Gdańsk, a place I hadn’t heard of until moving to Europe, but one I can’t believe wasn’t on my travel radar sooner.
A beautiful city on the Baltic Sea, Gdańsk is often overlooked by travellers going to Poland, heading to Krakow or Warsaw instead.
Having visited Krakow earlier in the year and being astounded by its beauty, when I saw photos of Gdańsk, I knew I had to make my way there as well. Fortunately, with frequent and affordable flights from London, it’s easy to visit this charming Polish city on a weekend trip.
With only a day and a half in Gdańsk on a trip in mid-September, I decided to wander as much of Old Town as I could fit in.
In the first few hours I wandered, I was struck by how much Gdańsk reminded me of Copenhagen or Amsterdam- especially along the waterfront.
Historically, Gdańsk alternated between German and Polish rule for hundreds of years. When World War II came to the city, Gdańsk fell to Nazi rule along with the rest of Poland until it was liberated by the Soviets. Under communist rule though, things were almost as bad as they were under Nazi rule.
It wasn’t until the 1980s when rebellion against communist rule began that Gdańsk returned to a free city. Nowadays, the city’s architecture, especially in Old Town, cues more Dutch and French vibes.
The charming doesn’t start stop at Gdańsk’s gingerbread houses. If you’re wandering Old Town, don’t miss:
- The Long Market, known as Dlugi Targ. 500 meters long, is a stretch of some of the city’s most beautiful buildings culminating in a stunning town square with the Neptune Fountain. At the other end of the Long Market, separating Old Town from the rest of Gdańsk is the Golden Gate
- Speaking of, the Neptune Fountain is always surrounded by tourists and for good reason, it’s stunning
- For an incredible view of the city, climb the 408 steps to the top of the bell tower in St. Mary’s Church. The first 120 or so steps are steep in a winding staircase, but the rest are flat, wooden and have platforms for rest every 20 steps so getting to the top doesn’t feel too strenuous
- Mariacka Street is one of the most beautiful streets in Old Town, retaining some of the city’s historic design- think: oversized porches, gargoyle heads, cobblestone streets, and stalls selling amber in beautiful jewellery arrangements. Baltic Amber has always been prized for its beauty- much of the amber in the Amber Room in Kalliningrad, Russia was actually sourced from Gdańsk’s bay
- Favourite places to eat: Mandu (best pierogis in the city!) and Pueblo (great Mexican, seriously)
- Favourite places to have coffee: Drukarnia (excellent cold brew, other great coffee drinks, and lovely sweets); Cafè Kamienica (very cosy cafe, recommend the winter tea); W Starym Kadrze (great authentic Polish cafe)
- When I visited Gdańsk, I wasn’t drinking alcohol, but I’ve heard Mała Sztuka does great cocktails. And noticed many of the bars on the Long Market had outdoor seating where people were relaxing with beers or spritzes
Visiting Gdańsk was a beautiful way to spend a weekend, and ignited interest in seeing other Polish cities- especially Wroclaw and Warsaw.
Have you ever been to Poland? Which city was your favourite?