Gdansk is not a city that tops most people’s list when they visit Poland, let alone Europe. But this hidden gem near Poland’s Baltic coast is the perfect place for a weekend city break. There’s quite a few reasons to visit this small, colourful city. A rich history - although a tragic one at times, beautiful architecture, a great food offering, and as rings true with the rest of Poland, it is friendly on the old budget.
You can easily enjoy everything Gdansk has to offer without taking any time off work, although an extra day to visit the offering of museums and enjoy more great food and vodka isn’t a bad idea. Our trip was a classic Friday night-Sunday evening visit and we didn’t feel rushed, but would have loved to have spent more time at the Museum of the Second World War, which an extra day would have easily afforded us.
Poland suffered much hardship throughout the 20th century, especially throughout World War II. Gdansk was the site where the war began on 1 September 1939, and was all but completely destroyed. This is why the visit to the museum was essential for me, to learn more about not only the war efforts and devastation in Poland, but globally. However, Gdansk has come a long way since then and is now a beautiful, thriving city that is easy on the eyes and has plenty to offer someone looking for a quiet city break.
Poland is one of the best European countries to splurge in without breaking the bank. We didn’t even try to watch what we spent while there, as everything is so cheap, especially after growing used to London prices! However to give you a guide, we stayed in a one bedroom apartment 5 minutes walk from the centre of the Old Town, and indulged in ALL the food and drink. Even then, combined with some budget flights everything came in under £130 per person.
Flights with Ryanair: £32
Accommodation 2 nights in 1 bedroom apartment in the Old Town: £80
Spending (Food, transport & entertainment): <£50
Where to stay
Gdansk Old Town. This is where most of the action is happening and puts you within walking distance of plenty of great restaurants, cafes and bars.
Where to eat
You can’t go to Poland and not eat pierogi. We tried a few but our recommendation is by far Pierogarnia Mandu Centrum. Boasting a huge menu of both savoury and sweet, as well as traditional and fried Polish dumplings, they also make them at the front of the restaurant for you to watch. Fresh as can be! We faced a 45 minute wait on the first day we tried, so we returned not long after opening on the Sunday to ensure we wouldn’t miss out!
My favourite meal of the day is easily enjoyed for a fraction of the price here. We enjoyed breakfast both days, with prices for most meals totalling under £5.00. Check out Pomelo Bistro or Cafe Libertas for delicious, hearty meals to start your day.
Both visits to Poland have delighted us with the quality of food. Gdanski Bowke was an absolute culinary delight. We enjoyed cocktails, mains and desserts for a meagre price of that in London, with a combination of flavours that we’d not had anywhere else. The menu was extensive, and the service fantastic.
What to do
Visit the other towns in the tri-city area, Gdynia and Sopot. We made a visit in mid-January, but our research and word from locals all suggested that in the summer these neighbouring towns, both easily accessible by train, are the places to be. Located on the Baltic coast, both Gdynia and Sopot attract holiday-makers from Poland in the summer months, where families make the most of the warmer weather by the sea. While we didn’t visit these towns as we were short on time, we would have loved to have stopped by.
The Museum of the Second World War
Let me begin by telling you this is the most well presented and decorated museum I have ever visited. We visited in the afternoon, and remained there until closing time, around 4 hours in total. We were rushed to see the last quarter of the exhibition, and would recommend 6-8hours to fully enjoy everything this museum has to offer. This might sound excessive (we thought so too reading reviews online) but once you are there you will understand why. It’s not all reading, and in fact most of the museum is interactive, and we highly recommend hiring the audio guide.
Entry costs 23zl (£4.50 or AU$8.50)
Audio guide 5zl (£1 or AU$1.85)
St Mary’s Church and Tower
We weren’t able to visit the church or climb the tower as it was closed for a state funeral when we were in town, however like with all cities, we recommend getting to the highest possible vantage point to take the city in from all angles. After visiting the church, you can make your way up the 408 steps to the top of the tower to admire views of the main pedestrian street, Dlugi Targ.
Tower entry costs 10zl
NB: It’s worth noting that like much of Europe, Sunday’s are a time of rest. Therefore, you’ll find few stores open, but most museums and a number of cafes and restaurants will be ready for business.
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