When we travel to popular cities like Rome or Paris, we have certain expectations. When we travel to a lesser-known place, we can truly be surprised. And boy, did Gdansk in Poland surprise me! I spent three days in Gdansk a few years ago and wrote out my entire itinerary for you, including all my top things to do in Gdansk, what to visit in Gdansk, where to eat and where to stay.
- Top things to do in Gdansk, Poland: 3-day Gdansk itinerary
- How to get to Gdansk
- Gdansk Travel Card and getting around Gdansk
- Where to stay in Gdansk
- What to do in Gdansk
- Day 3: dive into history
- Restaurants in Gdansk
- Don't forget travel insurance
- Day trips from Gdansk
- Is it worth visiting Gdansk Poland?
- Stay connected while visiting Gdansk
Top things to do in Gdansk, Poland: 3-day Gdansk itinerary
How to get to Gdansk
If you're already in Poland, Gdansk has its own train station and going by train is probably the easiest option. Find timetables, prices and routes for European train travel here.
If you're coming from abroad, you can fly into Gdansk Airport and then take a train into the city center. Check Skyscanner for a good overview of flight routes and prices.
Alternatively, you can book a private transfer from the airport directly to your hotel. Prebooking and paying means there's zero hassle upon you're arrival and you don't need to worry about finding where you need to be while lugging your suitcase around.
Gdansk Travel Card and getting around Gdansk
If you plan on doing lots of sightseeing and activities in Gdansk and visiting lots of museums and other Gdansk attractions, you might want to consider getting the Gdansk Tourist Card. It offers free access to a bunch of things and discounts on others.
There's also the option to add transportation to the card, so that you can make use of buses, trams and trains in Tricity without needing to worry about getting the right ticket or validating it. Which brings me to…
Getting around Tricity
As said, there are buses, trains and trams. I honestly haven't seen a tram. I think they're outside the tourist center. I did see the bus station behind the Gdansk train station, but I myself only made use of the local SKM trains. They run between Gdynia, Gdansk and Sopot as well as smaller places in between the three cities.
The SKM website has an English search tool, which is really handy to know which train you should get from which platform at which time. Just Google something like “SKM trains from Gdansk” and you'll find it.
You can also take a train to get from the airport to Gdansk city center, or a bus. Good to know, the train stop for the airport is called “Gdansk Port Lodniczy”
Where to stay in Gdansk
Budget option: ibis Gdansk Stare Miasto
I spent two nights at the ibis Gdansk Stare Miasto, just a short walk from the historic old town and most of the sights in Gdansk. My room was pretty spacious and modern, but as this was an ibis Budget, it didn't have a fridge or a water kettle or anything. I didn't mind, though, as I barely spent any time in my room and the things that I did need were there.
WiFi at the hotel was also really good and there was an extensive breakfast buffet from – I think – 6.30 until 11. Check-out also wasn't until 12, which I always find a plus.
Boutique option: Celestin Residence
Celestin Residence is a guest house located in a medieval building right in the heart of Gdansk's historic Old Town. It has a classic interior offering modern amenities in every room, such as a flatscreen tv, a fridge, coffee, and tea facilities, a safe and free WiFi. There's an on-site tour desk and the 24/7 available staff will gladly answer all of your questions.
The breakfast costs extra but is well worth it for both the quality and diversity of the foods offered.
Luxury option: Hotel Gdansk Boutique
This luxury hotel with both a 4- and a 5-star part is where FC Barcelona stayed when they visited Gdansk. It's located by the yacht marina, offering a view of the Old Town on the other side of the water. The building itself is a combination of a restored 18th-century granary and a modern addition.
Aside from rooms boasting all modern comforts, this hotel also has an on-site restaurant and its own brewery. Guests can make free use of the sauna and paid massage services and other treatments are available as well.
WiFi is free of charge while the excellent and elaborate breakfast buffet comes at a charge.
What to do in Gdansk
Day 1: wander through the streets of the Old Town
Gdansk's Old Town is a beauty and you can easily spend your first day in the city wandering its streets. When I was visiting, the St. Dominic's Fair was on and it took over many of the streets in the Old Town.
The St. Dominic's fair is one of the biggest open-air cultural and trade events in Europe, usually at the end of July. It is most noticeable to visitors because of all of the stands selling crafts and foods in the Old Town. There's also a cultural program with both small and large, indoor and outdoor performances.
As around 6 million people visit the fair every year, you can imagine it was a bit crowded in the city, so if you want to avoid that, it's best not to go when the fair is on. Otherwise, it's good fun and it's one of the many free things to do in Gdansk during the year.
I kind of ignored all the other people that were there and let myself get swept away by the beauty of the city. When I told people I was going to Gdansk, they often responded with something like: “That's in Poland, right?”. That and the fact that I barely heard any other languages than Polish while I was in Gdansk, shows how this city is yet to be discovered by many.
And discovered it should be.
I love just wandering through the streets and don't necessarily need to visit attractions like museums to enjoy a city. Gdansk is perfect for that. The many colorful buildings, the little alleys and the canals coming from the ocean make this a place to simply be.
If you're a bit unsure about where to go and are wondering about Gdansk Poland points of interest, here's a little route you can follow:
You're probably hungry from traveling, so head into the Old Town via Panska, Weglarska, and Kolodziejska. There are plenty of restaurants on these streets and according to Google Maps reviews, they're all pretty good.
Turn left onto Piwna, which also has plenty of fun restaurants, to get to the St. Mary Basilica. When I was there, the building was partly in scaffolding for restorations, but you could still go inside to visit it.
Walk around the church to get to its back and reach Mariacka. This is a cute little street full of amber jewelry stores – typical for Gdansk – and cafes.
At the end of Mariacka, you can go through a gate to reach the water, but I recommend keeping the water for later and first turning right. You can walk through Chlebnicka, the street parallel to Mariacka, but our real goal is Dlugi Targ.
It's a beautifully maintained historic square with colorful houses, the town hall, and the Neptune Fountain – a real must-do in Gdansk! At the end, you'll reach another city gate, a public square, some museums and the Theater.
Really, there are so many Gdansk things to do and see in the Old Town that you probably won't even recognize them as such. I simply used Google Maps as it indicates all the sights to decide where I'd walk to next.
Head back to the beginning of Dlugi Targ and go through the Green Gate to reach… the water, yaay! I always love it when a city has rivers or canals. They create a kind of peaceful ambiance.
The water you see is the river Motlawa. It converges with the Matwa Wisla and runs all the way to the ocean. From the Old Town, several tour boats take you for trips along the river, past Gdansk's shipyard and to the Westerplatte Memorial one of the best-known attractions and Gdansk things to do.
You should definitely stick around to see the Gdansk pirate ship. Yes, there's a pirate ship! It's probably a bit touristy and overpriced, but it's a gorgeous ship and it's pretty cool to see it coming in or leaving.
I'd intended to take the water tramway – a cheaper option than the tourist boats – to Westerplatte, but unfortunately, I didn't have the time. The journey there takes about 30 minutes by tour boat but almost an hour with the tramway (or so I read) one-way so it's a bit of a time investment. I think that next time I'm in Gdansk, I'll take the boat there and an Uber back.
If you want to visit Westerplatte with a guide, the fastest way to do so is by booking a private tour.
But back to where we were!
At the Green Gate, you can cross the water onto Stagiewna to reach Gdansk's own big Ferris wheel, the Amber Sky. Aside from that, there's not that much to see or do on this little island, but the path that runs parallel to the water, Chmielna, does offer great views of the waterfront so I recommend just walking around it until you reach Stagiewna again and can cross the bridge on the other side to see the marina.
The marina along Szafarnia is just a small marina, but it's worth it to walk to its end, where you find the bridge to cross to the National Maritime Museum. From there, you get a good look on The Crane. It's part of the museum and was at one point the biggest working crane in the world. It was also used as a defense tower.
Google Maps doesn't show a route, but you can walk around the Maritime Museum and follow the river north on this side of the water until you get to the bridge.
Important to know: the bridge is open half an hour, then closed half an hour. I actually arrived there at 4 p.m. as it just opened and then saw the sign saying that it was open for the boats every hour to half hour past, and closed to let pedestrians cross from every half hour past to every hour.
If you cross the bridge to get back to the side you came from, you can get onto Most Wapinnieczy which offers you a great view of the shores. I think it's one of the more quieter places to go in Gdansk Old Town as there weren't that many people when I was there even though the Fair was on.
A bit further north lies The Museum of the Second World War. I haven't visited it, but it's quite a modern structure and cool to see or shoot some photos of.
If you're interested, it's possible to book a private tour of the WWII Museum. The tour includes:
- a private World War II tour in Gdansk led by a licensed guide
- skip-the-line tickets to the Post Office Museum, including a guided tour
- pickup at your hotel in Gdansk Old Town
- history and facts about war in Gdansk
- skip-the-line tickets to the Museum of the Second World War, including a guided tour
Of course, you could also visit some of the museums you come across when exploring the old town, but as I'm not much of a museum person and as the weather was nice, I wanted to take in as many sights outside as I could.
If you're wondering what Gdansk activities to do in one day only, I'd recommend the route above. Do take into account, though, that if you also want to visit some museums, you'll probably need more than a day for just the Old Town.
Exploring Gdansk Old Town with a guide
If you'd rather explore the Old Town with a guide so you get plenty of background information and are able to ask questions about the things that you see, here's a tour that gets great reviews:
Gdansk Private Walking Tour: Legends and Facts
This private guided walking tour can be customized to last from two up to five hours and is available in no less than nine languages. Your guide will show you the highlights of the Old Town while telling you about the history of the city and sharing stories few other people will ever hear about. Even people who've visited Gdansk many times before learn something new on this tour.
And for a mix between individual and guided exploration, have a look at the following:
Gdansk 3-Hour Individual Sightseeing Tour with Audio Guide
If you like going at your own pace while still getting information about the things you see, consider renting an audio guide with stories about more than 20 sights in Gdansk. It's available in four languages and comes with a city map and a special souvenir. In total, there's about three hours of audio on the guide but the rental is for six hours so you can even stop for a drink or food break. There's no fixed route you need to follow. You decide what you want to see and which you want to listen to next.
Day 2: Get out of the city center
Gdansk is part of Tricity, the metropolitan area consisting of Gdansk, Sopot, and Gdynia as well as smaller towns in the area. It's quite easy to move between the different cities using the local SKM trains and so on the second day, I took the train to Sopot, a beach town and because of its beach one of the most popular places to visit near Gdansk.
There aren't that many things to do in Sopot. It's really only has one main street and it's a minute away from the train station's exit. You'll pass some cafes and stores before you get to the park on your right, the beach in front of you and the square of the Sopot Pier to your left.
It's a bit of a shame that you have to pay to get on the pier – I believe it was 8 Zloty per person – and as it didn't seem that spectacular, I decided to should look at it from the beach.
The beach was wide, clean and not too crowded when I got there in the morning. If it's hot in summer, I can imagine this is a great place to come to just chill for an afternoon and cool down in the water.
From Sopot, I took the train back and got out in Oliwa. There's a big park, the Park Oliwski, there where it's nice to go for a walk or read a book on one of the benches.
Oliwa is mostly known for its cathedral, though. That's famous because of its large organ and while I did want to see that, I was at the church a bit too early to do so. I'd checked opening hours beforehand and so I knew that the cathedral is open all day from Monday until Saturday, but only opens at 2 p.m. on Sundays.
I'd tried to time it a bit but arrived half an hour early and didn't feel like waiting for the doors to open.
While the park is cool and the church is a famous site, my favorite thing about Oliwa was Pacholek Hill.
Pacholek Hill offers some cool views, both from atop the hill and from atop a big viewing tower that you can climb. I wish I could have found how many steps there are up the hill but I don't know if it's simply not recorded anywhere, or if I couldn't find it because I don't read Polish. In any case: there are many.
At the top, there's a nice little area with some benches where you can enjoy the view and I enjoyed just sitting there for a bit and gazing over the landscape.
The Millennial Cross and another hill
Back in Gdansk, I didn't exit the train station on the side of the Old Town, but exited through the back to climb Gora Gradowa or the “Hail Mountain”. There you find the Millennial Cross.
From the Cross, you get great views of Gdansk's Shipyard, but there's more to see on the mountain. The entire top consists of old army bunkers and when I was there, they were all open and used as exhibition spaces for a historic audio-visual exhibit. Unfortunately, all the videos were in Polish and without subtitles, so I couldn't really figure out what they were about.
I later learned that they're all part of the Centrum Hewelianum, an educational center putting up these exhibitions. The center has its main building on the ground just below the bunkers.
At the opposite side of the Cross, still on the top of the hill, you get a good view of the Old Town.
Day 3: dive into history
My last day in Gdansk wasn't a full day as I needed to get to the airport to catch my flight back home, so I'd planned to visit the European Solidarity Center, the Monument of the Fallen Shipyard Workers of 1970 and the famous Shipyard Gate N°2. These are all located in the same square.
The European Solidarity Center is dedicated to telling the history of the rise and the evolution of the Solidarity movement in Poland that led to democratic reforms both in Poland and in other Eastern European countries. It also has a library, accessible archives, a reading room, a restaurant, an observation deck and conference spaces.
I'm not quickly impressed by museums, but I was by this one. The spacious rooms of the permanent exhibitions lead you through the history of Solidarity by use of images, video footage, testimonials, objects and information panels.
Each visitors also gets a very elaborate audioguide included for free in the entrance ticket. The guide allows you to listen to information at specific points in the exhibition, but you can also simply let it talk about everything you see in a chronological matter or look up extra information on it.
If you're into history, this museum is one of the best things to do in Gdansk and you can easily spend several hours here.
Good to know:
When I was there, they had an issue with accepting card payments. If that happens, there's an atm when you leave the building, go right and cross the square to Nowomiejska. It's a bank and you'll have to go in for the atm.
There are lockers and if you have a backpack with you, you'll need to put it in a locker. Small handbags are fine to take in. You need a 2 Zloty coin for the locker, which you'll get back when you take your stuff out again. There are also coat racks which you can use for free, but which are unguarded.
Restaurants in Gdansk
Gdansk is a great place if you love eating out. Yes, there are quite a few restaurants offering traditional Polish cuisine, but you can also have Italian, Mexican, Japanese… and there are even restaurants dedicated to healthy cuisine.
I usually always check the reviews on Google Maps before taking a seat somewhere and I noticed that most places to eat in Gdansk Old Town got really good comments – not something that often happens in a tourist area.
For Western travelers, Poland is really cheap when it comes to food and I had some great, filling meals for just a few euros.
If you're wondering where to go in Gdansk for a good (but not traditional) meal, this is where I went.
Restauracja Kos has an extensive menu with both snacks and main meals. They also have a wide choice in drinks. Personnel speaks fluent English and the menu is available in English as well. I paid 32 Zloty for 2 delicious tacos and an Ice Tea.
Kult Kebab isn't your regular kebab place. It ads deliciously grilled vegetables to your kebab and the meat isn't as greasy as it usually is. This is a takeaway place, but they also have a little terrace outside.
I paid 18 Zloty for a kebab with meat. They also have a veggie option.
Plac Dominikański 1, lok. 10
Naleśnikarnia Fanaberia Crêpes & Cafe
This place just outside the Sopot train station was a fun find. They serve so many different kinds of hearty and sweet pancakes and make things like spaghetti pancakes, pancake lasagne…
It all looked so good!
I'm trying to pay a bit more attention to not eating unhealthy all the time when I'm traveling, so I opted for one of their salads and it was delicious. Fresh with a lovely vinaigrette and some yummy tomato bread on the side.
I paid 19.8 Zloty for a salad with bread on the side and a sparkling water.
Dekko Kafe has a cute terrace at ul. Maricka as well as a higher up balcony and a vintage interior. I had some tea here and an orange cheesecake for which I paid 18 Zloty in total.
ul. Mariacka 37/39
Dumpling Mandu Center
When in Poland, one must have “pierogi” or dumplings and when I was researching this trip, I found a blog that mentioned the Dumpling Mandu Center as one of the best places to visit in Gdansk for dumplings. It also got raving reviews, so I decided to head there on my last night in Gdansk. The place was full when I arrived but they took my name and after just two minutes of waiting, a table opened up.
They have lots of dumpling options. Some are big dumplings of which you get five, others are “smaller” ones of which you get ten. I opted for a plate of ten dumplings filled with spinach, feta, and sundried tomatoes and topped with a blue cheese sauce.
It took about 45 minutes for the dumplings to arrive, but they'd warned me about that and their menu also clearly states that it can take this long when it's busy. That's because all the dumplings are handmade on the spot and you can actually see the ladies making them behind a window.
The dumplings were nice, the place trendy and personnel friendly. The only downside for me was that it was rather loud inside because it was so crowded and also because the music was playing rather loudly.
It's a fun place to go and try dumplings with some friends, but not ideal for a quiet meal.
I paid 22 Zloty for my plate of ten dumplings and a small bottle of sparkling water.
On my last day, I went for lunch at the Madison Mall as it was close to my hotel and I needed to get to the airport afterward. I actually had lunch at two different places. The first one was Ninja Rolls, located on the top floor. They have all kinds of rice rolls and I had one with chicken for 13 Zloty. It was good and tasted fresh.
The other place I went to was Olimp Restauracje, located right next to Ninja Rolls. It's a buffet restaurant where you pay by the weight of the food you choose. This probably doesn't sound really good, but the food was actually really tasty.
I paid 13.49 Zloty for a small burrito and vegetables.
Gdansk food tour
If you'd like to learn more about the food scene in Gdansk and Polish food in general, consider going on a food tour. A private licensed guide will take you to three food stops where you'll have an appetizer, soup, a main course, and dessert. Drinks are included – even the shot of traditional Polish vodka. In between tastings, you'll learn more about the history of the city and its main sights.
Don't forget travel insurance
Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. Travel insurance has you covered in case (part of) your trip gets cancelled, you get sick or hurt abroad and even when your electronics break or get stolen. I've had ongoing travel insurance ever since I started traveling to make sure I'm covered for every trip I go on.
Don't have travel insurance yet? Check out SafetyWing. They offer super flexible plans that you can even sign up for while you're already on your trip. On top of that, they were the first travel insurance to cover COVID, and when I got COVID, they reimbursed all of my expenses without making a fuss. Their customer support team is great and I can personally recommend them.
Day trips from Gdansk
I didn't have time to make any day trips from Gdansk as I was only there for a few days but if you're staying for longer and you'd like to get out of the city for a day, consider going to either Malbork Castle or the Stutthof Concentration Camp.
Malbork Castle dates back to the 13th century and is one of the largest brick Gothic castles in the world. It's also one of the very few fortresses that was never captured in battle. You can book a day tour from Gdansk to Malbork Castle which includes:
- private transportation
- parking fees for your ride to wait for you
- a licensed, private guide in Malbork to tell you all about the history of the castle and monastic life in the Middle Ages
- skip-the-line entrance tickets so you don't have to wait to get in
- a guaranteed 3.5 hours of sightseeing in Malbork regardless of traffic
Stutthof Concentration Camp
Stutthof Concentration Camp was th first concentration camp the Nazis built in Poland. At the start of WWII, it was meant to kill educate Poles but it ended up holding 110,000 prisoners from 28 different countries. On a day tour from Gdansk to Stutthof Concentration camp, you'll learn all about the horrible history of the camp while visiting buildings such as the prisoner barracks and the gas chamber.
The tour includes:
- a professional local guide
- a private driver
- hotel pick-up and drop off in Gdansk, Sopot of Gdynia
- entrance to the Stutthof Museum
- a ticket for a documentary film at the Stutthof cinema
- guaranteed 2 hours of sightseeing in Stutthof (including the documentary movie) regardless of traffic
Is it worth visiting Gdansk Poland?
I think the above post already holds my answer to that question. I had a great time in Gdansk and would highly recommend a trip to Gdansk if you like old city centers, good food and the option of a beach getaway.
How many days in Gdansk should you plan?
I would say spending just a weekend in Gdansk is possible if that's all you have but there are enough things to do in Gdansk to spend three days or more. This will allow you to experience the city at a more relaxed pace, especially if you also want to visit some places near Gdansk. If you want plenty of time Sopot and Gdynia as well, I'd say four or five days to visit Gdansk is even better.
Stay connected while visiting Gdansk
Traveling to Gdansk from outside the EU and want to stay connected so you can share photos, call loved ones over WiFi and easily use apps like Google Maps? Then check out Solis Wifi mobile WiFi.
They offer both day passes and monthly subscriptions providing you with 4G throughout your trips. I've been using their daily passes not just when I travel outside the EU (no roaming charges for me in the EU) but also as a backup for when I think I'll go over my phone's data plan.
PIN FOR LATER
I was invited to explore Gdansk by the Tourism Board of Poland. As always when I collaborate on trips, I was free to write what I wanted, how I wanted.