The Medieval Magic of Toruń: Poland’s UNESCO Urban Complex

In 1997, Toruń was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its impressive Gothic architecture. Approximately 1,100 buildings were built in this style, which makes Toruń part of the European Brick Gothic Route. It is believed that the Teutonic Order was responsible for the foundation of Toruń. They built a castle to be used as a base for their evangelization missions in Prussia.

Although the castle no longer exists, its remains can still be admired today. Toruń used to be a well-known commercial center and belonged to the Hanseatic League. As a reminder of its former prosperity, there are tenement houses in the Old and New Town, including the house believed to be the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus.

Along the Vistula River, you’ll find ancient fortifications dating from the 13th to 15th centuries, which are still in excellent condition. These include the entrance gates and the famous Leaning Tower. This tower leans an impressive 1.5 meters off center and was built in the 14th century. The bustling Old Town Square with the stunning Town Hall, an outstanding example of medieval architecture in Central Europe, is just a short walk away. Nowadays, the museum is located in the city hall, where you can see the rooms where the king used to live.

An observation deck offers breathtaking views from the top of the 40-meter tower. Another popular spot is the Artus Court, where the rich and famous gathered for events and socializing, this magnificent building is adorned with intricate carvings in the Dutch Neo-Renaissance style. Not far from the Town Hall you will find the magnificent 13th-century St. Mary’s Church, which houses the mausoleum of Princess Anna Vasa, sister of King Sigismund III Vasa. The town’s landmark is the iconic statue of Nicolaus Copernicus.

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Learn more about the other interesting places in Poland. Here is the article featuring the rest of UNESCO sites: Exploring Poland’s Cultural Riches: A Guide to UNESCO Cities

What is Worth Seeing and Visiting in Toruń

Here is the list of the most interesting sites you can expect to see when visiting Toruń.

Old Town in Toruń

The Old Town of Toruń is a treasure trove of history and a well-deserved UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can stroll through the labyrinth of narrow streets, marvel at the wealth of Gothic temples and admire the unique medieval houses. At the center of all this is Staromiejski Square, which houses the City Hall, which is the crown jewel of the old town. This impressive building is a harmonious blend of Gothic and Mannerist styles, and its towering structure and captivating interiors attract visitors from far and wide.

Another symbol of the city is located near the Town Hall. This is the Nicolaus Copernicus Monument. Since the middle of the 19th century it has been a valuable decoration of the square.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

Nicolaus Copernicus Monument

In the old town square, just in front of the church, at the junction of the south-eastern wall of the town hall, there is a statue of Nicolaus Copernicus. As the Latin inscription says: a man who moved the earth and stopped the sky and the sun. At the bottom of the statue there is a small faountain fish.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

Toruń Gingerbread

Toruń is a gingerbread lover’s paradise with a rich history dating back to the Middle Ages. While the written recipes for these spicy delicacies are only 300 years old, the tradition of baking gingerbread has been passed down through generations. The recipes contain a combination of honey, flour, and spices such as cinnamon, anise, pepper, and cardamom.

But it’s not just the ingredients that make Torun’s gingerbread special – the wooden trays used to shape the dough are just as important. The most popular gingerbread is called „Katarzynka” (Katherine cookie), composed of six connected circular shapes, and is available in bakeries and at the Toruń Gingerbread Museum.

Toruń Gingerbread Museum

The Toruń Gingerbread Museum is a confectionary-filled wonderland that promises to captivate visitors of all ages. The building’s exterior alone is a sight to behold, and inside, you’ll find a harmonious blend of tradition and modernity.

You can immerse yourself in a world of gingerbread at the museum’s play area, explore tales and legends in a dedicated room, or try your hand at making gingerbread in the „Gingerbread Lab”.There’s also a children’s corner with games and activities, a virtual changing room, and a cozy clubhouse where you can watch episodes of the popular fairy tale series „Wandering Pyzy”.Don’t miss out on the museum’s temporary exhibitions and workshop space either!

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

Gingerbread Museum

At the Gingerbread Museum (Żywe Muzeum Piernika) you will be able to put your culinary skills to the test and bake your very own delicious gingerbread. The highlight of the museum are the interactive workshops and demonstrations where you can create your own version of Torun’s famous delicacy.

Not only can you bake gingerbread, but you can also see how it was baked in the Middle Ages and explore a gingerbread factory from the early 20th century. This museum combined education and fun and is a must for families visiting Toruń. It is one of the most popular attractions for children in the city.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

Nicolaus Copernicus House

Here you will discover the presumed birthplace of Poland’s most famous astronomer, the famous Nicolaus Copernicus. This complex of two late-Gothic townhouses is located in Torun’s Old Town and now plays the role of a museum. Visitors can immerse themselves in the fascinating world of Copernicus and learn about his life and scientific achievements through a modern exhibition full of interesting information.

You’ll also get a glimpse of life in Copernicus’ time. Holograms and presentations bring the magic of old Toruń to life. You can see the sky above the city and feel the wonder that young Copernicus felt when exploring this historic tenement building.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

Philadelphia Boulevard in Toruń

You can see Toruń from a different angle during a 40-minute cruise on the Vistula River. You will depart from the charming Philadelphia Boulevard, a 2 km long promenade with a picturesque landscape along the river. The boulevard is also famous among Polish film lovers, as it was the location for scenes in the popular cult classic „Rejs” (The Cruise).

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here
Click Play To See This Great Video About Toruń

Center of Modernity „Młyn Wiedzy” Exhibition

The Mill of Knowledge Modernity Center in Toruń is a unique attraction and the only science center in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian region. This is the perfect place to get involved in entertaining, interactive exhibitions and workshops that will leave you astonished.

You’ll witness the spectacle of Foucault’s pendulum, be mesmerized by the spinning and color exhibits, and explore a realistic model of the Vistula riverbed. For budding architects, there’s a room full of building blocks waiting for them to unleash their creativity and create their masterpieces.

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Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist

The Cathedral Basilica of the Old Town is a remarkable Gothic church, famous for its towering clock. It was gradually built from the middle of the 13th century and is home to the first bell of the Middle Ages, the third largest bell in Poland, Tuba Dei, or „Trumpet of God”.

This church has a special significance as it was here that the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was baptized. The interior of the cathedral is a true masterpiece, decorated with paintings, triptychs and sculptures from the late 14th century. It also has a beautiful baroque pulpit and altars. The oldest organ in the church can also be seen here.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here

Leaning Tower

The defense tower is a remnant from the Middle Ages. It’s a testament to the city’s former defense system. The tower has become a popular tourist attraction due to its pronounced inclination from the vertical.

Some say the lean is due to the fact that the tower was built on sandy soil. Others have a more imaginative explanation. According to legend, a crusader who broke his vow of chastity was punished by being forced to build a leaning tower as a penance for his sin and for violating the rules of the monastery.

Test of Honesty

Since the Leaning Tower was built by a dishonest crusader, all visitors to Toruń can test their honesty. All we have to do is stand with our backs to the tower, at the point where it’s leaning the most, and stick as much as possible to the wall. We have to stand like this for at least 3 seconds. Those who succeed are honest people.

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History Museum of Toruń

The Museum of the History of Toruń is an exceptional collection housed in fascinating premises. The exhibits illustrating the history of the city are housed in the Esken House, which dates from the 14th century and is an attraction on its own.

You can see there a range of fascinating items including ancient coins, costumes, valuable documents and badges. The museum also offers a glimpse of life in Toruń during the Swedish Wars and the Duchy of Warsaw through multimedia presentations that bring the history of the city’s settlements to life.

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Invisible House

The Invisible House is a unique new addition to Torun’s offer. You will experience the world without sight, relying on your senses of hearing, touch and smell.

As you embark on your journey in complete darkness, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the lives of the blind people who serve as your guides. The tour lasts one hour and is open to anyone age 9 and older.

It is interesting to note that it is one of only five such places in the world.

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Planetarium in Toruń

Toruń is the birthplace of one of the world’s most famous astronomers. A visit to the planetarium is a must. The „Planetarium – Toruń” is a center for popularization of the cosmos. It offers a wealth of knowledge with fascinating shows about the universe.

You are also invited to explore the interactive Space Base and the Geodium Room, which will introduce you to the secrets of the Earth. Here you can learn about the magnetic field, the aurora borealis and admire an impressive collection of meteorites.

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City Hall

City Hall is a magnificent Gothic building located in the heart of Toruń’s old town. It dates back to the 13th century and is considered one of the finest examples of medieval bourgeois architecture. There is an interesting legend associated with City Hall which states that the building was designed to resemble a calendar.

One tower represents one year, the four gates correspond to the four seasons, twelve large halls symbolize the number of months, and it is said that there are as many windows as there are days in a year.

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„Filus” The Dog – Monument

The citizens of Toruń honored Zbigniew Lengren with a sculpture of Professor Filutek and his canine companion, Filus. The beloved puppy holds the professor’s hat in its mouth and guards the lamppost on which its master’s umbrella rests.

This image of a faithful puppy has become an emblem of the city. According to local folklore, rubbing Filus’s ear brings good luck in life, and his tail brings good luck in matters of the heart.

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Toruń Fortress Museum

History enthusiasts will love the Toruń Fortress Museum. It’s located on the site of the former Chelminska Gate Barracks. Here, you will learn about the city and its Prussian defenses in the 19th century. You can explore the old fortification architecture, learn about the way of life in the Prussian fortress and take a look at the ammunition research laboratory. You can also get a glimpse of the Toruń fortress and other buildings that were part of it through replicas and multimedia presentations.

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Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary

St. Mary’s Church is a Franciscan church and is characterized by its lack of a tower and its corner turrets. Its walls are decorated with beautiful paintings in honor of the saints, said to have been painted by Franciscans in the 14th century.

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„Flisak” Monument

A flisak, also known as a rafter, is a member of the professional group responsible for transporting goods by rafting on rivers. Generally, those who specialized in this type of transportation were peasants who lived near the river and took up rafting as an extra seasonal job.

In the western part of the square you can find a fountain with a statue of Flisak. He is surrounded by eight frogs. It is said that when Toruń was hit by a frog plague, Flisak came to the rescue and scared frogs away with his violin. If you want to make your wishes come true, just pat one of the frogs!

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Cat On The Roof

At Old Town Square 8, a coal-colored cat sits on the roof of a tenement building. This can be seen from a distance. According to a story, there was a cat that lived in the area with its owner. When the owner went off to fight, the cat would watch the area from the roof every day. One day the sun caused the roof tar to melt, and the cat’s paws got stuck so he stayed there.

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The House of Legends of Toruń

The House of Toruń Legends is a popular destination for young travelers, as it is a great place to explore the fascinating stories of Torun’s history. You will learn here about six folk tales told in an entertaining and engaging way.

The House of Legends is a combination of a museum and a theater. You won’t regret spending time with the friendly guides. A visit to this place will make a stroll through the Old Town much more interesting – not only for the younger tourists.

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Teutonic Castle Ruins

Just seven decades ago, this area was nothing more than a garbage dump, and in the winter, you could even go sledding! Now, thanks to the hard work of archaeologists who have spent nearly a decade restoring the Teutonic Castle, you are welcome to explore the ruins. For a small fee of 10 PLN, you can explore both the underground and above-ground portions of the castle ruins.

  • Pictures and Google Maps Location: Here