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Gdansk - The Gem on The Baltic Sea

August 20, 2020

Located right by the Baltic sea, Gdansk is Poland’s principal seaport and a destination overshadowed by Krakow and Warsaw’s charm. With the pandemic crisis limiting our travel options, this seaside getaway is a money-friendly option to (often) crowded streets of Europe’s metropoles. If you have ever visited Copenhagen, Amsterdam or Lisbon, you are already privy to the charm of seaside (port) cities – the cold air meeting the sun kissed charming buildings and cosy dainty cafés everywhere. Having spent 6 days in a marina hotel on the outskirts of Gdansk, one can fairly expect me to have some recommendations and pro tips for my fellow travellers. And I do!


No trip is ever truly complete without some essential sightseeing. Being a city-lover, I have always preferred to get the feel of the place, rather than drag my tired feet from museum to museum, from church to church (and you better believe I could have spent the whole 6 days visiting all of Gdansk’s churches. That is Poland for you, my dudes). I have hand-picked, for you, some of my favourites, combining history, art, food and an essential micro-tour through the city's soul. 


To start off the morning on a peaceful note, stop by Leń café for a nice steamy cup of cappuccino, a strong shot of espresso (and/or a cake!) . It is located only a few minutes walk from St. Mary's cathedral, and by my ruling, constitutes the ideal start to a wonderful day in Gdansk's city centre.  


Located in the very heart of Gdansk is one of the world's largest brick churches – St. Mary’s Cathedral – a Roman Catholic church built in the 14th century. It has an impressive interior, crown gem on which is the 15th century wooden astronomical clock. My personal favourite is the 83m tall tower that offers an impressive view of the whole Gdansk to those willing to climb its 409 steps. Tickets are sold at the location and cost only 10 zloty (around 2 pounds).


A view of a large city landscapeDescription automatically generated
view from the Cathedral’s tower | Picture credit: @http.zuzana 


After climbing all those steps, and taking in all that beauty, I am sure, lunch will be appreciated. Located only 4 min walk from the cathedral is an amazing Mexican Restaurant Pueblo. Serving everything from fajitas, to burritos, this place is an absolute heaven! Plus, they have vegan versions of these dishes (yay!). 


Mariacka street, which is adjacent to the cathedral, is my recommended direction when making your way towards the river. Filled with cute terrace cafés and amber shops (Gdansk is considered the city of Amber, and living up to its title, there truly are beautiful pieces of hand-crafted amber jewellery to be found left and right), this tiny street is a picture out of a postcard. 


Mariacka street | Picture credit: Poland travel 


Entering the embankment of river Motława, I was immediately taken aback by its beautiful architecture. Old mixing with new, the well-known narrow building shapes covered in both traditionally colourful facades, and in their modern glass and brick counterparts, all working in symphony. Right by the river, with a view of the historic part of embankment, is located BŁOGO café - delicious coffee and wide variety of tasty cakes anyone? 


Embankment of Motława river | Picture credit: KLM Travel Guide


To be honest, I am an advocate for the idea, that there is something inherently magical about simply taking a stroll through the town, having a dessert, taking some pictures and breathing in the atmosphere and so...


…If you happen to be in Gdansk in July:


This year, we were lucky to have been in Gdansk during the annual St. Domink’s Fair. Starting at the end of July, various streets in Gdansk are closed to car traffic and turned into jarmak. Established by Pope Alexander IV in 1260 (!!!), this event is one of the most popular summertime outdoor events in Poland, and one of the biggest of its kind in Europe. Contemporary fair recalls some of the medieval traditions – like selling mead and homemade cheeses and jam – I recommend trying Grilled Ostiepok (a delicious grilled sheep cheese served with cranberry sauce) - and mixes them with stalls full of handmade jewellery, regional products, silvers, amber or pottery. On selected days it is also accompanied by live music, shows by masters of metalwork. The overall festive atmosphere is overwhelmingly pleasant. I bought a handmade mug with a little bee in the front and a bunch of bottles of mead. No shame.


The day is at its best, when ended on a peaceful note, which is why I absolutely adored finishing our trip with the view of Gdansk's embankment and a lit-up ferris wheel at Guga Sweet and Spicy. This small bistro located close to the World War 2 museum and around 15 min by foot from Mariacka Street, serves a wide variety of Asian-cuisine-inspired vegan dishes. Founded by a group of food and travel loving friends, they prepare their dishes from eco products, from scratch and without added chemicals. They also serve cakes and home-made ice-cream! 


With its beautiful scenery, wonderful restaurants and cafés lined up along the Motława river and historic heritage, it is hard not to fall in love. 

Road Trip to Gdansk next summer? 


Last but not least, having spent a week in Gdansk, both by the sea and in the city centre, I feel somewhat entitled to share some observations, or pro tips to sound more fancy. So before I leave you to day-dream about the beauty of Gdansk during summer, here are some pointers that could come in handy when planning your trip: 


  • Layers. Gdansk is on the shore of Baltic sea, and the weather is often cold, windy, but most importantly unpredictable. 
  • Picnicking at the beach, during one of those windless days, is probably one of my favourite moments of the holiday. The water is just so calming, and the sun is less annoying when it's setting, and making the whole beach feel warm and bathed in gold. Also, prosecco, because we love them bubbles. 
  • Town of Sopot. This dainty little town with a beautiful pier and bath complex is only a few minutes from Gdansk and definitely worth visiting if you have a half-day to spare. Recommend visiting the pier, getting some local snacks at the market, and taking a look at the ‘crooked house’, which is a real-life version of an image morphed in photoshop.



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