Even though I know my home country fairly well there are still many places, especially in northwest Poland, that I need to see (or revisit since I’ve been there when I was a kid). One of those places that have been on top of my Poland bucked list for years was Chelmno. It’s never been easy to get there using public transport only but fortunately, during one of my last trips to the Kuyavian-Pomeranian region, I managed to visit Chelmno too.
It was definitely worth the wait as the town exceeded my expectations. While most of the Chelmno pictures I found online show the vista of the place with the centrally located beautiful town hall, there are more Chelmno attractions to see.
And with this article, I hope to encourage you to visit Chelmno, Poland too!
Table of contents
Where is Chelmno, Poland
Chelmno, a town of a bit under 20.000 inhabitants, is located in the northeast part of Poland, in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian region. The nearest cities are Torun (45 km away), Bydgoszcz (50 km away), and Gdansk (130 km away). Warsaw, the capital of Poland, is 250 km away from Chelmno.
How to get to Chelmno
Unfortunately, the only way to reach Chelmno by public transport is by bus. There are a couple of direct connections per day from both Torun and Bydgoszcz, the journey from each of these cities takes a bit over 1 hour. You can check the schedule on this website (usually it’s the most accurate one in Poland when it comes to bus timetable).
When I visited Chelmno I arrived from Bydgoszcz and after a few hours of sightseeing, I continued to nearby Grudziadz (that I highly recommend visiting too).
A brief history of Chelmno
Chelmno was first mentioned already in the mid-11th century, but the place got its city rights in 1233 when it was under the rule of the Teutonic Order (invited to the town by the Polish Duke).
As a member of the Hanseatic League Chelmno developed and flourished in the Middle Ages and until the 18th century. Back in the golden times, the town was the capital of Chełmno Voivodeship, home to the Chełmno Academy (a branch of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, the oldest university in Poland) and the seat of the bishops.
Already during the First Partition of Poland in 1772 Chelmno was included in the Kingdon of Prussia and returned to Poland only in 1920.
What to see in Chelmno
For such a small town Chelmno really is full of attractions.
The first place where you should start your Chelmno sightseeing is Main Square, dating back to medieval times (like the whole urban planning of the town that you can still see today). Even if over centuries it’s been rebuilt and repurposed (hence things like the pillory or the well are gone) there are still numerous remnants indicating the legacy of the place.
The Main Square is surrounded by some beautiful buildings but the real highlight is the Town Hall – one of the prettiest Renaissance buildings of this kind in Poland. The original town hall was built here in the 13th century but the further renovations (especially the one from the 16th century) shaped the building we can admire today.
Inside you can visit the regional museum that tells more about the local history of Chelmno and its surroundings.
When looking at Chelmno from a distance the first thing that catches the attention is numerous church towers – inside the city walls there are six Gothic from the Middle Ages.
While all of them are worth visiting for their great architectonic and sacral value, the most important one is the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, located just off the Market Square. The interior is a real masterpiece with all the details and decor, even if you are not really into religion you will definitely appreciate the beauty of the place. This is also where you will find relics of Saint Valentine – the reason why Chelmno is often called “the city of lovers”.
Another reason to visit the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is to climb the bell tower. You need to walk up 199 stairs but it’s definitely worth the effort as you will be rewarded with the best view of Chelmno and its surroundings. Parts of the climb up can get pretty narrow but it’s part of the thrill.
The whole Old Town is a really nice place and even a simple walk around is a great way to appreciate the place. The main pedestrian street is Grudziadzka (leading to the Grudziadz gate) but every single street has its own charm and gems, like murals or a water tower. Don’t focus only on the monuments, go for a walk around the Old Town too to get a feel of the place.
The Old Town is surrounded by the city walls, one of the best-preserved and most impressive walls you can find in Poland. Originally they had a length of 2300 meters, today 1700 meters remained, with 23 towers and 2 gates.
Just outside the city walls, on the north and east side, you can relax in a very pleasant city park where you will also find some references to “the city of lovers” title. There are benches of lovers or heart-shaped flower beds. This is a perfect place to slow down a bit after all the sightseeing.
Final thoughts on visiting Chelmno
Despite its small size Chelmno is one of the most interesting towns in northern Poland and definitely worth a small detour if you are in Torun, Bydgoszcz, or Gdansk. The place is literally packed with monuments and attractions and on top of that, it’s a pleasant place to spend a few hours in, discovering its past and all the great historical remnants.
I’m more than happy that I finally managed to visit Chelmno. The place exceeded my expectations, it was so much more interesting and prettier than I had thought.
I’m really hoping to return to this region soon as there are still so many great places I would like to visit (especially Teutonic Order castles) but I know that Chelmno will always be my highlight of northern Poland.
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