Things to do in Gdansk in the Main and Old Town
The Main and Old Town itself
It’s not a surprise that some top things to do in Gdansk, the city with over 1000 years’ history can be found in the streets. Although most of the Main and Old Town has been destroyed during the Second World War, the reconstructors did their job well. Taking a stroll along Dluga Street and then Dlugi Targ will give you the best opportunity to see the highlights of Gdansk. Turning left at Motlawa river, and then entering Mariacka Gate, you’ll get to the most beautiful street in Gdansk. But there is a lot more to see in smaller, less popular streets – explore it, enjoy it! If you need some hints on how to plan your walk, read our Gdansk in one day article.
Second World War museum
One of the top things to do in Gdansk is definitely to visit one of the city’s modern museums. If you happen to be in Gdansk on Tuesday, make sure you take advantage of free entrance to see the Second World War Museum. After all, you are in the city where the Second World War started. The new and modern exhibition should keep you busy for at least three hours.
St. Mary’s Church
St. Mary’s Church is not only a great viewpoint but also one of the most popular Gdansk attractions. The interior is decorated with several Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque paintings. Several important Gdansk citizens are buried in the church, including Conrad Letzkau Danzig Mayor, who was assassinated by the Teutonic Knights.
National Museum in Gdansk
Although it’s not Museo del Prado, still it houses a nice collection of paintings, old china, jewellery and medieval art. You can visit the National Museum in Gdansk for free on Friday, so you can see the famous Last Judgement by Hans Memling without spending a penny. Also, check other Museums, as many of them offer free entry on one day in a week.
Hiring a kayak or water-bike in Gdansk
You might be surprised hearing that one of the top things to do in Gdansk is hiring a kayak, but indeed, it is. Seeing Gdansk from water means seeing it from a totally different perspective and gives you more options to explore. You may stay in the centre, or go to Martwa Wisla, Siennicki Bridge to Oplyw Motlawy (if the floodgate is closed – which is very uncommon, you will need to cross the street with the kayak). There you reach Gdansk moat, and may ride around Gdansk Bastions. Then, through another floodgate (Kamienna Sluza) you enter the city again. Kayaks may be hired at Zabi Kruk (25 PLN/hour, 40 PLN/2 hours, 60 PLN/day).
Things to do in Gdansk outside the Main and Old Town
If you wonder what to see in Gdansk outside the city centre, go a few kilometres away from the city centre to Westerplatte, a place where the Second World War started in September 1939. There is a small museum there and ruins of the buildings that were used by Polish soldiers – all well described in English. At the end of the route, there is a famous Westerplatte Monument. This is a nice viewpoint with a view to New Port – an industrial district of Gdansk. You may take a look at Wisloujscie compound on your way. You may find information on how to get to Westerplatte from the city centre in this article.
Top things to do in Gdansk Oliwa: Oliwa Park, Oliwa Cathedral and Pacholek hill
The Gdansk Oliwa park once was owned by the nearby cloister, now it’s the most popular municipal park in Gdansk. The mix of water and plants and the Whisper Grotto will let you relax on a sunny summer day. Passing through the park, you will reach Oliwa Cathedral, with its famous organ and altars. You may hear them playing almost every day there, just check the schedule on the Cathedral site. From the nearby Pacholek hill – once you climb the observation tower – you can see the city, as well as Trojmiejski Park Krajobrazowy. If you travel with children, it is worth going to Oliwa Zoo – one of the best-located ZOOs in Poland.
There are a couple of places to see Gdansk from above, but only a few that you don’t need to pay for. One of them if Gradowa Hill, with its Millennium Crucifix put on the hill in 1997. From here, you can see the whole main and old city, the shipyard, and many, many more. From here you can also take a stroll through old military fortifications. Some areas are restricted, as there is Hevelianum Centre here (you may enter for a small fee), but still, you can feel as Napoleon observing the town from the hill. You may climb Gradowa Hill starting with a path from nearby Gdansk Bus Station.
Murals Gdansk Zaspa
Zaspa, although is only one of many residential districts of Gdansk, had its marks in Gdansk’s history. There used to be an airport here until 1974 before it was moved to where it is now – to Rebiechowo district. Former president of Poland, Lech Walesa used to live here before he was elected. And in 1987, Pope John Paul II celebrated the mass for about 1 million people in the remains of the airport. All those facts are commemorated in a collection of murals painted on the walls of blocks of flats. It’s a unique open-air gallery which you can visit on your own or with a guided tour – both are totally for free!
Falowiec in Gdansk Przymorze
There is no better place to see communist-era Gdansk than going to Gdansk Przymorze and seeing Falowiec – over 800 metres long apartment building that is still accommodating over 3000 thousands people. Of course, you can’t enter any of the flats unless you book accommodation there, but it is a good idea to stop here on your way to Brzezno or Jelitkowo beach.
Top things to do in Gdansk – events
Held every year in July, Feta – Street and open-air Theaters festival attracts thousands of spectators each year to come to Dolne Miasto to applaud theatres from all over Europe. During four days there are about 30 performances presented, with the most stunning kept for Sunday evening. You can’t miss it. This is the most popular festival in Gdansk. And most of the shows, if not all of them, are free to watch – and sometimes even participate:). So if you wonder what to do in Gdansk in July – go and see FETA in Dolne Miasto (Lower Town), recently renovated and more and more popular district of the city.
Jarmark Dominikanski (St. Dominic’s Fair)
Our list can’t omit St Dominic’s Fair. This three-weeks street fair makes as many tourists come to Gdansk, as citizens leave the town. The streets are full of stalls and people, and the parties last until early morning. You can buy here everything: from jewellery to old helmets. Except for shopping, there is also lots of local food and free concerts or performances. If you don’t know what to do in Gdansk in August – check out our article on St. Dominic’s Fair in Gdansk.
Each year for one Saturday the entrance to many of Gdansk’s museums is free or costs only 1 PLN. I don’t recommend going to popular museums, as the time you spend in a queue is not worth the saving. You’ll queue for a couple of hours, and then see nothing because of the crowd inside. But there are some less popular museums with almost no waiting time, so I advise to choose those. This also an opportunity to see the places that are usually closed to the public – for example Water Smith in Gdansk Oliwa.
Top things to do in Gdansk – going to beaches in Gdansk
The list can’t miss beautiful, sandy Gdansk beaches. All the beaches are free to enter, so you just need to choose to which one you want to go on a sunny day. The closest to the city centre is Stogi Beach, with its unofficial nudist part at the eastern end. Other popular beaches are in Jelitkowo and Brzezno.
What to do in Gdansk – visit the Shipyard
The famous shipyard, where the strike started is still working, but it has been reduced in size. Now part of this area is being developed into a residential zone, but the rest is the new cultural centre. Former shipyard buildings have been transformed into concert halls, food courts and bars. A huge part of this area is closed for the winter but during summer having a beer where Lech Walesa had worked before he became the president of Poland is one of the best things to do in Gdansk.
One more reason to come to former Gdansk shipyard is the M3 Crane. It is no longer used to build ships, but it stayed in this area and serves as the viewpoint to the post-shipyard zone. Visit to the top of the crane cost 15 PLN, and the tickets may be reserved through M3 crane website (look for “Kup bilet” button).