With prime placement right on the panoramic Baltic coast Gdansk retains the elegant architecture and richness of diversity that comes from being such a well-established and ever-popular harbour town. This city buzzes with the energy and confidence of its own maturity, allowing you the option to marvel at the vast array of historical sights, shop for your very own ‘Baltic Gold’ (a tantalising for of amber unique to the region) and then take advantage of the thriving local nightlife that has earned Gdansk such a welcoming reputation.
Set on the Baltic coast, the port city of Gdańsk may surprise with the range of its accommodation. Built in 1451, the oldest house in the city has been converted into the charming Gotyk House (Ulica Mariacka 1). For a taste of local flavour, it can’t be beaten – the historic building even has basement museum dedicated to Copernicus. If high-octane glam is more your bag, the five-star Gdańsk Hilton (Targ Rybny 1) has it in spades, with rooms featuring ‘serenity’ beds, a rooftop pool and an ‘urban beach’. At the other end of the scale, Hotel Grand Cru’s (Ulica Rycerska 11-12) exposed brick walls and wet rooms make it a great choice, as is the atmospheric Holland House Residence (Ulica Długi Targ 33-34), right in the centre.
Gdansk is home to ‘Baltic Gold’: amber. The resinous gem is celebrated with a dedicated museum, but visitors can pick up the good stuff at shops all over the city; head to family-run Dawid (Ulica Mariacka 13-15) for starters. For clothing and electronics, upmarket shopping mall Galeria Bałtycka (Aleja Grunwaldzka 141) houses over 200 stores and restaurants, while Madison Park Shopping Gallery (Ulica Rajska 10), decorated with sculptures symbolising elements of Gdańsk’s history, is bigger on local ambience. For traditional souvenirs, head to Cepelia (Ulica Długa 47) which has been selling Polish folk art for the past half century.
Slowly but surely, Poland is shaking off its reputation for stodgy, bland food. At the budget end, you can’t get more value for money (or authentic) than a bar mleczny (milk bar), which serves authentic Polish dishes; opt for pierogi at Bar Mleczny Neptun (Ulica Długa 33-34). More upscale is Restauracja Kubicki (Ulica Wartka 5), which serves a more refined Polish menu. Seafood restaurants are popular in Gdańsk, and arguably the best of them is Restauracja Targ Rybny Fishmarkt (Ulica Targ Rybny 6C), where diners can enjoy the ocean views from the veranda whilst trying excellent fish dishes. End the evening with a local beer from microbrewery Brovarnia Gdańsk (Ulica Szafarnia 9).
Gdańsk DocFilm Festival
Taking place at the Neptun cinema, this festival celebrates the best Polish documentary films out there. Hard-hitting topics are brought to the fore, so if you want insight into issues around exploitation and unemployment, this is where you’ll find it.
The annual sailing race across the Gdańsk Bay is one of the top events in the maritime calendar. Uniquely, any boat can take part, so spectators can watch a range of boats out on the water.
Heineken Opener Festival
Taking place a few miles outside Gdańsk in the seaside town of Gdynia is the must-do festival for music lovers in Poland. With the likes of Bloc Party and Kings of Leon having performed in previous years, this is the place to let loose and rock on.
Gdańsk celebrates the bard’s plays by staging a week of performances throughout the Tri-City area. With actors and audiences from all over the world in attendance, this is the place to observe Polish culture at its best.
St Dominic's Fair
If there’s one time antique lovers should come to Gdańsk, it’s during St Dominic’s Fair. The fair sees up to 1,000 merchants and artisans set up their stalls selling all manner of handicrafts, antiques and art, while celebratory concerts and fireworks are held by the city.