In 2015 I visited Poland for the very first time. I traveled by train from Poznan to Wroclaw and Krakow and despite the fact that the weather wasn’t always that great, I really loved Poland instantly. I liked the culture, the many colorful squares, the fantastic street art and the lovely cafes. I knew right then I had to come back, and this happened last September. In my own birthday weekend I got on a plane to Gdansk and enjoyed the last bits of summer in the Polish coastal city. I really became a fan of Gdansk. In this article I will tell you why.
A Polish city with Dutch influences
It is actually strange that many Dutch people don’t really know where Gdansk is or what the city is all about, considering the Netherlands have played a great role in the history in Gdansk. Like many Dutch cities Gdansk was also member of the Hanseatic League, a confederation of more than 200 merchant cities. With a location at the Baltic sea Gdansk was at a cross point for many merchants from Europe. This way the Dutch ships came to Gdansk and they not only brought trade they also brought architects from the Netherlands and Belgium. That’s why some buildings and structures in Gdansk are designed by Dutch and Flemish architects. An example of this is the Green gate (not green, but brown) at the Dlugi Targ that is designed by an architect from Amsterdam.
Impressive resistance history
In the Netherlands we all remember the history lessons about the Dutch resistance in the second world war, but also Poland has an impressive resistance history. Not against Nazi Germany, but against the communist regime in the seventies and eighties. Just like many countries in Eastern Europe Poland was part of the Soviet Union after the Second World war. The Polish people have always resisted the communists. The local trade union Solidarnosc has played an important role in this by organizing strikes and other actions in the ports of Gdansk and surrounding cities. And with success! Because of their strikes the communist regime in Poland started to crumble and other countries soon followed. In 2014 there was a museum opened, dedicated to the history and strikes of Solidarnosc. With a great audiotour you will be guided through the history of this movement, from the very first strike in 1970 to at last a free Poland and Eastern and Central Europe.
Fantastic street art
What a lot of people don’t know is that there is a lot of amazing street art to see in Poland. The neighborhood Zaspa in Gdansk is even seen as the biggest open air street art gallery in Europe. Of course, I had to see this side of the city, because I am a huge fan of street art all around the world. Here some photos of what I have seen, but I am already working on a post to cover all the pictures I have taken in Zaspa. Stay tuned!
So colorful and cute!
If you think Gdansk is grey and dull, you are so wrong! This city has so much color. Gdansk has a very beautiful center with many characteristic facades. Every house has a different color and some even have crazy patrons. Shells along the window or ribbons over the walls, why not? Note: almost everything you see in the city center is a replica. In the forties Gdansk was heavily bombed by the Nazi Germans. There are still photos in the Town Hall reminding us how the city looked like after the bombing. One of my favorite streets in Gdansk is Ulica Mariacka. Not because of the amber sellers – the whole street is full of those and they sell to the tourists coming from the cruise ships – but because of the little steps in front of each door. Those steps you see on photos from New York streets, and now you see them in Poland. Tip: some stairs give entrance to little cafes like Drukarnia café and Café Kamienica.
Food: foodtrucks and cafes
Looking for good food and drinks? Then you are in the right place in Gdansk. Interested in the Polish pirogi or more in the mood for pizza or burgers? No worries. Gdansk has plenty of different cafes. My favorite ones were Anima Café, Soul Kitchen and Retro Café. Be sure to also visit Ulica Piwna, because here you’ll find a great coffee place called Jozef K. You can choose from all sorts of coffee with spices, herbs, syrup and cream. This café is also amazingly decorated with fun little details. If you are looking for a quick bite, then you can visit the food trucks in front of the Hala Targowa. Here you can eat a Zapiekanki for a couple of zloty. And for desert you can go for a Lody Soprano. This is ice cream in the shape of spiral. It is very popular with the locals during the summer.
Sea is just around the corner
Because of the location at the Polish coast Gdansk is a perfect city trip in summer. Take a twenty minute SKM train ride and you will be standing on the beach in Sopot. Here you can also take a stroll along the longest pier of Europe. In summer a lot of families visit Sopot and that’s why the boulevard is full with electric cars and other attractions. I can imagine this place would also be fun to visit in winter, when you can take a stroll on the beach and drink warm chocolate after at the boulevard. Perfect!
And is Gdansk on your travel list?