It's around that time in the earth's orbit where things start getting a little colder, darker and stormier here on the Baltic and, while most businesses in Tri-City (Gdańsk, Sopot and Gdynia) will shorten their opening hours or just close altogether, this shouldn't be taken as a sign that life-itself is coming to an end. On the contrary - life is simply adapting to the change of season and, in our opinion, the Tri-city does this very well! While taking a dip at the beach is obviously out of the question (unless you're a pro-surfer or just particularly-game), wintertime activities that rely on sub-zero temperatures make up for the less-appealing weather. Those travelling with young children can get some extra ideas from our feature on Activities for Kids in the Tri-City. There are also several advantages to visiting Gdańsk in the winter: there are fewer tourists, less crowded restaurants and museums and, all-round, prices are much lower. As foreigners living in Poland, we also notice that customer service greatly improves in the off-season, which is no doubt an indicator of less stress and more equal customer-to-staff ratios. Those from the Southern Hemisphere (including Yours Truly) have the opportunity to experience a classic European Christmas and New Years Eve in the snow, much like the ironic decorations of your local western shopping centre in the sweltering heat of summer.
Visit the Christmas Markets
The winter spirit is embodied in Christmas and Gdańsk hosts its seasonal markets is fortunate to have a picturesque historic centre as a backdrop. Head up to Targ Węglowy (Eng: The Coal Market) between Brama Wyzanna and the Golden Gate and browse the quaint Christmas village offering decorations and treats galore, woollen scarves and socks, handmade jewellery, children's toys, mulled wine, hot cider and steaming portions of Polish food. Some amazing modern light displays make for some awesome photo opportunities!
Go for a Sleigh ride
Head out to the Kashubian countryside where you can find a few local firms offering sleigh rides through the snowy forests during the day or night. Lasting about an hour and a half these can be great fun in the winter when they tie wooden sledges to the back of the sleigh and wizz you across the snow. Night trips involve carrying burning torches and can include a bonfire where you can enjoy grilled sausages and a warming drink or two, though remember to bring your own. You need to book direct and they might insist on a minimum of 8 people to harness the horses but this being Kashubia, you can definitely bargain. Price 30zl/person during the day. 35zl/person at night. See U Franka.
Go for a Short Ski
When the snow arrives ‘Bald Hill’ is the nearest place to go sledging. While most of Poland and Pomerania in particular might not be mountainous terrain, Poles are, nevertheless, keen skiers. With the Tatra Mountains over 600km to the south, many locals will get some practice in on one of the gentle slopes found dotted around Kashubia. The longer ones can be found 45-60 minutes drive south-west of the city though you don’t need to go that far as there is a small slope in the forest in Sopot where you can hire equipment and relax after your exertions with a mulled wine.
Strap on the Skates
While you might not be able to guarantee three feet of snow in the city, you can guarantee that the temperatures will fall far enough that the city skating rinks will be open until at least March. You’ll find an outdoor rink in two of the three cities where you can hire boots. One notably picturesque location is next to the iconic pier in Sopot! On top of that there are two larger indoor rinks including one housed in a huge bubble just outside Gdansk’s old town. The other is inside the iconic (for us anyway) Hala Olivia. Those hanging out in Gdynia have a decent option on Aleja Piłsudskiego.
This covers, but isn’t exclusive to, trampolining, bowling, pool, go-carting, escape rooms, paintballing, laser quest, gaming on consoles and virtual reality bars. The choice in this area of the market has really improved in the past few years with the latest craze being bars where you can play anything from board games to X-box while relaxing with a drink and some food. You’ll find a few options under one roof at the city’s Energa football stadium and more info in our indoor attractions section.
Go to the movies
This might sound obvious, but do you really consider the cinema when visiting a country with a different language? Polish cinemas show movies with the original soundtrack and Polish subtitles (with the exception of kids’ movies which are mostly but not always dubbed). There are a number of modern multiplexes in the three cities and while tickets are expensive by Polish standards they’re cheaper than at cinemas in western Europe and Scandinavia. Find where your nearest cinema is in Gdańsk, Sopot and Gdynia here.
Jump around a bit
Some might find looking at exhibits a bit boring, especially if you have young people in tow so it’s good to know that the Tri-city boasts two very interesting exhibitions designed not only to educate but also to entertain by allowing you to push, pull and jump around the place. In Gdańsk, you can visit the Centrum Hevelianum, located in the remains of the city’s fortifications while in Gdynia there’s a purpose-built centre named, appropriately enough, Experyment.
Embrace the nightlife
It’s hardly surprising that one way everyone gets through the long, dark and very cold nights, is by retiring to their favourite hostelry and fuelling themselves with some winter warmers. Poland didn’t stumble across a range of traditional spirits that put a fire in your belly by accident. With increased competition, bars and clubs are putting on more entertainment such as live music or special events to attract the crowds. Download our app to find what’s on where this evening.
Hang out in a spa or sauna in Sopot
Don’t just stay inside in the warm, but stay inside in the warm and be pampered to within an inch of your life. In Sopot, Poland has one of Europe’s finest spa resorts whose origins date back 200 years. The city now has some of the biggest names in the hospitality business clamouring for the chance to give you a break that will send you home feeling completely refreshed and groups of Scandinavians have made the city a hugely popular city break destination for that reason. For more info check out our Sopot Spa feature which comes with some recommended places.
Go sliding past Sharks
One of the many great reasons for visiting Poland is the newness of so much of its infrastructure. But it’s not just roads and railway lines. Hotels are rarely more than a few years old while the Tri-city boasts two water parks. One can be found close to the centre of Sopot, while the other, though further away in Reda, north of Gdynia, is easily reached and features a slide which takes you through a shark pool. Definitely one of the best ways to forget the cold outside.
Tuck into Polish Food
Another that you could have worked out for yourself but what we recommend is you take the opportunity to enjoy some traditional Polish dishes that are designed to keep out the cold. The Poles are well-versed in eating to keep warm and as such treat fat as a vital part of a balanced diet unlike those of us from countries with less harsh climates. Check out some Polish Food tips and the list of Polish restaurants which we like to visit.
Go for a Stroll
Having strengthened yourself by eating a meal of insulating Polish food, get out and about and enjoy the bracing air. In a world where pollution in cities seems to be making the news more often these days, one of the great pluses of the Tri-city is how fresh the air is. Granted this is due to it sometimes blowing in at great speed off the nearby Baltic Sea but don’t let that put you off. A stroll on a quiet beach or a walk in Oliwa Park are favourite winter pastimes.
Take in some Culture
We’ve mentioned the tremendous, multi-million-złoty museums, but there’s also a lot to see in the city’s art galleries and in the temporary exhibitions of the city’s 'less-glamorous' museums. The Tri-city is home to some interesting galleries like the chain of Gdańsk City Galleries and some remarkable art such as the 'Triptych of the Last Judgement of Christ' which is on display at the National Museum Old Art Dept.. For a list of recommended galleries, see our What's On section.