Witaj (welcome) to Gdansk! This small city on the Baltic coast may not be on every tourist’s radar, but the stunning architecture and its rich history as Poland’s main seaport, make the former free city of Danzig an ideal place for a weekend getaway. Not to mention the numerous craft beer bars and polish dumplings, of course! Here are our picks for the top ten things you must include in your Gdansk itinerary.
Favourite local beverage: Zubrowka (Bison Grass) Vodka
We picked up one of Nat’s best flight deals to date, with return flights from Liverpool for only £37 each with Whizz Air. Even though we went out of season in March, return weekend flights from the UK up until the end of June are still on average £50 each so still a great deal!
To get from the airport into the city, the easiest, but also most expensive option is to grab a taxi, which will take around 15 mins to the city centre. Our flight arrived in Gdansk at 1am so we pre-booked our taxi through hoppa.com, paying around £17. This seems crazy compared to our flight price but the last thing we wanted was to be stranded at 1am, so we opted for safety over savviness ! One thing to keep in mind is to be aware of private cabs, check that your car has telephone numbers written on the sides and/or bonnet and lights on the roof to make sure you’re travelling with a legitimate firm.
If you arrive at an acceptable time, another (far cheaper) option is to catch the train to Gdansk Glowny Station (Gdansk’s main train station), which will cost around 3.80zl (£0.75) and only takes 30 mins. Although, not all trains travel directly to the main station, you may need to change at Gdansk-Wrzeszcz, but this still only takes 45 mins. There’s also City bus line 210, which will get you to the city in about 35-50 mins. Tickets are 3.40zl (£0.67) one way and can be brought on the bus from the driver.
Dom & House Apartments (Expedia.com £45.00 for two nights)
Our apartment for the weekend was on Wyspa Spichrzów, an island just 5 mins walk to the Old Town and Long Market. Accommodation in Gdansk is abundant and affordable, from cute little apartments like ours to exclusive hotels like Hotel Gdansk, that counts the FC Barcelona squad amongst some of its former guests. The whole central district of the city is easily walkable, so you won’t have to worry too much about where to stay.
Now that’s taken care of, let’s get stuck into…
The 10 best things to do in Gdansk!
1. Old Town
Priority number one after you arrive should be to head down to the historic old town and begin exploring! We headed down to Long Market/Dulgi Targ to start our trip. Long Market is the main pedestrian walkway through the old town and is home to some of the cities’ most recognisable landmarks, as well as a host of bars and restaurants, although these can be slightly pricey being in the centre of town.
While here you will want to check out Neptune’s Fountain and the Town Hall. The hall was built in the 14th century, but partially destroyed in WWII. Luckily, the building was rebuilt following the war and is now home to the Gdansk History Museum, which you may want to have a look around. You can also climb the tower for great views of Dulgi Targ. This is a great starting point to get your bearings and allows you to take in the beautiful scenery of the city before really getting into your day of sightseeing.
2. Gdansk Crane (Zuraw)
Zuraw is one of Gdansk’s most recognisable landmarks. Formerly the largest working maritime crane in the world, it was used to raise ships masts and unload cargo back when Gdansk was Poland’s main trading port. Almost fully destroyed in 1945 during the battle of Gdansk, the crane was carefully restored post-war, making it the only one of its kind remaining in the world. Now, it’s part of the National Maritime Museum, and if you’re interested, for an entry fee of 8.5zl you can go inside and explore the inner workings of this medieval machine. If not, the photos are equally great from outside!
3. Piwna Street
If like us you’re interested in having a few drinks while in Gdansk, you’ll want to spend some time on Piwna (Beer) Street. This block in the Old Town used to be home to several of the city’s historic breweries, and nowadays the entire street is lined with a dozen craft beer bars and pubs serving up an endless selection of local and international beers, as well as quirky cocktails and wine! Our personal picks are Kafebe, The Old Gdansk Beer Pub, Browar Piwna and Café Joseph K.
4. St Mary’s Basilica
Next up is to climb the 409 steps to the roof of St Mary’s Basilica for some panoramic views of the city. The Basilica was built in the 14th century and is one of the largest brick-built churches in the world, with alleged space for up to 25,000 people inside. For only 10 zloty, it’s worth making the leg burning climb up the 700-year-old winding staircase for some of the best views Gdansk has to offer.
An alternative viewpoint which still has great views over the Old Town that include St Mary’s Basilica is St Catharine’s Church. A less arduous climb, the bell tower at St Catharine’s still offers great views of Gdansk but it is only open to the public during the summer months.
5. Motlawa River Waterfront
There are plenty of great bars and restaurants from the Green Gate all the way up to the Wapienniczy Bridge. Further up the river you will stumble across the Gdansk Sign and The Gdansk Panoramic Wheel, which offers great views over the Old Town from 50m up.
Seeing as the waterfront is one of the most picturesque areas of the city, it would be a shame not to walk the length of the river up to The Museum of the Second World War, which is only a 10-minute walk from The Crane. Most people don’t know that on September 1st 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland at the Westerplatte Peninsula, only 7 miles from the centre of Gdansk, beginning the second world war. There are far too many exhibitions and exhibits to talk about in detail here but for only 23zl (£4.60,) the museum should be on your Gdansk itinerary.
While up in the northern areas of the city you might also want to check out the Eurpoean Solidarity Centre, a museum and library which tells the story of the Solidarity Movement of the Polish Trade Unions and the opposition to communism in Eastern Europe during the 20th century.
6. Mariacka Street
A stroll along the cobbles of Mariacka Street is a must! It is one of the most picturesque streets in Gdansk. Walk through St Mary’s Gate from the waterfront and check out the cool cafes and small shops selling Amber Jewellery, famous in the Baltic region. Keep your eyes peeled for the gargoyles that double up as rainwater pipes and spray water out into the street.
We know that Poland is famed for its Vodka, but Gdansk was once the centre of Polish beer production, with an estimated 400+ breweries in the 16th Century. Unfortunately, there isn’t quite that many left nowadays, but there are two microbreweries that should be up there on your list;
Hotel Gdansk and their award-winning microbrewery Brovarnia is a must for any beer lovers visiting! They use only water, yeast, malt and hobbs to make their beer. They produce 3 kinds of excellent beer; Brovarnia Light, Brovarnia Dark and Brovarnia Wheat Beer, these can all be tried on the Brovarnia tasting board (see picture below.) There is also a range of bottles, cocktails and spirits to choose from (and the food looked damn tasty as well!) So, if anyone you’re travelling with isn’t keen on beer, they can still find something while you treat yourself to the alleged ‘Best Beer in Gdansk’.
If you find yourself over by Gdansk Glowny train station, you MUST call in to Browar PG4. This two-storey ‘micro’ brewery and restaurant offer 4 homemade beers on draft that are brewed on site in the huge vats that you can explore while enjoying your drinks fresh from the keg.
Try the tasting board first to decide which of PG4’s brews are your favourite before diving in to one of their larger offerings, a yard of ale or souvenir tankard perhaps? Another beer lovers dream! The food menu is also not to be missed with classic polish fare (dumplings! 😊) as well as traditional beer snacks.
If you are even remotely interested in taking a trip to Poland, dumplings (or pierogi) are likely already on your to do list! The best in Gdansk are at Pierogarnia Mandu Centrum, where you can watch this local delicacy being freshly made to your order by expert and friendly staff. Your taste buds will thank you for making the 15-minute walk from the Old Town over to Oliwa District!
For the ultimate brew with a Polish view, you must head back down the river to Cathead Multitap. Just a short walk from Long Market’s main square, with 28 taps, over 90 bottled beers and great bar staff to help you choose, Cathead is a beer lovers dream! Take your pick from hoppy IPAs, Polish stout, Danish sour ale or strong Belgian-style wheat beer to name a few, and enjoy outside on Cathead’s terrace overlooking the river for a great afternoon drink to round off a days exploring.
If you are lucky enough to have longer around Gdansk, getting out of town and to the nearby seaside city of Sopot is a great day trip idea if you do have that extra day to spare. Travelling between the cities is straight forward, you should take SKM kolejka (a commuter train). They run every 10-15 mins during the day and through until midnight, just less frequently. Tickets can be bought from machines on the platforms or from the conductor on the train (tickets are normally cheaper purchased from the machines.) Ticket prices to Sopot will cost around 4.20zł and the journey takes about 20 mins.
When you arrive, you’ll want to check out the Sopot Molo, the longest wooden pier in Europe that stretches out 511 meters into the sea. Sopot is a great place to relax on the beach and it’s also famed in the Tri-city area for its nightlife and party vibe.
So there we have our recommendations for the ten best things to do in Gdansk. Hopefully this will convince you that you need to book yourself a budget friendly weekend in one of Poland’s lesser known gems!
Joe & Nat xxx