Tarnow in 330 minutes

This guide is for those visiting Tarnów for just a few hours. Follow us when you want to get the most from time spent in the warmest Polish city, known as the “Pearl of Polish Renaissance”.


The Town Square (10+30 minutes)

We start our tour at the Town Square which is one of the smallest yet one of the most beautiful in Poland. It is surrounded by the Renaissance arcaded buildings. In the middle of the Square two-storey Town Hall topped with an attic with fourteen masks is located. The oldest sections of the structure are Gothic. It was rebuilt in Renaissance form by Giovanni Maria Padovano, one of the greatest architects of his times. Turret clock set in the Town Hall’s tower (30 metres high) is the oldest in Poland. Right by the Town Hall, on its south-eastern side stands pranger (pillory?) – a column the condemned was tied to for public humiliation.


Basilica Minor (30 minutes)

From the Town Square we head for Tarnów Basilica Minor. The Cathedral is the most important temple of the city and Tarnów diocese. Inside we find several unique monuments. First two are the sculptured tombs of Tarnowski and Ostrogski families, standing behind the altar. The Tarnowski family tomb by Giovanni Maria Padovano is dedicated to Hetman Jan Tarnowski and his son Jan Krzysztof. It is believed to be the first sculpture of this kind in Poland. The other tomb is thought to be sculptured either by John Pfister from Wrocław or by Wilhelm van den Block from the Netherlands. And in the south nave there is the tomb of Barbara of Tęczyński, Hetman’s first wife, by Giovanni Maria Padovano. It is considered the most beautiful Renaissance sculpture depicting woman in Europe. In the Basilica Minor we can also admire monuments by an architect and sculptor, Bartolommeo Berrecci. Outside the Cathedral stands the world’s first – erected in 1981 – monument of Polish pope John Paul II, which author was Bronisław Chromy.


Diocesan Museum (45 minutes)

We leave the Cathedral through the main entrance just to see the Mikołajowski house proudly standing by the city wall (hetman Jan Tarnowski surrounded Tarnów with a defensive wall, over 900 metres long, which is still preserved in some parts of the city). Nearly five-century-old building hosts today the most precious exhibits of the oldest diocesan museum in Poland – Muzeum Diecezjalne in Tarnów. It includes a rich collection of guild art dated back to the Middle Ages, Gothic paintings and sculpture, church fabrics (vestments, covers, etc.) and documents. In the folk art department there is a collection of paintings on the glass. It takes an hour to visit the Museum and if you do have that time we encourage you to walk in. (45 minutes, no info in Polish brochure) Especially worth seeing are paintings “Opłakiwanie z Chomranic” (middle of the 15th c.) – the masterpiece of the so-called Kraków painting school; “Misericordia Domini” from Zbylitowska Góra (1450); “Pieta z Biecza” (1380-1400); “Opłakiwanie z Czarnego Potoka” (1450) and a triptych – original altar from the UNESCO listed ST. Leonard church in Lipnica Murowana.

We leave the Museum and head for plac Katedralny, or the Cathedral square, then down Katedralna street, to plac Sobieskiego (Sobieski square). From here – down to the left, to Przedmieście Wielkie (Greater Suburbs). Now we approach “Burek” – the most popular market place in Tarnów. The actual name of the square is plac Generała Józefa Bema (general Józef Bem’s square). In 1794 one of the greatest citizens of Tarnów – “the Hero of two Nations” – general Bem was born here, in one of the houses.


Mother of God of the Scapular Church (30 minutes)

We move on, pass the florists stands and walk down Najświętszej Marii Panny street, to see the first of the three Gothic wooden churches in the city. The Matki Bożej Szkaplerznej (or the Mother of god of the Scapular) church, also known as “by the Burek church”, originally stood in the place of today’s Basilica Minor. It was moved down on the banks of Wątok stream, when an erection of the new church begun (in years 1852-1854 the wooden church was moved again a few metres further from the stream). Inside the church, which is also a sanctuary, there is a 16th c. painting of the Mother of God of the Scapular on wood. The locals worship the paintings for centuries now, believing in its supernatural power. The church also serves as a cemetery church for the “Stary Cmentarz”, or the “Old Cemetery”, located right across busy Narutowicza street. This cemetery is one of the oldest (1787) and most picturesque cemeteries in Małopolska/Lesser Poland.

The three churches: “Na Burku”, “Na Terlikówce” (1527, located on the southern side of the Old Cemetery), and Św. Marcina (St. Martin’s) church (15th c., located on St. Martin’s Hill) belong to the Małopolska’s Wooden Architecture Route.


Ethnographic Museum (45 minutes)

We go back to plac Sobieskiego (Sobieski square), where we turn left to find ourselves in… Vienna. Buildings along Krakowska street were built in the Secession style, alike those in Vienna, which earned the street name of the “pearl of Secession”. Monumental, several storey high, buildings recollect the spirit of the 19th century Tarnów. In one of those buildings, in the 20’s of the 20th c., the Ukrainian parliament (government in exile?) was located, before it was moved to Warsaw. Surrounded by high tenement houses, a small inn survived, which houses world-renowned Ethnographic Museum. Its exhibitions cover the history and culture of Roma people. In the backyard we can take part in (participate in?) a Gypsy camp by the fire, with colourful dances (on request) or simply admire an open-air exhibition of the original Gypsy carriages. Each year in July the “Tabor Pamięci”, the “Caravan of remembrance” takes place. It starts at the gates of Ethnographic Museum and leads through the streets of Tarnów and roads of Tarnów region. This several-day-long journey allows us to taste Gypsy life and familiarize/allows tasting Gypsy life and familiarizing with their culture. All year round individuals as well as groups can schedule a caravan ride through the streets of Tarnów’s Old Town.


“Hungarian section” of Tarnów (15 minutes)

We walk down Krakowska street and reach the “Hungarian section” of the city – the Petöfi square (Petöfi was Hungarian poet and adjutant of gen. Bem). The entrance to the square is guarded by the Seklers’ Gate, then there are two Kopjafa’s/spearmen (Hungarian wooden grave posts) dedicated to the memory of Forgon Mihale and Norbert Lippóczy and a monument of Sandor Petöfi – all are gifts of the Hungarian nation to the citizens of Tarnów.


“Space Fountain” and railway station (30 minutes)

As we go down Krakowska street, we come at a monumental, two-towered “Kościół Misjonarzy”, or the Missionaries’ Church. It has been built between 1904 and 1906 and till the World War II outbreak it served as a garrison church. Right next to this church a fountain, called the “Space Fountain”, built up in a shape of the Solar System, is located. It occurred to be very attractive , especially for kids. The centre of construction – a star of the “Sun” – is made of glass and steel, and on the steel “spheres” there are “planets” made of granite, placed on “water pillows”, so that they can move. On the opposite side of the street, there are “Planty Kolejowe”, or the Railway City Park. Behind them – an impressive/magnificent, thoroughly renovated railway station from 1910, today known as “the Pearl of Secession”. Behind the tracks there is a historic locomotive Ol 49 72 from 1953.
On our way back to the Town Square we pass a “painted elephant” at the crossing with Nowy Świat street, popular meeting point, and then stop by Tatrzańska restaurant at plac Sobieskiego to taste the best ice-creams in the city inside the oldest of Tarnów’s restaurants.


Poets Bench (15 minutes)

From there we go left, to Wałowa street – which is closed to road traffic today. Heading east, we pass beautiful tenement houses. Somewhere in the middle of the street the “Ławka Poetów”, or Poets Bench, is located. This monument is dedicated to the three Polish poets: Agnieszka Osiecka, Jan Brzechwa and Zbigniew Herbert. A few metres further along the street is a tram stop. This symbolic structure reminds of a tram line operating in Tarnów in years 1911-1942. At that time, trams (called lady-birds) ran every six minutes. Once at the tram stop, turn back and look at Grób Nieznanego Żołnierza (the Unknown Soldier’s Monument). It is located on Piłsudskiego street, former Seminaryjna, or Seminary street, named after Christian seminary, which is the greatest in Europe. Further to the north on Piłsudskiego street, within Strzelecki park, gen. Bem’s Mausoleum is located.


Half Turret (30 minutes)

But we continue our walk east Wałowa street. We reach Basztowa street, on the right hand side, which actually is a stair passage. Basteja – a half turret – located by this street is one of the preserved fragments of medieval defensive walls. We go back to Wałowa street. There, on the crossing with Rybna street, stands a statue of another Polish writer, famous citizen of Tarnów – Roman Brandstaetter. his life-sized figure stands against the corner house, smoking pipe and watching the by-passers.

And so we have entered the “Jewish Tarnów”. Now look left, towards Goldhammera street. That used to be one of the most important streets of the Jewish quarter of Tarnów, with financial establishments and hotels. The last prayer house, closed in 1993, was located in a house no. 1. In the pre-war Tarnów, Jews constituted some half of the city population, living in the eastern part of the city. In the northern part of Jewish quarter, by Szpitalna street, one of the oldest and most interesting Jewish cemeteries in Małopolska is located. Part of the Jewish quarter was turned into Ghetto during World War II. Moving on Wałowa street we approach gen. Bem’s statue, erected in 1985. Today it is quite often visited by officials from Hungarian governing bodies. We turn right, pass the statue, and through a narrow passage, passing Dom Florencki (Florencki House), and reach Żydowska (Jewish) street. On the right hand side, somewhere in the middle of the street, stands Bimah – the only preserved part of the Old Synagogue, burnt down by the Nazis. Today this is a site of concerts organised here during “Dni Pamięci Żydów Galicyjskich” (Galician Jews Remembrance Days).


Old Town and Town Square (20+30 minutes)

Moving on Żydowska street, we enter the Town Square. Exhausted and happy we can finally rest in one of the tens of cafes, bars and pubs spread all around the Old Town and enjoy local specialties. We encourage you to taste two unique products, made of “tarnina” (blackthorn) – a herb Tarnów was named after. Both have the same names – “Tarninówka”, but one is a tea, rich with vitamin C, helps recover after all day struggle, so it is suggested for all tired, kids and drivers; the second is a tincture, a special mixture of herbs with an alcohol base.