Gdańsk, Polska

Pronounced G’dine sk. Say it quick.

The Baltic Sea does not stack up to the Caribbean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, or probably pretty much any sea that you want to go swimming in. But that’s okay. Despite being a seaside resort town, Gdańsk’s charm lies almost completely in its cultural institutions. The small, historic (by appearance) city center is easy to walk around (almost none of it is original, due to its bombing during WWII). In just a few days, you can easily explore the whole city and get a taste for Polish culture and history. 

This city has a history of being part of Poland and then not. It became a “Free City” after Germany lost the first world war, and was the site of where WWII began. Today, the city is thoroughly Polish. In fact, it was here that the Solidarity Movement began, ultimately ending the communist rule in the country. 

The first thing to do in Gdańsk is to explore the Old Town. Almost completely destroyed during WWII, the brightly painted buildings you see today are not original. Nonetheless, they’ve done a remarkable job rebuilding the city. Walk all along Długi Targ, the main drag, from Zielona Brama (Green Gate) to Złota Brama (Golden Gate). Then loop back to enjoy Mariacka Street, a block where you can see more authentic buildings, with big porches, chunky stoops, and gargoyles. 

While visiting, be sure to notice the many amber jewelers, for which the city is well-known, and take advantage of some of the more fish-centric food options. 


  • Kawiarnia Drukarnia: Cute coffee shop with excellent pastries; be warned that they aren’t great at the “to go” concept
  • Restauracja Ritz: Upscale restaurant; one of the best meals I’ve ever had


  • Gdansk History Museum (in the Town Hall): offers a view of the city and a glimpse into local history
  • European Solidarity Center: the best museum in the city, highlighting the history of communism and its collapse in the country, with emphasis on the Solidarity movement 
  • Museum of the Second World War: expansive, modern museum about the history of WWII
  • Shakespeare Theatre: a massive black brick building with bright white and wooden interior
  • Churches: the Basilica of St. Brigid has an incredible altar made of amber; St. Mary’s Church has a very funky clock with zodiac symbols


  • Staying near the city center makes it possible to walk nearly everywhere. For longer trips, consider biking (easy, given the excellent bike infrastructure), tram, bus, or Uber (if you must). 


  • Malbork: 13th Century Teutonic Castle 
  • Sopot: Scenic boardwalk in the city right next door to Gdansk


  • Wałęsa: Man of Hope (film)
  • Westerplatte (film)

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