If you’re pressed for time then do your best to squeeze in Gdańsk’s tourist highlights. The old town is where you’ll find all the action and the sensible start point is The Upland Gate, which marks the start of what was once known as the Royal Road. Following this route you’ll pass by main town hall (home of the Gdańsk History Museum), the Neptun fountain and Artus Court, before finishing at the Green Gate.
Ulica Mariacka ranks as the cities most picturesque street and is dominated by the biggest brick church in the world: St Mary’s. Climb to the top for panoramic views of the city. Nearby 15th century Żuraw stands on the river’s edge, a hulking reminder of Gdańsk’s merchant past. Across the river the Granary buildings serve as a sombre memory of the havoc wreaked by WWII, while the Maritime Museum (including the ship Sołdek which is currently closed for maintenance work) provides an interesting look at the history of Polish seafaring.
The old town’s compact nature means that it is easy enough to hit major landmarks such as St John’s Church, the Great Mill and Great Armoury within a short walk. Just out of old town do not dare miss the European Solidarity Centre in the shipyards – an extremely impressive building which includes a permanent exhibition that is a moving tribute to the Solidarity movement. WWII buffs should not miss the ferry ride up to the Westerplatte peninsula: where the first shots of the war were fired.
If time isn’t a problem then it’d be a schoolboy error to pass up the chance to explore the suburbs. Close to the centre the area of Biskupia Gora allows visitors to glimpse shades of pre-war Gdańsk, while the Oliwa district stands out for its landscaped park, soaring cathedral and zoo. Similarly compelling is the suburb of Wrzeszcz, primarily famous for its association with Nobel winning author Gunter Grass. Check out the bench inspired by his most famous character, visit the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and check out the New Synagogue, a survivor from the pre-war era.
Outside of Gdańsk the town of Sopot is best known for its beaches, and the pier is the longest wooden pier in Europe. Other highlights include the viewing platform on top of the lighthouse, the weird Gaudi-inspired Crooked House, and the Sopot Fort – an exact replica of the fortress that once occupied the spot.
Onwards to naval town of Gdynia where two ships – Dar Pomorza and Blyskawica – serve as the principal attractions. The City of Gdynia Museum does a good job of telling the story behind the town, while the aquarium is highly recommended if travelling with kids.
The tri-city also acts as a marvellous springboard for numerous other destinations - Malbork is the world’s biggest brick castle, and as well as home to one of the few wartime commonwealth cemeteries in the country. More grim reminders of WWII can be found at Stutthoff, a wartime camp used to incarcerate Jews and local intelligentsia. Finally, mobile travellers shouldn’t miss out on the glories of Kashubia, a charming laked and forested area with the countryside surrounding Kartuzy and Chmielno sometimes referred to as ‘Kashubian Switzerland’.