Travel writer Alys Haswell gives her top tips on how to survive (and enjoy) a solo tripWritten by Alys Haswell on 23rd November 2017
Travel Diary: 3 Days in Gdansk
Travel writer Olivia Woodington explains why Gdansk is the ideal place to go for a cheap getaway full of culture
In all honesty, Poland as a holiday destination had never crossed my mind before this trip. However, when it came to having to plan a relatively budget holiday, Poland was key player. After a recommendation from a Polish national, I settled on Gdansk as our destination. Proposed to me as ‘Poland’s Amsterdam’, I had high hopes. Flights from Birmingham International were priced at £35pp with Ryan Air and I chose to go with an Airbnb at only £46 per night. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this was in the higher price range of the available Airbnb’s in Gdansk Old Town, meaning you can certainly do this trip for considerably less than I did.
Before I go further, I ought to say something about the European Solidarity Centre, a must see in Gdansk. Granted, we’re not all History students and this may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But don’t think of it as solely a tourist attraction. The solidarity centre is there to recognise and commemorate the efforts and lives lost to the opposition of communism. The Solidarity Centre marks the originate of the people’s first independent labour union. Its 9.4 million members contributed significantly to the fall of communism. Be prepared to witness harrowing images and know that you will stand on the site where ground-breaking social history was made.
As I’m sure you can tell, Gdansk Old Town does not fall short in the looks department. After damage in the Second World War, the town received a post-communist reconstruction, with quaint architecture and uplifting colours. The main street, Dluga Street, is really quite the spectacle. Gdansk is the perfect destination to enjoy an easy-going city break. With plenty to do, but not enough to rush you, you can stroll the cobbled streets in a leisurely manner, snapping photos and admiring the town’s daily musings. Below is our trip in more detail, 2-3 days is plenty of time to enjoy Gdansk.
Day 1: Travel Day
Our flight left from Birmingham International in the evening at 19:00. We arrived on time into Gdansk at 22:20. After a minor struggle with the cash machine at Gdansk Airport, (it actually works exactly like an English one), we hopped into a taxi. 20 minutes and 78 PLN later we arrived at our Airbnb. Already taken aback by the enchanting scene of Dluga Street at night, we were greeted by a friendly host and went to bed.
Day 2: Exploring the Town
We began our day in Café Retro. A small but quirky café, a stone throw away from our apartment. Many restaurants offered little choice other than dumplings or pancakes for breakfast, so the healthy menu of Café Retro was refreshing. Coming highly reviewed, Café Retro gave a condensed menu of oatmeal and toasts with the most extensive range of teas I’ve ever seen. I recommend the Morning Tea and insist you try their hot chocolate (or hot mousse as it would more suitably be called). With plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, there is little you can object to for a wholesome start to your day.
After our breakfast, we decided to make our way to the European Solidarity Centre. As mentioned before, this is a must see in Gdansk. The walk quickly reminds you of the recent communist impression. The buildings turn bleak rather suddenly. Once we arrived, we were met with an intimidating memorial. We headed into the museum and paid a small fee for our visit. Entirely sobering, the images inside the museum are haunting and all the while educational. I walked away with a whole host of knowledge and a new-found respect for Polish history. Remember to take a photo of the gates outside the museum.
For lunch, we wanted to try something traditional, and this meant dumplings. We went to a restaurant recommended by our Airbnb hosts called Pierogarnia Mandu Centrum. Again, they even had vegan and gluten free options on the menu, perfect for any visitor. We left totally stuffed but wholly satisfied, dumplings are a comfort food, and that’s exactly how you should feel.
We chose to make our way back into the Old Town through stalls of Gdansk’s gold, amber, and visit St. Mary’s Church, the largest brick church ever built. The organ is magnificent. And the interior left us in awe. Later, we found the medieval crane by the water and were amused to discover that people would run in hamster ball style contraptions to operate the machine.
For our evening meal, we had a couple pints of local beer and a burger at Original Burger. Perhaps here I should mention how ridiculously cheap every item of food, transport and attraction is. We barely spent over £50 each our entire trip, and we were being somewhat liberal with our Zloty. For £22 (around 110 PLN) we had two large homemade burger meals, four pints of beer, a bottle of wine and a large bar of Milka chocolate (from a 24 hour market). This was the most we spent on a meal whilst in Gdansk. Breakfast was £8 or so for two, our lunch for two at £10 and as you’ll see it only got cheaper. This is the perfect destination for a wallet friendly stay.
Day 3: Malbork Castle
On our last full day, we decided to visit the world’s largest castle in Malbork. After browsing TripAdvisor, we knew we had to take a TLK or R train, not an IC train. As it happens, the TLK trains say IC on the side, and trains are also partial to leaving a couple minutes early. So, should you travel to Malbork from Gdansk Glowny station, be vigilant with your timing and ask for help when boarding, to avoid missing your train like we did. Luckily, they refund unused train tickets in Poland(!) and we boarded another train at less than £4 each for a half hour return journey. Then we walked for 15 minutes until we reached the castle from Malbork station, you’ll be able to spot it from miles away so don’t worry about directions. Definitely pick up an audio guide, unfortunately we arrived too late to get one instead just strolled around the grounds before they closed at 4pm.
For our final dinner in Gdansk, we ate at Familia Bistro, a family run traditional restaurant with huge portions and again, easy on the bank balance.
Our taxi was £8 back to Gdansk airport for an early departure back to Birmingham. If you plan to eat breakfast at the airport, don’t. Unless you like soggy granola or who-knows-how-old sandwiches, I’d recommend you bring something with you.
Gdansk is seriously underrated. If you only have £120 or less to spend on a few days away and are looking for somewhere a bit different, cheap, full of culture with surprisingly pleasant weather, Gdansk should be your go-to.