Toruń is one of Poland’s four biggest cities, despite having just 200,000 inhabitants. The historical centre of Toruń is set on the Vistula River in the north of Poland, just three hours’ drive from Warsaw, the country’s capital and largest city.
Toruń is one of the oldest cities in Poland, although the sad truth is that many of its buildings were reconstructed after the Second World War.
This gives the city a unique style, reminiscent of its former historical self with a slightly cleaner feel. The city is picturesque and filled with mediaeval buildings, and easy to walk around as much of the historical centre is flat and well-paved. The historical centre was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, and one of Polands
Understated as a tourist destination, Toruń never feels overcrowded, and there isn’t much you’ll struggle to get tickets or a reservation for. You can walk around the Rynek Staromiejski (Old Town Square) with ease, admire the old town hall and tour the Toruń Cathedral without crossing the paths of too many tourists.
As well as its gothic architecture and curious history, Toruń is surprisingly known for its gingerbread. Toruń gingerbread is a national treasure, so much so that there is a museum dedicated to it right in the city centre.
Originally chosen as the site of Poland’s gingerbread factories for its rich soil, Toruń is now the cultural homeland of gingerbread in the country, and it is said that no visitor can leave the city without it.
Another interesting claim to fame for Toruń includes being the birthplace of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. Astronomer, physicist and mathematician, Copernicus was amongst the first people to theorize that the earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way around.
Toruń’s university is named after him, and you can also visit his monument and his birthplace in the old town.
This guide to Toruń, Poland, is the ultimate list of things to do in Toruń and Toruń hidden gems.
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Visit the Toruń Old Town Hall Tower
Toruń’s Old Town Hall is the focal point of Toruń Old Town, its tower peering over the city with an impressive viewpoint. The gothic architecture within the Old Town Hall is impressive in itself, and is home to a museum housing an extensive collection of gothic artwork from throughout Poland’s history.
After visiting the museum you can head up the tower, one of the tallest buildings in the city. Just 175 steps will take you to the top, giving you one of Toruń’s best views.
To enter just the museum or tower you’ll pay around 3.50 € for a full price ticket or 2.50 € for a concession. If you’d like to visit both (highly recommended!) you’ll pay around 5.50 € full price or 4 € for a concession.
Visit the Toruń Cathedral
Toruń Cathedral is the largest of three gothic churches in this small city, and one of the largest in Poland. Its medieval style fits in perfectly amongst the gothic architecture that Toruń is known for, and its lavish interiors are equally as impressive.
The cathedral houses a great deal of Copernicus memorabilia, including the font where it is said he was baptized, as well as many valuable religious pieces and gothic artwork.
Visit the Teutonic Castle Ruins
Toruń Teutonic Castle is part of the Medieval Town (and therefore remains right in the city centre) and was built in the 13th or 14th century as one of the first Teutonic castles.
Much of the castle was destroyed during an uprising in 1454, but it was partially restored in 1966 and the ruins are incredibly interesting and detailed.
Information boards and pictures have been added, turning this piece of Polish history into a thoughtful exhibit. Due to the castle’s ‘lack of roof’ situation, this isn’t an activity for a rainy day, but you will learn a lot about Toruń’s history and some of their more innovative medieval torture methods!
Wander Around the Rynek Staromiejski (Old Town Square)
The Rynek Staromiejski, or Old Town Square of Toruń, is a marvel to behold by day or by night. During the day the square is filled with market stalls, coffee shops and open air restaurants, providing a busy atmosphere without being completely overrun with tourists.
You can find quaint souvenir shops or larger stores, admire the gothic architecture of various impressive buildings, or simply sit and watch the world go by; it’s a great spot for people-watching! During the evening, the cobbled Old Town Square is well-lit with a quaint, old-town atmosphere.
Stroll Down Philadelphia Boulevard on the Vistula River
The Vistula River is the longest river in Poland, running through Toruń, Warsaw, Krakow and many other Polish towns.
The Vistula River runs through the centre of Toruń, offering a long, picturesque view along the water. To the north of the river you’ll find the old town and most of the restaurants, bars and things to do in Toruń.
To the south, you’ll find quieter, more residential areas, as well as the Vistula River Viewing Platform. Philadelphia Boulevard is found on the river bank beside the Old Town, stretching for two kilometres.
Once serving as a harbour and the commercial centre of the city, it is now a quieter, simply lovely thing to do in Toruń.
Visit the Leaning Tower of Toruń
The Leaning Tower of Toruń is a medieval tower, so called because (you guessed it!) it leans precariously to one side, much like the leaning tower of Pisa.
The top of the tower is 1.5 metres from where it would be if the tower was perfectly vertical, because it was built on unstable ground.
Unusually, the inside of the tower is not open to the public, not due to its instability but because it remains a workplace for city officials!
That being said, it is still well worth a visit, to marvel and take pictures of this weird and wonderful structure.
Visit the Living Museum of Gingerbread
The Living Museum of Gingerbread is an interactive museum in the city centre about everything gingerbread.
As well as countless displays in Polish and English taking you through the history of Toruń’s most famous delicacy, the story comes to life part way through when the interactivity begins.
You’ll start with a talk and demonstration of how gingerbread is made, followed by a D-I-Y workshop during which you can roll, shape, bake and take home your very own piece!
Note that you can only see the demonstration and make your own gingerbread in English at certain times, so be sure to check and book ahead.
See the Monument of Nicolaus Copernicus
There are monuments of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus all over Poland, but this one is particularly special as Toruń was the birthplace of the famous astronomer.
Although it’s not exactly an afternoon-long activity, this monument is worth squeezing into your itinerary, not least to remember his lasting legacy in the world of astronomy.
The monument is made of bronze, and depicts Nicolaus Copernicus in an academic robe holding an astrolabe and pointing at the sky.
Visit the House of Copernicus Museum
As we’re the topic of Nicolaus Copernicus, he also has an entire museum dedicated to his work! The House of Nicolaus Copernicus is a huge gothic building, considered to be his birthplace.
It has now been converted into a museum, covering the life of Nicolaus Copernicus, the domestic life of the fifteenth century, and the explorations of navigators, giving important context to his life story.
With interactive screens, 3D displays and even small light shows, this museum is a great learning experience for the whole family, whether Copernicus fanatics or new to his work.
Walk Along the Medieval Walls
The medieval city walls of Toruń are impressive in size, especially for such a small city.
Many of the structures are still standing, making it impossible to see it all at once, but the most impressive views come from standing by the river on Philadelphia Boulevard and looking up into the city, where you’ll see the best preserved sections.
It’s also a lovely walk to do in the evening, as the walls light up by night.
Bunker-Wisla is an air raid shelter in Toruń dating back to 1943, restored to give you a unique insight into the Second World War.
The Bunker-Wisla experience is not for the faint-hearted, created to elicit a strong emotional response from willing participants.
A realistic simulation of an air raid, the interactive experience includes realistic sound and lighting effects, as well as actors simulating commanders and civilians of the time. This experience is usually only available during the summer and at weekends.
Go to the Planetarium. W. Dziewulskiego
The Planetarium in Toruń is a beautiful building inside and out. They have hands-on exhibits that change and update regularly, as well as several light shows.
The MARS#17 base within the planetarium is an interactive, educational space base which instructs its visitors to monitor the base, fix problems and even test soil samples as they survive away from planet earth.
The more traditional planetarium shows up to eight different light exhibitions per day, each of around 40 minutes, available in English, Spanish, Russian and German as well as Polish.
Go to the Zoo botanical Garden
Just outside of the old town in Toruń, you’ll find the zoo botanical garden. Although not the largest or most lavish of zoos or botanical gardens, it makes for a nice afternoon out and is a great option if you’re travelling with little ones.
The gardens, designed to be “sentimental in character”, is filled with man-made locks, bridges, pergolas and greenhouses, whilst the zoo is home to around 80 different species, including bison, black bears and meerkats.
They also have an exotic indoor avery, which would be particularly nice in winter as the rest of the zoo is outdoors!
See the Cosmopolis Fountain
Yet another, and perhaps the most beautiful yet, homage to Nicolaus Copernicus (this is the last time I mention him, I promise!).
This fountain is lit by night, and was inspired by Copernicus’ “On the Revolutions of Celestial Spheres”, his most famous work, and the first to suggest that the earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way around.
The granite floor of the fountain resembles a diagram of the heliocentric system, with the fountain in the middle, representing the sun, shooting five metres into the air. During the summer, you can see an illuminated performance combining the dancing jets, light, and music.
Visit the Centre of Contemporary Art
Toruń Centre of Contemporary Art features permanent and temporary exhibitions, a cinema and a reading room, all dedicated to the consumption of contemporary art.
The building alone is something to be admired, and within you’ll find a large range of modern art, something for every taste.
Take in the view at Wiślana Panorama Torunia
As I mentioned earlier, on the other side of the river from Toruń Old Town is a viewing platform. Wiślana Panorama is the focal point of a lovely riverside walk, which can be done during the day but particularly excels at sunset and at night.
At sunset, the golden-pink hues bounce off the building faces and reflect across the river for the perfect view. At night, the city lights provide an equally spectacular sight.
See the House Under the Star
The House Under the Star is an old baroque townhouse more than 900 years old, although it has gone through several reconstructions since it was built.
It is so called because there is a star atop its roof, much like one sits at the top of a christmas tree. Within, you will find The Museum of Far Eastern Art, presenting the “World of the Orient” exhibition.
It is part of the Toruń museum group, which offers discounted tickets if you buy entry to several museums at once (including the gingerbread museum and the House of Nicolas Copernicus).
Admire St. James the Greater’s Church
St James the Greater’s Church was originally the town parish church for the residents of Toruń, erected in the 14th century.
Based on western-European cathedrals, you notice the interesting influence this had on its design, mixed with local gothic architecture.
Inside the church are many incredible pieces of religious artwork, as well as a decadent interior and stained glass windows. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, and is a must-see thing to do in Toruń.
Recommended tours in Torun
- Walking Tour of the medieval Toruń
- Private walking city tour in Torun
- Torun Private Traditional Polish Food Tour
- Torun Private Vodka Tasting Tour
- Torun Private Polish Beer Tasting Tour
- Magic Christmas tour in Torun