Żary ( Sorau , Žarow ) is a town in western Poland with 37,502 inhabitants (2019), situated in the Lubusz Voivodeship since 1999. Previously it was located within Zielona Góra Voivodeship (1975–1998). It is the administrative seat of the Gmina Żary, though the town is not part of the gmina commune.

Żary is located in the east of the historic Lower Lusatia region, in the borderland with the Silesian lowlands and Greater Poland, roughly outlined by the Bóbr and Oder rivers. The city is one of the biggest economic and tourist centers in the southern Lubuskie region and the largest town in the Polish part of Lusatia, therefore also referred as its unofficial capital. The city, whose history dates back more than 1000 years, features many historic sites.


The beginnings of settlement in the Żary area date back to prehistoric times. The name “Zara”, deriving most likely from a small, independent West Slavic tribe, appeared for the first time in 1007 in the chronicles of Thietmar of Merseburg, at the time, when Duke Bolesław I Chrobry of Poland had conquered the Żary land along with the eastern March of Lusatia. Regained by Emperor Conrad II in 1031, the city was chartered on the Magdeburg law by the Wettin margrave Henry III of Meissen about 1260. It covered the following three areas: a trade settlement on the “Salt Trail” running from Leipzig to Wrocław, a fortified town erected among bogs (in the area of the later castle), and a Franciscan settlement established in 1274.

The city was under the domain of Silesian Piasts until Emperor Charles IV in 1364 purchased Lower Lusatia and incorporated it into the Lands of the Bohemian Crown. The Bohemian kings were followed by the Saxon electors in 1635 (Polish kings between 1697 and 1763). One of the two main routes connecting Warsaw and Dresden ran through the city at that time. Kings Augustus II and Augustus III of Poland visited Żary many times, including in 1705, 1718, 1730, 1748 and 1763. The royal cabinet minister Erdmann II of Promnitz built a new baroque palace in the city.

After the 1815 Congress of Vienna the town was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia, which in 1871 was united with other German states into the German Empire. At Sorau, prominent families included the Dewins, Packs, Bibersteins and Promnitzs, whose residence was the castle-palace complex.

Red Army troops entered Sorau on 13 February 1945. At the Potsdam Conference, British and American representatives were initially unwilling to agree to Polish administration being extended as far west as Stalin desired. After some negotiations, both the Soviet and Polish representatives indicated that they would be willing to concede a frontier along the historic Lusatian border with Silesia at the Oder-Bóbr-Kwisa rivers, which would have left Sorau German. This small concession ultimately proved unnecessary, however, since the next day at Potsdam the US Secretary of State told the Soviet Foreign Minister the US would agree to today's Oder-Neisse frontier. The city was then renamed Żary and populated by Poles, following the expulsion of the remainder of the native population of the city that had not yet fled from their home, to the remainder of Germany.


For several centuries Sorau was a center of a “free state”. Its residents grew wealthy through trade and craftsmanship. As early as the 14th century the city featured guilds of clothiers, dry-goods merchants, brewers, cobblers, and dyers. During the 19th century Sorau had become a powerful industrial center. The local textile factories, employing 50% of all area people working in industry, played a particular role in the city's economy.

During World War II a branch of the Focke-Wulf aircraft factory was moved to Sorau. In April 1944, after a bombing raid of the Allies, some buildings of the Old Town were reduced to a heap of rubble.

Today Żary, which is a county seat, features headquarters of many offices and institutions, used by residents of this part of the region, including the Tax Office, Social Insurance Institution, Employment Office, 8 bank branches, insurance companies, high schools, and the Lusatian Higher School of the Humanities.

Żary's border area location has a significant influence on its economic growth. In the proximity of the city (20–40 km) there are Polish-German border crossings in Olszyna, Łęknica, Przewóz, and Zasieki as well as a railroad checkpoint in Forst. Żary is also an attractive tourist destination.


Two main national roads, no. 12 and 27 intersect in Żary. They run together on a stretch of the city bypass. Two of the three sections of the city bypass that have been opened have significantly improved the traffic in the city. Construction of the bypass was subsidized by the Phare Fund. Presently, work continues on the last section of the bypass, which will be completed in 2005.

In the proximity of the city runs the international European route E36 from Berlin to Bolesławiec, which soon will be transformed into the A18 autostrada. On this road, near the border with Germany, 25 km from Żary, in nearby Olszyna there is one of the biggest cargo terminals in the country. Construction of the A18 and A4 highways is underway and should be completed by the end of 2010. The E36 on the German side is known as the Bundesautobahn 15 highway, providing a quick access to Berlin via a network of motorways. The international airports in Berlin are about 160 - away, about a one-and-a-half-hour drive away.

Inter-City trains travel from Berlin and Hamburg via Żary to Kraków. In a relatively short distance from Żary there are smaller airports in Babimost near Zielona Góra as well as in the German town of Rothenburg (about 15 km from the border crossing at Przewóz).

In Żary there are two telecommunication companies, having a great effect on the quality of provided service. The city has also good coverage of wireless service providers. It also has a fiber optic network that offers quick Internet access.

Roads running through Żary

Voivodeship road 287

National road 27

National road 12

Important roads running near Żary

Voivodeship road 350

National road 32

National road 112

National road 115

National road 156

Motorway 15 / E 36

Motorway A18 / E 36

Motorway A4 / E 40

Expressway S3 / E 65

Historical sites

Despite significant war damage, many interesting architectural historic sites have been preserved in Żary, including its medieval municipal urban arrangement.

  • In the northwest part of the city there is the Dewins-Packs-Bibersteins' Castle, a huge, 13th century structure, reconstructed later in the Renaissance style. It neighbors on the Baroque Promnitzs' Palace, which was designed by Swiss architect Giovanni Simonetti. Both residences, purchased by a private investor, continue to wait for renovation. They are surrounded by the remains of an old geometrical park, with a garden palace and the Blue Gate dating from 1708.
  • The Gothic Sacred Heart Church towers above the Old Town. The church, which obtained its principal shape in the 15th century, remembers the times when the city was chartered; fragments of the wall in the northern wing date from the 13th century. The Baroque Promnitz Chapel near the eastern wall was added in 1670–1672. In the vicinity of the church we can find a Gothic rectory and a Gothic-Renaissance building of the old commissariat. Today it houses the city archive.
  • The garrison Church under the invocation of the Elevation of the Holy Cross build in the turn of 14th/15th centuries; originally the church of Grey Friars
  • Church under the invocation of St. Peter and Paul (13th century) located in the former cemetery

  • One of the main treasures of the Market Square is the newly renovated Town Hall dating from the turn of the 14th century, featuring a beautiful Renaissance portal. There are also tenement houses that surround the Market Square and some at Bolesława Chrobrego Street, which is a major commercial thoroughfare of the city. The oldest buildings date from the 17th century.
  • The remains of the medieval fortifications of the city are fragments of walls, two defense towers (the taller one of 14th/15th centuries, with ashlars made from meadow ore, has become a “landmark” of Żary), and a stone belfry from the turn of the 14th century.
  • The Blue Gate build in 1708
  • One of the tourist and natural attractions of the area is the “Green Forest” located near the southern border of the city, featuring the highest altitude in the Lubuski Region (227 m above sea level).

    Municipal projects

    The Żary calendar of events includes many cultural festivals: in April the International Music Festival “Eurosilesia”, in the beginning of June the city celebrates with pomp the Festival of Żary, in August there is the International Plein-air Painting and Sculpture Event, the International Festival of Street Theaters, in October the Vienna Music Festival, and in December the Telemann Youth Festival. For six years rock music concerts called “Woodstock Stop Festival” have been organized in Żary.

    Żary invites to its new complex of indoor swimming pools called “Wodnik”, featuring state-of-the-art fitness equipment. Other places in the city that offer pleasant atmosphere during meetings include myriad restaurants, cafes, and pubs. On the first Saturday of every month a flea market is held in the pedestrian precinct in Żary and the Exhibition Salon is located in the Żary pedestrian precinct near the Town Hall.

    Thanks to an annual growth of revenues from local taxes and quick privatization of the municipal property, the community was able to finance several large-scale investment projects. The city has a sewage treatment plant with throughput of 15,000 cu. m per day, and a municipal landfill that meets the requirements of European standards. In 1998 a new water treatment plant was opened. Work continues on expansion of gas grid, heat distribution system, and water-sewage hookups.

    In 2000 a large section of the bypass and a complex of indoor swimming pools were opened. Modernization of local roads is underway. In 2005 the last section of the bypass will be opened. Preparations continue on revitalization of the Old Town of Żary. The pavement of the market square will be soon renovated. The projects of development of the town's pedestrian zone, park and the former military area.

    The communication arrangement of the town is being modernized and expenses are being appropriated for the educational infrastructure. The construction of the sports and show room is underway and junior high schools and primary schools are being redecorated. The community has benefited significantly from the funds of the European Union such as Phare CBC and Interreg.


    There is one institution of higher education based in Żary:
  • Łużycka Wyższa Szkoła Humanistyczna


  • Promień Żary – men's football team, 3rd league
  • Unia Kunice – men's football team, 3rd league
  • MLKS AGROS Żary – sports club; athletics and wrestling sections
  • MKS Sokół Żary – women's volleyball (former 1st league) team

    Notable people

  • Basil Faber (1520–1576), Lutheran theologian
  • Johann Crüger (1598–1662), German composer of Lutheran hymns
  • Erdmann Neumeister (1671–1756), Preacher of Erdmann II Promnitz
  • Christoph Friedrich Richter (1676–1711), German hymnwriter and entomologist
  • Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767), German composer
  • Friedrich von Wendt (1738–1818), German physician
  • Christoph Christian Sturm (1740–1786), German preacher and author
  • Gustav Fechner (1801–1887), German experimental psychologist, philosopher and physicist
  • Ernst Kummer (1810–1893), German mathematician
  • Maximilian Gritzner (1829–1902), German expert on heraldry
  • Willy Jähde (1908–2002), Wehrmacht officer
  • Friedrich Schoenfelder (1916–2011), German actor
  • Tadeusz Ślusarski (1950–1998), Olympic gold and silver medalist in pole vault
  • Józef Tracz (born 1964), wrestler (Greco-Roman style) who won three Olympic medals
  • Mariusz Liberda (born 1976), footballer
  • Andrzej Niedzielan (born 1979), footballer
  • Sebastian Dudek (born 1980), footballer

    International relations

    Żary is part of the Spree-Nysa-Bóbr Euroregion – a voluntary association of townships on both sides of the border. Apart of its twin towns, the city also develops relations with the borderland towns of Forst and Spremberg. In 2003 the 1st Level State Music School of Żary signed a cooperation agreement with a conservatory from Magdeburg. These are the only music schools named after composer G.P. Telemann.

    Twin towns – sister cities

    Żary is twinned with:
  • Gárdony, Hungary (2009)
  • Longuyon, France (2004)
  • Weißwasser, Germany (1996)


    File:Palac Zary 2.jpg|Promnitzs' Palace File:Zary walls.JPG|Cicha Street - city walls and defence tower File:Zary pano.jpg|Stone belfry File:Widok miasto zary.jpg|View of town from train station File:Zary wall.JPG|The remains of the medieval walls File:Żary, Ulica Okrzei.jpg|Okrzei Street File:Zary2 (js).jpg|Dewins-Packs-Bibersteins' Castle File:Zatorze Żary kamienice.jpg|Zatorze district