Poland‘s Kociewie region is a charming area with stunning villages, gorgeous cuisine, and a rich history. This region is best explored by those who have their own transport, as direct bus or rail links are infrequent. Start in the cultural capital, Starogard Gdański, and work your way through our list to see the best of Kociewie.
For starters, visit the Muzeum Ziemi Kociewskiej – the ‘Kociewie Museum’ – which will help explain everything about the region. You can get your bearings here and plan your tour of Kociewie. The museum is in a central location in Kociewie’s capital, Starogard Gdański.
The town of Czarna Woda (which means “Black water”) features a stunning church, known as the Our Lady of Częstochowa Church, which links the town to the famous Black Madonna Church in Częstochowa. Of course, there are many churches in the Kociewie region, but this one stands out in its rural glory.
Explore the nature of Kociewie with a trip to Tuchola Forest National Park, which has been designated a UNESCO listed Biosphere Reserve since 2010. There are over 20 lakes in the park, some with crystal-clear waters housing around 25 species of fish. You can also find European beavers here and the national park is a heaven for bird lovers with around 150 species, including the crane and eagle owl.
The little town of Pelplin houses an original Gutenberg Bible which is in a glass case inside the Diocesan Museum. It is one of only nine copies of the Gutenberg Bible in the world to survive in its original 15th century binding. This is the only copy of such a Bible in Poland and is best explored at the same time as the famous Pope Jan Pawel II Hill and the Pelplin Abbey.
In springtime, many fields in the Kociewie region blossom with an array of colours. There is no finer place to see this beautiful countryside than on the outskirts of the village of Kokoszkowy. Here, fields are covered in yellow rapeseed oil plants and on a hot spring day are a real treat for nature lovers and Instagrammers. While in the village, check out the church too, St. Barbara’s.
The old town of Skarszewy contains left over reminders of 14th century stone walls, rebuilt remains of the palace of the Knights Hospitaller and a Gothic parish Church of St Michael. Sadly, the town was annexed by Germany during World War II, and many of the original buildings were destroyed. The town is also surrounded by greenery and lakes and has a pretty facade in its town square.
Szpęgawski Forest is the second forest on the list, but has a pretty grim history in comparison to Tuchola. This area was the site of Nazi German mass murders and now houses the graves of around 7,000 Poles from the Kociewie region who were murdered during World War II by Nazi Germans. Annually there is now a mini marathon held in the area and there is a poignant Holocaust Memorial inside the forest.
If you’re visiting the unique Kociewie region, you won’t want to miss trying the local beer, so head to the famous and popular Browar Kociewski. It’s a brewery and a bar/restaurant, housed inside the swanky Hotel Ren. The venue has four special beers to try and also appeared on the list of best Brewery bars in Poland and of the best bars in Starogard Gdański.
For a glimpse of yesteryear, head to the village of Owidz which has a living medieval museum called Grodzisko Owidz. It is a reconstructed medieval settlement, where you can feel the atmosphere of the medieval times in Kociewie including dressing up in medieval clothing and firing a bow and arrow. Idyllic wooden cottages surround a countryside venue where real-life archers and craftsmen show their skills.
Kazimierz Deyna Stadium and Trail, Starogard Gdański
One of the most famous ever people to come out of the Kociewie region was football hero Kazimierz Deyna, nicknamed either Kaka or Kazik. Deyna grew up in Starogard Gdański, before playing for Legia Warsaw, Manchester City and San Diego Sockers. Deyna scored 41 goals for Poland, playing in two World Cups, impressively in 1974 when Poland were the best team in the tournament stats wise, but ended up third. Deyna also led Poland to an Olympic Gold Medal in 1972, and a Silver in 1976. You can do a pilgrimage tour to him in his home town, which also includes a visit to the stadium named after him. In that very stadium, there is a Deyna statue and the local team Klub Piłkarski Starogard play in the fifth division.
This stunning castle sits in the southern part of the Kociewie region in the town of Gniew. Ordensburg Castle was built by the Teutonic Order at the turn of the 14th century and was used by Nazi Germany as a prison for the Polish population of Tczew and the surrounding area. Gniew is a well-preserved medieval old town with a Gothic church dating from the 14th century.
Kociewie region is home to one of Poland’s most famous vodka distilleries – the Sobieski vodka distillery – which is housed in the regional capital Starogard Gdański and is a huge complex. Flavours of vodka are a lot more diverse now than they once were, with the lemon and cherry options now popular. Tours can be arranged in advance.
The bridge in Tczew is more than just a pivotal link between north western Poland and big cities like Warsaw, Kraków and Poznań, this is the historic place where World War II began. It was here at Tczew’s bridge at 4am on September 1, 1939 that the Nazi Germans tried to destroy, just before they attacked the Polish Post Office in Gdańsk and bombed Westerplatte. The Bridge (Most Tczewski) is fully functional nowadays with cars, trains and buses all passing through, you can also walk across it.
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While touring the region’s capital, you can’t really ignore the appeal of the Old Town Square (Stary Rynek) in Starogard Gdański, which at 107 metres by 107 metres (351 feet by 351 feet) is a perfect square. Two churches sit here, as do the Town Hall and some great nearby bars and cafes such as Browar Stary Rynek and Klubokawiarnia Szafa.
The tranquil village of Gręblin is a flat plain near the railway line which goes through Tczew and onwards to Warsaw. This makes it a perfect place to relax for a picnic and do a spot of trainspotting. The village also has a popular restaurant and function venue, Zajazd Arkada.
The tranquil town of Pelplin is easy to get to by train or bus from nearby Tczew and as well as the aforementioned Gutenberg Bible, it has a huge hill and cross dedicated to Pope John Paul II. The hill is known as ‘Góra Jana Pawła II’ and is on the edge of town.
While in Pelplin, a visit to the famous Pelplin Abbey is also a must. It is a huge monastery complex that now fully operates as a cathedral and school for Catholic Nuns and Priests. There is an idyllic hotel in the grounds for those wishing to spend a night here in this holy town.
The tiny village of Rywałd is home to a Catholic sanctuary known as Klasztor Zakonu Braci Mniejszych Kapucynów. This stunning church complex is on the edge of the village in a tranquil setting. Inside, the well decorated walls are a true spectacle and work of art. For those into the Catholic faith, this is also a great place for Mass.
The Kociewie region stretches quite far south and includes the town of Świecie. This town has a Teutonic castle in good condition. The castle had four corner towers, only one of which survives today. The castle is surrounded by a defensive wall and a moat. There is a museum inside and constant refurbishing of the castle.
The town of Tczew is also home to the fantastic Muzeum Wisły – this is the best Museum in Poland to discover the history of the Wisła River, which is Poland’s longest river, at 1,047 kilometres (650 miles) long. The museum has displays, videos and interactive screens plus some really cool items from Tczew’s history and the story of this famous river.