Torun is a picturesque university town with at least three things in its favor. First, it has an unrivaled stock of Gothic buildings. Unlike many Polish towns its size, Torun escaped major damage in World War II. The Old Town joined UNESCO's World Heritage Site list in 1997. Now, gearing up in the bid to be the European City of Culture in 2016, Torun's theme is Gotyk na Dotyk (literally, "Touch Gothic"). Beneath the baroque, Renaissance, and classical facades are the medieval Gothic red bricks. Second, this is the birthplace of "the man who stopped the Earth and moved the Sun," Nicolaus Copernicus. Third, it had knights. Not the Templar, but the no-less-formidable Teutonic Order, a German religious order that was originally invited by Polish kings to secure the area, but later turned on its hosts and amassed its own empire. Tensions between the Knights and Torun residents ran high, culminating in a siege in 1454, when the citizens stormed the Knights' castle just outside the Old Town and effectively ended the Knights' domination of the city.

You can make a whirlwind tour of the town in a couple of hours, but that would be a shame. Torun is ideal for a slow and easy weekend. Be sure to stroll along the river (Bulwar Filadelfijski) for a spectacular view of the town walls that is especially pretty at night. And stop by the ruins of the former castle of the Teutonic Knights (at the crossing of Przedzamcze and Bulwar Filadelfijski).