Updated: Oct 2
Gdansk is a beautiful old city in northern Poland, on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Walking the town, you can literally feel the wheels of history spinning on. For centuries Gdansk was in the middle of a few dramatic historical events. Two of them took place in the 20th century: the first shots of WWII and the rise of Solidarity – the movement that overthrew communism in eastern Europe.
A visit to Gdansk is a first-rate cultural and historical experience. Therefore, it must definitely be a part of your future touristic plans.
We landed in the evening, placed the luggage at the hotel, and made our first round in the Long Market, an equivalent to other cities' Old Town. This place must be visited at least twice: in the daytime and at night.
After dinner in the expansive and highly overrated restaurant called Piwna47, We took a ride on the Amber Sky attraction – a ferry wheel in the middle of the city, which ended our first day.
The second day was dedicated to two guided tours, run by Free Walkative Tour. The morning tour gave us the whole background story, the history of Gdansk, and its main sites, while the second tour focused on the fall of communism and the story of the Solidarity movement. Both trips were very enriching, giving us a high starting point for city exploring.
We closed the day visiting the WWII museum - an impressive building hosting a vibrant exhibition on the war. The museum suggests the visitors clear three hours for visiting the museum – and they are right. I can testify that I know a lot about WWII and the Holocaust. However, after two hours (we came late and they had to close), I felt I missed a lot and really needed this extra hour.
The next day we took an Uber ride to Westerplatte – where the first battle of WWII took place, a symbol of the courage of the Polish soldiers. They had no chance of standing against the power and cruelty of the Nazi forces. By the way, Uber is very efficient and chip in Poland.
From there, we headed to Sopot – a lovely but way overrated Vacation town north of Gdansk. We walked at the beautiful main street and visited the wooden pier and thought that despite what the tour guides and blogs say – this is not an essential visit. Unless you want to spend some time on the sandy beach. In this case, it's worth a visit.
Back to Gdansk – my wife Liat needed to go to her conference, and I went to see the St. Mary church. Due to its enormous size, the Basilica is imposing from the outside but much less from the inside. I have seen many fabulous churches in Poland – with tons of decorations and artifacts in every corner – but this one wasn't even close to most of them. I climbed the Basilica tower to catch the view of the city – just to figure out I'm not in good shape. More than 400 stares left me breathless. But it was worth it, with a marvelous 360-degrees view of the entire city.
On the morning of the 4th day, I visited two museums in the Main Town: The Old Main Town Hall - with the magnificent red ceiling and the Amber Museum. Amber is a symbol in Gdansk, though the city was vibrant with this stone, and its craftsmen became very famous for dealing with it. The Amber Museum is hosted in the old Prison Tower. So there is also an exhibition about tortures of the early days.
After a little Polish lunch of soup and Pirogie, I took a one-hour bus to Shtuthof – a former Nazi concentration and extermination camp. Nowadays, the compound serves as a museum with original barracks, gas chambers, and crematorium. A sad and horrifying place to visit - but in my opinion, every human being must visit a Nazi concentration camp – to learn and see what people can do to others.
We had two beautiful sites for our final day. We started the day by walking at Oliwa Park.
And then we went to visit the fantastic Solidarity Museum – perhaps the most beautiful and unique museum I have ever seen. We have been there for three fascinating hours. We learned about the Communist era, the strikes against the Communist Party in Poland, and the rising of the Solidarity movement.
It was a fantastic end to our visit to Gdansk.