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Gdansk (and vicinity) questions

Hello everybody,

I am taking a tour of the Baltics this July. The tour starts in Gdansk and I am trying to decide how much earlier to arrive. The tour itself only allocates one full day (the only included activity is a galleon "cruise," with time to see some other stuff, but nowhere near enough time to see "everything"). The following day we go to Malbrok Castle before leaving Poland. I've done some research and Gdansk really seems like a city I'd like (I like history, art, cool architecture, and food). Right now I'm leaning toward two full days on my own.

I had thought to arrive in Poland about a week early and see Krakow and Warsaw, but I wonder if I should save Warsaw for another time and split my time between Krakow and Gdansk?

Lastly, how have people found Sopot versus Gdynia? They both seem worth a stop. Am I correct that they're on the same train line? Is it worth seeing both?

Thanks!
Caroline

Posted by
4690 posts

I loved Gdansk, though I think I enjoyed Krakow and Wroclaw even more. The history in Gdansk is great, and the old town area (which was re-built after being flattened during the war) is still really nice. I never made it to Warsaw on my trip to Poland.

I was disappointed in Sopot. Never made it to Gdynia, unfortunately - now I feel I probably would have liked it better than Sopot, which just seemed a little too much like a bland resort town to me.

Malbork castle is outstanding - maybe my favorite castle experience in Europe. (It is is not all original, having been re-built a few times, but it is somehow very convincing and authentic-feeling.)

I would probably want at least an extra day in Gdansk if I were you. You could certainly do a whole separate trip to see much of the rest of Poland - Krakow, Warsaw, Poznan, Wroclaw, Torun...lots of other places to see. On my trip, after Krakow, I turned west and headed to Czech Republic...which somehow was a bit of a let-down (except for Prague). In retrospect, I kind of wish I had turned east instead to L'Viv, Ukraine - I hear it's a wonderful city and not very touristy. You could add that to any trip that includes Krakow, too, by train and maybe even end in Kiev.

Posted by
1958 posts

We have not been to Gdansk, but after reading about it and the feedback on the forum, it is an area that is intriguing. I hope Chani chimes in because I know she loved this city. I sure hope you will report back about your trip. Would you be willing to divulge the tour you are taking?

Posted by
4637 posts

I was very pleasantly surprised by Gdansk. Very beautiful city. We went by a galleon to Westerplatte - place where the WWII started. Also enjoyed our walk around old town during a day and at dark. Save enough time for a fantastic museum - Museum of Solidarity - about a trade union which ultimately brought communism to its end.
I think that to see Krakow, Warsaw, Gdansk having just one week would be one city too many; so either Krakow, Gdansk, or Warsaw, Gdansk. Concentrate on Sopot - very nice spa town. Gdynia is much bigger and industrial city. The train which goes from Gdansk to Gdynia stops in Sopot. Nearby Gdynia there is a long narrow peninsula into Baltic Sea. Train from Gdynia goes the whole length of peninsula. At places peninsula is so narrow that you can see the Baltic Sea on both sides. Train ends at the tip of peninsula in a little town. The name of the town is Hel, just with one "L" but pronounced the same. We were there in May and it was little rainy and cold. So we send a postcard to our catholic friend in the States: "Many greetings from Hel. We expected it to be hotter here."

Posted by
13972 posts

Chime, chime

Gdansk is not really a Polish city, or perhaps I should say it doesn't feel like one. It was a Hanseatic town and its architecture reflects that. The Solidarity Museum is one of the best museums I've ever visited, allow several hours. I missed the new WWII Museum, it didn't end up on my radar until Monday, my last day in the city and the one day of the week the museum's closed. There are some lovely interiors you can visit. I'm not a big foodie eat vegetarian, and I do not like Polish food. I spent nearly 2 weeks in Poland and never ate Polish food. The best meals I had were in Gdansk - Tex-Mex, Thai and Italian.

My other stops were Warsaw and Krakow. Of the 3, not only was Gdansk my favorite, it's the one that I want to return to.

Look for some of Christa's thoughts on Gdansk. Her descriptions really convinced me to add Gdansk to my itinerary and I am so glad she wrote so glowingly and in so much detail.

Posted by
2092 posts

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/poland-prague-part-1-poland
Here's my report, I spent 8 days in Poland in May of 2015 and fell totally in love with it. My long day trip to Gdansk from Warsaw via train was a highlight, and although it's worth a couple of days I got to see the Westerplatte, explore the beautiful old town (wonderfully different architecture) and tour the Solidarity museum. I'd like to return and visit the new WWII museum in Gdansk and see other towns nearby.

Posted by
204 posts

Thank you all for your replies and especially for the detailed trip reports! I do think I will end up skipping Warsaw for this trip and concentrate on Krakow and Gdansk and its environs. The more I read about Gdansk, the more enthusiastic I get, and Krakow, of course, is a no-brainer!

Has anybody been to Szczecin (formerly Stettin)? The history geek in me would love to see Catherine the Great's birthplace, and there's an art museum as well.

The tour that I mentioned is through Intrepid. They offer several tours that go through Poland, but none that really focus on it. This will be my third Intrepid tour and I'm largely very positive about the company. Their tours are quite different from RS tours (of which I've done four and also love), and usually considerably less expensive (but also much less is included). But they operate on a similar ideology of responsible travel, patronizing local establishments, interacting with "regular life" as much as possible.

Thanks again!
Caroline

Posted by
242 posts

Back from 14 days in Poland. I've been to Krakow, Warsaw, Gdansk, Rzeszow and some smaller villages around Poland.
Here is what I would recommend:

Krakow is the highlight. You can easily spend 3-4 days there to see the highlights. Consider taking a bus to Auschwitz and Zakopane, even it is for just the day. Spend one day in the Jewish area of Krakow (Kazimierz), spend one seeing the highlights of Old Town Krakow- Wawel Castle, St. Mery's church, walking around the Rynek and Cloth Hall, etc. Go to a milk bar for a unique eating experience. We liked the one on Grodzka on the way to Wawel. ) Milk Bar Termida?). Walk the Planty and just get lost down some side streets.

If you have an apartment, consider shopping at Stary Kleparz which is a local food market dating back many centuries.. You can get anything there.

Hire a driver to take you for a combo trip to the Salt mines and the ethnographic museum nearby. We also went to the Museum of the Home Army which is outstanding, but may not be of interest to the casual traveler who isn't interested in the history of WWII.

Gdansk is our second favorite city, although it is similar to Copenhagen. You can easily spend a day walking around there and also consider going to their fabulous new WWII Museum.

Malbork is a nice train ride from Gdansk. Just find the train station and ask for help. We hired a taxi to drive us from the train station to the castle. We did a LOT of walking that day- the place is massive and very impressive!

Warsaw is our third favorite. Their old town is lovely, but I couldn't get over the fact that it was essentially mostly rebuilt and not truly "old." Poland certainly was ravaged by war and if you are interested in the WWII history of Poland, there are several outstanding museums.

We have visited the villages of our grandparents after finding long lost relatives. We stayed with them this time and did local research for a book I am writing. That was truly the highlight of this past trip. I wish everyone could find a village in Poland to visit to see the countryside.

We also went to the Przeclaw and Lancut castles. Wow! There are so many wonderful things to see.

Try to go to a skansen or ethnographic outdoor museum to see how people live 150-300 years ago. They are real treasures.

Poland is not only beautiful with much history, but is very inexpensive.

Posted by
6184 posts

I'll go out on a limb and say consider not skipping Warsaw unless it's too out of your way (I'm from there so you can PM me with any questions)...yes, it's very different from the other cities by virtue of being the capital but it's well-worth visiting especially for the Old Town and several outstanding museums. I figure you'll likely have to fly into Warsaw anyway, won't you? I've seen more and more flights to other Polish cities from Chicago and NYC, but I believe most people get in via Warsaw. Unfortunately it's a very underrated city as most tourists can't get enough of Krakow even though it's so much smaller and has less to do, but is admittedly more charming. Gdansk feels very Hanseatic but is quite compact as well. Definitely give yourself 1-2 extra days to take it in. By the way, Poland is very easy to tour on tour own - lots of folks do it without any guided tours and they don't speak any Polish.

Posted by
1878 posts

My wife and I just returned from a trip that started with three nights in Gdansk followed by four nights in Krakow. With the day trips we did, I could have used an extra day in each. Not because we missed any great sights, we saw the ones we came to see. But I would have liked to be able to just spend more time in each city without being so goal oriented. We did not include Warsaw on this trip. Malbork can take more than half a day, it's big. There is the salt mine outside of Krakow and of course Auschwitz as a day trip. All of which we visited. The train trip between Krakow and Gdansk is 5.5 hours but it worked great for us. Stopping in Warsaw would break the journey up. Based upon my research Krakow and Gdansk was the way to go with the seven days that we had. These are both very pleasant cities to spend time in, they are definitely worth extra time.

Posted by
70 posts

Six of us from Upstate NY just finished a 14 day trip to Poland, some of which was on a formal bus tour. Honestly, Gdansk was my favorite and wish we had been able to spend more time there. It is a city where there are many outdoor cafes to leisurely hang out and enjoy the ambiance. One can easily find your way around here too. While it was pretty much destroyed in WW 2, you would never know it. Found folks to be very friendly and engaging. If you can fit an extra day or two I would say go for it. :)

Posted by
9 posts

I have been to Poland three times and love the country, will be taking my 4th trip there in September. My husband loves Krakow so that is our home base for the 2-months that we will be there.

Last year we spent time in Gdansk and have to say I don’t like the city. I felt Gdansk’s Old Town and port to be tourist traps (haven’t felt that anywhere else in Poland). That said, a trip to see the Solidarity Museum and a few other historical sites is worth going to Gdansk. The new museum of World War II history sounds interesting, if it is still opened. The WWII Museum’s purpose is being disputed by the government, Polish history only vs. the the planned inclusivity of all countries’ history involved in WWII in that part of the globe.

Torun is a lovely city, I would consider going there.

If your taking the train, Warsaw is much closer to Gdansk and Marlebourke Castle. To avoid a lot of time on trains, it would be wiser to include Warsaw and cities in the Northern area in this trip. I would look at the map and guidebooks to see what interests you. If possible, longer stays in an area makes for a more enjoyable trip.

Posted by
20 posts

Regarding length of time in Gdansk, in his book, Rick suggestions two days for the city. If you have more time, consider the side trip options.

Posted by
242 posts

The World War II museum in Gdansk is wonderful. I don't see the criticism about the museum giving too much emphasis to Poland's experience during the war. If you look at statistics and history, Poland was the epicenter of the war, fighting both the Nazis and Soviet Union at the same time.

That said, it did address the other areas beyond Poland, and also had a section on the Pacific theatre. I have been to the Imperial War Museum, three concentration camps, several smaller WWII museums in Europe, Blizna, and the Museum of the Polish Home Army in Krakow (also amazing!) I think the museum in Gdansk had the most outstanding collection and presentation. The others told their own story very well, but you will get a better sense of the totality of WWII in Gdansk.

BTW- we also went to Malbork. What an amazing experience. We enjoyed Gdansk, but it seems more Germanic than Polish; more like Copenhagen.