Gdansk: A weekend getaway in Poland’s major seaport town

A Baltic destination under the radar

Gdansk was a place I didn't know much about. However, it was the only town I hadn't visited in Poland, so when I found myself in Lodz to visit a friend, we decided to venture a bit further north. Who knew it would make it to the top of my favorite places in Poland?  

Gdansk is in northern Poland, on the coast of the Baltic Sea. Being the country's most important port and influenced by many cultures, it has a fascinating history, unique architecture, vibrant bars, and delicious cuisine, making it the perfect destination for a short getaway. 

The ways to get to Gdansk are by bus, train, plane, or ferry from various Baltic destinations. On Ferryhopper’s ferry map, you can see all available ferry routes between Poland, Sweden and the Baltics.

Good to know: the seaside towns of Sopot and Gdynia are also part of the larger metropolitan area known locally as Trojmiasto, the Three Cities.

The Old Town and the Medieval Crane in Gdansk, Poland

View of the Medieval Crane in Gdansk, the oldest port crane in Europe

Exploring Spichrzow Island and the Old Town

Our apartment was on the island of Spichrzow, literally on the Motlawa River that runs through Gdansk. The island is connected to the old town by the Green Bridge, which is not all that green but offers a stunning view of the Medieval Crane - the most iconic landmark of Gdansk. At the other side of the bridge stands the Green Gate and, you guessed it, definitely not green! In the past, the Green Gate was a royal residence and marked the eastern end of the Royal Street.

The Green Gate in the Old Town of Gdansk, Poland

The Green Gate marks the end - or the beginning- of the Royal Street

The Royal Street is the heart of the Old Town and a popular meeting point. First, we walked on the Dlugi Targ, a large square surrounded by colorful houses and the imposing tower of the town hall. The Town Hall houses a history museum where you can get acquainted with the town's past, which is more intriguing than I expected. After all, World War II broke out here. The first step towards Polish independence was also made here by the future Polish president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Lech Walesa. Yes, a lot of things have started in Gdansk.

The Town Hall of Gdansk on Dluga Ulica

View of the Town Hall’s tower from Dluga Ulica

Dutch Influence on Gdansk's Architecture

By this point, I had noticed something. The buildings were giving me Amsterdam vibes - like, a lot. I looked it up and apparently, after the war, the locals decided to reconstruct the town, emphasizing their historical ties with the Netherlands, a loving relationship that flourished in the 16th century. So, they called over Dutch architects and workers to undertake the project.

Colorful architectural buildings in a row in Gdansk, Poland

This could so easily be in Amsterdam, but it’s Gdansk!

Poseidon's Fountain and Dluga Ulica

The most distinctive landmark of Dlugi Targ is the fountain of Poseidon. Some locals told us that there are many myths surrounding this fountain. Legend has it that once every 100 years, all the statues come to life for one night. They eat and drink and meet the people they have been observing for years. The leader of the feast is allegedly Poseidon himself.

The fountain of Poseidon in Dlugi Targ in Gdansk, Poland

The fountain of Poseidon, one of the most distinctive landmarks of Gdansk

After a quick selfie session before the divine reveler, we headed to Dluga Ulica for hot coffee. Dluga Ulica starts from Dluga Targ and ends at the Golden Gate. It is a bustling pedestrian street with shops, cafes, and restaurants.

Statue of Greek God Hermes in Dlugi Targ or Long Market Street in Gdansk, Poland

Colorful buildings around Dlugi Targ

Church of St. Mary and Mariacka Street

Our next stop was the impressive church of St. Mary, one of the largest brick churches in the world. You can climb to the top of the church tower for panoramic views of the town, given that you are willing to climb some 408 steps. Behind the church starts Mariacka Street, a charming and picturesque cobbled street in the heart of Gdansk's old town. Lined with colorful buildings and quaint cafes, Mariacka Street is known for its genuine Baltic amber jewelry, the town’s absolute treasure.

St. Mary Church in Old Town of Gdansk, Poland

View of the St. Mary Church as seen from the narrow alleys of the Old Town

Gradowa Hill, A Hidden Gem with a View

Very close to the center, steep uphill paths lead to Gradowa Hill, a place lesser known to visitors that we as well discovered by chance. The climb rewarded us with a breathtaking, panoramic view of the town from above. The shipyard cranes, St. Mary's Church, and a few skyscrapers create an oddly attractive urban skyline and in the distance, you can see the Baltic Sea and its beaches. 

Although today it's the perfect picnic spot to find some peace and quiet, the entire hill used to be a fortress with underground passages. Today the remains of the bunkers are home to an exhibition about the 19th-century citadel and a science center - the Hevelianum.

Urban landscape view of Gdansk from Gradowa Hill

View over Gdansk from Gradowa Hill

What to eat in Gdansk

It was time for dinner, and there is no better place to enjoy a meal than the many restaurants overlooking the Motlawa river. Gdansk is a food lover's paradise. A must-try dish is pierogi - dumplings stuffed with potato and cheese or meat. My personal favorite was golabki, cabbage rolls filled with minced meat and rice or kasha. Another local delicacy is zurek, a sour rye soup served with sausage, potatoes, and egg.

If you have a sweet tooth, try the delicious paczki, a Polish doughnut filled with jam or custard. And, of course, no visit to Gdansk would be complete without trying some of the local beers brewed in the town's many microbreweries.

Author Bio

Heyo! I'm Chris Michalopoulos, a copywriter by day and a wanderer by nature. When not crafting words for Ferryhopper, I'm scouring the web for travel deals and capturing life through the lens of my camera. I'm a linguist at heart, fluent in six languages, which comes in handy when swapping stories with people from around the world over an ice-cold beer (or two). And speaking of stories, that's what this blog is all about - sharing those stories and inspiring you to drop your next pin on the map 📍🗺️

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