Three days in Gdansk
I love to travel as much as possible. Visiting new places and trying new food is one of my favourite things to do. Back in April, one of my best friends Simon and I travelled to Gdansk for 3 nights to experience one of Poland’s more underrated cities. Steeped in history, with gorgeous architecture, you should really put this place on your bucket list.
The history of Gdansk
Gdansk literally translates as ‘Swampy Place’ and was first so called by a monk in 997. The area has belonged to Germany, Poland and Prussia. People of all religions lived together in the City, and it was a huge merchant city with people from Germany, Poland, Scotland and elsewhere selling their wares. It was known as Gdansk until after Germany’s defeat in WW1. Subsequently the Free City of Danzig was created created on 15 November 1920 in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles, losing their German citizenship. It wasn’t an independent state, instead it was under League of Nations protection, under a binding customs union with Poland. Poland was given full rights to develop and maintain transport, communication and port facilities in the area, and the Free City was created to give Poland access to a good seaport. The majority of people living in the Free city were German, however there were also many Polish inhabitants. The German population resented being separated from Germany and tension increased when the Nazi Party gained power. In 1933, the Nazi Party took control of the local government, and after the invasion in 1939, the Nazis abolished the Free City. Many Polish & Jewish people from Gdansk were sent to concentration camps. Stutthof concentration camp is only one hour from Gdansk. After Germany lost WW2, Danzig was again renamed to Gdansk.
Getting to Gdansk
We flew from Leeds Bradford airport (surprisingly easy to get to from Nottingham) into Gdansk airport. The flight took 2 hours and was under £50 each. The airport is around 20 minutes in a taxi from the city centre. You can also get a bus but to be honest we couldn’t understand where to go to get it. A taxi (organised by our apartment, cost £10 each way).
Where we stayed
Simon found a fantastic apartment on Piwna Street, right in the heart of the Old Town. Check it out HERE. The apartment, on the second floor of a converted townhouse, was stunning. The main bedroom, complete with wrought iron bed was light, airy and huge. There was also a futon bed in the kitchen. The kitchen and bathroom came equipped with everything we needed for the stay. Towels are also included which meant more room for souvenirs. At £100 for both of us for 3 nights, it was a steal. Piwna St is known locally as beer street – typical that Simon chose to stay here!
Day one was mostly spent travelling. Our flight arrived at 18.30 and after getting to the apartment and unpacking, we had time for a quick dinner and a couple of beers at Pierogarnia u Dzika. Located round the corner from where we stayed on Piwna 59/60, it specialises in the traditional Polish dish of Pierogi, a soft dumpling stuffed with your choice of filling. We ordered the Pierogi Królewskie, choice of 4 different dumplings, two of each. This gave us the chance to sample lots of different fillings. At 26PLN (£5.28) per person, it was cheap, tasty and filling. My choices were:
Tradycyje – traditional with pork meat with crunchy pork
Wigilijne – Christmas dumplings with sauerkraut and forest mushrooms
Myśliwskie – boar meat and aromatic juniper berries
Wileńskie – buckwheat and bacon
God they were delicious. Little bites of heaven! My favourite was the Wileńskie, really flavoursome and the bacon was crispy. I wasn’t keen on the Tradycyje, the flavour was a little too strong for me.
The national beer of Poland seems to be a brand called Tyskie. At 5% it is a fairly strong beer, and is really refreshing! You will find it in almost every bar across Gdansk. At £1.83 a pint, you can’t really go wrong!
We then took a little walk around the Old Town as the sun was setting, and came across some stunning buildings. This building behind me is the Great Armoury building. A working Armoury building until the 1800’s, its a stunning example of Renaissance architecture. More pictures below!
On our first morning in the city, we had a coffee and breakfast at a cafe called Bread & Wine by Ferber. We ordered bacon, poached egg and spinach on toast, and eggs on toast. If I am honest, it wasn’t great. I would avoid it. However we did have some nice pastries here. Halfway through breakfast the Gdansk marathon ran through the street! If there is anything that can make you feel more fat and lazy than thousands of people running past you as you stuff pastries into your mouth, I would love to know!
After breakfast we decided to take part in the Walkative free tour of Gdansk. We met our guide, Paul, between the Golden Gate and the Amber Museum. Look for the guide with yellow umbrella. The tour genuinely is free. If you would like to tip at the end, you are welcome to, but it is not necessary. Paul was fantastic. Over 2.5 hours he detailed the history of Gdansk, from the 10th Century. There is an unbelievable amount of history within this city, and is regarded as the place where the Second World War officially started.
Some of the sights we saw were:
The Long Market – A merchant road where traders would sell their wares. It was also called the Royal Route as it was the only way into the city in the 15th Century.
Motława River – Take a walk down here and see the coffee shops, amber shops and the National Maritime Museum.
This used to be the city Jail. The hangman used to live in the top of the building.
The lions on the entrance of City Hall are not facing each other (as in the traditional Polish coat of arms, protecting the crown), instead they are looking towards the Highland Gate and the Golden Gate, which is where the royal road starts. It is said that the lions are looking out for the Polish rulers to come and protect the city. However that support did not arrive.
Early 17th Century. According to legend, it was Neptune who created the famous Gdańsk Goldwasser liquor, Annoyed at people throwing coins into the fountain, he hit the water with his trident and shattered the gold into tiny flakes,which is why gold appears in the herbal liquor.
Daniel Fahrenheit was born in Gdansk, and the monument displays a thermometer to remember him.
Mariacka Street (ulica Mariacka) – Known as Amber Street, this street is famous for small stores and stalls selling Polish Amber.
The most harrowing story accompanies this building. It is believed to be the official starting place of WW2. On Sept 1st 1939, Polish post office workers defended the building for around 15 hours against SS Heimwehr Danzig. 56 people, including the building keeper, his wife and 10 year old daughter, Erwina, were in the building when the invasion started. They had heard that they may be a target and had armed themselves in the hope that they could save the building, and themselves. The Polish refused to surrender and so they Germans pumped gasoline into the building before igniting it. Three polish people were killed in the blast, and then the remaining people decided to surrender. The first two people to leave the building were gunned down, the rest were allowed to surrender. There is a statue of Erwina in a school just down the road from the Polish Post Office of the Free City of Gdansk.
This is to the side of the Polish Post Office. The workers were forced to line up against this wall after surrender. This was a harrowing image, and one that will be stuck in my mind forever. The image of little Erwina’s hand prints and the teddy tied to the wall.
Erected in 1979. A tribute to the heroes who put up such a brave struggle, the monument represents a dying Polish post employee who is being handed a rifle, a little too late, by Nike, the goddess of victory.
After the tour, we headed back to the main street, Dluga Ulica, for a spot of lunch. we came across Tawerna. Again serving traditional Polish cuisine, I ordered Bigos, a traditional old meat stew with with sauerkraut and forest mushrooms. Simon ordered long baked pork neck with beer sauce, beetroot and potatoes. Oh my god these dishes were incredible. The meat was tender and full of flavour and the Bigos was the best meal I ate in Gdansk without a doubt. If someone can teach me to make this, I would be very grateful!
We then went for a walk around the outskirts of the Old Town, and found a gorgeous little church, St Catherine’s. Apparently it is the oldest church in Gdansk, first as a protestant church until after WW2 where it became a catholic church. There is also a crypt with bones in below the main church.
Here we are before everything went wrong…. We decided to go into a bar and sample some traditional Polish Vodka. Now… you hear stories of how strong Polish Vodka is. Did I listen? Did I heck! Oh my god. Two pints of beer and 4 shots of delicious vodka and I couldn’t remember my name!! The sun was shining, there was a lovely duo singing and playing instruments, and the waiter seemed keen to show us traditional Polish Vodka. Lets just say that I lost my e-cigarette (Simon retrieved it from a shop I don’t remember going into) I can’t remember the walk home, and there are some extremely embarrassing videos from the walk that will never see the light of day again! Thankfully the lovely Simon got me back to the apartment in one piece and I slept from around 7pm straight through to the next day (with a little kip on the bathroom floor thrown in for good measure!)
On day three we had a delicious breakfast of bacon, sausages, bread and tomatoes at Pod Bandera, Ul. Dlugie. We sat outside as the weather was lovely and mild. We then headed to the seaside town of Sopot, where it proceeded to piss it down for most of the day!!
Sopot is 20 minutes by train from Gdansk, and costs about £2 return. Bargain. Use the SKM train that runs every 10 minutes during the day and every hour in the evening.
Sopot is a gorgeous seaside town, small but perfectly formed. From the train to the beach is about a 5 minute walk. There are lots of stalls selling souvenirs in the undercover walkway next to the pier, and numerous bars and restaurants. There are a few other things to see as well as the beach.
It has the longest wooden pier in Europe, at 515.5 metres, stretching out into the Bay of Gdansk.
The weirdest shaped building I have seen to date. It is a shopping centre and bar, and unfortunately has Costa Coffee emblazoned on it.
We then ate lunch at Kava. We weren’t very hungry by this point so ordered light bites. I had the cream of pumpkin soup (£3) with coconut noodles, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil. This was delicious, warming (coz of the rain) with a hint of chilli. Simon went for the blueberry pierogi (£3) with toffee sauce, pear puree and almond crumble. These were lovely but a little too sweet, even for me.
We then headed back to Gdansk to continue exploring. We came across a gorgeous little Polish shop called Polish Taste selling traditional Polish food. Fantastic for souvenirs.
We then headed to Browar Piwna, a brewery and restaurant founded in 2012. Piwna Street was once traditionally a street full of breweries and this bar wants to restore that tradition. The beer is fresh, unfiltered and unpasteurized too. We drank a couple of pints of their Pils at 5.3%. It has a distinctive hops taste and was light and refreshing. At 12PLZ (£2.44) it was a little more expensive than most beers, but definitely worth it.
After the beer, we decided to get some food, and stopped at a little restaurant called Klatka B. The menu they were offering was only tapas, but we thought that tapas for 2 and a bottle of wine for 99PLZ (£20) was good value. Gosh we couldn’t have been more wrong! The tapas consisted of beef brisket pastrami (that neither of us could chew through), dry aged ham (pretty tasty to be fair) liver sausage (never again) smoked cheese (not for me) pickles (imagine McDonalds sliced pickles) pickled cauliflower (WHY???) Kashubian pork terrine (like a bland pate) and bread. The worst meal we had in Gdansk unfortunately. We were so disappointed. The wine was really good though so that saved it. It was just a shame that we walked away hungry. This has 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor though so what do we know?
We then walked along the riverbank in the evening and back through the town.
Our final day had arrived (sob). We were gutted to be leaving this stunning place, but as our flight wasn’t until later in the evening, we had a few hours to kill. After checking out of the apartment and leaving our bags with the office we went for our final breakfast of the trip, Anima Cafe on Świętego Ducha. God to be honest again, the food wasn’t great. We didn’t realise at the time that it was a vegan friendly cafe (which would have been fine had there been a nice vegan option). I had eggs and bacon, Simon had a scrambled egg wrap with bacon. It had one teeny piece of bacon and the food just wasn’t appetising.
From here we headed to the WW2 museum on Plac Władysława Bartoszewskiego, which opened in 2017. What an unusual building! It is free to enter on a Tuesday and is absolutely huge. There is a lot of information to take in, mostly through reading and after 3 hours we had completed around half of it. We had to leave as we both had a headache. Well worth a look around but be prepared to be in hours and hours. What we didn’t find out until afterwards was that you could have an audio guide for 5PLZ which would have helped considerably.
We then ate lunch in a lovely little cafe near the AmberSky wheel. I am gutted that I didn’t take a photos of the name of the cafe! This food, although not really much to look at, was amazing! I had some sort of meat stew with potato dumplings (very similar to gnocchi) with a gravy that looked super watery but tasted amazing! Simon had meat cutlets with mashed potato and beans. Again it was delicious. I have no idea what they do to Polish meat but it seems more tender and full of flavour than anywhere else! If anyone knows what cafe this is, please tell me! You did have to pay to go to the toilet in here though.
After a few more hours of walking around, it was nearly time to go 🙁 We stopped off at a convenience store for a bottle of water and happened upon these! The best hot dogs ever! At less than £1, I highly recommend you get one!
Got more time?
Stutthof Concentration Camp – If you have more time than we did in Gdansk, go to the Stutthof Concentration camp. It is an hour from Gdansk and apparently well worth the visit. It is difficult to get to (it seems there are only a couple of busses each way each day) and is in a secluded wooded area East of the city. It was the first Nazi concentration camp outside of the German border. In total around 110,000 people were sent here, with between 63,000 and 65,000 deaths. There is a cinema room showing informative films regarding the camp. If it is anything like Auschwitz Birkenau, it will be harrowing. Take tissues. Admission is under £1. Also from TripAdvisor reviews, take some lunch with you as there is nowhere to eat.
Have you been to Gdansk? Do you want to go and have some questions? Feel free to ask me!