Top Things To Do In Gdansk
Gdansk has a lot to do and see and most of it is quite close to each other. This is y list of top things to do in Gdansk. For detailed information about the city, check my Solo Gay Travel Guide for Gdansk and Nightlife and Food in Gdansk articles.
For general information about Poland check my Solo Gay Travel Guide to Poland.
The Old Town, The Main Town & The Island
Gdansk has some interesting features; it has three city gates and its old town is not even a quarter as beautiful as the main town. Before the city got its fame and glory, the old town was the original settlement but this was replaced by the Main Town as the main part of the city. The island was developed as the smartest storage solution available at the town. It was strictly for storage and for a harbour city like Gdansk, it was world-class at the time.
Let me tell you a secret; nothing really is as old as it looks here, it was entirely rebuilt after WWII like Warsaw, the beautiful facades in long markets to the granaries on the island most of the city was destroyed and resurrected from detailed pictures and blueprints.
Since I am in the mood to share; the main town of the city has a HUGE secret. Because the city was rebuilt during the soviet time, only the facades were rebuilt based on the original, the buildings behind were typical soviet-style flats, simple and functional. The old town only had a few buildings rebuilt only as a compromise.
For simplicity, I will combine the old town, main town and island as the Old Town.
Take a Free Walking Tour
The Free Walking Tour of Gdansk was a great way to get into the story of this beautiful and vain city. I went with Walkative Tour which started right outside the Golden Gate. The guide was great, knowledgeable and fun. We visited quite a few places and heard a lot of stories especially the early and later history which helped greatly with the visit to Malbork castle as well. You can book your tour here.
Explore the Main Town
The main Town is where most of the glamour of the city is concentrated. I absolutely loved this part of the city, I felt like I was in a fairy-tale (minus all the tourists). For starters, it has not one or two but three gates. My favourite spots were:
The Three Gates
The first one is right on the other side of Forum shopping mall, the second one has a tower and houses the Amber and Torture museums.
The last one is the Golden Gate which leads to the Long Street and Long Market.
Long Street & Long Market
This is the heart of the city and the busiest street. From the Golden Gate, Gdansk presents its best views with rows and rows of beautifully decorated mansions with the Townhall tower and its pure gold spire signal the end of the street and beginning of Long Market.
The Long Market has a statue of Neptune and the façade of Townhall which is just impressive and beautiful. The market ends at the Royal Palace.
Fun Fact: The palace was never used for any king because the city decided to build him a palace at the noisiest place on the top of the city gate to avoid paying for his lifestyle, what a smart move.
Green Bridge & Old Harbour
The palace leads to Green bridge which offers another great view of the city. This is the Old Harbour with the old architecture in one way and the modern on the other side. The harbour is another lively place for food and drinking.
This is one of my favourite streets, while the rest of the streets has had their terraces and stairs sacrificed for restaurants, this is a great example of how houses used to look like back then.
The Great Armoury and Piwna Street
The Great Armoury looks like a beautiful pink palace (It is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city) but it was actually an armoury and the façade has plenty to indicate that, from Athena the goddess of war to cannons as decorations on the façade.
The street on the other side leads to the church of St Mary’s Cathedral with colourful mansions in the middle. Dream view and I consider myself very lucky to have been able to stay here.
Climb the Tower of St Mary’s Church
St Mary’s is one of the biggest red bricks churches in the world and its towering presence is felt no matter where you are in the main town. It has probably the tallest tower in the city.
The entrance to the church is free. It is quite different from what I imagined and what most churches in the city looked like inside. It is white with a sense of elegance and softness. I really enjoyed this gorgeous grand building especially the Triptych (a painting with three panels usually religious) and the astronomical clock.
The star of the show, however, was the visit to the top of the tower. It costs 10zl (cash only) and if you’re claustrophobic, the first part of the climb will seriously test you. It gets better though when you actually arrive at the stairs for the tower.
The tower has 400 stairs but the view from the top is totally worth the climb. I won’t say much, I’ll let the pictures do the talking instead.
Take a stroll in the Old Town
The Old Town is fairly mundane (no thanks to the Soviet-era decision to not ‘waste’ money on its restoration. It has, nevertheless, a lot of architectural gems. My favourites are:
The Amber Altar of St Brigida’s Basilica
The Basilica of St Brigida looks like most other churches in the city with its red bricks and tower but it has a gorgeous altar made of Amber, which is found in plenty here.
I thought it would be tacky but I was so wrong. The altar looks like a beautiful golden downpour in a midsummer evening. It is deeply soothing. The entrance is 4 PLN and only in cash.
The Great Mill
It is being refurbished and it is part of the square which makes the best part of Old Town. The architecture is beautiful.
St Catherine’s Church
A grand church with the half-destroyed interior, located at the edge of the city, very close to the Basilica of St Brigida.
House of Pelplin Abbott
Right outside the Mandu restaurant, there is a small bridge next to the House of Pelpin Abbott. Perhaps the best view Old Town has to offer. It is a beautiful house, covered in greenery with the ‘Bridge of Love’ on the other side and The Great Mill in the background. What are you waiting for Instagrammers?
Walk around on the Island
The island is where the merchandise was stored that passed through Gdansk. It was the smartest storage facility at the time. No one was allowed to smoke on the island (on the pain of death, seriously!). No one was allowed to stay there overnight, in the evening, all drawstring bridges were lifted and guard dogs roamed the entire island. It has been modernised but there is not much to see or do here apart from a stroll. It is being worked on though.
Spend An Evening On Rybackie Pobrzeze
This is the street which starts at the Green Bridge and leads to the Gdansk sign and the famous Ferris wheel view. On the right-hand side, the beautiful mansions, towers and boats lead the way.
Don’t just stop here though, I kept walking and eventually arrived at the WWII museum which is beautiful in the evenings. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and river cruises on offer here.
Get A History Lesson At Westerplatte
Gdansk is home to Westerplatte; the spot where WWII formally started. It is hard to imagine the horrors it unleashed. Today, it has a monument dedicated to the memory of the event.
I missed the riverboat and took the bus 106 from outside the central station which took about 30 minutes and dropped us right outside Westerplatte.
The first spot was the beach on the right-hand side followed by a walk to the ruins of the new bunker and eventually the WWII monument.
It was a sobering moment when I stood at the platform looking at the beautiful city in front of me.
I spotted the three words in Polish that didn’t need any translation. No More War. (I checked with Kuba anyway). It was a stark reminder to what Poland suffered at the hands of this war and what it is toying with at the moment with its far-right government.
Appreciate The Modern Architecture of Gdansk
Along with the old architecture, Gdansk has some beautiful modern spaces, The WWII museum is a good example along with the Granaries on the island which have been transformed.
The Forum Shopping Mall is another great spot, it even has a little canal in the middle.
Spend a Day in Sopot
Sopot is a beautiful, manicured town a few minutes away from Gdansk famous in Poland for its sun, sea and spas. It, sort of, is the Beverley Hills of the country with its beautiful summer houses and a great beach. I spent an entire day here at the beach and the spa and totally loved it, if you are visiting in summer, this is a must. Sopot also offers a great party scene with the only LGBT club called HAH in this area located in the city. Check out my Guide for Sopot for more details and recommendations.
Visit The Biggest Fortress In The World In Malbork
The biggest fortress in the world by area lies a mere 40 km from Gdansk in Malbork. It is also the biggest Red Brick castle as well (obviously) and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The castle is really impressive and definitely worth a visit but it demands a half-day visit for sure. You can check the complete guide here for your visit.
Gdansk was one of the most beautiful cities I have visited with so much fun and such diversity of options. I really enjoyed my visit, have you ever been to Gdansk? I’d love to get your take. If you are heading there, feel free to reach out if you have more questions.