July 2019: Gdańsk

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Flights:

Outward: £29.57 (Ryanair)

Return: 149 PLN (approx £31.45*) (WizzAir)

Accommodation: £48.17 (each) Sień Gdańska (AirBnB)

Total: £109.19

*Exchange rate accurate at time of writing

Summary and Highlights:

  • Look into one-way flights for the outward and return journey, from other airports and airlines that might work better with the dates and times of your travel plans.
  • Consider the distance of the airport to the city and the travel options available based on the day and time you need to travel.

 

  • Old Town
  • WW2 Museum
  • Sopot
  • Westerplatte
  • European Solidarity Centre

At first glance, Gdańsk does not stand out as a significant or well-known destination in Poland, but it should definitely be on your list. Plus it has a significant role in European history and was the site of the first battle of the Second World War. The city itself has an Amsterdam meets Hamburg look and feel about it with Dutch-style buildings as well as a river and canals that lead out to the shipyards and finally to the Baltic Sea.

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This was my second trip with my neighbour Tristan (obviously I wasn’t that bad in Madrid that he could face coming away with me again) since we booked both trips at the same time. An issue I often face is the dates and timings of the flights, such as them only being on certain dates or at awkwad times. That said, you don’t have to fly out and back with the same airline, or even to the same airport. It’s always worth exploring your options to see if buying one-way flights with one airline and then a return with another or to another airport works better for you. For us, it worked really well since the outgoing flight was early morning out of Manchester and late coming back to Liverpool, which isn’t a million miles away. Plus, after a pretty rushed time in Madrid, it was nice to have basically 3 full days to explore without needing to be pressed for time.

For the time of year (July and August primarily), I always struggle to keep to the £100 budget but we only slightly went over. The AirBnB we booked was totally value for money in the city centre and our host Piotr was amazing who greeted us and gave us reccomednatins for things to see and do. It was also Tristan’s first time to Poland so I was excited to introduce him to the food and of course, Polish Vodka.

The first order of business was a walking tour as per, which highlighted Gdańsk’s history as a maritime city as well as it’s significance in the 20th-century pre and post WWII. Though largely destroyed, it has been rebuilt and even the most modern buildings have the same Dutch style in the shadow of the historic buildings across the water. I love the smell of gentrification.

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As World War II officially began with attacks on the Westerplatte Peninsula and the Polish Post Office in Gdańsk, the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk highlights how the war came about and the effect it had on the people of Poland, Europe and the rest of the world. It definitely worth spending a morning, or afternoon in the museum.

No trip to the coast is complete without going to the beach, even if it is the Baltic Sea. Gdańsk is part of a tri-city area that includes Sopot and Gdynia, all within the Polish riviera. Sopot is a popular seaside town that I dubbed the Brighton of the Baltic, a 15-20 minute train ride away from Gdańsk. Even on an overcast Saturday it was busy with tourists and locals and has one of the longest piers in Europe.

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My favourite thing about Poland is the food and drink (and how cheap it is). I had to take Tristan to a milk bar to experience some home-style Polish cooking. There are also some great new food hall type venues with various vendors selling amazing freshly made food made while you wait, still at a fraction of what you’d pay in the UK or elsewhere. Gdańsk is also a popular destination for stag/hen parties and weekend breaks so there’s a wide range of bars and clubs to choose from. One of my favourites was Pijalnia Wódki I Piwa which translates as drinking house of vodka and beer. It’s in the name really, serving up £1/€1 beers and vodka shots (the best homemade lemon vodka ever) until the early hours.

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If you’ve not overdone it too much to face a boat ride the next day, I’d recommend taking one down to Westerplatte to see the war ruins and memorial. There are various vessels ferrying people to and from the peninsula via the shipyards. The journey takes about 30 minutes each way and a couple of hours exploring Westerplatte is enough. Who knew cranes could be so photogenic?

 

Whilst at Westerplatte, wander around the ruins of the barracks and other buildings and read some information provided by the WWII museum on their original use. Additionally, walk up to see the Soviet gifted “Monument to the Defenders of the Coast”.

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After all the WWII history, it’s worth getting to know about the latter 20th century at the European Solidarity Centre, devoted to the history of Solidarity, the Polish trade union and civil resistance movement, and other opposition movements of Communist Eastern Europe. It’s an immersive and detailed museum with an audio guide included and takes a couple of hours to see. Additionally, the rooftop terrace has some great views of the Old Town and the docks nearby.

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Overall, I highly rate Gdańsk, it’s a really chill place with lots to see and do. I’d say that even in July it was nice when the sun was out, but got a bit chilly at night or in the shade so think about the time of year that you go. There’s definitely something for everyone and is a refection of historic and modern Poland. 

 

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