Zywiec, famous nationwide for its brewery, is also the home to many outstanding Polish musicians, sportsmen and bishops. Aside from being the birthplace of famous Poles, this picturesque cultural resort in the Silesian Voivodeship is also a popular destination for those looking for local cuisine, beer and folk music in the setting of the beautiful Polish mountains.
The location of Zywiec is a paradise for anyone who likes to spend time actively. Water sport enthusiasts can make us of Zywieckie Lake and outdoor pools, while skiers will definitely appreciate the close proximity to slopes. Moreover, in spring, summer and fall, hiking is popular. Zywiec is the centre of mountain trails and has five picturesque hiking routes.
Zywiec is one of three main towns (the other two are Wisla and Makow Podhalanski) that hold folk festivals. The greatest and the oldest ones are Mountain Folk Festival (Festival Folkloru Ziem Górskich) and International Folk Meetings (Międzynarodowe Spotkania Folklorystyczne). Every year, folk groups from Poland and abroad come here to perform at the festivals. Musicians from Rapa Nui (Polynesia), Chile, Mexico, the United States, China, Korea and Nigeria participated in the festivals. Unfortunately, the competitions were not broadcasted by Polish TV stations.
As for monuments, Zywiec owns a great number of them. The most recommended are: the Old and the New Castles surrounded by an English-style landscape park; the local museum Siejba; China House; and the 15th century St. Cross Church.
In addtion, there are a few nature reserves in Zywiec. The most famous is Grapa, which shelters the natural Carpinion betuli forests (wooded areas often composed of species such as hornbeams, oaks, limes, maples and spruces) found on the steep mountain slopes.
Zywiec is located in the Silesian Voivodeship of Southern Poland. The town lies in the Soła and Koszarawa river valleys, at the altitude of 350 meters above sea level. Since it is a hilly region, you will find terrains of various altitudes. The nearby peaks are a paradise for skiers – tourists can choose from a wide range of slopes: Pilsko (1557 m), Babia Góra (1725 m), Lipowska (1324 m), Romanka (1365 m) and Wielka Racza (1236 m).
Zywiec is a sizeable town with a total area of 50.54 km2 and population of 32,078. However, the visitor number increases greatly during the winter season. Due to its mild mountain climate and a great number of slopes in the vicinity, Zywiec attracts thousands of tourists every year.
There are no written records stating when Zywiec was officially founded but we estimate it as somewhere in between 1290 and 1310. The first recorded date is 1327 and it is claimed to be the year of Zywiec obtained town rights.
The 16th and 17th centuries are considered the best period for the town. It was then Zywiec was granted trade privilege and the rights to produce beer. During this period, the town began to expand and develop. Unfortunately, the second half of the 17th century ended the “golden age” of Zywiec. During the Deluge (Swedish invasion, 1655-1660) it was in the centre of battle events. The Swedes devastated and plundered a large part of the area. It was only in the 19th century when Zywiec recovered and became a significant town.
The 19th century is a crucial time in the town’s history. It became the property of the House of Habsburg. The monarchs sponsored many of the town’s investments e.g. they helped to develop and build many local institutions, reorganized the Zywiec Castle together with the surrounding landscape park and built an additional palace.
After the First World War Zywiec was expanding very fast. Administrative authorities decided to add four small villages to the town. As a result the whole area of Zywiec enlarged up to 1 274,77 ha. With the extension, the town also grew in popularity, becoming famous for the fairs held every Wednesday. Fairs were the focal points for people from Southern Poland. Asides from being able to buy almost everything there, they could also enjoy performances of magicians and ventriloquists.
The interwar period gave birth to the Gronie magazine and two high schools: Women’s School of Teacher Education and Junior High School of Trade. However, the situation was not as idyllic everywhere. No further than a few kilometres away from Zywiec, people were dying of poverty. Illiteracy was common, and most worked as farmers and suffered from tuberculosis and other diseases.
During the Second World War Zywiec was bombed and in 1939 it became a part of Nazi Germany. Fortunately, the situation did not last long and the town was soon reunited with Poland. Under the Polish flag, it began to thrive again. Today, Zywiec is one of the biggest and most developed towns in the Silesian Voivodeship. Most people associate it with tourism, yet we should not forget that it is also an important cultural resort.