Difference between revisions of "Gdańsk"
Revision as of 08:21, 22 October 2012
 (also known under its German name Danzig), is a city in Poland on the Baltic Sea. It is the capital of Pomerania.
Its position on the Baltic has historically made Gdańsk one of the most important port cities in Northern Europe, and tragically also the scene of a rather disturbing past.
World War II was ignited by a dispute over the control of the city. By the end of the war the city lay almost completely in ruins. The German population was expelled and replaced by Poles as the city came under Polish rule and changed its name to Gdańsk. However, the impact of its former German ties are still evident. Although most of the old buildings were damaged or destroyed in WWII, they have been painstakingly restored or rebuilt.
In modern history, Gdańsk is known as the birthplace of Solidarity, the labor and democracy movement that helped to bring down the Communist government in Poland, and subsequently marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War. The movement was led by the charismatic leader, Lech Wałęsa, who became Poland's first post-Communist president.
Do not be fooled by the fact that Gdańsk is famous for its shipyards, as it is a beautiful city with a charm of its own.
You can find a tourist information in the tunnel near the Main Railway Station (Gdańsk Główny). There is also one just opposite the Town Hall (Ratusz Głównego Miasta) and also one on the main street Długi Targ 28/29 next to Green Gate (Zielona Brama). Tourist information centre You can find also at the Lech Walesa International Airport.
At every Tourist Information point You can buy Tourist Card.
Within the “Gdańsk – Sopot – Gdynia - Plus” Tourist Card nearly 220 offers are available. These are various propositions: accommodations, performances, concerts, exhibitions, souvenirs, books, amber jewellery purchase, dinners and other meals, water equipment hiring, car rental, paintball, Aquapark, visits in beauty salon, entertainment and many many other possibilities.
From offers within the Tourist Card it is possible to plan at least few days of an attractive stay in the Tricity and region, with good and bad weather – during the season as well as in the period of lower tourist traffic.
More info about the Tourist Card 
The licensed guide
Gdansk Lech Wałęsa Airport (Polish: Port Lotniczy Gdańsk im. Lecha Wałęsy), (IATA: GDN, ICAO: EPGD) , is an international airport located west northwest of Gdańsk and not far from the city centres of the Tricity metropolitan area: Gdańsk 12 km (7.5 mi), Sopot 10 km (6.2 mi) and Gdynia 23 km (14 mi).
The following airlines operate service to/from the airport:
Transport from airport to city
Bus 210 — operates between the airport and Gdansk, and makes a stop at the train station, 35-50 minutes away. The fare is 3 zł if a ticket is bought from a news stand or Bilety shop, and 3,40 zł if the ticket is bought from the driver. Note that although the ticket has a picture of a tram on it, it is also valid for the bus. Make sure to get on in the right direction at the airport, because the bus goes into two directions from there. On the way to the airport, the bus picks up on the other side of the road, near the front of the Scandic hotel (look for the signs that have the 210 on them). From the tourist office in the tunnel, turn left, walk until you are outside and head right, go up the stairs, turn right, and the bus shelters will be in front of you.
Airportbus shuttle — also operates a transport service to Gdansk centre for 14.90 zł (you can buy ticket directly in the bus). This is a direct line between airport and city's centre. Bus stop in Gdansk is located in front of Mercure Hevelius hotel (it's 5 minutes walk from Main Railway Station). Journey depends on traffic and takes around 25-30 minutes. Runs only a couple of times per day .
Taxi — Avoid the unofficial rip off taxis who will pounce on you as soon as you have cleared security, unless you know how to deal with them. A Taxi to/from the airport to the city center should cost around 50-60 zł however will cost more in the evenings or at weekends. Taxi drivers will be waiting in the arrivals hall offering fixed price transfers, 60-70 zł is not unreasonable for an evening (after 22:00) transfer to the centre of Gdansk.
Private transfers — MPA Poland  provides transport services around Tri-City and Pomerania region. An airport transfer from/to airport costs 100 zł up to 8 people.
The main railway station, Gdańsk Glowny, is a beautiful historic building, although a rather confusing experience to non-Polish tourists. Information in languages other than Polish is almost non-existent. Please note the station actually operates as 2 separate stations, one for the PKP trains (intercity / long distance journeys) and another for the SKM commuter trains. Each station has separate ticket offices and platforms; the PKP station can be accessed from inside the station and the SKM station is found to the right of the main station (do not go into the PKP station).
Beware of pickpockets and people who may try to intimidate you for money around the railway station, especially late at night.
PKP operates long distance trains to other cities in Poland and Europe. Train timetable is available online. Buy a ticket before you enter the train. It is advisable to write the name of your destination on a piece of paper and then show it to the ticket sales person, as other languages than Polish are rarely spoken. Foreigners trying to pronounce the name of Polish destinations often cause confusion.
SKM operates frequent service between Gdansk and Sopot and Gdynia, 35 minutes away. These trains are located on the right side when entering the station. Tickets may be bought from a vending machine at the platform or from a ticket office in the subway below (access from the street or from the SKM platforms). Never enter these trains without a valid ticket and remember to validate your ticket before getting on the train as ticket controls checking passengers tickets are frequent. As a rule, tickets are valid for travel by one specific type of train only. Don't try to travel on a student ticket unless you have an ISIC student card, even if they sell you the ticket. The ticket inspector also asks for your student card, and if you just have a normal student card, they will likely refuse you.
The bus station is located just behind the main railway station. Buses can be used to travel to regional destinations that lack railway connections, such as the concentration camp in Sztutowo.
The centre of Gdansk is very compact and almost everything is accessible on foot, the trams seem to go around the old town so none run through it. Trams and buses are cheap (3 zł/h) and frequent. Tickets can be bought from the driver at trams. Locals are keen to help with directions but always ask several people and see if they agree.
Trams and buses
By hire car
Teaching English is a possibility.
Gdańsk is sometimes called the Amber Capital of the World. The surrounding area is the richest known source of this semi-precious stone, and the product can be found in many of the city's shops. The ones with insects in are much more expensive!
You can buy fish on one of bars on Motława River bank (25 zł/meal)
Targ Rybny (FishMarkt) Targ Rybny 6C, *0-838 Gdansk, Poland. +48 58 320 90 11. www.targrybny.pl. An excellent fish restaurant just set back from the town ferry terminal, Next to the Hilton. Good range of dishes and high quality, popular with families during the day, need to book in the evenings especially weekends. Fresh oysters and lobsters with a bottle of Chardonay - 500 zl for 2, but also many reasonable priced options.
Danziger Goldwasser, root and herbal liqueur which has been produced since 16th century is considered the city's drink (it is now made in Germany though). It's vodka based, creamy and has small flakes of 22 or 23 karat gold in it. Cheaper alternatives include Gdańska Złotówka or Złota Woda.
"Gdańsk national drink" before WWII was Stobbes Machandel juniper vodka. After the war it was rejected and slightly forgotten due to association with German soldiers occupying the city, but today is gaining popularity again. There is a special ritual to be followed while drinking a shot of Machandel with a dried plum for a snack.
If you take the usual precautions against pickpockets, you will feel perfectly safe wandering around in Gdańsk. Gdańsk seems very well organized from a tourist's point of view. There are frequent police patrols and visitors usually get the feeling of Gdańsk being a secure and tourist-friendly city.
Don't walk around in Dolne Miasto and old Orunia area. Those areas are very poor and it's unsafe for a tourist to walk there, especially when flashing expensive jewellery or wads of cash.
Bear in mind that many of the boats, to Sopot in particular, end up fully-booked and that you can't buy your ticket at the boat itself. This is a harsh lesson to learn when you have already waited in a huge queue. Tickets for the Sopot ferry must be purchased from an office directly across from the terminal. Also be aware that in Sopot you will need to buy an access ticket for the pier (around 5 zł, even if you already have a return ticket to Gdańsk) in order to board your boat back.
On the Vistula Peninsula:
On the Hel Peninsula:
Take the train to Hel. It's at the end of the peninsula opposite Gdansk. SKM trains are the cheaper option. Train from Gdansk Główny to Gdynia every 15 minutes and then SKM diesel to Hel. If you get the 9:45 from Gdansk you have 7 minutes to change about 4 platforms across the underpass. The journey is wonderful - straight through pine forests and sometimes with the sea on either side. Single ticket costs 21.50 zł (get a 5.40 zł single from Gdansk to Gdynia - and then the 16.10 zł single from Gdynia to Hel, just in case you miss the connection.) When you get to Hel have a walk into town - it's just a Polish beach resort full of holiday makers. You should have time for lunch and then get the hydrofoil from the end of the pier at 3.30pm. But make sure you buy the ticket from the office halfway down the pier or you could be walking back! The trip is 24 zł back to Gdansk but it will be the best value trip you can get. It takes 1hr 50 min but the first hour is getting across to Gdansk, then the next 50 minutes is navigating the canals back to the town centre. You could pay a tourist company for this trip - but the cost is in your ticket, you see Westphalia lighthouse where the first shots of WW2 were fired, the huge ships and the massive remains of the former Lenin Shipyards.