Gdańsk is a city whose history will not cease to amaze you. Located on the northern coast of the Baltic Sea in the Pomerania region of Poland, is, at first sight, a small and beautiful city (it is rightly called “The Pearl Of The Baltic”). You might not know exactly how to make the most of all the wonders the city has to offer but you will quickly find your way.
First a medieval Slavic fishing village, Gdańsk was created in the 10th century. A growing port under the rule of the Teutonic Knights of the Cross (between 1308 and 1454), and the largest city of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (around the 14th and 15th centuries). It is now one of the largest port city of the Baltic Sea. It belonged in turns to Prussian and Germany, before the city acquired the status of “Free State of Danzig” in 1918 and “Free City of Danzig” in 1920 but was under German domination again a few years later until it was “liberated” by the Soviet in 1945. Its difficult past forged its rebelled spirit.
You might know Gdańsk for being the hometown of Günter Grass, the German author of The Tin Drum born in The Free City of Danzig, or for the Westerplatte, home of the Polish Military Transit Depot between 1926 and 1939, or maybe more recently for the Solidarność movement founded in 1980 in the Lenin Shipyard, now known as Stocznia, a food market and hang-out place. The history books might not teach us that anymore, but the fall of the Berlin Wall would not have happened if it wasn’t for Gdańsk.
Gdańsk is linked with two other cities, also on the seafront side: Gdynia and Sopot. The three of them together are referred to as “TriCity” (“Trójmiasto”) and offer a vast range of activities for all weather. If you go to TriCity in the summer, you must visit the long stretches of the beach.
Wild (Orłowo) or less wild (Sopot) will welcome you day or night and the Old Town of Gdańsk will provide entertainment for young and old: walk along Długa Street, visit the Forum Shopping Centre, eat in one of the Milk Bars, have a look at the Neptune Fountain, stroll along the waterfront and the Motława River, and do not forget Mariacka Street, famously known as the “Amber” street, and the steps of the Mariacka tower.
In the winter, you will enjoy visiting the plethora of museums and restaurants all over towns. Don’t miss the Naval Museum in Gdynia, and the European Solidarity Centre and World War II Museum in Gdańsk. If you only stay for a few days, make sure to go to Sopot to see the pier, the famous crooked house (and yes, it is a Costa Café) and the Opera Leśna, the “Forest Opera”, that you’ll find in the middle of the forest. Even better if you catch a show!
Food-wise, note that most cafés admit dogs (and kids), that pierogis are always in season, and that the smallest places often offer the best food.