With heavy hearts, Dan and I left Yosemite National Park and drove back to San Francisco with our eyes set on new adventures that were coming our way very soon. We boarded our flight in San Francisco and left the US behind, landing in Frankfurt for a connecting flight to Gdansk.
The first and last time I visited Gdansk, Dan and I had only a few fleeting days to spend there after a work trip. This time we were coming back with a few months to spend exploring and with his family. We couldn’t be more excited about it. When we land in Gdansk and walk out of the arrivals gate, it was the loveliest feeling seeing an old familiar face and a sense of deja vu receiving another big bear hug from Dan’s uncle. He drove us home, making a stop at the local bakery first to buy some blueberry filled pastries. I remember so vividly that drive from the airport to home, my eyes were glued to the car window watching all the spanning fields of wildflowers as we drove past, a permanent smile on my face regardless of the jet lag I felt.
Three years ago, it was the first time I visited Poland and I wrote “we were in poland for three days, and i couldn't thank dan's family enough for making it the most memorable three days ever. dan and i are longing to go to poland again soon, it would be so lovely to be able to spend a longer amount of time with his wonderful family exploring, hanging out and taking pictures.” and we finally got to do just that. These two and a half months we spent in Gdansk and traveling around Europe were one of the most memorable. I will never forget all the new friends I made, all the time I got to spent with family, all the places I explored and all the little moments in between.
Here’s a collection of images and stories from our two and a half months in Poland. If you scroll down to the bottom of the blog post, I have put together my personal travel guide for Gdansk, Poland. If you are every planning on traveling here I hope you find it helpful! I have so many more pictures to share with you from all our travels around Europe which are coming soon!
Here you can find my personal Gdansk travel guide!
What to do
Gdnask old town // If you’re travelling to Poland and decide to venture out of the main cities of Warsaw and Krakow to see something different, Gdansk is a beautiful city by the Baltic Sea. Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot are the three cities that make up the tri city area. For us, Gdansk was home for two months so we got to explore all the restaurants and bars that make up the main road in the old city. We were in Gdansk during the summer months, where Main street and Long street are busy morning to night with market stalls and the Gdansk Eye was in motion, giving you 360 views of the entire city - which we highly recommend doing at sunset!
Gdynia // Gydnia is the next city in the North of Poland, also by the water and popular for its night life amongst locals. Just like Gdansk, there are countless places to shop and eat as well as markets in the summer which are fun to walk through. One of my most memorable moments in Gdynia was exploring the Orłowski cliffs and visiting the nearby Orłowie pier. To find the cliffs, you walk up Zaciszna, a steep road and past an abandoned building into a beautiful forest which we managed to get to just in time for sunset. From here you continue walking along the path until you get the edge of the cliff for an amazing view from which you can see Gdansk.
Sopot // Sopot is a marina-inspired town, once again nestled by the sea. In the middle of the beach stretch, you can find and make your way along the longest wooden pier in Europe at over half a kilometre long. It costs 25zł to get onto the pier and the views are beautiful especially if you go at sunset/dusk.
Oliwa // Oliwa is a quaint town near the Gdnask city centre with plenty to do. Here you can find the Gdansk Zoo which is nestled in the forest and makes for a lovely day of walking around. A short walk from the zoo, you can also find a lookout spot called Pachołek where you can walk up a few flights of stairs to get to the top of a tower higher than the treetops to see a 360 view of your surroundings. Park Oliwski is another must go to place. If you explore the park grounds, you will come across a green house, mini waterfalls, lakes and so many beautiful areas to wander around and take pictures in. A couple of other places you can visit while in this town are the Oliwa church and spending your time wandering the streets in the town and surrounding suburbs.
There are also a few places further out of Gdansk that I included photos of in this blog post that I wanted to mention:
Hel // Be prepared to incidentally make a lot of hell puns when you're on your way to and while you're in Hel! We took a yacht ride into Hel, Dan's cousin owns a sail boat and took us out onto the water. It took us about 5 hours to get there but we had a great time listening to music, talking, having a drink and just looking out into the ocean. It only took us 3 hours to get back to Gdansk as we were traveling with the wind, letting us ride faster. You can also get to Hel via car, it would take about 2 hours to drive there from Gdansk. Hel is quite a touristy town, so be prepared for everything to be a lot more expensive here that in other parts of Poland. Everything has a nautical and pirate theme and it's a gorgeous town. We spent most of our time at the beach. I would recommend to go for a swim at the north side of the beach, where the sand is white and the ocean calm. And as the day comes to an end to go for a walk around the edge of Hel so you are walking at the furthest point in Poland to see the sun setting into the Baltic Sea from the south side.
Malbork Castle // You can make a day trip from Gdansk to visit Malbork Castle, a medieval castle built in the 1400s. It takes just over an hour to make your way to Malbork from the Gdansk city centre either by car or train. Entry into the castle is 40zł per person in the summer. Once you enter the castle, you are free to roam the grounds with markets and a few places to eat in the outside sections and a museum within most of the rooms inside the castle.
Słowinski National Park // This was by far one of the highlights of my trip to Poland. I’ve always wanted to see the forest meet the sand dunes and I finally got the chance to on the second last day before we were heading home. Słowinski National Park, known to the locals as Łeba, is just over a 2 hour drive from Gdansk through forests and fields. When you arrive to the National Park, you need to pay an entry fee of about 5zł per person. From here, you can either walk around 8km to the beach or you can opt to pay to take the ferry, hire a bike or take the electric car straight to the beach. We chose to take the ferry halfway there and walk the rest of the way through the amazing forest to the beach. On our way back it was quickly getting dark so we decided to take the electric car as it was the fastest option. Once you arrive at the beach, you are free to explore as much as you like! The way the forest starts to intertwine with the sand dunes is definitely an incredible sight.
Getting around the tri-cities is extremely easy whether you are driving or taking public transport. When we were taking day trips to further away locations such as Malbork Castle or Slowinksi National Park, we decided to drive there for the convenience of having our own car. However public transport is usually just as quick. In fact, on Google maps it mentions it will take an hour and ten minutes to drive from Gdansk to Malbork, however taking the train would only be a 47 minute long trip.
To get around the old city in Gdansk, we normally walked everywhere as most things are a short distance away from each other. If we needed to travel a little bit further or travel between the tri-cities, working out which bus or tram to take was super easy, inexpensive and a new tram or bus usually arrives within a few minutes of each other.
all photos edited with my new Gdansk Lightroom Preset.