I'm a huge football fan, and the stadium was close to where I was staying, so I thought I'd check it out. To most people, this is just another football stadium, so they don't really pay attention to it, but if you're a huge football fan, like myself, it's something you might want to check out.
The stadium opened on August 14, 2011, and was built for the 2012 Euro Cup. In fact, 4 matches were played here. Today, it serves as the home stadium for the local football club, Lechia Gdansk. The stadium occasionally hosts league matches, friendlies, and concerts. Other than that, it sits mostly unused.
In order to have money to maintain the stadium, a museum to the local football club, Lechia Gdansk was opened here. For 15 zloty, you can visit the museum, and get a tour of the stadium. Stadium tours are mostly popular among school groups, and boy scout troops.
I wanted to take the tour, but we arrived after closing time, so we just walked around the exterior. I was gonna come back and take the tour, but later decided it isn't worth it. The museum is about football players, I've never heard of, and there is nothing inside accept grass and seats. For that price, they should at least let you shoot penalty kicks, or play a short match on it. At the end, it is just another football stadium, but it is a beautiful one.
I wouldn't recommend a special trip here, unless there is something going on. But if you're gonna be close to it, and have some time to kill, you can check it out.
If there is a big match, they will shoot off fireworks at the end, which are cool to watch. There is also a go-kart track behind the stadium, so if your kids are getting bored, I would bring them here. There is also a sports pub and restaurant, so you can always come for a drink, or a bite to eat.
It's best to take a bus or tram to the stadium. There is also the option of biking. This all depends on where you're staying. I was staying in Nowy Port, so I just took a bus. Their website lists all transportation info.
There is a sign on the main gate that says, "Authorized Personnel Only, Entry Not Allowed." The sign is in Polish. Ignore it, and just walk through.
There isn't really anything to see near the stadium. It's in the middle of an industrial neighborhood. The closest attraction is the Wisloujscie Fortress.
The Roads to Freedom is an exhibtion about the history of Solidarity (Solidarnosc) and the battle for social freedom in Eastern Europe, especially Poland. The exhibition consists of an outside and an inside part.
Outside several artistic gates, black and white photos, a section of the Berlin Wall and even a tank can be seen. Inside a mutimedia exhibition with authentic films and slides tells the history of the Solidarity movement.
The exhibition was opened in 2000, 20 years after the shipyard strike and the August agreement in the shipyards.
The Roads to Freedom Exhibition is situated next to the Monument to the fallen shipyard workers.
Address: Roads to Freedom, ul. Doki 1, Gdansk
Poland's first post-war steamship is now part of the Maritime Museum. Visitors can explore the ship gloriously unsupervised. There's nothing to stop you from pushing a button, turning a handle or falling down one of the steep stairways into the icy-cold Baltic canals for which Gdansk is famous. Sadly, no ice cream or dogs are allowed on board. This is great for trouble-making children who will break anything they can get their hands on, military buffs and people who don't really like dogs or ice cream. Buy your admission as part of a package deal with the Maritime Museum and the medieval crane. Closed during the winter.
I grew up by the sea, in a city with a Maritime Museum inside a really cute heritage building, but for some reason I never visited. I found myself in Kotor, staying in a hostel that opened onto the Maritime Museum's front door, but I still didn't visit. Finally, in Gdansk, with nothing better to do I sucked it up and went to my very first Maritime Museum.
The best part of the Maritime Museum is that it's located on a little island about one hundred meters from the mainland, so you get to take a cute little ferry over to the island. I took the ferry before buying my ticket so I had to pay 1.5 zloty. I was leaving Poland that afternoon and carefully counted out 1.5 zloty from my small change, which drew the ire of the boat captain. Sorry (not really). But the boat is cute and it's fun to take a two-minute boat ride... it seems so indulgent and wasteful and unnecessary.
The worst part of the museum is the exhibits. If you enjoy looking at old maps and dioramas made from twigs and clay, you'll probably be able to tolerate the museum. Otherwise, you'll want to claw your eyes out. The whole museum is lit with a gross, yellow-toned light that makes it look like everything is covered in urine, and the maze-like rooms make you feel like you're trapped. Most of the rooms have an information card in English but the information on the card is long-winded and boring, and doesn't seem to match the order in which you pass by the displays. Some rooms have no English (or French, or German) information. Staff appear more bored than visitors, understandably.
I'm not going to lie- I don't even know what a crane is. I mean, I know what a crane is, but I don't know how cranes existed in medieval times, how they worked, why they even needed them, or if they were even cranes in the sense of the cranes I can comprehend. And I say this after having visited Gdansk's medieval crane.
Oh, apparently Googling "Gdansk crane" answers that question. According to In Your Pocket (my fave guides throughout Eastern Europe- and they're free!) the Gdansk crane "was used to transfer cargoes and to put up masts on ships". But I still find it hard to believe that in medieval times they needed to lift stuff that high. Wasn't everything miniature back then?
I purchased admission to the crane as part of a package with the Maritime Museum. I couldn't really figure the route they expected me to take through the crane, and there were no other visitors, so I carefully climbed the steep, narrow stairs, avoided getting my long, flowing locks caught between two gear-like wheels, and tried not to fall onto the crowds, or into the water, below! Overall it wasn't very exciting but I had nothing better to do before I caught an evening bus to Lithuania.
What's the opposite of disappointing? Appointing? In that case, the only appointing thing about my brief visit to Sopot was the ginormous (yeah, I'm just making up all kinds of words here) boardwalk (technically a pier, called "molo" in Polish). Built in 1827 it stretches for half a kilometer out into the Baltic Sea and is the second-longest wooden pier in Europe. Much of the boardwalk is lined with minimalist white benches, while there is also an expensive restaurant and marina near its far end. Coming from Canada I had never heard of a pier you had to PAY to enter, but those wanting the privilege of walking on this wooden marvel during the high season will have to buy a seven-zloty ticket from the cashier before passing through turnstiles at the boardwalk entrance.
The pier website (below) is terrifying.
After disappointing queues at Malbork Castle I decided to spend the rest of my day in Sopot, a little seaside resort town much closer to my home base of Gdansk. Once a popular tourism and spa destination for European royals, Sopot today looks a little sad and crumbling, though there are more than enough businesses selling products and services at exorbitant prices to make you think you're in an upscale resort town. For dining and shopping you'll get better food and much better prices back in Gdansk.
When I visited Sopot the train station was under construction and transportation back to Gdansk on the regional rail system was a mess. Not a mark of luxury travel, that's for sure. There's not much to see in the town itself beyond some weird old spa buildings, Communist-inspired parks, the "crooked house" (built in 2004 to get tourists to take photos of it, not of any historical significance) and the beach. The only highlight of my visit was the boardwalk, which I'll address in another tip. It happened to be unusually cold during my visit so nobody was in the sea, though I imagine that on a sweltering summer day a refreshing dip in the Baltic Sea might be enjoyable.
Malbork is a small town near Gdansk that happens to be home to the world's largest brick castle. It makes an easy day trip by train (or with car, if you're all fancy-schmancy!), though you have to be prepared to battle the crowds.
There are trains from Gdansk to Malbork about every hour or so. The fastest trains take about fifty minutes and cost 38 zloty. You can purchase your ticket from an automated vending machine at the train station- you can select the English option and it's easier than talking to a ticket agent about times and travel options. Once you arrive in Malbork it's a fairly unattractive walk from the train station through a light industrial area into the commercial shopping streets and then beyond to the castle, which is situated beautifully beside the river.
Confession: I did not enter the castle. You see, you can explore the exterior of the castle without buying a ticket or paying a guide, but entering (at the time of my visit) required participation in a guided tour. I don't mind guided tours, but I do mind long queues, and people had been waiting HOURS in the line just to buy their tour tickets! There were probably three or four hundred people waiting in the ticket line, and it was going nowhere fast. My advice would be to visit in the low season, or to get there extremely early in the morning to avoid that queue.
So, I circumnavigated the entire castle, got a sense of its magnitude, enjoyed the grassy parks surrounding the castle and then turned my Malbork day trip into a Malbork and Sopot day trip by heading back to Gdansk and onwards to Sopot.
Neptune was the Roman god of the water and the sea. Gdansk is a bustling port city. It is fitting, then, that the heart of historic Gdansk should feature a fountain of this Roman sea god. The statue was first built in the 1500s and then converted into a fountain. During the war the fountain was dismantled and Neptune was hidden, but he came back into the public eye in 1954. Pose for a photo with Neptune and all the other tourists on Dlugi Targ.
A classic Eastern European market hall, Hala Targova is located close to the train station in the historic center and is full of vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables to housewares and fashions. If you need an umbrella (like I did) or a banana, this is the place to visit!
Right outside the infamous shipyard gates rises the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers. I found the history of this monument quite interesting. I had just assumed that it honored workers who were killed during the Solidarity movement and associated strikes, but actually it memorializes workers who were killed ten years earlier during protests over rising prices. Erecting the monument was a demand of the workers at the shipyard ten years later. The monument rises 42 metres and weighs 139-tonnes. There are a number of smaller memorials and statues around the main tower, and of course you can check out the shipyard gates while you're here. An easy walk from the Roads to Freedom museum.
Roads to Freedom is Gdansk's most important museum, honoring the memory of the shipyard workers (and others) who took action to end Communism in Poland. Visitors receive an audioguide in their native language and progress through the exhibits. First, you will experience life in Communist Poland. Bathroom situation not good. Then, you see how Europeans in Poland and beyond were growing increasingly dissatisfied with their political system and leaders. Next, you explore the eighteen-day strike at the Gdansk shipyards, including the original plywood sheets on which the workers wrote their demands. The next stop shows the months following the shipyard strikes and captures the feeling of hope, while your own hopes are quickly diminished as you learn that Poland quickly regressed to martial law and gave birth to an underground resistance movement which fought until Communism fell in 1989.
The exhibits are well-done and interesting. There is a heavy emphasis on viewing things on screens and reading long passages, so those with small children should consider their kids' attention span. Closed Monday.
At the end of the Westerplatte Educational Trail visitors will find the Statue to the Defenders of Westerplatte. This tower rises twenty-five meters and is made from more than two hundred granite blocks. Annual memorial services are held on the site.
To reach the base of the statue one must go up a series of spiraling steps, meaning it is not ideally wheelchair-accessible. However, it is easily viewed from the bottom near the "Never Again War" letters.
The second world war broke out here, at Westerplatte, when a German battleship on a "friendship" visit surprised Poland by attacking this small military depot. Poland had only about two hundred men on site, while nearly 1800 Germans were involved in the attack. Amazingly, Poland held strong for hours and, while Germany ultimately won the battle, German casualties were nearly tenfold those of Poland.
After the war, Westerplatte became a memorial. Today, visitors can stroll down a forested trail from the port to the main monument, learning about the battler, and the greater war, through educational displays along the route. You can climb old watch towers and walk through bombed barracks while taking in the information. For those with mobility issues there is a fairly direct sidewalk to the monument, but this route does not provide the same educational information as the forested trail.
Admission is free and I didn't see any gates, so you can probably visit at any time of day that is convenient.
Wanting to really understand what it was like aboard a warship during WW2 I signed up for a pirate ship cruise of Gdansk's dirty-but-evocative port area, taking me to and from Westerplatte. The trip costs about ten euros and takes about thirty minutes. Don't worry- you don't have to go without beer for half an hour- food and drink are available on board! Didn't all authentic WW2 pirate ships serve french fries? There were incomprehensible English announcements about the things we were passing along the way, but you don't need a guide to tell you that you're sailing through an industrial zone and viewing all its accoutrements. Boats depart more or less hourly; hang onto your ticket stub for the ride home.