It’s fair to say that I was more than a little enamoured with Gdansk. It’s a wonderfully pretty and colourful city, as well as being interesting enough to get your culture on and, very importantly, it has a great vibe. Oh, the vibe; so vague, I know, but it’s one of those places that just feels nice and friendly, and somehow relaxing yet buzzy at the same time, despite its troubled past.
We (we being a friend and I) picked up some reasonable-but-not-that-cheap flights for a couple of nights away and in early December. You can read about the festive elements of the break here, so today is going to be stuff that’s applicable year round. We stayed in an AirBnb – I know, I say that in every city break post ever – just off the main street in the Old Town for the very attractive sum of £70 between us for the two nights, and the cost of food, drink, transport and attractions while we were there continued that trend by being supremely affordable, so it’s definitely a great option if you prefer not to spend the equivalent of a month long holiday on a weekend trip.
The city is part of the Tricity area, consisting of Gdansk, Gdynia, and Sopot. As we were there for just two nights and a late bus from the airport made our first day kind of a write off (in terms of sightseeing, not in terms of anything else – we went to the christmas market and drank mulled wine for hours so that was great), we didn’t visit the other two cities while in the area, but Gdansk more than entertained us. Here are some of the things we did that I really enjoyed:
Wander Old Town
Clearly you don’t need to be told about this one because it’s a given, but I could hardly leave it off the list and it only seems right to have it as the first one on here. Gdansk’s old town is one of the nicest I’ve seen, with gabled houses, little side streets, coffee shops galore and lots of colour. Some of the streets you’ll see listed on Tripadvisor, like Dluga Street and Mariacka Street, are in the Old Town, and it’s great for both wandering and Instagram; in other words, it totally charmed me. Gdansk was hit quite badly by WW2 but has been so effectively and beautifully restored that it’s pretty much impossible to see which are the parts which remained intact and which were rebuilt. If you like to tick off the ‘sights’ of a place, this is where you’ll find monuments like Neptune’s Fountain, multiple gates and plenty of churches.
I say this all the time, but one of my favourite things to do in a new city is find a vantage point. Gdansk came up trumps with St Marys Basilica (Bazylika Mariacka): the largest brick church in the world with a 78 metre tower. It’s an easy climb up 405 steps (some of them are narrow though) to get to a viewing platform which delivers ah-maz-ing views over the city. We went up mid-afternoon and the light was beautifully hazy. Other vantage points include the tower of the Archaeological Museum, Panorama Restaurant and city hall tower.
Step out of Gdansk old town in the right direction and you’ll come to the waterfront, which is, for want of a better phrase, bloody lovely. There’s a lot going on in this area, so you could easily spend an afternoon or possibly longer – it’s where you’ll find AmberSky (the big wheel if you want more pretty views), the Crane (this wooden port crane is potentially Gdansk’s most famous landmark and now houses a maritime museum), and multiple restaurants, amongst other things. Perfect just for a stroll too.
Go out. Or out out.
While Sopot seems to be generally seen as the ‘party’ town of the Tricity area, the nightlife in Gdansk itself was a perfectly good level of ‘out’ for me. I’m not usually too bothered about nightlife when I’m travelling beyond a drink in the evening after dinner, but it seemed like this was one of Gdansk’s strong suits, so who was I to deny it another reveller?! In terms of where to go, I’m afraid I was a terrible blogger and didn’t pay attention to the name of anywhere we dropped in (okay and then after a while the wine may have had something to do with it), but we just walked along and went in anywhere we liked the look of – there’s loads of choice, from cocktail lounges to quirky bars and from poorly-lit pubs to a club in an actual bunker.
After a bit of getting sloshed to kill off a few braincells, it only seemed right to visit a museum too. I didn’t feel I could really leave Gdansk without learning a bit more about its history, so I was pleased that we managed to get in a visit to the European Solidarity Centre on our last day. It’s housed in just about the ugliest hulk of a building in the city, next to the Gdansk shipyards, but it is brilliantly designed and executed. It charts and commemorates the Solidarity movement in Poland as well as other Eastern Europe opposition movements, and Poland’s journey to democracy. The audio guide comes as standard and makes great use of tech, with displays which are both super creative and super informative – I learnt so much in the couple of hours we were there and some of the rooms were visually stunning. I would have loved to go to the WW2 museum too, but unfortunately it’s closed on Monday, which was the only day we could go.
Eat and drink (or take photos of yourself in mirrors apparently)
Spoiler: I’m going to do a post purely about eating in Gdansk (vegan food), but I had to mention it here as a ‘thing to do’ because the time we spent sampling some of the city’s amazing food and sipping hot teas and coffees was some of the best, and a real highlight from the trip. There are SO many trendy, quirky and cosy cafes and restaurants that visiting them is actually a thing to do in itself. Perfect for a spot of people watching if you’re nosy af like I am and an opportunity to continue soaking the city’s atmosphere while sitting on your bum gorging yourself, which is A-ok with me.
Street art hunting
We didn’t make it to Sopot or Gdynia, but there’s more to the city than the images of the centre on the tourism posters. One of the highlights of our trip was a couple of hours spent in Zaspa, just a short train ride from Gdansk central station, where murals have been painted onto the sides of apartment blocks. There are LOADs of them, and I very much enjoyed our little street art hunting session. We also got out of the centre for a few hours in Wrzeszcz, another of the boroughs – it’s a sort of up and coming trendy/studenty area where we (probably unsurprisingly) located some vegan restaurants.
It’s official – I really like Poland and can’t wait to plot another trip there. Krakow has been on my city break wishlist for a while, but after this I’m going to have to add Wroclaw and a few more Polish cities I think! Are there any you would suggest?