The City of Copernicus
Our second stop over for this weekend brought us to the beautiful historical city of Torun. Not only famously known to be the birthplace of astronomer Copernicus, but more important, it is the only example of perfectly preserved medieval and Gothic architecture that entirely survived during the war without any damage nor destruction; no wonder why the UNESCO included it in the list of World Heritage Sites.
Yet it’s true to city is very small, in the other hand it has a large old town core with plenty to see and do. Most tourists come here as part of a day trip from wherever their main city base is. In our example, we came from Poznan some 130 kilometres to the west of Torun. But coming here was not just pure chance. Knowing myself and while preparing the information and guide needed for visiting Poznan is when I realised with a day would be more than enough to see everything. And then what? Trying to figure out an alternative plan for Sunday, which as usual rule of thumb I googled for UNESCO sites “nearby” and Torun popped out to be the perfect candidate at a reasonable distance to Poznan airport which was our departure point.
This trip ended up in being a great choice! And it is the fact that both Poznan and Torun are ranking among the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to Poland so far.
Making your way along the old town is very straightforward. You don’t even need a map on hand as the streets are easy to follow and are quite common sense to walk your way. The central are of the old town is the Market Square, where the Cathedral and City Hall sits near each other. There is really no way to confusion and if any help needed, you can see maps signposted with the current location you are in every now and then in the streets.
With so many historical buildings ans sights you are guaranteed to have a great time here and won’t be disappointed. And to “repeat” myself a little bit here, I cannot avoid in pretty much copy and paste the same as use to do with what relates to food for any city I visit in Poland. Dumplings (pierogi), borsch soup, bigos, the many sausages and lots of cheeses to name a few. Yet although there are plenty of restaurants, watch out for their prices; anywhere around the old town can easily be as much as double if not more than nearby streets for absolutely the same, and it does not even have to mean better quality either. Not because a place looks fancy is always a good choice, majority of times this will end up in being the most expensive choice, and probably the worst value for money and smaller portions.
For more information about Torun check the Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Poland’s currency is the Zloty (PLN). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Torun
- Old Town Is the finest example of medieval and Gothic architecture in the entire country because there was no destruction at all during the war. All the buildings are as they were in the 15th and 16th centuries, making an unique sight on its own. The entire Old Town is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
-Old Town Hall Built in 1274 and expanded in the 1399 and 16th century it is one of the most monumental in Central Europe. You can visit the museum and climb up the tower for nice views of the old town for 10 zloty.
-Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist Is the Cathedral of the city. Built in brick Gothic with a monumental tower. The overall look dates from the 15th century and has retained this ever since unchanged. The 13th baptismal pile is the one supposedly used for baptizing the astronomer Copernicus.
-Torun Castle Now partly reconstructed and partly lying in ruins was built in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was the first Teutonic castle in the Chełmno Land
-City Walls Although not fully completed as during the centuries they were demolished to make way for the growing city, many still survive and had been restored. In the night the walls, watch towers and gates are illuminated making it specially beautiful. Noteworthy is the Leaning Tower.
-House under the Star Is in origin a Gothic house then rebuilt in 1697 in a more classical style with a very beautiful decorated stucco facade.
-House of Copernicus Believed to be the house where the famous astronomer was born, is now a museum about his life and achievements. Entrance 10 zloty.
-Dąmbski Palace Once home to the noble family Dąmbskis, of Inowrocław and Brzesc Kujawski. It has a very elegant Baroque facade that can be clearly be distinguished from the buildings nearby.
-Saint Mary’s Church Housed in a former Franciscan hall from the 14th century.
-Hanseatic architecture There are many typical brick Gothic architecture everywhere along the old town. Those are clearly easy to spot for its usual step-backs in the facade towards the roof.
- Outside the Old Town
-Wilam Horzyca Theatre Is the main theatre in the city. Beautiful building once with many art-nouveau touches, now in a more classical style.
-Queen Jadwiga Street Is the main commercial street in the New Town.
The nearest airport is Bydgoszcz-Szwederowo, serving both cities of Bydgoszcz and Torun and it’s located 50 kilometers to the north of the city. Frequent buses link both directions. Another option is Poznan farther ahead, at over 2 hours from the city.
Since the city lies in a major railway interchange, there are plenty of direct connections to the major cities in Poland. Warsaw, Wroclaw, Poznan and Bydgoszcz being the major routes. As a example as we came to this city from Poznan, trains take little over 2 hours; although in our case we decided to go for a rental car to speed up things since our time on Sunday was very limited due to our flight departure back to London earlier than our usual late evening flights we tend to have.
Within the city there are 5 tram lines and many bus lines making it easy to move wherever you would ever need to. Yet in any case and due to the small size and compact the city centre is, there is absolutely no need to take any public transport. All the sights are walking distance from each others and most of the streets have recently been revamped and rebuilt returning them to the original medieval look and are now pedestrian friendly.
Although a small size city, there is still a good choice of properties for everyone’s likes and pockets. Fares were also lower than those we encountered back in Poznan from where we came. Finding a good deal even at the peak of the high season was not difficult. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We stayed at the Hotel Filmar, in ul. Grudziadzka 45, which is few minutes to the north of the historical city centre. Location could not be better as it was a quiet area and at the same time really near everything the city has to offer. Room was spacious, clean and well maintained, with all facilities needed and a great breakfast also included. Staff was very friendly, speaking good English and with a good attention to the guests.