I’ll forgive you, I hadn’t heard of this place either.
Although, who wants to let small detail of not knowing where something is on a map get in the way of a cheap and cheerful Ryanair flight and the prospect of going someplace new for the weekend, right?! So here we were, 30,000 ft. in the air, ready to explore Gdansk and get our first taste of Polish life!
Perhaps unfairly shadowed by Poland’s larger and more obvious tourist hot-spots; Krakow, Wroclaw and Warsaw, Gdansk, as it turns out, flaunts a walkable, pretty port town nestled on the Northern coast of Poland where you’ll discover a city with bags of charm; totally perfect for a short, relaxing European trip.
The main sights and bars are centered around the main street (Dluga) which stretches between the Green Gate in the East to the Prison Tower in the West, Ratusz, Gdansk’s towering red brick town hall breaking up the two in the middle, with rows of these adorable dutch-esque pastel houses lining the street in between.
With its medieval roads and fabulous old-style architecture, a stroll around the old town is probably the best introduction you can offer yourself to start getting a feel for the city’s character.
Being early spring, with the biting Baltic wind, the main street didn’t have the buzz you might expect in the sunnier months and the roads were eerily hushed. After meandering through the cobbled lanes, nosying at the amber stalls and taking a saunter down the bank of the canal for a peek at the Crane, we realised what we were missing; people!
It took us a while to cotton on to where the energy was – Gdansk’s bars and cafes!
The nature of the buildings meant that the old town didn’t feature expansive shop fronts or wide open windows, instead we found that all these amazing eateries and cute cafes were tucked away beneath the street or behind heavy wooden doors, but that was all the better.
Bolting the door behind us, we shut out the bitter wind and instead were welcomed by a cosy bar, warm service and that seriously incredible polish food!
Embarking on a mini, self-guided bar crawl is definitely the best way to devote at least a day to discovering Gdansk.
Brovarnia Gdansk brews the best beer in Poland – or so says the sign above the door. Now, I don’t know about the whole of the country, but this was the best beer I sampled during my trip.
Choose between the lager, wheat or smoked beer, or all three (because… why not!) then soak up the hops with a cheese and cold meat platter on the bar.
Pikawa is a snug café, ideal for a mid-afternoon tea break. Easy to find on a street just off the main road, I was happy to grant a couple of hours of my time to sipping on a honey hot chocolate and filling up on homemade apple pie.
Flisak 76 is a hipster-esque basement haunt with barmen who know their stuff. Ask for their vodka based recommendations and don’t be surprised if you end up whittling the evening away until closing time in the early hours of the next day.
The sociable, relaxed vibe is infectious and the drinks… well I can only speak from experience, but the short walk back to our accommodation was quite an event, especially when the cobbles were where the sky should have been and vice versa.
Original Burger on the main street will helped nurse my hangover the next day, with gorgeously greasy stodgy food to soak up the vodka out of my veins and snug settees to bury myself into whilst I tried my best to recall the events of the previous night.
Opt for the beer and burger deal if you fancy the hair of the dog.
After I’d sobered, if would be time to delve into the history of the area and find out more about what makes Gdansk so great.
Solidarnosc is a superb exhibition space by the docks that describes in detail the trade union movement that was a major turning point in Polish history. The museum will take a couple of hours to walk around and will take you through the founding of the ‘Solidarity’ organisation, the shipyard strikes, the arrest and imprisonment of many of its members and the outcome.
A visit the coast is not complete without a trip to seaside. Gdansk is part of the Tricity, alongside its neighbours Gdynia and Sopot.
Sopot is a typical sea town with a clean beach with swans swimming by the ocean edge, and the longest wooden pier in Europe. It’s worth the short train ride over for a change of scenery and to relax in some of Sopot’s restaurants.
Gdansk’s size makes it the perfect getaway for a weekend.
Lovers of great architecture, history and food will all be left satisfied with what the town has to offer, and the fact that Poland, is in general, incredible affordable means you won’t be feeling the dent when you get back.
Gdansk, you sure aren’t one to be overlooked!
I have since traveled to Krakow in November last year and loved it for many of the same reasons. Warsaw and Wroclaw are on the list for me next!
Have you been?