“What do you think of Gdansk?” I asked David, my travel companion, as we strolled leisurely down Ul. Dluga; the main street in the Old Town.
“Well…” He said, pausing to choose his words carefully.
“It’s like Disneyland. Without Mickey Mouse.”
I laughed. I knew exactly what he meant.
With elaborate pastel-coloured townhouses lining the cobbled streets, multiple pointed church spires piercing an impossibly azure sky, and hordes of camera-wielding tour groups—many of which were primary school class trips—there was definitely a feel of the Magic Kingdom about the place. A feeling somewhat helped by the huge faux-pirate galleon moored in the river nearby.
Gdansk is certainly a tourist town. Expect plenty of restaurants claiming to serve ‘the best traditional Polish food in town’, bland paintings of local landmarks, and street vendors flogging the ubiquitous souvenir magnets, tankards and key-rings. It’s hard to say what traditional crafts Poland might be known for: there didn’t seem to be anything particularly authentic on offer.
That’s not to say that I didn’t like Gdansk. I did. Despite the tawdry tourist souvenirs, I liked it a great deal.
The Old Town is aesthetically pleasing, and the city has an interesting historical background—including a donated segment of the Berlin Wall to celebrate Gdansk’s pioneering role in the fall of Communism. Walking around the waterfront is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon, and there are plenty of tempting pastries for when you need to stop a while. There is some wonderful architecture in Gdansk, and I found many opportunities to try out taking pictures with my iPhone5 (read about it here).
Added to all this, Gdansk is cheap.
A decent meal in most restaurants will barely break a large note, leaving you with plenty of change for a cocktail or two by the riverside as night falls.
Check out my next post for my top five tips on what to see and do in Gdansk.
Have you ever visited Gdansk? What are your recommendations?