Loads, and I mean LOADS, of Polish cities beyond Krakow and Warsaw are popping up as perfect city breaks these days. In the past year alone, I’ve seen the volume of posts about Gdansk, Wroclaw, Poznan, and even Zakopane SKYROCKET. And yes, I do my due diligence and see what’s circulating about my motherland in the travelsphere. But there’s one lesser known city that I want to bring to the forefront and place on everyone’s Poland Itinerary, and that’s the medieval city of Torun.
To give you a bit of an overview, Torun was officially founded in the 13th century and is one of Poland’s best preserved medieval cities. The Old Town is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and get this – (this had the nerd in me freaking out) – the street patterns in the Old Town are pretty similar to what they were about 700 years ago. This means that a trip to Torun can essentially be considered a trip back in time. Sick! Time travel is my favourite kind of travel.
What’s also really significant to note is that Torun sustained very little damage during the Second World War. This is huge when you keep in mind that 80-90% of the country’s capital, Warsaw, along with tons and tons of other cities, were destroyed during this time. Visiting Torun can give you a more tangible glimpse of the Poland of the past.
Of course, as a smaller city in an already affordable country to visit, Torun is the perfect destination for budget travelers.
So now that I’ve created all this hype, here are 10 budget-friendly things to see and do in Torun, Poland!
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1. Admire the Old Town Square (especially after dark)
Torun’s Old Town Square, also known as Rynek Staromiejski, is surrounded by some of the city’s oldest and most beautiful buildings. It’s also home to Torun’s impressive Medieval Old Town Hall right in the centre. For centuries, the rynek has been and still remains the focal point of the city. While the area is usually full of locals and visitors alike during the day (grabbing a coffee or a bite on one of the summer patios is hard to refuse), it’s also quite the dreamy sight when it’s all lit up and glowing at night.
A daytime peek at Torun’s Old Town Square
Torun’s Rynek Staromiejski by night
Many of Torun’s top sites and attractions can be accessed from this square too. Discover more below!
2. Catch the Best View of Torun from the top of the Old Town Hall
Torun’s gothic Town Hall is impossible to miss. As mentioned just above, it stands right in the middle of the Old Town Square and is arguably the city’s most important building. The hall houses many historical exhibits today, but the structure itself is centuries old. Knight tournaments and medieval markets used to take place in its courtyard and surrounding area. Today, it’s possible to climb the Town Hall tower to catch the perfect bird’s-eye view of the city. (I have a bit of a crazy obsession with panoramic city views. See: the best views in Bergen, Norway, more top views in Bern, Switzerland, Instagrammable spots in Lisbon, Portugal, another handful in Ljubljana, Slovenia, etc.). So in my humble opinion, heading up Torun’s Town Hall tower is an attraction that can’t be missed.
When planning your visit to Torun, it’s useful to know that the tower is open Tuesdays through Sundays 10:00 am – 6:00 pm from May to September and 10:00 am – 4:00 pm from October to April. Admission is a total of 11 PLN / $2.85 USD / € 2.55.
Looking up at Torun’s Old Town Hall
Catching panoramic Views of Torun from the City’s Old Town Hall Tower
3. Wander around the Old Town
I’m sure you didn’t miss the little detail about Torun’s entire Old Town being a UNESCO World Heritage site, but here I go bringing it up again. The historic area is full of landmarks and gorgeous architecture, so every side-street, nook, and cranny deserves to be explored.
The Old Town is simply picture perfect
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4. Check out the medieval walls and Teutonic Castle Ruins
Once your explorations take you to the edge of the Torun’s Old Town, make sure to check out the medieval city walls and gates. They date back to the 13th century, so they’re pretty much just as old as the city itself. Most of the defence walls and gates can be found along the southern and eastern perimeters of the Old Town.
The Medieval Town Walls may be old, but they’re still exceptionally majestic
Alternatively, in the southeast corner of the town, you can check out the ruins of a Teutonic Castle from the mid-13th century. It was one of the first castles built by Teutonic Knights in the area when they officially began their mission to, well, convert and colonize pagan Prussians.
You can walk around the area free of charge, but an 8 PLN / $1.90 USD / €1.80 admission ticket will give you access to exhibits showcasing the former castle’s armoury, kitchen, dormitory, scriptorium, and more. Generally, the castle is open every day as of 10:00 am and closes at 6:00 pm during high season and 4:00 pm during low season.
A quick snap of the Teutonic Castle Ruins
5. Pfff….Pisa? Go see the Leaning Tower of Torun
The Leaning Tower of Torun, locally known as Krzywa Wieża w Toruniu, is part of the city’s medieval walls and can be found in the southwest corner of the Old Town. From a purely scientific point of view, the tower started leaning because it was built on unstable ground. However, locals do have their own legend or two. Once the tower could no longer serve any defence purposes, it became a prison, then a blacksmith’s shop, an apartment, and now a souvenir shop and a cafe.
The “lean” is definitely more visible from the other side of the city wallsNEW BLOG POST: 10 Amazing Things to See and Do in Torun, Poland on a Budget. Find out more here! #Torun #VisitPoland Click To Tweet
6. Enjoy all the Torun gingerbread you can imagine
In addition to its historical architecture, Torun also happens to be very well known for its gingerbread. In fact, the craft of making pierniki (a.k.a. gingerbread in Polish) can be traced back to the 13th century – that’s the same century the city was founded.
Gingerbread from Torun is the epitome of Polish gingerbread. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you can learn ALL about it at the Museum of Torun Gingerbread. Admission is 16 PLN / $3.80 USD / € 3.55 and it includes a baking workshop for anyone that likes hands-on experiences. Otherwise, you can purchase a cookie (or 100) from many cafes, bakeries, and souvenir shops downtown.
An assortment of cookies in one of the Old Town’s bakeries
7. Have a local beer (or two, or three, etc.)
In the heart of the city, you can find Jan Olbracht’s Old Town Brewery, which makes all of their beers in-house. If you can’t choose which one you’d like to try, you can order a tasting set of 4. And should you really want to get the bang for your buck, Jan Olbracht’s happens to brew a gingerbread beer. I’m not too crazy about darker beers, but I’ll fully admit that this one was a treat!
The famous beer tasting set at Jan Olbracht Browar Staromiejski
8. Go on a statue scavenger hunt
Old Town Torun is full of bronze statues that commemorate historically and/or culturally significant individuals and events. Some include:
Filus the Dog
Found in the northeast corner of the Old Town Square, this pup holding a bowler hat waits for his owner, Professor Filutek. The two were popular characters featured in a Polish magazine during Soviet days. The illustrator behind the pair, Zbigniew Lengren, grew up and studied in Torun.
The Donkey of Torun
The bronze donkey in the southeast corner of the Old Town Square stands in for a wooden version from medieval days. The story behind this one is not nearly as sweet as the one behind Filus the dog. Hundreds of years ago, prisoners were tied to the wooden donkey while being punished.
The Frog Fountain
In the heart of the Old Town Square, you’ll also find a violinist surrounded by frogs spouting water. Legend has it that centuries ago, Torun was swarmed by a plague of these amphibians. Only the interesting melodies of a violinist managed to get them out of town.
9. Keep Flat Earthers at bay by paying your respects to Copernicus
One of the most important monuments in the Old Town is the statue of Nicolaus Copernicus. The Renaissance astronomer, mathematician, diplomat and more was actually born in Torun, and was responsible for developing a theory that placed the sun at the centre of the universe prior to Galileo Galilei. (At the time, mainstream thought was that the sun rotated around the Earth).
FYI (explanation for the heading): When the Earth was thought to be flat over 2,000 years ago, the sun was believed to orbit Earth.
If your love for astronomy runs deep, you can also pay a visit to Planetarium Torun.
Torun’s Nicolaus Copernicus Monument
10. Reconnect with FRIENDS
I don’t know about you, but I’ve coasted through all 10 seasons of FRIENDS more times than I can remember. So when I found out that Torun has a cafe dedicated to the show, I absolutely had to go. At Central Coffee Perks, you can find hot drinks named after our favourite group of six, and decor will definitely impress. Don’t believe me? Just take a look below:
I think they got that orange couch pretty spot on, don’t you?
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Best Time to visit Torun, Poland
I would highly recommend visiting Torun either between late April to mid-June or from early September to mid-October. These periods fall just before and after high travel season. Accommodation prices will be lower, but it will still be warm enough to spend a heck of a lot of time outdoors. And let’s face it, most of the activities mentioned above involve spending time out and about.
How to get to Torun
Torun lies just over halfway between Poland’s capital, Warsaw, and the seaside city of Gdansk. It’s super accessible by train and bus. A train ride from Warsaw to Torun can take roughly 3 hours, while bus rides can range from just under to just over 4 hours. On the other hand, a train trip from Gdansk to Torun will take between 2.5 to 3 hours, and a bus ride takes approximately 2.5 hours.
To look into bus travel options, check out Flixbus/formerly PolskiBus. Intercity.pl will be your go-to website for booking any train trips.
TIP: It’s worth noting that Torun’s main train station lies on the other side of the Vistula River. Walking into town from the station could take over 30 minutes. Public transport into town takes about 20 minutes. The main bus station is a 15-minute walk from the heart of the Old Town.
How to get around Torun
Honestly, there’s not too much to say here. Torun is an extremely walkable city, so typically, the best way to get from Point A to Point B is by foot. To put things in perspective, all of the sites and attractions mentioned above are all in or within the vicinity of Torun’s Old Town. The only time you may want to consider using public transportation is if you need to get to or from the train station.
Where to stay in Torun
The city has a whole ton of budget-friendly accommodation options in or close to the Old Town. They start around 106 / PLN / $25 USD / € 24 per night and go up from there. Hostels are the most affordable choice, but you can still find a hotel room or an apartment for a reasonable price (especially if you’re going to be splitting the place with a travel buddy or two).
When I visited Torun in 2017, I booked a whole apartment in Apartamenty Chleb i Wino right off of the main Old Town Square for $34 USD/night. The accommodation has gone up in price since, but you can check out other affordable and available options on Booking.com by clicking here.
Have you ever been to Torun? Would you love to go? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!
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