Last year, my best friend and I found ourselves searching for cheap flights, filter set to: anywhere. The result? A chance encounter with the beautiful and slightly off-the-beaten-tourist-path destination of Gdańsk, a stunning port city in the north of Poland. Here are eight reasons to visit Gdansk before everyone else does!
Perfect for a weekend getaway
First things first: Gdansk’s close proximity to plenty of other European cities means that it’s perfect for a short break or weekend getaway. Best visited in the late spring/ summer/ early autumn, so as to make the most of the warmer weather, you can’t go wrong by dedicating several days to exploring this pretty city.
The old port of Gdansk is characterised by its medieval crane, countless clock towers, and even an astronomical wooden clock which is easily one of the most beautiful centuries-old clocks in Europe. Although substantial parts of the city were reconstructed following mass devastation in WWII, a wander through Gdansk old town still feels akin to stepping back into the middle ages (complete with the opportunity to find many bird’s eye perspectives by paying a few zloty to go up the church towers).
During the past Century or so, Gdansk has been the site of plenty of European-shaping events. Following WWI, a City State by the name of the Free City of Danzig was created in the region. And in fact, the first event of WWII was the German attack on the Polish military depot at Westerplatte in Gdansk.
For further information on Gdansk in more modern times, then you simply must head to the newly opened Museum 1939, a cultural space which documents the history of Gdansk, Poland, and the rest of Europe during WWII.
In more recent times, in a shipyard where European’s Solidarity Centre now stands (a must-see and an incredibly moving trip for any visitor to the city) the Solidarnośc movement emerged during the 1980s. The Trade Union led movement (whose membership quickly swelled to ten million) played an important part in ending communist rule. Elsewhere in the city, daily walking tours walk you through Gdansk’s past, with specific tours dedicated to the city’s communist history.
Of all the reasons to visit Gdansk, its architecture may not be the first that springs to mind. However, the city is filled with quirky, offbeat, and simply stunning architecture. You can’t go wrong by dedicating a few hours to wandering around the city and letting the architecture reveal itself to you. After all, the old port part of town is populated by medieval buildings, including the wooden crane which is thought to be the largest medieval crane in the world.
Elsewhere in the city, one of the three largest churches in the world, the St Mary’s Basilica is the largest church to have been constructed from brick. Head to the top of St Mary’s for a nominal fee of a few zloty and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views over the candy coloured houses and cobbled lanes below.
Value for Money
Visiting Gdansk provided a lot of value for money, and you could easily visit the city on a much tighter budget than we did. As things were, we managed to eat a lot of nice food, see all the museums, climb plenty of church towers, take a day trip, and still manage to spend much less than we would have done in many other European cities. As well as being relatively affordable once in Gdansk, there are plenty of great value for money flight connections to actually get to the city.
Food and Drink
If you love great food and even better beer, then you’ll find all this and more when you head to Gdansk. After all, there’s an entire street called ‘Ulica Piwna,’ literally translated as ‘beer street’. Head there for over thirty bars, drinking establishments, and taverns. If you’re in the mood for great food, then there’s plenty of sea-inspired cuisine on the menu, and of course, you can’t visit Poland and leave without trying some pierogis, a small- and very tasty- dumpling.
Largest Castle in the World
If you are fascinated by the middle ages and give yourself just one reason to visit Gdansk, then make it this: the largest castle in the entire world is situated just a short train ride away from Gdansk, in the nearby city of Malbork. Malbork Castle was first constructed by the Teutonic Knights during the middle ages and has since become a fixture of the Polish Countryside, dominating the nearby River Nogat.