Few used to linger longer than a night in Elbląg (el-blonk), at one end of the Elbląg–Ostróda Canal, as boats moored up long after it was possible to get anywhere else. However, in the 1990s the authorities decided to give canal navigators a reason to stay on by rebuilding the Old Town, levelled by the Red Army in 1945.
Grudziądz (groo-jonts), located some 30km down the Vistula River from Chełmno, probably doesn’t have enough to warrant a special trip, but could be a minor diversion on the way between Toruń and Malbork. Some post-WWII renovation of the Old Town has been attempted and trams still trundle through the now pretty main square, lending it atmosphere.
Kwidzyn is a sleepy town that would be wholly unremarkable were it not for the presence of a mammoth Gothic castle and cathedral. Located 40km downriver from Grudziądz, it’s yet another medieval stronghold of the Teutonic order and was formerly known as Marienwerder. Under the rule of German authorities for most of its history, the town became part of Poland after 1945.
Golub-Dobrzyń might sound like a minor character in The Lord of the Rings, but in fact it's a town about 40km east of Toruń. Dobrzyń, on the southern bank of the Drwęca River, is a boxy, uninteresting place, but Golub was founded in the 13th century as a border outpost of the Teutonic Knights, who left behind one of their typically impressive castles.
Not to be outdone by its neighbours, the small town of Gniew (pronounced ‘gnyef’) has an equally prominent and remarkably well-maintained castle on the other side of the Vistula. The town has also retained its original medieval layout in its tiny old centre. With few interruptions from modern life, it’s a charming place to visit for a couple of hours.
If you long to escape the tourist hordes of Gdańsk, head east to the Mierzeja Wiślana (Vistula Spit). This long, narrow sandbar is flanked by the Gulf of Gdańsk to the north and the Zalew Wiślany (Vistula Lagoon) to the south, a vast estuary that stretches all the way to Kaliningrad in Russia.