Bydgoszcz (German: Bromberg) is a major city of 360,000 in Poland and with suburban area the agglomeration has nearly 500,000. It has well preserved 19th-century architecture and was known as Little Berlin before the world wars. Nicely located along Brda river it offers many green areas, intriguing museums and music scene with a famous Concert Hall – Filharmonia Pomorska, opera house – Opera Nova and the Paderewski Academy of Music. Bydgoszcz is also an important centre of higher education being the seat of Casimir the Great University, the University of Technology and Life Sciences, Academy of Music as well as a Collegium Medicum of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and several private institutes. It is also an important centre for athletics and water sports.
Together with the city of Toruń, they share the duties of the capital city of Kujawsko-Pomorskie province, being the seat of voivode (governor). The two cities, only 45 km apart, form a metropolitan area of over 850,000.
Bydgoszcz is the 8th biggest city in Poland located in the middle between the metropolitan areas of Warsaw, Poznań, Gdańsk and Łódź. It is also near the interesting historic and natural regions of the Gniezno Lake District, Lower Vistula Valley and Tuchola Forest.
Bydgoszcz is the biggest city in the historic region of Kujawy, but due to a high immigration rate in recent decades and Germanisation in the 19th century, it lost connection to the ethnographic area located to the south-east. This is why you will find the adjective Pomeranian alongside Kuiavian on many institutions and sites.
The city has a rich, interesting and well-preserved heritage from the last two centuries, not destroyed by war. It is also one of the greenest cities in Poland with many nice parks and forests. Additionally, it has some Medieval and Early Modern sites from the times of the Kingdom of Poland, when it was an important trade post in the area. Many sites are nicely renovated now, and it is nowadays regularly listed as one of top 10 most attractive Polish cities by Trip Advisor
Bydgoszcz was founded around 1030 as a fort protecting the passage on the Brda river. With time it gained importance as a local seat of power. The city charter was granted to Bydgoszcz on April 19, 1346. With the growth in importance of Vistula trade, the city became an important trade centre for the timber from Tuchola Forest and grain from northern Greater Poland. During Polish Golden Age in 15th and 16th centuries, Bydgoszcz reached a population of 5000, which was sizeable for a regional town in Central Europe. Unfortunately, wars of 17th and 18th century caused depopulation and marginalisation of it.
In 1772 it was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia during the First Partition of Poland and incorporated into the Netze District as Bromberg. Prussians soon built the Bydgoszcz Channel (planned by Poles just before the annexation) linking Vistula and Odra rivers and giving new life to the ancient town. After a short period of being the capital of Bydgoszcz department within the Napoleonic Duchy of Warsaw from 1807, in 1815 it returned to Prussian rule as part of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Poznań (the Province of Posen after 1848) and the capital of the Bromberg region. The city grew rapidly and soon became one of the biggest in the eastern part of the kingdom. It caused also Germanisation, as many new settlers came from German-speaking areas. After 1871 the city was part of the German Empire and the pressure on Germanisation was strengthened. After World War I Bydgoszcz returned to independent Poland. The city grew considerably during the interwar period and the arrival of Polish settlers gave it again more Polish character. Still, it was a relatively multi-ethnic city with a sizeable German and Jewish minorities. In 1938 it was made part of the Pomeranian Voivodeship.
On September 3, 1939, shortly after World War II started, riots erupted between Poles and Germans, known as Bromberg Bloody Sunday. The incident was exaggerated in Nazi propaganda and reprisals against the tens of thousands of Poles followed after Bydgoszcz was occupied by the Wehrmacht on September 9. Bydgoszcz was annexed to the Reichsgau Wartheland and renamed Bromberg again. During the war, thousands of innocent people were killed by the Nazi Germans and the city's Jewish population was virtually wiped out.
In 1945 Bydgoszcz was taken by the Soviet army and soon became the capital of Pomeranian Voivodeship, renamed the Bydgoszcz Voivodeship in 1950. During the communist regime, the city grew considerably from 135,000 before the war to 385,000 in 1989.
After the end of the dictatorship, the process of rapid suburbanisation started, and many citizens moved to the villages near the city. Since the early 1990s, Bydgoszcz has experienced a transformation: the Old Town, areas along the river, the city's stadium and many historic sites have been renovated, and several new attractions have opened.
Most inhabitants of Bydgoszcz are natives, although the majority come from families that arrived in the city in the 20th century. They are generally very friendly towards tourists and foreigners and won't miss a chance to give tips to a tourist or even show them around, just to prove the old stereotype – that the city is not too pretty – wrong.
Most of the young people and teenagers know English well enough. When asking for directions, your best aim would be a person in their twenties or thirties. Older people may speak rather German or Russian.
Some official information, like bus and tram schedules, is provided in both Polish, English and German. When no information in English is available, locals will readily help to translate or provide the information necessary. Same applies to restaurants - even if no English menu is available, the staff most often will be ready to advise in English.
Majority of interesting places are situated within the city centre. The Medieval Old Town is south of the Brda River, while the 19th-century centre is to the north. The main railway station is in the north-western corner, while the bus station exactly on the opposite side of the downtown area. Major streets there are Gdańska and Jagiellońska.
Tourists may also want to visit Dynamite factory museum hidden in the forests of the south-eastern part of the city as well as Myślęcinek Park to the north. Really curious people may be interested in a visit of Fordon in the East – a small historic town on the Vistula river incorporated in 1973 and then developed into a big housing estate.
Bydgoszcz, and Central Europe, in general, has six climatic seasons. The best time to visit is from late April to mid-October. Spring starts usually in April and lasts two months. It is a beautiful time for flowers and fresh green. Days are usually warm, around 20°C, although colder moments are not unusual. Summer starts in June and lasts for three months. It is warm, occasionally hot, with seasonal storms in July. Autumn is in September and October. It is the season of colourful trees, first cold nights, but very enjoyable. From late October until early December it is the early winter – a grey season full of clouds and temperatures just above 0°C. Winter lasts from mid-December until mid-February. Temperatures are usually below freezing, and snow is not a surprise, although with warming climate fewer winters are snowy for long. Early spring from late February until April is muddy, but because it gets warmer and days are longer it is considered as a quite positive time, although it may not be viewed so by a tourist.
- 1 Bydgoszcz Ignacy Jan Paderewski Airport (BZG IATA). Bydgoszcz's international airport receives direct domestic and international flights. The airport sees only limited scheduled traffic to the British Isles, Ukraine and Germany, mostly operated by the low-fare airline Ryanair, eastern direction by LOT Polish Airlines and a feeder connection by Lufthansa. There are no flights to Warsaw.
The relatively low popularity of the Bydgoszcz Airport is in part due to the fact that Bydgoszcz is easy to reach from the larger airports of Poznań (140 km), Gdańsk (160 km) and Warsaw (280 km). Warsaw Chopin Airport, in particular, is the country’s busiest airport with connections to almost all European capitals and other major cities, as well as intercontinental flights.
The city's main railway station is called Bydgoszcz Główna and lies approx. 1.5 km from the main street of the city. Address of the station is ul. Zygmunta Augusta 7.
Bydgoszcz has direct train connections with all major Polish cities. Direct connections to other major cities:
- Gdańsk: 1 hr 40 min
- Łódź: 3 hr
- Poznań: 1 hr 50 min
- Kraków: 5 hr 45 min
- Toruń: 40 min
- Warsaw: 3 hr 30 min
- Wrocław: 4 hr
- Olsztyn: 3 hr 15 min
There is also a train between Bydgoszcz and Berlin, taking about 4 hours.
Bydgoszcz is easily accessible by car. The A1 Motorway is about 50 km from the city and S5 Motorway going directly in the vicinity is under construction and should be finished in 2019 or 2020.
The long-distance bus station is situated in the city centre (ul. Jagiellońska 58) and provides a number of connections with almost every bigger city in Poland.
The city has a well-developed bus and tram system. Tickets may be purchased from any of the little newsstands/kiosks around the city as well as ticket machines. Once on the tram or bus, you must validate your ticket in one of the ticket punchers located near the doors. There is also a water tram that serves as an attraction.
- Main Post Office, Jagiellońska 6. Neo-Gothic building from the turn of 19th and 20th centuries, flamboyantly decorated, one of the largest Post Offices in Poland.
- Bazylika Św. Wincenta a Paulo, Aleje Ossolińskich 2 (It is a little walk from old town towards the area with parks and the conservatory), ☏ . English: St. Vincent a Paulo church. A ginormous church, that looks like a roman temple and palace in one.
- 1 Town Hall, Jezuicka 1. Built in 1650s, extended at the beginning of the 18th century.
- Spichrze, Grodzka 7-11. Old garners, built at the end of the 18th century. They host Leon Wyczółkowski's gallery.
- 2 Man crossing the river (Przechodzący przez rzekę) (left from the bridge as you walk towards old town). Sculpture of a man balancing on cords.
- Muzeum Okręgowe im. Leona Wyczółkowskiego. Wonderful series of museums (art, history, ethnography) in a park on Mill Island. At a minimum the modern art museum should not be missed.
- Muzeum Wojsk Lądowych (Land Forces Museum), ul. Czerkaska 2 (at Gdańska street), ☏ , fax: . Exceptional war museum for its outdoors arsenal of tanks and rockets. In addition to that there is lots of information on 6th and 8th century history. Admission 5/2.5zł, Sunday free.
- 3 Museum of Soap and Dirt, ul. Długa 13. 12 zł.
- 4 Exploseum, ul. Alfreda Nobla. War Technology Center of DAG Fabrik Bromberg
- 1 Botanic garden, ul. Gdańska 173-175 (East of the city, follow the road from the military base and head straight along the football stadium and it is just outside of town), ☏ . Large area rich of flora and fauna. See interesting nature such as rocks, water streams and lakes. There is more nearby, lesny park, a zoo and an amusement park.
- Camerimage. International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography. Usually starts in the last week of November. Former hosting cities Toruń (from 1993 to 1999) and Łódź (from 2000 to 2009).
Herbaciarnia Asia, Wełniany Rynek 7. A place to grab a cup of tea or properly-made hot chocolate (for this, enter the door that is facing Wełniany Rynek street) to go. There is another entrance and the small tea room at the tiny street that is descending to the river.
The town square has a variety of good restaurants that are quite reasonably priced.
Dolce Vita (Italian), Stare Miasto, ul. Podwale (close to the Old Square). Best pizza in town!
Karczma Młyńska (Polish, traditional), Mennica 1, restaurant with a nice old world atmosphere right on the canal.
Meluzyna (Polish, traditional) ul. Gdańska 50, not directly on Gdańska, entrance around the corner on the right side. Best restaurant for quality and price relation, beef recommended.
Sami Swoi (Polish, traditional), old square (Stary Rynek), serves a variety of Polish specialties, including many types of pierogi. Their żurek (Polish rye soup) and golonka (pork knuckle) are quite good.
Sowa (international), off Old Square (Stary Rynek), serves a variety of Italian and Polish dishes, including pizza. One of the busiest restaurants on the main square.
Kuchnia, Jatki 7. An attractive, modern, busy restaurant right across the cornet from Stary Rynek square. Excellent food, friendly service.
Weranda, (Polish, international) right side to the park "Kazimierza Wielkiego". A nice restaurant in art nouveau style, probably best cuisine in Bydgoszcz.
Villa Calvados, Księdza Piotra Skargi 3. International cuisine with a creative twist. Situated in a picturesque old mansion on the other side of the park Kazimierza Wielkiego.
There is a ton of places to eat and drink around Bydgoszcz, including Kredens, Browar Pub, Grandmother's Pub, Jack Daniels Pub, and along the river and on the main square. There is also a new brew pub (as of spring 2011) across the canal from Miller's Island (Wyspa Młyńska).
Szkolne Schronisko Młodzieżowe w Bydgoszczy is only a few steps away from the main train station at ul. Sowińskiego 5. It is often overlooked, besides dorm rooms for the youth they also offer good double rooms at low rates for all ages. There is English speaking staff, but not always.
Karczma Rzym, Pawłówek near Bydgoszcz, (at the Grunwaldzka street Bydgoszcz’s exit, on the route to Nakło, Piła and Szczecin) Place to stay if you have business in the western part of the city, you avoid most of the daily traffic jams.Good restaurant, Polish traditional cuisine.
Bohema this centrally located boutique hotel is the only in town with five stars. Friendly staff who speak English fluently.
City Hotel located in the center, most destinations like Stare Miasto, Gdańska and restaurants around you can walk, ask for weekend special rates and seasonal offers.
- Pod Orlem - Focus Premium (Under the Eagle), 14 ul Gdanska (Walk 2 km down station road to T-junction with Gdanska St), ☏ . Charming Art Nouveau facade & dining room, spacious modern bedrooms
Bydgoszcz is considered as a safe city. Major dangers are skinheads and fanatic football fans. Try to avoid comments about Polish football teams because it can easily annoy them. Robberies rarely happen in the day light.
Keep an eye out on the traffic. Some drivers drive way too fast in downtown or other parts and will pull off crazy maneuvers just when you thought it was safe to cross the streets. Crashes and run over pedestrians are common. Just be more alert than you are in your home town.
- Main Post Office, ul. Jagiellońska 6.
Overall, Bydgoszcz is not as well connected to the Internet as other big central and western European cities, but that doesn't mean you can't get access to the Internet. Internet cafés (Polish: kawiarenka internetowa) are very rare to come across, but can be occasionally found. Shopping centres are good places to look for them. Wi-fi is becoming increasingly accessible for travelers too (Old Town's Square is covered by free wi-fi connection, for example). Some cafés and restaurants offer free wi-fi for guests. There's a free wi-fi in many fast-food restaurants like McDonald's.
The area code for Bydgoszcz is 52 and, as of the present, you'll need to use the area code even when making local calls. Pay phones are very rare, nowadays.
If you want to purchase a SIM card in Bydgoszcz, you can buy a pre-paid SIM card from just about any major carrier and you'll have a Polish number. SIM cards can cost as little as 5zł a pop and you just add credit when needed. Going this route might be a wise investment if you'll be traveling around Poland.
The mobile network (3G/GPRS/GSM) covers the whole city. If you are coming from a non-GSM standard country check your mobile phone for GSM compatibility.
- Toruń, a World Heritage Site, is only an hour bus ride away.
- Biskupin - village with big ancient settlement from about 800 to 400 BCE
- Bory Tucholskie National Park - large complex of forests with villages scattered around and many lakes.
- Tuchola - nice city in Bory Tucholskie forest complex