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  • Writer's pictureDamian Brzeski

Hel, the beginning of Poland. Highlights

Do you know what makes Hel so special? Imagine a place with picturesque landscapes, where every corner tells its own, fascinating story - this is Hel, also called the "beginning of Poland".

The city of Hel, located at the end of the Hel Peninsula, is a place that has survived centuries of turbulent changes, from former fishing settlements, through changing national affiliation, to a key role in the defense of the Polish coast. But Hel is not only history. It is also a place that delights with its natural and cultural treasures.

In this article, I will take you on a journey around Hel, discovering its most important attractions, history, and curiosities that make this place so unique. You'll also learn the best way to get to this seaside treasure so you can experience its magic for yourself. Get ready for a unique journey through one of the most unique cities in Poland!

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History of the city of Hel

Hel, located at the end of the Hel Peninsula, has a rich and fascinating history, the roots of which date back to BC, when the peninsula was not a peninsula but a picturesque lagoon on a bay. To understand this city, you need to know at least the basic historical outline. As you will see, it has always been a very important place on the map.

The city of Hel in an engraving that shows old Hel

Here are some key moments from Hel's history:

  • The beginnings of Hel: The first mentions of Hel come from the 9th century. The city began to develop dynamically in the 12th century, mainly thanks to fishing and the herring trade. In the 13th century, Hel became one of the main trade centers of the region, rivaling Gdańsk. Its city rights, granted under Lübeck law, date back to around 1260 and were later confirmed by the Teutonic Knights in 1378

  • Old and New Hel: In the 15th century, due to erosion , the spit began to shrink, which led to the creation of a settlement called Nowy Hel. Residents of Stary Hel began to move to the new settlement due to economic and environmental problems. Stary Hel was finally flooded by the waters of the Bay of Puck​.

  • Changing nationality: Hel was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1793 as a result of the second partition of Poland. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the city experienced war damage and natural disasters, which led to a significant reduction in its population. In 1872, the German government deprived Hel of its city rights, which it regained only in 1963.

  • Hel in the 20th century: In the interwar period, Hel became an important a point on the military map of Poland due to its strategic location. In 1936, the Hel Fortified Area was created. During World War II, Hel defended itself until October 2, 1939. After the war, Hel received the status of a strategically important place, and access to it was limited until approximately 1989 ​​.

  • Hel after 1989: After the fall of communism, Hel became again available to everyone. In 1979, the city was decorated with the Cross of Grunwald, 2nd class, and in 2021, the Monument to the Defenders of Hel was renovated.

As you can see, this picturesque town, currently known mainly as a popular tourist and fishing center, has a rich history, from former fishing settlements, through changing national affiliation, to a key role in the defense of the Polish coast. Hel is a unique place that combines historical significance with natural and cultural beauty.

Statue of Neptune with a trident in Hel

What interesting things can you see in Hel?

Hel, also known as the "beginning of Poland", is a picturesque city located on the Hel Peninsula, tempting tourists with its numerous attractions both in summer and winter.

Here is a guide to the most interesting places worth seeing in Hel:

Picturesque Hel Peninsula

The Hel Peninsula, characterized by beautiful, sandy landscapes and tree-covered areas, is the main access road to Hel. It is a natural attraction that allows you to admire the Bay of Puck and the Baltic Sea from many viewpoints and lighthouses​​.

Searium: Seal Protection Center

The sealarium in Hel, located on the Nadmorski Boulevard, is not only a tourist attraction, but also an important research center. This facility will play a key role in the future colonization of the southern Baltic Sea by seals. The sealarium is not a typical zoo or aquarium, which makes it a unique experience for visitors.

Lighthouse: High Lookout

The lighthouse in Hel, available from May to September, offers spectacular views of the surrounding area. The height of the lighthouse tower, 41.5 meters, allows for stunning observations from its top. It is a perfect place for people looking for beautiful panoramas​​.

Seaside Promenade and Walking Footbridge

When walking around Hel, it is worth visiting the seaside promenade, the viewing platform and the walking footbridge. These places offer a unique opportunity to admire the seascape and are ideal for families and people looking to relax outdoors​​.

Hel Fortification Trails

For history and military lovers, Hel offers the Hel Fortification Trails. This is a unique opportunity to learn about the defense history of this region, visiting bunkers and forts that played a key role in the past of this strategic place​​.

Bunker on Heu

Seaside Boulevard and Promenade

Bulwar Nadmorski in Hel, along with the promenade and walking footbridges over the dunes, are ideal places for relaxing walks. Observation terraces provide beautiful views of the surrounding nature and are a great place to relax​​.

Fishing Museum

Also visit the Fisheries Museum, a branch of the National Maritime Museum. This is a place where you will find collections of fishing equipment, old photos and paintings, which will allow you to explore the history of fishing in this region​​.

To sum up, Hel is a place full of various attractions for people of all ages. From educational visits to the sealarium, through historical fortification paths, to picturesque walks along the seaside promenade - Hel provides unforgettable experiences and is an ideal destination for tourists looking for both relaxation and adventure.

The lighthouse on Hel, a viewing point with a view of the entire peninsula

How to get to Hel

The journey from Gdańsk to Hel offers diverse and picturesque options that will meet the expectations of both lovers of sea adventures and those who prefer to travel by land.

Sea crossing by Żegluga Gdańska ferry: Fast and Scenic Journey

By choosing a sea trip to Hel, you have the opportunity to experience the charms of the Baltic Sea. Traveling by Gdańsk-Hel water tram is not only faster than traveling by land, but also avoids traffic jams and the hustle and bustle of the city. This option is perfect for families with children, offering them an exciting sea adventure. Remember that cruises operate according to a set schedule, so it is worth planning your trip well in advance​​.

The disadvantage of this option is the need to adapt to the schedule and the fact that sometimes during the peak season there may be no tickets available. Nevertheless, the beauty of the bay of Gdańsk seen from the catamaran deck will make up for these inconveniences.

Travel by train from Gdynia through Władysławowo to Hel: Comfortable and Accessible for Everyone

Another attractive solution is traveling by train. Polish State Railways offer numerous connections from Gdynia to Hel, both in and out of season. The variety of offers allows you to tailor your trip to your individual needs and budget. Train travel can be especially attractive for children who may experience rail travel for the first time.

It's also a good option for those who want to avoid the stress of driving and they are afraid of water, so traveling by ship is out of the question.

Car Travel: Flexibility and Independence

For those who value independence, traveling by car may be the best option. This gives you complete freedom in planning breaks for rest or sightseeing along the way. However, be aware of possible traffic jams, especially in the summer, so it's worth leaving early in the morning or traveling after dark to avoid crowded roads​​.

On the one hand, the need for such planning may seem like an inconvenience, but on the other hand, it means that you really have the whole day to explore and get to know every nook and cranny of this place.

Alternative Options: Intercity Carriers, Taxi and Car Rental

If you do not have your own car, you can use the services of private carriers or rent a car. This gives you the flexibility to travel by car without the need to have your own car. There are various companies offering car rental and transport services in Gdańsk, including taxis and applications such as Uber​​,Bolt,iTaxi.

Another option that may be very attractive is the offer of a tour combined with sightseeing. Such services are offered by all major carriers specializing in so-called airport transfers and -urban. This service combines the convenience and independence of traveling by car, and at the same time you don't have to drive yourself since you have a private driver who will take you to every, even the least obvious place on the Hel Peninsula

To sum up, the journey from Gdańsk to Hel offers many possibilities that can be tailored to your needs and preferences. Whether it's a quick and picturesque sea crossing, a relaxing train journey, the flexibility of a car, or the convenience of private carriers - everyone will find something for themselves.

Pier/promenade on Hel

Curiosities related to Hel

Hel, a city located at the end of the Hel Peninsula, is a place with a rich history and many interesting curiosities.

Here are some of them:

  1. Straight sea distance from Gdynia to Hel is only 10.2 nautical miles, which translates into approximately 19 kilometers. This is the shortest route available for travelers from Tricity to Hel. Traveling from Sopot or Gdańsk to Hel is also possible by water, the distance from both places is approximately 23 kilometers. In contrast, a journey by car from the center of Gdańsk to Hel is as long as 101 kilometers.

  2. Poland's most maritime city: Hel is surrounded on three sides by the waters of the Baltic Sea, and borders Jurata only for a short distance, which makes it the most maritime city in Poland.

  3. Fishing center and important port: Hel is an important fishing center and has a fishing, yacht and passenger marina. The city also houses a Navy garrison with a naval port.

  4. Mysterious origin of the name: Origin of the name "Hel" has not been clearly explained. In Old Polish, this word means "dune, wasteland, promontory", but there are also theories pointing to Germanic sources. One of them suggests that the name comes from the Norse goddess of the afterlife Hel or from the ancient Germanic term "hell

  5. Long history of the city: The first mention of Hel dates back to the 9th century, and the city developed significantly in the 12th century, mainly thanks to fishing. In its best period of development, Hel had 1.2 thousand inhabitants. inhabitants.

  6. Teutonic fleet and pirates: In 1396, a Teutonic fleet of 84 ships was stationed in Hel, preparing to fight the Vitalian pirates.

  7. The Fall of Old Hel: At the end of the Middle Ages, when the herring schools moved to other parts of the Baltic Sea and Gdańsk took control of Hel, the city began to decline. In 1572, a fire, probably started by Swedish soldiers, accelerated the decline of the city.

  8. Washing by the sea: The fall of Old Hel was also accelerated by the sea, which washed away the buildings, as a result of which the coastline of the Hel Spit changed.

  9. Legends about the sunken city: There are legends saying that Old Hel was destroyed by great waves and an earthquake, due to the pride of the inhabitants, and the sound of the bells of the sunken city could be heard from under the water.

  10. Discovery of the ruins of Old Hel: During the construction of the naval port in Hel, the ruins of Old Hel were discovered, which were examined by archaeologists from Toruń.

  11. Status of a seaside health resort: In 1896, Hel received the status of a seaside health resort.

  12. Strategic location of Hel: After World War I, thanks to its strategic location, Hel became an important military facility for Poland.

  13. Hel Fortified Area: In 1931, a military port was opened in Hel, and in 1936, the Hel Fortified Area was established there. This region ceased to exist only in 2003.

  14. Mink and nutria farm: In 1938, a mink and American nutria farm was established in Hel.

  15. Residence of the President of the Republic of Poland: In Hel there is the residence of the President of the Republic of Poland with a helicopter landing pad, which has hosted many significant world leaders.

  16. Seal Center of the Maritime Station of the University of Gdańsk: In Hel there is the Seal Center of the Maritime Station of the University of Gdańsk, which is a major tourist attraction of the city.

  17. Krystyna the seal: Krystyna the seal lived in the sealarium, known for its escape attempts and walks through the city streets.

  18. The "Blue Village" initiative: The University of Gdańsk and the regional authorities are implementing the "Blue Village" project aimed at sustainable development and nature protection.

  19. Helskie Wydmy Nature Reserve: There is a floristic Helskie Wydmy nature reserve in Hel.

  20. The largest wooden sculpture in Poland: Hel is home to the largest wooden sculpture in Poland depicting the characters of the poem "Turnip" Julian Tuwim

Kashubian Mound on Hel

At the end, Bus from Hell no. 666

Imagine a bus with a number that arouses associations with mystery and controversy - bus number 666. This unusual bus line operated by PKS Wejcherowo has for years been a symbol of travel to Hel, a picturesque town at the end of Poland, famous for its beautiful beaches and unique climate.

Bus 666, although putting a smile on tourists' faces, was a real and practical means of transport that provided a reliable connection to this charming place on the Baltic Sea. Is it a coincidence that this number is associated with something unusual and the route led to such a unique place?

Hel is associated with the word "Hell" by English-speaking people and not only by tourists. or loosely translated as hell ;) The bus transport organizer came up with a brilliant idea to use this fact to promote his service by giving it the number. 666.

Since three sixes are known in occultism as a symbol of Satan, the number of this bus route has automatically become controversial. For years, Catholic circles have been sending complaints and demands to change this numbering. At the same time, the buzz it caused promoted this bus connection to the whole world, literally.

"The information appeared, among others, in the British Guardian and the BBC website. Mention of "Satanic" The line to Hel was also published by the American New York Post (one of the ten largest daily newspapers in the United States) and the Reuters agency.

Unfortunately, after years of protests, the line was renamed last summer to bus line 669. And thus the story of the bus from hell ended.

It's a pity, it's not every day that you see a Polish transport company, PKS, quoted in the largest press agencies in the world.

Nevertheless, the legend remains and it must be admitted that the business decision to name the bus this way was brilliant from the marketing point of view.

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