The Charming Medieval City of Torun, Poland

Night Fountain Torun

Given all the massive devastation Poland saw during World War II, many of the country’s old towns are now merely modern reconstructions. That’s not a criticism, simply the unfortunate truth. But I did say many and not all, which means there are several places in Poland where you get the chance to explore a beautifully preserved, still standing old town. Krakow may be the country’s best known historical city, but it finds a worthy challenger in smaller Torun.

Recommended to me through a travel forum, I hadn’t heard of the small city in northern Poland before then. It didn’t take longer after googling it to decide I wanted to visit. Torun just oozes medieval charm and its hard not to feel like you’re visiting a different century. Enjoy the following guide through the delightful sights of Torun.

 

Old Town

Brick Streets Toruń

A visit to Torun is very likely to centre on the city’s old town and with nearly all the sights, plus bars and restaurants, you may not even leave the historic centre your entire stay. This is with good reason, as Torun old town is immensely pretty and pleasantly walkable. Everywhere you look there are remarkable buildings flaunting intricate Gothic architecture.

At its busiest around the central square and main pedestrian street, deviate away from there and you find Torun’s streets to be mostly quiet, with the occasional walking tour passing by. I should mention here that Torun is far more popular as a day trip it seems, with coaches full of people arriving each day and vacating the city before dark. It’s a noticeable increase but I never felt Torun to be overly busy or chaotic like Krakow or Gdansk.

Toruń Street

 

Old Town Square

Square Toruń

A perfect place to start a visit is with the large Old Town Market Square in the centre of Old Town. Very much the beating heart of Torun’s old town, the square is where you will find some of the most beautiful buildings in the city, such as the Postal Building and the Arthus House. The square is a great opener and should get you in the mood to explore and enjoy Torun’s charms.

Of particular interest is the bronze Donkey statue on the edge of the square. While it may look quite cute and is frequently mounted by tourists for a photo-op (which is allowed), its presence reflects something far darker. In the past, criminals of Torun were for their crimes strapped to a wooden donkey in this very spot and forced down onto a sharp metal plate on its back. Not so cute now, right?

Bronze Donkey Toruń

 

Frog Fountain

Postal Building Torun

Perhaps a small spot, but still a cute little spot in the Old Town Market Square, is the cute Frog Fountain. The fountain tells the story of Torun’s own version of the Pied Piper. The statue at the centre is of Janko Muzykant, who saved the town from a plague of frogs, caused by a witch of course, by playing his fiddle and luring them to the forest.

Frog Fountain Torun

 

Town Hall

Town Hall Tower Toruń

As is the way in Europe, the Town Hall in the centre of the Old Town Market Square is the focal point for Torun, and a gorgeous one at that. The most important building in Torun, it dates back to the late 14th century. Sadly, the roof and upper floors were severely damaged during the war with the Swedish in 1703 and had to be reconstructed. Some bricks still wear the char marks of that fire.

There is a legend, that the Town Hall is in its own way a calendar, where the main tower symbolises a year, the turrets the four seasons, and the grand halls, minor rooms and windows reflecting the months, weeks and days in a year. If that’s the case, that’s some next level planning and detail!

Town Hall Museum Toruń

 

Town Hall Museum

District Museum Torun

Inside the Town Hall, you’ll find the District Museum, said to be the best in the city of Torun. The museum does a great job of taking you through the city’s history, but also its culture and trade. A visit includes seeing the wonderful Grand Hall, admiring some incredible parquetry that Torun clearly excelled at, plus displays of local modern art work that really caught my eye. The museum ticket, including the tower, costs 17zl (4€).

Torun Woodwork

 

Town Hall Views

Tower View Square Torun

And speaking of the Town Hall Tower, you’ll want to pay the entry fee for the views from the top alone. While it may be accessible by a narrow, winding staircase (aren’t they all?), once you’re at the top you’re treated to some stellar views out over the city of Torun. Nothing quite like seeing a place from above to give you a newfound perspective and appreciation.

Tower View Town Torun

Tower View River Torun

 

Copernicus

Copernicus Statue Toruń

While visiting Torun it won’t take long to learn who the city’s favourite son is. Right on the busiest corner in the old town is a large statue to famed astronomer and Torun native, Nicolaus Copernicus. Born there in February 19 1473, there are multiple mentions of him around town, including the beautiful house in which he was born. The house hosts a small museum to Copernicus, but I decided against it visiting in favour of the above District Museum.

Copernicus House Toruń

 

City Walls

City Gate Toruń

Like many medieval towns, Torun was once protected by a double ring of city walls to protect against invading forces. Today, only the side along the Vistula River remains, but that does include several gates and Torun’s very own “leaning tower”. They may not be too noticeable unless you choose to either walk along them or head out to the riverfront, but they’re there and give you a sense of what they must have been like.

Leaning Tower Toruń

 

Teutonic Castle

Torun Castle

In most places, having the remains of a castle would be considered a major attraction, but in Torun the remains of the Teutonic Castle have been relegated to the sidelines. This is almost poetic, since the castle was destroyed by the people of Torun in the 15th century to end the city’s subservience to the foreign Order of the Teutonic Knights. Still, most of the fortifications of the city are due to their presence, so they can’t have been all bad right?

The remains were left untouched for centuries, before excavations began to honour the 500th anniversary of the Thirteen Years’ War in which the castle was destroyed. Entrance into the ruins has a fee, but you are able to walk about most of the outer remains for free. It definitely gives you an idea of how big a castle once stood there.

Castle Walls Torun

 

Churches

Church Altar Toruń

Torun wouldn’t be a Polish city if it didn’t have plenty of churches, and the old town alone has 2 churches and a cathedral. Torun Cathedral is an immense sight and does a great job of dominating the city’s skyline but aside from its size is not overly interesting. I found the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary just off the Old Town Square to be more ornate and have a bit more presence.

Church Statue Toruń

 

Beyond Old Town

New Town Toruń

If you have time and have explored Old Town to great length, then it’s worth checking out New Town to the old town’s east. Here the building’s reflect a different era entirely, with a far more modern European feel. Still, there are some things worth seeing in New Town, including the Church of St Jacob, with its “M” shaped tower. Leaving the Old Town also helps establish Torun as a real city and not just some hamlet trapped in time.

 

Gingerbread

Gingerbread Toruń

When it comes to souvenirs and what Torun is known for, top of both lists is gingerbread. The baking of gingerbread has been part of the city’s culture since as far back as the 14th century and the baking tins and moulds themselves were works of art. You can find plenty of places to get yourself some gingerbread to take home.

Baking Tins Toruń

 

By Night

Night Street Toruń

Torun is perhaps even more captivating at night than it is during the day. With the street lights, the brick buildings take on a different mood and you notice different subtleties all over the place. They really do a good job of illuminating the old town and I think it takes on a really romantic feel thanks to it. The following are photos of similar spots to those I’ve shown above.

Night Town Hall Toruń

Night Old Square Toruń

Night Square Toruń

Night Church Toruń

 

Tips

  • Torun is quite well positioned, lying conveniently about halfway on the train journey between Warsaw and Gdansk;
  • Note, the train station is on the far side of the river to the old town, but you can take a local bus to the Old Town for next to nothing (2.8zl / 0.66€);
  • Torun has a fair variety of choices for accommodation, all at very reasonable prices. My stay at the Hotel Gromada Torun, was fine and affordable, nothing special;
  • The old town is about half-pedestrianised, so enquire about parking if you plan to drive and prepare for a lot of one-way streets;
  • There are ample options for dining, make sure to try some pierogi, my favourite Polish dish.

 


Have you had the chance to visit Torun before? If not, what about the medieval city has you most intrigued? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a booking, I may make a small commission, but at no extra cost to you. 

 


This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.


Why Not Pin It For Later

A Virtual Guide to the Charming Medieval City of Torun in Northern Poland, home to beautiful Gothic brick buildings and interesting history.

 


This post is part of The Weekly Postcard over at Caliglobetrotter. Please head on over for more great posts.
California Globetrotter

23 Comment

  1. What a display of exquisite medieval beauty and romance!

  2. It’s so cute and medieval! I love it! I giggled at the part about the donkey and how not cute it is knowing the dark past it has! #feetdiotravel

    1. David says:

      Haha, it’s a dark sense of humour isn’t it?!

  3. Upeksha says:

    Looks like a beautiful little town – especially at night. Looks like a great place to break a journey bettween Warsaw and Gdansk. #theweeklypostcard

  4. galanda23 says:

    Ah, this is such a lovely little town. Your night photos came out great. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  5. Dr B says:

    Great post, beautiful photos. Poland added to our travel list, thank you! 👫

  6. Before I started reading your blog, I would have not had Poland on my list and now I have a list of many places in Poland that I want to visit. Torun is definitely on the list, it just looks lovely. I pinned so I will have the info for when I finally make it there. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  7. Ioanna says:

    What an awesome guide, David! I was to Toruń on a school trip… can’t remember much 😉 Your post made me think about visiting it, especially as I live pretty close now – in Warsaw 🙂
    Happy travels, David!

    Ioanna (A Woman Afoot)

  8. Whoa the donkey story was intense, I was not expecting that to get so dark. I love the beauty of Torun, we will have to add it to the neverending list 🙂

  9. Torun seems to be a nice city to visit. Lately I’ve been reading more and more posts about Poland that make me put it on the top of my bucket list. The donkey is cute, I didn’t expect the story behind it to be so dark. The pictures are gorgeous, especially the ones with the view over the city.

  10. Amazing places!! Thanks so much for sharing–this makes me want to go visit 🙂

  11. Happy to read this again! Too bad we already have our Poland road trip planned out otherwise I might have considered visiting! Thanks David for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  12. shrek says:

    Torun isn’t little town, 200.000 citizens

  13. I love this medieval town of Torun with its history of the bronze donkey and the frog fountain. Wonderful history and places to visit. The photos are amazing and I agree night time with the lights look amazing plus the day time view from the tower is worth the price and walk. I will pin this for later. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Awesome looking place – my list of places I want to visit in Poland is certainly growing. I am actually sitting here craving gingerbread right now! Had no clue Copernicus lived there either! Great post!

  15. Garth says:

    Another place Ive never heard of! Thanks for showing us Torun David, it looks like a lovely place to visit. Those gingerbread moulds stood out to me, what a lovely pieces of design! Did you buy some?

    1. David says:

      Those particular moulds were actually in the district museum on display, but I do think there were more modern ones to be bought in the shops. I didn’t buy any however, my souvenirs these days are far smaller or travel-practical.

  16. You always write about such amazing places I have never heard of. But I do come from the most isolated city in the world, so not everyone knows where Perth is either. I am so inspired to visit many of the places you write about so I’m compiling a list for my next visit to Europe.

  17. What a great post! Like most, Poland’s been pretty far down our list, but that’s largely because we don’t know much about it. Torun looks fantastic – we have a fondness for medieval cities, for sure. Interesting history, too, especially the situation with the Teutonic Knights. Definitely someplace we’d love to spend some time! Thanks for sharing – as always, we love your posts!

  18. tracystravels10 says:

    Never heard of Torun – really enjoy learning about new places every week on your blog as it brings to my attention places I would never have considered to visit and now want to! #feetdotravel

  19. Torun is indeed full of medieval charm, so it’s a place I would love to visit, the architecture is fabulous. Oh my, what a dark past to the bronze donkey, I wasn’t expecting that! Spectacular view from the Town Hall Tower, definitely worth paying an entrance fee and I’m pleased to see you managed to squeeze a visit to a castle when you were in Torun. Medieval towns at night I find are more fascinating, and Torun doesn’t disappoint, I adore the colours of the streets, you really have shown this city in a wonderful way so thanks for sharing. #feetdotravel

  20. I love the sound of the gingerbread!

  21. siddharthandshruti says:

    How charming! The frog fountain is adorable. The old town looks like a great place to just walk around. And gingerbread! Yum!

Comments are closed.