Average max July temperature: 25.2°C
Famous for: Founding of the Polish state; colourful main market square; active, student-fuelled club scene
Average max July temperature: 25.1°C
Famous for: Birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus; gingerbread pastries; well-preserved, red-brick Gothic architecture
Poznań traces its roots to the 8th century, before the founding of the Polish state. The country’s first ruler, Mieszko I, was reputedly baptised here and remains buried, alongside several other former Polish leaders, at Poznań Cathedral. Over the centuries, the city prospered from its location along key trade routes. During the Second World War, much of Poznań, including its stately main market square, was destroyed; the square was painstakingly rebuilt in the decades afterwards.
Toruń began life in 1231 as a military outpost of the Catholic crusading order known as the Teutonic Knights. The rocky remains of their former castle are still standing. Famed Renaissance mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was born here in 1473. The city grew wealthy as a member of the Hanseatic League, and it was later spared damage during the Second World War, so its UNESCO-listed centre retains the look and feel of a well-to-do medieval town.
Any exploration of Poznań starts at the 13th-century main square (Stary Rynek); this is dominated by the Renaissance Old Town Hall. Note the colourful row of merchants’ houses (‘Budnicy’ Houses) on the square’s eastern side. North-east of the centre, Cathedral Island (Ostrów Tumski) is home to several religious sights as well as the city’s impressive 10th-century cathedral. Don’t miss a visit to the ancient crypts where Mieszko I and his son, Bolesław the Brave, are buried.
Start at the ruins of the Teutonic Castle and take in the Gothic splendour of the surviving medieval town gates. Stroll the high street, Szeroka, and admire the exteriors of the houses – a harmonious blend of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau. The magnificent 14th-century Old Town Hall is one of Poland’s largest Gothic red-brick structures. Copernicus’s purported birthplace and house, nearby, is home to a museum devoted to the man’s life and times.
Poznań is a sprawling metropolis, and you don’t need to leave the city limits to enjoy a day in nature. Lake Malta, about 20 minutes’ walk east of the main market square, is a giant man-made lake with abundant hiking and cycling trails, a water park and a narrow-gauge railway. Further afield, the unspoilt Wielkopolski National Park, about 15km south of Poznań, encompasses three tranquil lakes and offers 85km of marked, colour-coded hiking trails.
Cross the Vistula River on a bridge leading south of the centre for dramatic views of the castle ruins and Old Town Hall from the opposite bank. For something more strenuous, cycling trails fan out in all directions. The tourist information office hands out maps of popular routes, including a blue-marked trail that runs north to the Barbarka forest. Torvelo is a handy and reasonably priced bike-share option, with bike-hire stands all around town.
Poznań is famous for its sweet pastries stuffed with poppyseeds and vanilla cream, known as ‘St Martin’s croissants’. These are traditionally eaten on St Martin’s Day (11 Nov) but are enjoyed across the year. The Poznań Croissant Museum holds live cooking shows where visitors make their own versions. Enjoy classic Polish dining at Ratuszova Restaurant on the main square, where you can taste such specialties as cabbage rolls stuffed with buckwheat.
Gingerbread (piernik) biscuits, often cut up into fanciful hearts and stars, have been baked here since at least the 14th century. Toruń even has two museums dedicated to the craft. The Live Gingerbread Museum (Żywe Muzeum Piernika) invites visitors to prepare their own dough and even ice the final concoctions. The 4 Pory Roku restaurant located near the former castle, features seasonal dishes with ingredients supplied by local farmers.
The City Solei boutique hotel offers a large dose of quirky, eye-popping modern design, bright rooms and a particularly handy central location, located just a few minutes’ walk from the main market square. The décor in each of its 22 rooms is inspired by a different city from around the world.
The four-star boutique Hotel 1231 occupies two tastefully renovated buildings, an infirmary and an old mill that all stand resiliently amid the ruins of the Teutonic Knights’ former castle, within what was once the outer bailey. The location is deceptively close to the Old Town, just a ten-minute walk away.
The drive between the two cities takes roughly two hours, depending on traffic, but several daily trains also connect them. Second-class seats tickets can be bought in advance from the Pol Rail website. Faster Inter-City (IC) trains, marked in red on timetables, make the journey in under two hours. Toruń has two rail stations, but Toruń Miasto is closer to the Old Town.
Airlines Wizzair and Ryanair fly direct to Poznań-Ławica Airport from London Luton and Liverpool respectively. Both flights take from around two hours. Toruń’s nearest airport is 50km away in Bydgoszcz. Ryanair flies direct to Toruń from London Stansted and Birmingham.
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