Gdansk is a city on the Baltic coast of northern Poland that has so much history. At the end of WWII, Gdansk endured heavy air raids and then was rebuilt in the 1950s and 1960s. Gdansk could be seen in one rushed day, but I think it is best for an extended weekend, especially if you want to take a day trip to Malbork, the world’s largest castle.
Gdansk Airport to City Center
There is only one airport in Gdansk – Walesa Airport. It is located about 15 km from the city center. You can get to the city center by train, bus, or taxi. It is very easy to find all means of public transport getting from the airport to the city center. All you need to do is follow the lines on the floor until you get to the desired place. Both the train station and the bus stop are very close to the airport.
Bus 210 leaves once an hour and the journey lasts about 30 minutes. One ride ticket costs 3,20 PLN. If you arrive at night, the bus N3 goes to the city center and lasts about 45 minutes and costs 4,20 PLN.
Currently there is no direct train to the city center. You will need to change one time in Gdansk Wrzeszcz. The trip with a change will usually last no more than 45 minutes and costs 6,50 PLN. However, there are no night trains.
The price for a taxi is much higher than public transport and can range from 50-100 PLN depending on the time and day. Free Now taxis or Uber let you control your cost and estimate it before you reserve a taxi.
Where to Stay
I stayed at Hotel Artus right in Old Town directly across from St. Mary’s Church. The view from the bedroom of the cathedral was amazing! I loved hearing the church bells throughout the day and night. I don’t think the location could have gotten much better. Main Town Hall is right around the block, Golden Gate is a 5 minute walk, the Crane and main river walk is a 5 minute walk, and the Central Train Station is a 12 minute walk. The price was so cheap considering the location!
Gdansk Main Town Hall is a historic building in the main city. It is one of the finest examples of the Gothic-Renasissance historic buildings in the city, built at the intersection of the Long Lane and Long Market, in the most popular part of Gdansk. The Main Town Hall houses the History Museum.
Neptune’s Fountain is located at the Long Market, in front of the entrance to the Artus Court. The restaurants by the fountain are a lovely place to sit for a bite to eat or a warm drink while keeping warm by the fire.
The Green Gate is one of the city’s most notable tourist attractions. It is situated between Long Market and the River Motlawa.
Across the bridge from Green Gate is Granary Island. Crops used to be stored in more than 300 granaries on this island. You can see their ruins now, as most of them were destroyed in WWII.
I stopped for breakfast at Nana’s Pierogarnia. The staff was very friendly and the food was delicious.
If you continue walking, you will see Milk Can Gate. Two towers of this gate have cylindrical shapes, reminding people of milk cans. Its aim was to defend the city in the past.
The Polish Maritime Museum was established in 1962. It is dedicated to gathering, researching and preserving artifacts and documents concerning ship transport, international trade, fishing, and culture of people working at sea, rivers, and those ashore – as well as the dissemination of knowledge on maritime history of Poland and its economy through the ages. I did not go in the museum, but I did pass by it.
SS Soldek was a Polish coal and ore freighter. She was the first ship build in Szczecin after World War II and the first seagoing ship completed in Poland. The name was given in honor of Stanislaw Soldek, one of the shipyard’s shock workers. The ship is currently preserved as a museum ship as part of the National Maritime Museum collection.
Next to the Museum is the Polish Baltic Philharmonic, which is a concert hall that hosts regular concerts and annual festivals.
If you continue on this side of the river you will reach the Ferris Wheel and Gdansk sign. This is a fabulous spot to take photos. The AmberSky Ferris Wheel is something fun to do to get a great view of the city.
On the other side of the river, I went to the Museum of the Second World War, which opened in 2017. You could easily spent 3+ hours in this museum. I highly recommend spending the extra 5PLN for the excellent multilingual audio-guide, which senses where you are and tells you what you are looking at. The heart of the museum is the permanent exhibition which is split into three parts – The Road to War, The War’s Long Shadow, and The Horrors of War. The building consists of three major spheres, which symbolically represent the connection between the past (museum), present (current outside surroundings), and future (40-meter tall leaning tower with a glass facade).
Down the road is the Museum of the Polish Post. You can see various exhibitions about the history of the Polish post in this museum, including the collection of documents from WWII.
Heading back to the river, I came upon Swan Tower. This Gothic tower used to be a part of the city fortifications and now serves as a seat of the Polish Marine Club.
Continuing to walk along this side of the river back toward the city center, I came to Huckster Gate. Built at the end of the 15th century, this gate is the youngest in Gdansk. Its style reflects Flemish influence.
There are several restaurants along the river, but I chose to eat dinner at Restauracja Jacobsen, where you can get Polish cuisine. Although the food was good, it wasn’t as good as Pierogarnia Mandu.
Walking through the streets, I stopped at St. John’s Church. Although this church was damaged in WWII, it has still retained its former Gothic beauty and boasts a tall altar inside.
If you walk back toward the river, you will walk through St. John’s Gate. Although this is less impressive than other ones in Gdansk, it is still worth visiting during the stroll at the Fishermen’s Riverside.
The Crane is probably the most noticed structure on the river. The formerly wooden structure is a testament to the old naval history of the town as it was being used to load ships since the 13th century.
Mariacka Gate stands on the bank of the Motlawa River. This water gate in late-Gothic style used to be one of the main entrances to the city of Gdansk.
I walked through the gate and strolled along Mariacka Street. This narrow cobblestoned street has souvenir stalls and interesting houses.
I ended my night at Jozef K Bar, which is a quirky little bar right down the road from my hotel. It was very quirky with different styled chairs and decorations. The bartenders treat their job like an art, however they are not very generous with their alcohol.
Although Hotel Artus is right across from St. Mary’s Church, this is the first time that I really explored around it. The Royal Chapel is a Baroque chapel, which is a part of the church that features beautiful frescoes from the 19th century.
St. Mary’s Church, or formally the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a Roman Catholic Church. Its construction began in 1343. It is currently one of the two or three largest brick churches in the world.
On the way to the train station, I made a quick detour to take a photo of the Great Armory. Guns were stored in this huge building in the past. Its majestic red facade will catch your eye from far away.
Only a 10-minute walk from the city center is Gdansk Glowny Train Station. The easiest way to get to Malbork Castle from Gdansk is by train. It can take between 28 and 55 minutes to get to Malbork Caslte, depending upon the type of train you choose. The regio trains are the slowest and cheapest option. However, you only pay PLN 13.50 one way (about $3 USD). You can also take TLK trains ($4) or EIC trains ($13). To see the entire train schedule for the day, go to the DB Bahn website and enter your date of travel. This will give you the train timetable for all three train types of Malbork. You can purchase your tickets at the main counter in the Gdansk train station. I purchased a roundtrip ticket, which I wish I wouldn’t have. The next train happened to be a regional train going to Malbork so I paid the cheapest fare. However, on the way back from Malbork, the next regional train wasn’t for over an hour.
Malbork Castle is Poland’s most famous castle. It’s also the largest castle in the world, classified by surface area. Located just a short distance from Gdansk and easily accessible by train, Malbork Castle is one of the best day trips to take from Gdansk. The castle dates back to the 13th century and was built by the Teutonic Knights and German Roman-Catholic crusaders. During World War II, more than half of the castle was destroyed. After the war, the castle underwent a major restoration and now it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The summer season runs from May 1 to September 30 and the winer season runs from October 1 to April 30. The cost is 45 PLN, which includes an audio guide. On Mondays, admission is free although you will have to pay PLN 8 for an audio guide. However, the interiors of several of the castle rooms are not open so you will only be allowed to walk the grounds of the castle and visit select rooms. Visiting hours are 9AM to 7PM in the summer and 10AM to 4PM in the winter.
Malbork Castle is huge. It’s the largest castle in the world so you will need to be prepared to do some walking. The audio guide does a great job directing you through the castle. It knows your location by GPS so there is no pushing of buttons or searching for the next number on the wall. After it is finished giving you the helpful information at one spot, it tells you how to get to the next place. Once you arrive there, it automatically starts telling you about it.
There are three parts to Malbork Castle: the lower castle, the middle castle, and the high castle. You will quickly pass by through the lower castle and spend most of your time in the middle and high castles. The entrance gate is in the lower castle. The walls and the drawbridge here were important fortifications of the castle. From the lower castle, you will pass through a series of bridges and gates to enter the middle castle. You step out into a large courtyard that is surrounded by medieval buildings, a gift shop, and a restaurant. To enter the high castle, you will walk across yet another drawbridge. The high castle is the oldest part of Malbork Castle. The courtyard is the center of the high castle with a a well that stands near the center.
The Gothic Cafe is the place to eat in Malbork Castle. This place gets very busy so a reservation is recommended. I did not end up eating here for this reason.
For the best view over the castle, climb the tower. I missed this because it is not mentioned on the audio guide. On the second floor of the high castle, you will have to purchase a separate ticket. It only costs a few extra zloty and then you will have to climb a series of staircases to get to the top of the tower, but you will get a nice aerial view over the castle.
When you exit the castle, cross over the pedestrian bridge to the other side of the Nogat River for the best view of Malbork Castle.
After taking the train back to Gdansk, you can exit the train station on the opposite site that you entered, and visit Gradowa Hill. This is a great park to stroll around and enjoy the panoramic views of the whole city. While walking around, you will see the remains of the fortifications and a huge cross.
For dinner, I ate at Pierogarnia Mandu Centrum, one of the best Polish restaurants in Gdansk. You will not find a better pierogi restaurant in Gdansk. It is highly recommended to make a reservation here. The line was wrapped around the corner and the wait was approximately 40 minutes to get seated. You should also expect to wait up to 1 hour for the dumplings, since they make them all fresh. For this reason, I ordered soup as a starter to hold myself over. My friend and I ordered 3 different pierogis. They were all delicious! My only complaint is that you can only order them in sizes of 10-15. I wanted to try them all so wish they offered smaller portions.
For drinks, I walked back toward the city center and went to The Legendary White Rabbit Saloon. The bar has a nice atmosphere. Downstairs, you will find a club that is open daily from 9PM to 4AM. Upstairs is Cooltura Chmielna 101, a karaoke bar and club. I only stopped up there for a minute so can’t comment on it too much, but the club downstairs was a nice little place to have a drink.
Feeling hungry after a few drinks, I stopped at Telepizza, which is right next door. The pizza was delicious and a great way to end the night!
On my last day in Gdansk, it just happened to be Poland’s Independence Day, which falls on the same day as Veteran’s Day in the United States. I didn’t realize this until I was walking down Long Lane and a parade came out of nowhere. Long Lane is the real heart of the city that also serves as a prime shopping promenade. This is where Neptune’s Fountain and Main Town Hall is. I walked opposite of the river and stopped in a few of the shops. You can also find a nice place for breakfast here.
At the end of Long Lane is Golden Gate. It was created in 1612 in place of a 13th-century gothic gate and forms a part of the old city fortifications.
On the other side is Upper Gate. This structure with an astonishing facade served as the main entrance to the city of Gdansk. There are three coats of arms on it.
After watching the parade, I walked to New Town Hall. The magnificent building from red bricks is one of the architectural gems of the Gdansk center. Various ceremonies take place here.
Next, I visited Old Town Hall. This 16th century building which served many purposes in the past now houses Baltic Sea Cultural Center. Many events take place here. Next to Old Town Hall is a pretty church and across you can find a nice little park.
In the park is the Great Windmill. Flour used to be made in this large windmill over the centuries. Nowadays, the building serves as a shopping mall.
Across the street is Market Hall. You can buy fresh products from local sellers in here, which is also an interesting architectural sight.
For lunch, I ate at Oliwa Do Ognia, a nice Italian restaurant. The pizza here was delicious and very authentic.
After aimlessly walking around for a few hours, my friend and I came upon a pirate ship on the river. I thought it looked like it would be fun so we looked into taking the boat tour. The name of the company is Czarna Perla. It costs 55PLN and lasts 90 minutes. It runs 3 times a day. There is food and drinks on board. I just had goulash soup, was very delicious. There is commentary in English throughout and a musician to keep you entertained. Once out of Gdansk, however, all you see are ships, machines, and cranes – nothing of any great interest. However, it is still something to do if you are wanting a small bite to eat and a few drinks. It was too cold to enjoy the upstairs so thankfully we claimed a table on the lower deck inside.
I had more time to kill before heading to the airport so I went to Billy’s American Restaurant for a small meal and drinks. The staff was very friendly and the food was very good at a reasonable price. The drinks were good too.
Gdansk was the perfect place for a weekend getaway. My favorite thing about Gdansk was how walkable the city was. There is something beautiful to look at on every street. Although there were a few rude locals who weren’t helpful, overall I thoroughly enjoyed my time. Gdansk has a unique feel that sets it apart from other cities in Poland.