Gdansk - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Gdansk


Gdañsk is an important port, situated at the mouth of the Vistula River on the Baltic Sea, and throughout its history has been a major trading centre. It is the best known of the Tri-City complex that it forms with the modern seaport of Gdynia and the fashionable beach resort town of Sopot.

Its turbulent history includes the rule of the Teutonic Knights in the 14th century, who then lost it to Prussia, and after the first shots of World War II were fired at the nearby Polish garrison Westerplatte, it came under occupation of Nazi Germany in 1939. Like many Polish towns, Gdañsk lay in ruins after the war, but it was meticulously rebuilt over a 20-year period, returning it to its former glory. The interesting architecture and beautiful painted buildings are part of the town's historic charm.

The richest architecture is visible in the historic quarter of the Main Town. Its main thoroughfare, known as the Royal Way, is spectacular. Lined with magnificent buildings featuring beautifully painted facades and entered through grand stone gateways at either end, this was the route along which the Polish Kings paraded during their visits. The most splendid façade in town belongs to the Golden House, one of Gdañsk's most impressive buildings, along with the Town Hall and Artus Court. In front of the Court, the gathering place of the old merchants, stands the Renaissance-style Neptune's Fountain. Along the waterfront with its fashionable restaurants and cafes, the huge Gdañsk Crane dominates the promenade, the largest crane in medieval Europe and today housing the Maritime Museum.

Parallel to the Royal Way is Gdañsk's most picturesque street, Mariacka Lane, lined with quaint 17th Century burgherhouses with decorative steps and iron railings. The gigantic St Mary's Church towers over the city and offers splendid panoramic views.

Information & Facts


Gdañsk has a temperate climate with warm summers and cold winters that can be very severe. Rain is possible all year round. Summer is the best time to visit, when temperatures range from 70ºF to 90ºF (20ºC to 30ºC), but evenings can be cool enough to require a sweater. Winters are wet, very cold and grey.

Getting Around

The city centre is small and compact and easy to navigate on foot, but buses and trams operate a frequent service throughout the day. Tickets should be bought at kiosks before boarding. Taxis are reasonably inexpensive and booking by phone is cheaper than hailing one on the street. The fast train system (SKM) is the most efficient way to get between the three towns comprising the Tri-City area.

The national language is Polish. English is widely understood in tourist areas.

The official currency is Zloty (PLN), divided into 100 groszy. Poland is essentially a 'cash country', and it is difficult to negotiate credit cards and travellers cheques in the cities, and well nigh impossible in rural areas. American Express, Diners Club, Visa and MasterCard are, however, accepted in places frequented by tourists. ATMs are also beginning to proliferate in Polish cities, where the sign 'Bankomat' indicates them. Money (preferably US$ or Euros) can be exchanged in the cities and larger towns at banks, hotels or bureaux called 'kantors', which offer the best rates. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and some are open on Saturday till 1pm.

Malbork Castle is a classic example of a medieval fortress: it is the world's largest brick castle and one of the most impressive of its kind in Europe. Invited by the Polish Royalty to help suppress the pagan tribes in the area, the Teutonic Knights built the immense castle in 1276 and slowly began to establish themselves as fearsome rulers, taking control of most of northern Poland until, after several unsuccessful attempts to rid the country of the Knights, they were defeated at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410. The medieval belief that the bigger the fortress, the more powerful those within is clearly portrayed by this immense brick stronghold, incorporating a system of multiple defence walls with gates and towers. The inner castle includes arcaded courtyards, chapels, a treasury, the Knights' Hall and an armoury. The interiors house several exhibitions, including displays on the castle's history, and collections of tapestries, coins and medals, medieval sculptures and weapons. During summer the courtyard is used as a venue for sound and light shows.

Although the idea of a beach holiday in Poland might seem about as plausible as a ski trip in the Netherlands, the wonderful town of Sopot is sure to confound these preconceptions. Although still very much a well-kept secret on the mainstream tourist scene, northern European travellers have been flocking to Sopot for many years to experience its gorgeous sandy beaches on the shore of the Baltic Sea. Primarily a beach resort and health spa town, Sopot buzzes every summer with the throng of relaxed, happy visitors on its famous wooden pier (the longest in Europe), enjoying the long sunny days and the numerous restaurants, bars and shops on offer. Sopot's relative obscurity means that it is a far cheaper option than other more established European beach holiday destinations - making it a perfect place for budget travellers or backpackers. Sopot boasts a vibrant nightlife, and even hosts the annual Sopot International Song Contest, one of the biggest of its kind in Europe. Sopot is bound to be 'discovered' sooner or later - so go now, and experience some of the best beach resorts in Europe before prices sky-rocket and the crowds become oppressive.

Westerplatte, situated at the entrance to the harbour and just a few kilometres from the city of Gdañsk, is where World War II broke out on 1 September 1939. The Polish garrison held out against the attack for seven days before surrendering to the German forces, and the site is now a memorial to the defenders. Sights at Westerplatte include a small museum, some of the ruins left from the shelling and a massive monument that towers above the area.

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