Best Places To Visit In Poland
Finding the best things to do in any country is always fun. But, I’ve come to learn that on any trip of considerable length I need to build into my itinerary some downtime to relax and recharge. As much as I love sightseeing and discovering new places, I do look forward to free days when I don’t work, take photographs or post on social media.
It is on these layback days that I remember to be grateful for the life that I live and remind myself how lucky I am. Some of my best travel memories have been spent in local cafes or on a rug beside a river reading a book.
The Joy of Slow Travel
After travelling for a number of weeks, I needed a couple of easy days and took a pit stop to Torun. Torun is just one and half hours by fast train from Poznan. Perhaps, a little unknown compared to Warsaw and Krakow. Visitors heading to and from Gdansk can easily spent a night or two here exploring the many things to do in the medieval city of Torun.
1. Home of Gingerbread
Arriving into the city of Torun there is a distinct scent of homemade cookies with a spice aroma. Not surprising as Torun is the home of Gingerbread (Polish – Pierniki toruńskie) in Poland. Eating gingerbread cakes and cookies is one thing you must indulge in during your stay in Torun.
Torun’s city trademark has gained the name of Gingerbread Capital of the World. Since the end of the 14th century this small city has been baking delicious gingerbread goodies.
Museum of Torun Gingerbread
The Museum of Torun Gingerbread is located in Gustav Wesse’s old 19th century gingerbread factory. The exhibition is shared across a number of floors and includes multimedia displays, traditional recipes and implements such as baking moulds, ovens and machinery.
On ground level is a café and gingerbread decorating workshop in the old kneading room where visitors can prepare and tasty yummy gingerbreads. The Gingerbread Walk of Fame initiated in 2003, honour the famous people either born in Torun or closely associated with the city. Each autographed pavement plaque is shaped like the artistic shaped gingerbread well-known as ‘Katherine’ (Katarzynka) in Poland.
Torun Gingerbread Recipe
Jan Wesse established the first Torun gingerbread factory in 1763 at 4 Strumykowa Street. Today the Torun gingerbread recipe is a well-guarded secret with only a few bakers having access to the original recipe.
Although, not exactly the same in taste, this is the best recipe I’ve found. It my favourite gingerbread recipe because it is soft in the centre and crisp on the outside with the right amount of spice.
Torun (Wesse’s) Gingerbread Recipe
- 25 kgs (2.5lb) Plain Flour
- 500g (1lb) White Sugar
- 500g (1lb) Honey
- 5 Large Eggs
- 2 tsp Baking Soda
- Spices (mixture of dried ginger, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg)
- Salt (just a pinch)
- Blend eggs with half of the sugar and add hot melted honey. Add the rest of the sugar and a dash of water if required. Mix well, add sifted flour and baking soda and spices plus a pinch of salt. Wrap the dough, and let it stand in the bottom of the fridge for one week before baking.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line 2 large flat baking trays with baking paper.
- Flour the work bench, rolling pin and hands. Add more flour to the bench as needed. Dough is very sticky.
- Cut into desired shapes. Place each shape 2.5cm apart on prepared baking sheets.
- Roll scraps together, roll out again and cut into shapes.
- Bake gingerbreads for about 8-10minutes. The time will differ demanding on the size of each gingerbread.
- Rotate trays if gingerbreads are not cooking evenly.
- Cool gingerbreads on the baking tray before transfer to a wire cooling rack.
- Once completely cool, decorate as desired.
- Gingerbread is best stored at room temperature in airtight container.
- Best eaten within a week.
2. Copernicus Family House Museum
Every city offers visitors the opportunity to learn more about the local people who have played a significant part in either history, science, medicine or community.
Nicolaus Copernicus, Polish scientist and 15th century astronomer and mathematician was born in Torun in 1473 to wealthy parents. His claim to fame is Copernicus identified that the planets revolved around the sun rather than the earth being the centre of the universe.
In his honour a biographicial museum has been created in two Gothic tenement houses at 15/17 Kopernika Street. These buildings were once owned by his father, Nicolaus Copernicus senior, a merchant from Krakow, who moved to Torun around 1456. Nicolaus senior married Barbara Watzenrode, daughter of from one of Torun’s most patrician families. It is here that Nicolaus junior was also born.
The museum is a collection of the life and work of Copernicus within the burgher houses that date from the 14th to 19th century. These gothic tenement buildings that include several well-preserved 14th century elements also form a large part of the content of the museum display. Copernicus died on May 24th, 1543, never marrying or having any children.
3. Leaning Tower of Torun
The most famous and striking medieval tower in Torun is the leaning tower built into the city walls in the 13th century. The tower began to lean around the 14th century due to unstable loamy ground.
Although, classified as stable the tilt of the 15-metre red brick tower is quite significant and currently leaning more than a metre perpendicular to one side.
It is one of the most important landmarks in Torun’s Old Town and located on Pod Krzywa Wieza Street.
4. Torun Old Town Hall
From the Old Town Hall’s 40-metre-high brick tower, visitors can get spectacular 360 degree views of the city of Torun. Konrad Wallenrod, a Grand Master of the Teutonic Order gave his approval of the site where the 14th Century Gothic Town Hall was built.
The Old Town Hall was constructed on the site of the old cloth halls and became the commercial and administration hub of the city. It was also the place where numerous trade fairs, ceremonies, knight tournaments and public killings were witnessed.
This historic landmark was surrounded by market stalls, bread vendors and a tavern serving beer and wine from the cellar. Today the Town Hall Museum is worth visiting to view the extensive collection of Polish and Gothic art and ancient crafts.
5. Torun Coffee Spots Poland
Going on the hunt for the best coffee in a new city is something I am always up for. Torun has a number of great coffee shops and cafes but my all time favourite was Napar Coffee Café on Paulinski Street.
If you love coffee like me check out my top 4 in Torun.
Torun is a charming old town with significant international importance hence why it has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. There is a different atmosphere to be felt here. It is cosier, friendly and less busy that Krakow, Warsaw and Gdansk. Yet it is full of life and has a very diverse food and drink culture. Although, there is less to see and do in Torun, there is enough sightseeing activities and interesting things to do for everyone.
Sunday Trading Ban in Poland
From 2019, shops are only permitted to open one Sunday per month. The ban excludes petrol stations, pharmacies, bakeries, florists, train stations, stores at hotels and airports.
Torun Self-Guided Tours
Multilingual portable handheld mp3 devices are available for hire from the Information Centre located on Rynek Staromiejski 25 for those interested in a self-guided tour of Torun. The audio guides provide the history and relevant information on 21 attractions plus facts about the Torun legends and its architecture.
Old City Brewery and Restaurant
Jan Olbracht Old City Brewery is the only restaurant in Torun with a its own microbrewery. You can enjoy hearty Polish cuisine together with craft beer made on the premises.
Traditional Polish Dishes
One of the greatest pleasures of travel is trying new cuisines. Traditional Polish dishes are very hearty and often contain lots of meat. Poland is not the place to be watching your weight! Make sure you try these traditional Polish Dishes.
- Flaki – Beef tripe soup
- Zurek – Sour rye soup with sausage, potato or egg served in a round rye cob of bread
- Golabki – Cabbage rolls stuffed with meat and rice
- Golonka – Pork knuckle in beer sauce with horseradish
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