Cool Gdansk, Poland is hot tourism destination

My last two trips to Poland were exploratory missions to see if other cities had the same vibe we found in Krakow on trips to Poland last summer and Christmas. A Polish friend of my wife’s suggested Wroclaw, Warsaw and Gdansk as other cities to visit. I went to Wroclaw in January. Okay, but I definitely prefer Krakow.

36 hours in Gdansk and it is a tough choice for me to decide whether I like Gdansk even more than Krakow? Gdansk had a very cool vibe to me.

Gdansk Long St

Long Market Square, Gdansk, Poland

This week was supposed to be two nights in Warsaw and two nights in Gdansk, but the morning I went to buy my Norwegian Airlines ticket the price had doubled from $135 Stockholm, Sweden to Oakland, California. I decided to cut a couple days off my trip to get a $150 ticket home on Norwegian, therefore, I cut the 2-night stay in Warsaw out of this trip.

I already had purchased my Aegean Airlines ticket to Warsaw. By flying directly from Warsaw to Gdansk a few hours after arrival on Aegean, the Ryanair ticket price was an amazing $1.99 one way, $13.89 all-in with a checked bag. I love Poland.

Ryanair WAW-GDN 1.99

My ticket from Gdansk to Stockholm Skavsta NYO airport was $8.26 one way and $27.06 all-in with a checked bag.

In a long day of travel I left my room at Ramada Sofia at 8am and arrived at Best Western Bonum Gdansk a little before 11pm. With a one hour time zone change, I traveled for 16 hours on 3 flights Sofia – Athens (Olympic Air), Athens – Warsaw (Aegean Airlines), Warsaw – Gdansk (Ryanair).

First impressions of Gdansk is kind of like Amsterdam at outlet prices

The thing about Gdansk is its old town architecture looks like the 17th century canal houses in Amsterdam, except straighter. The deal is Gdansk is a 1,000 year old city, once a medieval port of the Hanseatic League and a wealthy trading port that had loads of 16th and 17th century architecture, much of it designed by Dutch architects. Therefore Gdansk, or Danzig as its name historically, looked a lot like Amsterdam architecturally since many of their prominent houses were constructed around the same time.

Sadly, the German-controlled city of Danzig was bombed and burned to rubble in the final months of World War II.

Gdansk 1945a

Gdansk 1945b

Gdansk 1945 photos on walls inside Golden Gate.

Like many historic city centers in Europe destroyed by war, the historic architecture was recreated based on historical photos and building plans. The authentic 17th century canal houses on the canal rings of Amsterdam tend to lean and have crooked windows due to buildings sinking in the earth over the centuries. Old Town Gdansk buildings look old in their similar architectural style, but show straight lines in their floors and windows due to only being 40 to 70 years old.

Gdansk Dam style

Gdansk, away from the old town center, buildings look much more modern, similar to the way Amsterdam has a mixture of historic and modern in the city center and mostly modern away from the city center.

Gdansk Motlawa

Gdansk Motlawa River. This photo is taken standing in front of Hilton Gdansk and the view from riverside hotel rooms.

Hilton Gdansk

Hilton Gdansk is building directly adjacent right of tower.

Mariacka-St. Mary's Gate

Brama Mariacka – St. Mary’s Gate

Black Pearl

Black Pearl is one of the operating ships for 90 minute daily cruises to Westerplatte from mid-May to mid-October. Westerplatte is where WWII started when a Nazi battleship attacked the Polish garrison on the Baltic Sea peninsula near Gdansk on September 1, 1939. At this time of year the cruises only operate on weekends.

Green Gate

Green Gate, Gdansk was originally built 1568-71 as the Royal Residence for Poland’s monarchs, designed by Amsterdam architect Regnier. It was architecturally inspired by Antwerp City Hall. The National Museum of Gdansk is located here now. One of the rooms is the Gdansk office of former President Lech Walesa.

Long market Square

Long Market Square is on the other side of Green Gate and along with Long Street comprises the main tourist street of Gdansk with several other adjacent streets.

Hard Rock Cafe Gdansk occupies a couple of these buildings. I watched a Pharrell Williams’ inspired video Happy from Hard Rock Cafe Gdansk before starting this piece. I did not drink at the Hard Rock Cafe since there are so many other cool pubs to drink in Old Town.

On the opposite side of the square is Radisson Blu Gdansk in a prime central tourist location. They had a good value $10 lunch meal advertised outside the building, but another place I did not go inside. I had a Club Carlson 2-for-1 weekend stay booked there, but had to cancel when I knocked out Warsaw and my travel dates in Gdansk changed to weekday nights.

Radisson Blu Gdansk

Radisson Blu Gdansk

Neptune Fountain

Neptune Fountain and Old City hall.

Neptune Fountain is a symbol of Gdansk and was originally built in 1633. The statue was hidden during WWII. The fountain was completely restored in 2011-12.

Long Street

Long Street Gdansk with Golden Gate seen in the distance.

Gdansk old town offers many little restaurants, shops, pubs, breweries, craft stores and all kinds of shopping, in addition to museums and churches.

I walked around snapping photos in the clear morning skies, then took a 2.5 hour guided walking tour, then hit pubs and craft shops buying art and crafts for the next six hours.

Gdansk Shops

To me Gdansk felt like a laid back town with a relaxed vibe. Prices were real bargains for this bargain hunter.

I can’t wait to go back. And I will share more about what I discovered during my 36 hours in Gdansk in other articles.

Artus Court (2)

Neptune Fountain and Artus Court at night.


About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. I couldn’t tell from your write up. Did you make the trip alone, or with your wife?

    We were just having a conversation recently about what a great solo destination Thailand is.

  2. First week in London and Amsterdam with wife. She went home for her job and I spent past week solo in Sofia and Gdansk.

    Bangkok 2007 was a solo trip and I hated it. I could not walk down the block from my hotel at Westin Sukhumvit without being approached by sex workers. In the hotel lounge at breakfast in Bangkok guys talked to each other about prostitutes. That stuff does not happen around me when I am traveling with my wife.

  3. Great post, I love your new “first impressions” write ups. I really enjoyed Krakow, much more than Warsaw. Gdansk sounds like a great place to visit.
    I have Bucharest and Sofia next on my travel plans – how would you compare them to Krakow or Gdansk?

  4. Great article, Poland seems to be an interesting “new” destination. Check out LOT Polish Airlines’ new nonstop service from LAX to WAW (in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner!), and of course beyond connections to several Polish cities. They just came out with attractive fares to Europe destinations for travel Apr/May

  5. Thanks for this info. Bookmarking this as it is a port on a Baltics cruise we are taking in 2018. (Sometimes I have to go the cruise route to keep husband happy….).

  6. @Rupert – My wife and I have been to Krakow twice in past year and she adores the city. I think she will like Gdansk even more simply due to its location on the Baltic Sea. We went to university in Davis, California and lived there five years. That was her only time living more than five miles from the ocean and she hated it. She has spent her entire life by the sea otherwise.

    After a few days to reflect on Sofia, I figured it was a bit too gritty for her. Not that I felt unsafe at all, except for one street I walked with some loose dogs hanging around one side of the road barking loudly at another dog being walked on a leash on the opposite side of the street. I decided it was better for me to cross the street and walk the other side of the road too.

    But then, after showing Kelley, my wife, the stuff I bought in Sofia, mostly items like stuffed animals for 55 cents to hand crafted earrings for $5.50, items that would likely cost $30 to $60 in California, Kelley said she wants to go shopping in Sofia. We have a fairly open schedule for 3 weeks of travel around Europe in July.

    I have not been to Bucharest or Romania. My plan created in January was to travel for ten or so days in Romania this summer. Kelley said last month she did not want to go to Romania on our summer trip and that was a journey I should plan to make alone. After she saw the shopping deals I brought back from Sofia, I think she might change her mind about spending time in Romania this summer.

    Ramada Sofia is where I stayed on Wyndham Rewards GoFast reward nights for 23 EUR + 3,000 points per night. Wyndham Rewards raised the cost of GoFast rates two weeks ago. There are Ramada hotels in Romania hotels in 8 cities. Now the lowest priced ones are 32 EUR + 3,000 points, but still a great deal for some of those hotels.

  7. @Marilyn B. – my wife has a motion sickness issue and hates boats. We did an Alaska 7 night cruise in 2007. She started vomiting the first day and was quarantined to our cabin for half the cruise. I don’t think she has been on any boats since then, except Disneyland rides and maybe a San Diego Harbor Cruise.

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