While we were living in Poland, we had our dear friend Noelle visit us from the United States. Noelle is an avid world traveler and this was her first trip to Poland. We were so excited to show her around!
The first few days we spent at our home in Wałbrzych so she could adjust to the time difference and see some of the local sites. We made sure to take her to visit Zamek Ksiaż as well as short walks through the surrounding fairytale forests. After a few days taking it easy, we made the 6 hour drive north to the seaside city of Gdańsk.
What to Do and See in Gdansk, Poland
Gdańsk is an old and historic city famously known for being the location of the start of World War II as well as the birthplace of the Solidarity Movement, bringing the end of Communism in Poland.
Where to Stay in Gdańsk
As this was our first extended trip to Gdańsk, we wanted to make sure and stay in the heart of everything. We rented an apartment that was located just off of Długi Targ (Long Market). We enjoyed staying in this area because it was walking distance to everything we wanted to see in the city (and driving and parking in Polish cities is a huge pain).
Gdańsk is not known for having a traditional market square, but instead has a long market street that runs through the old town. This street is lined with colorful historic tenement houses, a wide cobblestone promenade that is blocked off from cars, and merchants, artists and performers decorated along the street. Gdańsk was severely destroyed after WWII and had to rebuild most of its buildings. The reconstruction was based off of photographs and therefore looks almost identical to what it looked like prior to the war.
In addition to having a beautiful main street, Gdańsk also has a picturesque walk alongside the waterfront of the Motława River called Długie Pobrzeze. This river has been used for centuries as a cargo loading and unloading area. You can even visit the historic crane that was used for centuries (the tall black building in the photo below). This promenade is also lined with restaurants and cafes that offer outdoor seating with a view.
Things to Do in Gdańsk
Here are some of the things we did that I highly recommend to anyone visiting the city:
Walk Mariacka Street
I know I’ve just gone on and on about the beautiful historic main street in Gdańsk, but my actual favorite one is a little street called Mariacka Street. This street appears as a hidden alleyway within the city that you have accidentally just stumbled upon. Once you find your way in, you will discover hip cafes, amber markets and other boutique shops.
My favorite little cafe that we found was called Drukarnia, which translates to printshop, as the building once served as an old printing house. They have wonderful outdoor seating that offers the best people watching. The most memorable things about this street is that all of the rain gutters are designed with stone gargoyle statues that spew water out when it rains.
Buy Polish Baltic Sea Amber
The city of Gdańsk is the capital of amber for all of the Baltic states. Amber pieces are collected from the beach after a storm comes through. Amber in this area is the fossilized resin of trees that grew over 40 million years ago. There are many amber merchants and artists that you can visit and observe at work. Mariacka Street is an excellent place to find some of these artisans.
Visit the Museum of the Second World War
I enjoy visiting museums when I travel, but this was by far one of the best ones I have ever visited. The museum is modern and interactive having just opened in 2017. As Gdańsk was the starting place for WWII, the museum is a significant place for the city. It covers, in depth, all aspects of WWII and uses a variety of mediums including art, movies, relics, stories and much much more to create an interactive experience for the visitors. Make sure you save plenty of time for this museum. There was so much information here I feel like I need to visit a few times to really take everything in.
See a Play at the Shakespeare Theater Gdańsk
Another huge highlight of our trip to Gdańsk was a visit to the Shakespeare Theater. This theater is incredibly designed with a stage that enters into the audience so that it can be viewed from three sides. There is standing room on the ground level and seating levels around the stage. If you stand on the ground floor (like we did) prepare to be part of the action. The building is also built so that the roof can open and close as needed. They also offer a behind the scenes tour of the building, which is a great tour to take prior to seeing a show.
We watched the play Shakespeare in Love. The show was performed in Polish but was accompanied by English and German subtitles behind the actors. For those that are somewhat familiar with the works of the Bard, you don’t even really need subtitles as the actors do such an excellent job showing what’s happening. Even during the intermission of the show, a couple of the performers remained on stage in character taking a break of their own. It was so much fun!
Eating and Shopping
The highlight of visiting Poland for so many travelers is the food and Gdańsk does not disappoint in that department. There are numerous restaurants around that serve a variety of cuisines including traditional Polish, Thai, Persian and even Mexican! You will not be disappointed by the restaurants here, especially because many of them offer outdoor seating that is ideal for a summer evening.
Many of the restaurants have a breakfast offer that I found incredibly funny. They advertise that if you order a cup of coffee you will receive a breakfast for 1 złoty (about 25 cents). The cup of coffee may cost slightly more than normal (let’s say about 5 dollars), but with your coffee, you will receive a huge breakfast of eggs, toast, meat, veggies and more. It was a great deal!
In addition to great restaurants, Gdańsk is also filled with fun quirky boutique shops. We found many that carried local modern art including contemporary posters, spray painted t-shirts and fun, colorful ceramics. We also stumbled into a few antique book shops that contained historic collections and helpful owners.
Beach, Bikes and Ice Cream!
Although we did so many fun things in Gdańsk, visiting the beach was probably my highlight. This was extra fun because we decided to rent bikes for the day! We visited a little area called Wyspa Sobieszewka, which we selected due to ease of parking and smaller crowds. After spending hours laying out in the sun and swimming in the sea, we took our bikes for a ride on a trail alongside the water. (Note: Do not try to push your bike through the sand. It’s probably one of the most challenging and exhausting things I’ve ever done, especially when it’s hot…) The end of our bike ride landed us at a little stand that was selling ice cream and waffles covered in whipped cream and berries. We happily indulged.
Visiting Gdańsk was a blast, and made even more fun by sharing it with a close friend from home. If you’re looking for more information on visiting the area or would like to schedule a private tour with us to the area, please contact us!
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