Most of the travelers who go overland from Krakow to Lviv (or in the reverse direction) travel via Przemysl, Poland yet only a few of them actually stop to see the city. Huge mistake! I believe Przemysl is one of the most underrated cities in Poland and the number of things to do in Przemysl will keep you busy for a few solid hours, if not more.
Ever since I remember I knew there’s a city called Przemyśl in the very south-east corner of Poland. That’s the place where my dad has spent his days serving the military service and he often talked about it, not only about the great time he had but also about the beauty of the city.
It always made me curious about the place and when I finally went to visit Przemysl some ten years ago I was sold. I guess it’s a family thing as it got a special place in my heart right away too!
Since then I visited Przemysl many times, always happy to spend there even an hour or two on the way to/from Lviv, Ukraine. Recently I went for a proper trip there to finally see all the attractions in Przemysl and beyond and I enjoyed the place so much it is pretty high on my list of best places to visit in Poland now.
When you are in the area be sure to stop in Przemysl, you will not regret it!
Where is Przemysl, Poland
Przemysl, the city of around 60 thousand inhabitants, is located in the south-east part of Poland, near the border with Ukraine (it’s some 10 km away). Rzeszów, the capital of Podkarpackie Region that Przemyśl is part of, is 80 km away, Kraków 250 km away and Lviv (Ukraine) – 100 km away.
Due to its location, Przemysl is very well connected with numerous places in Poland and Ukraine. There are frequent trains to Rzeszów, Kraków, Warsaw, and the rest of Poland.
There are also numerous buses serving the city.
Why visit Przemysl
When arriving in Przemyśl by train you will cross the San river – look to the right side and you will see a beautiful panorama of the Old Town, a foretaste of what Przemyśl has to offer. Trust me, it will only get better!
Przemysl is often called “the little Lviv” and there is no exaggeration in this statement – the city resembles its more famous cousin in so many aspects. You will see it right away too. The city is full of monuments, churches, old townhouses; there are even a fortress and a castle.
If you’re familiar with the story of the Good Soldier Svejk – that’s also where his adventures took place. You can find his monument on Main Square!
A brief history of Przemysl
Przemysl was founded in the 8th century by the Lendians (a Western-Slavic tribe), making it the second-oldest city in southern Poland (after Kraków).
The place has always been an important strategic, economic, cultural, and trade center and the most important stop between Kraków and Lviv. The peak of the prosperity was in the 16th and 17th century when Przemysl was one of the wealthiest cities in Poland.
In 1772, after the First Partition of Poland, Przemysl was incorporated into the Austrian Empire – back then the city was so important it was even considered to be the capital of the province (eventually Lviv got this title). Due to the strategic location, near the border between the Austrian and Russian Empire, Przemysl fortress went through major renovations at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century (making it the third-largest fortress in Europe) and played a very important role during World War I and then World War II.
In fact, between September 1939 and June 1941, Przemyśl was located in two different countries that invaded Poland – the Old Town was in the Soviet Union while the area on the other side of the San river was in Nazi Germany. After the new state border run near Przemsyl but the city itself was returned to Poland.
What to see in Przemysl
With such a long and interesting history, you might expect Przemysl to be full of attractions. And well, you are right. There are so many things to do and see in Przemysl that you can easily plan a day for this city in your Poland itinerary and even that might be not enough.
As soon as you arrive in Przemysl you will be amazed by the local train station, beautifully renovated a few years ago. It keeps impressing me every single time and I honestly believe this is the most beautiful train station in Poland. It was built at the end of the 19th century (1895) in the neo-baroque style, with numerous details that you can admire still today.
Inside you will find rich ornate chandeliers and wall lamps, tiled floors, or paintings with coats of arms of Przemyśl, Krakow, Lviv, and Potocki Family. You might feel you are visiting a palace yet this is only a train station.
Every time I arrive in or depart from Przemysl I try to spend a few minutes at the train station to get the feel of the grand old times.
From the train station, it’s a short walk to the Old Town. Already on the way, you will pass some beautiful buildings from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Since Przemysl was an important place in Austria-Hungary the majority of the buildings you will find in the central part of the city come from that period and are perfect examples of Central European, Habsburg-style architecture.
Some of the buildings are renovated and are shining like stars with their beautiful art-nouveau details. You will find the most impressive ones not only in the central part of the city but also on the other side of the San river across the Old Town. If you like art-nouveau (I love it!), you will surely enjoy Przemyśl.
Over the centuries Przemysl was a multicultural place, with Poles, Jews, Germans, Czechs, Armenians, and Ruthenians living next to each other. Still today you can find remnants of the multicultural past in the city and especially in its temples.
Besides the Roman Catholic churches, you can also find the Greek Catholic cathedral or the synagogue. Be sure to step inside the churches during your Przemysl sightseeing – you might be surprised what gems you might find inside.
My favorite is the Franciscan Church located at the edge of Main Square – its Baroque interiors is so stunning it makes my jaw drop every single time.
The center of the Old Town is Market Square. Depending on the time of the day it’s either vibrant or sleepy – I can’t decide which version I prefer and like them both. What makes Przemysl Market Square special is that it is sloping.
Around the Square, you will find even more beautiful houses, originally from the 16th and 17th century but renovated during the times of Austria-Hungary. Be sure to also visit the underground, dating back to the medieval times when the city developed. You will find the entrance in the Main Square, near the Town Hall.
In the corner, you will find the statue of the Good Soldier Švejk – the main character of the novel by Czech writer Jaroslav Hašek. He is there for a reason – the novel tells a story of the friendly soldier who was eager to serve in the Habsburg army and part of his stories took place in Przemysl.
The statue is just like Švejk himself – joyful. He sits on the crate with ammunition and drinks beer. A few years ago he got a company – a small dog joined Švejk.
While the Main Square is rather empty during the day, in the evening it is the most vibrant place in the city. I was really impressed with the atmosphere there considering it’s such a mid-size city.
In the summertime the place was just packed with people, strolling around, sitting on the benches, or occupying local cafes and restaurants (finding the free table outside was a challenge). This was such a good place to hang out after the whole day of sightseeing.
And while you are there don’t miss the best ice cream in Poland (the winner of the ranking a few years ago) – you will get them at Fiore Cafe, located at Kazimierza Wielkiego street a short walk away from the Main Square.
If you would like to look at Przemyśl from above there are two places in the central part of the city you need to visit. Both give you a different perspective and both are important monuments of a big value.
The Clock Tower dates back to the 18th century and originally it was supposed to be part of the new Greek Catholic cathedral that was never built. For years it was used as a watchtower and these days it is a popular viewpoint offering a beautiful panorama of Przemmyśl Old Town and beyond.
But before you reach the top of the tower you will go through the Museum of Bells and Pipes with some really interesting items on the display. This is the only museum of such kind in Poland and local bells and pipes are well-known all over the world! I’ve never thought these things might be that interesting but they surely were!
On the other side of the Old Town, you will find the Casimir Castle originally from the 14th century. While the castle itself is just fine (but not bad, only not spectacular) the view from the towers is really good, showing the Old Town from another perspective. It’s definitely worth visiting the castle too!
Another nice viewpoint is from across the San river. You can go for a walk between the new pedestrian bridge and the railway bridge and admire the beautiful views of the Old Towns with its numerous towers. This is actually one of my favorite views of Przemyśl. And while you are there don’t miss the beautiful art-nouveau houses!
And then you can go all the way to the Tatar Mound on one of the hills that Przemyśl is located on (just like in Rome, there are seven of them). From there you can see the panorama of the whole city and beyond.
And if you still have time and energy (and possibly a car or bike) you can go beyond the center to find the remnants of the Przemyśl fortress.
The ring fortress surrounds the city and some of the forts are located even 10 kilometers away from the center. Unfortunately, many of the objects are in a poor condition but it is still a fascinating place to visit.
If you want to get a foretaste of the military objects in the area you can see the bunker from the Molotov Line. It’s located not far from the Old Town, near the new pedestrian bridge over the San river.
Day trips from Przemysl
One more reason to stay a bit longer in Przeysl is the places you can visit as day trips. That’s what I did last time and it was such a good idea. I could go sightseeing in the day and return to the city to enjoy its vibrant atmosphere in the evening.
The most popular place (besides the fortress) is Krasiczyn Castle, located only 10 km away from the city. You can easily get there by the local bus that will take you from the center of the city directly to the castle gate.
The Renaissance castle dates back to the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century and over the years it used to belong to a few Polish noble families. Unfortunately, after World War 2 most of the furniture, art, and other items were taken away from the castle and there is not much to see inside (although some places like a chapel are nice).
But it is still worth coming to Krasiczyn, the castle itself really is pretty and idyllic and the sgraffito on the walls is impressive! If you wish you can stay overnight here, there is a hotel in the side wing of the castle – click here for details.
Another great place to visit from Przemysl is Jarosław, located only half an hour away by train (with frequent connections). I think Jarosław is the most beautiful city in Poland that no one knows about, I also learned about it only recently and I was so impressed!
The town is packed with attractions: beautiful houses and buildings (with one of the prettiest town halls in Poland), impressive churches (both outside and inside), or two underground routes.
Unfortunately, many of the places were under renovation when I visited Jarosław so I feel that I should go there again, I really want to see this town properly. But if you are in the area don’t miss it, you will be impressed how many wonders this small town hides!
Where to stay in Przemysl
Unfortunately, the accommodation in Przemysl is rather limited but there are a few places you can choose from. Here are the recommended ones:
- Apartamenty Pod Wieżą
- HOSTEL “likeHOME”
- Apartamenty Rynek
- Hotel Europejski – this is a good option if you arrive late in the evening or depart early in the morning since the hotel is located few steps away from the train station
- and more!
Final thoughts on visiting Przemysl
As you can see Przemyśl has a lot to offer and you shouldn’t miss this place. For me, it’s yet another perfect Central European city that has everything I enjoy: interesting history, beautiful architecture, and great cafe culture.
Even if I’ve been to Przemyśl many times by now I’m always happy to return there and every time the train crosses the San river I can’t help but smile when I see the beautiful view of the Old Town.
I’m sure I will be back there soon again and I strongly recommend you visit Przemyśl too! You will be enchanted!
Where to next
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