Although you could spend weeks exploring the beautiful city, a weekend in Gdańsk is also beautiful. Two days will give you enough time to check out some of the city’s best sights, especially with this guide!
After spending three days in Krakow, I couldn’t help but wonder if any other Polish cities would be as beautiful. Well, I ended up having to beg Gdańsk for forgiveness – it’s a different kind of beautiful, but stunning all the same.
It didn’t take long for me to yet again fall madly in love with a Polish city. There were more pierogis. More vodka. And most of all more sights to be explored as we enjoyed an amazing weekend in Gdańsk.
So, if you are lucky enough to be visiting Gdańsk for a weekend – or just any two days – then here’s the perfect plan.
Why spend a weekend in Gdansk?
Unlike Krakow, Gdańsk was almost entirely destroyed during the Second World War. After the war, it was painstakingly rebuilt to its former beauty – and beautiful it is.
It’s not just the fact that Gdańsk is super freaking beautiful that makes it an ideal place for a weekend trip. If you love modern history, then Gdańsk is kind of like Disneyland.
As you walk around the city and check out various monuments, you really feel like you are seeing and touching many of modern European history’s most significant sites.
There’s Westenplatten, the site of the first battle of World War II. Then there’s the Gdańsk Shipyard, home of the Solidarnosc movement, which would eventually lead to the fall of communism in Europe.
While many of my favourite things about Gdańsk were the history, there’s much more to love. Home to a large student population, Gdańsk is a fun and vibrant place with plenty of restaurants, bars, shops and more.
Undoubtedly, if you ever get the chance to spend a weekend in Gdansk – do it! I’m sure this gorgeous city won’t let you down.
Budget for a weekend in Gdansk
I’m not sure about you, but whenever I’m planning for a weekend away, I want to make sure I’m not back on Monday totally broke.
If budget is a consideration for you – the good news is, Gdańsk is a very affordable place to visit. Cost-wise, it’s on a par with the rest of Poland, which is overall pretty budget friendly.
If you’re travelling on a budget, staying in modest accommodation and eating some meals in, you can stay for around $75 USD per person. However, you can adjust up or down depending on how much (or how little) cash you want to splash.
A weekend in Gdansk itinerary
Two days in Gdańsk is a good amount of time. Sure, it probably won’t let you see every single thing the city has to offer, but you can certainly see a lot.
You’ll want to devote the first day of your weekend in Gdańsk to exploring the city. Gdańsk is so insanely beautiful – don’t forget to wear comfy shoes (we’re covering a lot of ground) and bring your camera!
Morning – Explore the city
In all likelihood, you’re probably kind-of acquainted with how picturesque Gdańsk is. It’s kind of hard to miss, even if you get in late at night or in a jetlagged blur.
You’ll want to centre most of your exploring in “Main Town”, which is the most beautiful part of Gdańsk. As mentioned, over 90% of Main Town was destroyed during World War II. After the war, it was decided that Main Town would be rebuilt, however the city just did not have the resources to rebuild the entire area of Gdańsk.
As such, the area away from Main Town is not as pretty as Main Town itself. Also, don’t be fooled – Main Town =/= Old Town. Old Town is a different area that is still worth exploring, however it is not as picturesque as Main Town.
While in Gdańsk, we took a tour with – drumroll please, Walkative Tours!
(If you’ve read any of my other posts about Poland, you’ll know we were basically ‘regulars’ on this tour). #stillnotsponsored
Anyway, Walkative Tours does a great tour of Main Town which runs at 10am every day, as well as a few other times depending on the day/season. I highly recommend this tour and think it’s a great way to get acquainted with Gdańsk.
Of course, if you’re not keen to toddle after a guide with a yellow umbrella then you can do a DIY version instead. Here’s the main sites you’ll want to check out during your self-guided walking tour of Gdańsk.
I’ve already mentioned that Gdańsk has been the site of a number of hugely significant moments in European, and world, history. Perhaps none more so than Westerplatte, the site of the first battle of World War II.
When WWII began, Gdańsk was known as the Free City of Danzig, and in fact did not belong to Poland. However, the Polish did have an armoury of sorts nearby, in an area known as Westerplatte.
Because of its location on the sea, it was a strategic place that was chosen by Germany when they invaded Poland in 1939. Polish troops retaliated, and the battle that ensued is generally recognised as kicking off the Second World War.
Westerplatte is located about ten kilometres away from the heart of Main Town in Gdańsk. So, if you want to see it then I recommend getting up early for your visit, so you can be back in Main Town by mid-afternoon.
To enter the most beautiful part of Gdańsk, chances are you’ll go through the Golden Gate. It’s a really magnificent piece of architecture that was originally constructed back in 1612.
Funnily enough, it’s not really gold – white is the main colour, but it does have some pretty accents. Like much of Gdańsk, the Golden Gate was nearly entirely destroyed during WWII, but rebuilt in 1957.
As well as just admiring the beautiful gate, it’s worth popping inside to check out some photographs which show Gdańsk in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.
It’s pretty incredible to see the flattened city, and then compare it to how it looks today.
As you walk through the Golden Gate, you’ll find yourself in what is one of the absolute most beautiful streets in Europe.
It’s fitting that this has traditionally been the ‘Royal Route’, reserved for the wealthiest merchants and other dignitaries. It was once filled with the homes of Gdańsk’s richest families.
After the destruction of WWII, the decision was made to rebuild the Royal Route to its former glory. However, the homes were converted from mansions to simple Soviet-style apartments.
As you walk down the Royal Route, go slowly! It’s so beautiful, and it’s worth taking in every detail.
One thing you can’t miss as you walk down the Royal Route is Neptune’s Fountain. This beautiful fountain was built in the 17th century to celebrate the success of Gdańsk.
The fountain was damaged but not destroyed during World War II. After the war ended, it was restored – and Neptune’s modesty was preserved through the addition of a fig leaf!
Who would have thought that 20th century citizens were more prudish than those 400 years ago?!
One of the most beautiful buildings in Gdańsk is also along the Royal Route. It’s the Town Hall, which is a truly magnificent building.
It was built in the distinct Gothic-Rennaisance style, with most of what is visible today dating back from the 15th century. Construction on the actual Town Hall, however, started in the 1200s – but much of it was destroyed by a fire.
The Town Hall was again damaged in WWII, but the bones of the building were preserved. You can see the damage to Town Hall depicted in one of the photographs under the Golden Gate.
After you cross through the other bridge (the Green Gate, which is definitely not green), you’ll find yourself at the Marina.
This is such a nice part of Gdańsk to explore, and you might like to stop for a coffee or a vino.
Just wandering around is nice, however there are a couple of spots you can’t miss. The first is “The Crane”, the largest wooden crane in Europe and a symbolf Gdańsk’s maritime prowess.
There’s also a big, charming Gdańsk sign that you just have to get a photo in front of! Just be prepared for a bit of a line as everyone jostles for the best pic for Instagram.
St Mary’s Street (Mariacka)
After wandering around the Marina, you’ll want to head for St Mary’s Street, also known as Mariacka.
This is another “oh, you’ve got to be kidding me” street – and I say that in the best way possible. It is so beautiful, and additions like old-fashioned lamps add to the charm.
Gdańsk was famous for producing amber, and to this day it remains a major export for the city. Along St Mary’s Street you’ll find lots of places selling jewellery and other wares, should you want a souvenir!
For a piece of more macabre Gdańsk history, you’ll want to stop by the Prison Tower. Built in the late 1300s, it was used as a prison and a torture chamber right up until the 1800s.
Today it houses an amber museum and a torture museum, which you can visit if you have extra time!
St Mary’s Basilica
This is Poland, and if there’s one thing I know about Poland it’s that they know how to build a church. Gdansk’s most famous one is St Mary’s Basilica, which also has the record as the largest brick church in the world.
It’s a beautiful church, and you can climb 400 steps up to the top to take in some amazing views of Gdansk. It’s pretty much impossible to miss due to how enormous it is!
St Catherine’s Church
Built in the early 13th Century, St Catherine’s Church is the oldest church in Gdansk. It’s very picturesque, and worth a quick stop. You’re welcome to go inside, but I just admired it from the exterior.
Lunch – vodka place
After the tour, you should find yourself fairly close to the famous Gdańsk Shipyards, once known as the Lenin Shipyards.
That is my next recommended stop, but first I recommend refuelling with some delicious Polish food. My vote is pierogi, of course (I think I was 1/8th pierogi by the time I left Poland), but you can take your pick!
One great restaurant which is near the Gdańsk Shipyard is Restauracja Swojski Smak. It serves all kinds of Polish dishes, including pierogi and breaded pork. They also have over 150 (!!!!) types of Polish vodka on the menu.
Now, for obvious reasons, I do not advise trying anything close to 150 Polish vodkas before you head off for some reflection at the Solidarity Centre. HOWEVER, there’s no harm in selecting a couple to enjoy with your lunch!
If you do want to try a few varieties, then the tasting tray is a good idea as they’re smaller serves. I.e., less likely to give you a buzz before you head out to the Shipyard.
Afternoon – Gdańsk Shipyard/Solidarity Centre
I’m supposed to keep this blog “apolitical” but anyone who knows me IRL (do people still say that?) know that is a very tough call for me.
So let me break my vow of silence for a moment and say I’m a strong believer in unions. Not only have they been a force for social good in the past, but they also continue to fight for better conditions for workers. JOIN YOUR UNION, people!
Aaanyway, now that I’ve well and truly outed myself as the unionist I am, back to the Gdańsk Shipyard.
For those unfamiliar, the Gdańsk Shipyard was the epicentre of an event that would eventually cause ripple effects that overthrew communism in Europe.
Back under communism, workers were automatically signed up to a union however it was not free. It was closely linked to the reigning political party and therefore did not provide an independent voice for workers. By contrast, it was just another arm of the oppressive government.
This would all change thanks to the efforts of Solidarnosc, also known as Solidarity.
Now, in news that will surprise no-one at all: Walkative does a Solidarity tour! Yay! It departs every day at 3pm (April – September), 3.30pm (March) and at a time TBC for the rest of the year. We did this tour and it was really, really good – so I really do recommend it.
Again, if it doesn’t fit in with your timeline/vibe, I got you. Here’s a self-guided tour instead.
Memorial for the Fallen Ship Workers
There were numerous attempts to rise up against communism throughout the 70s and 80s, but they were largely unsuccessful. A number of workers were killed by Government troops.
One of the demands of the Solidarnosc movement later on was to erect a permanent memorial for those killed while protesting. This memorial is the dramatic Monument for the Gdańsk Shipyard.
The Gates to the Gdańsk Shipyard
As you walk past the memorial, the next thing you’re likely to notice is the big gates out the front of the shipyard.
Although they just look like any old gates, they were extremely significant to modern Europe.
Basically, in 1988, a shipyard worker named Anna Walentynowicz was suddenly and unfairly fired from her job, just before she was due to retire. As is every disgruntled employee’s dream, her colleagues revolted, and it was the catalyst for a strike. Tensions which had bubbled away for decades finally came to head and the gates to the Gdańsk Shipyard were locked.
As word spread through Gdańsk about the strike, another disgruntled former employee named Lech Wałęsa ran to the Shipyard. This was extremely lucky, as it was just as the striking shipyard workers were beginning to think, ‘oh sh*t. What do we do now?’
With Lech Wałęsa at the helm, a list of demands were drawn up and posted up on the gate.
Today, if you look closely at the gate then you should see a wooden rectangle with red writing on it.
This is a replica of the demands that were written up by the striking workers. The first, and most important, demand was the existence of a free trade union, free from interference by the Government. Others related more to social conditions, including the right to free speech and a living wage.
The Health and Safety Building
Moving on through the gates, I’d continue walking until you get to the Health and Safety building. It was here that meetings occurred, firstly with members of Solidarnosc and then finally between Solidarnosc and the Government.
It was also here that an agreement was reached, caving into all of Solidarnosc’s demands. Most importantly, this included the establishment of a free trade union as well as allowing some of the seats in parliament to be democratically elected.
The first election would then be held in 1989, giving regular Polish people a say in the history of their country for the first time in decades.
Although there were still some hurdles along the way, this very much set the wheels in motion for the end of communist dictatorship in Poland and then Europe. Soon, other countries followed suit, culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the USSR.
The Solidarity Centre
It’s hard to understate the impact that the Gdańsk Shipyard has had on the face of modern Europe. It’s a fascinating and moving story of people banding together and risking their lives to shape their own country.
To really appreciate it, I highly recommend a visit to the Solidarity Centre. This slick museum was built to resemble a ship’s hull, and you can’t really miss it. At 20 zl, it’s money well spent and you even get a free audioguide.
The museum does an amazing job of walking you through the history of the Solidarity movement and communism in Poland. It’s extremely detailed, and you’ll want to leave at least a few hours to see it all.
The museum is highly interactive and presented in a very logical fashion. There’s also a coffee shop, a bookstore and gift shop if you feel like picking up any souvenirs.
Sunset – Walk up Gradowa Hill (optional)
After all that walking, I wouldn’t blame you if you opted for a beer and a rest before heading on to dinner. However, if you think you can muster any more motivation to walk – it’s well worth it.
I recommend walking from Main Town to the peak of Gradowa Hill. It’s not a huge hill (stands at 46m high), however you can get a gorgeous view over Gdańsk and the Gdańsk Shipyard.
Along the way, there are a few other significant stops. To reach Gradowa Hill from Main Town, you’ll need to go through the Train Station.
Now, the train station itself isn’t exactly gorgeous however there is a very moving statue there. It’s a sculpture depicting the Jewish children who were sent from Poland to the UK in the months leading up to WWII.
The thought of parents sending their children away in the hopes of them living better lives is incredibly moving. I definitely think it’s worth stopping and doing some reflecting at the statue.
From there, it’s a relatively short walk to Gradowa Hill. From the top, you will get a beautiful panorama of the city, and over the Gdańsk Shipyard.
There’s even a cute bar/cafe called Wozownia Gdańskia if you want to stop and soak in the good vibes for a bit longer.
Dinner – on a pretty street
I love food and think it’s a crucial part of any trip – but getting dinner in Gdańsk is quite the experience. This city is just so gorgeous that it’s a total delight to sit out and enjoy a delicious meal down one of the pretty streets.
If the weather allows it, then I highly recommend sitting outside to enjoy a dinner in Gdańsk. There’s such a good vibe about the city and eating out is a great way to experience it.
We ate at a pizza place on St Mary’s Street, which did a mean pizza for a really good price. They also do your classic Polish dishes, which are a little more expensive but definitely worth it if you’ve got some room to move in your budget!
Night – Check out the nightlife
Gdańsk is a popular student town, and if there’s one thing I know about students, it’s that they like to drink. So, of course there are plenty of choices if you feel like heading out for a big night in Gdańsk.
A few hotspots you might like to visit during your weekend in Gdańsk:
- Klub Parlament, which attracts a lot of quality DJs and is popular amongst the well-heeled party crowd.
- 100cznia, an ultra-cool party spot in a bunch of shipping containers near the Gdansk Shipyard.
- Jozef K, a quirky, industrial-themed cocktail bar with, er, eclectic decor.
- Bunkier, another quirky and cool club built into an old WWII air-raid shelter.
Gdańsk is known as part of the “tricity”, along with Gdynia and Sopot. While you could easily spend another day exploring Gdańsk, I recommend heading out for a daytrip to explore its sister cities of Gdynia and Sopot.
Note: Sopot, in particular, is mostly an outdoor location. So, if the weather is horrible, you might like to swap it out and visit Toruń instead.
Like Gdańsk, Gdynia is a port city. While Gdańsk was known as the Free City of Danzig, Gdynia stepped up as one of Poland’s main ports. As a result, it has a kind of industrial feel to it – but it is still well worth visiting.
Today, Gydnia is home to over a quarter of a million people and is still a hub for industry. It’s doing really well economically, and is also a popular place for tourists to visit.
To get from Gdańsk to Gdynia, you can take the train. This is the most cost effective option, however it pays to book in advance to get the best prices. Alternatively, you can get Uber – which can be a cost effective option if you are able to split the fare with a few people.
Once you get to Gdynia, there are a few must-see spots.
Monument to Displaced Gdynians
Another moving monument located near a train station, the Monument to Displaced Gdynians is worthy of a stop. It’s dedicated to the people of Gdynia who were displaced or executed while the Germans occupied Gdynia in the 1940s.
Over the centuries, many people have emigrated away from Poland either voluntarily or involuntarily. To get an understanding of the reasons why, and what impact it has made on the world, you can visit the Emigration Museum in Gdynia.
The museum is an honest and interactive look at the history of Poland, its culture, and how it became home to the sixth largest diaspora in the world.
I love a good science museum, and Gdynia has a great one! It’s called the Centrum Nauki Experyment, and it’s great fun for kids (and kids-at-heart).
Opened in 2007, it’s a modern and glitzy museum with heaps of hands-on activities. Quirky exhibits such as the “tree of life” help you learn about science while also having heaps of fun. I definitely recommend adding a visit to this science museum to your two days in and around Gdańsk.
Being a port, Gdynia has played a crucial role in the maritime history of Poland. A fun way to find out about this is to visit the huge, retired ships that stand proudly in the port.
Two of the main ships you can see are the ORP Blyskawica, which was used by Poland during WWII, and Dar Pomorza, a clipper ship that can be found just a few metres away.
Technically it’s kind of half-way between Gdynia and Sopot, so you’ll probably want to get an Uber or taxi to save yourself a long (and honestly fairly uninteresting) walk.
The pier is very pretty, and you get a really nice view out over the beach. It’s especially gorgeous on a summer’s day when the sea breeze is really appreciated!
Lunch: Bar Pomorza GDY 50
Seafront = seafood if you ask me, and Gdynia presents an amazing opportunity to try some delicious catch of the day.
Near the sea port, you can buy seafood practically straight from the fishermen at Bar Pomorza GDY 50. It’s a simple, nautical-themed place where you can try some delicious fish ‘n’ chips.
For the true Polish experience, have a shot of vodka as well!
Sopot is located between Gdańsk and Gdynia, and has a totally different vibe than the two cities. It’s most famous for its beach and day spas, so it’s got a distinct “holiday at the seaside” vibe. If the weather is good, be sure to bring your swimwear!
Sopot is kind of all about the beach, so if the weather is warm then be sure to bring your swimwear and grab a spot on the sand.
The town of Sopot is best known as a beach resort town, and it’s popular with both local Polish people as well as overseas visitors. No wonder, the beach is really big with plenty of soft sand (none of this pebbly nonsense.)
If visiting in summer, you’ll definitely want to leave a couple of hours to enjoy it!
On Sopot Beach you’ll also find Sopot Pier, which is the longest wooden pier in all of Europe at over 500 metres long. It’s a lovely walk and you’ll get a gorgeous view back over the beach when you do it.
Keep in mind there is a fee of 8 zl to visit in the summer months!
There’s something totally charming and dreamy about lighthouses, and it’s well worth visiting Sopot’s. Best of all, you can even climb it which will give you a gorgeous view over the beachside town and the ocean.
Dinner: Restaurant on Monte Cassino
The heart of Sopot is the bustling Monte Cassino street and square. It’s a great place to meet and do some people watching, as well as enjoy some of Sopot’s best restaurants.
You can just choose whichever takes your fancy, but a great choice is Monte Vino – a charming Mediterranean restaurant with delicious seafood and great views. And a fabulous wine list, which I’m all about.