Travel Destinations

Monday, January 22, 2024

Two Nights in Gdańsk: Why You'll Want to Include Gdańsk in Your Poland Travel Itinerary

Gdańsk Long Market

When we were planning our Poland travel itinerary, we debated whether to just include Warsaw and Krakow, or to add one more city. Gdańsk seemed like the likely addition, but would it be worth it to include Gdańsk in our Poland travel itinerary? The answer is an emphatic yes!


Gdańsk is a port city located on the Baltic coast, and the historic city center is divided by picturesque canals. But Gdańsk is more than just a pretty town. Gdańsk has been the center of multiple pivotal moments of Poland’s history. Gdańsk should be included in your trip to Poland both because it’s a beautiful city and because of how important it is to the country and its history.

A little about Gdańsk’s importance in Poland’s history

Gdańsk Ships and Crane

Gdańsk’s location on the Baltic Sea gave it access to Baltic amber, which was important to Poland’s economy. The vast majority of the world’s amber deposits are found nearby. Gdańsk has been a center of production of amber products for centuries and Poland is currently the world leader in the production of amber jewelry.

Gdańsk Royal Way and Neptune's Fountain

Gdańsk played an important role in World War II as it is a deep-water port and was Poland’s only direct connection to the Baltic. At the time, Gdańsk was a semi-autonomous city-state called Danzig where many Germans lived. Gdańsk was one of the first targets when Germany invaded Poland. The first battle of World War II was on the Westerplatte Peninsula of Gdańsk.

Gdańsk Post Office

Poland was ‘liberated’ by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and then was under Soviet control until 1989. The Solidarity movement that started in Gdańsk’s shipyards in the 1980s played a crucial role in bringing about the end of communist rule in Poland, which in turn contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

What to do in Gdańsk

Gdańsk Crane

We arrived in Gdańsk by train from Warsaw, so we had the afternoon to explore before heading to dinner. After checking into our hotel, we walked along the water and viewed the Gdańsk Crane, which at the time was closed to the public for renovation. The port crane, a large wooden structure between two brick towers, is medieval technology built in the 15th century.

We continued on to the Museum of the Second World War which tells the story of the war that began in Gdańsk using artifacts, design, storytelling, and archival footage. It can take two to three hours to visit the museum and we highly recommend paying for the audio guide.

Gdańsk Uphagen House

The next day was our one full day in Gdańsk. Our first stop was Uphagen House. The home was destroyed in World War II and is the only Gdańsk mansion rebuilt as it was before 1945.

Gdańsk Main Town Hall

We continued along the Royal Way and stopped in the old Post Office before visiting the Main Town Hall, which contains a Renaissance hall.

Gdańsk Artus Court

Artus Court is the only surviving original hall in Baltic Europe. A highlight here is the largest tile stove in Europe, covered in 530 colorful tiles of kings, almost all of which are original and survived World War II bombs.

Gdańsk Mariacka Street

If you’re planning on purchasing amber while in Poland, Mariacka Street is the best place to do so. Not only is Mariacka Street lined with shops and workshops where artisans create and sell amber jewelry and art, it also has beautiful architecture.

Gdańsk St. Mary's Church

After purchasing some amber gifts, we visited St. Mary’s Church, the largest brick church in the world built from 1343 to 1502 by the Teutonic Knights.

Gdańsk St. Nicholas Church

We also visited St. Nicholas Church. This is the only Gdańsk church to survive World War II, which it is believed is because St. Nicholas is one of the cherished patron saints of Russian Orthodox.

We made a quick stop at the Market Hall because the basement contains graves of medieval Dominican monks, which can be viewed over a glass railing.

Gdańsk St. Bridget's Church

We visited two more churches that are close to each other. St. Catherine’s Church is the oldest church in Gdańsk. St. Bridget’s Church has an altar made entirely of amber.

Gdańsk Museum of Amber

We visited the Museum of Amber, which is located within the Great Mill building. Here you can learn about where amber comes from, see examples of amber with inclusions like insects, and see jewelry and art created with amber. You can spend as little or as much time as you want in this museum.

Gdańsk European Solidarity Center

Our final stop was Solidarity Square and the European Solidarity Center. Solidarity Square contains the Monument of the Fallen Shipyard Workers, which commemorates the bloodiest strike that took place in December 1970. The European Solidarity Center is all about the end of communism and how the strike that started on August 14, 1980 ended communism in Poland. Be sure to use the included audio guide. There is an option to have a more condensed tour using the audio guide if you want to complete your visit in an hour.

Gdańsk restaurants 

Gdańsk Stagiewna Bar Mleczny

A trip to Poland should include lunch at a milk bar at least once. Milk bars, or bar mleczny in Polish, are cafeteria-style restaurants from the communist era. They were state-subsidized eateries that provided affordable and simple meals. Some of these milk bars still exist in Poland and serve hearty, traditional Polish dishes. In Gdańsk we ate lunch at Stagiewna Bar Mleczny. 

Gdańsk Bowke

On our first night, we had dinner at Gdański Bowke, which is a casual restaurant on the waterfront serving simple and good meals and live music.

Gdańsk Restauracja Goldwasser

On our second night, we had dinner at the fancier Restauracja Goldwasser, which has upper-floor seating overlooking the water. 

Where to stay in Gdańsk

Gdańsk Hotel Podewils

For our two nights in Gdańsk, we loved our stay at the historic Hotel Podewils. The manor house was built in 1728 by stonemason Krzystof Strzycki. We booked a premium deluxe room with views of the old town and Motlawa River. The hotel also serves a lovely breakfast in the morning.

Gdańsk Canal

Carving out a full day and two nights to visit Gdańsk was the right decision for our trip to Poland. Gdańsk feels small and intimate and old world and yet is also the location of pivotal points in Poland’s history. It is absolutely worth visiting Gdańsk.

Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.