Top things to do in Elblag

written by Maciek Bogdanski

Located about 60 kilometres east from Gdansk, the city of Elblag beckons with its blend of historical allure and natural serenity. Although it is not the most popular city in the northern Poland, it is still worth giving it a look if you have some spare hours. Thanks to the express way, Elblag is only 40 minutes away from Gdansk. Here’s a closer look at the top things to see in Elblag.

Brief history of Elblag

Elblag, a city with a rich and storied past, traces its origins back to the ancient times when the region was inhabited by various Baltic tribes. The city’s history as an urban centre, however, began in the 13th century with the arrival of the Teutonic Knights, a German Roman Catholic religious order of crusaders. They established Elbląg, then known as Elbing, around 1237, strategically situating it on the Elblag River, which made it an important port for trade in the Baltic region. The city flourished under the Teutonic Order, becoming a significant member of the Hanseatic League, a medieval commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe. This period marked Elbląg’s golden age, during which it became a hub for commerce and craftsmanship.

However, the city’s prosperity was often marred by regional conflicts, including the Thirteen Years’ War in the mid-15th century, which led to Elblag coming under Polish rule. The subsequent centuries saw the city change hands between Poland and Prussia, enduring significant destruction during the Swedish invasions and later in the Napoleonic Wars. The 19th century brought industrialization and revival, with Elblag expanding its port facilities and developing new industries, but this upturn was again overshadowed by the devastation of World War II. The city was heavily bombed and largely destroyed, especially its historic Old Town.

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In the post-war period, Elbląg became part of Poland once again. The city underwent extensive reconstruction, with the Old Town being meticulously rebuilt in a style that reflects its historical significance, albeit not always to its original design. Modern Elblag, while cherishing its past, has evolved into a vibrant city with a focus on culture, education, and economic development, continually weaving new threads into the rich tapestry of its history. This enduring city stands today as a testament to resilience and adaptation, embodying a diverse heritage that spans centuries and various cultural influences.

Things to do in Elblag

Elblag Canal (Kanał Elblaski)

The Elblag Canal, a remarkable feat of 19th-century engineering, is recognized as one of Poland’s greatest technical achievements and is a unique attraction in Europe. Spanning over 80 kilometres, it connects the Vistula River with the Baltic Sea. What makes it extraordinary is its system of slipways and inclines, which allows boats to be transported over land between different water levels, overcoming a height difference of about 100 meters. This system replaces the traditional lock system and is a testament to human ingenuity and engineering prowess. A boat trip along the Elblag Canal not only offers an insight into historical engineering but also provides picturesque views of the surrounding countryside, making it a must-visit for both history enthusiasts and nature lovers. The Elblag Canal is a marvel of 19th-century engineering, stretching over 80 km from Elblag to Ostroda. Renowned for its boat-train rides, visitors can experience a unique journey over rolling hills and water, making it a truly unforgettable adventure. There are several companies, that offer a cruise. Two of the most significant are Zegluga Ostrodzko-Elblaska and Statkiem po trawie. They start the season in April, and offer numerous routes to choose from.

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Elblag Canal
Elblag Canal

St. Nicholas Cathedral

Elblag Cathedral
Elblag Cathedral

St. Nicholas Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, stands as a symbol of Elbląg’s historical and cultural heritage. Originally built in the 13th century, the cathedral has witnessed numerous historical events and has undergone various renovations over the centuries. Its towering structure dominates the city’s skyline, and its interior is adorned with stunning artworks, including altarpieces, sculptures, and stained-glass windows. The cathedral’s organ is particularly noteworthy, both for its historical value and impressive sound. The cathedral not only serves as a place of worship but also as a monument to the resilience and artistic achievements of the region. You may visit the tower as well. The stairs are a bit creepy, but it is worth going up.

Elblag Cathedral Tower stairs
Elblag Cathedral Tower stairs

Elblag Old Town

Elbląg’s Old Town, although heavily damaged during World War II, has undergone extensive reconstruction to restore its historical charm. The area is characterized by cobbled streets, reconstructed medieval buildings, and vibrant squares that host various cafes, restaurants, and shops. The Old Town’s architecture is a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles, reflecting the city’s rich history. Visitors can explore the Market Square, the heart of the Old Town, where historical events and markets were once held. The area also hosts various cultural events and festivals throughout the year, offering a glimpse into the local traditions and lifestyle. The Old Town’s ambiance, combined with its historical significance, makes it an essential stop for anyone visiting Elbląg.

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View from Elblag Cathedral towards the Old Town
View from Elblag Cathedral towards the Old Town

Archaeological and Historical Museum (Muzeum Archeologiczno-Historyczne)

Located in Elblag’s reconstructed Old Town, the Archaeological and Historical Museum offers a comprehensive insight into the region’s past. The museum’s exhibits cover a wide range of periods, from prehistoric times to the present day, showcasing artefacts, documents, and artworks that illustrate the area’s rich history. Highlights include archaeological finds from local excavations, medieval weaponry, and exhibits on the city’s development. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, lectures, and educational programs, making it an informative and engaging destination for history buffs and casual visitors alike. Its location in the heart of the Old Town makes it an accessible and integral part of the Elblag experience.

Market Gate (Brama Targowa)

The Market Gate is one of the few surviving remnants of Elbląg’s medieval fortifications. Dating back to the 14th century, this gate was part of the defensive walls that once encircled the city. It is an excellent example of Gothic architecture, with its imposing structure and detailed stonework. The gate has played various roles throughout history, including serving as a customs post and a city jail. Today, it stands as a historical landmark, offering a glimpse into the city’s medieval past. Visitors can admire its architecture and learn about the city’s defensive strategies and historical significance. The Market Gate is a symbol of Elbląg’s resilience and a reminder of its rich historical tapestry.

Market Gate in Elblag
Market Gate in Elblag

Elblag Upland Landscape Park

Elblag Upland Landscape Park, located just outside the city, is a haven for nature enthusiasts. The park features a diverse landscape of rolling hills, dense forests, and picturesque valleys, providing a perfect backdrop for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and bird watching. The park is home to various flora and fauna, some of which are rare or protected species. Its network of trails allows visitors to explore the natural beauty at their pace, whether they prefer leisurely walks or more challenging hikes. The park also offers educational paths, where visitors can learn about the local ecosystem and conservation efforts. The tranquillity and natural beauty of Elblag Upland Landscape Park make it an ideal escape from the urban environment and a refreshing experience for all who visit.

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Elblag Upland Lanscape Park seen from the Cathedral's Tower
Elblag Upland Lanscape Park seen from the Cathedral’s Tower

Art Center Gallery EL (Galeria EL Centrum Sztuki)

Art Center Gallery EL is a contemporary art space located in the heart of Elblag. This gallery is dedicated to promoting modern art and hosts various exhibitions, showcasing works by both Polish and international artists. The exhibitions range from paintings and sculptures to multimedia installations, offering a diverse and dynamic art experience. The gallery also organizes workshops, artist talks, and cultural events, fostering a vibrant artistic community. For art enthusiasts, the gallery provides an opportunity to explore contemporary artistic trends and engage with the art world. The gallery’s commitment to supporting artists and providing a platform for creative expression makes it a key cultural destination in Elblag.

Art Center Gallery EL
Art Center Gallery EL

Bazantarnia Park

Bazantarnia Park is a large forested area within Elblag’s city limits, offering a peaceful retreat for residents and visitors alike. The park features a variety of landscapes, including wooded areas, meadows, and streams, making it a perfect spot for nature walks, jogging, and picnicking. The park is also equipped with playgrounds, making it a family-friendly destination. Throughout the year, the park hosts various events and festivals, adding to its appeal as a recreational and cultural hub. Its accessibility and natural beauty make Bazantarnia Park a popular spot for outdoor activities and relaxation, providing a green oasis in the urban landscape.

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Chrobrego Street (Ulica Chrobrego)

Chrobrego Street is one of Elbląg’s most picturesque and lively streets. Lined with historic buildings, this street is a hub of urban life, featuring a variety of shops, cafés, and restaurants. The street’s architecture reflects a blend of historical and modern styles, creating a unique urban atmosphere. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll, indulge in local cuisine, or simply soak in the vibrant street life. Chrobrego Street also hosts various street performances and cultural events, adding to its lively character. Whether you’re looking for shopping, dining, or just a pleasant walk, Chrobrego Street offers a slice of Elbląg’s contemporary urban culture.

Elblag Brewery Museum

The Elblag Brewery Museum celebrates the city’s brewing heritage, tracing the history of beer making in the region. The most famous beer produced here was EB – brand promoted by Jean Reno. The museum is located in a historic brewery building and offers a fascinating journey through the brewing process, from ancient methods to modern techniques. Visitors can learn about the ingredients used in beer making, the evolution of brewing technology, and the cultural significance of beer in Polish society. The museum also features a collection of brewing memorabilia, including old bottles, labels, and equipment. A highlight of the visit is the tasting session, where guests can sample different types of beer produced in the brewery. The Elblag Brewery Museum is not only an educational experience but also a delightful exploration of one of Poland’s favourite beverages.

Make sure it is still possible to visit the museum before you set off.

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