Hel – the place where everything starts
Hel is a popular and charming town, which, thanks to its summer character, attracts thousands of tourists who want to find a break from everyday life or simply spend a special holiday time. Situated at the very end of the Hel Peninsula, it is commonly called “the beginning of Poland”.
The peninsula (called Hel Scythe by the locals) was shaped by sea currents, combining numerous scattered islands into one long peninsula. Today’s Hel is located about 1.5 km east of the original city location. Old Hel was granted city rights in the 13th century by the Pomorskie prince Swietopelek II, but the forces of nature lead to the moment that in 15th century, the construction of a new settlement began in the present place. Today it is very difficult to find any traces of the original city, so the oldest history of Hel remains a historical archaeological mystery.
The Fisheries Museum in Hel, fot. M.Michalska
The oldest monument in Hel is the post-Evangelical Gothic church, picturesquely situated near the port and the promenade. The former temple no longer performs sacred functions, but it is the seat of the Fisheries Museum and operates as a branch of the National Maritime Museum in Gdansk. The wonderfully arranged exhibitions present the rich history of fishing in the Baltic Sea, and the former church tower now serves as a viewing point. It is a place especially worth visiting, there is probably no other such view in the entire peninsula, a panorama of the Hel port, a view of the Puck Bay, and with good visibility, the Tri-City on the horizon. Climbing the former church tower, we will see something that will remain in our tourist memory for a long time.
Hel, like every seaside town, wants to invite tourists with new attractions. One of the last ones is the system of walking and bicycle footbridges located in Hel . Thanks to them, we can admire the amazing dune vegetation without destroying it. It is an amazing place where the waters of the Gulf of Gdansk flow into the Baltic Sea, and only those who visit this place will find out how amazing and little-visited beaches on the split are.
Pedestrian and bicycle footbridge on the Hel Split, fot. pomorskie.travel, M.Ochocki
Diving enthusiasts will also find something for themselves … in the vicinity of the port, the wreck of the” Bryza” boat was sunk, which was made available for underwater visits. The real heart of Hel is Wiejska Street, considered one of the most beautiful streets in tourist towns located on the Polish Baltic Sea. There are numerous half-timbered and brick fishermen’s houses, which once formed the unique buildings of the Kashubian countryside. Today, there are plenty of restaurants, bars, cafes and shops where tourists can taste traditional cuisine and buy souvenirs.
Buildings on Wiejska Street, fot. M.Michalska
Due to its strategic location, Hel and its surroundings in 1936 was recognized as the Fortified Region of Hel. The construction of the naval port in 1928 and the fortifications lasted until the outbreak of World War II. Hel remained the longest defending scrap of free Poland, the crew capitulated only on October 2, 1939. The 32 days of Hel defence, the sinking of the largest ships – the destroyer “Wicher” and the mine-setter “Gryf” by German bombers in the Hel port, entered the history for good, artillery duels of the famous 31st Battery of Heliodor Laskowski, commanded by Capt. Zbigniew Przybyszewski, or blowing up the lighthouse. The hostilities of World War II left numerous traces in the area in the form of impressive military facilities. It is said that the Hel split is a paradise for military enthusiasts, who can follow the marked Hel Fortifications Trail. It can be covered on foot or by bike.
The most magnificent building from that period is the artillery post of the Schleswig-Holstein 406 mm gun. It is the largest coastal artillery battery in the world, considered one of the most valuable monuments of this type in our country. The facility is part of the Coastal Defence Museum, a unique museum run by enthusiasts of Hel militaria. In addition, the H. Laskowski battery and the rangefinder tower are also intended for sightseeing.
Schleswig Holstein gun, fot. M.Michalska
Hel also has a lighthouse located near the headland, the location of which is strategic. Thanks to it ships sailing to the ports of Gdansk and Gdynia know what course to take not to get stuck on the coastal shallows. It is a 41 m high red tower, built in 1942 almost in the same place as the first Hel lighthouse from 1826 destroyed by the Polish army in 1939. However, true lovers of Hel know that there is one more lighthouse … . on the Swedish Mountain.
An undoubted attraction for the youngest tourists visiting Hel is the famous seal sanctuary, the Sea Station of the Oceanography Institute of the University of Gdansk. Despite the fact that the seal centre is very popular among visitors, it is a research and scientific facility that perfectly presents how seals live and function in our sea. Several times a day, you can watch the animals being fed during medical training, while all the time you can watch various games and fun that seals enjoy while swimming in the pools.
The inhabitants of the Hel seal sanctuary love to play in the water, fot. pomorskie.travel, M.Ochocki
In the summer season, access to the town located at the very end or beginning, if you prefer, on the Hel Peninsula, is quite burdensome, so it is worth considering the possibility of arriving by a white fleet boats. Catamarans depart for the Hel port every day from the Tri-city ports. This is a unique opportunity to get to know the nature of the Bay, as well as an additional tourist attraction.
Starting from Hel, a bicycle route has been marked out along the entire Peninsula, which can take you to Wladyslawowo, and further to the Tri-City or Karwia. For bike lovers, we recommend one-day trips around the Peninsula or further trips to the Northern Kashuby region.
Hel is undoubtedly one of the most attractive tourist destinations on the Baltic Sea. Everyone will find something for themselves here: there is a beautiful beach, there are military monuments, a yacht port, a lighthouse and many, many other interesting places that have been attracting tourists for decades.