First 24 hours: Gdańsk, Poland
This Polish port city has had its fair share of tumult, but now Gdańsk is out the other side, its Gothic grandeur deserves attention, argues Rhodri Andrews
Gdańsk might be a city scarred by its past, but its future looks bright indeed. Discover gothic glories and impressive sights in Poland’s rising star
To say Gdańsk’s past was eventful would be understating it; even by Polish standards. If its locals were sportspeople, they’d be tug of war champions. For the 20th century in this port city was very much that. It was annexed as Danzig by the Allies in 1920 following the First World War. It was then the first place the Nazis attacked in 1939. While the city’s historic Main Town was flattened during the Second World War and Communist rule took hold, the locals didn’t take it lying down – the Solidarity movement uprising founded among its shipyards during the 1980s meant that by the turn of the next decade Poland was a democracy.
Today, Gdańsk thrives without the drama. Its compact Gothic Main Town has been meticulously rebuilt to its medieval glory and deservedly claims to be one of Poland’s prettiest old cities. Recent additions of quality hotels and eateries have seen visitor numbers grow.
Part of the city’s attraction is that for travellers, Gdańsk is actually only one-third of the story – it forms the Tri-city along with the summer haunt of Sopot and modern Gdynia, both of which add extra dimensions to Gdańsk’s history.
One of the city’s icons, the 17th-century Neptune’s Fountain, miraculously survived the post-war destruction, proudly standing in Dlugi Targ (Long Market). It’s said that it once flowed with Gdańsk’s famed liqueur, goldwasser. You can sip it in its many restaurants today, the ideal toast to Gdańsk’s gritty past and charming present.
At the airport
Regular flights go from the UK to Gdańsk, taking from around two hours and costing from £19 return. Gdańsk Lech Walesa is the default airport, 12km from Main Town, with a modern passenger terminal. It’s equipped with tourist information, ATMS and bureau de changes.
The airport is serviced by its own train station, directly connecting Gdańsk Glówny, the city’s main railway, once an hour (13zl/£2.78 return; 30 mins). The station is a 10 min walk from Main Town. The ZTM public bus (no. 210) also connects the two for an even cheaper alternative (6zl/£1.28 return; 35 mins). A taxi to Main Town will set you back around 70zl (£15).
Other ways to arrive
Low-cost airlines like Ryanair and Wizz Air have greatly increased their domestic connections in recent years, making a Polish twin-centre break a more feasible option. The capital Warsaw, charming Kraków and cultured Wroclaw are all within a single hop of Gdańsk, with regular and affordable flights meaning its never been easier – and cheaper – to take the time to explore Poland’s charming cities.