Stary Sącz is one of the oldest and most beautiful Polish towns
Market Square in Stary Sącz: the magic of a Galician town
The medieval layout of the town located on Magdeburg Law has been preserved in Stary Sącz. It comes as no surprise that all roads lead to Market Square - the city's showpiece. It is a highly charming place, enchanting with the remains of the climate of a Galician town. The architecture of Stary Sącz is unique. The Market Square is situated on a square plan and is paved with natural pebbles. The once wooden buildings burnt down in a fire in the 18th century; today, the buildings are made of brick and 22 have survived. The fire also consumed the Town Hall, which has never been rebuilt, but its copy can be admired in the Galician Town in Nowy Sącz. The only witnesses remembering the period when the Town Hall was located at Market Square are an old well and lime trees planted nearby. Noteworthy are the arcaded houses around Market Square, which protected against rain during the famous Old Sącz fairs.
Among the buildings, Dom na Dołkach (House on the Pitches) - the seat of the Regional Museum - stands out The Raczek's outbuilding, whose interior is worth seeing and decorated with wall paintings by Józef Raczek, is very interesting. Walking around the marketplace, it is also worth paying attention to the Ada Sari Cultural Centre seat, which formerly housed a Jewish tavern and an inn famous for its "fortuna", i.e. a game similar to roulette. The tenements at Market Square in Stary Sącz also remember the stories of eminent personalities. One of them is the house of priest Leopold Kmietowicz, who was one of the leaders of the Chochołów Uprising. In another one, Father Józef Tischner was born, and another reminds us of the Szncer family, from which the famous opera singer Ada Sari originated.
The square is bustling with life at any time of the year, and cafés and restaurants located in the surrounding low-rise tenement houses encourage visitors to relax and stay for a while. It is also a venue for cultural and artistic events.
The Monastery of the Poor Clares
Many people consider the Monastery of the Poor Clares, whose walls were founded by the duchess, the wife of Bolesław V the Chase, St. Kinga, the most attractive monument of Stary Sącz. Walls surround the monastery complex, and a gate with a clock tower leads to its interior. Upon entering the courtyard, the visitors can see the monastery museum (the former chaplain's house), the field altar, the ornate monastery gatehouse and the impressive Gothic Holy Trinity Church. The interior of this church hides a beautiful baroque decoration. The chancel consists of three altars, whose sculptural setting was created by Balthazar Fontana, the Italian sculptor and architect. Particularly noteworthy is the Baroque pulpit depicting the so-called Tree of Jesse, i.e. the genealogical tree of the Jesus family. It is worth stopping for a moment at the Chapel of St. Kinga, with a wooden statue of the duchess from the 15th century and a silver coffin with her relics. The walls are decorated with a polychrome painting by Felix Derysarz depicting scenes from the life of St. Kinga.
The second sacral monument, which is worth visiting at least for a moment, is the church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, dating from the 14th century. It was thoroughly restored after a fire in the early 19th century. In Stary Sącz, the only papal altar in Poland, which was not dismantled after the pilgrimage of John Paul II in June 1999, has been preserved. It is located near the railway station. This place has become a pilgrimage centre with pilgrims coming from all over Poland, Slovakia and Hungary.
"We are here in Stary Sącz. From here we set off towards Dzwonkówka, Wielka Racza and Przechyba. We reach Wielka Racza. We return to Przechyba and descend, or ski down. From Przechyba we make for Szlachtowa and then Krościenko. There is an Oasis centre in Krościenko on Kopa Górka. In Krościenko we cross the Dunajec River, which flows together with the Poprad towards Nowy and Stary Sącz. And we are back in Sącz".
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Hungarian and Jewish traces
Stary Sącz is a multicultural city, as evidenced by the origins of St Kinga, who was a Hungarian princess. According to beliefs, healing water flows from a spring near the monastery, in a quiet street opposite the tower. The legend has it that Saint Kinga stuck a stick in this place, which one day later turned into a splendid lime tree. The Saint ordered a well to be built there, and people from Stary Sącz and the surrounding area have been drawing water from it ever since. By the spring, there is one of many chapels commemorating Saint Kinga, which can be found in various places in the town.
Near the monastery, there is also a fascinating object - a wooden Sekler gate, which is a trace of the Szeklers, an ethnic group considered a variety of Hungarians living in the eastern part of Transylvania in present-day Romania. The gate, decorated with images of the Hungarian Saint Kinga and Saint Jadwiga of Poland, is a symbol of Polish-Hungarian friendship, and passing through is said to bring good luck. It is worth trying!
A trace of the Jewish minority inhabiting Stary Sącz is the historic synagogue, which serves as offices and neither it is not open to the public nor has any religious function, but it is worth taking a walk along Staszica Street adjacent to Market Square.
The Seweryn Udziela Regional Museum
A very interesting place in Stary Sącz is the Regional Museum with its seat in a characteristic building, the 17th-century Dom na Dołkach, at Market Square. Inside there are three permanent exhibitions. The first is devoted to the history and culture of the city. The exhibition presents paintings, bas-reliefs and sculptures on ancient religious art, Stary Sącz craftsmanship and the social and cultural life of the city's inhabitants. A separate room is devoted to the heritage of the Sącz Lachs, an ethnic group living in the Nowy Sącz region. Items of everyday use, kitchen utensils and elements of clothing are displayed. The last room relates to the heritage of distinguished citizens of Stary Sącz and is a place of national memory and tradition.
The second exhibition is devoted to the world-famous Polish opera singer Ada Sari (born Jadwiga Sayer), whose family was connected to Stary Sącz. The exhibition presents the artist's photographs, memorabilia and a collection of gramophone records.
In turn, the third permanent exhibition brings closer the outstanding figure of Father Professor Józef Tischner, a philosopher, ethicist and theologian from Stary Sącz. The exhibition presents places in Stary Sącz related to the priest, archival materials and photographs devoted to his family, as well as a collection of books written by him. The Museum is also supported by the Association of Stary Sącz Lovers, which undertakes numerous educational initiatives and organises cultural events.
Looking at the city from a different perspective
When visiting Stary Sącz, it is worth planning a longer walk outside the city centre to get an even broader view of the city. Uroczysko Miejska Góra in Stary Sącz, also called Parkowa Góra, is a complex of communal forests located in the buffer zone of the Poprad Landscape Park rising above the city from the west. It is an elevation of 420 metres above sea level, to which several hiking trails and cycling lanes lead. The advantage of the place is the tranquillity of the surrounding trees and the natural flora and fauna of the park's buffer zone. One of the main attractions is the educational path. Following the path, one can admire the beautiful panorama of the city and learn about many interesting natural and historical facts.
Another alternative is bike trips within the Velo Dunajec routes, which can be used to make interesting loops not only to Miejska Góra but also routes around the city, or further surroundings - along the Poprad and Dunajec valleys up to the Pieniny Mountains and the Tatra Mountains. Every year Stary Sącz hosts the Małopolska Tour - one of the largest cycling events in our province.
The Bobrowisko Nature Enclave
A place of unique character, which is attractive mostly for children, is the Bobrowisko Nature Enclave, created at the confluence of two rivers: Dunajec and Poprad flowing into it. After the gravel pit extracting aggregate ceased to operate, the place was re-cultivated, and beavers settled there. In the beginning, the path is paved with asphalt, and later, it leads through wooden piers enriched with unique wooden structures called look-outs for observing animals. The lucky ones may spot a mute swan, a heron or even a beaver. On the path, there are educational boards with descriptions of fauna and flora. Everyone who visits this place will remain enchanted for a long time. It is an excellent idea for relaxation and education, and access is easy even with the youngest children and prams.