Toruń is one of those hidden gems that can be easily missed. It is a charming medieval town in northern Poland on the Vistula River that is bursting with history, architecture and centuries-old tradition. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site. There are lots of things to do in Toruń that make it a great destination to have on your bucket list. Toruń is also well known for the astronomer Nicolas Copernicus and for its production of gingerbread, so if you want to spend your time somewhere amazing, then Toruń is a must.
The best time to visit Torun for ideal weather is between May and September, the weather is pleasant during the summer months. If you book your hotel and flight tickets in advance during these months, it will be cheaper than doing so last minute. If you are looking for a quieter experience in Toruń then consider going out of season in October as tourist crowds start to decrease.
To firstly understand the layout of the city, there are three main areas. The ruins of the Teutonic Castle, the Old Town and the New Town, all of these combine to form a relatively rare medieval settlement. The castle’s location within its defensive walls makes it an unusually well-preserved example. Even centuries ago, there was an area called the New Town. This first area of land that the Teutonic Knights first settled kept flooding, so they had to build a castle between the two areas (old and new). The castle was built in the mid-13th century to be a base for the conquest and evangelization of Prussia. However, most of it, including all its defensive structures, was destroyed during an uprising in 1454 when local townspeople revolted against the Teutonic Order.
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Where to Stay for your 48 hrs in Toruń
There are numerous hotels located in and around the city that are perfect for 48 hrs in Toruń. You can choose to stay in the Old Town for a more traditional experience, or if you prefer something more modern then there are many hotels located close to the train station too. Here are a few examples:
- Hotel Kopernik
Located in the heart of Toruń’s Old Town and near to the Vistula River, this hotel was named after its most famous citizen: Nicolaus Copernicus. The hotel has 69 rooms spread over five floors, which include complimentary toiletries and free bottled water in every room.
- Hotel Nicolaus
The Hotel Nicolaus is one of the most stylish and central options you will find as it is on Nicolaus Copernicus Street. The elegant restaurant in the inner courtyard is illuminated by sunlight and has a high ceiling with exposed beams, as well as red brick walls. Both local and international cuisine is served here. There is a café and a bar, plus meeting rooms are available for business events.
- Hotel Filmar
This hotel is located on the other side of the highway. It offers peace and relaxation with a spa tub, sauna, pool table and bar. The hotel offers its guests a number of options for conferences and meetings, as well as several computer terminals.
Day One – Take in the sights of Medieval Toruń
You want to start your first day in Toruń by exploring the medical city and all it has to offer. There are plenty of options to choose from if you are looking for a guided walking tour as this is one of the best ways to explore the beautiful UNESCO-listed city of Toruń. The pedestrianised old town makes it a place where you cannot explore by car or bus. If you choose to take a guided tour, you will ultimately learn extra knowledge from a local who will lead the way and take you to multiple city highlights, providing you with interesting insights along the route. If you choose to wander around without a guide, make sure to check out some of the places listed below.
Town Square & The Old Town Centre
Toruń’s Old Town Hall, which was built on a square plan with an inner courtyard, is considered to be the city’s most dominant symbol of its medieval gothic centre. This area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The original building was constructed in the 13th century and later given a facelift at the end of the 14th century. The Town Hall was the seat of town authorities, and its representative halls hosted Polish kings. The building contained stalls for businesses selling foods (such as bread), and its cellars were licensed to sell beer or wine. The Town Hall Museum, with its extensive collection of gothic art along with more ancient craft and Polish paintings, is especially worth seeing. You can climb to the top of the observation deck of the 40-meter tower—which offers a view over the entire old town complex—where you can admire all the buildings from above.
The Leaning Tower
According to legend, the creation of this medieval tower was connected to an offence from one of the Teutonic Knights from Toruń, who fell in love with the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant, against monastic rule. As penance, the knight was instructed to build a leaning tower to symbolise his crooked ways. It is said that those whose sins are worse than the Teutonic knights will never be able to keep their balance while clinging with their backs and legs to the wall of a tower. Whereas, those who are righteous and faithful will not fall forward. This unique test of rectitude is the highlight of all tourists’ visits to the tower.
Medieval Defensive City Walls
To explore the city and get a feel for its medieval character, wear comfortable shoes since most streets are paved with cobblestones. Enjoy a stroll through the Old Town’s narrow streets and admire the protection of walls that deterred enemies from conquering its city for centuries.
Since its foundation in the first half of the 13th century, Toruń had been enclosed within a double line of defensive walls, consisting of the lower wall outside and the higher wall inside the city, with a wet moat between the two. The only part that consisted of a single line of walls, faced the Vistula River. Over the following centuries, the walls were continually made higher, stronger and longer. There is an observation deck on the other side of the river and from there the view of the gothic churches and the skyline make for some spectacular photographs.
The Old Town, the New Town and the Teutonic Castle had their own defensive system. The wall included fifty four fortified towers, eleven gates and two barbicans, of which nine of the towers and three of the gates have survived to this day (including the Holy Spirit Gate).
Teutonic Knight’s Castle Ruins
It will not take you long to walk around the ruins, which are the oldest ruins of their kind, marking the separation between The Old City and The New City. Inside there is a small exhibition, highlighting the type of medieval equipment used for medicine and torture.
The Living Museum of Gingerbread
After your morning exploring the streets and ruins that Toruń has to offer, grab a quick bite to eat at one of the many restaurants in the Old Town. Then head over to The Living Museum of Gingerbread for a fun afternoon. Gingerbread is a traditional Polish sweet that must be tried whilst in the country. The Living Museum of Gingerbread opened in 2006. Here you can discover how gingerbread was baked in Medieval times and you will be involved in trying your hand at baking your own gingerbread too. This interactive museum, where the museum staff all dress in traditional costumes, is great for all the family.
The aim of the museum is to preserve the history and recipe of this much-loved sweet treat. There are three floors, where you will go through the history of medieval stalls selling gingerbread, gingerbread workshops in the kitchens and exhibitions displaying the presence of Toruńskie Pierniki (Toruń Gingerbread) in daily life. Have fun with gingerbread decorating and learning how traditional gingerbread was made and sold. This place is definitely worth visiting if you love the warming spices of gingerbread!
An evening in Toruń
To finish your first day in Toruń, go to the Old Town Market Square, which is full of highly rated restaurants and bars. The atmosphere here is very friendly and welcoming; you will see many people walking around. The Old Town Market Square is a great place to find some souvenirs for yourself and your loved ones. You will see many shops selling amber jewellery, ceramics, and more traditional Polish items that you might want to bring back home with you.
If you’re looking for food, there are many restaurants serving traditional Polish dishes such as pierogi (stuffed dumplings). A Pierogi is a filled dumpling and is made by wrapping a savoury or sweet filling in unleavened dough, which is then boiled or pan-fried.
At Pierogarnia Stary Mlyn, the pierogi are made in-house and fresh, following an old traditional recipe. The restaurant offers a variety of fillings for meat lovers as well as vegetarians—and even sweet dessert pierogi! If you have never tried one before, then now is your chance to taste this national delight.
Day Two – Monuments and Churches in Toruń
House of Nicolas Copernicus Museum
To start your second day on your 48 hours in Torun itinerary head over to the House of Nicolas Copernicus Museum. Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish astronomer who, in his book “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres” (1543), proposed that the Earth and other planets move around the Sun, the heliocentric theory of the solar system, rather than vice versa. Copernicus correctly posited the order of the known planets from the sun and estimated their orbital periods relatively accurately. He then argued that the Earth turned daily on its axis, which caused gradual shifts in this axis and accounted for the changing seasons.
He was born on February 19th, 1473 into a family of well-to-do merchants in Toruń. The museum is located in the gothic tenement house of his birthplace, where he lived for the first seven years of his life. The museum presents exhibits illustrating the life of Copernicus in medieval Poland and his scientific work. Astronomy-related displays showcase instruments used by Copernicus, as well as a recreation of the room where he did much of his work. This museum is a must for astronomy lovers!
Nicolas Copernicus Monument
After you have visited the museum, take a look at the Nicolas Copernicus Monument. The Monument was erected in 1853 to honour the renowned local Renaissance astronomer Nicolas Copernicus. The monument presents Copernicus in academic robes, with an astrolabe in his left hand, whilst his right index finger points upwards to the heavens above.
Cathedral of St John The Evangelist and John The Baptist
Before you head off for lunch, go and view the Cathedral of St John The Evangelist and John The Baptist. The interior holds Gothic sculptures and many paintings depicting biblical scenes, as well the largest medieval church bell in all of Poland – one of Europe’s heaviest at over seven tons! Known as Tuba Dei meaning The Trumpet Of God in English. Tuba Dei is now used only a few times each year, as the low vibrations it produces threaten to destabilize the bell tower.
In addition, there is a Gothic baptismal font from the 13th century over which Nicholas Copernicus was baptized. It is located in the chapel of Guardian Angels and holds a portrait of the astronomer along with his bust sculptured in marble.
St James’ Church
The Church of St. James was built between 1309 and the 15th century as an important example of Baltic Sea basin brick architecture. Managed by Cistercians and then Benedictines, it became a Protestant church in the years 1557–1667. It was only returned to Catholic use as a parish church in the 19th century.
For your afternoon go the Planetarium. Named after Wł. Dziewulski the Planetarium is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Toruń. The semi-circular dome and rotunda, which stands out among other structures because of their unique shape, make it easy to recognise.
It offers a large variety of astronomical presentations covering all sorts of topics related to the field. The ZEISSA RFP projector reconstructs the image of the sky with great fidelity and from any moment and place on Earth. In other words, it is capable of displaying on the artificial sky (the dome 15 meters in diameter) the arrangement of all 6000 stars visible in the sky. It also displays the configuration of planets aligned with the Zodiac in the background, the arrangements of constellations, the Moon’s cycles, and eclipses- all the phenomena visible from the earth in the real sky.
Animal Monuments in Toruń.
Whilst walking around town, there are plenty of monuments in Toruń that are dedicated to animals that you can find along your route:
- Dog – The figurine of Filus is a small bronze dog, located in the northeast corner of the Old Town square. Here, you can find him holding a bowler hat in his mouth, guarding the umbrella leaning against the lantern, whilst waiting for his master.
- Donkey – The Donkey of Toruń can be found in the southeast corner of the Old Market Square. The bronze statue was placed there in 2006 but its history dates back hundreds of years. The donkey was originally made of wood, and criminals were forced to sit on its back while the metal rod attached there caused them pain. At times weights would be added to prisoners’ legs for more intense punishment.
- Frog – Toruń’s “Frog Fountain” is a monument commemorating the legend of an exiled witch who exacted her revenge on Toruń by cursing its residents with frogs.
Jan Olbracht Brower Staromiejski Brewery
For a fun final evening in Toruń take a tour of the Jan Olbracht Browar Staromiejski Brewery. This brewery operates out of a 15th-century, Gothic tenement house. It is one of the few places in Poland offering handcrafted beers—as well as craft brews from other breweries.
Tours are available to the brewery, where you can see how beer is made and taste it fresh from the tank, while hearing about the brewing process. All beers are unfiltered and unpasteurised. Among the many varieties, you might try from the multi-tap bar, one is a dark Gingerbread beer made according to a traditional recipe with aromas of cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. If you are hungry, the restaurant boasts a menu offering Polish and Bavarian dishes.
Toruń offers plenty of historical churches, original medieval buildings and lots of museums. There are numerous cafes and restaurants to eat and drink at to keep you going throughout your trip. If you are into history, astronomy and architecture, then Toruń is definitely worth a visit. There are many things to do and see, not only for tourists but also for locals. The Old Town is a place where you can feel the vibrancy of the city and its people. The city is a perfect place for those who want to experience Poland’s history and culture. It is also a great place to visit if you are looking for some relaxation, as there are plenty of beautiful parks, gardens and lakes in the area.
Recommended tours in Toruń
- Walking Tour of the medieval Toruń
- Torun Living Museum of Gingerbread and Old Town Private Walking Tour
- Torun Private Polish Beer Tasting Tour
- Torun Private Vodka Tasting Tour
- Torun Private Traditional Polish Food Tour
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