Whether it’s a bit of history, a bit of rest or full on self-pampering you’re looking for, Nałęczów has it all
There is no need to travel to Davos to feel like the hero of Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain” or Stefan Żeromski’s “Homeless People”.
A haven for writers and an ideal spot to find some respite, the SPA town of Nałęczów is beautifully located on the banks of Bystra River.
For those in need to repair their health or simply catch a quick break from the bustling city life, this resort situated near Lublin is just a two-hour train ride from Warsaw.
The Nałęczów SPA offers a variety of treatments, specializing in cardiologic issues. However, there is something for everyone in its broad spectrum of services and six sanatoriums.
If attending massages and drinking mineral waters becomes bothersome, a walk around the town is a chance to delve into its history. For the past two centuries, it wasn’t just a place of healing, but also a retreat for artists and high society.
The beginnings of Nałęczów date back to the turn of the 8th and 9th centuries and a settlement called Bochotnica. The hill towering above the Bystra River, today called the Poniatowski mountain, was perfectly situated for a fortified stronghold. In time, a village sprouted around it, as did inns, mills, farms, and fishponds.
The peaceful and plentiful life in Bochotnica was interrupted in the 16th century by the turbulent course the Reformation took there. Mikołaj Samborzecki, a local landowner, took all the parish’s property and burnt the church, which was afterward rebuilt by his heir Stanisław. Those destructive times marked the beginning of Nałęczów predecessors decline. The next two centuries were a period of economic collapse due to subsequent wars and movement of troops in the area.
The new golden age for the area began in 1751 when part of the land was purchased by Stanisław Małachowski. The nobleman, inspired by his family’s coat of arms ‘Nałęcz’ changed its name to Nałęczów and began the construction of his residence, today known as the Małachowski Palace.
The baroque building, designed by architect Ferdynand Nax, serves as a cultural centre today. It is worth spending several minutes venturing to the first floor, as it has a perfectly preserved ballroom with intact baroque-classical stucco decoration. For years, the room served as a space for concerts, music workshops, lectures, and other meetings. Now, the entire building is to be renovated and transformed into a hotel.
Until 2016 the Bolesław Prus museum was located inside the palace, which can now be found in the Ochronka building (former nursery). The writer, best known for his work such as “The Doll” and “Pharaoh”, spent 28 seasons in Nałęczów. He is commemorated by a bench with this statue standing in front of the Małachowski Palace – a favorite spot for tourists to take pictures and a nearby monument.
In a 1885 issue of Kurier Warszawski newspaper, Prus wrote: “Those going on vacation are faced with (...) questions: where to go? (...) Since, as reported in the papers, today even rural women go to take the foreign waters, it is only natural that people of chic, in order not to mix with the common people, have only two options: either to go to the moon or to domestic resorts. One such place (...) is Nałęczów, located in the Lublin province. An easy journey, a beautiful place , and a good treatment…”
Prus’s museum in Ochronka is also worth a visit and not just by enthusiasts of Polish positivist literature. Founded by another writer, Stefan Żeromski, and built in the wooden Zakopane Style in 1907, it may seem out of place and yet seamlessly blends with its environment.
Żeromski, who has his own museum in Nałęczów, was also a regular there. It was here that he met his future wife Oktawia. Now, his memorabilia can be viewed in “Chata” – Żeromski’s summer atelier. It is the oldest literary museum in Poland, dating back to 1928. It is filled with the writer's original furniture, paintings, personal effects, photographs and trinkets.
The SPA itself was established at the end of the 18th century by Antoni Małachowski, Stanisław’s cousin. It is said, that Antoni squandered his property in despair after the death of his beloved wife Marianna. To help him out of dent, Stanisław bought Nałęczów. Ill with gout, he needed treatment with special mineral waters, which had a spring in Nałęczów. The waters started to be broadly used after Antoni’s death in 1796. His family built the first public baths, which quickly gained popularity, giving birth to today’s resort. The building, called Old Baths, restored after World War II, can still be visited.
Another must-see from that period is the Zdrojowy Park. Regardless of the season and the aura, the park with its venerable foliage encourages strolls. Its central point is the pond with the Island of Love, connected to the land by a bridge. The park, apart from its microclimate which lowers blood pressure, is located between all the main points and facilities in the SPA, including the sanatoriums, Małachowski Palace and the Dom Zdrojowy (SPA house).
Dom Zdrojowy combines two functions – it houses the exotic palms bred by Franciszek Kamiński, as well as three mineral waters springs “Celiński, “Barbara”, and “Miłości”. The Palm House serves as an exhibition space, with sculptures and paintings connected to Nałęczów shown there. Visitors curious about how the entire thing works can also catch a glimpse of the water pump room located there.
The importance and wealth of Nałęczów’s patients over the years is reflected by the rich and picturesque villas and gardens built around the town. A stroll down the Lipowa and Armatniej Góry streets shows just the sample of those 19th-20th century architecture pearls, each with its own name such as Ustronie, Oktawia, Zofijówka, or Tolin.
Nałęczów can be reached from every major Polish city by PKP Intercity TLK and IC class trains. Travelers can begin their journeys in Warsaw, Kraków, Poznań, Wrocław, Katowice, Szczecin, Bydgoszcz, Toruń, Zielona Góra and Rzeszów.