Military knights, castle ruins, gothic churches, windmills and gingerbread! Torun, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a great base to explore this part of Poland.
“With its decorative buildings and brick tiles covering its roofs, Toruń shines so wonderfully that few towns can match its beauty and magnificence.” – Jan Dlugosz, 15th century.
The majestic Vistula River
As the longest river in Poland and used since the Stone Age for exploration and trading, it is hard not to be impressed with this mighty river.
Flowing through 11 of Poland's largest cities (plus countless villages), the Vistula finally empties in Gdansk Bay and the Baltic Sea. (I feel a new adventure coming on – following the Vistula River from its headwaters to the Baltic Sea).
In the summer there are walking trails, boat rides on the river, cafes for beer, coffee and ice cream. In the fall/winter we walked along the river with take-away hot chocolate and a freshly made pretzel, found a place to sit and enjoyed just being here.
And love locks. Love them or hate them, I have seen them throughout Poland.
An Afternoon at the Ethnographic Museum (Muzeum Etnograficzne)
One of three independent ethnographic museums in Poland, it showcases the rich rural history of this beautiful country.
It is comprised of a museum, amphitheatre and an open-air museum. Buildings, mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries, make up the open-air museum which has a rural countryside feel to it. These original buildings were dismantled from the surrounding area and moved to the park. Loaded with memorabilia and fully furnished, it feels like walking into someone's home from long ago.
There is a fire station, forge, windmill, water mill, fishing barge and farm buildings to explore. We had a guide that led us around the park giving us plenty of time at each site and to make sure we didn't miss anything.
Expect to spend a couple of hours exploring this wonderful open-air museum. We went during the week and had the park to ourselves. I expect weekends are busy. The park offers cultural events and workshops as well.
There are no english speaking guides or signs, but the following website is a good companion guide:
The Old Town Hall (Ratusz Staromiejski)
Home to a museum and bell tower, the Town Hall stands majestically gazing over the main square. Built in the gothic style at the end of the 14th century, it is one of the largest brick buildings in Europe.
Imagine the courtyard full of merchants, traders, pedlars, town councillors and pickpockets going about their daily business. It is easy to imagine. The building housed a treasury, prison, brewery, wine cellars and archives. The grand hall was used by the kings of Poland who held receptions there.
The most famous was the king, John I Albert (Jan I Olbracht), who died suddenly in 1501 in Toruń; he was there to negotiate with the Teutonic Knights. The king was known to be quite fond of the local women. And what was the cause of his death? We will never know for sure. His heart was removed and buried in the Church of St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist in Torun. The rest of his body was taken to Kraków and laid to rest in Wawel Cathedral. He was an interesting character, and worth digging deeper into his life and times.
There is a fee to climb the bell tower. You will have to buy the tickets inside the main building and the entrance is outside. If you are travelling with children the bell tower is a must! Great fun and spectacular views of the town and the Vistula River from the top.
Gingerbread at the Muzeum Piernika
Address: Rabiańska 9, Torun
This interactive show describing the origins of gingerbread in Torun was great fun! We were given a headset with translation in English. After the show we were assigned a work station where we tried our hand at cookie making. Did you know that the cookie mold has to be oiled before the dough is placed in it?
Tickets are a required and must be bought in advance. Follow the link below to get to their official page in English.
Best time to visit Toruń: Late spring and early autumn.
Travel Fodder tip: If you plan on renting a car and self driving you will need an international driver's licence to rent a car in Poland.
Favourite moment: Having a coffee in the Neko Cafe with the cats.
Did I mention the churches, cathedrals, gates, towers, castles, Copernicus, a planetarium, a leaning tower and theatres? No? Let's keep exploring!
Hotel Czarna Róża – Rabiańska 11, Stare Miasto, Torun
In the oldest part of Torun, this 2 star hotel has free bicycles, buffet breakfast, a 24 hour front desk, friendly helpful staff and is quiet for a good nights sleep. We would stay here again.
Hotel ETER – Szpitalna 4, Stare Miasto, Torun
On the edge of old town, this 4 star hotel has a restaurant, bar, buffet breakast, parking and 24 hour front desk. A beautiful hotel within walking distance to old town, restaurants and the river.
There are countless places to eat in Toruń. Here are a couple of my favourite places for a quick stop (or take-away) while out exploring.
The Grande Coffee – Rynek Staromiejski 17-9, Torun
For great coffee and a sweet to go with it, this is the place! Savory options are available along with the best hot chocolate! Yes, I love this place.
Piekarnia Gruzinska PURI Torun – Rynek Nowomiejski 26, Torun
For the best Georgian pastries, bread and coffee this is a must try. There are only two tables outside so plan on take-away and find a nice spot to sit down by the river.
How to Get There
Easily reachable from Gdansk, Bydgoszcz and Warsaw, with plenty of public parking and a renowned old town atmosphere, Torun is truly charming.
An interesting tidbit: Torun is on the route of the Polish part of the Way of St. James, or Camino Polaco. Similar to the Spanish camino, the traditional shells and yellow arrows mark the trail. We have more information about the Camino if you're interested in that too!