48 Hours In: Gdansk

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Poland's handsome Baltic port, at the centre of European history, possesses abundant architecture and atmosphere – plus beaches a short hop away.



Click
here for the 48 Hours in... Gdansk map


Travel essentials

Why go now?

This Baltic city is full of historic intrigue: a Hanseatic port, a free city, and the place where the Second World War began. In spring, Gdansk opens up, with the nearby beaches presenting an ideal complement to busy city streets.

Touch down

Wizz Air (0906 959 0002; wizzair.com) flies to Gdansk daily from Luton, four times a week from Liverpool, and three times a week from both Doncaster-Sheffield and Prestwick. Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) flies daily from Stansted, three times a week from Edinburgh, and twice a week from Birmingham and Bristol.

The city's Lech Walesa airport is nine miles west of the city centre. The journey takes up to half an hour by taxi for a fare of around 60 zloty (PLN60/£13.75). An airport bus (00 48 515 181 161; airportbus.com.pl) runs several times a day from outside the terminal, coinciding with international arrivals and departures and dropping passengers at the city terminal on Jama Heweliusza, opposite the Hotel Hevelius (1). A single ticket costs PLN9.90 (£2.25).

Get your bearings

Gdansk is the dominant part of an area known as the Tri-city: Gdansk itself, the coastal spa resort of Sopot five miles to the north, and the modern port of Gdynia another three miles beyond that. The three areas are connected by the yellow and blue SKM trains, which operate frequently in and out of the Gdansk Glowny railway station (2). This is a very confusing station; SKM trains serve the group of platforms to the right as you go in. Buy tickets (very cheap) from the machines.

In Gdansk, the boundaries of the attractive old city centre are formed by the Motlawa river and the Motlawa and Raduna canals, with main roads to the south and west. The city was once walled; its main artery, the combination of Dluga and Dlugi Targ – Long Street and Long Market – cuts through it from west to east. The tourist office (3) at 28-29 Ul Dlugi Targ (00 48 58 301 43 55) sells Tourist Cards, which, for a cost of PLN35 (£8) for 24 hours, cover travel on the whole public transport network in the Tri-city, free entry to museums, and discounts on other cultural attractions.

Check in

The Gotyk House (4) was built in 1451 and claims to be the oldest house in Gdansk. This comfortable establishment has seven rooms, and is located on Gdansk's most attractive street, Ul Mariacka1 (00 48 58 301 85 67; gotykhouse.eu). Double rooms here are available from PLN220 (£50), singles from PLN190 (£44); prices include breakfast.

The Hanza Hotel (5) at Tokarska 6 (00 48 58 305 34 27; hotelhanza.pl) is an appealing modern building on the river. Doubles here start at PLN465 (£107), singles at PLN395 (£91), including breakfast.

The Scandic Hotel (6) is larger and cheaper, and its location opposite the railway station at Podwale Grodzkie 9 (00 48 58 300 6000; scandichotels.com) is convenient for anyone keen to explore the Tri-city area. Double rooms here start at PLN375 (£86), singles at PLN300 (£69), including breakfast.

Day one

Take a hike

Start your exploration of the city centre at the main entrance to the old town, the Brama Wyzynna or Upland Gate (7). The brick building immediately beyond was once a courthouse and prison; now it houses the Amber Museum (8), which opens 10am-3pm on Tuesdays, until 4pm Wednesday-Saturday, 11am-4pm on Sundays (00 48 58 326 21 53; mhmg.gda. pl; PLN10/£2.30; free on Tuesdays). Amber has been important to the economy of Gdansk for many centuries, and the museum contains a fascinating collection of amber pieces. Beyond the museum's courtyard is the main street, Dluga, restored after the Second World War to something like its original glory, all pastel colours and ornate gabling.

At number 12 is the Dom Uphagena (domuphagena.ovh.org) (9), an 18th-century town house decorated and furnished in period style. It opens 10am-3pm Tuesday, 10am-4pm Wednesday-Saturday, 11am-4pm on Sundays; admission costs PLN10 (£2.30); free on Tuesdays. On the other side of the street, and with the same opening hours, is the Artus Court (10), once used as a meeting place for the medieval guilds who each had their own benches. Among the striking features of the two halls are a carved spiral staircase, and a 16th-century ceramic heating stove with embossed tiles.

Turn left just before the Town Hall (11) towards St Mary's (12), believed to be the largest brick church in the world. It opens 6am-7.30pm Monday-Saturday, 8am-7pm on Sundays.

Continue down Mariacka, with its cobbles and attractive buildings, and through the gate at the bottom, turning left for a short detour to inspect the medieval wooden crane (13), which is still working. From here, retrace your steps, along the river bank, and turn right, through the Green Gate (14) and back into Dlugi Targ.

Lunch on the run

In a city full of coffee shops, locals reckon the best coffee is on Ul Piwna, and it is also a good place for a quick lunch. Head for Kos (15) if you fancy pizza or salad, or across the road the Balsam Cafe (00 48 58 322 0401; balsamcafe.home.pl) serves soup and salad.

Take a ride

The entrance to Gdansk harbour is close to a headland called Westerplatte, where the first shots of the Second World War were fired by a German battleship on 1 September 1939. A monument on the cliff, overlooking the Baltic coastline, marks the event. Boats to Westerplatte sail in summer from the landing stage by the Green Gate (14) on the hour from 10am to 5pm; PLN30 (£6.90).

Write a postcard...

...from the old post office (15) at Ul Obroncow Poczty Polskiej 1-2. In September 1939 a small group of postal workers heroically resisted the German forces for nine hours before they were forced to surrender. They are commemorated in a crumpled steel monument in the courtyard outside.

Window shopping

Amber is Gdansk's most prominent export, and there are shops devoted to it all over the city; Ul Mariacka is a good place to start. Get an "amber passport" to to make sure your purchase is genuine. If you prefer a modern mall, try the Madison shopping centre (16), open 9am-9pm daily (10am-8pm on Sundays).

An aperitif

The only beer brewed in Gdansk can be tasted at Brovarnia (17), a bar with microbrewery, in the Hotel Gdansk on Ul Szafarnia 9 (00 48 58 320 19 80; brovarnia.pl). There are three beers – light, white and dark – but if beer is not to your taste, order the local Goldwasser vodka for PLN12 (£2.75) a shot.

Dine with the locals

Stay at Brovarnia (17) and choose from the bar or restaurant menu, or explore some of the city's eateries. Reservations are advisable at the popular Monbalzac (18), at Ul Piwna 36-39 (00 48 58 682 25 25; monbalzac.pl). For traditional Polish food, try Velevetka (19), in the basement of Ul Dluga 45 (00 48 58 305 6106; velevetka.pl).

Day two

Sunday morning: go to church

Gdansk cathedral is in the residential suburb of Oliwa, north of the city centre and easily accessible from Gdansk Glowny station (2) on the SKM train. The one-way fare is PLN3.10 (£0.70). The cathedral is a tall gothic structure with a baroque altar and a vast, 18th-century organ that is being restored. The building had its origins in the 13th century when it was part of a Cistercian monastery.

A walk in the park

The cathedral is by Oliwa Park, an area of woodland and formal gardens that is popular with locals. There are several sculptures and a bandstand for concerts. It opens until 8pm (in summer, until 11pm).

Out to brunch

Return to the station and take a northbound train to Sopot, five minutes away. This resort on the Baltic has a sandy beach and a long pier that claims to be the longest in Europe. The Wave restaurant at the Sheraton Hotel at Ul Powstancow Warszawy 10 (00 48 58 767 1061; sheraton.com/sopot) serves an eat-as-much-as-you-like brunch for PLN130 (£30). For a more modest meal go to Pijalnia Czekolady Wedel on Sopot's main thoroughfare, the Boulevard Monte Cassino 36 (00 48 58 550 0335; wedelpijalnie.pl).

Cultural afternoon

Gdansk became synonymous at the end of the 20th century for its role in the collapse of the Iron Curtain. The Lenin Shipyards (now Gdansk Shipyards) were the focal point of the Solidarity movement. In front of the main gate of the shipyards is Plac Solidarnosci (20), where a monument commemorates the workers who died in the 1970 riots which led ultimately to the political events of the 1980s. Close by, at Ul Waly Piastowskie 24, is Roads to Freedom (00 48 58 308 4428; fcs.org.pl) (21), a fascinating exhibition explaining the development of Solidarity and its importance. It opens 10am-5pm Tuesday-Sunday, until 6pm from May to September, and costs PLN6 (£1.40).

Icing on the cake

Go to Hel, the resort at the extreme end of the Hel peninsula. You can make a terrific circular trip: by boat or hydrofoil from Gdansk, Sopot or Gdynia. A train runs back from Hel to Gdansk, giving you a cheap circuit of the bay.

Suggested Topics
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Life and Style
fashion

News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news

Video: It is the type of thing no parent wants to hear

Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Tyre Technician / Mechanic

    £15000 - £16800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Tyre Technician / Mechanic is...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Receptionist / Warranty Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion the Largest Independent Motor...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Manager - Holiday Homes - £100,000 OTE

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + £100,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: Birmingham, Derby, L...

    Investigo: Finance Manager - Global Leisure Business

    £55000 - £65000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in their fiel...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game