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.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
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

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Recruitment Consultant (Trainee), Finchley Central, London

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary