For those who have never heard of Starogard Gdański, it’s a town in Eastern Pomerania in northwestern Poland with just under 50,000 inhabitants. Starogard is the capital and second biggest city (after Tczew) of the region called Kociewie and is populated by Kocievians.
Photo credit: en.wikipedia.org
After my time in the beautiful city of Gdańsk, I knew it wasn’t quite off the wall enough for me, so I took two side trips – first to Gdynia for a food tour and then to visit the sand dunes at Slowinski National Park. I felt that I needed another Polish city with less tourists and a whole lotta charm and Starogard certainly fits the bill.
I didn’t know much about Starogard Gdański so it was a real treat to visit without expectations: I absolutely love this charming town.
To get to Starogard Gdański from the city of Gdańsk, you can get a car or go by bus or train and it generally takes a little over an hour to get there from Gdańsk Główny.
In Starogard Gdański, I stayed at the Noclegi Rekord, which is a very old hotel, however there are not that many options. It is connected to the sports stadium and club and includes breakfast and WiFi. It also has a mini football museum, which is a quirky feature. It is fairly central making it easy to get to the attractions you’d likely want to see. Starogard Gdański is inland but has the Wierzyca River flowing through it. For me, the town has a beautiful name and it was a sentimental enchanting journey here.
Starogard Gdański reminded me a bit of my home town of Bangor in Northern Ireland and interestingly enough, I later discovered that it is twinned with Limerick in the Republic of Ireland! The name Starogard means “old city” or “old stronghold” in the Pomeranian language. I have been to lots of cities and towns with a similar name – even Machu Picchu translates as “old mountain” and weirdly again, my birth town is the opposite – its name is Newtownards – the “new town in Ards”. The reason they added the word Gdański in the 20th century is because Gdańsk is the largest nearby city, therefore this differentiates Starogard Gdański from other cities also known as Starogard. Literally, as someone learning Polish this translates as the Starogard of Gdańsk.
What is there to do in this off the wall Polish gem?
Rynek (Main Square/Market Square)
The Rynek is of course the main square and heart of this town. Around the Rynek are some cool bars, cafes and shops as well as two churches and the Ratusz – the Town Hall. Allegedly, the Town Hall is connected to dungeons and subterranean ways behind the city wall. There’s a little mystery in the air here!
The River Wierzyca runs through Starogard Gdański and you have many options to cross the river. There are lots of bridges and canals. Noclegi Rekord is on a mini island in the city and you can go canoeing on the canals or jogging in leafy parks alongside the river.
Leafy parks by the river
Kościół sw Katarzyny (St. Catherine’s Church)
This is easily the most distinctive church in Starogard Gdański, right on the corner by the Rynek and appearing in most photographs to promote the town. The city centre has a holy and pleasant feel and this church gives the place a real peace. It was quite soothing walking past this one every day.
At a guess, I’d say it’s also the highest building in the city.
Parafia Rzymskokatolicka św. Mateusza (St. Matthew’s Church)
The Oldest Church in Starogard Gdański is St. Matthews. Inside it has a huge mural and outside, there are a few plaques. The Gothic features decorate from outside the inner forms, with baroque furnishings inside. It is considered to be the most valuable monument of medieval architecture in the town.
Parafia Rzymskokatolicka św. Mateusza (St. Matthew’s Church)
Ratusz (Town Hall)
The Town Hall is of yellow paint and red brick and distinctive in the heart of the Rynek. On the gable flies a flag of 1339, the year when Starogard got its coat of arms.
Urząd Miasta (City Hall)
Confusing? The odd thing about the name Urząd Miasta is that it means “City Hall” rather than Town Hall and yet there is already a Town Hall in the Rynek. This building is bigger and about 7-8 minutes walk north from the Rynek.
Although it’s no longer open, it’s stunning to look at from the outside.Built by Franz Wichert in the 19th century, it is an eclectic villa with a huge entrance arch and five statues at the front. It is also one of the sights on Starogard Gdanski’s tourist trail (all of which I “ticked off” of course).
Baszta Gdanska (Gdansk Bastion)
You could be forgiven for walking past this and missing it. It is a relic of gothic architecture from 1325 and was a strong defense point for the old city. Today the bastion defends and presents the treasures in the museum next door.
Muzeum Ziemi Kociewskiej
This museum (next door to the Bastion) gives you the history of the region Kociewie, an ethnocultural region in the eastern part of Tuchola Forest. Check out the webpages at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kociewie and http://www.muzeum-kociewie.gda.pl/historia/historia.htm
Muzeum Ziemi Kociewskie
Buildings with character are notable on your walk through the city. This one, the Sąd Rejonowy is the district court house. It’s on the tourist trail as well and worth checking out.
There are quite a few War Memorials in Starogard Gdanski so it’s worth seeing them.
For some brilliant ice cream and waffles, head to Słodka Dziupla, which has tables by the river in an idyllic setting.
Beer Garden in Rynek
Perhaps this was a summer line only, but I was able to relax on deck chairs in a mock beach, sip beer and listen to live music in the square.
With the meaning “Wardrobe Cafe”, this is a cosy place to relax and drink coffee. It’s only a few minutes walk from the Rynek and also has WiFi, good food and serves wine.
Parafia Rzymskokatolicka św. Wojciecha (Wojciech’s Church)
This church is south of the town centre and a leisurely dander through a park which also features a statue of Pope John Paul. I mistook this for a Russian Orthodox Church at first due to the shape, but it’s definitely a Roman Catholic Church. Here are some more photos of Starogard Gdański.