Must-Visit Attractions in Gdańsk, Poland

Artus Court, Gdańsk
Artus Court, Gdańsk | © Diego Delso / WikiCommons
Photo of Richard Franks
Freelance Travel & Music Writer14 July 2021

From medieval architecture to World War II museums, Poland’s port city is a must-visit for history buffs and anyone looking for a budget-friendly city break.

Gdańsk is a must-visit on any trip to Poland. Straddling the Martwa Wisła river, this beautiful harbour city is home to historical museums, Dutch-style architecture and thriving cafe culture. The golden tree sap found in the city’s coniferous forests, unearthed underground and occasionally even washed up on beaches, make it the world capital of amber.

Shop for amber on Mariacka Street

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Mariacka Street of Gdansk, night winter view in Poland.
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

Of all the lanes in Gdańsk’s maze-like old town, Mariacka Street is its most iconic – and certainly its most photogenic. This quaint, cobbled avenue is lined with the city’s most renowned amber jewellers. Here you’ll find everything from gorgeous pairs of golden earrings to miniature wooden trees with translucent leaves. Known locally as just Mariacka, the street – which connects St. Mary’s Basilica with the waterfront – is also home to cosy cafés and cool art galleries.

Sunbathe at Stogi Plaza

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark
Map View

Looking to escape the busy streets of Gdańsk? Stogi Plaza is a short tram ride from central Gdańsk and offers reams of gorgeous sandy coastline, perfect for topping up that tan. Nearby, there are also bars, restaurants and shops, plus parking; though it is more convenient to travel by tram from central Gdańsk. Changing facilities and toilets are also available, alongside a library where you can borrow a book to read on the beach.

Spot historical sites along the Motlawa River Embankment

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark
Map View
Gdansk port crane, view of the Zuraw - the largest medieval crane in Europe sited alongside the Motlawa River in the Old Town area of Gdansk, Poland.
© Michael Brooks / Alamy Stock Photo

No trip to this historic port city would be complete without a stroll along Dlugie Pobrzeze, also known as the Motlawa River Embankment. Here, you’ll find some of the city’s most illustrious architecture – including The Crane and several water gates – and is a popular spot for photo opportunities. In the summer months, the embankment is humming with activity and its cobbled streets are lined with people enjoying a spot of al fresco dining.

Go back in time at the Museum of the Second World War

Museum
Map View

Opened in 2017, the Museum of the Second World War is one of Poland’s most popular contemporary tourist attractions. This world-famous war museum offers an in-depth – and haunting – walkthrough of Poland’s involvement and suffering during World War II. If you don’t have time to take a trip down to Auschwitz-Birkenau in the south of Poland, this is the museum you need to visit. Bring snacks – the self-guided tour takes several hours.

Visit the Westerplatte

Historical Landmark
Map View
Westerplatte monument, Gdansk, Danzig, Baltic coast, Pomorskie, Poland
© Hans Blossey / Alamy Stock Photo

Westerplatte provides a poignant reminder of Poland’s heroic efforts against Nazi soldiers during World War II. This site marks the spot where the war started on 1 September 1939. Follow a short history trail along the peninsula, which leads to a monument in memory of the fallen soldiers. The site has been left largely untouched and includes several original barracks and bunkers. It’s easily reachable from Gdańsk via a short boat trip.

Marvel at St. Mary’s Basilica

Cathedral, Church
Map View
St Mary’s Basilica – believed to be the largest brick church in the world – is impossible to miss. This beautiful, gothic-style 15th-century church towers above the city. It is so grandiose in size that it can hold up to 25,000 people. Inside, there are 30 chapels and 300 tombstones, while unrivalled city views can be found atop the bell tower. Be warned though; you will need to scale about 400 steps.

Stroll down Ulica Długa

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Poland, Pomerania, Gdansk (Danzig), view of Long Lane (Langgasse/ Ulica Dluga) and Main City Hall tower
© Manfred Gottschalk / Alamy Stock Photo

Ulica Długa – meaning the Long Lane in Polish – connects the Golden Gate with the Green Gate. It is arguably the city’s most thriving thoroughfare. Between the iconic gates, you’ll find a pastel-hued street of shops, restaurants, cafes and bars frequented by locals and tourists alike. At the eastern end, the historic Ratusz Town Hall takes prominence, while the World War II merchant house museum, Uphagen’s House, towards the western end is well worth visiting.

Soak in the revelry at St. Dominik’s Fair

Market
Map View

St. Dominik’s Fair is the largest open-air trade and cultural event in Poland – and one of the biggest celebrations of its kind in Europe. For over 750 years, it has brought together local traders who showcase regional delicacies, crafts and arts – including a few weird and wonderful wares. Make sure you time your visit over these few weeks in July and August.

Stop by The Crane

Museum, Architectural Landmark
Map View

Perhaps Gdańsk’s most iconic waterside symbol, The Crane is a medieval port crane that played a huge part in loading and unloading ships that passed through the city’s waterways. The original crane was believed to have been destroyed by fire in 1442, rebuilt two years later and is now a popular tourist attraction showcasing Gdańsk’s maritime history. When standing under the crane, make sure to look up for the human hamster wheel, which powered the mechanism.

Peek inside Oliwa Cathedral

Cathedral, Archaeological site, Church
Map View
Archcathedral Basilica in Gdansk Oliwa, Poland.
© Slawek Staszczuk / Alamy Stock Photo
Consecrated in 1594, Oliwa Cathedral is an unusually striking building on the edge of Park Oliwski. Sandwiched between two pointed towers, Oliwa is the longest cathedral in Poland and is known for its stunning interiors and famous organ concerts. Bike tours from central Gdańsk can be combined with a short visit to the cathedral. Meanwhile, the surrounding park and its botanical gardens offer a sanctuary from the busy city.

Jonny Blair contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on July 14, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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