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Situated on the banks of the Vistula River in northern Poland, Torun is a remarkably well-preserved example of a Medieval trading and administrative center. It was founded during a period of Christianity’s colonialism, so is filled with ancient castles, tales of heroic knights, and old town squares. It’s also the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus, meaning a tour of Torun is fun for both history and science buffs alike. Here are nine reasons why you need to visit Torun, Poland:
Cathedral St. John
The Gothic Cathedral of St John the Baptist was the most important church in Torun during the Middle Ages. Dating back to the first half of the 14th century, walking the grounds of this age-old gem will bring new meaning to the word ‘old.’ Inside, you’ll find masterpieces of art, stained glass windows, and soaring vaulted ceilings. Perhaps the best attraction here is the chapel where Nicolaus Copernicus was baptized in 1473.
Medieval Old Town
Torun’s Old Town holds the largest collection of age-old gems. Of the city’s three primary parts — Old Town, New Town, and the ruins of the Teutonic Castle — the Old Town shows travelers places like Caesar’s Arch, St. Mary’s Church, the Copernicus Monument, and the Holy Spirit Gate. Feel free to grab a coffee and people watch in a place that was once one of the most thriving trading posts in the country.
House of Nicolaus Copernicus
Without Copernicus, we’d likely all still be convinced that — not even figuratively — the whole world revolves around us. If you’re interested in paying some respects to the man who discovered the heliocentric model, you’re due for a visit to the place of his birth. Stroll through the exhibits that tell the story of his life, work, and how a humble kid from Medieval Poland became one of the most important astronomers in world history.
Leaning Tower of Torun
Legend has it that centuries ago, a Teutonic Knight fell in love and dated a beautiful daughter of a wealthy peasant, which was against the monastic rule. As punishment, the knight was ordered to build a leaning tower as a symbol of his crooked ways. Today, it’s said that if your sins are worse than that of the famous knight, you won’t be able to keep your balance while inside. Those who are righteous and honest, supposedly won’t fall over — only one way to find out!
Teutonic Knights Castle
The Knights of the Teutonic period built a castle during the middle ages to defend against uprisings from locals and neighboring clans, but it was eventually destroyed in 1454. Today you can tour the beautifully decrepit castle ruins and learn about Torun’s history. If castles are your thing, check out the 10 Castles in Poland Every History-Lover Should Visit. And, if a trip to Poland isn’t on the cards for you, check out 8 Amazing Castles in the US.
Living Museum of Gingerbread
Another unique aspect of Torun is its heritage as a baking city. Torun is steeped in all kinds of tastes, but they have a particular soft spot for gingerbread. The Living Museum of Gingerbread is the best place to learn about some history and taste some delicious treats. Located in an old 19th-century granary that has been converted to resemble a Renaissance bakery, this makes for one of the best things to do in the town.
What’s a Medieval city without a perimeter of defense walls? In true Medieval fashion, Torun boasts brick walls that still stand in surprisingly good condition. Take some time to walk along the faded bricks and soak in the history. Be sure to stop off at Brama Mostowa (Bridge Gate), which was first erected in 1432. This activity is entirely free, just like most of these Top 5 Things to Do in Eastern Europe on a Budget.
Visit the Planetarium
If you’re in the town where Copernicus was born, it only makes sense to spend some time pondering the cosmos. Torun’s planetarium opened in 1994 and is located in an old converted Gothic building dating back to 1860. Visit for one of the exhibits on the solar system and the biggest known objects in the universe.
For the last item on this list, we’re throwing in a restaurant. Szeroka 9 is arguably Torun’s top stop for fine-dining that specializes in Eastern European fare. Think pickled trout with horseradish, pig cheeks with creamed potato, and marinated beetroot.