Winter city breaks are one of my favourite things, and this year I was lucky and/or stupid enough to book two of them, two weekends in a row. The second one of those – that also happened to fall on the first weekend of December – was to Gdansk. I’d never really thought about visiting before, but we saw some reasonably priced flights, did a quick google image search and decided to just go for it.
My first experience of Poland was last year when I visited Warsaw in the autumn, and I really enjoyed it – so I was very pleased to find that Gdansk not only lived up to my experience of the country’s capital, but I fell a bit in love with it. It’s picturesque, colourful and friendly, as well as being full of history and impressive architecture, so today I thought I’d tell you a little about this most lovely of festive breaks and share a few of the more time-specific snaps which wont make it into my other posts about the city.
We flew on a Saturday morning and stayed in this Airbnb which came in at a wonderful £24 per night. You could probably get a really fancy hotel here for a great price, but I love Airbnbing and this one was so perfectly located one street back from Dluga Street, one of the main streets through Gdansk’s old town.
As soon as we’d let ourselves into the apartment we were straight back out again, keen to get back to the Christmas market we’d passed on our walk from the train station. First on the agenda was obviously a mulled wine, and then another, and another, and…okay it turned into a bit of a festive night out. I had a sparkly jumper on and everything. The weekend continued in the same festive vein from there really; we passed the Christmas market every day, drank warming drinks aplenty and the gloves and hats stayed on for the duration of our stay.
Gdansk is a wonderful destination for Christmas time. It’s a wonderful destination full stop actually and is apparently great in Spring/Summer (there are beaches close by), but I loved the city in December because of several reasons;
1. It’s really really cold. Why is it that we grumble about the cold at home but get really excited about it abroad? Who knows, but I love love love a chilly city break. Gdansk certainly delivered on this front with freezing temperatures, and we even came out of a restaurant one night to find the air thick with snowflakes – and they were settling on the ground. Much festive, but get the layers out.
2. It’s cheap. Who has a load of spare cash to throw around at Christmas? Well, maybe you, but certainly not me, so when I do go away in the winter (as nice as a luxurious break would be) I need to do so without blowing all the money for everyone’s presents. Meals, drinks, transport and attraction prices were all well below UK standards, so we didn’t need to keep too close an eye on our budget.
3. They are superb at hot drinks. Following on from the really cold point, hot drinks are an essential part of chilly travels, and Gdansk does them oh so well. We’re talking excellent tea, coffee and hot chocolate as well as mulled wine, mulled cider, mulled beer and we even saw – wait for it – a HOT MOJITO. Let’s just say on the first night I had enough of their (excellent) mulled wine to stop me needing to sample it the next day but all the alcohol-free hot drinks I had there were amazing. Forget the builders tea (or don’t, up to you), Gdansk’s tea has it going ON. Every one was some kind of special blend full of fancy bits of this and slices of that, and as a tea lover I was really in my element. Great coffee too, and similarly fancy flavour options.
4. Christmas market time. The main Christmas market is in the square next to the Amber Museum, and although it’s not the best I’ve been to, it’s certainly a goodun. There’s plenty of mulled stuff, sweet and savoury traditional polish food, a carousel, stalls selling Christmas decorations, crafts and plenty more as well as pretty lights. Someone we spoke to when we were there said it was much bigger than when they had been the year before too, so I think it’s one of those things that is really growing each year.
5. There are enough ‘things to do’ to keep you entertained, but it’s relaxed so there’s no pressure to go at a super fast pace. Wander the streets of old town to soak up the festive chilliness, escape the elements in a museum or coffee shop, or hit the super festive activities like the Christmas markets and two ice skating rinks for peak December. The mix of indoor and outdoor things to do – from hunting murals on the apartment blocks of Zaspa in the cold to people watching from the window of a cosy cafe – is the perfect balance.
6. It’s ideal for some Christmas shopping. The markets bring the perfect opportunity to pick up some Christmas presents, there are a few large shopping malls (including a discount fashion outlet), and the city is famous for Amber, if that might take the fancy of any of your gift-recipients. If I had been more prepared (aka if I hadn’t stuffed my suitcase so full that I couldn’t even accommodate a mini deodorant that I’d picked up at the airport) I could have made a start on some gifts.
7. About to make a somewhat lame point which is somewhat annoying as it’s the last one, but; Gdansk is really really nice. It’s pretty, so you’re guaranteed some nice photos, and it’s got such a nice atmosphere, and that’s what I want at Christmas. Pretty much everyone we came across in every restaurant, attraction, transport service and beyond was lovely and so helpful. There’s a lot to be said for the ‘vibe’ of a new place, and Gdansk’s gave me all the happy, festive feels.
So there we have it – Gdansk is great, and it’s bloody great at Christmas. Have you ever been? Where would you recommend for a December city break?