Gdansk was a weekend trip that was never on my to-do-list. In fact, I had never even heard of the small port city in Poland until I found out I could fly there for £60 return from London.
I’m a big fan of trying things out, and following a good bargain; so when I saw the cheap flights, I did a cursory search on Lonely Planet to check it wasn’t actually a nuclear power plant and then booked two tickets for a month’s time… I’m so glad I did! In the weeks building up to my trip, I did some research by reading through travel blogs, and they all said the same thing: It’s a beautiful, relaxed city with a lot of interesting quirks and history.
Where to Stay:
I decided to stay at Gotyk House which was not one of the cheapest hotels, but looked like it had plenty of character, clean and comfortable and had several great TripAdvisor reviews. This was a lucky find as the hotel was very charming – it was built in the 1400’s and is the oldest hotel in the city (note – did not encounter any ghosts). The staff were fantastically friendly and helpful, and the breakfast that was included in the room rate was delicious.
We arrived at lunchtime, and found the hotel on the Mariacka Street, which is full of little stalls selling various pieces of amber jewelry, along with touristy items like post-cards and fridge-magnets (I am a keen collector of fridge magnets, so delighted in spending time each day considering every stall of magnets before finally deciding on one on my last day!). It also backs directly onto St Mary’s Basilica – one of the top three largest brick built churches in the world! Unfortunately during my trip they were doing a lot of renovation work on the church, so I couldn’t see it in all its glory, but nevertheless, it provided a nice presence at the end of the road.
Where & What to Eat:
Our first meal was at Literacka – a restaurant / bar directly opposite our hotel, mainly due to convenience, however we were pleasantly surprised. It was more expensive than I had planned, but it was a really high-end meal, which included several cocktails and beers, so still very good value for money compared to London prices. We sat outside as it was a warm day, and got to really take in the atmosphere of the city. A string quartet came and played a couple of songs outside while we dined, and the food came out so beautifully prepared I had to take a photo (completely unlike me)! The overall meal came to around £50 with tip, but we felt it was worth it for the experience. A charming touch that I really enjoyed was that they brought the bill in a paperback novel with a pen and encouraged us to write a comment on the pages. Also, when I ventured to the loo inside, I saw that the interior decor was very cosy, and I would have been equally happy to sit inside, had it not been such a nice day.
As far as food goes, Gdansk didn’t have the widest selection or variety, but if you like the local cuisine there are lots of places to try. The most famous dishes are – cabbage or beetroot soup, kiełbasa (polish sausages), pierogi (dumplings), and gołąbki (boiled cabbage leaves). After the obligatory meal to taste the local specialties, we found two more western-style restaurants that were pretty good – Pueblo, which was a Mexican chain, and Jack’s Restaurant on the main square, which did great barbecue food.
What to See/Do:
After checking into the hotel we decided to see the tourist sites of the city – which to be honest, were not particularly mind-blowing. We stumbled upon the Amber Museum, and ventured inside. A lot of the displays were in Polish with no English translation, so we didn’t get much from it, apart from the knowledge that you can make almost anything out of amber if you are so inclined. More interesting to us was a little local market just outside it where we strolled around, bought some spices which were astonishingly cheap (and delicious!), and tried some local sausages. Honestly, I didn’t find many other interesting sights to see and spend time at, so this was about the only “cultural” thing that we did.
We are also avid escape room players and so took a day trip to the Stadion Energa Gdansk, which is home to loads of cool activities – including 5 escape rooms. We played two – The Room of the Lost Child, and Flight C4. I would definitely recommend The Room of the Lost Child – we had a lot of fun with it, and everything that was written down was in English, so we were able to complete in good time. Flight C4 was more complicated in a way we didn’t enjoy, and at times seemed like it might have been broken, or not functioning properly – just a heads up if you fancy trying a game. Also, we booked online which guaranteed us the time that we wanted. There’s also a games arcade, paintball, go-carting, a zip-wire (which wasn’t open on the day we went), and a kids play area. We took an Uber to the stadium, which didn’t cost much, and spend most of the day wandering around the site. – Side note: The stadium is in quite an industrial area, so I think it would be quite hard to hail a cab without Uber for the return journey.
Where to Drink:
One thing Gdansk is not short of is quirky cocktail bars. Here are my top three bars in Gdansk:
- Flisak 76
Hands down the best cocktails I had in Gdansk. The menu was innovative and delicious, based on the Orient Express route – mine came with a miniature paper boat on the top. We managed to bag the small alcove with two comfy chairs and a table, which made for a cosy, secluded drink!
This was a video-game bar on the other side of the river, in what felt like a really “trendy” part of town. The games you could play were old and often cheap copies of famous games, but we had so much fun playing them. This bar had the best customer service – we weren’t sure what we wanted to drink, but the staff had great fun recommending and personalising the drinks into exactly what we wanted!
3. Rooftop bar at the Hilton
As a big fan of rooftop bars, I had to seek this one out. It definitely wasn’t the most impressive rooftop bar I have seen, as it isn’t very high up, but it afforded a nice view over the river and across the rooftops of the city. It was the most expensive of all the bars, and didn’t have a massively wide selection of drinks. I recommend staying for one drink to take in the view, and then exploring the plethora of unique independent bars that Gdansk has to offer!
Other Practical Info:
Most of Gdansk is walk-able. The main bars, restaurants and tourist area seems to span over two roads – Mariacka and Długi Targ (where the statue of Neptune is), so it’s a good idea to find a hotel nearby these streets. It seemed that the more “up-market” hotels are near the river, with more development happening on the other side of the river. I didn’t see much public transport when I was there, so it looks like walking or taxis are the main way of getting around. I also read in a lot of other travel blogs that you can take a day trip to the seaside resort of Sopot, although we didn’t get round to it – sounds like it is worth a trip if you have the time though! Getting from the airport to the town – We took a taxi as we wanted to get settled into the hotel ASAP, although it was quite expensive (around £15-20). If I were to do it again, I would try and navigate the public transport system to save a bit of money.
Overall, we had a fantastic weekend in Gdansk, which thoroughly exceeded expectations – and not just because we didn’t really have any! Although there were not a lot of “must-see” tourist destinations, it was liberating as we got to explore the city, and spend more time eating, drinking, soaking in the laid-back atmosphere and playing escape-room games without the pressure of needing to see and do everything.
TL;DR – Quirky cocktail bars, cobbled streets – perfect for a relaxed weekend break.
What do you think? Was this helpful? Have you been to Gdansk and have any tips / recommendations that I haven’t covered? Let me know – I would love to hear from you! 🙂