Tarnow - A Galician Treasure

Travellers pulling into Tarnow station will be met by a voluptuous turn-of-the-century building from the times of Habsburg Galicia. This lovely old building is actually in a rather tatty state (like a good deal of Tarnow itself). But here lies much of the city's charm. For unlike Cracow, the bus-loads of tourists have not yet descended. You can still explore the place without the dizzying air of unreality that accompanies boom cities like big sister Cracow. It's a sleepy spot with much to recommend it. That said, if you want to see Tarnow before the prices go through the roof, best come sooner rather than later, as the town's obvious charms will not remain undiscovered for long.

Above: Tarnow Rynek (Market Square), with its typical Renaissance attics.

Getting There

Transport to Tarnow is more than easy if you're coming from Cracow. Just jump on a train or bus from the main station. However, locals steadfastly recommend train over bus, owing to endless road-works, which show no sign of abating. Train tickets cost 20 zl and the journey lasts about an hour and a half. Once at Tarnow Glowny (Tarnow Main Station), walk north east up ul. Krakowska. It's about ten minutes to the centre of town.

The Town

Official promo bumph hails Tarnow as a 'pearl of the Renaissance'. Although much of the town exudes the classic air of nineteenth century Galicia, many of Tarnow's finest monuments were indeed raised during the Renaissance. The Rynek, or Market Square, is one of the prettiest in Poland, and this against some fairly stiff competition. Here you'll find the ornate parapets so typical of the Polish Renaissance - they were used to hide steep-pitched roofs, a necessity in this snowy neck of the woods. However, Tarnow's origins stretch back well beyond the age of Copernicus. Wander around the back of the gothic cathedral, and you'll find yourself transported back to medieval times. Stepping inside, you'll be met by the tallest sepulchral monument in all Europe, a spirited confection that honours the Tarnowski family - the city was their private property for several centuries.

Jewish Tarnow

The eastern part of the Old Town was traditionally the Jewish district. Indeed, almost half of the town's pre-war population was of Jewish origin. The maze of narrow streets around ul. Zydowska, (Jewish Street) are amongst the most atmospheric in Tarnow, but history dealt some horrific blows here. Most of the synagogues were torched by the Nazis, and the solitary, battered bimah of the Old Synagogue survives as a haunting relic of the Hebrew community. Beyond the Old Town, you can still find the evocative Old Jewish Cemetery at ul. Szpitalna. It's absolutely worth the walk.

Beyond the Old Town

Tarnow is a fairly compact place, but there are one or two gems beyond the immediate centre, and all are in easy walking distance. Aside from the aforementioned Jewish cemetery, which is one of the most valued in the region, two gothic wooden churches can be tracked down, the Holy Trinity (ul. Tuchowska ) and St. Mary's (ul. Panny Marii). A clutch of Poland's wooden churches were recently added to the UNESCO list, and they count amongst the country's greatest treasures. For romantic souls, the Old Graveyard at ul. Narutowicza is also worth a look. And back on ul. Krakowska, the Ethnographic Museum has an intriguing exhibition about Polish gypsies. Slip out the back and you'll find a host of painted caravans.

Food and Drink

Many of the restaurants in nearby Cracow offer style over substance, luring travellers in with a pretty decor (and then charging pretty overblown prices). In Tarnow, restaurants are obliged to win over local custom, which means less of the Disney factor. There's not an overwhelming amount of choice, but a standout is the old-fashioned Tatrzanska,which offers well-cooked fare in a classic Galician atmosphere. They often have a lunch menu for 15 zloties. A more adventurous choice would be Ke Maro (ul. Zydowska), a genuine Gypsy number. Service is charming and the tucker more than tasty. That said, there's a definite air of David Lynch about the place, so this is probably not your family choice.

The Official Tarnow Website


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Jeff from United States Reply Jan 27th, 2016

My grandfather was born (1895) in Tarnow. His surname is Wdowiak. Does anyone have any knowledge of that family? Thanks

Jan sabst from United Kingdom Reply Nov 9th, 2015

Have family there lovely polish town we always visit tarnow on our trips to poland

johanna from Argentina Reply Sep 28th, 2012

im searching for my grandfather family, his surname is THAU, his father was a braham and he has 6 brothers i remember sabina, david, salomon, tzivi...i will go to tarnow next febraury...thanks a lot. johanna

Jane from Australia Reply Jun 3rd, 2012

Does anyone know the family Targar?

Anita from Germany Reply Nov 16th, 2011

somebody now something about familiy Owsiak Andrzej and Elisabeth?

ben from United States Reply Nov 14th, 2011

i"m looking for a rabbi horowitz tarnow in 1875

asher sperling from Israel Reply Jul 21st, 2011

about SPIELVOGEL family, please contact ashersperling@bezeqint.net

Magda from United States Reply Jul 13th, 2011

Love Tarnow, born there. Miss the city a lot. Went to college in Cracow - always hated people in Cracow and the city as well.

Denise from United States Reply May 3rd, 2011

Some of my Cygan family took a trip to Tarnow about 5 years to visit w/relatives still living there. Would love to know if there are any Cygan's out there!

Larry Wells from United States Reply Apr 21st, 2011

Anyone heard of the family Kostyal? I will be traveling to Tarnow for family research in September 2011. Any ideas welcome. Larry

from Netherlands Reply Apr 11th, 2011

I saw someone is searching for spielvogel? Tell me please! because Im searching for spielvogel familie!

Krisztina Teleki from Hungary Reply Jul 22nd, 2010

Ich wohne in Ungarn. Meine Urgrosseltern stammen aus Tarnow. Wahrscheinlich leben noch Verwandten in der Stadt, aber ich weiss über Ihnen gar nichts. Der Name meiner Urgrosseltern war Kopec und Guzsik. Wenn jemand weiss darüber etwas, dass ihre Verwandten im Jahre cirka 1910 nach Ungarn gekommen sind, schreiben Sie mir.

Jim from United States Reply Feb 8th, 2010

I am looking for a distant cousin of mine. I believe his name is Adam Kraus and his father Adolph born 1915 US)was my dad's brother. Adolph's parents lived in Tarnow before coming to the U.S. around 1913 and then Adolph returned to Poland around 1920 with his grandmother.

Jamie from United Kingdom Reply Jan 29th, 2010

Hi Lynz, There aren't that many signs in English but that shouldn't put you off! These days, most people under the age of 35 speak English. The centre of town is fairly compact and relaxed in pace, so you won't be disorientated. Hace a nice time in Tarnow!

Lynz from United Kingdom Reply Jan 4th, 2010

I am visiting Tarnow next month visiting a friend who is teaching English there, I will be travelling on the train and am wondering if there are many signs or places in English as my polish is minimal! Thanks folks Lynz

Z.Swinarski from United Kingdom Aug 1st, 2017

Don't be afraid there are many Polish people who speak English in Tarnow and will give you all the information you want.

armando from Italy Reply Aug 28th, 2009

tutto sommato bella città! ma ancora in alto mare con le normative europee! ad esempio i parcheggi a pagamento non segnalati da nessuna striscia blu ma segnalato solo da dei cartelli scritti esclusivamente in polacco(tranello per i turisti?????visto che mancano persino le indicazioni dove acquistare lo scontrino) cmq per il resto abbastanza tranquilla con tutti i servizi a portata di mano!

WASSERSTEIN JEAN PIERRE from France Reply May 14th, 2009

my father was born in Tarnow,all is family died in 1939 when the german arrives.Maybe somebody knows something about this family, my grand mother's name was MINA WASSERRMAN;my grand father 's name Mr WASSERSTEIN REGARDS;jpw

edwin grat from United States Reply Oct 29th, 2008

have grandparents from tarnoviec...wondering if there is any source of geneological info...am visiting krakow in the spring

asher sperling from Israel Reply Aug 14th, 2008

my mother's family lived in tarnow till 1942...names: spielvogel,freiman,klein.I am looking for relatives or frinds.

ismail from Turkey Reply Aug 12th, 2008

I have been looking for Joanna Chrupek from Tarnow... Please let my urgent e-mail reach her...

Helen Vaselacopoulos from United States Reply Jun 12th, 2008

We visited villages of family near Tarnow,stayed in the beautiful Bristol Hotel, old charm,stylish polite people, clean buildings, want to go back- now like Polish Beer

Beata Granatowska from United States Reply May 20th, 2008

I was born in Tarnow and I now reside in Miami,Fl. I love Miami but I miss Tarnow like crazy... I would like to see all my elementary school friends... Beata Granatowska miss_boo78@hotmail.com

Richard Witak from United States Reply Apr 30th, 2008

My great great grandfather was from Tarnow.Just woundering if there are oter Witak's that might be realated and would like to chat.O my grandfather was joesph witak Thanks,Richard

Agnes Cholewiak from United States Reply Mar 18th, 2008

I am from Tarnow. I was born and raised here. Emigrated to US in early 1990 and now considering moving back. It is beautiful, wait till you get outside of the city to farmland, it is going to take your breath away. I love it there.

Howad Matson from United States Reply Mar 12th, 2008

My ggrandfather, Morris Knobloch was born around here(Tarnow? Bochnia?) and moved to the US in August 1891 with 7 kids. Would love to know more before a visit to this unique land,

Jesus Velazquez from Mexico Reply Jan 9th, 2008

beutifol city my wife is from that place and hers dad alwys insisting us to muve there but is tu close to the germans .

Jessica and Todd from Canada Reply Dec 2nd, 2007

Such a gem of a city. My husband's relatives live there and we had the pleasure to really immerse ourselves in the life of Tarnow for a a few days. I really liked it there.

Marya Tilles from United Kingdom Reply Jun 23rd, 2007

what a shame that my great grandparents had to leave such a 'wonderful place' because of persecution. But on the other hand, if they hadn't left I might not be alive to tell the tale

John Goodhew from United Kingdom Reply May 26th, 2007

I spent a happy 2 and half years in Tarnow teaching English. The town is alive in the summer moths and the girls are wow! I hope to visit again one day.

Willum from Poland Reply May 19th, 2007

Honestly the best city in Poland. I have been living in Krakow for 6 years, but Tarnow has always been the place I have wanted to live. Great square, a happening place in the summer, and the best looking women in Poland. I would live there if I could..but the wife wont let me! I dont blame her!

grazyna from United States Reply May 7th, 2007

great town and great people : )