Travel and Expat Life

Gdansk, Poland : History, Pierogi and Vodka

Gdansk, Poland : History, Pierogi and Vodka

A brisk summer jaunt to Gdansk, Poland in June, 2017

I am lucky enough to have three separate visits to Poland under my belt.  Not many Americans can say such a thing.  Hell, I know people with Polish parents living in the US, that haven’t been to Polska three times!

This particular trip was for a wedding and we extended our trip to spend time with the unofficial mayor of Gdansk so he could give us the royal tour.

I marked some spots worth checking out.  Wander around and explore the Old Town and get lost in its charm.

Summer trip to Gdansk

A little bit about Polish summer… it doesn’t exist.

With that being said, summer is the best time to go.  The weather wasn’t really an issue for me because I like a little variety in my life.  By the beginning of June, we already had had 1.5 months of summer in Athens, so I was excited about cloudy and gray skies (besides not knowing what to pack).

Gdansk is located on the north coast of Poland on the Baltic Sea.  Many Poles travel to the Tri-City area of Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia for summer vacations, so it is bumpin’ in the summer time.

Day time weather varied from 22C and sunny to 15C with rain (72F to 60F).

Gdansk Old Town

We started off our first day of sightseeing with a scrumptious breakfast at Mon Balzac in central Old Town.  Although we were only there for breakfast and the place was pretty empty, I really liked the atmosphere and would suggest it for any time of day.

We did the typical tour, loop de loop through the seemingly historic streets.  I say seemingly because most of the city was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt after.  It’s a great looking Old Town, so whoever was in charge of the re-do, did a great job!

>>Gdansk after the war compared to now<<


European Solidarity Centre

The Gdansk shipyards were home to the Solidarity movement which started a ripple that eventually crushed communism in Europe.

I went into the Solidarity Center knowing a bit about the story of what had happened with the movement and it’s effect on history.  I left feeling moved and a bit emotional.

The museum is wonderfully curated and modern  I used the audio tour in English, which was very helpful.

Make sure and visit the roof terrace for great views of the shipyard and city.

Museum of the Second World War

We didn’t get to visit this museum because you need to buy tickets in advance and our Gdansk resident know-it-all didn’t know that.

PS- did you know that World War II started in Gdansk?!?

Hop over to Sopot

I mentioned the Tri-City area earlier.  Polish people get really excited about this little nugget of geographical trivia.  Yes, there are three cities all lined up in a row- how special.

From my understanding, Gdansk is the historical gem, Sopot is the holiday spot and Gdynia is the modern city that is #trendy at the moment (they have sky scrapers!)

Sopot is a quick 15 min train ride from central Gdansk.

Sopot has a totally different feeling than Gdnask.  It is on the actual sea, so you have that seaside feeling of a resort town.  Grand old hotels line the beach and Sopot is home to the longest wooden pier in Europe.

I hear Sopot is the place to party but I was only there during the day- so I can not attest to this claim.

Food and Drink in Gdansk


Ok, so I am a freak about this particular food because I have had some damn good pierogi in my day (shout out to Ula in Vienna)!

Pierogi are traditional Polish potato dumplings.  I prefer the pierogi ruskie which is the “basic one” with cheese and potato.

We ate at the famous Pierogarnia Mandu and ordered three different kinds of the dumplings.  We were starving and pretty bummed when we learned that our food would take about 45 minutes because they make them fresh.  Of course this is GREAT that they make them fresh, but sometimes you just want to eat NOW.  So we settled for a few Polish beers and counted the minutes until our little potato and cheese pillows of goodness arrived.

While Pierogarnia Mandu is a must on any Gdansk itinerary, I will say that I preferred the pierogi at Gdanski Bowke because they give them a quick little spin in a frying pan before serving.  I’m a texture girl- give me a bit of crunch!

Gdanski Bowke is a traditional  restaurant on the Motlawa River walkway serving a variety of dishes.  We actually stepped foot on this premise three times during our stay- once to actually eat and the others to steal food off our friend’s plates while they were eating here.

Other foods I suggest to try when in Polska are Bigos (sauerkraut- meat concoction), Polska Kielbasa (sausage) and Golabki (stuffed cabbage rolls).Gdansk Ice cream

Ice Cream

Trek a bit off of the beaten path to Lodziarnia Znane Smaki for some traditional, homemade Polish ice cream.

There are no bells in whistles in this shop.  Just two ladies, serving up the ice cream that they made themselves using a recipe of their former boss was the queen bee of ice cream in Gdansk.  I think there will be a Polish soap opera based on this story.

The ice cream was gooood.  Creamy and simple.  I wonder if they ship internationally?

I noticed a lot of ice cream places in Gdansk, so I’m guessing the Poles love ice cream and think it is pretty smaki (tasty).

Polish Vodka

You MUST visit No To Cyk and have a €1 shot of vodka.  I suggest more than one in order to truly get the feeling of Poland.  No To Cyk and Pijalnia Vodka and Beer are bars themed as Soviet time drinking establishments.  The decor, drinks, food they serve and even the music- it is truly a time warp!

Gorzka Żołądkowa is my favorite Polish vodka because it has a bit of spice.

Polish Beer

Tyskie is my mainstream choice, but if I could find it – Żywe was my favorite.

If you are a beer lover, be sure to stop into Pułapka and have the knowledgeable bar staff help you select a local beer.

Piwna is a street lined with bars and in the summer is a great place to enjoy outdoor seating in the city with a cold brew.

Staying in Gdansk

I’ve tagged Gdansk as a weekend destination, but there is definitely enough to see in the Tri-City area if you want to stay longer.

I suggest staying in Old Town and using public transport to move around to the other areas.  Taxis are also very cheap by European standards, so you can easily do a get-away in Gdansk without renting a car.

There is some beautiful country-side and coast-line to explore if you do decide to rent a car.  Fancy visiting Hel?

Gdansk is actually quite nice

All of the rumors I had heard about it being the best place in the world were not exactly true, but perhaps it can hold the title of the best place in Poland.

I will definitely visit again for more reasons than just the pierogi and vodka… I still need to get to that World War II Museum after all!

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Top 3 things to do in Gdansk | Jessica Abroad