The city seized the limelight again in the late 1970s when insurgent shipyard workers set in motion a chain of events that helped topple the Berlin Wall.
Today Gdansk still impresses cruise passengers with its vast shipyards. It also treats those on a Baltic cruise to one of Europe’s most attractive old towns – a compact historical core complete with Flemish mansions and a riot of handsome civic buildings. Most cruise ships dock in nearby fellow tri-city Gydnia. Arriving in the sunniest port in Poland, cruise passengers are greeted by a sweeping view of the tri-cities (Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot) as they stretch out across the Gulf of Gdansk, with the urban conurbation flanked by the lush Moraine Hills. Gdansk made a dramatic entrance onto the international stage in 1939 when Nazi warships pounded Westerplatte.
The Solidarity Monument is a poignant tribute to the shipyard workers who lost their lives standing up to the might of the Soviet Union and helped change the face of European history. Standing at the mouth of the Baltic Sea, the open-air museum at Westerplatte marks the spot where WWII began.
The waterfront proper meanwhile is home to the first steamship built in the city, a mammoth 15th-century crane and the fascinating Maritime Museum. Away from the Motlawa River, most of Gdansk’s key sights are located on or around the Royal Way. Formed by Long Street and Long Market, its impressive sights include imposing city gates, Flemish mansions and the towering Town Hall. The latter is home to the city’s history museum and also offers great views from its precipitous tower. One of the great pleasures here is walking along the ‘way’ marvelling at the intricate architecture and painstaking reconstructions.
Gdansk also hosts the largest gothic church in Poland: St Mary’s Basilica. This magnificent house of prayer can accommodate around 25,000 worshippers. The beach resort at nearby Sopot has Europe’s longest pier (500m/1,640ft).
• Hel Peninsula
• Kashubian Lakeland
• Teutonic castles at Malbork and Gniew
• Motlawa River cruise
Gdansk Tourist Organisation
Ulitca Długi Targ 28/29, 80-830 Gdansk, Poland
Tel: +48 58 301 4355.
If you’re looking for that special souvenir or gift then the small boutiques that dot the old town are for you. Many of the items on sale are handmade, which makes them unique. Specialities such as: Amber, glass and enamelware, handwoven rugs, silverware, handmade jewellery, dolls in regional costumes, woodcarvings and sculptures crafted from clay and metal can all be found in the historic centre of Gdansk.
Both the Royal Way and Gdansk’s waterfront are alive with bustling cafes, which are a good place to relax over a coffee or sample some of Poland’s distinctive cuisine. Here you can also sample Polish beers like Zywiec, Warka and Elblag, as well as clear or flavoured vodka.
Polish specialities include Barszcz (fermented beetroot soup), Krupnik (barley soup), Kielbasa (smoked sausage), Bigos (meat, cabbage and mushrooms), Golabki (stuffed cabbage leaves), Szarlotka (apple cake), Paczki (jelly doughnuts), Makowiec (poppy seed cake).
When to go:
Gdansk has a maritime climate with warm summers and mild autumns. The city basks in daytime highs that reach the low 20°Cs (low 70°Fs) during July and August, but temperatures struggle to climb above 1ºC (34°F) in January and February. Rain falls throughout the year. Snow is most likely to occur between December and March.
1.8km (1.1 miles).