GdaÅ„sk is a name dimly familiar to anyone who ever studied History at school and so it should be because they don’t do things in half-measures up there on the Baltic coast. A few centuries ago it was built up into one of the most important ports in the world (and the old town reflects this) but when that rep slipped a bit they had to settle for staging the opening gambits of WW2 and the formation of Solidarity, the workers movement which snowballed and ultimately brought down communism in Europe. If the world revolved around one city then GdaÅ„sk would be in with a pretty decent shout of being that city.
However, it’s not alone. Oh no. GdaÅ„sk is part of the freakish Tri-city (TrÃ³jmiasto) conurbation, along with the Polish Monte Carlo – Sopot (12km away), and the most liveable city in the country – Gdynia (20km away), so you actually get 3 cities for the price of 1! The sense of value is overwhelming.
Sopot has always been the no.1 beach resort and the official party capital of Poland but it’s reputation outside the country has gone through the roof in recent years. Packed in the summer with prowling stag parties and nostalgic Germans, not to mention every single holidaying Pole from Warsaw or beyond, it’s advisable to make an appearance here at an off-peak time. Castro, Hitler and Putin have all visited at some point, just in case you need a little extra convincing…
The youngest of the three, Gdynia, may well be a great place to live but a tourist will see little more than a grid of soulless concrete and, for that reason, it definitely struggles to attract visitors. However, it rides on no ones coat-tails and an ever-increasing number of concerts/festivals during the summer months, including the legendary Heineken Open’er Festival, still make it well worth a visit.
While you’re in the Tri-city, don’t forget to take a short trip to Malbork Castle (about 45mins by train from GdaÅ„sk). Other cool places to check out include the Kashubian Folk Park at Szymbark, the Hel peninsula and the massive sand dunes at Åeba.