Lublin

 
 

The only significant remnant of the fortified walls that once surrounded the Old Town is the 14th-century Gothic Kraków Gate, built during the reign of Kazimierz III Wielki following the Mongol attack in 1341. It received its octagonal Renaissance superstructure in the 16th century, and its baroque crown in 1782. These days it’s home to the Historical Museum of Lublin and its small collection of documents and photographs of the town’s history.

 
 
 

Lublin’s royal castle dates from the 12th and 13th centuries, though it’s been rebuilt many times since; the oldest surviving part is the impressive Romanesque round tower that dominates the courtyard; it was here in 1569 that Poland’s union with Lithuania was signed. The castle is home to Lublin Museum and the 14th-century Gothic Chapel of the Holy Trinity, which contains Poland’s finest examples of medieval frescoes; the ticket gives access to both and also to the tower.

 

 

Majdanek extermination camp, where tens of thousands of people, mainly Jews, were murdered by the Germans during WWII, lies on the outskirts of Lublin – guard towers and barbed-wire fences interrupting the suburban sprawl are disquieting. Allow half a day for the 5km walk around the camp; if pushed for time, visit the historical exhibition in building 62, the photographic display in building 45, and the skin-crawlingly chilling gas chambers. 

 

 

The well-designed skansen, 5km west of the centre on the Warsaw road, covers an undulating terrain of 25 hectares. Appearing as a traditional village of numerous buildings with fully equipped interiors, there is a fine manor house, a windmill, an Orthodox church and a carved timber gate (1903) designed by Stanisław Witkiewicz. The skansen hosts various temporary displays and cultural events. To get there from the centre, take bus 18, 20 or 5 from al Racławickie.