Baltic Sea. It is situated in the valley created by two rivers: Wieprza and Grabowa, 36 km north-east from Koszalin and 48 km north-west from Słupsk. You can get to the town using buses or driving a car.
There are two theories regarding the origin of the name of the town. According to the first one “Darłowo” was created as a combination of “Darł” with an ending typical for toponyms in the north of Poland – “owo”. The second one says that the word means a place abundant with fish. It is confirmed by the fact that the Baltic Sea in the surrounding the town is an exceptionally good place to go fishing. Local authorities recognize the official name of Królewskie Miasto Darłowo [Royal Town Darłowo], which constitutes a correlation with the king Eric of Pomerania – a former ruler of the town.
Darłowo has a long and rich history. Archaeological studies confirm that first people, leading semi-settled lifestyle, settled in the areas of the town in approx. 800 BC. The first settlement was probably created in-between Wieprza and Lutowa, which does not exist anymore. It was established by Slavs who came from the south-east at the beginning of the 8th century. It is known that in the 11th century the settlement was protected by Dirlow. Due to the close proximity of the sea, the residents were mostly involved in sailing, fishing and fish processing. Archaeologists discovered treasure which contained coins from the 11th century and it confirmed the fact that Darłowo constituted an important trading centre.
The settlement was granted municipal rights twice: first in 1271 – according to the Lübeck Law thanks to the Prince of Rügen Wisław II. The house of Święcowie from Pomerania managed to get confirmation of these privileges in 1312. The layout of the town originated from Lübeck classic designs – in the centre of the town a rectangular market square was created from which streets radiated out. Roads usually crossed at right angles. The contemporary Darłowo preserved the medieval plan – only the names of the streets were changed – names which were associated with professions of the residents of the settlement.
The first wooden castle built in the times of the house of Święcowie burnt during the attack of the West Pomeranian prince Boguslaw IV. Boguslaw V undertook the construction of the ducal castle and he chose Darłowo as his headquarters. He purchased an island with a mill on it from a wealthy townswoman. The construction works of the new representative stronghold started in 1352. The first stage of works took 20 years. The successive rulers adjusted the castle to their needs, therefore with time it lost its defensive nature. Currently there is a museum.
The reign of Boguslaw V is the time when the town was developing dynamically. Due to the fact that the harbour in Darłowo gained significance, there was a chance to join the trading cities association of Northern Europe – Hanza. Thanks to support from Kołobrzeg, Darłowo started cooperating with the association. The next ruler Boguslaw X, who unified the entire Pomerania, contributed to the development of the town. Darłowo became the formal member of Hanza in 1412, but at the turn of the 14th and 15th century it had a larger fleet than Słupsk. Ships from Darłowo reached the northern coast of France or Spain. The town was cooperating closely with Lubeka.
The most famous resident of Darłowo is definitely the king Eric of Pomerania, named “the last Viking of the Baltic Sea”. He was born in Darłowo and he unified all of Scandinavia, as the Danish king Eric VII, the Swedish king Eric XIII and the Norwegian king Eric III. He did not manage to remain the king for his entire life and therefore he had to return to his home town in 1442. He was 67 years old at that time. He was very experienced and rich, as he had a lot of gold. He ruled the Słupsk principality in Darłowo until he died.
At the end of the 15th century Darłowo and its harbour in Darłówek was flooded probably due to an explosion of underwater deposits of methane. The tsunami wave was named “the Sea Bear” due to the noise it made. It was associated with the murmur of a bear. The wave was extremely strong. One of the ships moored in the harbour was taken near the hill, where the chapel of St. Gertrude (currently a church) is located.
For ages the town was struck by many disasters – fires and epidemics. It was also destroyed during the Thirty Years' War, when in 1624 Darłowo was nearly completely consumed by fire. Five hundred sixty six buildings were burnt including the town hall, the church and the school. From that time to the middle of the 18th century the town was not able to raise itself again.
The second half of the 18th century constituted a period of development of the Hemptenmacher family’s ship-owners empire. Ships started to arrive at the Darłowo harbour again and the trading fleet of the town also increased. In 1873 the Hemptenmacher family had 43 sailboats. No wonder that they lived in one of the most beautiful townhouses in Darłowo and they could afford funding a fisherman’s fountain. The Hemptenmacher family’s townhouse will be renovated soon, while the fountain is already a must on the touristic map of the town.
The history of tourism in Darłowo reaches back to the beginnings of the 19th century, when in the eastern part of Darłówek a bathing area was established. At the beginning of the 20th century the town was frequently visited by tourists. High level of sunshine, beautiful pine forests and humid air with iodine make the place perfect for Spa guests. Patients who suffer from respiratory diseases are treated in Darłowo, as well as people who simply need peace and silence.
Before the 1st World War the population of Darłowo was 6 thousand people. The town had a railway connection with Sławno. In the inter-war period a very original product was manufactured here – a sausage called Rügenwalder Teewurst. Just before the 2nd World War the population of the town was 8 thousand residents.
The war period was an exceptional time for Darłowo. In the local polygon the largest cannon in the history of arms, called Dora, was tested. This giant railway cannon was handled by 500 gunners and its missiles weigh 7 tons. The cannon itself weigh 1 350 tons. Dora was used on the front – among others Sewastopol was shot using it. In Darłowo there was also a shipyard for reinforced concrete ships. There were barracks for war prisoners next to it. The prisoners were working hard building ships. Also Adolf Hitler visited Darłowo several times to conduct his inspections.
After the war Darłowo was attached to Poland together with the entire West Pomerania. Former residents of the town were resettled to Germany, and they were replaced by settlers from the borderlands of the 2nd Republic of Poland. The town quickly became an important centre to educate “people of the sea”. In 1953 Zasadnicza Szkoła Rybołówska Morskiego [Vocational School of Marine Fisheries] was established and its current name is Zespół Szkół Morskich [Complex of Marine Schools]. The town preserved its touristic nature and currently it is one of most frequently visited resorts on the Polish coast.
The surface area of the Old Town in Darłowo is approx. 1500 m2. Due to a well-preserved medieval urban layout, numerous historic monuments and almost no war damages it is an exceptionally picturesque and interesting place. The Old Town was established on a square-like area. The regular shape results from the second incorporation of Darłowo in 1312. The plan of the former town indicated some irregularities in the south-eastern part where the castle was located. The castle is located on Młyńska Island and it is separated with moats from the town (the moats have been buried). The central part of the Old Town is the market square with the town hall. After the fire of the medieval town hall, a new one was built. It is located near the Mariacki Church. The streets intersect at right angles, creating regular quarters. Unfortunately the fortifications were not preserved which results in the gradual disappearance of the border between the old town and the peripheries. One of few remains of the fortifications is Wysoka Gate exiting towards the north. Within the Old Town the castle constitutes the largest attraction. The buildings included in the register of the Old Town monuments are: the castle, the town hall, Wysoka Gate, the church under invocation of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the chapel under invocation of St. George, the church under invocation of St. Gertrude, townhouses at Powstańców Warszawskich Street (no. 49, 51, 56), at M. Curie-Skłodowska Street (no. 23) and at T. Kościuszki Square (no. 17), the water mill at Kanałowa Street.
In the town there are several cultural institutions: the Darłowo Cultural Centre, the Public Library, the Castle of the Pomeranian Dukes with the museum. There are numerous touristic and cycling trails going through the town. You can also go kayaking on Wieprza River. From the Darłowo harbour in summer you can go on a cruise to Bornholm Island. Fishing trips on the Baltic Sea are organized there, as well. Civilian airplanes can also use the nearby military airport.
Apart from the famous Complex of Marine Schools, there is also the Complex of Schools of S. Żeromski, as well as secondary and primary schools.
Tourism is developing in the seaside district of Darłowo – Darłówek. Crowds of tourists visit the place annually. There are many hotels, pensions and guesthouses. Tourists are attracted to the moveable bridge on Wieprza River and the lighthouse. The lighthouse in Darłowo was established in 1885. It constituted a small building, a so called pilot station, next to which a three-storey tower was built. The building was given its current appearance in 1927, when one more storey was built. The lighthouse has four storeys and it is 22 m high. The light has been placed at a height of 19.7 m. Its range is 15 sea miles. Tourists can admire an amazing view of the Baltic Sea, Wieprza River, the moveable bridge and the beach from above. The location of the lighthouse in the touristic centre of Darłowo makes it an undeniable attraction of the town and a must on the list of people visiting the resort.