Poland Travel

    2 days in Gdansk, Poland – A first timer’s guide

    16. May 2019

    2 days in Gdansk, Poland - View Motlawa River and the beautiful Waterfront at sunset

    Idyllically situated at the mouth of Motława River on the Baltic coast, Gdansk is Poland’s most important seaport and the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country. During the Second World War, the city was reduced to mere rubble but luckily later rebuilt to become one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.

    Today, Gdansk is one of Poland’s most popular tourist destinations, attracting visitors with its beautiful architecture, medieval ports, outstanding museums, historic cathedrals, friendly people, and amazing food. In addition, Gdansk’s pristine sandy beaches make it a popular summer destination among both Poles and international visitors.

    There’s no secret that Poland is one of my favorite countries in the world and since I live in southern Norway jetting over to Gdansk only takes a little over an hour. Sometimes I have paid as little as $25 for a return ticket. So I’ve had the pleasure of exploring the city several times, both in winter and spring/summer.

    You can zip through the city in just one day but to truly enjoy everything Gdansk has to offer I would recommend at least two days which will give you enough time to explore the city without feeling rushed.

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    How to Get Around the City

    If you are coming to Gdansk by plane, you will arrive at Gdansk Lech Walesa Airport located 14 km west of the city center. From the airport, you can either catch a train (from Gdansk Port Lotniczy station just outside the terminal), bus, or a taxi.

    On Foot

    Once in the city, you can reach almost all major attractions by foot, as Gdansk’s city center is relatively compact. I only ever grab a Uber or taxi if I’m going to one of the shopping malls on the outskirts of town.

    Public Transportation – Buses and Trams

    However, if you would rather explore the city on the wheels, you can use the city’s exceptional public transport, ZTM Gdansk. You will easily spot red and white colored busses and trams as they are very frequent throughout the city. The best part about public transportation in Gdansk is the price – the city’s public transport is cheap and you can purchase the tickets from most newspaper shops and kiosks. You can also get them from ticket machines conveniently placed at many bus and tram stops as well as from the driver.

    If I remember correctly a one-way ticket will only set you back 3.20 zł and 13 zł for a 24-hour pass. Remember to stamp the ticket when you enter a bus or tram and hold on to it as inspectors regularly make the rounds.

    Old/Main Town Gdansk is very walkable so you shouldn’t need public transportation. If you are staying outside the city center or plan on visiting Gdynia or Sopot, you can catch the trains at the Gdansk Glowny Train Station which is a 15-20 minute walk or a 5-minute taxi ride away.

    Taxi

    If you want to get somewhere quickly you can always catch a taxi. However, this is not the cheapest option for the city sight-seeing.

    The big trick is to avoid taking a taxi from a rank directly. You will pay at least 30 percent less if you order one by phone. City Plus Taxi employs a number of English and German speaking drivers, so they’re a logical first choice for visitors to Gdansk.

    I usually opt for an Uber as opposed to taxis whenever I travel in Poland.

    Water Trams

    The city of Gdansk also has two water tram lines that operate between the beginning of May to the end of September.

    The F5 water tram is ideal if you want to take the scenic route to Westerplatte and see some cool attractions like Nowy Port Lighthouse and the Twierdza Wistoujscie fort on the way. The journey typically lasts about 55 minutes, and tickets go for 20/10 zł.

    If you’re in the mood for a quiet day at the beach take the F6 tram via the National Sailing Centre to Sobieszewo Island. The journey takes about 1 hour 55 minutes, and tickets cost 20/10 zł.

    2 days in Gdansk, Poland - Aerial view of Olowianka Island

    Where to Stay in Gdansk

    If it’s your first time in Gdansk and you only have 2 days, you will definitely want to stay close to the city’s main tourist attractions to make sure you get the most out of your getaway. You can, of course, save some money by staying outside of Main/Old Town, but you will spend a lot of precious time going back and forth. Gdansk is a lot cheaper than most European cities so this is one of the few places where you can stay in the heart of the city without spending a fortune. Here are a few great neighborhoods in Gdansk perfect for those looking for conveniently located accommodation.

    Main Town

    This is the neighborhood with a large number of Gdansk attractions, such as the Golden Gate, Mariacka Street, St. Mary’s Basilica, the Royal Way, the Main Town Hall, Długi Targ and Neptune’s Fountain. So if you only have 2 days in the city and enjoy sightseeing, definitely consider booking your accommodation in or close to Main Town. This is the historic district in the center of Gdansk with narrow cobblestone streets lined with colorful houses with recognizable gabled rooftops, outstanding restaurants, great cafes, and souvenir shops where you can purchase the famous Baltic Sea amber.

    My favorite hotel in Gdansk, Puro Gdansk Stare Miasto, is conveniently located just outside the Green Gate which will take you straight onto the Royal Way. The interior is fresh and modern and their bar offers an incredible view of Motława River and the impressive buildings along the waterfront. For a more affordable option check out the newly renovated Medusa Gdansk just across the street from Puro.

    2 days in Gdansk, Poland - PURO Stare Miasto the best hotelMy beautiful sister doing some research on one of the iPads in the lobby at Puro Hotel.

    Old Town

    The Old Town is a residential area, located just north of Main Town. The Main Railway Station is situated in this district, which makes it well-connected to all important sites in Gdansk and Tricity area.

    Wrzeszcz

    The hipster neighborhood of Wrzeszcz, also known as the heart of the student community, is located about 4km from the city center. It is a great place to stay if you want to escape the main tourist crowd or just want to get some major shopping done as the area is home to two great malls, Baltycka Gallery and the Centrum Handlowe Manhattan.

    Oliwa

    If you prefer accommodation in more peaceful surroundings, yet close enough to the hub of the city, check out the affluent Oliwa neighborhood. It is located halfway between Gdansk and Sopot and is perfect for those who want to explore the city off the beaten path. This sleepy suburb has a number of points of interest, such as a 12th-century Cistercian monastery, the city Zoo, Oliwa Park and one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, Oliwa Cathedral.

     

    Top Things to Do in Gdansk

    Stroll Down the Royal Way (Long Street)

    The heart of Gdansk and the area where most people kick off their city tour is the Royal Way which stretches from the old city gate down to the Motlawa river. Visit the most famous sites such as Golden Gate, the Prison Tower, Neptune’s Fountain, and the Torture Chamber. This is an amazing walk through Polish history and a great chance to learn more about the country’s past. In addition, a walk down the Royal Way will allow you to admire the city’s beautiful buildings, some of them dating back to the 14th century (today amazingly renovated, though).

    2 days in Gdansk, Poland - Take a stroll down Long Street towards the Golden Gate

    Main Town Hall

    One of the first things you’ll see when walking down Long Street is the Main Town Hall, which is located next to Neptune’s Fountain. The design echoes the Renaissance style, with touches of the Dutch mannerisms. Don’t forget to go up to the observatory and enjoy the stunning view of the city and listen out for the hourly bells.

    Just down the street from the Town Hall next to Neptune’s Fountain you’ll find the Golden House, built in 1609. It is easily one of the most stunning buildings in the city and one of my favorite I’ve ever seen.

    2 days in Gdansk, Poland - Neptune's Fountain at Długi TargThe Golden House and Neptune’s Fountain

    The Motlawa River and Waterfront

    One of the best things to do in Gdansk is to go for a stroll along the Motlawa River waterfront. Head over to Granary Island for a great view of Main Town including Zuraw, an enormous crane which was used several centuries ago to load cargo into ships. You can also indulge in a bit of historical education here with a tour of the crane which serves as a symbol of Gdansk’s trading history.

    From Granary Island continue over to Olowianka where you’ll find a huge three-dimensional Gdansk sign. The perfect backdrop for those holiday photos!

    2 days in Gdansk, Poland - View Motlawa River, Gdansk Waterfront and Zuraw crane

    Mariacka Street

    Mariacka Street or Ulica Mariacka is a highlight of Gdansk’s Main Town. Here, you will have the opportunity to marvel at beautiful old houses, stop by amazing restaurants where you can wrap up your day with a glass of wine and shop for gifts in numerous souvenir shops and stalls. Also, don’t forget to check out some of the many amber jewelry shops Mariacka Street is known for.

    2 days in Gdansk, Poland - Mariacka Street with lots of amber shops and cafés

    Visit St. Mary’s Church

    The massive outline of St Mary’s Church, the largest brick church in the world, dominates the skyline of Gdansk’s Old Town. The exterior of this Roman Catholic church is beautiful but its interior will leave you breathless. contains over 300 tombstones, 31 chapels and a 15th-century astronomical clock. But in my mind, it’s the bell tower which is the number one reason for visiting the church. If you don’t mind a few steps (405 to be exact), you can ascend the tower and enjoy the astonishing 360-degree view of the city.

     

    Museums

    Museum of the Second World War

    If you only have time to visit one museum in Gdansk, the Museum of the Second World War should be the one. The museum, which opened its doors in 2017, is one of the best museums in Poland, covering events leading up to the war, and its effects on the country. Try to get there right as they open at 10 am as it gets crowded fast, especially during the summer months. Buy your tickets online so you can spend your time doing more exciting stuff than waiting in line. A tour of the museum typically takes 3 hours.

    2 days in Gdansk, Poland -

    European Solidarity Center (above)

    You can spend your day soaking up the history of Poland and its opposition to communist rule by visiting this museum.

    Greeting you upon entering the museum, is the Monument of the Fallen Shipyard Workers of 1970. The monument is in honor of the 42 people killed in 1970.

    Further steps into the museum introduce you to detailed accounts of the movement that ended communist rule in Poland and allowed for a democratic rule. Lending a huge hand in putting an end to communism was Solidamosc.

    Gdansk Archaeological Museum

    To be honest, this is not the best museum I’ve ever been to but I decided to include it because of the tower where you get a 360-degree view of the city. When I visited in March I had both the museum and the tower all to myself even though I got there in the middle of the afternoon.

    2 days in Gdansk, Poland - View from the tower at the archaeological museum

    The Great Mill, Miller’s House & Love Bridge

    The Great Mill was built in 1350 during the Middle Ages and is one of the largest industrial buildings in Europe. It was operational for an impressive six centuries and has now been turned into a small shopping mall.

    I couldn’t find much information about the miller’s house but I guess the name kind of gives it away and it was where the miller used to live. I have to admit I snuck over a gate to get the photo below. I normally would never do something like that but it was raining and no one else around so I just couldn’t help myself. About 3o seconds after I climbed back over the gate a policeman walked down the street and I felt like the biggest criminal ever. Haha, what can I say I’m a real nervous Nellie!

    Right next to the miller’s house there is a small bridge I like to call love bridge where sweethearts hang padlocks engraved with both names to symbolize their love for one another.

    Gradowa Hill

    To round up your day, you should visit Gradowa Hill for sunset and soak up the magnificent views across the city and the vast shipyards. The hill boasts a large cross which lights up at night and a 19th-century military fort. So visiting the museum could be fun if you’re interested in military history. There is also an interactive science center, called the Hevelianum Center, close by. From the European Solidarity Center, Gradowa Hill is a 20-minute walk away.

     

    Stogi Beach

    Look past the less the than appealing appearance of the shipyards in the Stogi area on the outskirts of Gdansk and make your way to Stogi beach. The golden stretch of sand is the closest beachfront to the city center, which means that it does get quite busy here during the summer months.

    The very impressive facilities include volleyball courts, water slides, a windsurfing school. You can also rent anything from sun chairs to quads. If you get hungry there are a number of seafood restaurants to choose from, not to mention the stalls that sell snacks like ice cream and waffles.

     

    Discover the Tricity Area

    Tricity or Tri-City is a metropolitan area consisting of here cities: Gdansk, Sopot, and Gdynia, as well as the nearby villages. You could book a day trip to explore these beautiful Baltic Sea cities or alternatively rent a car or take the train.

    Explore Sopot, known for its sandy beaches, spas, and the long wooden pier, the largest in Europe, as well as the pedestrian main street, Monciak, also known as Monte Cassino.

    Gdynia is known for its Museum of the City of Gdynia, where you can learn a lot about the local history. And if you’re coming with kids, don’t miss Gdynia Aquarium, which offers great fun for the whole family.

     

    You might also like: 12 fairytale castles in Poland you havee to see!

     

    Where to eat & drink in Gdansk

    When traveling in larger cities like Gdansk I try to avoid eating close to the main tourist attractions such as Dlugi Targ. The restaurants, cafés and bars in those areas are often overpriced and mediocre at best. But don’t worry there are so many great places to choose from as the culinary scene in Gdansk is up there with the best in Europe. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

    Avocado

    A vegan restaurant which serves up some incredibly tasty and pretty dishes. Choose between burgers, soups, salads, pasta, juices, cakes and much more. My favorite was the falafel with hummus and a side salad. I promise, even none vegans will love this place!

    2 days in Gdansk, Poland - Hummus and pizza for breakfast at Sapore Italian Restaurant

    Sapore

    A lovely Italian restaurant located across the street from the beautiful Academy of Fine Arts. I was in the mood for a healthy breakfast one day and when I saw Sapore had hummus on the menu I was sold. My sister ordered the breakfast pizza and she loved it. When we got the bill we were sure they had forgotten something because it was so cheap!

    Nova Pierogova Bistro

    A cozy little place with the best selections of pierogies and toppings I’ve seen. Which says a lot seeing I spent 6 years living on and off in Poland. My sister an I ordered two different fillings and they were both so light and super tasty. But I think the one with mozzarella, cottage cheese and smoked bacon topped with red onion relish was our favorite. You can choose between 6 and 10 pieces for only 16 and 24 zł.

    2 days in Gdansk, Poland - The best pierogi in town at Nova Pierogova Bistro

    Prologue Restaurant

    If you want to step it up a notch, check out the fancy Prologue Restaurant. The portions are small and it is a bit pricy compared to other places in the city but it’s also totally worth it! If there’s one place you can afford to treat yourself it’s in Poland. Remember to make a reservation in advance.

    Dancing Anchor

    The restaurant inside my favorite hotel in the city, Puro, is equally as fancy and trendy as the hotel itself. And their inventive cocktails and Polish-Asian fusion food deliver too. My favorite dishes, although quite hard to choose, has to be the pulled pork burger and fries with parmesan cheese and truffle olive oil. Yum!

    Pixel

    Pixel, Cocktails & Fun is a cool little bar which brings you right back to the 80s/90s. Their cocktails are super creative and among the best in town, I would say. Dance the night away or sit down to play a familiar board game like Scrabble with your friends. I love this place!

    Milk Bar

    Whether you’re on a budget or not, tasting a bit of Poland’s history at a Milk Bar might be a fun experience you’ll remember for a long time. Milk Bars are government-subsidized cafeterias which first originated back in 1896 as a way to provide cheap meals to workers who did not have lunch. It is without a doubt one of the most affordable places to eat in the city. You can get dinner for two for under 30 zł / $8 and the portions are huge! Check out Turystyczny Bar Mleczny on your way to the Old Miller’s House, it is, in my opinion, the best Milk Bar close to the city center.

     

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