Introduction

The biggest resort on the Polish Baltic coast, Kołobrzeg (ko-wob-zhek) has much more than just its share of the north’s pristine white sand. This atmospheric town of seafront attractions, spa traditions, beer gardens and summer crowds of strolling Germans is big enough to offer urban distractions on top of the delights of swimming and sunbathing.

It’s actually one of Poland’s oldest settlements, having been founded in the 7th century when salt springs were discovered here. In 1000 it became a seat of the Polish bishopric, putting it on a par with Kraków and Wrocław.

However, the good times couldn’t last and the town became a popular destination for military invaders, including Swedes, Brandenburgs, Russians and the French forces under Napoleon. Once this phase was over, Kołobrzeg reinvented itself as a sunny spa resort, only to be demolished by the two-week battle for the city in the closing months of WWII.

Almost seven decades since the destruction of 1945, Kołobrzeg still bears the scars. The town was never rebuilt and the modern ‘medieval-style’ architecture that now dominates the old centre (in the same ilk as Elbląg) is pretty unconvincing. However the bombs also created a lot of parkland, and along with the beach and seafront these combine to make this Baltic base a relaxing, if not particularly aesthetically pleasing, place for a couple of days’ exploration.