I’m a great lover of 24-hour itineraries, mainly because I want to see as much as I can when I’m on a city break.I’m very pleased to say that Gdańsk, in Poland, lends itself perfectly to this kind of treatment. An ancient port with a war torn history, Gdańsk has seen both hardship and prosperity, but today this charming city with its somewhat un-Polish, more ‘United Nations’ style architecture,enjoys a unique atmosphere that appeals to tourists from all over the world.
If you have limited time in this intriguing destination,allow me to give you the head’s up on how to spend a few precious hours here.
I’m starting with the afternoon, mainly because I always seem to start my sightseeing after lunch. An afternoon itinerary should definitely kick off at the Free City of Danzig Historical Zone, an interesting museum that dedicates its exhibits to a time when Gdańsk was its own entity – a ‘free city’, rather than being a part of either Poland or Germany.
For a classic Polish lunch,U Dzika (Piwna 59/60) is the spot I recommend you head to. Indulge in a few delicious Polish dumplings (called pierogi) stuffed with pork, mushroom or cottage cheese, before making your way to the Roads to Freedom Exhibition. This exhibition is a real highlight and a wonderful representation of the modern history of Gdańsk. With an interesting theme that focuses on Communism in Europe and the Solidarity trade union, the museum reveals the trialsGdańsk has been through, even relatively recently.
A visit to the Monument to the Shipyard Workers, which is dedicated to workers lost when politicaldemonstrations were an everyday occurrence, is definitely an itemto put on the agenda for later in the afternoon.
If museums aren’t your thing, you could optfor a cruise to Westerplatte, at the mouth of the Motława River. Set sail on a replica galleon for a really authentic experience, with these beautiful vessels leaving from the quayside in the Old Town.
After freshening up at your hotel, I suggest you indulge in a pre-dinner drink at Cafe Ferber, which is a real favourite of mine. I love a cocktail here before heading to the rather interestingly named Restauracja Pod Łososiem (which translates to the Restaurant Beneath the Salmon) in the Old Town. This fascinating place was once an inn with a distillery, which until 1945 produced the famous goldwasser – a rather potent herbal liquor. Today the salmon dishes are what I come for – along with theintriguing‘old worlde’ décor.
After dinner, when in Gdańsk I never miss the chance to catch a concert at the Baltic Philharmonic Hall, in the centre of Motława on Ołowianka Island. I really don’t mind what’s actually on, because whether it’s a festival or contemporary music concert, I know the atmosphere will be electric.
For fans of the nightlife, clubbers should make their way to the floating Miasto Aniołów (City of Angels), set overlooking the Motława River.
I recommend you definitely eat breakfast at your accommodation, as unfortunately Polish restaurants don’t really ‘do’ this favourite meal of mine! That said, Bar Mleczny Neptun still functions as an old milk bar and is a great substitution for a café. The traditional milk bars were set up when the Communists were in power and were intended to provide cheap food for workers.
Once you’ve topped up for breakfast, make your way down the Royal Way, along the pretty ul Długa (Long Street) with its colourful facades and on towards Długi Targ (Long Market). It’s hard to imagine that most of the buildings here were actually built after World War II. Once the processional walkway for Polish monarchs, this famous path starts from the Upland Gate and passes the Foregate, which hasa small museum dedicated to the famous ‘Baltic Gold’, otherwise known as amber. Other museums of note along the route include the Uphagens’ House, dedicated to eighteenth-century furniture, the Historical Museum of Gdańsk, and the Artus Court.
Walking on towards the banks of the Motława River through the Green Gate, I suggest heading to St Mary’s Gate and then onto the fascinating ul Mariacka. This lovely street is lined with charming old shops and interesting drainpipes adorned with strange looking gargoyles. If you fancy buying some amber, this is the place to do it, as there are lots of jewellery shops to tempt you.
St Mary’s Church, built in the fourteenth century, appears a little lonely among its modern counterparts, butit’s definitely worth before stopping for morning coffee. The panoramic views from the towers provide a great photographic opportunity.Café Kamienica(Ul. Mariacka 37/39) is a wonderful spot to enjoy a morning cuppa, especially if you enjoy people watching.
While 24 hours may not seem a lot when visiting a place like this, follow my guide and you’ll be able to eke every second out of your limited time in Gdańsk.
How to Get to Gdańsk
Gdańsk Airport is just over a two-hour flight from London Stansted, with Ryanair providing a regular direct service. Other airlines, such as SAS, offer a service that includes a stop, so take longer.
For your onward journey to your final destination, why battle public transport when you can rely on a professional and comfortable service with Shuttle Direct? You can pre-book a private or shared transfer for the 35-minute journey, and take all the stress out of getting from the airport to your hotel.
Where to Stay
La Petite B&B – The quiet location of this little place doesn’t mean it’s a million miles from the city. In fact it is very well placed for sightseeing, with the city centre just three tram stops away. If you enjoy being able to retreat to a more tranquil spot in the evening then La Petite B&B is for you. A warm welcome awaits and the comfortable modern rooms offer free Wi-Fi.If, like me, you enjoy your own little piece of serenity at the end of the day to catch up with sorting photos and documenting your trip, this place is ideal.
Five Point Hostel – A hostel it might be and simple furnishings it might have, but this place is a top pick in my opinion. Clean, bright and welcoming, this hostel has a shared kitchen and common room, meaning that you can swap notes with other like-minded travellers and meet lots of new friends. The bike hire is a definite plus as the city is a wonderful place to explore on two wheels, although most of the main attractions can also be easily reached on foot. If you’re saving space on packing, Five Point Hostel offers free linen and towels for a small surcharge.
Holland House Residences – You can’t argue with the unique qualities of this charming hotel, whose design is inspired by the various cities of the Hanseatic League. Quirky rooms with bespoke features offer lots of space, the essential free Wi-Fi and a work desk, which I appreciate when I want to catch up with my journals. Located right in the heart of the pretty old town, stylish Holland House Residences has a nautical restaurant serving fabulous Polish cuisine and also offers a hearty buffet breakfast.
Close to all the attractions, this gem of a hotel is a personal favourite.
About Shuttle Direct
When you’re planning a short city break, for a no fuss transfer to your chosen hotel, opt for Shuttle Direct. We are the leading provider of airport transfers in Europe and North Africa and we take great pride in taking the hassle out of your onward travel. Pre-book a shared or private transfer and let us take care of the rest.