I’ll be honest, Gdansk surprised me. There have always been other European cities higher on my bucket list that seemed to tick off the sights For water – Amsterdam, for historic relevance – Prague, for proximity to beaches – Barcelona. But Gdansk has all this and more! I’m so glad Mr AWTYKs job gave us the opportunity to visit. This guide to Gdansk will teach you everything you need to know about this beautiful city.
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Read through this list of all my favourite cool and unusual things to do in Gdansk and I think you’ll agree, it really is an unfairly underrated European city break.
What to do in Gdansk with kids
Take a stroll around Old Town Gdansk
Gdansk is a completely walkable city, it’s split by the Motlawa river so the biggest challenge is working out where to cross, besides that it’s extremely easy to navigate. We were staying at Hotel Gdansk Boutique on the east side of the river.
Gdansk old town is full of elaborately decorated buildings and narrow walkways and is best explored with no set schedule at your own pace. There are plenty of places to stop to get a drink or ice cream to keep the kids happy and soak in the atmosphere.
Learn all about the shipping history of Gdansk
Gdansk is the largest port in Poland although the majority of the industry has now moved away from the city centre the shipping history pops up everywhere. No guide to Gdansk would be complete without mentioning its shipping past. The National Maritime Museum complex will take you through everything you never realised you wanted to know about the European shipping industry. They operate several sites across the city, each focusing on different aspects of shipping.
You can buy a joint ticket for The Granaries, the huge ship “The Soldek”, the Crane, The Maritime Culture Centre (including the interactive room) + the ferry for around £6.50 or a family ticket to all of the above for 2 adults and 3 children for under £20.
If you are visiting with kids then the interactive room at the Maritime Culture Centre will keep them entertained for hours learning about the realities of a port with remote controlled boats and many other hands on activities. The centre can be found on the banks of the Motlawa river, next to the crane, you can’t miss its distinctive glass walls.
Whilst all of the museums are interesting and full of some fascinating finds from history, not all of them will keep little ones attention. If you’re pressed for time, I would recommend a trip on the Soldek – Polands first ocean going vessel which was built in Gdansks shipyard and the Maritime Culture Centre mentioned above.
Immerse yourself in the history of World War II
The museum of the Second World War in Gdansk takes you on a journey through the effects of war on the people of Poland and other European nations with many personal items such as letters and photographs on show which have been donated by the people of Poland.
The museum has a really interesting but small kid friendly area which cleverly illustrates what life may have been like for children during World War II, taking you on a journey through their home at different stages in the war.
The rest of the museum is probably a bit too hard going for kids under ten.
The building this museum is housed in is worth the visit alone. It half looks like it’s been dropped from space.
The Museum of World War II is packed with interesting and humbling facts about the war, you’ll see propaganda, the life of a soldier and learn all about this brutal period. It’s so worth the visit but you’re likely to feel a bit drained afterwards.
Tickets cost less than £5 or £11 for a family. The museum is closed on Mondays.
Dating back to the 14th century, this crane was used to unload cargo from the many ships visiting the port of Gdansk. It’s now part of the Gdansk National Maritme museum complex and you can visit it to experience life in the 1500s.
Largest Brick Church in Europe
St Marys Church went through a huge renovation after the second World War and this huge building can hold over 25,000 worshippers. If you’re feeling up for a challenge, you can climb the 400 steps up the tower for some great views over the city.
As you can see, it’s almost too big for a good picture!
Wander down amber street or visit the Amber museum
Amber is a huge part of Gdansk’s past with much of the worlds most beautiful pieces of Amber jewelry originating from the city. There are Amber shops and stalls all over Gdansk if you fancy a spot of souvenir shopping, the main concentration being on Mariacka Street.
Or you could visit the Amber museum to discover why amber is nicknamed the gold of the Baltic Sea. Its only about £3 to visit. The Amber museum is located in the Old Prison tower and torture chamber near the main entrance to the Old Town of Gdansk which will make it an interesting visit for kids even if they’re not into amber!
Visit the ruins at Westerplatte where the first battle of World War II took place
This peninsula, just outside of Gdansk is where the first shots of World War II were fired in 1939. Today you can visit the ruins and view the memorials to fallen Polish soldiers. Its free to visit and if you have a rental car, parking is also free. If you don’t have a car then a taxi to Westerplatte should cost you around £5 or you could visit on the Black Pearl (see below).
And for some of the more Cool and Unusual Things to do in Gdansk
Have a pirate adventure on the Black Pearl
Moored on the banks of the Motlawa river, the Black Pearl is essentially a tour ship which will take you along the river, through the current industrial port and eventually to Westerplatte (where world war II began) where you can get off to look around before heading back into the city on the return trip. The whole journey takes around two hours and multilingual guides will point out the interesting things you will see along the way.
It opens up as a bar/restaurant in the evening so if you can’t squeeze in the trip, pop in for something to eat or drink.
Ride the ferris wheel
A relatively new addition to Gdansk and following in the footsteps of many other European city destinations, the Gdansk Panoramic wheel which opened in 2014 has 36 cabins which can each fit 8 peaple in.The wheel itself is 50m high offering amazing views across the city and the ride takes about 15 minutes. It’s located on Granary Island near the Wartka pedestrian bridge that rises every half hour to allow the boats to pass and the funky Gdansk sign.
See the old Prussian Hags
This one wont take up much of your day but these rare statues are a pretty cool thing to see. Although no one knows for sure, they’re thought to date back to the early middle ages and Gdansk is home to the largest group of them – 4 in total. It’s unknown as to what they represent, maybe Prussian warriors or tombstones for tribe members but it was very cool to stumble across them whilst walking alongside the river. You’ll find them across the street from the Motlawa, outside the Gdansk Archeological Museum.
Drink some craft beers
Not for the kids but I’m sure they’ll appreciate a sit down and a cold drink as well, Gdansk has a thriving craft beer scene. Most bars will have a wide variety to choose from, just be warned, it’s super strong over there so pace yourself!
If beer is your thing then you can prearrange a Private Polish Beer Tasting Tour around 4 venues in Gdansk for just over £25.
European Solidarity Center
This is one we actually didn’t make it to. Thanks to Google maps – we searched solidarity Centre and it kept directing us to the World War II museum, an interesting visit but darn it Google!
Here you’ll learn all about the history of solidarity and the civil resistance movement led by Lech Walesa (who would later become a Nobel Prize Winner) and learn a bit more about Poland’s fascinating past.
You can get a family ticket for just over £11. In winter the museum closes on a Tuesday.
Ride the carousel
Something that is sure to put a smile on any kids faces is a quick ride on the carousel. It’s only £2 to ride and you’ll find it on Targ Rybny, near swan tower. Maybe treat the kids (or yourself) after a busy day exploring.
Best day trips from Gdansk
Visit the seaside town of Sopot
We drove to Sopot which was a pretty easy journey of around 30 minutes but if you don’t have a car, you can hop of the train at Gdansk central station which will take you 25 minutes. Check the times on Trainline.
This is an adorable Polish seaside town, home to the longest wooden pier in Europe.
I highly recommend a stroll along the sandy beach. If you’re visiting Sopot with kids then they’ll love feeding the swans that hang out by the pier.
If you get hungry, take a walk down the pier and try the restaurant at the end, The Meridian. It’s open year round and offers great views out to sea whatever the weather.
In winter there’s even an ice rink at the land end of the pier.
If you’re visiting in summer then you could easily spend the whole day soaking up the sun on the sand. But we were there in February so it was a bit too chilly for that.
We took the short walk into the town of Sopot which has a lovely vacation vibe. There are street performers, plenty of restaurants and bars and some fun street art to spot.
It’s here you’ll find one of the craziest buildings I’ve seen. Unfortunately its now a Starbucks! But still worth it for a pic!
Make sure you walk all the way up the main street to see the pretty Garrison Church of St. George
Where to stay in Sopot
Take a trip to the Sutthof Concentration Camp
Sutthof was the first concentration camp the Nazis built in Poland. This is not one for the kids, I wouldn’t recommend it for under tens. But it’s such an important place for us to remember and educate about I think it’s well worth a visit if you can.
It’s free to visit and when we arrived it was very quiet with plenty of parking available. You can stay as little or as long as you like. Wandering through the barracks, learning about day to day life in this death camp.
Sutthof is free to visit, with a small fee for parking. You can easily walk around, taking it in by yourselves as we did. However if you would prefer transport from your hotel and a guided tour then Get Your Guide does a Sutthof collection and camp tour
You will see the gas chamber and crematorium. But I think the most chilling part of our visit was the old train which was used to transport prisoners into the camp. This place made me sad, angry and horrified all at once. And also determined to teach my daughter about the past. It took us about an hour to drive to Sutthof from Gdansk.
A trip to Sutthoff could be described as dark tourism. Whilst controversial it is something which has grown more popular with shows like Chenobyl and The Dark Tourist highlighting the impact of such events on people’s lives. If you’re interested in learning more you can read this fantastic post on exactly what is Dark Tourism
Built in the 15th century, this beautiful Polish castle is a UNESCO world heritage site. And one of the largest gothic fortresses in Europe and possibly the largest castle in the world. It’s only about half an hour from Gdansk by train. And was once the residence of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order (an order of monks and knights known for their strength and brutality so kids will love this part!). During WWII it was used by the Nazis to house prisoners of war.
You can pick up an English audio guide or just self tour the castle. A family tour will cost you about £6 each.
It’s around an hours drive from Gdansk to Malbork Castle or you can hop on a train at Gdansk central station and walk up to the castle from Malbork station in under 15 minutes.
Get Your Guide offers half day private tours to Malbork for under £45. You’ll be picked up from Gdansk along with an English speaking guide. Then driven to the castle where you can learn all about life at the Castle in the Middle Ages. And the history of the Teutonic Order. You’ll also visit the amber museum located in the castle.
Almost make it to Russia
Did you know that you can find a tiny part of Russia in the North of Poland. It’s about an hours drive from Gdansk. The Russian Province of Kalingrad has a fascinating past, belonging first to Poland, then to Germany and finally to Russia. It’s a tiny piece of land that doesn’t actually share a border with Russia (It’s 300 miles away).
To get close we drove along the narrow peninsula to the East of Gdansk out towards Krynica Morska. It’s a pretty forest drive with plenty of beaches and hikes to stop at along the way. Or you can simply take a bus from Gdansk itself.
If you want to actually enter Kalingrad, you’ll need to apply for a Russian visa. In the same way you would if you were visiting Russia. It’s not normally a problem if you have a British passport. But it does take time. As we only realised this on the way, we would be too late which is why we never bothered.
It was however fun to see the border of somewhere we’ve never been. And we just stopped off at the last village for a warm up and a coffee before heading back to Gdansk.
Guide to Gdansk – Where to stay
Hotel Gdansk Boutique
We stayed at the 5 star Hotel Gdansk. A beautiful boutique style hotel located next to the marina. Making it within easy walking distance to all the major sights of the city. It’s where FC Barcelona stayed when they visited the city so you can expect a certain level of luxury.
The Hotel embraces a yachting style with cosy bedrooms decked out in reds, navys and wood. Our room was located in the newer block. It had two single beds pushed together and a small bathroom without a bath.
They have a lively restaurant at the front of the hotel with tasty and reasonably priced dishes. And a modern hotel bar although this closed at ten every night we were there. Meaning you had to visit the restaurant if you wanted a nightcap.
They serve a buffet breakfast in the bar each morning. Although we didn’t try it as we much preferred the two minute walk to the nearby Neighbours Kitchen for a delicious brunch.
There is an onsite spa and sauna although we didn’t have time to try these out. The prices did look pretty expensive.
Hotel Gdansk has parking available for an extra charge. But you can find free parking down the road past the shipping museum. Wifi is free and readily available throughout the hotel.
You can see more reviews and check the latest prices for Hotel Gdansk here.
A guide to Gdansk food
Chleb i Wino Gdansk
Located on Stegiewna Street on Granary Island I think Chleb I Wino Gdansk Italian restaurant is my favourite place to eat in the Gdansk and we visited a couple of times during our visit. The design is lovely. Modern but cosy and the food was delicious and great value. Covering pizza, pasta and other Italian specialities. I had pesto chicken with potatoes, yum!
They also have an extensive wine and cocktail list so I’m sure you’ll find something to suit your tastes.
And if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Gdansk, above the restaurant are 13 great value apartments, you can read all reviews and check the latest prices on Tripadvisor – Chleb I Wino Apartments
Dluga Street is similar in look and feel to other European squares only this one is a wide street. Here you’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants with hosts offering discounts to entice you in. It’s here you’ll finds Gdansks Hard Rock Café. We try to get a souvenir from all our visits to Hard Rocks around the world for Pipers collection!
Dluga Street is pretty lively and the narrow and beautiful buildings offer the perfect backdrop for a coffee and a spot of people watching.
It’s also here that you’ll find the Town hall and Neptunes fountain. A rather fitting addition to this sea faring city.
This was just a stones throw form Hotel Gdansk where we were staying. And we ate here several times. It’s a stylish and relaxed place for brunch and my favourite place to get a burger in Gdansk in the evening. You can find all the info on their facebook page
Al Ponte Italian Restaurant
Al Ponte is a lovely place to eat before or after a visit to the World War II Museum as it’s just across the bridge.
There’s an outdoor seating area with views across the Motlawa when the weather’s good. They’ll light the heaters and offer blankets if it gets chilly. And a large restaurant downstairs with a lively atmosphere serving freshly cooked pizzas and pastas with live music at the weekend.
For the foodies out there, you can take a traditional food tour of Gdansk which includes 3 local venues serving traditional polish delicacies with an informative guide for under £30. You’ll even get a free shot of Polish vodka!
As you can probably tell, I was pleasantly surprised by this friendly Polish city. There’s plenty to do in Gdansk with kids or without. And if you’re there for more than a few days, the surrounding Polish countryside makes it a great place to explore.
If you’re looking for European cities to visit with kids you might also like:
10 reasons why Utrecht makes a great base for a family holiday in Netherlands
Everything You Need To Know About Visiting Bologna With Kids
Ten Epic Things to do in Brussels with Kids
The hardest trip I’ve ever booked – Interrailing with kids
Why Budapest is a great choice for a European city break with kids.
Make sure to pin this guide to Gdansk for later for planning your next trip to Poland.