Olsztyn

The capital of Warmia-Masuria is a city that is unique in all of Europe. Though small in size, Olsztyn has 16 lakes and over 20 percent of the city is covered by forest. And that’s not all. It’s our Polish New York with its own "Central Park". It’s easy to forget here that you’re in a city.

A walk through a forest usually means taking a trip outside of the city, but not in Olsztyn. This is where you can find Europe’s largest forest complex within the administrative region of a city. The City Forest, which is what it is officially called, is a natural recreation centre. Four well-tended hiking trails go through it, and cyclists have several trails with varying degrees of difficulty ranging from recreational to endurance and extreme. In the winter, three natural sledding tracks are available. Physically active people will love the rope park, which is one of the largest in Poland. It’s possible to glide over the roof of a former stadium and to walk along hanging bridges over the Łyna River and ravines.

There are 16 lakes in Olsztyn. They aren’t large, but they’re picturesque and guarantee that this city is full of places where one can not only please the eye with nature, but also sail, fish and swim. The largest lakes in Olsztyn are Ukiel, nicknamed "Crooked Lake” by locals, and Kortowskie, next to which a marina has been built. This is why the campus of the University of Warmia and Masuria, which is located here, is considered to be one of the most beautifully situated universities in Europe. Around the university, there are also 11 impressively large old trees, including maples, oaks and beeches, which are considered monuments of nature.

Nicholas Copernicus lived and worked in Olsztyn's castle in the 1520s. The father of astronomy, known as the one who "made the earth move and the sun stand still", Copernicus observed the sky here and studied the phenomenon of the equinox. In his former chamber, we can see an original astronomical wall chart which he drew. There are more traces of Copernicus's presence at the castle. The city raised a statue to its famous scholar close to the castle on a stone bench so that every visitor can sit next to the astronomer. The castle itself is one of the most well-preserved defensive buildings in Poland and the architectural symbol of Olsztyn. The castle's rooms contain the Museum of Warmia and Masuria.

A kayak trip around a park in the very centre of a vibrant city? Why not? It's not only New York which has a green space for its residents where one can eat breakfast on the grass, meet with friends in a gazebo, lie under a tree and listen to the murmur of a fountain. The area on the Łyna River, bordered by 22 Stycznia, Pienieznego, Kosciuszki, Niepodlegtosci, Emilii Plater and Knosaty Streets, forms Olsztyn's Central Park. A beautiful fountain forms a convergent point for the park's walking and cycling trails. A stone sphere is embedded in it, symbolising the solar system, another tribute to Copernicus. It’s particularly worth seeing it in the evening, when it's illuminated.

Dark, light, fruity, honey-based, wheat-based, seasonal and unpasteurized... Beer-lovers will find an Eldorado in Olsztyn's enclave of cafes and restaurants on Warszawska Avenue. The largest beer hall in the city is at 29 Warszawska Avenue - Browarnia Stara Warszawska, offering over 200 kinds of Polish and European beer. The decor of the place makes reference to Olsztyn's ancient history. And Olsztyn's oldest pub, Beczka, is at the end of the street, opposite the 100-year-old home of the Dylewski family. Regular customers have their own mugs engraved with their names, but even tourists who only drop in for a moment feel the wonderful, friendly atmosphere of this place where time seems to have stopped.

Tags: Poland