Gdansk was an easy place to visit, being first-timers. The people were very friendly, and always willing to help out if we needed it. Even when everyone spoke Polish to us first, they had no problem switching to English as soon as they realised we weren’t locals. We asked for directions, beer recommendations, translations of train schedules and more, and not once were we left high and dry.
When we left Gdansk, we were thinking how to sum it up. We settled on, “Scandinavian aesthetics with Spanish prices.” From all the countries we’ve been to so far, Poland has to be the cheapest (or on par with Spain). Whether it was food, alcohol or transportation – everything was far cheaper than we usually pay on a trip. On top of that, it was such a beautiful place to explore, and its architecture, layout and waterfront reminded us a lot of Copenhagen.
There was a large selection of hotels and hostels around the city centre, but we opted for an Airbnb apartment on this trip. We had the entire place to ourselves and stayed right in the middle of the old town, which meant we never had to walk very far to get to our destination. We paid £31.00/night over four nights, which is about average for what we pay for an Airbnb apartment on a trip. There were several cheaper and more expensive options, but we find the ones coming in at around £30 per night to suit us very well.
Gdansk has plenty to offer in terms of places to eat, with plenty of variety too. We tend to eat at local places serving the local cuisine (that’s just our preference – we like to eat what the locals eat), but there were Italian, Chinese, Mexican and American-style restaurants around if you fancied something different.
Many of the restaurants on the main streets, and along the waterfront, catered directly to tourists where you might end up paying a bit more (and not necessarily get a better experience). We tend to avoid restaurants that are full of travellers and find places packed with locals. The food, service and prices are nearly always better in places like this.
Service in Gdansk was fine, but the onus was on us as much as the staff to ask for things like another drink or the bill. ‘Relaxed’ is probably the word to describe it.
We often stay in AirBNB’s so we can cook our own food (especially when we’re in one place for a while) but it wasn’t necessary for Gdansk. The food was extremely cheap and delicious, so we ate out for every meal!
We didn’t have any bad experiences, but here are the few places we would definitely recommend:
Cafe Libertas: This was perfect for breakfast or a small lunch. They had a pretty extensive menu of hot drinks – the gingerbread latte jumped straight out at me and it didn’t disappoint! James ordered croissants (which came with two croissants, a small pot of honey, and some amazingly delicious home-made jam!), and I had a huge open-faced sandwich smothered in BBQ sauce with ham, cheese, and vegetables on top. Delicious.
Pierogarnia Mandu: This one got great reviews online so we popped in to try it for ourselves. They had so many different types of perogies it took us a while to choose! After much internal arguing with ourselves, I settled for beef perogies served with onions, and James settled for the goose perogies served with cranberry sauce. Each plate came with 10, which may not sound like a lot, but we struggled to even get through that many. Despite the heaviness of the meal, it was very tasty.
There’s a window where you can see women working hard, rolling out the dough and putting your filling of choice inside. Knowing the food is hand-made to order makes the experience that much better. For dessert, we took some sweet chocolate and banana perogies (with sweet sour cream) back to our place to indulge in later on. After an hour or so of digesting we finally had the room to try them and oh my goodness they were amazing!
We highly recommend eating here, but you should know that orders tend to take about 35 minutes to make (this includes both sweet and savoury orders).
Market Hall: No, it’s not a restaurant, but we wanted to eat one meal from this local market so off we went to explore it. 99% of the things in here needed to be taken home and cooked, but we managed to find one stall that sold pre-cooked goods. With the signs in Polish, we randomly pointed at different things we wanted to try, completely unaware of what they were.
We snacked away on six or seven chosen items and realized we ended up with a selection of chicken and beef, either wrapped inside of a pancake, some pastry, or inside of a perogy. We were only unlucky one time when we found cabbage inside of one of them (yes, we know Poland isn’t the best place to go when neither of you like cabbage!). If you’ve had sauerkraut before, cabbage in Poland is essentially the same thing.
Vodka and Beer Bar: OK, this one isn’t a restaurant either, but it’s worth a visit for sure. Even though it’s called a “Vodka and Beer Bar”, they only have two beers on tap, so really it’s just a vodka bar – which is absolutely fine.
There are many different varieties of vodka shots to choose from. We started off with a shot of local vodka on its own (a must-try if you haven’t tasted Polish vodka before as it’s much smoother and tastier than the vodka you might be used to), before moving on to some of the crazier concoctions.
These shot-sized cocktails included ingredients such as fruit syrups, chocolate, Tabasco sauce and milk. Each one we tried was delicious and only cost 4.50 zl (about £1). Can’t go wrong there! And the whole experience is topped off with the décor. It’s a 1960s, communist-era themed bar with old newspaper cuttings covering the walls and a ‘speak-easy’, relaxed atmosphere. The staff were even dressed era-appropriate and they don’t accept card payments (because you couldn’t pay that way in the 60s). It really is worth a visit, just be careful with how much you drink!
**NOTE** – The staff here can be a bit odd when it comes to customer service. They’re not speedy, nor do they always seem to notice you waiting to order a drink. But once they are serving you there’s no problem at all. Basically, you might be waiting a couple of minutes longer than you would think, but be persistent and you’ll get served.
As mentioned above, we tried a lot of the local food on offer in Gdansk. Here is a list of the Polish foods we saw.
- Perogies/Dumplings (pouches of dough stuffed with a variety of fillings)
- Kielbasa (sausage, which we found quite fatty and greasy)
- Pancakes (usually served with a savoury filling)
- Zurek (traditional Polish soup served in a bowl of rye bread. Our favourite dish of the trip!)
- Kopytka (SP?) (a gnocchi-like pasta that we found quite plain and not very appetizing!)
- Napolean (SP?) (a delicious cake-type pudding layered with cream)
- Vodka (local to Poland. Very smooth!)
The city itself is quite small and compact, so it’s very easy to walk everywhere that you need to go. We were staying right in the Old Town, and it never took longer than 20 minutes to get where we wanted to, and even that was considered a “long” walk! Due to this, we didn’t take any public transport inside of the city.
A water tram runs up and down the waterfront, and we did have our eye on it but didn’t get the chance to experience it. We’re not entirely sure of its route, but we wanted to give it a try just to see Gdansk from the water! Oh well, there’s always next time.
Many tour guides drive up and down the streets in golf cart-type vehicles, offering their services to tourists. We usually avoid anything like this anyway, but we would definitely recommend to avoid it here. As mentioned, the city itself is small enough that you will not have any problems getting around yourself.
From the Lech Walesa Airport, there are two ways to get into the city: bus or train. Conveniently, the Poles have laid out coloured tape on the flooring in the airport that guides you to your preferred transportation.
Since we landed in Gdansk at 21:30, and after being stuck in a stationary customs line-up for longer than we wanted to, we weren’t ready to head into the city until about 23:00. At this time, the only option we had was to take the night bus, the N3, from Platform 1. This is just outside of the airport, very easily found by following the coloured tape.
The one-way trip only cost 4.20 zl (£0.87) per person and took about 45 minutes to reach the main train station. There was a ticket machine right beside the bus stop, but it was out of order (it was working right before we tried it, not sure what we did to it?!) so we had to get change from a vendor inside and pay the bus driver. Usually, the driver doesn’t have change, so ensure that you have some coins in case this happens!
On the way back, we took the train from Gdansk Glowny (the main train station) back to the airport. This was even cheaper, only 3.80 zl (£0.79) per person and only took 35 minutes. This is definitely the preferred method, as it’s both cheaper and quicker! Reading the train schedule was quite confusing, however, because the stop we needed to get off at (Port Lotniczy) was not named after the airport itself, nor did it have a plane icon next to its name.
Public toilets were signposted all around Gdansk, so there’s plenty of them around. Every toilet in the city seemed to charge 2 zl (£0.50), and the one time we did use it we found them to be clean enough. Restaurants and bars also charged the same fee if you just wanted to use the toilet. Typical Europe!
When we arrived at our Airbnb there was a pamphlet with basic information on Gdansk. It stated that the tap water is not safe to drink here and to stay away from doing so. However, we remembered reading online before leaving that it actually was safe to drink, something we found to be the case when we drank a few glasses each in our apartment on arrival and suffered no ill effects.
We did read that you might get a funny look if you order tap water in a restaurant, but we didn’t bother trying this as the beer cost so little and enticed us every time.
As mentioned, Poland has topped our list for the cheapest place we have been to. At the time of visiting (Sept 2017), 1 zl was equivalent to £0.21. Here is a quick summary of some of our costs:
Train ticket (one-way): 3.80 zl
Bus ticket (one-way): 4.20 zl
Average restaurant meal for two: 50-80 zl
Pint of beer in a restaurant: 4.50 zl
500mL bottle of beer from the shop: 3.40 zl
500mL bottle of water from the shop: 0.95 zl
Museum entrance fees: 15-20 zl
**Many museums seemed to be free on a Monday, with slightly shortened opening hours**
We highly recommend having some Polish zloty on you for your travels because card can’t be used for everything. It’s very useful to always have a handful of coins on you for things such as using a public toilet, public transport, making a donation towards a church, or leaving a tip at a restaurant. Tipping isn’t expected in this country, but Krysta’s North American blood means she’ll never be happy if she doesn’t leave a tip.
Hopefully, you found this article useful, and answers some key questions you might have before visiting Gdansk!
Have we missed anything important? Were our experiences similar to yours? Let us know below!