Cake. A cabinet full of cake and the smell of coffee filling the warm, bright cafe. It was almost impossible to choose what I wanted. Eventually I opted for the cheesecake with a green tea and Brenna and I found a seat in the warmth of the back room.
Had we really only been here a few hours?
48 hours in Gdansk
We’d arrived in the afternoon, the sun already setting on a wintery day in Poland, our breath like fog in front of our faces, cold ears stuffed underneath woolly hats. Waking up in London that day I’d looked forward to proving to myself that I could easily have weekends away in Europe despite living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and as I walked around the quiet streets of Gdansk I felt excited.
Excited and hungry. We needed to find somewhere to eat.
Despite it being Valentine’s weekend, many of the restaurants were seemingly empty, unless we were just looking in the wrong places which was likely. I never expect to find the best restaurant in town on my first night.
This is all I’ll say about the place we ended up in: it was called Restaurant Jacobsen. It had bizarre faces plastered into the walls, a startlingly large collection of statues decorating every available space and we’ll probably never know what was actually in the fried pierogi we ordered. But hey, the beer was good and the cake we went for afterwards was even better.
Our agenda for the next day was simple; go for coffee in a cafe we’d been recommended, go on a free walking tour and, maybe most importantly, find somewhere to have some decent pierogi (traditional Polish dumplings usually filled with meat or sauerkraut).
Retro Cafe (Piwna 6/7) was one of those places I know if I lived in Gdansk I’d spend a lot of time writing in but we had the Old Town to explore so we finished our coffees, closed our books and headed out into the cold.
We’d read about a free walking tour that started a St Mary’s Church but after waiting around at the entrance for a while and realising that maybe it wouldn’t be on out of season we decided to just walk around ourselves.
I don’t need to plan a lot when I travel. Often I’m more than happy to just walk around and Gdansk was one of those places that was such a treat to explore on foot. I instantly fell in love with the candy coloured buildings and quaint little cafes lining the streets.
Lunch was a huge plate of (seriously good) boiled pierogi, soup and beers in a restaurant called Zuraw (Długie Pobrzeże 32) overlooking the water followed by some shopping and photo taking.
Later on we filled up on a traditional Polish dinner before beers at possibly the cheapest bar in town No To Cyk (Chlebnicka 2) and drinks at what would become our favourite bar of the weekend: Józef K (ul. Piwna 1/2), a delightfully quirky hipster bar where books stood high on makeshift shelves and mismatched furniture created a homely feel. We ordered Zubrowka vodka and apple juice and toasted what had been a spontaneous decision to come to Gdansk, the city where the Solidarity Movement had started in 1980.
Our last day in Gdansk began much like the previous with a visit to Retro Cafe, this time staying a little longer for breakfast and numerous coffees before a frustrating 15 minutes attempting to find the right platform for a train to Sopot, a beach-side city 30 minutes away.
Sopot was small but just as charming as Gdansk, definitely worth a visit despite it being February. The wind coming off the Baltic Sea whipped around our faces but we couldn’t visit without a walk on the beach. I was grateful when the sun made an appearance, bathing the pier in streams of warmth before disappearing and prompting us to settle into a cafe inside Krzywy Domek (Jana Jerzego Haffnera 6, Sopot) for coffee and cake.
Back in Gdansk it was almost time for us to head back to the airport but we couldn’t leave without another traditional Polish meal of crumbed pork, venison and roast potatoes with a side of salad.
Had we rushed around Gdansk, jumping from one tourist attraction to the next, desperate to see everything we could? No, because not everyone travels that way. You can spend 48 hours in Gdansk and be busy, or you can walk and get coffee, eat and take photos, drink and talk to strangers. We did, and it was perfect.
Have you spent 48 hours in Gdansk? Or would you like to?