In case you hadn’t noticed, Gdansk is having a moment right now. This colourful city in Poland has everything you could wish for in a European city break: historic streets, pretty architecture, world-class museums and a blossoming food and nightlife scene.
Gdansk is also refreshingly affordable compared to other European destinations – 3 nights accommodation plus return flights set us back by just £120 each!
But the secret is starting to get out, so there’s no better time to plan a visit to this up-and-coming city in Europe.
Getting to Gdansk
Gdańsk is located on the Baltic coast in Northern Poland and can be easily reached by Gdańsk Lech Walesa international airport from most major destinations across Europe. There are also good rail connections to Gdańsk Glowny station, if you’re travelling from within mainland Europe.
Ryanair is the main budget airline that flies to Gdansk from the UK, with regular departures from Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and London Stansted. We picked up return flights from Bristol with Ryanair for just £69 (including the extra cost for hand luggage).
Where to stay in Gdansk:
Gdansk is an incredibly walkable city so wherever you choose to stay, you won’t be too far from the action. It’s also super cheap! We were able to find a gorgeous AirBnB right in the heart of the Old Town, with views of St. Mary’s Basilica, for just £39 per night per room.
What to see and do in Gdansk:
For a small city, there’s plenty to keep you busy in Gdansk. I’d recommend at least 48 hours to see the best of the city, plus an extra day if you decide to do a side-trip to nearby seaside town, Sopot, or Malbork Castle.
Here’s 13 ideas of fun things to do in Gdansk:
Explore the Old Town
The best place to start your sightseeing is in the colourful Old Town. Dluga Street (Long Lane) runs from the historic Green Gate to Golden Gate and is famous for its fairytale-style architecture. Every single building is worthy of a photo stop, so don’t underestimate the time it will take you to make it down this street!
If you’ve travelled to the Netherlands, you may notice that this whole area has an Amsterdam-esque feel to it… that’s because the architecture was inspired by the Dutch renaissance period and was completely rebuilt in this style, following the Second World War.
There are a number of notable buildings to look out for, such as the iconic Town Hall with its giant clock-face and towering spire. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for all the intricate embellishments on the buildings and quirky statues on the rooftops too!
Take a photo at Neptune’s Fountain
One of the most famous stops in the Old Town is Neptune’s Fountain, located directly in front of the Town Hall. The statue of Neptune was originally built in 1549 and was safely hidden away during the Second World War. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Gdansk.
Ogle at the Academy of Fine Arts
Gdansk is packed full of beautiful buildings but few are as impressive as the Academy of Fine Arts. Originally built as an armoury, the building has housed the Academy of Fine Arts since the 1950’s and is largely overlooked as a tourist attraction. But chances are you’ll pass this at least once during your tour of the city and it’s sure to catch your eye!
Shop for amber along Mariacka Street
Mariacka Street is one of the most photogenic streets in Gdansk. Here you’ll find countless jewellery and amber stalls, as well as some charming little shops and cafes. Drukarnia Cafe is a great place to stop for a coffee and cake, or even a home-brewed beer!
This is also where you’ll find some seriously Insta-worthy doorways and drainpipes! We were stopping every 10 seconds to admire all the unusual features, from gargoyles to lion heads.
Take a riverside walk
As you reach the end of Mariacka Street, you’ll find yourself on the River Embankment, known as Długie Pobrzeże. A walk along the river will take you past the famous Gdansk Crane, the SS Soldek ship museum, and the giant ‘GDANSK’ sign. Cross over the bridge to the other side for the perfect photo opportunity of the colourful merchant buildings.
Climb St Mary’s Basilica Tower
St Mary’s Basilica is one of the most iconic and impressive sights in Gdansk, standing tall at 80m above the city. The church itself is free to enter and is well worth a visit – this is the largest brick church in the world and can hold up to 25,000 worshippers at a time!
For 15zl (£3), you can head up the tower for panoramic views of the city. 405 steps will take you all the way to the top, past the giant bell tower, to a viewing platform with unbeatable views of Gdansk’s colourful old town.
Spot street art in Zaspa
In complete contrast to the historic architecture of Gdansk’s old town, the Communist-era tower blocks of Zaspa can be found just 10 minutes’ drive out of the city. Today, these residential blocks are covered in colourful murals and it’s worth a journey out to see these sky-high pieces of art.
Trains run regularly from Gdańsk Glowny station to Zaspa or you can hop in an Uber for a few quid each way. If you’re visiting in the summer months, you can join a free guided street art tour. Or if, like us, you’re visiting out of season, this handy self-guided map will take you around all the main murals of Zaspa,
Eat traditional dumplings
Poland is renowned for its delicious dumplings and nowhere in Gdansk does them better than Pierogarnia Mandu Centrum. This stylish restaurant serves up a wide range of sweet and savoury traditional pierogi, including plenty of great veggie options. They even do oreo-filled pierogi with chocolate dough, which are worth the trip to Gdansk alone! Be sure to pre-book a table, as this place gets super busy in the evenings.
Visit the European Solidarity Centre
Gdansk is full of world-class museums (the Museum of the Second World War and the National Maritime Museum are both highly rated) but if you make time for just one during your trip, make sure it’s the European Solidarity Centre.
The museum tells the story of the Solidarity movement – the Polish trade union and anti-communist movement – from the 1980 Gdansk shipyard strikes to the fall of Communism across Europe. This turbulent period of history is both fascinating and incredibly moving and is played out through an audio-guided tour, interactive exhibitions and powerful films. It’s honestly one of the best museums I’ve ever visited and I can’t recommend it enough.
Tickets cost 20zl (£4) or 16zl with a Gdansk Tourist Card. Allow at least a couple of hours to explore the main exhibitions and be sure to look out for the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers outside the museum too.
Take a vodka tour
I’ve never been a huge fan of vodka (too many Smirnoff-fuelled drinking games at uni…) but the Eat Polska vodka tour of Gdansk completely changed my perspective. Turns out I’ve just been drinking the wrong stuff all these years!
The guided group tour includes 8 different vodka tastings, paired with delicious local foods, at some of the city’s best bars and restaurants and is a fun and sociable way to learn all about Polish vodka culture.
The vodka tour costs 290zl (£60), which may seem a little steep by Polish standards but you’ll save on the cost of dinner that night, so it’s well worth the money! Top tip: The meeting point for the vodka tour is very close to the European Solidarity Centre, so try to tie the two in, if you can!
Visit the Bridge of Love
“Love-lock” bridges can be found all over Europe and Gdansk is no exception. Brot-Brücke (which literally translates as “bread bridge”, as this is where the city’s bread used to be sold) can be found at the intersection of Korzenna Street and Na Piaskach Street. From the bridge, you’ll be greeted with gorgeous views of the Old Miller’s House – catch it in the right light and you’ll be treated to a picture-perfect reflection shot.
Sample the nightlife
Gdansk is well known for its buzzing nightlife scene, made even more popular by how cheap it is – I’m talking £3-4 for a cocktail (we’re definitely not in Bristol anymore, Toto).
We visited several excellent bars during our weekend in Gdansk, including Pixel – a cool 80’s game-themed bar serving up delicious cocktails on floppy disk coasters; Café Józef K full of quirky antiques, and great local beers; and Flisak ’76 – a hip basement bar, where your cocktails arrive in a variety of unusual vessels… the less said the better, just order from the menu and prepare to be surprised!!
Take a day trip to the biggest castle in the world
Gdansk is located less than an hour from Malbork Castle – a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest castle in the world. The castle can be easily reached by train from Gdańsk Główny station and is an easy day trip out of the city.
Standard tickets for Malbork Castle cost 45zl (£9.45) and audio-guided tours are available. There’s a lot to get around but the “must-see” sights include the Grand Masters’ Palace with its medieval arches and grand dining halls; the courtyard of the high castle; and the ornate interiors of St Mary’s Church.
Exploring more of Europe? Check out my ultimate city guides and short-break itineraries here.