To immerse yourself in a city break with real character Lublin is an ideal destination. Recent years have shown this charming little city come out its shell with renewed confidence, allowing visitors to embrace the living history and impressive social scene. Alongside the enchanting Old Town architecture you’ll also find an abundance of modern cafes and clubs, not to mention a thriving selection of restaurants offering some of the finest traditional Polish-Jewish classics around.
Lublin is one of those places that most have heard of but few have been to – a shame given its rich history and quaint Old Town. Its hotels also deserve more recognition than they get, not least the impressive IBB Grand Hotel Lublinianka (Krakowskie Przedmieście 66) with its imposing honey-coloured carapace and palatial rooms. Also deserving of a second glance is the super-stylish Hotel Vanilla (Krakowskie Przedmieście 12) which, despite meriting just three stars, boasts a central location and individually designed rooms. Last but not least, the Rezydencja Cleopatra (Grodzka 26) is just 150m from Lublin Castle, and is a stylish and comfortable place to stay.
Lublin’s shopping is an interesting mix of the cutely traditional and post-Soviet bling. The fashion is not the best – unless you’re in the market for loud colours and sequins – although there are some nice, if pricey, boutiques dotted around the Old Town. For souvenirs, crafts and excellent homeware, try the small shops that line Krakowskie Przedmieście in the city centre. Here, you’ll find Polish handicrafts as well as mass-produced souvenirs and memorabilia. More interesting is the former Jewish quarter, which includes the streets around the main Lubartowska thoroughfare. Along with bizarre rabbi dolls, you’ll find books detailing the tragic history of Lublin’s Jewish population, many of whom were murdered at nearby Bełżec during the early 1940s.
The Jewish theme continues into the food scene, with plenty of Polish-Jewish classics such as babka – a delicious cinnamon- and nut-filled bun – and the less appetising gęsi pipek (stuffed goose neck). Dig in at Mandragora (Rynek 9), which serves up home-cooked classics in a charming old house decked with flowers. Another good establishment is Złoty Osioł (Grodzka 5A), an old-fashioned pub in the heart of the Old Town that specialises in toothsome Polish dishes such as pierogi and bigos (hunter’s stew). If you want something completely different, try Magia (Grodzka 2), which serves up every type of food imaginable in its large outdoor courtyard.
Night of Culture
Every June for one night only, Lublin’s museums and galleries throw open their doors for a free evening of cultural and musical performances, while street performers play to crowds in the open spaces and narrow alleyways of the city centre.
Less of a traditional carnival and more a celebration of all things circus, Lublin’s annual carnival sees the streets thronged with jugglers, acrobats and clowns for a three-day party.
For a high-speed introduction to Eastern European crafts and culture, nothing beats this fair (known as Jarmark Jagielloński in Polish), which sees Lublin’s streets come alive with stalls, performances and hordes of tourists each summer.
The Oldest Songs of Europe Festival
Celebrating Europe’s musical heritage, The Oldest Songs of Europe Festival (Najstarsze Pieśni Europy) attracts musicians from all over Europe – although most come from Eastern Europe – who perform their traditional songs in a series of concerts.
Jazz Soul Festival
One of the coolest pre-Christmas events on the planet, Lublin’s annual jazz fest (known locally as Zaduszki Jazzowe) takes place in a Dominican monastery and brings some of the jazz world’s top names to the city.