A rainbow of colours and quirky patterns pour over the toy-like houses that are perfectly lined up between the intricate and historical landmarks that are dotted around the city – all of which are made even more beautiful by the sprinkles of snow that often fall upon Gdansk in winter.
This city is one that needs to be on everyone’s Poland itinerary.
After thousands of steps, countless Polish doughnuts – known as Pączki – and even more hot chocolates, we’ve rounded up just about all there is to do, where to eat and some recommended places to stay in Gdansk.
You’ll also find everything you need to know before you go, as well as some key mistakes to avoid littered throughout the post.
Things to do in Gdansk in winter
Although a small European city, Gdansk has plenty to do all year round and I have to say, it was much more lively than what we were expecting.
Whether you’re visiting to discover historical tales, marvel at incredible buildings, indulge in tasty traditional treats, or simply roam the vibrant streets and secret side alleys looking for the best coffee, you won’t be disappointed.
Climb to the top of St Marys Church
St Mary’s Church is a gothic brick church that dates back to the 1500s and is known as the ‘crown of Gdansk’ that you can spot almost anywhere from the city.
You’re able to enter St Mary’s Church for free and admire the internal architecture which is pretty impressive.
However, for just a few pounds, then you’re able to climb all the way to the top of the church where you’ll find some of the best views over the city and beyond.
You’ll need to bear in mind that it’s not an easy task for such a reward though, as you’ll need to clamber up 400 steps and around narrow spiral staircases, before reaching a small – and sometimes cramped – viewing platform.
But hey, as I said, the view is one of the best in Gdansk and it’s a great way to warm up from the cold weather!
Meander down Mariacka Street
Right next to St Mary’s Church is Mariacka Street and it gives off all of the Aladin vibes.
One thing to know about Poland is that it’s well-known for its Amber – which is actually fossilised tree sap – who knew!?
Anyway, the best quality Amber is found all around the Baltic sea and as such, it’s pretty much everywhere in Gdansk.
But Mariacka Street in particular is a wonderful street filled with grand homes with large stone staircases, often with shops underneath.
As such, you’ll discover lots of stalls showcasing their Amber goods outside the front of the houses.
Even if you don’t fancy buying any Amber, it’s still a great place to stroll down during the day!
Visit Gdansk Christmas Market
From the last week in November, you’ll find Christmas stalls scattering the streets, incredible decorations hanging from pillar to post and all kinds of festive goodies to fill your belly.
Unfortunately, we were a week too early and so missed out on the Christmas market in Gdansk being in full swing.
However, the important things were available – mulled wine and the merry-go-round – which of course, at the age of 27 was imperative to ride!
Tip: I do not recommend combining the two.
If you’re in Gdansk in December, then definitely make sure you check out the Christmas market!
Pick up a traditional Polish Doughnut
Dobra Pakarnia is the only place in Gdansk to head to for a traditional Polish doughnut.
And given the length of the queue – most of which appeared to be locals – it seems the people of Gdansk would also agree!
Dobra Pączkarnia does all sorts of incredible doughnuts – from Snickers to Kinder Bueno – however, the traditional Polish doughnut is a rose doughnut.
So, of course, that’s what we got!
10/10 for scrumptiousness!
Snap some photos at the Green Gate in Gdansk in winter
The Green Gate, also known as Brama Zielona in Gdansk, was previously home to Polish monarchs and overlooks the Motlawa River.
It separates the old from the new in the city and is one of the most photographed buildings in Gdansk.
Plus, the archways underneath the building also make the PERFECT frame to snap some great pictures of the Main Town Hall, too (more on that later!).
Stroll down the Dlugi Targ (The Long Market)
The Dlugi Targ – also known as The Long Market – forms part of what I consider to be the main high street in Gdansk.
It’s filled with great places to eat and dozens of super cute cafe’s – which, if you think a cafe in Gdansk is the place to grab some lunch, you’d be wrong!
A cafe in Gdansk only consists of cakes and hot drinks.
I mean, we aren’t complaining.
Oh, and whilst we are at it – if you think a hot drink means a good ol’ cup of milky English breakfast tea, then you’d be wrong again!
Combining milk and water in Gdansk is few and far between.
Sorry, I digress.
But basically, the Dlugi Targ is where to head for an authentic meal in the city!
Warm up with the best hot chocolate in Poland
Olivka Pasta Fresca is the most gorgeous little Italian restaurant that overlooks the Motlawa river from the more authentic side on Gdansk.
It’s a double-storey venue with a balcony area that’s kept warm by fire heaters, making it really cosy and inviting.
Not only is it a great restaurant, but it’s also the perfect place to pop into for a hot chocolate after a stroll along the waterfront.
Be warned though, it’s almost like it’s a mug of melted chocolate and incredibly more-ish!
Take a walk down the Royal Mile
The other thing that forms the high street in Gdansk is The Royal Mile.
It’s where some of the best and most spectacular-looking buildings are, often with intricate lace-like detail in gold paint.
One of our favourite things to do every day and night in the city was to stroll down The Royal Mile.
Much like the Dlugi Targ, it’s home to plenty of places to eat, drink and buy souvenirs.
Yet, it’s also a hub of street entertainment – regardless of the time of day – so if you’re looking for a great atmosphere, this is the place to be.
Grab some vegan grub from Manna 68
We’d walked past Manna 68 a few times and to be honest, the branding looks a little boring and doesn’t really invite you in by comparison to some of the other restaurants around Gdansk – but the decor inside and incredible food is a totally different story.
So much so, that I’m going to say that this was one of the best meals we ate in Gdansk – and I am not even vegan – I was travelling with my sister and she is vegetarian.
I 100% recommend trying the spring rolls and beanie burrito.
If you are a vegan, then be sure to check out these vegan travel tips.
Check out the Main Town Hall
The Main Town Hall is slap bang in the middle of the Dlugi Targ and the Royal Mile and is great to sneak into for a bit of respite from the cold.
Dating back to the late 14th century, the Main Town Hall got caught up in the destruction of World War 2 and was almost completely destroyed.
Today, you would have never known, as a careful rebuild has left it looking almost brand new!
Like most things in Gdansk, it’s a couple of pounds to take a look inside and transport yourselves back to when Polish kings used to meet here.
During the warmer months, you’re able to climb to the top of the Main Town Hall, however unfortunately during winter in Gdansk, this is closed – but don’t worry, we’ve heard the views aren’t a patch on the ones from the top of St Mary’s Church anyway!
Find Neptunes Fountain
On The Royal Mile/Dlugi Targ is Neptunes Fountain, and it sits right beside the Main Town Hall and in front of Artus Court – yet another spectacular-looking building on the Gdansk ‘high street’.
In some ways, it’s the mantlepiece of the town, and you’ll often find a street musician in front – even in the midst of winter at night!
Head to Pankejk for some insane pancakes
You’ll find Pankejk on the Dlugi Targ and as you may have guessed, they serve pancakes.
Lots of pancakes.
It’s a really quirky-looking restaurant and they mostly service the crêpe style pancakes – both savoury and sweet – however they also have a couple of options for the traditional Polish pancakes, too.
Of course, we opted for the traditional Polish pancakes – which is a potato pancake – and essentially a stack of hashbrowns.
These were super tasty and I would definitely recommend heading to Pankejk at some point during your trip!
GO AND SEE THE CRANE Go and see The Crane
The Motława River runs through Gdansk, acting as a divider between the traditional-style buildings and the new-style buildings.
And, although there is this separation between old and new, the new style buildings have been designed in keeping with the old – just slightly trendier, if you like.
The Crane sticks out like a sore thumb along the riverside and actually is a bit of an eyesore in my opinion. However, it’s symbolic of the historical trading in Gdansk and dates back to the 1500s, so it’s still an impressive thing to see!
Much like many of the other historical buildings in Gdansk, it was pretty worse for wear after World War 2 and had to be rebuilt to some extent.
Today, The Crane is a National Maritime Museum and showcases some of the city’s greatest shipbuilding and fishing exhibits.
Escape the cold from Gdasnk winter and step back in time at The World War 2 Museum
Just a short walk from the city centre is the World War 2 museum and it really is a must when visiting Gdansk – even if you don’t fancy yourself as a history geek.
As someone who doesn’t always opt for historical museums, we somehow managed to spend 3 hours here and found it absolutely fascinating.
Plus, a lot of the museum is free – and who doesn’t love a freebie?
That being said, I thoroughly recommend buying the pass and audiotape for the main exhibition as it is 100% worth it – it’s just a couple of pounds and allows you to explore a number of rooms at your own pace and really transport yourself back to all those years ago.
The actual building itself is also pretty quirky!
The World War 2 Museum is an absolute must for any trip to Gdansk, even if it’s just to keep warm for a few hours!
Head into modern Gdansk for Asian food and cocktails
On the ‘new side’ of the Motlawa River is Woosabi – a modern Asian restaurant with some incredible rainbow bowls, oodles of noodles and one of my favourite things ever – bao buns!
This is definitely the place to head to if you’re looking for a guilt-free Asian food fix in a trendy restaurant filled with hanging plants and a great atmosphere.
Plus, they also do some amazing cocktails which – in true Polish style – are very cheap – unlike some other European countries like Prague at Christmas!
Take a day trip to Soppot
If you feel like you’ve seen enough attractions in Gdansk and fancy a day trip, then a popular place to visit is Sopot – a seaside town dubbed as ‘Polands French Riveria’ just a 10-minute train ride away from Gdansk.
Well, it is if you get the right train, anyway.
We stupidly hopped on a tram instead of a train and then realised that we seemed to be on it for significantly longer than we were expecting.
An extra 40 minutes longer than we were expecting.
Yet, Sopot is a sweet little town with some lovely places to eat along the high street and seafront, albeit pretty chilly at this time of year.
Still, it’s very picturesque with a great pier to stroll along that has a fancy restaurant called Meridien Molo at the end if you want to treat yourself!
Stop for brunch at Lookier Cafe
You’ll find Lookier Cafe opposite the Main Town Hall on the Royal Mile/Dlugi Targ and it’s a great place to go for breakfast, lunch, or even just a hot drink.
Although small, it’s quite luxurious – the kind of small portions, but a higher price tag luxurious, if you know what I mean.
However, the higher price tag isn’t really that high when you’re in Poland, and the quality of the food was incredible.
Nonetheless, it’s the perfect cosy cafe to duck into.
Visit Oliwa Catherdral during the winter in Gdansk
The Oliwa Cathedral, also known as the Archikatedra Oliwska is another place to add to your list if you’re really into checking out historical buildings with grand architecture.
Fact about Poland: Although not as big as St Mary’s Church, Oliwa Cathedral holds a wealth of history between the Poles and Swedes from the 1600s, when many of the cathedral’s belongings – and even its monks – were kidnapped by the Swedes.
Thankfully, it was also the place where the two nations came together again and put their squabbles behind them!
Tip: Oliwa Cathedral is on the way to Sopot, so it’s worth combining the two.
Ride The Amber Sky to escape the winter chills in Gdansk
If you want some great views over Gdansk but don’t want to climb 400 steps to get them, then head to the Amber Sky big wheel which is just across the Motlawa River.
You’ll likely get a pod to yourself and it even comes heated with some funky music for you to enjoy while you absorb the views!
Although the Amber Sky is open during the day and night, we highly recommend doing this in the evening if you’ve already seen the views from the top of St Mary’s Church as it’s awesome to see the city in two very different ways.
Go for an evening walk along the River Motlawa
The Motlawa River runs through Gdansk and looks stunning at night with the sparkling reflections of the nightlife twinkling away in the moonlight.
The length through the town is around 2.5km and it takes around 30 minutes to walk from one end to the other, which is perfect for a stroll through the town after dinner.
Along the way, you’ll also spot the large Gdansk sign and no doubt join the line for an obligatory photo beside it – just in case your Instagram following needed any more proof that you definitely were in Gdansk!
Grab a waffle
There are three very clear winners when it comes to dessert in Gdansk – ice cream, waffles and doughnuts.
Ice cream is immediately out of the question when you’re visiting Gdansk in winter.
So, that leaves waffles and doughnuts, and the latter has a special place in the ‘best cafe’s’ section of the post as it’s a traditional Polish food.
That leaves waffles – and we aren’t mad about it.
There are plenty of places to grab a waffle from around Gdansk – from designated dessert parlours to street vans – you won’t be short of choice!
Our favourite street van for a waffle is by the river and just across the road from the Amber Sky Big Wheel.
Best tours and experiences during winter in Gdansk
Polish Vodka Tasting Experience
Poland is well-known as being a nation that likes their vodka – therefore, taking a vodka tasting tour here is a popular thing to do.
During this experience, you will have the chance to sip on a selection of at least six of the finest Polish vodkas, each paired with three quintessential Polish snacks.
Your expert guide will regale you with captivating stories about Polish history, shedding light on the era of Communism and how it intertwined with the beloved national drink.
Join a walking tour
Joining a walking tour is always one of the first things I’d recommend doing when you arrive in a new city.
This will help you to get your bearings and gain some local tips from a knowledgeable guide that you’re unlikely to get from anywhere else.
However, if you plan on walking around anywhere for a long period of time during the winter in Gdansk, you’ll certainly need to wrap up warm and grab a hot drink for the journey!
There are multiple types of walking tours available that range from super cheap to quite expensive.
Here are some options to consider:
Stutthof Concentration Camp
A trip to the Stutthof Concentration Camp is a haunting yet important trip to make when you’re in Gdansk.
You’ll gain a harrowing insight into what really happened during this awful historical act and hear stories that will transport you back in time.
- Check prices: GetYourGuide
Extreme Gun Shooting Experience
One of the most popular things to do in Poland is extreme gun shooting.
You’ll get to test out your target skills with guns like an AK-47, Glock, Hammerli, and Glauberyt (PM98) in a super safe environment.
- Check prices: GetYourGuide
Where to stay in Gdansk in winter
Typically, when you visit a new city, the ‘old town’ is always the best place to stay.
However, Gdansk is different.
The best area to stay in Gdansk is known as the ‘Main City’.
This is where you’ll find that most of the great places to eat, drink and see are, and those that aren’t should only be a short walk away.
Hotel Hanza is a 4-star hotel situated beside the Motlawa River and next to The Crane. They pride themselves on having particularly great reviews from couples and being within a few minutes walk to just about everything you’ll want to do and see in the city.
Check prices: Hotel Hanza
IBB Hotel Dlugi Targ
IBB Hotel Dlugi Targ is a 4-star hotel that’s situated in the heart of Gdansk – right on the main ‘high street’. If you choose to stay here, you’ll be in the centre of the hustle and bustle and have everything you need at your fingertips for a great stay.
Check prices: IBB Hotel Dlugi Targ
Explore beyond Gdansk in winter
To summarise, if you’re looking for a less crowded location filled with stunning architecture, heaps of history with a buzzing atmosphere, then heading to Gdansk in winter is certainly a great thing to do. Personally, I think Gdansk is one of the best cities to visit in Poland to visit.
If you’re looking for any more information ahead of your trip, then just drop us a comment down below and we will get back to you ASAP!
Stay Wild Travels.
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