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Visiting Gdansk was not something that was ever on my radar, but when life gives you lemons (or, more like, when Ryanair are doing check flights to Gdansk) sometimes you just gotta give it a squeeze and see what you make of it. These bargain flights turned out to be a great jump into the dark. Spending 3 days in Gdansk, where we had no expectations, turned out to simply be great.
Stepping into the old town which is full of beautiful tall and colourful buildings was like walking into a wintery postcard. The culture, beauty and history are super strong in this little seaside town but it’s also one super cool city with a great buzz about it.
Spending 3 days in Gdansk in winter turned out to be well worth it, and I think you’re going to love it too! So if you’re looking for a budget-friendly, unique and off-the-radar place to visit, then Gdansk is the place for you! So here’s my first timers guide to spending a weekend in Gdansk, full of everything you need to know to plan your trip.
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Where is Gdansk?
Gdansk is a small port city located on the Baltic coast in the north of Poland and is part of Tricity – a metropolitan area in Poland that includes Gdansk, Gydnia and Sopot. These three cities are all different but Gdansk is home to the beautiful tall colourful buildings you’ve probably seen in photos.
How to find cheap flights on Skyscanner to Gdansk
Finding cheap flights on Skyscanner to Gdansk is super easy either on the app or website. In order to find cheap flights though, you’ll need to be flexible with your flight dates, times and airports. Skyscanner has an awesome search option where you can search by a whole month or search for the cheapest month to visit Gdansk which is a fantastic feature if you’re travelling on a budget. If you’re travelling from the UK, make sure you keep an eye out for sales on the budget airlines Ryanair and EasyJet.
Some things to know before you go to Gdansk
Currency: The official currency in Poland is the Polish Zloty and at the time of writing this, £1 around 5 PLN. Tom and I generally carry both cash and a Revolut Card when we travel, which we had no problem using in restaurants and for museums as well. If you want to exchange cash when you get to Poland then look for signs saying ‘Kantor’ around the city and you should have no problem doing so.
Language: Although Gdansk is not a mega touristy city, I found English to be widely spoken which helped a lot as Polish can be tricky to learn! Here are a few simple phrases to help you through:
- Hello/bye- Cze??! (pronounced Chesch)
- Yes – Tak (pronounced tark)
- Please – Prosz? (pronounced Prosser)
- Thank you – Dzi?kuj?! (pronounced jen-koo-ye)
The history: The history of Gdansk and Poland is rich and visible pretty much everywhere in the city. Gdansk was the starting location of the second world war when the Nazis invaded and it was almost completely destroyed. Most of the buildings in the old town are actually rebuilt replicas of the buildings that once stood there. No matter how long you spend in Gdansk, you simply can’t leave without finding out more about its past, even if you’re not a big history buff (which I’m not).
How to get from Gdansk airport to the city centre
The cheapest way is to catch the 210 bus from Gdansk Airport (GDN) to Gdansk. The bus takes about an hour and runs every 20 minutes from the bus station just outside the airport. There is a red ticket machine by the bus stands to buy a ticket, or you can buy a ticket on the bus – they cost just 3,80 PLN (about 75p – bargain!)
If you’re on a tighter timescale then getting a taxi is the way to go. The drive takes about 25 minutes and Gdansk has both Uber and Bolt taxis, so be sure to download the apps before you arrive. You might want to note that Uber and Bolt aren’t allowed in certain areas of the city centre but Gdansk is so small that it will most probably not be an issue. Tom and I caught an Uber to the airport when we left and we had to walk a couple of minutes up the road from our hotel to catch it. It cost around 35 PLN (around £7)
There is a train station located at the airport and the journey takes about 45 minutes with one change at Gdansk Wrzeszcz. You can buy a ticket from the machine on the platform and the trains leave from the platform closest to the station. The main train station in Gdansk is Gdansk Glowny.
The best way to get around Gdansk
One of the many reasons to love Gdansk (and why you’re bank account will love it too) is that it’s a super walkable city. Nearly all of the main attractions are no more than a 15-minute walk away from the Old Town so there’s no real need to use any other transport. The only other mode of transport we used were the electric scooters that are dotted around the city. I absolutely love using these even if it’s pretty bumpy going over the cobbles!
To get to the surrounding areas, or to visit Sopot, Gydnia or Malbork Castle, the easiest way is to get a train. I’ll be honest here, I did find the train system a little tricky as they have cheaper train tickets and more expensive express tickets. I believe the cheapest trains run on the SKM line but to be sure, I recommend going to the ticket office in the station and asking to be sure.
What to pack for a weekend in Gdansk
Poland in winter kinda ranges from cold to really-really-cold. When I visited at the beginning of February, the temperatures ranged between -1 to 7 degrees Celsius. But from what I heard, this was pretty warm for Gdansk in winter. I recommend packing really warm clothes to layer, waterproof boots with good tread on them and a toasty warm waterproof jacket. I even packed thermals, ski socks and ski gloves just in case. Luckily I didn’t need them but I’m glad I had them anyway. Gdansk is so walkable so we spent a lot of time outside.
Where to stay in Gdansk Old Town
The most popular area to stay in Gdansk is in the Old Town. Whilst Gdansk is small, staying in the Old Town puts you right in the middle of all the highlights, which makes it so much easier when trying to fit lots into a few days.
We stayed at the Celestin Residence, a lovely little boutique hotel, right next to the beautiful St Catherine Christ and a stone’s throw from the Motlawa river. It’s in a traditional style building as well which I loved!
We stayed in a standard double room which was a great size with plenty of storage, a super comfy bed, a fridge, safe and tea and coffee facilities. The bathroom was nice and modern and the whole place spotless.
To top it off, the staff were so friendly, helpful and knowledgable which is great when you don’t have time to figure everything out for yourselves. Our 4 nights here cost us just £130 in total (without breakfast) through booking.com so it’s super affordable!
Your 3 days in Gdansk Itinerary
If you’ve read any of my other city guides, you’ll know I’m a lover of a free walking tour, which is exactly what I recommend doing to start off your long weekend in Gdansk. The free Walkative walking tours are run by locals who have a fantastic knowledge of Gdansk and Tricity. This walking tour will take you through the history of this incredible city as well as zigzagging through Long street, Amber Street, Pub Street the Motlawa River, the Polish Post Office and the Amber Museum.
Walking tours always cover a lot in one go but use it to bank ideas of places you want to revisit! I always find the tour guides to be really knowledgable and a great way to find out about lesser-known spots.
You’re on holiday right? So doughnuts are allowed to move from the snack basket to the full-on lunch one. Surprisingly, doughnuts are a thing in Poland, and by thing, I mean seriously epic. Just a short walk from the Polish Post office where the walking tour finishes you’ll find Stara Paczkarnia. Do not be put off by the long queues here – it’s worth the wait! I recommend the Nutella and Raffelo ones!
After one heck of an indulgent lunch, it’s time to spend the afternoon retracing your steps around the Old Town. Make your way to the Golden Gate and onto Dluga Street (Long Street) which is the heart of the city. This street might look old but almost all of it has been rebuilt after WWII when it was destroyed. Long Street is one of those postcard picture places, full of beautiful tall colourful buildings, the Town Hall and plenty of cafes and restaurants to people watch.
As you walk down Long Street you’ll see the Farenheit Monument, there to honour Gdansk-born Daniel Fahrenheit who created the temperature scale. A little closer to the Town Hall you won’t be able to miss the famous Neptune fountain in front of the pretty Artus Court. At the end of Long Street, you’ll go through the picturesque Green Gate and reach the Motlawa River.
This river is really what makes Gdansk such an important city. It’s the gateway to the sea which made Gdanks a port town. Along the Motlawa you’ll see The Crane which again, was reconstructed after being damaged in WWII but there has been a crane there since the 14th century. In its heyday, Gdansk was a bustling port so the crane was there to lift goods of boats. Just past The Crane, you’ll reach Mariacka Street. It’s such a pretty street lined with amber stalls- something else that Gdansk is famous for.
Even in winter, Gdansk comes to life in the evening. This city is full of quirky bars and restaurants and at the moment, I love that no one knows how cool it is. To start your evening, cross the bridge over the river to check out the Amber Sky Ferris wheel and the Gdansk Sign. If you carry on walking down the river you’ll see just how pretty Gdansk is at night.
Although you will have spent a lot of time on Long Street today, I think it’s somewhere you need to go for dinner as well. There are so many restaurants to choose from with a range of cuisines, but I recommend going for a traditional Polish dish. Generally, the local Polish food consists of pork, potatoes and cabbage but simple definitely doesn’t mean bland. Gdansk is the place to try things like pork knuckle but on more of a local scale, you can’t visit without trying pirogie! These are Polish dumplings and come in a variety of fillings. They are usually steamed or boiled but we also tried some baked ones as well. You’ll find these on almost any menus.
If you’re an early riser, I highly recommend getting up for sunrise along the river. The Celestin Residence is only a couple of minutes away making it even easier to do this.
For breakfast, check out the cute cafe Fika for a lovely fresh and light breakfast. The couple who run and own this cafe is super lovely and you can tell they’re passionate about their place. I tucked into a cheese and salad stuffed croissant which was delicious.
With the history being so prominent in Gdansk, a visit to the WWII Museum is a must. Even if (like myself) you’re not a huge history buff, it’s a fantastic museum and a great way to learn what the people of Poland and Gdansk went through. The museum is huge but they’ve made it easy to go around it by having audio guides. The Museum is located a little on the outskirts of old town so to make your journey there easier, download the relevant app and pick up one of their electric scooters.
After spending the morning in the museum, take a break with a delicious lunch. If you’ve done any research about where to eat in Gdansk, Milk Bars will have definitely come up. These cafes are kind of like canteens where you choose what you want, take a tray and collect it from the serving area. Milk bars are a great way to try local foods and also eat super cheaply. I recommend going to the Neptune Milk Bar on Long Street for something nice and warm.
For a birds-eye-view of Gdansk, there’s no better place than St Mary’s Basilica. This church is thought to be the largest brick church in the world and one really striking building. Inside, the church is fairly simple with white walls and ceiling but beautiful stained glass windows. The real highlight is the view from the top of its tower. The 405 stairs that lead to the top are worth it!
Gdansk’s nightlife is awesome. If you love craft beers, quirky bars and cosy restaurants then you’re going to feel right at home here. Just around the corner from St Mary’s Basilica is a fantastic luxe-for-less restaurant called Gvara. The food here is delicious, filling and the restaurant has a great atmosphere with live music and comfy decor.
To continue the night, make your way to Piwna Street (quite literally, beer street) and the surrounding streets and you’ll be spoilt for choice for bars. If you want craft beers, check out Browar Piwna or for games and drinks, drop in to Game Over Bar.
For your last day in Gdansk, it’s a great idea to explore the Tricity area with a morning trip to Sopot. Before you leave though, stop in at Klatka B just by the river for a fantastic and filling breakfast. This cafe oozes cool and has great food that is all locally sourced, zero waste and centred around the concept of Polish street food. I opted for a hot breakfast but they had a breakfast buffet full of fresh breads, pastries, granolas and juices. Delicious!
Sopot is a pretty seaside town just a short 20 minutes train ride away. Train tickets cost just 7 PLN for the 2 of us (single tickets only, you can’t buy returns) and depart from platform 3. Be careful to get off at the train station which is just ‘Sopot’ though, not any other stations that are called ‘Sopot xxx’. When you reach Sopot, the main street you’ll walk down is Monte Cassini. This street feels completely different to Gdansk but is still really lively and a great place to visit.
As you walk down it you will see the crooked house (which is a Costa Coffee, of all things) before you reach the beach. Now, one thing I don’t associate with Poland is beaches, but the beach here is beautiful! Pristine golden sands and plenty of people enjoying a walk along the waters edge, even in winter. One thing Sopot is famous for is having the longest wooden pier in Europe, measuring 511m, which is nice for a walk along.
After this, I recommend picking up another electric scooter and following the cycling path next to the beach, down the coast a bit to the colourful boats anchored on the sand. These boats look super pretty next to the sand and you also get a great view of the pier from here.
Gdansk is famous for Amber so no trip to the city is complete without getting a closer look at it. You’ll find Amber shops pretty much everywhere in the city but to learn more about the process, visit the Amber Museum located in the old Prison. The museum contains a huge selection and amber with insects caught in them, ornaments and jewellery as well as shops if you wanted to buy a piece.
To finish off your last day in Gdansk with a view, hop on a scooter and make your way back towards the train station. Just behind it is Gradowa Hill, giving you a great sunset view over the city from 46 meters up.
For something different for dinner, you have to check out a potato bar. Pyra Bar is an epic restaurant that only serves potato dishes. But these are far from your normal potato dishes. The dishes are super hearty, packed full of flavour and will open your eyes up as to what can be made from the humble spud. I recommend ordering 2 or 3 small dishes and sharing them. These are plenty big enough!
To wash down your dinner, it’s time to finish off your trip with a Gdansk tradition – a drink of Goldwasser! You will be able to get this from any bar so pick a place you fancy. Goldwasser has been made since the 16th century and is a clear spirit with flakes of 22-carat gold in it. It’s warming but tasty and a great way to end your trip!
So, how much does 3 days in Gdansk cost and is Poland Expensive?
Poland is definitely a budget-friendly destination in Europe. Gdansk is a fantastic city whereby although there is a lot to see and do, much of it can be enjoyed for free or costs little. Here is a breakdown of everything we spent over a weekend in Gdansk:
Day 1 costs:
- Bus from the airport to old town – 3,80 PLN
- Free walking tour tip – 50 PLN (about £10)
- Doughnut for lunch – 3,80 PLN
- Dinner on Long Street – approx 75 PLN
Total for 2 people = 220 PLN (£45)
Day 2 costs
- Breakfast – 20 PLN
- WWII Museum with audio headset – 23 PLN (free on a Tuesday)
- E-Scooter – Approx 30 PLN
- Lunch – 6 PLN
- St Mary’s Basilica and tower – 10 PLN for the tower
- Dinner – 35 PLN
- Drinks (based on 3 beers approx) – 36 PLN
Total for 2 people = 320 PLN (£66)
Day 3 costs
- Breakfast – 25 PLN
- Train to Sopot – 7 PLN (based on buying 2 singles)
- Amber Museum- 12 PLN
- Dinner – 30 PLN
- Goldwasser – 20 PLN
Total for 2 people = 188 PLN (£39)
Total cost for 3 days in Gdansk = 720 PLN or £148
Other things to do in Gdansk
If you have more time in Gdansk, there are plenty more things to fill your time. I think in 5 years time, Gdansk is going to be one of the new places to visit, much like Croatia and Iceland have increased in popularity over the past few years. Here are some more things you can do in Gdansk and the surrounding areas:
- Town Hall and go up the tower – sadly the tower was closed when we visited Gdansk in Winter but I’m sure the views from the top are amazing!
- Malbork Castle – This castle is the largest castle in the world and sits along the river Nogat. It dates back to the 13th century and is now a museum to visit.
- Stutthof Concentration Camp – Located just 22 miles away from Gdansk, a trip to the concentration camp allows you the chance to understand further what the people of Gdansk and Poland went through during the war.
- Other museums in Gdansk – There are so many museums to visit in Gdansk and all deserve a good amount of time to visit. There is the European Solidarity Centre, the Maritime Museum, and the Polish Post Office Museum to name a few.
- Street art in Zaspa – This neighbourhood is just on the outskirts of Gdansk and has some great pieces to find. You can see some of them from the train when you go to Sopot as well.
- Gdynia – Gdynia is the other city in Tricity and is more modern than Gdansk. It’s located north of Sopot and to get here you can catch the train from Gdansk main train station. Learn more about getting to Gdynia here.
- Westerplatte – Westerplatte holds huge historical significance for Gdansk and Poland as this was the first place in Poland the Germans tried to invade. The Polish stood their ground and were able to defend Westerplatte and so represents Polish resistance and determination.
- Other beaches – With Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia all being located along the coast, there are miles of coastline to explore. Take a look here to find out more.
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