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  • Writer's pictureDamian Brzeski

Tczew - Kociewie Gate

Tczew is one of the most interesting cities in Gdańsk Pomerania and one of the most important centers in Kociewie. It is known that a large urban center existed here already in the mid-13th century, and it is also known that at the end of that century Tczew received city rights.

To this day, the city's long history is commemorated by its interesting urban layout, the remains of the city walls and the parish church from the 13th century. What else is worth seeing during a city tour? You will learn this and much more in the article below. 

Tczew boasts picturesque walking areas on the Vistula River, and from the local boulevards you can admire the famous bridges - technical monuments from the second half of the 19th century, which still arouse admiration with their appearance and size.

The city also has gems such as the Dutch windmill and green city parks. It is also worth paying attention to the interesting exhibitions that occupy the interior of the 19th-century factory.

One of the most interesting exhibitions here is the Art Factory, and the Shipwreck and Ship Conservation Center is also very impressive. However, the pride of Tczew remains the Vistula Museum - an institution where, since 2017, knowledge about the most important river in Poland, its nature and the role it played in the history of the country has been disseminated. 

I invite you on a journey to Tczew, the gate of Kociewie. Stop here for a moment to learn the history of this fascinating city.

View from the top of the city of Tczew in Kociewie

Short - Long history of Tczew

It is impossible to fully feel the atmosphere of the city without knowing its history. Tczew is no exception here. It is a city with centuries of memory, its streets have seen many things and hosted many over the centuries. Learn the history of one of the oldest cities in northern Poland.

Tczew, one of the oldest cities in Gdańsk Pomerania, has a rich and fascinating history. The first settlement in the area dates back to around 3000-1700 BC, which is confirmed by archaeological finds from the Stone Age and the Funnelbeaker culture​​ .

The first written mention of Tczew comes from 1252, when Prince Sambor II started building a castle, and the city became an important settlement and economic center on the Vistula River​

In 1260, Tczew obtained city rights from Sambor II, developing as an important port and craft center with its own mint. In 1289, the Dominicans were brought to the city and they built a church and a monastery here​​.

In 1308, Tczew was captured and burned by the Teutonic Order, and its inhabitants were expelled. The city regained its urban organization only in the years 1364-1383, when the Teutonic Knights granted it privileges under the Chełmno law​​.

In 1410, after the Battle of Grunwald, Tczew was briefly under Polish rule, and in 1466, under the Second Peace of Thorn, it was officially incorporated into Poland, becoming a significant center of grain trade​.

In 1577, the city almost completely burned down as a result of a great fire, but it was rebuilt and visited by King Sigismund III Vasa in 1623​​.

In the 17th century, during the wars with Sweden, Tczew suffered from the activities of foreign troops.

In 1772, as a result of the first partition of Poland, the city came under Prussian rule, but it was still a center of Polish culture, maintained by the Dominican Order until its dissolution in 1818​​​.

In the first half of the 19th century, Tczew began to develop as an important industrial and communication hub, which was further strengthened by the construction of a bridge over the Vistula in 1851-1857​​.

Barges moored at the quay in Tczew before the war

Tczew Bridge, a showcase and one of the most important attractions of Tczew

The Tczew Bridge, also called the Lisewski Bridge, is a historic road bridge on the lower Vistula, built in 1851–1857 according to the design of Friedrich August Stüler (portals and towers), Carl Lentze and Rudolf Eduard Schinz (structure).

When built, it was the longest bridge in Europe. It is located between the Knybawski Bridge and the railway bridge in Tczew. The cornerstone was laid by Prussian King Frederick William IV​​.

The bridge was part of the Eastern Railway (Ostbahn), connecting Berlin with East Prussia. Construction began on July 6, 1845, and its cost was approximately 12 million marks. The work required building flood embankments and regulating the Vistula River.

7,700 workers were employed at the construction site. In the years 1850-1852, foundation works were carried out, and in 1853 the construction of pillars made of granite, basalt and sandstone was completed. In 1854, the two middle spans were assembled, and the rest of the spans were installed in 1856-1857.

The first train crossed the bridge on October 12, 1857. The completion of the bridges enabled direct railway communication from Berlin to Królewiec​​.

On September 1, 1939, the bridge was bombed. Polish sappers blew up the eastern part of the bridges and western pillars to prevent the Germans from crossing. After the war, the bridge was rebuilt, but it was damaged by a flood in 1947.

It was rebuilt provisionally by making a connector to the railway bridge, on which a wooden road was laid. Traffic was carried over the preserved spans and the railway bridge, where the spans of the military bridge were installed.

In 1959, the road bridge was put into operation, but due to its poor technical condition, it was closed in April 2000. The renovation began in July 2015​​.

During the demolition of the bridge, a sensational discovery was made - a time capsule and a cornerstone laid by King Frederick William IV were found. The bridge is the first example of a large-span openwork tubular bridge in Europe.

The cornerstone was found thanks to a group of historians from the Virtual Museum of the City of Tczew.

The discovery was surprising because it was believed that the stone had been destroyed during the war. There are also plans to create a Tczew Bridge Museum, where the cornerstone will be one of the first exhibits​​.

Panorama of Tczew seen from a distance

Other attractions worth seeing in Tczew

Until recently, the average traveler associated Tczew mainly with the characteristic bridge over the Vistula River seen from the windows of the train on the way to Malbork. In turn, passengers and car drivers passed Tczew mindlessly, only associating the larger city with the McDonald's restaurant on the way towards Łódź.

However, this city has much more charm and much more to offer, as many may think. Below I present the most important tourist attractions that are worth seeing while in Tczew. 

Vistula Museum

The Vistula Museum in Tczew, a branch of the National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk, is located in a historic building that was formerly the Emil Kelch Metal Products Factory. This building has a rich history, including the period of World War II, when it served as a transit camp and later as the Pomeranian Gas Meter Factory.

The Vistula Museum was established on the initiative of Roman Klim, and its creation began in 1980, with the official opening in 1984. Work on the establishment of the facility was supported by subsidies from the European Regional Development Fund, thanks to which it underwent a general renovation in 2004-2007, becoming the Exhibition and Regional Center of Lower Vistula.

The museum offers fascinating exhibitions devoted to the history of the Vistula River, from ancient times to the present day. The "Vistula in the history of Poland" exhibition, open since 2017, presents the common history of Poland's largest river and the Polish state. The first part of the exhibition is devoted to the river and the golden age of navigation on the Vistula in the 16th and 17th centuries, guided by the famous poem by Sebastian F. Klonowic "Flis"

The second part of the exhibition focuses on the crisis of the Polish state at the end of the 18th century and the partitions, presenting the most important aspects of Vistula navigation in the 19th and 20th centuries. The exhibition covers developments in shipbuilding, steam navigation, fishing, bridge building and military operations on the Vistula.

The context of the Vistula also shows the reconstruction of Polish statehood after both world wars, the development of shipping, the construction of shipyards and the development of water tourism.

The exhibition includes everyday objects obtained during archaeological research, boats used on the Vistula and its tributaries, models and mock-ups, elements of Vistula ships, fishing and boatbuilding tools, as well as numerous illustrations, films and interactive presentations.

The Vistula Museum in Tczew is a unique place worth visiting during a trip to Gdańsk Pomerania. It is located in a historic building, and its exhibitions occupy two floors, which are worth spending at least an hour on.

The exhibitions present the history of the Vistula, the history of settlement in its valley and the Vistula nature, as well as navigation and river ports, showing the role of the Vistula in the history of Poland​

Lisewski Bridge in Tczew

Art Factory in Tczew

Fabryka Sztuk in Tczew is a unique place on the cultural map of the city, offering a wide range of artistic attractions. The history of this facility dates back to the 19th century, when the building served as Emil Kelch's metal products factory, producing, among other things, room toilets.

After a hundred years, culture has returned to the historic walls of this industrial facility, transforming it into a center teeming with art.

The Art Factory began operating on February 22, 2007 as the "Lower Vistula Exhibition and Regional Center", and five years later it adopted its current name. It is distinguished by five pillars of activity: exhibitions, education, outdoor events, supporting non-governmental organizations and collecting and storing museum objects.

Over 90,000 people visit it annually, and the offer is available free of charge to all age groups​​.

Among the attractions of the Art Factory, it is worth mentioning permanent exhibitions, such as the multimedia exhibition "With Skultet and Copernicus through the 16th century". The facility also organizes atmospheric concerts, artistic workshops and you can implement your own ideas in the field of art​​.

In addition, every year various exhibitions are organized, which in an interesting way present particular historical eras in the history of Tczew, as well as the achievements of people who have permanently entered the history of the region​.

The courtyard of the Art Factory, designed by Józef Ziółkowski, is an encounter with the cultural heritage of Kociewie.

There you can see a fragment of Poniatówka, i.e. a former farmstead, agricultural machinery, the SM03 locomotive, a revolving crane and a figure of St. Catherine. The interior of the Factory also houses a lapidarium with tombstones, models of the city and exhibits recalling the Battle of Tczew in 1807​​.

The building also contains artifacts related to the history of Tczew, including a 19th-century plaque and a time capsule found during the renovation of the Tczew Bridge, as well as an exhibition dedicated to Kazimierz Zimny, an outstanding Polish athlete​

Art Factory in Tczew

Remains of defensive walls

The remains of the defensive walls in Tczew are a relic of the city's medieval defensive architecture. Already in the 12th century, Tczew was surrounded by earth and wooden ramparts. In the 14th century, new brick defensive walls were built, reinforced with towers and towers.

The whole thing was about 1,270 meters long. In the 16th century, the city had 5 gates, including 2 gates, and 12 towers and fortified towers.

Today, only fragments of these 14th-century walls have survived at Zamkowa, Wodna, Rybacka, Krótka and J. Dąbrowskiego streets. However, they are heavily damaged, which is testimony to the passage of time and the changes that have occurred in the structure and appearance of the city over the centuries.

These historical remains are an important element of Tczew's heritage, proving the former power and importance of the city as an urban center in Pomerania​​.

Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Tczew

The Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Tczew is the oldest monument in the city, dating back to the 13th century. The first mention of parish priest Jan from 1258 supports the thesis that the local parish was consecrated already in 1226. Perhaps initially it was a wooden church.

The foundations for today's chancel were laid in the mid-13th century, and a massive tower was also built at that time. The church was almost completely destroyed in 1308 after the city was occupied by the Teutonic Knights​​.

The 150-year period of Teutonic rule contributed to the development of Tczew, which allowed for the expansion of the church in the first half of the 14th century.

The work began with the chancel, continuing with the construction of the main nave and two side naves towards the tower. A sacristy and a treasury were added to the northern wall of the presbytery, and later the spaces between the external buttresses of the naves were built up, creating two rows of chapels. The church then received the form of a four-bay, three-nave hall with a three-bay, five-sided chancel, preserved to this day.

The interior of the church contains unique artistic and historical values, including a wall painting in the Chapel of the Holy Women from the end of the 14th century and a medieval sculpture of a Pieta from the second quarter of the 15th century. The treasury contains 15th-century goldsmith products, probably from Gdańsk workshops, including a reliquary cross, chalices and patens of an extremely high artistic level​​.

Brass candlesticks with characteristic figurines of lwów​​ are also evidence of the rich decoration of the church in the Middle Ages.

The church played an important role in the history of Tczew, especially during the Reformation. In the 16th century, most parishioners converted to Protestantism, which led to the church being used jointly by Catholics and Lutherans until 1595.

Later, the church was handed over exclusively to Catholics. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the interior of the church was enriched with baroque and rococo altars, pulpits and other liturgical elements​​.

The interior of the church was enriched with five wooden, flat-carved keystones with inscriptions and depictions from 1783, and the altar of St. Nicholas from 1792 later received the invocation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus​​​.

Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Tczew

Dutch type windmill

The Dutch-type windmill, built in 1890 in Tczew, is a unique element of the urban landscape. It is a wooden structure with a foundation, with a characteristic rotating head, which is typical of Dutch windmills.

The windmill in Tczew was reconstructed in 1950 and is characterized by a rare five-pointed wing.

This windmill, a tourist attraction, has been in private hands since 1983. Its image is so characteristic and recognizable that it became the logo of the city of Tczew. It is a unique monument that testifies to old traditions and construction techniques, and is also a valuable element of the region's cultural heritage​​.

Dutch Windmill in Tczew

Church of St. Saint Stanisław Kostka

Church of St. Stanisław Kostka in Tczew is a unique Gothic monument, whose history dates back to the 14th century. It is a single-nave temple with a characteristic octagonal tower. The current spire of the tower comes from the first half of the 19th century, although it had a different finial for many centuries. Initially, the church was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, later to St. Nicholas, and is currently named after Saint. Stanisław Kostka.

Its interior has partially preserved decor from the end of the 17th century.

After the dissolution of the Dominican Order, the church was rebuilt into a school, and in 1852 it was restored and used by Evangelicals until 1945. After World War II, the church returned to the hands of Catholics and received new stained glass​.

Church of St. Stanisław Kostka is part of the former Dominican monastery complex. After the liquidation of the order, the building was rebuilt into a school. The monastery building, which has lost its original appearance, retains only part of the Gothic basements and walls up to the first floor. Currently, the former monastery building houses a music school.

The monastery complex, which includes a church, was built in the first half of the 14th century. The monastery building was rebuilt many times and lost its original appearance, retaining only part of the Gothic basements and walls up to the first floor level.

Church of St. Stanisław Kostka in Tczew, with its rich history and preserved architectural elements, is an important place on the map of the city's monuments, constituting a valuable example of Gothic architecture and a testimony to the changes that the city has undergone over the centuries.

A steam locomotive in the colors of the Republika team

Tczew in Numbers 

  1. The first City Council in Poland: Tczew has a unique importance in the history of Polish local government, because it was here that the first City Council in Poland was established. It was a pioneering initiative on a national scale.

  2. Road bridge over the Vistula: In 1857, a road bridge over the Vistula was built in Tczew, which was then the longest bridge in Europe. Its engineering and historical importance is invaluable.

  3. The longest railway bridge in Poland: The railway bridge in Tczew is the longest facility of this type in Poland, which emphasizes the historical and technical importance of the city​

  4. The First State Maritime School: Tczew was the site of the first State Maritime School in Poland, which is an important aspect of its educational and maritime history

  5. Surface Development: The area of the city of Tczew has developed significantly since the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, increasing its area from 1,867 hectares to 2,226 hectares​.

  6. Criminal Rules in the Past: In the past, strict penal rules were applied in Tczew, including public flogging and executions​​.

  7. Pomeranian Eiffel Tower: The road bridge over the Vistula is called the Pomeranian Eiffel Tower, due to the technology used in its construction, comparable to that used in the construction of the Eiffel Tower.

  8. Locomotive in the colors of Republika: In Tczew there is a steam locomotive painted in the flag colors of the Republika music band, which is a tribute to Grzegorz Ciechowski, the band's leader, born in Tczew​

  9. Settlement: Archaeological finds indicate that the areas around Tczew were settled around 3000-1700 BC, which makes it one of the oldest settlement areas in Pomerania Gdańsk​​​.

  10. Demography: As of 2021, Tczew had 59,105 inhabitants, which puts it in 73rd place among the most populous cities in Poland​

  11. Location and communication: The city is located in the Starogard Lake District, in the Vistula proglacial valley, and is an important communication hub connecting various regions of Poland.

  12. Wars with Sweden: In the 17th century and during the Northern War, the city suffered from the marches of foreign troops, which was a difficult period in its history​


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