- Area: 262 km² (101.2 sq mi)
- Calling Code: +4858
- Currency: Złoty (PLN)
- Population (EST): 455,830
- Official language: Polish
- Time Zone: CET (UTC+1)
Gdansk – Overview
The Baltic's golden oldie has a new spring in its step, and what's more, Sopot and Gdynia are making sure that Poland's coastline has more than one ace up its sleeve. Known historically as the powder keg whose spark (lit by Hitler) ignited the Second World War, it was also in Gdansk where the flame that signalled the collapse of communism was raised (by Lech Walesa and Solidarnosc). Shedding the stigma that the city is little more than a bunch of battered cranes in a dingy shipyard, Gdansk's Old Town has been scrubbed clean, shined up, and stocked full of hotels, restaurants, cafes, clubs, bars and amber shops amidst the picturesque Burgher houses that line its streets.
The heart of Gdansk, and the area where you'll probably want to kick off your adventures, is the magnificent Dluga Street (Long Street), which gives way onto Dlugi Targ (Long Market) in the east. With its tall, gabled merchants houses, the Old Town has a distinctly Dutch air about it. This was indeed one of the great Hanseatic cities, and post-war conservators have done a marvellous job in recreating the splendour of old Gdansk.
History buffs may well feel inspired to press on further north to Westerplatte, the waterside promontory that saw the first shots of World War II. A small Polish garrison held out here for six days amidst bombardment from all quarters. Beyond Gdansk's Old Town, a gamut of wonderful destinations await travellers: the suburb of Oliwa hosts numerous parks, a zoo, and a spectacular cathedral en route to the hedonistic atmosphere of Sopot's beaches and nightlife. Venture into Gdynia and you'll find some of the area's finest restaurants, a number of lively bars and more beautiful coastline. But don't stop there. Daytrips to immaculate Malbork Castle, the dunes of Leba and the hot sands of Hel are mandatory stop-offs for those with a little more time on their hands. If you're looking for a tonic to balance out your urban adventures, the sea is close at hand. The ominously named Hel, a short bus ride north of Gdynia, is a favourite in this neck of the woods. A beguiling little fishing town, it's a great place to unwind, whilst Leba, to the west of the Bay of Gdansk, is arguably the best of the bunch on Poland's coastline.
If you're curious about heading further a field, the decision to explore could well pay off. Within an hour of Gdansk lies Malbork, a gargantuan edifice that was once the chief stronghold of the Teutonic Knights. On the other hand, the delightful city of Torun, which lies a little further to the south, is a laid-back gem that's well worth a look. Torun, the birthplace of Copernicus himself, managed to come through the ravages of war pretty much unscathed, and as such it remains one of the most charming cities in Poland, and still largely undiscovered by the crowds.