Travel tips and advice for Gdansk, Poland: The nine things you should do


You can find grander and more luxurious hotels in Gdansk, but few are as well-located and character-full as Hotel Krolewski. Housed in an imposing 17th-century brick granary on Olowianka Island in the Motlawa River, it's a short stroll from the city's major attractions and enjoys a delightful waterfront locale. The 30 rooms are spacious and comfortable, and many have lovely river views. See


Given Gdansk was where World War II started, it's fitting that it should also have the conflict's definitive museum. Accessed via an arresting glass and concrete tower, the museum's 18 themed sections provide an exhaustive account of how the war started, where it was fought and its devastating impact. Among the striking exhibits and mock-ups are personal stories so tragic and harrowing, it's impossible not to be deeply moved. See


Located in the shadow of St Mary's Church, Gvara offers traditional Polish cuisine in an unexpectedly contemporary environment. Tuck into hearty fare such as rye bread with dripping, fried herring with sauerkraut and wild boar with dumplings.The staff are refreshingly affable staff (not always the case in Poland) and the restaurant often has live music in the evenings. See


You'd think Gdansk would be content with having one world-class attraction in the World War II museum, but the European Solidarity Centre is equally impressive. Located on the site of the former Gdansk shipyard, it charts the extraordinary journey of Lech Walesa, a shipyard electrician who went on to lead the country's first trade union, Solidarity, which eventually toppled Poland's communist rule. In 1990, he became Poland's first democratically elected president. See


It's impossible to stroll around Gdansk's compact centre without eventually being funnelled into Dlugi Targ (Long Market), but it's worth getting there early so you can appreciate its architectural splendour without coachloads of other tourists blocking your view. Highlights include the Golden House, with its elaborately carved historical friezes; the soaring gothic Town Hall and Neptune's Fountain, which allegedly once gushed with a gold-flecked local liquor called Goldwasser.


While the city's cobblestoned centre has dozens of cosy drinking dens, on a balmy summer's day, your best bet is to head to the outdoor beer garden near the ferris wheel on Olowianka Island. Grab a refreshing glass of Zywiec lager, sink into a free deckchair and watch a mesmerising procession of ferries, kayakers and paddleboats potter up and down the river.


Claiming to be one of the world's largest brick churches, St Mary's is a useful landmark for getting your bearings. Dating from the 14th century, it'sr more than 100 metres long and its cavernous interior can hold 25,000 people. Carefully restored after World War II, it's now home to a spectacular vaulted ceiling and an ornate 15th-century astronomical clock. For most visitors, the highlight is the panoramic view from the top of its 78-metre-high bell tower, reached via a dumpling-burning 400-step climb. See


Standing on the tranquil, grassy peninsula of Westerplatte today, it's hard to believe the first shots of mankind's deadliest conflict were fired here on September 1, 1939. But this is where about 200 Polish soldiers managed to hold off an invading German army of 3400 men for seven days. The site is now an open-air museum with an imposing 25-metre-high granite war memorial erected by the Soviets in the 1960s. Kids will love the mock galleon ships that provide transport to and from the site from the city. See


Allegedly the world's largest brick castle, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Malbork Castle is only a 50-minute drive from Gdansk. The hulking red complex was built in the 13th century by the Teutonic Knights, an order of Catholic crusaders who controlled a large swathe of the Baltics. After being badly damaged during World War II, the castle was restored and is now a sprawling museum with an impressive collection of coins, weapons and amber artworks. See



The grand mansions lining Gdansk's pedestrianised centre may look authentic but most were meticulously rebuilt by the Soviets after being bombed during World War II. Thankfully, they chose to preserve the original decorative facades rather than replace them with a more brutalist Russian style. Some of the best examples can be found on Ulica Mariacka, a quaint cobblestoned lane leading from the river to St Mary's Church.

Rob McFarland was a guest of Intrepid Travel, which runs an 11-day Northern Poland and the Baltics trip that visits Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. See