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Travel to Gdansk

Gdańsk is, without a doubt, one of the most charming ports on the Baltic Sea. Warmer months see flocks of Poles and foreigners walking down to its dainty harbourfront, raiding its streets during the annual St Dominik’s Fair or partying until the small hours on the pristine beaches of the Gulf of Gdańsk. It’s almost easy to forget that it was here where the first shots of the Second World War were fired, changing the history of Poland, and the world, forever. Relics of Europe’s fateful days tower over the sea at the Gdańsk shipyard, too, where a trade union of disillusioned dockworkers turned into a movement that eventually brought down Eastern Europe’s Communist regime. Be it for its summer glory or fascinating heritage, hopping on a flight to Gdańsk is always a great start for a weekend or a week-long getaway.

 

Fly to Gdańsk, Poland for

Having celebrated its thousandth birthday in 1997, Gdańsk has served as a strategic port and stronghold for Poland’s Piast dynasty, the Teutonic Knights and the Hanseatic League. Disputes over the city’s sovereignty had flared up again and again for centuries, ultimately leading to the outbreak of World War II. By the time the war ended, 90% of the city centre had been wiped out. But after several decades of heroic reconstruction efforts, Gdańsk shines brighter than ever before. The streets of its Główne Miasto (Main Town) and Stare Miasto (Old Town) are brimming with historic and cultural riches, old-world and new-world charm and vivacious spirit. And did we mention that Gdańsk is essentially three cities in one? Together with Sopot, Poland’s premier sea resort, and Gdynia, it forms one large metropolis, Trójmiasto (Tricity).

 

When in Gdańsk: things to do and see right away

Gdańsk is a living and breathing history book, with illustrations that will warm architecture and art lovers’ hearts, too. Start with brushing up on your knowledge of the Second World War at the Museum of WWII but prepare for a sobering chapter. Stretching over some 5,000 square metres, the exhibit has become one of the most-visited attractions in the city since its 2017 opening, so book your tickets in advance. Continue with a more soothing lesson in art history at the National Museum. Spend an afternoon among the myriad of Polish and foreign masterpieces, including some fine works by the younger Brueghel and Van Dyck. The Amber Museum, the Maritime Museum and the Historical Museum each deserve a stop on your way to discovering Gdańsk’s vast cultural heritage. But for history lovers, a visit to the famed Gdańsk shipyard and metal-clad European Solidarity Centre is mandatory. The former Lenin Shipyard was the birthplace of Solidarność (Solidarity), a Polish labour union that emerged in the wake of a strike by 17,000 workers, led by shipyard electrician Lech Wałęsa. What started out as the first non-Communist trade union in the Soviet Bloc soon turned into a full-blown storm of civil resistance that swept through eastern Europe and brought about the collapse of Communism.

 

A zupa exciting culinary adventure

Traditional Polish recipes call for generous servings of butter, cream, eggs and seasoning and make for meals that nourish both body and soul. Meat, mostly pork, beef or chicken, is a well-loved ingredient, generously sprinkled with marjoram, dill, parsley and pepper. Sauerkraut, beetroot, cucumbers, sour cream, turnips and mushrooms have a special place in Poles’ heart, and kitchen, usually starring in dishes like zupa ogórkowa (cucumber soup) and zupa grzybowa (mushroom soup) or red beetroot barszcz (sour soup). Józef K. on Piwna Street serves up a neat selection of uber-Polish dishes, with a side of uber-cool. Try gołąbki, a hearty mix of rice and meat in cabbage leaves and feast your eyes on the restaurant's outlandish vintage decor. With its lavish 17th-century rooms, Restauracja Gdańska looks stellar on the decor front, too, and will not disappoint foodies, either. Added bonus: Lech Wałęsa has eaten there. Established in 1598, Pod Łososiem could double as a royal residence any day. It has the look down to a tee but has substance too, still producing Goldwasser, a vodka jazzed up with pieces of 22-carat gold that was once a cult-favourite across Europe’s courts.

 

Serial shoppers and beer aficionados, rejoice!

Souvenir-hunting has never been easier or more aesthetically pleasing than on Gdańsk’s Mariacka Street. One of Poland’s and Europe’s most Insta-worthy thoroughfares, it’s flanked by chic boutiques, tiny amber jewellery shops, cosy cafés and pre-war terraces. Shopping centres abound across Gdańsk, with the most impressive being Galeria Bałtycka, laid out in the city’s Wrzeszcz district. The shopping complex houses over 200 stores over three stories, including all your familiar fashion and cosmetics labels. Need to do some quick shopping around Gdańsk’s Old Town or Main Town? Hit Madison on Rajska Street, a shopping centre with a more manageable size and convenient location for anyone who visits or stays in the area. You thought Gdańsk was lively during the day? Wait until the sun goes down and see it turn into a real powerhouse. Make your way to Długi Targ street and sip a cocktail in the laid-back summer garden of Jack's Bar & Restaurant Fahrenheit. By night, the bar transforms into a fun dance club with DJs spinning the latest hits. Never one to leave the local beer scene unexplored? You might want to extend your stay then. Gdansk boasts an entire street dedicated to beer, not-so-surprisingly called ‘Beer Street’ (Ulica Piwna). Tip back a pint at No To Cyk, a quirky Communist era-inspired bar with plenty of character and great pivo.

 

Meet the seals, follow the dunes and go to Hel

Once you’ve made it to Gdańsk, exploring its other two siblings within the Tricity (Trójmiasto) is a no-brainer. Catch the next train (SKM) and hop off at Sopot, Poland’s stylish summer capital. Forget all your worries strolling into the sunset on Europe’s longest wooden pier, lying on sun-kissed beaches or making noise with the party crowd. Gdynia, one of Poland’s youngest cities, was once a tiny fishing village that catapulted to stardom after WWI as a strategic seaport. As a result, the city became and has remained an open-air museum of Art Deco and modernist architecture, fringed with nice beaches, fine restaurants and cosy cafés. Pomerania, Poland’s north is a captivating region, which is well worth venturing out of the Tricity. Buy your tickets to Hel and arrive in heaven in Hel Peninsula’s famous and pun-inducing resort town. The peninsula is a 35-kilometre-long strip of soft sand, mighty pine trees, ocean-fresh air and a true wind-surfers’ paradise. Travelling with kids? Don’t miss the local Seal Sanctuary. And no trip through the Pomeranian Voivodeship is complete without visiting the shifting sand dunes in Słowiński National Park. Embracing the Łeba Spit and the Gardeńsko-Łebska Lowland, it has carved out magnificent coastal lakes, including Poland’s third largest, Łebsko.

 

Gdańsk airport

Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport is serviced by the PKM rail line, run by SKM, the same suburban railway that crosses the Tricity region. Get on a train at the Gdańsk Port Lotniczy station just outside the terminal to conveniently reach Gdańsk Wrzeszcz or Gdańsk Główny, the city's central railway station. Alternatively, bus no. 110 will take you to the Wrzeszcz train station, and line no. 210 and N3 to the Gdańsk Główny train station. Car rental and taxi services are available.

 

Gdańsk weather

Gdansk’s climate, just like the city itself, has a little bit of everything: it’s oceanic but also continental, with not much precipitation throughout the year. Winters are kinder here than in other corners of the country, with cloudy days, the occasional snowfall and temperatures around 1-5°C. Summers are more pleasant on the coast, too, with temperatures averaging at 20°C and rarely reaching extremes.