Gdansk, Poland - The Free City of Danzig

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The port of Gdansk, once The Free City of Danzig lies on Poland's northern coast. The worn smooth streets and colourful architecture of the historical Old Centre attract tourists annually and Late May/Early June was no exception. The light nights and sunny days give this antique town a blissful feel of peacefulness although it was once the opposite as this coast was the very starting place of War in Europe in September 1939.

Gdansk, Poland - The Free City of Danzig

Gdansk, Poland at a glance

✓ Country: Poland

✓ Language: Polish

✓ Currency: Polish Zloty

✓ Train station: Gdansk Glowny

✓ Getting Around: The Old City is pedestrianised and everything is within walking distance

✓ Eating: Check out Original Burger 25-30zloty

✓ Drinking: Local Beers and Vodka are cheapest - Look out for shot bars 1Zloty for a vodka

✓ Accommodation: Five Point Hostel

✓ Extras: Take a Ferry to the Westerplatter - Or jump on a ferry to the beach



All prices in Polish Zloty

Arriving in Gdansk, Poland

We arrived on the Polish Coast by Gdynia and Sopot via train from Scezezin (Stettin) and then continued onwards to Gdansk. Our train was an enjoyable 5.5 hour journey through the lush green Polish countryside. A second class ticket will cost roughly 50zloty which is the equivalent of £10 GBP. We'd come to Poland from Germany so the train ticket seemed extremely good value. Leaving Hamburg behind our first few hours in Poland began to seem like great value for money, after spending a few days in Germany's most expensive city. Gdansk would become our 3rd stop on a Baltic's Road Trip originating in Hamburg and ending in Tallinn.

We'd heard many great things about the magical historic centre of Gdansk, sandy coastline which is only accessible by ferry and of course, its stormy historical ties to World War Two. I knew I'd adore Gdansk long before I arrived simply because of its great significance.

Gdansk, Poland - The Free City of Danzig
The iconic waterfront - Gdansk, Poland

The Free City of Danzig

Gdansk is riddled with a captivating history and you only need to enter The Old Town for that to become apparent. The grand architecture, colourful buildings, towering church spires and worn streets tell a tale of a Baltic port city of the highest importance. During the years after World War One from 1920 - 1939 Gdansk and the surrounding areas were known as The Free City of Danzig under The Treaty of Versailles.

Gdansk, Poland - The Free City of Danzig
Nightfall in Gdansk

The sought upon port of Gdansk and The Free City of Danzig became one of the first places for Hitler himself to set his sights on prior to World War Two in 1939. On 1st September 1939 at around 5.00am Hitler and his Nazi army fired upon the Westerplatte at The Free City after Poland's refusal to be annexed as part of the growing German empire.

As Gdansk was once The Free City of Danzig and the very starting place of World War Two. We felt it was only appropriate to visit the World War Two museum whilst in the city. A museum that faced much controversy about its alleged 'Polish bias'.

A guide to the World War Two Museum in Gdansk

Head to the World War Two Museum in the morning just beyond the waterfront the building is large, angular and unmissable. You'll know what I mean when you see the glass wall. Take the lift down to floor -3 to purchase your tickets. The ticket cost is 23zloty but for an extra 5zloty I insist you get an audio guide. We would've really struggled with the layout of the exhibition without it. Also the addition of a guide really made our time much more educational. I find concentrating on reading each small plaque to be difficult in a dimly lit room.

Gdansk, Poland - The Free City of Danzig
The World War Two Museum, Gdansk

Although criticized for its 'Polish bias' I didn't find it to be too obvious in the museum, there are moments when they Polish armies are mentioned more times than necessary and there are minor factual details that historians may find questionable but on the whole the timeline is accurate and the majority of information shared is accurate. 

The beginning of the exhibition gives an explanation of  Europe after World War One, which has also been described as an "alternative introduction" as it largely focuses on Fascist uprisings around the world so be prepared to jump from World War One to World War Two quite rapidly with little context.

The World War Two Museum in Gdansk was a big  highlight for me,  I really would like to say it was an overall excellent experience and educationally important especially due to the location. The displays were in perfect chronological order and I found the audio guide to be really informative. Not only did the museum focus on Polish history it highlighted the key events throughout World War Two. In my opinion a visit to Gdansk would simply not be complete without a trip to The World War Two Museum. Expect to spend between 3-5 hours in the museum if you do it correctly.

The historic Old Town of Gdansk

Five Point Hostel, Gdansk

We booked to stay at the Five Point Hostel which was around a ten minute walk from Gdansk Glowny (the main train station) and a five minute or less walk from The Old Town and Historic Centre and a 10-15 minute walk from The World War Two Museum. 

The hostel is modern, clean and spacious with great facilities and a large common area. Definitely look up Five Point Hostel when visiting the city of Gdansk. There are privates and dorms available all at a low cost.

Gdansk, Poland - The Free City of Danzig
Early Evening - The perfect time of day in Gdansk
Gdansk, Poland - The Free City of Danzig
Enjoying the evening in Gdansk, Poland

Life in Gdansk

Arriving in Gdansk in late afternoon meant we had arrived just in-time to experience what I would say is the best time of day in Gdansk. Early evening just before sunset when the streets are lined with tourists Gdansk becomes a world of its own. Everyone around you stops to appreciate the fine architecture coupled with each splash of vibrant colour on each building's facade.




The bars and restaurants which all have outdoor seating (and heating) begin to fill up and there is a buzz of 'holiday' in the air. Families meeting to eat, couples enjoying a meal and friends meeting up to grab a drink. The Old Town of Gdansk seems to become Poland's epicenter all for a few hours in late evening. 

Eating and drinking in The Old Town is naturally more expensive than eating outside this area. A couple of bars and restaurants outside our hostel were much cheaper than in the actual Old Town but I can't exactly describe The Old Town of Gdansk as very expensive. The average price for eating in Gdansk can range anywhere from 20zloty to 50zloty but most of the time eating is cheap. Don't expect to pay more than £10 GBP for a meal. Dinner for two with drinks can be very well priced if you stick to local alcohol. Look out for Original Burger. Where a meal deal (burger and sides) will cost around 25-30zloty. There's the best outdoor seating and the service is great too!

Best Bars and Restaurants in Gdansk

Original Burger - For great food
Elephant Club - For cocktails
Jacks Bar & Restaurant - For drinks and music


Gdansk, Poland - The Free City of Danzig
The centre of The Old Town - lots of outdoor seating and restaurants 

Many of the restaurants if not all of them in Gdansk have outdoor seating in the main street of The Old City. They all have outdoor heating too and blankets if you decide to visit Gdansk when it's cooler like we did.

Gdansk, Poland - The Free City of Danzig
No to Cyk - Vodka shot bar
For cheap drinks and an authentic Polish experience look out for No To Tick (Cyk) and Pijalnia Wodki i Piwa. (To me and you thats Pijalnia vodka and beer). These are both weird soviet themed shot bars that have dirt cheap vodka shots. There are many of these style bars around Poland and although at first they seem slightly unusual they are usually a lot of fun and a great place to meet local students.

Just exploring

Getting around Gdansk

Getting around Gdansk is simple, you walk and everything is within walking distance. There are bus services that run from outside the train station if you wish to explore a little further from The Old Town, otherwise as mentioned The Old Town is completely pedestrianised. Frequent trains run from 5.00am onward from Gdansk Glowny the main train station. Day trips from Gdansk to Sopot and possibly Gdynia are often recommended and I really wish we'd found the time to visit Sopot's pleasant waterfront.

Gdansk, Poland - The Free City of Danzig
From the ferry

The Ferry and the beach

While in Gdansk many people choose to take the frequent ferry service to The Westerplatte which as mentioned is the area The Battle of Westerplatte took place, this became the iconic historical first battle of World War Two. Many people choose to visit this area to pay their respects and visit the large memorial. The ferries in Gdansk have been set up as part of an urban renewal project funded by the European Union. The aim is to have several efficient ferries running regularly to the secluded and difficult to get to areas, each will have its own ferry stop. Stogi Beach is another popular ferry destination.
Gdansk, Poland - The Free City of Danzig
Stogi Beach - Around 23 degrees celsius with a light cool wind

During the warmer months many people take the hour long ferry journeys to Stogi beach, the stretch of sandy coastline up the estuary. We did exactly that, and other than an elderly couple and some kite fliers we were perhaps the only people on the whole stretch of beach.  

Gdansk - When to visit

In terms of visiting Gdansk we picked a really odd time of year. Late spring/early summer. Although The Old Town was busy but the coast was not. The temperature couldn't make up its mind and for most of our time the weather was warm but mostly glum and overcast. For the perfect trip to Gdansk I would definitely say choose either a cold winter trip or a hot summer break rather than the in-between experience we got. Although we really enjoyed our time in Gdansk I feel our visit would've been even better if it had been planned two weeks later when the weather had made up its mind. 

Gdansk, Poland - The Free City of Danzig
When the weather really can't make up its mind

Click here to read about the first leg of our Baltic's Road Trip

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7 comments

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Just looked my very first trip to Poland, going to Krakow next month for a weekend! Considering putting Gdansk on my wishlist too, Poland ain't too far from good old Germany, and for a history buff like myself this seems like a must visit!

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    1. You must do it! The city is a lot of fun with great bars, restaurants and attractions. There is probably a cheap train or flight from Krakow.

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  3. Omg, now I really regret skipping Gdansk while we were in Poland last year. Everyone says to visit it, but after seeing your photos - dang, they were all right! Love your photos and all the useful tidbit at this place! Will be bookmarking!

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    1. You should definitely visit if you plan to spend any more time in Poland. I recommend adding it to the top of your list. In the summer months it can be the perfect temperature!

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  4. Gdansk’s Old Town seems to offer visitors a modern-day trip back to the Middle Ages. I heard that a majority of the streets are in the exact same places that they were in Medieval times :-) The city has plenty of authentic, historic buildings still stand !

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    1. Yes it certainly is - the colorful buildings make for a really spectacular photo too. Unfortunately, there was a lot of damage during World War Two so many of the buildings have been restored but the renovation has been done well so they still look very authentic.

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travelsandmore was originally just an outlet to document my travels. It turned into something much more and now its more of an obsession for me than anything else. Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to subscribe, I'll only ever send you my latest travel related blog posts right to your inbox.