The Polish city of Gdańsk is found on it’s northern coast, on the Baltic Sea. It has many beautiful buildings and wonderful museums, as well as great day trip options. It’s also an historically important city, whose fate impacted the whole world. Plus it’s now a popular party destination, with many people coming to enjoy food, drink and dancing whilst soaking up it’s great atmosphere. This all means it’s a fantastic place to visit for a few days, and I’ve put together this Gdańsk 3 day itinerary to show you it’s highlights.
Gdańsk 3 Day Itinerary – Some Historical Context
Given it’s huge role in European and World history, I’ve decided to begin this Gdańsk 3 day itinerary with a look at it’s history. I think this is really important for understanding the context of what you will see in the city. So lets begin!
The city of Gdańsk was originally a small trading settlement in the 10th Century, but it’s advantageous location on the Baltic sea helped it grow quickly. By 1224 it was formally made into a town, but then in 1308 the Teutonic Knights arrived. This Germanic catholic order ruled over much of the land along the Baltic Coast, and captured the city, killing many of it’s inhabitants. They remained in charge until the outbreak of the Thirteen Years War in 1454. The city then became part of the Kingdom of Poland, though quickly it’s rights to autonomy were recognised.
Gdańsk continued to grow, becoming an important city in Poland with a big international feel to it. Along with the rest of Europe it was impacted by the Reformation, and as with the rest of Poland was part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569–1793 CE. It also developed trading routes across Northern Europe, particularly with German cities. This meant it became a melting pot of many different cultures, particularly Polish and German. Gdańsk was the Polish name for city, Danzig the Germanic. However in 1793 it was annexed by Prussia. Asides a few years as a Napoleonic Free City during his wars across Europe, it remained Prussian and then German (after German unification in 1871) until 1919.
The 20th century
The 1919 Treaty of Versailles turned Danzig into a free city, though the Polish had some rights. Specifically use of it’s harbour, post office and to have a military garrison at Westerplatte. The majority of the city was however German, and in 1939 Adolf Hitler used this as an excuse to demand the city be ceded to Nazi ruled Germany. The Polish refused and on September 1st the Nazi’s declared war. During the following Second World War the centre of the city was 95% destroyed, particularly during the 1945 siege by Soviet forces.
After the war, the city officially became part of Poland. It’s German population either fled or was expelled westwards. It went through extensive rebuilding and restoration, returning the city to it’s former glory. Much of what you see in Gdańsk now was rebuilt during this time. However Gdańsk’s vital role in 20th Century history was not done. Poland was of course Communist in this time, as one of the USSR controlled Eastern Bloc. In 1980, the Gdańsk Shipyard gave birth to Solidarity, the Polish trade union that sparked the downfall of Communism. First in Poland and then across the entire Eastern Bloc!
How to get to Gdańsk
As I’ve mentioned in my other Polish posts, such as my Poland 2 week itinerary, Poland has a great and cheap rail network. Therefore I definitely recommend travelling to Gdańsk by train if you are already in the county. You can have a look at train routes and times here: https://www.polishtrains.eu/
You can also get to the city by bus, try Flixbus for routes and fares.
The city is served by the Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport, which has a range of flights to and from other European countries. You have a look them here: https://www.airport.gdansk.pl/flight-information/where-we-fly-p3.html
Once in the city it is walkable, with public buses and boat trips available. I’ll show you a recommended boat trip later in this Gdańsk 3 day itinerary.
Gdańsk 3 Day Itinerary
Dlugi Targ and Ulica Długa
The main ‘old town’ area has 2 connecting streets running through it, named Dlugi Targ and Ulica Długa. Together they are known as the ‘Royal Route’ and are the main focal point of the city, especially for tourists. They get this name from the route Polish Kings traditionally took when visiting the city, and at each end you can see the ‘gates’ from which they passed through.
Therefore it’s the ideal place to start this Gdańsk 3 day itinerary. One of the highlights whilst walking along here is the beautifully decorated Neptune Fountain. It dates from the early 17th Century, though was removed by the Nazi’s and then restored in the 1950’s.
The most notable thing about the Royal Route is just how many beautiful buildings there are. It is lined with them (on both sides), many of which are painted in bright colours and/or have great decorative patterns and artwork.
Main Town Hall
Rising above the Royal Route is the Old Town Hall. It is a wonderful piece of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, and has an impressive clock tower. It’s located on the route meaning it really dominates the street, and you can get great views of it from many angles.
If you want to then there is a small museum inside the town hall that can be visited. To be honest it’s collection isn’t that great but there is some interesting artwork and photos. So it’s worth spending half an hour so so in.
Asides from the Royal Route, there are plenty of great streets to explore in Gdańsk’s old town area. Take some time to wander around the side streets and admire the architecture. Mariacka Street is a popular one, with it’s old old architecture giving it a great look.
The above area is adjacent to Gdańsk’s waterfront, which itself is really fun to explore. Its full of pretty buildings, and is lined with restaurants, cafes and shops. You will also see various shaped boats docked along here, and find options for boat trips.
A famous building along here is the 15 century crane, which really stands out along the waterfront. It famously was used in The Witcher games, specifically in the Novigrad Docks in The Witcher 3. Unfortunately when I visited it was undergoing reconstruction so I don’t have a good photo to show you. But it’s definitely something you should look for when visiting Gdańsk.
Near to the mariner here, by one of several bridges, you can find the a tall tower named Stągwie Mleczne. It was part of the old fortifications that guarded the entrance to the it in the medieval ages. I recommend popping over to have a look at it, as well as having a wander around the mariner area.
Museum of the Second World War
As I discussed earlier, the Second World War began with the Nazi’s demanding Danzig be ceded to their control. Therefore it makes a great location to host the Museum of the Second World War. It’s a short walk along the waterfront, just north of main area. Take an audio guide here, which is well designed to guide you around the museum, explaining the displays as you go. It is very Europe focused, and the war in Asia barely gets a mention. It’s also had some controversy over the years as the Polish government pressured it to take a more Polish centric view. Nevertheless it is still a fantastic museum and well worth a couple hours of your time. The displays use a combination of photos, videos, objects and written information to great effect. It serves both to educate and to warn against the dangers of Totalitarianism.
There is a good look at resistance movements in the museum, both the Polish Home Army and others such as in France. This look at the details here reminds you that World War 2 was not just huge battles, and there was a constant fight in occupied nations.
Please note that museum currently closes on a Monday. I would advise that you therefore don’t start this Gdańsk 3 day itinerary on a Monday, however if you do then swap this around with somewhere on Day 3.
You can check on their website for the precise opening hours: https://muzeum1939.pl/en/opening-hours/4340.html
Day 2 – Daytrip to Malbork Castle
The next day of this Gdańsk 3 day itinerary involves taking a day trip! Gdańsk has several popular options, and the nearby Sopot and Gdynia are both great if you want to see some of the Baltic coast. However I chose a 30 minute train ride to Malbork, to see it’s stunning castle.
It was constructed in the 13th century by the Teutonic Knights, the Germanic catholic order I mentioned earlier. What is truly remarkable about it is that it is actually the largest castle in the world, by land area. They also used bricks to construct it, as opposed to the stone used in most other European castle of the time. This gives it a great look, it’s red bricks and tiled rooftops really stand out. Whilst it did suffer damages during World War 2 it has been well restored, and many of the outer brick walls actually remained intact.
As with the WW2 museum, it has a fanatically designed audio guide that will take you around the castle. All you need to do is hit play and it will trigger at the appropriate points. This means you get plenty of information whilst going at your own pace, which I really appreciated.
There are plenty of rooms inside the castle to explore, as well as admiring it’s fortifications. You will learn a lot about life here, with the audio guide doing a great job of explaining the information. After you have finished exploring the castle it is worth crossing over Nogat river so you can get more views of it. This will help you appreciate it’s grand scale.
You can take the train from Gdańsk Glowny direct to Malbork, from which it’s around a 20 minute walk to the castle. The train usually takes between 30 and 45 minutes depending which type you catch.
The castle does contain a small restaurant, so you can get lunch here if you need to. Otherwise the town of Malbork has some food options, as well as shops to buy water and snacks. It lies between the train station and the castle, so it make sense to walk through it and pick up what you need.
Please take note that the main part of the Castle is closed on Mondays. So you shouldn’t visit then as you won’t get the full experience. Therefore be sure to plan this Gdańsk 3 day itinerary so that your day trip here falls on a different day! You can check out their full opening hours here: https://zamek.malbork.pl/en/opening-hours/
As I stated earlier in this Gdańsk 3 day itinerary, before World War 2 Poland was allowed to station a military garrison in Danzig. This was at Westerplatte, a peninsula north of the centre. The first battle of World War 2 was fought here, with the German warship Schleswig-Holstein firing on the Polish battalion at 04:48 on September 1st 1939. This followed by land engagement as German marines attacked the Poles.
Today you can visit the site of this battle, and learn about the Polish soldiers who defended it. There is a memorial to them, and information boards detailing them and information about the battle. There is also a large monument to them and other Polish soldiers who fought in World War 2.
To get to Westerplatte you can take a boat ride from the waterfront in central Gdańsk. This takes you past it’s famous shipyards, which you will learn more about in the next part of this Gdańsk 3 day itinerary. For now enjoy the boat ride and the great views it gives you of the shipyards and around, They are still in service and you may be able to see some of the giant ships that they work on, as well as other boats cruising the river.
European Solidarity Centre
The 1970’s had been a tough time for Poland, with stagnating wages yet rising food prices, which resulted in social unrest. Under Communism the government controlled the economy and society with an iron fist, guided by their masters in the Kremlin. But then in August 1980 Solidarity was born, in the shipyards of Gdańsk. It became the first independent trade union to be recognised by the Polish Communist government, and went on to play a major part in it’s downfall. Which in turn led to the downfall of Communism across the USSR controlled Warsaw Pact. It’s leader Lech Wałęsa even went on to become Polish president after the collapse of Communism.
This museum looks at the trade union and it’s impact, as well as the broader anti-authoritarian movement across Poland. This includes a look at the martial law imposed between 1981 and 1983, as well as general life and challenges under Communism. It’s another one which has a fantastic audio guide, which will take you around the museum and auto play in the relevant sections.
Please take note that currently the museum does close on Tuesdays during the ‘off season’. So if you are visiting between October and April on a Tuesday then adjust this Gdańsk 3 day itinerary accordingly. You can find their opening hours on their website: https://ecs.gda.pl/zaplanuj-wizyte/godziny-otwarcia/
St Mary’s Church
This church in central Gdańsk has a large inside area for worship, and you are welcome to in and look around. For many tourists however it’s highlight is it’s tower. You can climb it to gets some amazing views all across the city and out towards and over the Baltic Sea. Really up can pop here anytime on this Gdańsk 3 day itinerary, but I’ve included it last as I think it’s fun to look over what you’ve already explored.
Gdańsk 3 day itinerary – A quick FAQ
Poland is one of Europe’s safest counties, with statistically lower crime rates than many of it’s neighbours. Therefore whilst you should always exercise caution, it is definitely on the safer side of anywhere you can visit.
There is a high rate of English speakers amongst the Polish population, particularly in the tourist and hospitality industries. Hence you should have no problems getting by with English in Gdańsk.
You can take a direct train from Warsaw’s central station to Gdańsk in just over 2 hours 30 minutes. They run regularly throughout the day.
This is the name given to the combined area of the 3 cities Gdańsk, Gdynia, and Sopot. They are all connected to each other along the Baltic Coast.
Poland uses Zloty.
Thanks for reading this Gdańsk 3 day itinerary
I hope it helps you with planning your own trip to Gdańsk. If you are considering a longer trip to Poland please check out my Poland 2 week itinerary. You can also connect with me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.