Since I was a little kid I’ve been visiting Gdansk, Poland fairly frequently, either to visit family’s friend and spent holidays there, to meet my friends or for work reasons. And every time I was falling for the place more and more.
Gdansk is one of my favorite places to visit in Poland and I dare to say it’s also one of the most beautiful and fascinating Polish destinations.
And so when the year 2020 kind of forced me to spend my holidays in Poland I’ve decided to visit Gdansk properly and play a tourist there again. After all, I haven’t done that in years and in that time the city has changed a lot and there are even more great Gdansk attractions there.
I spent a week in Gdansk and I loved it! It was so good to rediscover all the best things to do in Gdansk again and fall for the city all over again.
And today I’m more than happy to share with you all the city has to offer so you can plan your own trip to Gdansk too. Trust me, you definitely want to visit the place, it’s simply amazing! Just look below at what to in Gdansk, the list of all the Gdansk must-see is fairly long and everyone will find something interesting for themselves there.
Table of contents
- 1 Why visit Gdansk
- 2 How to get to Gdansk
- 3 How to get around Gdansk
- 4 How many days for visiting Gdansk
- 5 Where to stay in Gdansk
- 6 Things to do in Gdansk
- 6.1 Wander around the Old Town
- 6.2 Find the most picturesque street in Gdansk
- 6.3 Wander along the Motława riverside
- 6.4 Visit the Town Hall
- 6.5 See St. Mary’s Church
- 6.6 See the Love Bridge
- 6.7 Ride Amber Sky
- 6.8 See a marvelous amber altar
- 6.9 Get another perspective of Gdańsk from Gradowa Hill
- 6.10 Visit European Solidarity Center
- 6.11 See the alternative side of Gdansk at the shipyard
- 6.12 Enjoy amazing stret art in Zaspa
- 6.13 Visit the Polish Post Office Museum
- 6.14 Visit the World War Two museum
- 6.15 Go to Westerplatte
- 6.16 Relax in the beautiful Oliwa Park
- 6.17 Listen to the organ concert in Oliwa Cathedral
- 6.18 Relax at the beach
- 6.19 Go for day trips from Gdansk
- 7 Final thoughts on visiting Gdansk
- 8 Travel Resources
Why visit Gdansk
Gdansk is one of the most beautiful cities not only in Poland but in Europe (here you can see my collection of Gdansk pictures that simply prove it). But the place is not only insanely pretty, it is also very interesting in terms of attractions and history.
Gdansk dates back to the end of the 10th century and due to its location at the Baltic Sea coast it always played an important role in the region but the most important time for Gdansk happened in the 20th century when the city was a scene of some of the most important events in the world. This is where World War 2 started in 1939, this is also where the Solidarity movement was established – it eventually led to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.
Gdansk is also a perfect base to explore the surrounding region that offers a lot of diverse attractions.
How to get to Gdansk
Getting to Gdansk is very easy. The local airport serves numerous destinations all over Europe so finding cheap flights to Gdansk shouldn’t be an issue.
If you are coming from another place in Poland it shouldn’t be a problem either as there are direct trains to Gdansk from all the major cities in Poland (i.e. Warsaw, the capital, is only less than 3 hours away).
How to get around Gdansk
Many of the places to visit in Gdansk are located in the central part of the city and you can easily get there on foot.
If you plan to visit attractions a bit further (like the seaside, Oliwa or Westerplatte) you can use public transport – it’s fairly good in Gdansk, you can use buses, trams or trains to get around. You can find schedules here.
How many days for visiting Gdansk
You can see the major Gdansk attractions (without really visiting the main museums) in one day. But to be honest that’s not enough to fully enjoy the city.
I think you need 3 days for Gdansk itself (that includes visiting European Solidarity Center and World War 2 Museum which both, I believe, are a must) and then a few more days to go for day trips.
So yes, it’s fine to spend a weekend in Gdansk but if you come here for a week you also won’t be bored.
Where to stay in Gdansk
I always like staying near the main attractions and with good transport options to go to places further away and so I Gdansk I advise you to find accommodation somewhere between the main train station and the Old Town. This way you will be easily able to enjoy all the great things to do in Gdansk.
Here are some of the recommended accommodation options in Gdansk:
- Craft Beer Central Hotel (9.2/10)
- PURO Gdańsk Stare Miasto (9.1/10)
- IBB Hotel Długi Targ (9.2/10)
- and many more!
Things to do in Gdansk
And now, let me finally tell you about the best things to do in Gdansk. They are listed in no particular order but overall make a perfect overview of what you can expect from Gdansk.
Wander around the Old Town
The Old Town is the oldest part of Gdansk, it gained the rights already in 1236. Today this is the prettiest area of the city and that’s where you will find the majority of Gdansk attractions.
But before you start the proper Gdansk sightseeing be sure to just wander around the Old Town and enjoy the place. This area is simply the prettiest with rows of beautiful architecture that always reminds me a bit about Amsterdam. Be sure to look at all the details as you might find some real gems and interesting photo angles there. Such an easy, curious, and relaxing walk around will let you appreciate this part of Gdansk even more.
You will find the prettiest streets between Świętojańska, Ogarna and Targ Węglowy streets and Motława river on the other side.
The most popular one, however, is Długi Targ, where you can see some of the major landmarks in Gdańsk – the Town Hall, the Neptune’s Fountain, or Artus Court. You can enter this beautiful pedestrian street by one of two gates: Golden or Green and see Długi Targ in its full glory, you can also get here from one of the backstreets.
Find the most picturesque street in Gdansk
Of all the charming streets and lanes you can find in Gdansk Old Town there is one that really stands out – Mariacka street. It’s a bit hidden, with St. Mary’s Cathedral on one end and Mariacka Gate on another – this secludedness makes it even more unique and special.
The best way to arrive at Mariacka street is through the gate from the Motława riverside – you will suddenly be taken to another world where it seems like the time has stopped (although this small lane can get busy and packed with tourists).
That’s where you will find some of the most beautiful houses in Gdansk too and the continuous rows of stairs leading to them make the place even prettier. This is one of the best (if not the best) photo locations you can find in Gdansk.
During the day the street fills with stalls where you can buy souvenirs, especially the amber Gdansk is known for. If you would like to sit down, relax and enjoy this lovely place there is a really good cafe – Drukarnia, located near the gate at Mariacka 36.
I recommend visiting this street early in the morning when there is no one around and you can truly feel the atmosphere and admire the beauty of this place, and then return here in the daytime for some amber shopping.
Wander along the Motława riverside
At the edge of the Old Town, you will find the Motława river – its surrounding is certainly one of the prettiest areas of Gdańsk. You will see numerous interesting buildings and objects there, including the Crane – one of the symbols of the city.
This 15th-century structure is the best testimony of the great trading tradition of the city. Today it hosts the Polish Maritime Museum so you can visit it inside too and see the exhibition of the past port life.
But other buildings you will see along the way aren’t bad either – there are beautiful historical houses, gates and more. The whole area is very pleasant to wander around and every few steps you will see even a more beautiful view in front of you.
You can also cross the river to either Ołowianka island or Wyspa Spichrzów as both are nicely renovated and offer some fine spots too.
Since the Motława riverside is a rather popular place you will also find numerous restaurants and bars there if you want to sit down and enjoy the place. It is possible to go on a boat cruise here and see Gdansk Old Town and beyond from a different perspective.
Visit the Town Hall
The Gdansk Town Hall (not to confuse with the Old Town Hall) is located on Długi Targ and you will spot it right away as this is one of the most beautiful buildings on the street. It dates back to the 15th century but was badly destroyed and rebuilt after WW2.
You should definitely visit the Town Hall inside – there is a nice exhibition of the Museum of Gdansk but what’s more important are the stunning interiors in some of the rooms. The most impressive is the Red Room with incredible ceiling decorations from the early 17th century.
While you are in the Town Hall be sure to go up to the tower as well – this is where you will find the most beautiful panorama of the Old Town, with rows of beautiful old houses. For some reason, this is not such a popular viewpoint but it was my personal favorite and I can definitely recommend going all the way up!
See St. Mary’s Church
St. Mary’s Church, an impressive brick Gothic building from the 13th century, dominates the central part of Gdansk and you can see its enormous structure from numerous places in the city. While inside the church isn’t as spectacular it is still worth visiting it and see the remnants of the glorious past.
If you enter the church through the side entrance on Piwna street you will see on the left side a modest grave of Paweł Adamowicz – the mayor of Gdansk that was assassinated during the charity event in January 2019.
Another reason to visit St. Mary’s Church is to go to the viewpoint on the tower. While it wasn’t my favorite vantage point of Gdansk it was still interesting to see the inside of the church.
You need to walk up exactly 409 stairs to get there and the viewing terrace is a bit small and gives you the perspective only in one direction. But still, it’s nice to see it, although I think the Town Hall tower has a much better view.
See the Love Bridge
While I’m not a fan of so-called “love bridges” with love locks, the one in Gdansk is actually really interesting. Well, maybe not the bridge itself but what you can find around it.
The bridge – Bread Bridge – was located in this place already in the 14th century and over the years it served only its main purpose until its romantic setting was noticed. Today this is a favorite place for lovers who share their eternal love by hanging locks – the symbol of their affection.
While you are here you can admire from the bridge the picturesque view of the House of Sailors’ Guild (today it hosts the restaurant) and the Great Mill in the background.
On the other side of the Bread Bridge, there is the Old Town Hall – the beautiful Renaissance building from the 16th century, one of the very few that survived WW2 in Gdansk. This is also where the world-famous astronomer Johannes Hevelius served as the Old Town Council Lord in the 17th century. You can actually find his monument, a really nice one, on the small square in front of the town hall.
Ride Amber Sky
Amber Sky, located on Ołowianka island, is one of the biggest attractions of Gdansk. This 50-meter tall ferries wheel offers some amazing views of Gdansk and beyond. The ride takes around 15 minutes and surely is an unforgettable experience.
What makes it different from other viewpoints you can go to are long opening hours, even until midnight on the weekends – this way you can see the panorama not only during the day but also in the evening when everything is nicely lit up.
See a marvelous amber altar
Even if you are not a religious person you will surely appreciate this masterpiece. The altar can be found in St. Bridget’s Church and surely is one of the most impressive sacral works of art you will ever see.
With the dimensions of 13 meters high and 120 m2 of amber cladding surfaces it is larger than the famous lost Amber Room. The altar was unveiled in 2017 after 17 years of making but it was worth waiting as it is simply beautiful and full of symbols (like 28 rubies in the crowns of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus symbolize 28 workers who died in 1970 clashes).
The church itself is an important place for Gdansk’s history as it is the main temple of the Solidarity movement.
Get another perspective of Gdańsk from Gradowa Hill
Another great vantage point in Gdansk is Gradowa Hill, located behind the main train station. It’s not often visited by tourists which is a shame as the view from there is really great, to the Old Town with its spires on one side and the industrial shipyard zone on the other.
The hill is around 50 meters high and you can get there by walking the steps up (they are not very easy to find so download the offline map and follow it). Besides the wonderful panorama of the city, you can also find a 19th-century bastion and a millennial cross on the hill.
Visit European Solidarity Center
As you might know, Gdansk played a very important role in 20th-century history and one of the key events was the Solidarity movement that eventually led to the collapse of communism in Poland and other Eastern European countries. Everything happened in the Gdansk shipyard and today on its premises you can find the modern European Solidarity Center – the institution focusing on the legacy of the movement.
Inside the beautifully designed building, you can visit an extremely informative and interesting exhibition about Solidarity, the events that took place in Gdansk, and the impact it all had on the world’s history. I believe this is a must-visit place in Gdansk that not only will help you understand the recent history of Poland but the whole region.
You will visit the exhibition with the audio guide (it is really good!) and you should count some 2-3 hours to see everything properly. It’s also better to buy the ticket online in advance as the lines can get long (you can do it here).
Once you are done with the exhibition, be sure to go to the rooftop to see a nice panorama of the shipyard and the city. Don’t also miss the Gate No 2 of the Gdańsk Shipyard, the iconic place that played a major role during the strikes that still today is decorated with the remnants from that time.
See the alternative side of Gdansk at the shipyard
The shipyard in Gdansk isn’t anymore as large as it used to be and today many of the industrial spaces are turned into cool, hip hotspots where you can best see the alternative side of Gdansk, so different from the picturesque Old Town.
The two coolest spots are 100cznia and Ulica Elektryków. You can try some good street food there, listen to live music, chill on the sunbeds and simply enjoy this amazing and unique area in the heart of the city.
There are also frequent events taking place there so if you are lucky you will stumble across one of them. When I visited there was a vegetarian food festival which was pretty great and delicious.
Besides these two spots, you can also wander a bit around the former shipyard premises and admire the amazing industrial spaces (I can guarantee fans of those will be super delighted, I know I was!).
Enjoy amazing stret art in Zaspa
While you can see some fine street art in numerous places in Gdansk, there is one neighborhood you simply don’t want to miss – Zaspa, the center of Gdansk street art. It’s located a bit away from the center but you can easily get there by local SKM train.
This residential neighborhood full of blocks of flats is literally covered in amazing murals. The first one, showing two well-known Poles Lech Wałęsa and the Pope John Paul 2nd, appeared on one of the walls in 1997 as part of commemorations of the 1000th birthday of Gdansk.
Now there are over 50 murals, the annual street art festival and the so-called Monumental Paintings Collection. Apparently, Zaspa is the world’s biggest collection of murals located in such a small area!
You can find the map with all the works here, be sure to save it before your trip to Zaspa as it will help you greatly! I spent a solid few hours in the neighborhood and still don’t think I’ve managed to see all the amazing works there!
Visit the Polish Post Office Museum
While everyone knows about Westerplatte – the place where World War Two has started, I believe that another heroic place and event from the same day don’t get as much attention as it should.
The Polish Post Office in Gdansk was attacked by Nazis at the same time when Westerplatte was attacked. The siege lasted for 17 hours and heroic defenders were eventually executed.
Today you can visit the museum dedicated to this event that sustains the memory of the brave people. It is located in the same building where the siege took place.
In front of the Post Office builing you can also see the memorial commemorating the defenders.
Visit the World War Two museum
Another place that is an absolute must to visit is the World War Two museum. Even if under the current rule the exhibition was changed a bit to avoid some uncomfortable truth for Poland, this is such an interesting place and you need at least 2-3 hours to see it. This is a fairly new addition to the city’s scenery, opened only in 2017.
The museum can impress already from the outside with its modern building. Inside you can see a large exhibition divided into three parts – Road to War, The Horror of War, and The Long Shadow of War. The museum focuses not only on the Polish events during the war but covers what happened all over the world.
It is not your typical museum with just boring info, you will find there plenty of personal items and stories as well as some really great visual addition (like the tank in the ruined city). Even if you are not interested in history it is still worth visiting this museum, to learn more and understand Gdansk better.
Go to Westerplatte
Westerplatte, the small peninsula between the Dead Vistula and the Baltic Sea, is where World War Two started, exactly at 04:45 am on September 1st, 1939. The tragic fights lasted for 7 days and left the military zone in ruin.
Today this is actually a very nice and green area for a walk at the seaside, perfect not only for history buffs. You still can find numerous remnants of the fights on Westerplatte, i.e. ruins of barracks that you can visit or graves of the soldiers who lost their lives during the battle. There is also an impressive monument on the mound and a big sign “Nigdy więcej wojny” (“No more war”).
You can easily reach Westerplatte by public transport, buses number 106, 138, 606 run there from the Main Train Station.
A bit before Westerplatte you can also stop at picturesque Wisłoujście Fortress from the early 14th century.
Relax in the beautiful Oliwa Park
Even if this park is located a bit away from the center of Gdansk, in Oliwa district, it is definitely worth a trip and can be easily reached by public transport.
This beautiful green space date back to the 15th century and developed next to the nearby monastery. Today it is a great oasis to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and the charming alleys are perfect for a slow walk around (some of them even reminded me of the “Game of Thrones” a bit). There are ponds, a botanical garden, or parts of the park designed in different styles (French, English, Japanese etc).
The neighborhood itself is interesting too, with some pretty old houses and cobbled streets.
Listen to the organ concert in Oliwa Cathedral
While you are in Oliwa park be sure to stop in the 14th-century Oliwa Cathedral. Better yet, visit the temple to listen to the organ concert there.
The original great Oliwa organ dates back to the second half of the 18th century (it took 25 years to design and construct them) and consisted of 83 registers and 5100 pipes. Over the years they were changed and renovated a bit and today are even more spectacular with 96 registers!
There are daily 20-minutes concerts (with the exceptions of holidays and some random days) where you can listen to the mesmerizing sound of the organs – words can’t describe how beautiful it is. During my last visit, I accidentally stumbled upon the concert around noon so my guess is that’s when the concert takes place.
There are also longer and fancier recitals a few times per year, check the cathedral’s website for details.
Relax at the beach
Since Gdansk is located at the Baltic Sea coast you can quickly hop on the tram or bus and reach the seaside after a short journey. There are a few options to choose from: Brzeźno, Jelitkowo, Stogi or, a bit further, Wyspa Sobieszewska.
Each of them offers some perfect opportunities to simply chill out at the beach and swim in the not-so-warm water. The beaches here are sandy and really pleasant so once you are tired of all the sightseeing be sure to see this more relaxed face of Gdansk.
Go for day trips from Gdansk
One of the great things about Gdansk is that the city can be a wonderful base for some amazing day trips in the region. And you can easily reach most of the places by public transport.
A short train ride away you can find Sopot – the fancy seaside town with the longest wooden pier in Europe (over 500 meters long) and Gdynia known for its modernist architecture. You can also reach both cities by walking along the beach although this would take a while.
Then you can explore the seaside a bit more and go to Hel Peninsula (my favorite place on the Polish Baltic Sea coast) with wide and sandy beaches and some ruins from World War 2 randomly strewn around the forests.
One of the most popular day trips from Gdansk is Malbork Castle, located only 40 minutes away by train. This UNESCO-listed medieval masterpiece is actually the largest castle in the world and you definitely don’t want to miss it.
A bit further you can visit Elblag and take a boat ride on Elblag Canal – the unique engineering work from the mid-19th century (part of the cruise is on the grass!). Or you can go to the Kaszuby region south of Gdansk and enjoy the pristine nature of the beautiful area.
There are really many options so when planning your trip to Gdansk safe a few days in your itinerary to explore the surroundings too!
Final thoughts on visiting Gdansk
As you can see Gdansk really is full of attractions and offers plenty of interesting and cool things to do. It can be a wonderful city break destination or a must stop during your trip to Poland – either way, I’m sure you will enjoy Gdansk, it’s impossible not to like such a great place.
I often find myself thinking of visiting Gdansk, even if just for a day, to wander around and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the place. And I’m sure you will share my affection for this place too!
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