I recently spent a cheeky weekend in Gdansk the Northern Polish city with one of the most beautiful old town’s in Europe. I couldn’t say no to a cheap £33 flight direct to one of my favourite countries from Liverpool with WIZZ AIR! The city is so full of history, great people and brilliant activities – here’s what to do in Gdansk…
Please note that this blog has been written retrospectively and I got back from Poland a few weeks ago, before the spread of coronavirus through Europe. Most places of tourism for example museums and castles are closed to visitors due to the current situation. Please check the governments advice.
Gdansk Old Town
Be ready to see one of the picturesque streets in Europe – Uliza Dluga. It is basically the main square, even though it translates into English as the ‘Long Market’.
Put simply, it is one of the most photographed streets and squares in Europe and is a feast for anyone’s eyes on your first glimpse. It’s a top reason to visit Gdansk. Enjoy a photo stop next to the famous Neptunes Fountain.
St Mary’s Basilica
St. Mary’s Basilica in Gdańsk is a large Roman Catholic church (situated on the Ulica Piwna) which has more red bricks than any other church on earth. In its time, the church was originally used by Catholics and Protestants and contains a lookout platform at the top. You have to walk up the steps as there is no elevator, but the views from the top are marvellous.
See Gdansk Old Town by Segway or Electric Scooter!
I did an electric scooter tour of Gdansk and it was fabulous – really easy to ride surprisingly. You can cover more ground on an electric scooter or Segway tour than on foot and so I really recommend these. Also it is so much fun! Our guide Jakub was very knowledgable and entertaining. You can book these on Get Your Guide.
Have a drink on ‘Beer Street’
Gdańsk is a drinker’s paradise, especially since there are at least 30 bars in one tight area in and around the city’s well-known ‘Ulica Piwna’, which translates into English as ‘Beer Street’. It is in the heart of the old town running parallel with Ulica Right here on Beer Street, you can visit some of the best bars in Gdańsk, all with their own original appeal, including old-style Irish and PRL pubs. Get ready for one of the most surprising nights out you’ll have in Europe.
The Original Fahrenheit Thermometre
A real treasure to check out is the original Fahrenheit Thermometer, which is located in the heart of Gdańsk, on the other side of Neptune’s Fountain in the Długi Targ. The reason why it’s here in Gdańsk is because the guy who invented it, Daniel Fahrenheit, grew up in Gdańsk.
Zaspa District – Street Art Heaven
The Gdańsk suburb of Zaspa has Europe’s biggest neighbourhood collection of residential wall murals. Almost every residential blocks of flats in Zaspa have had the walls painted making it a haven for street art lovers. These large murals document some of Poland’s political history and the collapse of Communism, and other walls are just painted for desire with no political messages. Lech Wałęsa the President of Poland from 1990 to 1995, and he used to live in Zaspa, where he has a mural of him. The website for Zaspa’s murals has all the history details and although the murals are free to visit, guided tours may also be arranged.
Museums in Gdansk
Visit the Solidarity Centre
The Gdańsk shipyard was the setting for a major turning point in European history, now reminisced in lovely detail in the city’s incredible European Solidarity Centre, which is devoted to the Solidarity (‘Solidarność’) movement during the 1980s. This Trade Union movement originally led by Lech Wałęsa grew to a membership of 10 million and planted the seeds for a new future, being essential in the fall of Communist rule. You can actually visit the Solidarity Centre which is a museum about the movement.
National Museum – Home to the Last Judgement Painting
The Last Judgement is a famous painting by German artist Hans Memling. It is kept in the National Museum in Gdańsk, which also makes the list of must-see attractions in the city. In Polish, the painting is identified as Sąd Ostateczny and is a beautiful triptych representing heaven, hell and earth.
St. Dominik’s Fair
St. Dominik’s Fair occurs in Gdańsk every summer and has been going for a whopping 750 years. It usually starts in the last week of July and goes on into August. This successful fair goes all the way back to the year 1260, when it was established by Pope Alexander IV. The streets are full of market stalls selling drinks, food, souvenirs, clothes and pretty much anything else you can think of. At night there are fireworks and is live music to celebrate when the festival comes to an end. St. Dominik’s Fair crosses across many streets in the middle of Gdańsk.
Visit the Tricity Area – It’s 3 cities in 1
When you visit Gdansk, you’re not only visiting 1 city but 3. Gdansk is made up of three cities, also known as the tricity which include Gdansk (the largest), Gdynia and Sopot. In essence, the Tricity is one large metropolitan area and has a total population of 1 million.
You can travel very easily within the Tricity area, with trains and buses very accessible. All three cities have so much to offer, so you won’t get bored. It’s normal for locals to visit all three areas in one day – they might meet a friend in Gdinya, go shopping in Gdansk and end up having drinks on the pier in Sopot!
Second World War History – Polish Post Office and Westerplatte
Polish Post Office and Monument
On September 1, 1939, Hitler and his fellow troops started the Second World War when they launched attacks simultaneously on the Polish Post Office in Gdańsk, on Westerplatte and on the town of Tczew. Outside the Polish post office in Gdansk, you will see a monument dedicated to those who defended it.
Westerplatte Outdoor Museum and Monument
You can visit the Westerplatte peninsula, some parts which still contain the ruins since the battle of Westerplatte in 1939. There is an outdoor museum which details all the events during and leading up to the Second World War as well as a peace monument devoted to the victims of the war.
It’s a distressing and sad trip, but another reason why Gdańsk should be at the top of your list. Grab a taxi from the old town for around 30-40 Zlotys, or jump on the number 106 bus.
The Remains of the Shipyard Wall and Berlin Wall
Gdańsk is the only city in the world which features a memorial with remains of both the wall at the Shipyard where the Solidarność movement began and the wall which separated East from West (the Berlin Wall). Both of the monuments have plaques that describe their significance, before leading into a ‘walk of freedom’ path which takes you to the shipyard itself.
Gdansk World War 2 Museum
The Gdansk WW2 Museum is MASSIVE! It’s so big that it stretches underground with 18 exhibitions (many of which could easily fill an hour). It houses WW2 propoganda, military uniform, a holocaust memorial gallery and a Sherman Tank. Plan to spend a full day here (I know someone who spent 2 days in this museum!) or if you can only spend half a day here, plan your exhibitions accordingly. The entrance fee is 16 Zloty but it’s free on a Tuesday (Monday – closed).
Take a walk along Gdańsk’s beautiful harbourfront, and you may just fall in love with this amazing city. Gorgeous colourful buildings reflect against a river among a flurry of local street musicians and smells from well-known restaurants, and in the background boats cruise from and to Gdynia, Hel and Westerplatte.
Gdansk Beaches to Suit all Tastes
Amidst all the history, significant buildings, churches and bars, there is something that is often forgotten. Gdańsk has a lovely coastline and there is no shortage of stunning beaches here. From the pier and beach in tranquil Brzezno to the waters of Jelitkowo, to the sand dunes at Łeba, to the sunrise at Stogi, to the party beaches of Sopot, you can now see why this lovely city has so many things to offer and deserves a visit.
Make sure that you visit Gdansk at least once in your lifetime. You might also like to read my blog about the best Poland Tours that you can book online.
You might also like to read about Visiting Malbork Castle from Gdansk – the largest Castle in the World!