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Gdansk is an up-and-coming city trip destination; hardly a surprise to those who know what this Polish seaport holds in store. Charming shopping streets, bustling restaurants, hip cafés and a lively beach scene. But the biggest draw is the gorgeous old city centre, packed with monuments from the days when Gdansk was one of the richest Hanseatic cities on the Baltic Sea.
Amsterdam clock gables in Poland? Many of the baroque merchant mansions betray the close ties Gdansk had with the Low Countries during the 17th century. This rich history resulted in a picturesque city centre, which has been so painstakingly restored after World War II that Gdansk sometimes resembles a film set. Even among the Polish, Gdansk is a popular destination for a weekend filled with culture, shopping or relaxing by the seashore. The beautiful sandy beach of Sopot is just 30 minutes from the city centre.
The historic heart of Gdansk is composed of the Long Market (Długi Targ) and Long Street (Ulica Długa), together known as the ‘Royal Road’. The town hall and Neptune fountain stand on the large market square. Nearby you will find St. Mary’s Church, with its square bell tower rising high above the city. The largest brick church in the world, the building can accommodate more than 25,000 visitors. The interior is equally impressive and from the bell tower you can enjoy sweeping views of the city.
Without a doubt the most romantic spot in Gdansk, Mariacka Street boasts charming cobblestones, historic street lanterns and elegant façades. Amid the steps of the baroque mansions you will come across cafés, patios and many small shops specialising in amber jewellery. A famous local product, this brown or yellow fossilized resin is also called the ‘gold’ of the Baltic Sea. The 15th century Maria Gate at the end of the street leads to the river and the old harbour.
The edge of the Motlawa river, which flows into the Baltic on the north side of Gdansk, is lined with old warehouses and an impressive black crane gate. When it was built in the 15th century, the ‘Brama Zuraw’ was a state-of-the-art crane capable of hoisting from a ship cargo of 2,000 kilos at a time. On the far side of the crane gate you will find the entrance to the Maritime Museum.
The wharves along the river are packed with patios, seafood restaurants and bistros. Brovarnia, housed in a 17th-century warehouse, brews its own beer. There are numerous places where you can sample pierogi, the traditional Polish dumplings with a myriad of fillings.