After two nights in Warsaw, I headed to my next destination in Poland during this past April vacances. The next stop took me to Gdańsk, a port city located in the very north of Poland, very close to the Baltic Sea. Just like with Warsaw, I would be spending another two nights there, exploring and taking advantage of the *very* good weather that week (seriously, blue skies and lots of sun- I was very lucky!).
Why visit Gdańsk? Granted, I hadn’t heard about this city until a few months back: I’d been browsing through travel blogs online, and somehow stumbled upon a gorgeous photo of a canal with colorful houses in the background. At first, I thought it had been taken in Belgium, perhaps even in Amsterdam (two places I’d already visited), but it wasn’t the case. When I saw “Gdańsk” captioned below, I knew that I had to go. Mind you, I hadn’t had interest in visiting Poland beforehand, but thanks to that photo of Gdańsk, I was set on going (and I’m glad that I did!).
Any case, I caught the 13h30 train from Warsaw, taking the 2-1/2 hour ride up north and arriving at the central train station in the late afternoon. Again, I got a bit lost trying to find my hostel (if you didn’t already know, I have a terrible sense of direction), but eventually I found my way over, checking it around 17h30 before dropping off my belongings and rushing out to enjoy as much of the bright, warm weather before the sun went down. Fortunately, the sun didn’t set until as late as 20h00; we have springtime to thank for that!
I strolled along the quay of the Motława river, which feeds into the Baltic Sea. All of those months looking at beautiful photos online were now a reality, and I couldn’t help but feel so damn happy ambling past the colorful houses and enjoying the late-afternoon views along the water. Cliché as it sounds, it was a dream come true (or, more modestly, a bucket list checked off!).
After walking beside the water for a bit, I decided to cut through and enter the gate leading into the historic Old Town, also known as the “Long Market,” since its appropriately-named “Long Lane” stretches out for a while, from one gate to the other. Of course, it’s also super touristy, with plenty of tourist-trap restaurants, boutiques, and kantors (currency-exchange booths) with each turn of the head. I came across the Neptune Fountain, which was absolutely beautiful in the late-afternoon light. Fierce and powerful-looking, the Greek god appeared to be ready to strike at any moment with his famed trident.
Right behind Neptune’s Fountain was the Artus Court, which is a tall, ornate white building once used as a meeting house for merchants- today, it’s the Gdańsk History Museum. Didn’t go inside of it, but nevertheless it was an impressive (and attractive) building to admire.
I made a turn around and behind the Artus Court, heading through a small alley before popping out in front of St. Mary’s Church, which is apparently the tallest brick church in Europe (from the looks of it, I would have to believe so). Didn’t go inside that day, as I would be returning the following morning, and instead I decided to find a restaurant for dinner- I was starving by then.
Popped into the first restaurant that looked nice (and was decently-priced). I ordered kielbasa (Polish sausage), along with more pierogies. I was definitely too ambitious in my eating capacity, for I was super full after the kielbasa and half the plate of pierogies. Fortunately, the waitress said that she could box up the leftovers for me to take away, which surprised me, because European countries don’t seem to do that. Then again, it was in a touristy place, so it wasn’t that uncommon. All the same, I appreciated it, and the pierogies were still delicious to consume the following day!
The lights were just coming on as I made my way back to the hostel. Very lovely, and the contrast between the street lights and sunset gave it an enchanting, almost timeless atmosphere to it. I couldn’t help but fall in love with Gdańsk more, even though it was only my first day!
I enjoyed the complementary breakfast provided by my hostel the next morning before making my way out to explore more of Gdańsk: it was a matter of revisiting the places I’d seen the afternoon and evening before, this time in the full daylight. Strolled once more along the quay, taking photo after photo of the same, beautiful scenery. Again, the weather was fantastic, even warm, and it made for excellent photos to share back home with family and friends.
Afterwards, I made my way back to the Long Market, passing by Neptune’s Fountain and Artus Court before returning to St. Mary’s Church, this time entering it. There’s also a tower inside of the church, of which you can ascend for city views. Of course, I had to go up: I paid 3 zloty (< 1 euro) and made the 400-plus steps up to the top.
While I have to say that the views weren’t bad, I admit that they proved a bit underwhelming, just because the red-tiled roofs obstructed parts of the sight from above. It was also a small viewing terrace- probably no more than twenty people could be up there at once. All the same, it was a decent view, and after a couple of photos, I took the 400-plus steps again, this time to descend.
Exiting the church, I headed over to Mariacka Street, which is supposed to be one of the most picturesque streets in Gdańsk. That said, I have to agree: narrow, cobble-stoned, with stately apartment buildings seemingly leaning into each other, I can imagine it to be quite magical later in the day when the lights are on! Lighting was unfortunately limited when I went, but still an attractive sight to see.
I doubled back to Long Lane, wandering along until I got to the end of it. By then, it was late morning, so I decided that would head over to the central train station, where I would catch a nearby bus to Westerplatte, a district of Gdańsk located outside of the city center. Situated very close to the Baltic Sea, it’s a place notable for its history, particularly that of the Battle of Westerplatte in 1939, which actually marked the beginning of World War II.
The bus ride took about 30 to 40 minutes, and close to 13h00, I arrived at Westerplatte. The district is situated in the middle of a large natural park, with plenty of trees and trails to take walks in, all the while being by the sea. What was distinctive about it was the fact that its “museum” was situated outdoors, with several exhibitions scattered throughout from the remains of old bunkers to the triumphant Westerplatte monument. Funny enough, upon first glance, the monument appeared to resemble those of the big statue heads on Easter Island, but in fact a closer look depicts a bunch of small Polish soldiers fighting for control over the port, even if in the end they lost. The visit proved to be, once again, an informative look into Polish history, as well as a rather calming break in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
I didn’t stay too long in Westerplatte, choosing to take the next bus back to Gdańsk city center. By the time I arrived back, the weather decided to turn for the “less sunny,” becoming more overcast and less attractive to wander around and take more photos. Also felt that I’d already seen most of it, so I decided to head back to my hostel to relax a bit before going out again in the evening to take photos of the quay at night. Perhaps it was just the photographer in me, but I wanted a contrast between the views in the day and those at night, so I stuck it out until it got dark enough (after 20h00) before I started taking them. The wait was worth it in the end!
Headed back to my hostel afterwards, taking in the lovely views of the street lights lit up for the night. I relaxed the rest of the night with a huge glass of beer from the bar below the hostel (a tasty beer, to say the least. I usually don’t like beer, but that one was pretty tasty!). Afterwards, I turned in for the night, for I would be leaving the next morning to check out and take the train to the next stop in Poland.
While my stay in Gdańsk was short and rather slow-paced (i.e. didn’t do a whole lot of things, actually), it turned out be more of a charming, aesthetic visit than a cultural one (with the exception of Westerplatte, though). Then again, it was a pleasant and relaxing time, which I didn’t expect, but was glad to have experienced it nonetheless. Also glad to have crossed Gdańsk off my bucket list of places to see in Europe this year, and I’m happy to have made the visit over!
For my next post on my travels this April vacances, I’ll be showing my day trip to the Auschwitz concentration camps. Won’t be the most fun of visits out there, but nevertheless an important one. Until then!