Though it might not be featured on too many ‘must see’ lists, Gdansk is a beautiful city. Of course, in March, staying outside for an extended period of time in clothing that can only be described as ‘optimistic’ soon became challenging, but luckily Gdansk offers the chilly tourist more to do than just admire beautiful houses.
How: Ryanair Manchester – Gdansk, Friday-Monday, £35 return
Where: Grand Hostel, Kołodziejska 2, £35 for 3 nights in 4-bed dorm
When: 8th-11th March 2013
Weather: Cold. Sunshine. Snow. Cold.
Arguably the indoor highlight of the trip was the Solidarność (Solidarity) museum. Currently located in a (warm) underground shelter, with a huge new state-of-the-art home under construction nearby, the museum offers a fairly well-chronicled and insightful history of the Solidarity movement – a labour union movement which began in the shipyards of Gdansk and is credited as helping to end communism in Eastern Europe. Gdansk was even gifted a section of the Berlin Wall for the movement’s part in uniting East and West Germany. The exhibition does, however, seem to expect a basic grounding in the events of the movement, so probably best to brush up before you go. A monument to the fallen shipyard workers is located nearby.
One far less successful (and far less indoor) activity was our attempt to visit Westerplatte. Another reminder of Gdansk’s pivotal role in Twentieth Century history, Westerplatte is where Nazi Germany began their invasion of Poland on 1st September, 1939, and is often cited as the first theatre of conflict in the Second World War. Had the Nazis found Westerplatte as hard to reach as we did, they probably wouldn’t have bothered.
Setting out, we took a tram and then a bus, which stopped in the exact middle of nowhere. After an hour of walking past endless blocks of flats, the port came into sight, where we soon stumbled upon the lighthouse from which the first shots of retaliation were fired. With early March being off-tourist season, the lighthouse was unfortunately closed. More unfortunate however, was the small oversight that Westerplatte, its monolithic
memorial site and museum were located on the opposite side of the river. The fact there were no tourist boats running meant our journey, which had begun more than two hours previously, had been doomed from the start. We did, however, get a half-decent shot of the monument thanks to the brilliant zoom on my camera.
Gdansk Town Hall
Back in the centre, the most striking feature of Gdansk’s beautiful Royal Way (Długi Targ) is the town hall, boasting a huge and beautifully ornate clock tower. Though the tower was also closed, the town hall features some incredible ceiling frescoes, some interesting local history, and two rooms full of old Polish currency. The curators of the town hall are not shy about conspicuously stalking guests from room to room while chatting loudly in Polish, which adds a little something to the historic atmosphere. Ulica Maricka is also not to be missed.
Restaurants in Gdansk
As for food, Gdansk does not disappoint. Most restaurants have staff to coax you in from the street, but this is a good opportunity to grill them about their menus. You’ll find a whole host of restaurants in Gdansk. Aside from a lot of traditional Polish food, there is an excellent tex-mex restaurant (Pueblo), a very cheap Pizza place (Napoli) and even a vegetarian cafe or two.
Overall, Gdansk is a charming city with a lot to offer, but don’t be afraid to venture out of the city – two days should be more than enough time to do this Baltic gem justice.