Gdansk lies on the Baltic north coast of Poland. Previously German, after WWI Gdansk was made an autonomous state, belonging to neither Germany nor Poland. However, this didn’t work for Hitler and Gdansk became the site of the outbreak of WW2 when Nazi forces invaded the city. By 1945 the city was rubble, and the communist forces of the red army occupied it. Now part of an independent Poland and beautifully restored, Gdansk is a lovely surprise of a city.
One of my favourite facts about Gdansk is that it still has its historical beer bell which used to be rung to announce the opening of pubs! It’s also the place to go if you’re in need of some luck – the city’s special drink is the locally produced Goldwasser liqueur which has flakes of gold floating in the bottle. It’s said that drinking this liquer will bring you good luck for a number of years.
In a 2 hour flight from London, you can arrive in the city and take bus 210 direct to the city in 30 minutes. Or, if you’d rather, take a taxi. But the bus is only 86p and takes about the same amount of time. This visit to Gdansk was, unfortunately for me, only a short one. But scratching the surface was still fun and here are my recommendations for 24 hours in this historic city.
A. Eat breakfast at Klatka B (1 hour)
There aren’t loads of breakfast places in Gdansk. But this cozy cafe on the river front is a perfect start to the day – I highly recommend the eggs with Pastrami as you watch the world go by.
B. Visit Neptune Fountain and Artus Court (1 hour)
Neptune Fountain is a historic landmark of the city. When the Nazis invaded, they removed the Polish eagles on the sculpture. Thankfully they are now back and restored to their full glory.
Artus Court used to be the merchant’s hall of the city and the hub of social life. Today, it forms part of the Gdansk history museum which includes a panorama of how the great hall would have looked at its peak.
Artus Court (L) and Neptune Fountain (R)
C. Stroll to St Mary’s Basilica and climb the tower for the views (30 mins)
Currently one of the largest brick churches in the world, St Mary’s has capacity for 25,000 people! The interior is also pretty impressive, with the sculptor who carved the crucifix of Christ even nailing his errant son-in-law to a cross so as to add realism to his work!
D. See the impressive Armoury (30 mins)
This beautiful Renaissance building was built in 1600-09, and was a working arsenal until the 1800s. During WW2 it was badly damaged, and it had to be rebuilt to capture its former glory – it was even a supermarket in the interim! It’s now host to an art gallery and wine bar. Lovely.
E. Shop along Ulica Dluga (30 mins)
This street, meaning Long Lane, is one of the most walked streets in Gdansk. Perfect for a spot of shopping, it leads from the Golden Gate to the Long Market (Dlugi Targ).
F. Pay a visit to the streets of Baltic Gold (30 mins)
Baltic gold, more commonly known as amber, can be found on the Baltic beaches. Amber is sold widely in Gdansk, and the best street to find it is Ulica Mariacka. You can also visit an amber museum here if you want to learn more.
This street is one of Gdansk’s most beautiful – a lane of cobbles running from the church to the waterfront. It’s again all been painstakingly reconstructed following decimation during WW2, and is now a place with lots of charm and character.
G. Eat traditional Polish Pierogi for lunch (1.5 hours)
Dumplings are a staple of central and eastern European dishes. Some of the best are to be found in Poland, and Gdansk is home to a number of Pierogi specific restaurants and cafes. What better way to spend your lunch stop than sampling local cuisine.
My personal favourite is Pierogarnia Mandu Centrum, which comes highly recommended by the queue outside at all times of day. You can sample Pierogi stuffed with everything from raspberry lemonade, to wild boar, to peanut butter, to cheese. A delicious and authentic lunch time spot.
H. Explore Gdansk’s history at the WW2 museum (3 hours minimum)
You can’t come to Gdansk and not acknowledge its recent history. The fact the whole city was destroyed, the fact it was the starting point of WW2, the fact that it was once in German hands and known as Danzig – its rich history can’t be ignored.
This architecturally unique museum documents the fate of Poland during the war, focusing on the human cost of this horrific time. I don’t think anyone can leave unmoved. Particularly interesting exhibits are a full mock up of an interwar street, the Holocaust section where there are 7 metres of Jewish faces rising floor to ceiling, Russian tanks and an opportunity to watch the Oscar-nominated film called Siege, which covers the first few days of the Nazi invasion of Poland.
I. Take a walk along the river front (30 mins)
After the sobering experience of the war museum, a nice stroll along the waterfront is the perfect antidote. The Long Waterfront follows the Motława River and offers some pretty views across the water and across to the Gdansk sign.
If you’re feeling like a special night out, you could also head to the Baltic Philharmonic concert hall, right on the river, for an evening performance.
J. Relax over dinner (2 hours)
Finish off your absolutely jam packed day with a nice meal and relaxing glass of wine at one of Gdansk’s many delicious restaurants. If you want to go up-market, why not try Winne Grono. Or if not, go to the wholesome and tasty Meat Shack BBQ. Whatever your budget, a delicious end to the day awaits.
And there you have it – a full on 24 hours in Gdansk taking in the main sites. After that, you will sleep well before embarking on your journey onwards or home. I can’t wait to explore more of Poland – with Krakow and Warsaw high on the list for my next city breaks. Thanks for reading; stay safe and happy travelling.