In and around Oświęcim
Oświęcim and its surroundings is an extremely interesting area that is undoubtedly worth visiting. Cultural and natural diversity will provide every demanding connoisseur of holiday trips a lot of pleasure.
Marked by a difficult history, Oświęcim is today a town of numerous peaceful initiatives. As a meeting place for people of different nationalities, beliefs and confessions, it helps to build a future without violence and wars. Thanks to the open multi-religious and multicultural dialogue, it realizes its mission of the “City of Peace”.
Oświęcim and nearby towns offers everyone something for themselves, from visiting historically valuable places, such as museums and places of worship, through active leisure in the bosom of nature, ending with tasting regional cuisine.
Landscapes and areas that are worth visiting!
In the vicinity of Oświęcim we will find numerous fish ponds, loess humps and forest areas. In addition to the unique flora associated with a large number of water reservoirs, there are also agricultural areas as well as alluvial-elm and alder-ash forests.
The Carp Valley in Zator, which is the basin of royal carp breeding, creates ideal conditions for the life of rare species of fish and birds. Ferruginous duck, night heron, white-breasted tern, common tern and bittern are the undisputed objects of interest of lovers of photography of unique nature.
The habitats of endangered birds and plants, unique in Europe, occurring in the Oświęcim commune have contributed to including this area in the structure of the European Ecological Network Natura 2000. Thus, the protection of biological diversity has become the overarching goal of all related activities. The regulations of the Natura 2000 Area cover, among others, the Lower Soła Valley characterised by valuable communities of alluvial-willow and poplar forests, as well as ponds in Brzeszcze, which delight with an intact ecological corridor of the Upper Vistula. There are many wonderful animal species in the Soła Valley, including otters, crested newts, toads, asp or barbells, which all live surrounded by old river basins with unique vegetation growing on stream stones.
Following the sacrum...
The Oświęcim area boasts a long list of religious monuments, some of which are listed on the Wooden Architecture Route.
One of the most interesting and at the same time most famous sacred buildings is the Chewra Lomdei Misznajot Synagogue in Oświęcim. It is a tangible trace of the Jewish community, which before World War II constituted more than half of all the town's inhabitants. Jewish and Christian culture used to merge in this place, and the remains of it are still visible today.
The history of the Sanctuary of Our Lady Help of Christians in Oświęcim goes back to the beginnings of the Salesian church from the 14th century, and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima in Trzebinia attracts the faithful with a miraculous figurine brought from Fatima in 1962. Church of St Nicholas in Chrzanów houses under its walls crypts in which court officials, prominent burghers and former owners of Chrzanów were buried. The Renaissance church of St Adalbert and St George in Zator is a must-see for lovers of historic architecture, just like the church of Our Lady of Częstochowa in Mętkowo, which remembers Karol Wojtyła as a vicar when the church was still located in Niegowić. In Oświęcim and the surrounding area there are more wooden or wooden-brick objects of worship of this type, to name just a couple a few: the church of St Nicholas in Polanka Wielka, the church of St Bartholomew in Poręba Wielka, the church of St Lawrence in Grójec, the church of St Martin in Jawiszowice, the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel in Głębowice, the church of St Andrew in Osiek or the church of Saint Andrew in Graboszyce.
When in Oświęcim, we cannot forget about the Chapel of St Hyacinth related to the Dominican tradition and the Marian Shrine in Płoki with the precious icon of the Mother of God. In turn, the early 18th century Baroque church of St John Cantius in Kęty impresses with a one-nave facade, a barrel vault and a beautiful high altar. Being in the area, it is also worth seeing the church of Sts Simon and Jude, Apostles in Nidek and the church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Płaza.
All these sacred sites will certainly charm everyone who decides to visit them, and many tourists will find interesting the history that each of these places hides.
Following the trail of historic residences, it is worth seeing the Castle in Oświęcim. Its most glorious period falls in the 14th century, when it served as the seat of the Piast princes. The castle then burned down in 1503, and it was rebuilt by order of King Alexander Jagiellon in the 16th century. Over the next centuries, it was rebuilt many times, which is why its current shape is a delightful combination of various architectural styles. The ruins of the Lipowiec Castle in Wygiełzów are located on a limestone hill with a height of 362 metres asl. In the old days, the Castle served as the seat of the Krakow bishops, today it is an excellent vantage point from which we can admire the panorama of the adjacent “Lipowiec” nature reserve. The Renaissance Palace and Park Complex in Młoszowa, in turn, is an ideal place to stroll around the park overgrown with old trees and visit the attractive part of the palace with the adjacent chapel.
Museums will help you better understand the history and culture of the region. One of the places you cannot miss is the Auschwitz-Birkenau Former German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp in Oświęcim. Visiting this place will certainly make you reflect on the tragic events of World War II. It is here that every year there are celebrations commemorating the liberation of the extermination camp, during which the voice of the Survivors resounds. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which confirms its unique character.
Today, Oświęcim is a centre of numerous peace initiatives, a meeting place for people of different nationalities - regardless of religion or belief. The city is slowly becoming a symbol of an open, multinational and multi-religious dialogue centre, among others due to the activity of the Jewish Centre in Oświęcim, which organizes numerous cultural and scientific events. The Roma Association in Poland, in turn, gives visitors a chance to learn about the rich Roma tradition and culture, which is part of the history of the region.
What else is worth visiting? We recommend the Castle in Oświęcim – in this place, thanks to exhibitions devoted to various historical periods, you can learn about the 800-year history of the town. When you're at the Oświęcim Market Square it is worth visiting the Town Hall Museum located in a building from the second half of the 19th century. Every day, punctually at noon, the bugle call is played form here. If only you are in the area, stop for a moment and listen to a fragment of Aleksander Orłowski's polonaise.
In Oświęcim and the surrounding area there are many more such monumental and thought-provoking places! We recommend visiting the court lumber from the 16th century and the Urbańczyk House in Chrzanów, the Małopolska Firefighting Museum in Alwernia, the Museum of Aleksander Kłosiński in Kęty, as well as the Museum of Bl. Mother Małgorzata Szewczyk in Oświęcim. Interesting attractions are also provided by the Carp Valley Ecomuseum, the Vistula Ethnographic Park in Wygiełzów and Jakob Haberfeld Story vodka museum & music pub, i.e. the museum arranged in the place of former vodka and liqueur factory.
Active leisure or pleasant holidays in the Oświęcim Basin
The rich flora, fauna and terrain create perfect conditions for active recreation! Relaxing in the bosom of nature is a pleasant way to spend your free time, and the multitude of various hiking and cycling routes encourage to enjoy active leisure.
A bike is a great idea for spending free time, especially in the perspective of using routes running in the surroundings of historically valuable places. The route following papal roads to the Carp Valley leads through numerous attractions, and the whole adventure begins and ends in Wadowice, i.e. the hometown of John Paul II. The Soła Valley cycling trail is, in turn, a route often chosen by families with children. It leads through the surroundings which are pure pleasure to the eyes and soul, where you can successfully calm down and relax from everyday life. All cycling routes of Oświęcim and the surrounding area can be found at narowery.visitmalopolska.pl.
By choosing the “Maurycy” or "Marynin" nature paths you will get the opportunity to admire the picturesque landscapes of Oświęcim. The routes run near water reservoirs, which are a treasury of the region's most valuable natural values. It is also worth taking a walk along the scenic trails of Green Pearls of Trzebinia. “Treasure hunters” can have fun focusing on looking for trophies as part of quests included on the Radwanite Knights Trail. Visit to the Village under the rock in Bolęcin will in turn provide interesting historical fun for the whole family, while the visit to the Molo Resort in Osiek brings real relaxation for the senses. Unusual views and the sound of water will ensure peace and having some in this area will recharge your batteries for a long time.
Canoeing enthusiasts should go to the Carp Valley, where, surrounded by untouched nature, they can indulge in their sports passion. Everyone who values nordic walking can choose the degree of difficulty of the route and enjoy the wonderful views of this picturesque land. Fishing fans can take advantage of the offer of numerous fisheries, while walks on the Soła Boulevard in Oświęcim shall be perfect for all those who relax best close to the calming noise of the river.
How to spend time?
Oświęcim surprises with a rich offer of cultural events in which it is worth participating. A series of concerts on the Wooden Architecture Route organised under the name Music Enchanted by Wood is an encouragement to spend summer weekends surrounded by pearls of wooden architecture, while artistic presentations of the Oświęcim Autumn Festival invites everybody to have fun together. The Castellan Fair, which is an outdoor event organised at the Castle Museum in Oświęcim, traditionally recreates the realities of past eras, familiarizing visitors with the history of the city. Concerts organised on the occasion of the Days of the Town of Oświęcim make this region famous all over Poland. The Vistula Ethnographic Park in Wygiełzów regularly organises open workshops of folk crafts and handicrafts as part of Ethnomania, and during the Ziemniaczyska nad Lipowcem event, you can try culinary specialties from the old days. It is also worth to include in the calendar the Feast of Carp, which will delight everyone who values regional culinary goods.
The flavours of the Oświęcim region are pure pleasure for every fan of regional delicacies! Being in the area you should try the delicious Zator Carp, Caban potato, żurek (rye soup) form Przeciszów and the Revel bread. It is also worth trying the Zator fudge, the Bolęcin buchta cake, the parzybroda soup from Mirów and hulajda potato dumplings. The names of these dishes alone arouse curiosity, and the taste remains a mystery until you try it. The Małopolska Gourmets Route is a great opportunity to get to know the Oświęcim region from the culinary perspective.
Fans of amusement parks, will be provided with the dose of adrenaline by places such as Energylandia or Zatorland, where the whole family can spend time actively in specially dedicated themed zones.