I literally cannot resist cheap flights! So when Lloyd suggested that we visit Poland for a long weekend to use up our remaining annual leave entitlement at work in December 2016 and I found flights for £45.00 return from London Stansted to Gdansk with Ryanair, I didn’t hesitate to book them!
On Thursday 08th December 2016, we made our way to Stansted Airport for our 9:25am flight. We arrived in Gdansk just after 12:30pm, made our way through arrivals and was greeted by our taxi driver to take us to our hotel, which I had booked through the hotel we would be staying in.
When I booked our accommodation, Hilton Hotels had a sale on so I managed to get a really good deal at the Hilton Gdansk. The hotel itself was really nice with spacious rooms overlooking the Motlawa River, just a short walk from the popular Gdansk attractions.
After we checked in, it was time for lunch! As we started to walk to the Old Town, we stopped for food at restaurant called Pod Banderą. I couldn’t wait to try out some local food! Lloyd and I both went for a tomato soup with pasta in a bread bowl and it was absolutely delicious!
After our carb-overload, we continued our short walk to the Old Town to do some exploring.
The main reason why we decided to go away in December was to visit some Christmas markets and Gdansk had just that. The Christmas market in Gdansk, also known as Jarmark Bożonarodzeniowy, takes place along the Targ Weglowy in the Old Town. Here you will find little wooden huts selling food, Christmas gifts and amber crafts. I felt really festive walking around the Christmas market, singing along to the Christmas songs playing and drinking mulled wine!
Despite being in Poland, I found a Thai restaurant close to our hotel called Lao Thai so it was Pad Thai for dinner and an early night ready for a day of exploring Gdansk!
On the Friday morning we took the bus from the hotel to the train station. From there we took the 106 bus to Westerplatte. Westerplatte was originally a popular health resort but its now notoriously known as a military zone and the place where the opening shots of World War 2 were fired. Today it is a memorial site featuring a scattering of shelled bunkers, burnt-out ruins and a permanent outdoor exhibition.
The permanent outdoor exhibition is split into four parts; the first shows the life of the peninsular from its formation and development as a spa resort which lasted up until World War 1, the second focuses on the development of the Polish Military Transit Depot in the inter-war years which leads into the third part, the defence of the peninsular in September 1939. The final part shows the significance of Westerplatte in the collective consciousness of Poles and its effect on the policies of the communist government up to 1989. It was really interesting to read.
The cemetery of the defenders of Westerplatte contains the bodies of the 15 men who died during the first engagement of World War 2 when Nazi Germany launched its attack on Poland here at the Polish Military Transit Depot.
We finished up our one hour and a half visit to Westerplatte with the Statue of the Defenders of Westerplatte. This is a huge 25-meter monument made of 236 granite blocks.
We got the bus back to the train station and walked from the train station to the Old Town. We came across “Amber Street”, also known as Mariacka Street. Amber is big business in Gdansk and you’ll find lots of galleries selling amber as you wander the streets of the old town.
I loved walking through Długi Targ; the buildings are so fascinating!
The main focal point of Długi Targ is the Neptune Fountain which is a bronze statue of the sea god erected in 1549 and converted to a fountain in 1633. It was restored in 2011/12.
Dinner was at a restaurant in between the Hilton Gdansk and Długi Targ, next to the Motława river called Tawerna Dominikańska. Lloyd and I both took this opportunity to try some local food and we both went for the famous ‘piergoi’ which are also known as Polish dumplings. Ours were filled with meat in a mushroom sauce. We ordered a portion of roast potatoes each as we didn’t realise how big the portion sizes would be! The meal was very tasty, and very reasonably priced = very cheap compared to England!
We spent the evening walking around the Old Town and Christmas market. I had a mulled wine in a souvineer mug, whilst Lloyd had a hot chocolate.
On Saturday morning we took the train from Gdansk to Malborn to visit Malbork Castle. The train journey took about 50 minutes, and then it was about a 15 minute walk from Malbork station to the castle. We spent a couple of hours walking around, listening to our audio guide.
Malbork Castle is spectacular. The castle is a classic example of a medieval fortfress and, on its completion in 1406, was the world’s largest brick castle! It’s worth a trip here.
In the evening, we wanted to try the famous ‘bigos’ so after Googling the best place to find it, we found Velevetka. We was quite lucky to get a table as it gets quite busy. Velevetka restaurant is located in the cellar of one of most beautiful houses in the old town of Gdansk. Lloyd and I both tried the bigos and it tasted amazing!
We still, somehow, managed to have room for dessert!
Our flight on the Sunday wasn’t until the evening so we checked out of our hotel and left our suitcases in the luggage room at the hotel. The hotel even let us borrow an umbrella as it was raining! We walked over to the otherside of Motlawa River for a good view of the Crane and other buildings sitting pretty along the river.
We walked through the Old Town to the Momument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers of 1970 in Lenin Shipyard. It commemorates the 42 or more people killed during the Coastal cities events in December 1970. It was created in the aftermath of the Gdańsk Agreement and is the first monument to the victims of communist oppression to be erected in a communist country.
Afterwards, we walked back to the Old Town for some lunch. I’d seen online prior to my trip that the food in Familia Bistro was very good so we decided to try it out! Again, we was quite lucky to get a table without booking as this restaurant also gets busy. I had the traditional Lithuanian dumplings stuffed with beef served in homemade chicken soup whilst Lloyd tried kibins which are shortcrust pastry dumplings baked in the oven and served with a sauce.
We decided to burn our lunch off by walking the 405 steps up to the top of St. Mary’s Basilica.
The climb was worth the view and luckily for us, the rain had stopped so we could enjoy the viewpoint.
It started to rain, again, and it was getting dark so we decided to find somewhere we could go to watch the football. We seeked refuge in Restauracja Republika for cocktails, beer, warmth and football! Once the game had finished we had dinner in Original Burger and I had one of the best burgers I’ve ever had! I had the ‘gorgonzola’ burger which was 100% prime beef patty, gorgonzola cheese, smoked bacon, walnut and cranberry relish, roquette and house mayo accompanied by french fries and homemade beer battered onion rings. Thinking about this meal is actually making me hungry now!
It was then time to make our way back to Gdansk airport for our flight back to London Stansted.
Thank you Gdansk for a lovely long weekend away!