During Jewish travel in Poland everyone should experience the ambience of Shtetls. Their history provide a better understanding of centuries of Jewish existence in this country. Visiting them provides also a good contrast to sightseeing large cities like Warsaw or Cracow and surely a soothing experience after city bustle. Exploring Shtetls is especially reccommended before visiting the Holocaust sites. Only by enjoying the beauty of Central European countryside can we try to understand the words of  Shalom Asch who wrote that “Weissel - the river Vistula - spoke Yiddish”. The map of Poland is dotted with thousands of little towns which until now are rich in Jewish heritage sites. Our tours to discover Shtetls are always enriched with Jewish literature quotations, personal testimonies of former inhabitants and splendid example of cultural life, represented by Jewish music. It is worth to consider a visit to Shtetls during your transfers in between bigger cities in Poland. There is a lot to be seen on the travel from Warsaw to Cracow, Lublin or Lodz.

We have specialized in one day Shtetl discovery tours in Cracow, Tarnow and Kielce region. Now we offer two sightseeing itineraries, which on your request might be altered in order to encompass particular places you might be interested in. Upon request, we also arrange special tours focusing on development of synagogue architecture and art


Nowy Korczyn synagogue


Cracow - Dzialoszyce - Nowy Korczyn - Pinczow - Chmielnik - Szydlow - Checiny- Cracow

This tour is led in north Cracow and south Kielce region - on the territory rich in influences of different religious minorities. Jews started to settle here as early as in XIII centaury, later in XVI centaury came different denominations connected with reformation inside the catholic church. The co-existence of those people created a unique social and cultural pattern, emanating through architecture and ambiance of those places. In XIX century it was a border land in between Russian and Austrian partition zones, which created opportunities for official trade development on the one hand and extensive smuggling on the other.

Places you will see:

Dzialoszyce - ruins of a synagogue from 1852 and beit ha-midrash, monument to Jewish inhabitants killed by the Nazis.

Nowy Korczyn - ruins of a synagogue from 1659.

Pinczow - renovated synagogue from 1557 with some preserved polychromes from XVIII centaury. Pinczow was a meeting place of Vaad Arba Aratzot (The Diet of the Four Lands).

Chmielnik - synagogue from 1638 and Chmielnik Jewish cemetery.

Szydlow - picturesque medieval town surrounded with stone ramparts. Sometimes called "Polish Carcassone". Synagogue from 1564, two gothic churches and ruins of a castle.

Checiny - synagogue from 1638 and Jewish cemetery. Ruins of a castle from 1306.

Sokolow Malopolski Jewish cemetery


Cracow - Nowy Sacz - Bobowa - Dabrowa Tarnowska - Tarnow - Zbylitowska Gora - Cracow

This tour is lead in southern part of Galicia south-east from Cracow on the foothills of the Carpathian mountains. During this travel you will have a chance to experience the great variety of Galicia Jewry. Places connected with Hassidic Sages are close by to main centers of Haskala and latter on Zionism.

Places you will see:

Nowy Sacz - strong center of Hassidism initiated by Chaim Halberstam. The only Hassidic prayer house operating until nowadays. Synagogue from 1746 with Judaic exhibition. Impressive Jewish cemetery with ohel for Halberstam family.

Bobowa - center of Bobowa Hassidim. Beautiful restored synagogue from 1756. Jewish cemetery with the Ohel of tzadik Chaim Jakub from Bobowa and tzadik Salomon Halberstam from Bobowa.

Dabrowa Tarnowska - ruin of an monumental synagogue from 1868. Small Judaic Museum organized in former shtible. Jewish cemetery.

Tarnow - before WW II almost a half of 50.000 inhabitants were Jewish. Tarnow was a very strong center of Zionism in Galicia. The are the remnants of Old Synagogue, Jewish Street and Mikvah building. Large and well preserved Jewish cemetery with monument to the Holocaust martyrs.

Zbylitowska Gora - monument to 10.000 people mainly Jews from Tarnow area murdered at this site by the German Nazis during WW II.

Read more about Shtetl

Linguistically the word Shtetl means a little town. But a little town was by no means a Shtetl. Shtetl could mean only a little town in Eastern Europe, inhabited by Jews, either exclusively or in its majority with all the complexity of their religious, social and political life.

The beginnings of Jewish life in Poland are veiled in mystery subject of legends and folk tales. In the XIII and XIV centuries Polish rulers encouraged immigration from the more developed countries of Western Europe. Many of those who came were Jews, fleeing the persecutions in their countries. Poland at that time was known for its tolerance and openness for other cultures and religions. This tolerance was sponsored often by the royal and noble families employing the better educated and experienced immigrants. A new Jewish legend was created according to which God appeared to the Jews fleeing from Western countries and ordered them "Po - Lin" (there you will rest, settle here). Po-lin in Hebrew means Poland which for eight centuries was a religious and cultural center of Jewish people in the world. In 1264 prince Boleslaw the Pious granted the first deed of rights to the Jews in Poland. This document served as the basis for the legal status of Polish Jewry for the next 500 years. The majority of Jews, especially in Galicia region lived in numerous Shtetls. Casimir in Cracow and many little towns around could be an example.

Shtetl contained all the elements of a community: streets, houses, public buildings, places for trade, for study and for worship. But while each Shtetl was a little town, the opposite cannot be said: that each little town was a Shtetl. To bear this name a town needed to possess an intangible quality, a mixture of religion, philosophy, style of life, sum of beliefs and historical fate, altogether making this place something unique.

Jewish life in many towns of Galicia was concentrated in the "Jewish Street", an ethnic neighborhood made of wooden houses. There was always a marketplace (yarid) in the center of a Shtetl, with a well in the very middle. Water for inhabitants was brought by carriers who delivered buckets full of water on their shoulders all over the town. Houses of wealthier Jews were situated round the marketplace, sometimes built of brick having balconies or porches. On the ground floor there were windows of shops, groceries and different hardware and soft goods stores with big signs written in Yiddish. Jews brought this language with them from Germany and very soon it became a mixture of German, Hebrew and Polish words. To the writer Schalom Asch even the Vistula river "spoke Yiddish". Hebrew, as a holy language, was reserved for prayers and religious practices.

Whole cultural uniqueness of a Galician Shtetl was made by its inhabitants and their daily occupations, as original as matchmaker, circumciser or matzoh baker. All of them and the spirit of Shtetl perished in the flames of Shoa. Now only the towns, streets and houses remained as silent witnesses of that life. There are many places all over former Galicia, where we can still catch a glimpse of historic greatness of a Shtetl. A synagogue at the town's limits, old marketplace with wooden houses and a bit neglected cemetery with matzevots create all together characteristic landscape for many towns in this region.

Traces of Shtetl - tourist routes:


    Cracow - Dzialoszyce - Nowy Korczyn - Pinczow - Chmielnik - Szydlow - Checiny- Cracow


    Cracow - Nowy Sacz - Bobowa - Dabrowa Tarnowska - Tarnow - Zbylitowska Gora - Cracow