last military event to have any connection with the fortress, as it was dismantled in 1866 by order of Tsar Alexander II. Today, only one of the seven bastions is still in place.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

2. Lvov Gate in Zamosc

The Lvov Gate in Zamosc is one of two gates that allow to enter the Old Town. The other is known as the Lublinska Gate. There are two Lvov Gates: the Old Lvov Gate, built when the new town of Zamosc expanded, and the New Lvov Gate, built when the fortress was expanded during the Partitions.

The Old Lviv Gate is located at the bastion of Bastion VII and represents the Mannerist style. It used to serve as a prison and was walled up when the Zamosc fortifications were expanded in the first half of the 19th century. The largest sculpture in the gate depicts St. Thomas the Apostle kneeling by the resurrected Christ. The New Lviv Gate was built during the expansion of the Zamosc fortifications in the early 1820s, after the first gate was walled up.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

3. The Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

As you make your way around the ramparts of the Zamosc Fortress and through the Lviv Gate, you can’t miss the magnificent baroque Franciscan Church in the Old Town, completed in 1685. It was one of the largest Polish churches of the 17th century, even larger than the Zamosc Cathedral. The founder of the church was Jan Sobiepan Zamoyski, who was the leader of the Zamojska Order at that time. It should also be noted that the church used to be much more magnificent than what we can see today.

During the Russian rule the temple was converted into a warehouse, additional floors were added and in 1887 the roof was lowered. In the interwar period it served as a district parliament, a museum and a „stylish” theater, and after 1945 it became an art school. The Franciscans returned in 1993, and in 2006 the extra floors were removed. Today, the exterior of the temple is quite impressive and it’s only a short walk (150 meters) to the beautiful Zamosc Market Square.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

4. The Grand Market Square and City Hall in Zamosc

You don’t have to go far to visit the main tourist attractions in Zamosc, as they are all very close to each other. For example, it is only 150 meters from the Temple of the Annunciation to the Market Square, which is the symbol of the town. As you make your way down Stanislaw Staszic Street, you will see the arcades, a sure sign that you are approaching the main attraction.

Once you get there, you’ll be amazed by the hustle and bustle of the Market Square. It is surrounded by historic buildings and arcades and boasts a breathtaking Baroque Town Hall. Furthermore, the Grand Market Square is square in shape and measures 100 m by 100 m. There are two smaller markets, Salt and Water markets, that are well worth a visit as well. They are also on our list.

It’s interesting to note that the town hall in Zamosc is not located in the center of the square, as is the case in many town halls. Instead, it is located on the northern side of the square, slightly to the right and protruding into the center. This decision was made by Jan Zamoyski, the original founder of the city. Instead of the town hall, he wanted the palace to be the most important building in Zamosc. The construction of the first form of the Town Hall began in 1591. This town hall is characterized by a 52-meter-high clock tower and the most striking part of the building – the wide, double-winged fan staircase, which was added in the 18th century. It leads to the main entrance, which has a baroque portal.

Back in the 17th century, the City Hall building was separated from the tenement building next to it. This created City Hall Street. It’s well worth the effort to climb the fan-shaped staircase and enjoy the view of the Grand Market from a unique angle. You can also admire the colorful stones that line the square. Unfortunately, many of the townhouses, especially during the 19th century, lost their attics, ornaments, and even balconies. Even trees have been planted here. A plaque commemorating J. Pilsudski’s visit in 1922 was placed in front of the Town Hall.

Every day during the season, when the clock strikes 12:00, the Zamosc bugle call echoes from the Town Hall tower. However, the trumpeter only plays the tune in three directions – skipping the western windows. According to legend, the founder of the city, Jan Zamoyski, forbade the sound from reaching Krakow. Another story says that the trumpet player plays toward the three city gates.

Today, the Zamość Town Hall houses the Town Council, the Municipal Police and the important Tourist Information Office. On the ground floor of the Town Hall there is a tourist route that gives visitors a glimpse of the building’s fascinating past.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here
Click Play To Learn More About Zamosc City

5. Charming Armenian Tenements

The Grand Market Square in Zamosc is surrounded by arcaded townhouses, forming a beautiful composition. Some of the most charming buildings are on Armenian Street, on the northern front of the square, right of the Town Hall. These historic Mannerist-Baroque tenement houses were the gift of Jan Zamoyski to the Armenians and were built in the middle of the 17th century. They have arcades and are decorated with bas-reliefs, friezes, ornaments, and garrets. Today, the Zamojskie Museum, established in 1926, occupies most of these buildings.

Armenian tenement houses in Zamosc:

  • 22 Ormiańska St. (yellow) – the „Pod Madonną” or „Soltanowska” tenement house, characterized by a bas-relief depicting the Madonna and Child trampling a dragon and consisting of two floors.
  • 24 Ormiańska St. (blue) – the „Pod Małżeństwem” lub Sapphire tenement house.
  • 26 Ormiańska St. (red) – „Pod Aniołem”, „Pod Lwami” or „Bartoszewiczów” tenement, decorated with lions and a dragon, serving as the main entrance to the Zamojskie Museum.
  • 28 Ormiańska St. (dark yellow) – the Rudomicz tenement house, which belonged to a professor of the former Zamojski Academy, Basil Rudomicz, and which has the highest attics.
  • 30 Ormiańska St. (green) – the Wilczkowska tenement house, unique for having two arcades instead of three.
  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

6. Zamoyski Palace and Jan Zamoyski Monument

The former residence of the Zamoyski family is located in the western part of the Old Town, on Akademicka Street. It is 150 meters from the Great Square. It was the first building to be constructed after the foundation of the city, and its construction lasted from 1579-86. It had been designed by the Italian master Bernardo Morando. Unfortunately, the palace was destroyed by fire in 1658, and a new one was built a few years later. The Palace has been rebuilt and modernized many times, which made it look different, and it is no longer considered particularly interesting. At least to me.

  • Palace Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here
  • Monument Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

7. Cathedral of the Resurrection and St. Thomas the Apostle

The Church of the Resurrection and St. Thomas the Apostle is located at 1 Kolegiacka Street, next to the Zamoyski Palace in the western part of the Old Town of Zamosc. The temple was designed by the Italian master Bernard Morando, who also designed the whole town. It was built in the 16th by Jan Zamoyski, the founder of the town, and its appearance is reminiscent of Italian churches from the 15th and 16th centuries. The church has 9 chapels and crypts under the nave. The Zamoyski family is buried there.

It is interesting to note that the dimensions of the church are 45 m long and 30 m wide, with a ratio of 3:2. These dimensions reflect the size of Zamosc at that time, reducing the town 15 times. Moreover, during the summer season it is possible for you to climb the bell tower of the church and see the old town of Zamosc from above.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

8. Museum of Arms and Fortifications „Arsenal” in Zamosc

The first arsenal in Zamosc was built at the end of the 16th century. It was located next to the Zamoyski Palace, where the hetman kept his treasures and souvenirs from his many journeys. The new arsenal was built much later, in the first half of the 17th century. It was located south of the palace, near Bastion II. Unfortunately, the building burned down and a new one was built at the end of the century. It is still standing today and is more than 60 meters long.

The Museum of Fortifications and Arms „Arsenal”, part of the Zamojskie Museum, has been located near the Cathedral since 1984. It is just a stone’s throw away, located only 150 meters to the west on Zamkowa Street. As you pass by, you can see the Szczebrzeska Gate, also known as the Florian Gate, which was built in the 17th century. From the viewpoint of the gate, it’s worth taking a moment to admire the walls of the Zamosc Fortress.

The museum is divided into three sections, two of which are historical buildings – the Arsenal and the Powder House – and the third is hidden in the renovated ramparts. The main building, the former Arsenal, has two floors. On the first floor there are exhibits of firearms, cannons, edged weapons and replicas of the city’s fortifications, while on the second floor there are temporary exhibits. In the adjoining Powder House you can see a multimedia presentation on how Zamosc Fortress came to exist. The pavilion under the curtain displays military equipment and machinery from the 1900s. You can spend several hours exploring the museum.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

9. Zamosc City Park and the Old Lublin Gate

Zamosc Park was created between 1919 and 1926 and is located about 170 meters from the Arsenal, which can be reached from Zamkowa Street. The modernist design of this green space was created by the Warsaw gardener and planner Walerian Kronenberg. The park covers an area of about 11 hectares. It is distinguished by *rolling hills, former fortress elements, a lake, and a plethora of squirrels. In honor of the city’s founder, it was named „Jan Chancellor Zamoyski Park”.

Recently restored as part of the Zamosc Fortress, the Lubelska Gate in Zamosc is a beautiful piece of architecture. It is located at the corner of Akademicka Street and Królowej Jadwigi Street, between the now non-existent Bastions IV and V, and was built in the years 1582-85.

It is worth mentioning that there are actually two Lublin Gates in the city of Zamość: the Old Gate and the New Gate. The first is the oldest gate in Zamość and is also known as the Janowicka Gate. It was built at the end of the 16th century. When the fortress was dismantled in 1886, the gate was partially demolished, but fortunately it was restored in the last century, allowing visitors to appreciate its beauty once again. At the entrance, there is a monument to the Children of Zamosc Region.

During a meeting between Jan Zamoyski and King Stefan Batory of Poland in the 1580s, the town’s founder made a special promise to the monarch that no one but him would pass through the gate. At the beginning of the 1600s, the hetman had the gate sealed. This was probably to commemorate the king’s visit to Zamosc. It is worth noting that in 1588, after the Battle of Byczyna, Jan Zamoyski led the Austrian Archduke Maximilian, who was a contender for the Polish throne, through the gate. Later, the old Lublin Gate was closed and a new one was built about a quarter of a kilometer away in 1821-22.

  • Park Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here
  • Old Lublin Gate Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

10. Salt Market in Zamosc

This is one of the two additional markets in Zamosc. It was first mentioned in 1588 and was connected with the transport of salt from Drohobych. After several renovations, the Salt Market has a rectangular shape of about 90 x 50 m. There are two monuments here: a ship’s anchor from the MS Ziemia Zamojska and a small dwarf named Batiaryga, which comes from Lusia Oginska’s „Book of Dwarfs from Roztocze” („Księga krasnali roztoczańskich”).

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

11. Synagogue in Zamosc

The synagogue is located at 9 Ludwik Zamenhofa Street, formerly known as the Jewish Street. It is worth mentioning that the Zamość Synagogue is the best preserved late Renaissance synagogue in Poland. The temple was built between 1610 and 1620 on the initiative of Sephardic Jews (the Jewish population living in the area of the Iberian Peninsula). The synagogue was built of brick. It had a square plan in the style of the late Polish Renaissance. Later on, babinas were added to it and the central building is decorated with a crescent-shaped attic.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

12. Water Market

This is the second market square in Zamosc. It is located in the southern part of the Old Town, unlike the Salt Market, which is in the north. It forms an important north-south axis for the entire Old Town together with the Great Market and the Salt Market. Historically, it has been the home of many of the city’s most prominent citizens. The Water Market measures 50 meters by almost 60 meters.

Its name may indicate its location near the southern line of the fortifications. It was once flooded. In the middle of the square there is a small fountain, which is quite an eye-catcher. The church of St. Anne, which was built around 1696, also attracts attention. During Austrian rule, the buildings were used for other purposes: warehouses, stables, and barracks. Today, there is a music school in the former convent building. The former church serves as a concert hall.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

13. Scenic Footbridges

Once you’ve seen the Water Market, it’s definitely worth taking a detour to the south and beyond the Old Town. On your left, you’ll find two picturesque footbridges spanning the railroad tracks. It’s worth crossing them to get a nice view of the walls surrounding the city, as well as the Old Town itself. Lovers often come here and attach locks to the railings. The footbridges are a great part of a walking and sightseeing route that takes you around the castle fortifications.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

14. Museum of Martyrdom of Zamość – Rotunda

Let’s continue our exploration and venture a little further away from the heart of the Old Town. The Rotunda, which was once part of the Zamosc Fortress, is only 500 meters to the south. This circular structure has an outer diameter of 54 meters and walls that reach an impressive height of 9.5 meters. This is a place that brings back sad memories of the Poles who sacrificed their lives in this place. It was the site of a Gestapo prison camp during the war, and countless executions took place here, including those of young people.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

15. ZOO

Stefan Miler Zoo in Zamosc is one of the few zoos in Eastern Poland and the only one in Lublin province. Here you can find more than 2,500 animals of 300 species. The zoo is about 1 km from the main market place, near the old town.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

16. Zwierzyniec

Finally, I would like to mention Zwierzyniec, located about thirty kilometers southwest of Zamosc. It is an idyllic town located on the banks of the Wieprz River. It is the entrance to the Roztoczanski National Park. The town is completely surrounded by lush green forests. Zwierzyniec was founded in 1593 and was used as a summer residence by the Zamoyski family. Today it is the headquarters of the Roztocze National Park. There are a number of sights worth seeing in Zwierzyniec such as the Church of St. John Nepomucen, the Zwierzyniec Brewery and the breathtaking natural surroundings.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

Overnight Stay in Zamosc

A lot of people go to Zamosc for a day, which is made easy by the fact that most of the sights are in the old town. I had booked a room in Lublin, so we did the same. But from what I experienced, it’s worth spending a bit more time there to really get a feel for the place. I would realy love to see this place at night.

What to Eat in Zamosc – Recommended Restaurants

Local people I met have enthusiastically recommended the Bohema Restaurant in Zamosc. I checked and this place is definitely worth reserving in advance. The food is delicious, and the staff is friendly.

The Museum Restaurant „Ormiańskie Piwnice” was the second highly recommended restaurant. You can find both of them in the middle of the old town. For a sweet treat, I recommend a stop at the Bosko Zamosc – ice cream of thier own production at the Salt Market.