Gdansk, Sopot & Gdynia city guide
Not many cities in Eastern Europe have played such a key role in modern European history as the Polish seaside city of Gdansk. It was here were the opening salvos of World War II were heard and it was here where the big strikes of Lech Walesa’s Solidaritat in Gdansk’s shipyard during the early 80’s indicated the upcoming collapse of the Iron Curtain.
Due to its wealth, Gdansk was always claimed by German and Polish rulers throughout history but for a considerable period it managed to retain a status as a semi-autonomous city-state. After Poland was divided at the end of the 18th century, the city was ruled by Prussian emperors and was called after its German name ‘Danzig’. After World War I, as a result of the Treaty of Versailles arrangements, the city became the ‘Free City of Danzig’, neither belong to German nor Polish territory. The Polish-ruled strip of land which cut off Germany from its East Prussian regions turned into a big frustration for Germany and was used by Hitler as excuse to attack Poland. On September 1, 1939 German gunboats fired on the Polish garrison at Westerplatte initiating the beginning of World War II
Despite its fascinating and turbulent past Gdansk is not a city that keeps on looking back. On the contrary, rebuilt from the rubble after the devastation of World War II, the city’s architecture is stunning and the atmosphere is lively and inspiring. The cobbled streets in the beautiful Old Town have been scrubbed clean and the picturesque Burgher houses, medieval monuments and Renaissance buildings have been renovated. The city is always vibrant and busy and the main Gówne Miasto and surrounding area is filled up with trendy cafes, flashy clubs and stylish restaurants that cater for everyone’s taste. One of Gdansk’s most renowned buildings and a must visit is the breathtaking cathedral Krzywy Dom. For a more relaxing and quiet atmosphere it is recommended to visit the suburb of Oliwa where you can take a walk in the several parks. Also the embankment along Dugie Pobrzeze is a nice spot for an evening stroll, with many places to have a drink or a decent meal.
Gdansk is the largest and most southern city of a string of three Baltic resorts, also known as the "Trójmiasto" (Tri-Cities). Sopot, about 6 km more north along the coastline is smaller and more exclusive. The former resort for the Polish aristocrats and elite has become the main draw at night for the whole region offering a hedonistic and vibrant nightlife. In Sopot you will also find the most easily accessible and clean beaches during summer. Gdynia, about 15 km further up north is the smallest of the three cities. Not that long ago Gdynia was a relatively quiet fishermen village before it turned into a wealthy resort whose residents have the highest average income of the country. Although less famous and outgoing than Sopot’s nightlife, Gdynia has a wide offer of interesting bars and clubs. A convenient railway connects the three towns, with several departures an hour in all directions.