Travel Poland. See, Eat, Think and Sleep in Gdansk and Sopot

A pastel coloured old town and a maritime river embankment, the city is certainly one of Poland’s treasures. The Pomeranian town by the River Motlawa was first mentioned and founded in the 10th century. Gdańsk has a seafaring tradition, the harbour is the largest in Poland and the Old Town of Gdańsk is full of Hanseatic architecture. Over the course of its thousand-year history Gdańsk was controlled by different nations, and it is a gripping exercise when you look at different maps and slowly start to understand its turbulent and surely strenuous history. The physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit as well as the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer were both born in Gdańsk. It is here where World War 2 started on 1st September 1939, and where Lech Walesa founded the Solidarity movement in the 1980s that brought the world closer to the end of communism.

Gdańsk is a fascinating place to visit and visitors come from all over the world to learn about its history. It was severely damaged in WW2 and has been lovingly restored in its former glory. The town is buzzing with excitement during the day. If you go for a wander in the early morning or for a late night stroll, it happens that it feels like walking through a fairy-tale. I'm happy to show you where to see, eat, think and sleep in Gdansk and Sopot.

Travel Poland. See, Eat, Think and Sleep in Gdansk and Sopot

Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk

This striking glass and cement structure stands in an area of Gdańsk that was destroyed in WW2. It took eight years of planning the Museum of the Second World War. There is an impressive staircase that leads down to the entrance, one you can see mirrored in the windows. Visitors go down three levels to learn about civilian’s life under Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia. This is a place that explains how the rise of authoritarian regimes led to a war. Standing here, in this beautiful city, on a sunny day in spring, it is so hard to comprehend that the Germans invaded Poland on 1. September 1939 that started WW2 in which 60 million people were killed. The question that remains is whether we have learned from WW2 or not.

Info Museum of the Second World War. Władysława Bartoszewskiego 1, 80 – 862 Gdańsk. Hours: Mondays closed. Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 7pm. Latest admission: 5pm. Tickets: Free on Tuesdays. Admissions adults 23 zl. Buy tickets in advance.

Facade of Museum of the Second World War

Museum of the Second World War

Museum of the Second World War

Hala Targowa - Food Market in Gdańsk

There used to be Dominican monastery here that was destroyed during the siege of Gdańsk in 1813 by Russian-Prussian troops. The ruins were demolished decades later and in 1896 a beautiful Neo-Gothic style market hall was built. Today it houses the local food market of the Old Town. You can buy clothes on two levels and outside they sell fresh fruit, nuts, herbs, spices and vegetables. Remember the reason for travelling is to learn about different cultures. Visit this place; it is always exciting to see what the locals buy. Take the time to check out the basement of the market. Bilders discovered the oldest church of Gdańsk during renovation works of the market hall. You even find the remains of the foundation of the Dominican monastery. I love that about Europe; they dig and often find some ruins that tell of times gone by.

Info Hala Targowa. Pl. Dominikanski 1, 80-884 Gdańsk. Hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm. Saturday 9am to 3pm. Closed Sunday.

Hala Targowa - Market Hallo in Gdansk

Polish Dumplings - Eat Pierogi in Gdańsk

The culinary influences of French, Italians, Germans, Armenians, Hungarians and Jews in Polish cooking are obvious. The sea, forests, meadows, fields, rivers and lakes have always been and are to this day main sources for chefs all over Poland. Sauerkraut, pickled gherkins, marinated and dried mushrooms, groats and sour milk are just some staples used.

There must be a hundred ways to eat pierogi. A vegetarian option is to eat the ones with sauerkraut and mushrooms. They are traditionally eaten at Christmas in Poland but you find them on most menus during the year. The dough is made from water and flour, and then rolled out and cut into circles. The freshly prepared filling is placed onto circles, which get then folded into half circles (same preparation as what you would do when making fresh Italian ravioli). The pierogis are boiled for a few minutes in salted water and served with butter and caramelized onions. While I eat my portion of Pierogi I can clearly see the Pomeranian landscape I drove through on my way up to Gdańsk, along forests, meadows, fields, rivers and lakes …

Info: I went to Pierogarnia Mandu. Ul Kaprow 19D, 80-316 Gdańsk. Monday to Sunday 11am to 9pm.

Green Gate and the Architecture on Dluga Street in Gdańsk

The Złota Brama (Golden Gate) at the end of Ulica Długa (Long Street) built in the 16th century in Renaissance style was once the main entrance to town. On top of the gate there are eight statues that represent: Peace. Liberty. Wealth. Fame. Wisdom. Piety. Justice. Harmony (Concord). There is a Latin inscription on the gate facing this street that says: “Consent builds little republics, dissent ruins great ones.” I can’t get this out of my head. Gdansk was almost completely destroyed in WW2 and this street (as so many others) has been reconstructed after the war. It is horrible and tragic what happened during the war, but with a focus on the future, I am totally fascinated by how they rebuilt the whole town so beautifully.

Facades on Long Street. Gdansk, Poland

Green Gate between Motlawa and Long Street. Gdansk, Poland

Facades on Long Street. Gdansk, Poland

Golden Gate at the end of Long Street. Gdansk, Poland

Climb the Tower of St Mary’s Church in Gdańsk

The foundation of this 105.5 metre long protestant church was laid in 1343. Building works, to what is said to be one of the largest red brick build churches in the world, finished 159 years later. The church only became a catholic place of worship after the renovations that followed the severe damages of WW2. If weather permits make your way up the 409 stairs of the tower of St Mary’s church. The view over the red rooftops and all the way to the port is worth the climb. Most visitors are out of breath from the exercise, and it is fun to see lots of reddened faces and reactions after they get back down to the ground. In the church you might find it worthwhile to have a look at the 15th century astronomical clock and a Mother of Pearl decorated grotto as a shrine to the sea.

Info St Mary’s Church. Ul. Podkramarska 5, Gdańsk 80 – 834. Ticket: 6 zl. Hours: 1st October to 30th April: Monday to Saturday: 8.30am to 5pm. Sunday: 11am to 12pm and 1pm to 5pm. // 1st May to 30th September: Monday to Saturday: 8.30 am to 6.30 pm. Sunday: 11am to 12pm and 1pm to 5pm.

In the Shadow of St Mary's Church. Gdansk, Poland

St Mary's Church. Gdansk, Poland

View from the Tower of St Mary's Church. Gdansk, Poland

Take a Ride on Amber Sky in Gdańsk

Take a 15 minute long ride in one of the 36th gondolas of the 50 metre high Amber Sky, a giant observation wheel on Granary Island. The former warehouse district of Gdańsk, nearly completely destroyed in WW2 was left untouched until recently, as an investor was found to rebuild the area.

Info Amber Sky. Ul. Chmielna 6, Granary Island. Tickets: 28 zl. Hours Monday to Sunday 10am to 11pm.

View towards Amber Sky on Granary Island. Gdansk, Poland

Amber Sky on Granary Island. Gdansk, Poland

Gdańsk and its Seafaring Tradition – The Crane and National Maritime Museum

Gdańsk has a seafaring tradition. The brick Gothic architecture of the port city is typical for towns around the Baltic and the North Sea. Stand here by the river Motlava and imagine life on a ship with waves as high as a three storey houses and wind at gale strength. To this day the port and shipyards are still economically important.

The crane, a double-timbered wooden structure, erected as a hoist in 1363, was destroyed in 1442 by a fire and rebuilt two years after that. 500 years later, in 1945, the wooden construction of the crane burnt down (again) and the stone elements were severely damaged. What you see today is the perfectly reconstructed version of the original structure. Learn all about Gdańsk’s maritime heritage at the National Maritime Museum.

Info National Maritime Museum Gdańsk. Olowianka 9-13, 80751 Gdańsk. Hours Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 4pm. Monday Closed.

Motlawa. Gdansk, Poland

Motlawa. Gdansk, Poland

Warehouses & Hanseatic Architecture along the Motlawa. Gdansk, Poland

Searching for Amber on Mariacka Street in Gdańsk

This cobble stoned street between St Mary’s Gate and St Mary’s Church is hundreds of years old. There are many shops selling amber and a library. Stone perrons lead to elegant patios; the wooden entrance doors of respectable Patrician houses are sturdy. The gargoyles that resemble small dragons cover the rain gutters between properties and create a somewhat mystic air. Go early to have the street for yourself, wait, this is not true. You will certainly meet several cats.

Cat on Mariacka Street. Gdansk, Poland

Facades Mariacka Street. Gdansk, Poland

Gargoyles on Mariacka Street. Gdansk, Poland

Drink Third Wave Coffee and Eat Bagels in Gdańsk – Drukarnia Café

In this former printing house you get a cute interior, a friendly and warm welcome, bagels for breakfast and beans from roasters such as Coffee Collective from Copenhagen in Denmark, Fjord in Berlin and Kofi from Warszawa, Poland. What is not to like? Where else would you want to eat bagels but in Poland where bagels were brought to life in the 14th century. A bagel is made from flour, salt, water, yeast and malt. I have never been a big fan of them but since it is the primary choice for breakfast at Drukarnia, I ordered one, not knowing that it is a Polish thing. It was so delicious that I ordered a second helping. This café converted me to a bagel fan. As always, others claim bagels to have been their idea (Germans and Austrians), never mind, one thing is for sure, it is going to keep historians occupied for the next coming centuries.

Info Drukarnia Café. Mariacka 36. Hours: 10am to 10pm.

Bagels and a Flat White Drukarnia Cafe. Gdansk, Poland

Drukarnia Cafe. Gdansk, Poland

Drukarnia Cafe. Gdansk, Poland

Drukarnia Cafe. Gdansk, Poland

Go for a beach walk in Sopot

The maritime resort on the Baltic Sea is only a short drive from Gdańsk and busy on sunny days. It is bicycle galore, crazy dogs jumping around you, and people holding their faces towards the sun. In spring and summer and after months of probably too overcast and icy cold weather the crowds are desperate to refill their vitamin D levels. There is beautiful architecture, most built around 1900, all lovingly restored. You can walk on the beach with its white sand for hours and take a wander along the longest wooden pier in Europe. Use the train to Kolobrzeg to commute the 12 kilometres from Gdansk to Sopot. Finding a park for your car is a challenge on a sunny day.

Beach walk - Sopot, Poland

The longest pier in Europe - Sopot, Poland

Puro - Go to bed in Gdańsk

Every day comes to an end at one point. I booked a room at a hotel in the best location of town, conveniently located a one minute walk from the Old Town on Granary Island. The view over the Motlawa and the Old Town of Gdańsk is picture postcard perfect, I was so lucky to stay in a room facing towards it. It is a fun and relaxing place to stay. The staffs at check-in were welcoming and friendly to chat to. The reception area is open-plan with a direct view over the restaurant and the bar area with its books and magazines and all the way up the eight levels of the hotel. On one night I had dinner at their restaurant, and I had a good time. The Wi-Fi is password protected. Matching the fabulous Skandy ambience of the hotel the hotel itself is immaculately clean. There are enough hangers in the wardrobe, plenty of electrical sockets, the hairdryer is powerful and the sleep quality is great. Highly recommended. Puro proves that you don’t have to be rich to travel in style.

Info Puro Gdańsk. Stągiewna 26, 80-750 Gdańsk. Rooms go for plus/minus EUR 130.

Bar Puro Gdansk

Bathroom in room Puro Gdansk

Reception area Puro Gdansk

Restaurant Ink Puro Gdansk

Reception area Puro Gdansk

How to get to Gdansk

Take the train to Gdańsk Główny Station.
Take the car.

Read Visit Poland. Szczecin and world peace for more stories from Pomearania.

From Berlin with love

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article Dorothee! I didn't know this city had so much to offer. This is a great guide for first time visitors, full of lots of info. Thanks for sharing! Keri


Greetings stranger. I always try to be myself and to be a tourist as often as I can. I would love to get in contact with lots of hard travelling tourists who love to be out and about as much as I do. I am looking forward to all your comments. Thanks so much in advance.