top of page

1 day in Gdansk Poland - the ultimate travel guide


Street in Gdansk

Gdansk, Poland is a charming and picturesque city near the Baltic Sea in Northern Poland. It is full of character, history and some interesting legends. I will go over everything to see and do while you are visiting this amazing city as well as go over how to get there and how to get around. I will also give you some information on day trips if you have more than a day in this gorgeous area.


Ship in Gdansk

A little history

Gdansk is a coastal city in northern Poland located on the Baltic coast. Although there is evidence of settlement in the area earlier, Gdansk really began prospering in the 10th century. Because of its location at the mouth of  the Vistula river, it became a powerhouse of shipbuilding and trade.  Throughout its history it has seen many battles and has changed hands numerous times. It is here that WWII began when the Germans fired on the munitions depot in the harbor. By the end of the war it had been almost destroyed. Since then, it has been painstakingly rebuilt. Gdansk also played a significant role in the solidarity movement of the 1980s which ultimately led to the collapse of communism in Poland.


Houses in Gdansk

What to see and do - 1 day itinerary

At the heart of Gdansk lies its picturesque Old Town. Known in Polish as Gdańska Starówka, this area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is absolutely charming and you will feel as though you have been transported  back in time. Here, you'll find a maze of cobblestone streets, towering churches, and meticulously preserved buildings. Because it is one of the prettiest in Poland, it can get very busy. Come in the shoulder season if you can.  The whole area is quite small and very walk-able but jam packed with interesting sights and quaint streets. 


old town Gdansk

Old town technically consists of two historical areas: Old town and main town but they are usually just bunched together into the term Old town. 


The best way to get to know Old town is to walk the Royal route or the Royal Way. The Royal route consists mainly of Długa Street and Długi Targ. It was given the name Royal way because this used to be the way Polish royalty would enter the city as far back as 1457. It runs from the Upland gate to the Green Gate. If you walk this route it will lead you by many of the main attractions in the city. 


Royal way Gdansk

The Upland gate, or high gate, (Brama Wyżynna) is a 16th century Renaissance gate built in the Mannerist style. It  was originally part of the city fortifications and had a drawbridge and moat. This is where Kings would have been welcomed and given the keys to the city. It now houses a tourist information center. 


Right behind the Upland gate is the Prison tower,  torture chambers and courthouse (Wieża Więzienna). Up until the second half of the 16th century, this tower served as a gatehouse. The gatehouse was then reconstructed and served as a prison between the 17th and 19th centuries. Inside there are various cells, an execution stump and the remnants of the whipping post. It is said that flooding the lower cells was a popular form of torture and the inmates would have to bail themselves out to survive. The complex now houses two small exhibits. You can also climb up the tower for panoramic views.


prison tower Gdansk

As you walk a few steps further you will come to the Golden gate. This gate was built in the early 1600s. It was heavily damaged by Soviet shelling in WWII but has since been rebuilt. As you walk through the gate you enter Dluga street, the heart of Old town. 


Golden gate Gdansk

Dluga street (Ulica Dluga) is a pedestrian street filled with charming tenement houses, cafes, restaurants and shops. There are usually street performers entertaining visitors as well. It is lined with quaint historic houses that used to be owned by merchants, wealthy citizens and government officials. Each home is unique as the wealthy wanted to show off their riches by embellishing their homes. Taxes used to be based on frontage so most of the homes are skinny but tall and deep. The wider homes were for the ultra wealthy. 


Dluga Street Gdansk

The centerpiece of the Old Town is the main Town Hall. Constructed in the 16th century, this iconic building features an ornate façade and an impressive clock tower that offers panoramic views of the city during the summer months. Today it houses the Gdansk history museum. These are my favorite bells in Europe. They play whole songs that are happy and cheerful. 


Town Hall Gdansk

After the town hall Dluga street turns into Long market or Dluga Tark. 


Neptunes fountain is the spot in the city that gets the most pictures taken. There is a legend surrounding this fountain that has to do with the city’s  iconic Goldwasser liquor. It says that centuries ago Neptune was upset about all the gold coins being tossed into the fountain so he struck it with his trident breaking the coins into millions of tiny pieces that floated in the water. Ever since then tiny flakes of gold have been added to float in this liquor that is associated with Gdansk. 


Neptune's fountain Gdansk

Green gate is at the end of the Royal route. It is said to have gotten its name from all the seaweed and moss that used to cover the original wooden gate because of its proximity to the river. The gate was designed to house the Polish royalty when they came to visit the city. 


Another must-visit attraction in Gdansk is St. Mary's Church. This Gothic brick church, with its 30 chapels, is one of the three largest brick churches in the world and may even be the biggest (there is some dispute about that).  It can hold 25,000 people. Construction began on the present church in 1379. In the 1500s it was used for Catholic and Lutheran service simultaneously. You can access the church through seven gates. There is an interesting story about the sculptor who carved the crucifix of Christ. It is said he nailed his wayward son-in-law to a cross to add realism to his work. I wonder what the son-in-law did to deserve that!


St. Mary's cathedral Gdansk

After WWII, when many of the frescos were damaged, the walls were white washed. Inside is an astronomical clock dating to 1464. Its dials show the time and date, phases of the moon, the position of the moon and sun in relation to the zodiac signs, and the calendar of saints. Each day just before 12:00 noon (11:57 to be precise) the clock goes off. You can see a procession of wooden figures of the apostles, followed by death, as well as Adam and Eve. According to legend, the clock's creator had his eyes gouged out so he'd never make a clock better than this one. I have heard this story about other clocks throughout Europe though so I am not sure how accurate that is. You can climb 405 steps up the tower for great views of Old town. 


Astronomical clock Gdansk

Lets talk about amber for a minute. Gdansk is famous for it amber, also known as the gold of the north.  Amber has been worked in this area for thousands of years. Just east of the city is the largest source of amber.  Through the years Baltic amber has been used for trading, for making  jewelry and even as medicine. Amber is actually not a rock or a gemstone but fossilized tree resin. Sometimes there are even insects stuck inside.


Gdansk has an Amber museum. Here you can learn all about the history of amber, its importance in trade routes and its use in medicine and as a magical stone.


Mariacka street Gdansk

If you want to buy a piece of Amber jewelry, head to Mariacka street. It is lined with shops selling all kinds of amber. An amber ring or set of earrings makes the perfect gift or souvenir. Mariacka street is very quaint and charming, filled with ornate facades, gargoyles and other treasures so make sure you take a stroll along here even if you aren’t in the market to buy anything. These were originally homes for the wealthy merchants. 


Gdansk Mariacka street

Winding its way through the heart of Gdansk, the Motława River adds a charming touch to the city's landscape. You can walk along its banks for picturesque views of the Old Town. Another great option is to  take a leisurely boat tour. This is a great way to appreciate the city's architectural wonders from a different perspective.


Gdansk waterfront

The old crane is a symbol of Gdansk and a small piece of what is left from the city’s great era in trade. The original crane burnt down in 1442 and was quickly rebuilt. It was used to put masts on ships and move cargo. At one time it was the largest crane in the world. It was able to lift up to 4 tonnes by using two huge wooden wheels to crank the ropes. These wheels were originally turned by men walking inside of them, like a hamster wheel. The crane also served a defensive function as it was one of the gates to the city.  The crane is now a branch of the maritime museum. There are 8 branches of the museum throughout the city. 


Old crane Gdansk

No visit to Gdansk would be complete without exploring the historic Gdansk Shipyard, a site of immense historical significance. This shipyard built over 1000 ships, but it is most well known for what happened here in 1980. On August 14t the shipyard workers began their strike. This ignited  the Solidarity movement and began a wave of peaceful protests that ultimately led to the fall of communism in Poland.


Gdansk shipyard

Today, the Gdansk Shipyard serves as a reminder of the city's pivotal role in shaping modern Polish history. Visitors can explore the shipyard grounds, including the iconic Gate No. 2, where the famous Solidarity strike began, and the European Solidarity Center, which is a museum dedicated to the movement's legacy. You can take either a walking tour or a bus tour offered in multiple languages. 


I need to talk a little bit about milk bars or bar mleczny. These are casual Polish restaurants that serve traditional food. They are known for being cheap and fast, kind of cafeteria like. While they are known for being a communist holdover, the first milk bar was actually opened in Warsaw in 1896 by a dairy farmer who gave it the name milk bar because of all the menu items that contained dairy. This began a whole genre of restaurants. When communism took over, the milk bars were subsidized by the government and remained popular as a place to get a cheap meal. Today they are a great place to get a traditional meal of potato pancakes, pierogi, golabki, and nalesniki. You order at the counter and then wait for your number to be called. Many of the milk bars lie outside of the tourist areas but there is one we found in Gdansk. It is called Bar Neptune. 


polish food

Getting there: Arriving in Gdansk

By Air

The closest airport to Gdansk is Gdansk Lech Walesa Airport (GDN), located approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) west of the city center. This international airport serves as a hub for several major airlines, making it easy to find direct flights from various European cities or connect through major hubs like Warsaw or Frankfurt.


Upon arrival at the airport, you can take advantage of the following transportation options to reach the city center:


Gdansk

1. Taxi: A taxi ride from the airport to the city center typically takes around 20-25 minutes.

2. Airport Bus: The PKM public transportation company operates a convenient airport bus (line 210) that connects the airport with the Gdansk city center every 30 minutes.

3. Train: The SKM (Szybka Kolej Miejska) suburban train service connects the airport with the Gdansk Główny (Main Station) every 30 minutes.


By Train

Gdansk is well-connected to other major cities in Poland and Europe by rail. The main train station in Gdansk is Gdansk Główny, located in the city center. You can reach Gdansk by train from cities like Warsaw (around 3 hours), Krakow (around 6 hours), or Berlin (around 6 hours).


Street in Gdansk

By Car

Gdansk is accessible by car via the A1 highway, which connects the city to other parts of Poland and neighboring countries. If you're driving from Warsaw, the journey takes approximately 5 hours, while from Berlin, it's around 6 hours. Parking in Gdansk is available in various public parking lots and on-street spaces, with rates varying depending on location and duration.


Getting Around Gdansk


Once you've arrived in Gdansk, you'll find several convenient options for getting around the city:


Public Transportation

Gdansk has an efficient public transportation system that includes trams, buses, and trains. 

To use public transportation, you'll need to purchase a ticket or a reloadable card. Tickets can be bought from ticket machines located at major stops and stations or directly from the driver (with a slight surcharge). 


Gdansk Poland Street

City Bikes and Scooters

Gdansk has embraced the concept of shared mobility, offering both city bikes and electric scooters for rent. The city's bike-sharing system, Mevo, has several stations throughout Gdansk where you can rent a bike for a small fee.


Additionally, electric scooters from companies like Lime, Bolt, and Tier are available for rent through their respective mobile apps. These scooters can be a convenient and eco-friendly way to navigate the city, especially for shorter distances. You will need an app and can pick them up and drop them off anywhere within a certain area.


2 days in Gdansk

If you have more time consider taking a day trip. Gdansk is one of three cities known as the tri-cities of Poland. They are Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot. This area is Poland’s most popular holiday destination because it lies on the Baltic sea. 


Gdynia

Getting from Gdansk to the neighboring city of Gdynia is quite straightforward thanks to the efficient transportation connections between the two cities. One of the most convenient options is to take the SKM (Szybka Kolej Miejska) suburban train, which runs frequently throughout the day. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes, with trains departing every 10-15 minutes during peak hours. Tickets can be purchased from ticket machines at the train stations. 


Gdynia

Gdynia's history is relatively young compared to other Polish cities. Established in the early 20th century as a strategic port city, Gdynia quickly rose to prominence as a major maritime hub. During the interwar period, it underwent rapid development, with modern buildings and infrastructure being constructed. After World War II, Gdynia continued to thrive as a center of shipbuilding and maritime trade, solidifying its position as a vital economic engine. 


The  city boasts a remarkable collection of buildings in the Modernist, Art Deco, and Functionalist styles, which were popular during its rapid growth in the 1920s and 1930s.


Gdynia Poland

One of the most iconic landmarks is the Kościuszko Square, a vast open space surrounded by imposing Modernist buildings. This square serves as the city's cultural hub, hosting events, festivals, and gatherings throughout the year.


The main reason people go to Gdynia are the opportunities to enjoy the beauty of the Baltic Sea. The city's promenade, stretching along the shoreline, is a popular spot for leisurely walk or bike ride.


A really interesting museum in Gdynia is The Emigration Museum. It  is a unique attraction that explores the stories of Polish emigrants who left their homeland in search of better opportunities abroad.


Sopot

Sopot is right between Gdansk and Gdynia. It is a  charming seaside town  with its sandy beaches and a lively promenade. Sopot's history can be traced back to the 12th century, when it was a small fishing village. It wasn't until the 19th century that the town began to develop into a popular seaside resort, attracting visitors from across Europe.


Sopot

Interestingly, Sopot was one of the first places in Poland to have a public beach and a pier, contributing to its early reputation as a prime vacation destination.


During the interwar period, Sopot experienced a golden age, with the construction of grand hotels, villas, and the iconic Monciak Street. This era also saw the establishment of the Sopot International Song Festival, which continues to be held annually and attracts performers from around the world. This is usually held the first week in July so if you don't like crowds, avoid this time.


One fascinating fact about Sopot is its connection to the legendary composer, Frédéric Chopin. In 1835, Chopin composed his famous "Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53" while staying in the town, inspired by the beauty of the Baltic coast.


The iconic Monciak Street is a pedestrian-friendly avenue lined with cafés, restaurants, and shops. This lively street leads directly to the famous Sopot Pier and the stunning promenade along the beach.


Stretching over 1600  into the Baltic Sea, the Sopot Pier is a beloved landmark and a popular spot for leisurely walks, with breathtaking views of the coastline. It opened in 1827. It is the longest wooden pier in Europe. 


Sopot Poland

Sopot's sandy beaches are a major draw for visitors during the summer months. Whether you're seeking a quiet spot to relax or prefer a more active beach experience, you will be able to find it.


The Crooked House is a structure designed to resemble a fairy-tale building leaning at an unnatural angle. Opened in 2004, the blue green shingles on the roof are supposed to look like a dragon. This is a fun and whimsical building and a great place for a picture. It is filled with cafes, shops and offices. 


The most convenient way to reach Sopot from Gdansk is by taking the SKM (Szybka Kolej Miejska) suburban train. The journey takes approximately 20 minutes, with trains departing every 10-15 minutes during peak hours. Simply hop on the train at Gdansk Główny (Main Station) and alight at Sopot station, which is located right in the heart of the town.


3 days in Gdansk


Gdansk

You can do Gdynia and Sopot in a day but with even more time spread them out doing one a day. If you have a third day also consider spending some time in Gdansk's beautiful Oliwski Park. This park is 10 hectares of pretty paths, a French style garden and a greenhouse of exotic plants. It is a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon.


Gdansk Poland

Whether you have one, two, or three days or more you will be captivated by the gorgeous city of Gdansk and its surrounding area wanting to come back again and again.


Ready to travel to Gdansk? Contact us at eurotravelsbydesign@gmail.com and we will custom design your perfect itinerary.

8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page