Without a doubt Gdansk is my favorite polish city. To begin with, it has a great location, where the Martwa Wisła River meets the Baltic Sea in the Gdansk Bay. Additionally, the place has a surreal number of fantastic buildings from different historical periods. In fact, Gdansk was an important city since the formation of the influential Hanseatic League until the 16th Century and buildings from that period can still be seen today. These include the famous Gdansk Crane (Zuraw), the Main Town Hall, the Artus Court, and many other buildings on its incredible Long Market Square (including the square itself). On the other hand people are friendly and the food is great, served in polish humongous portions. What else can you ask for? The answer is great day trips from Gdansk. There are plenty.
Day Trips from Gdansk
Who would have known there were such cool day trips from Gdansk? In fact there are plenty of them just an hour away. Together with Sopot and Gdynia, Gdansk forms the so-called Tricity (Trójmiasto), a conurbation of roughly one million people. Sopot is famous for its wonderful beach and Gdynia for its early 20th Century modernist architecture. If you are looking for historical sites Frombork is home to a 700 years old Cathedral and in Malbork you can visit the world’s largest medieval castle. If nature is your thing, you must visit the Hel Peninsula and the Delta of Vistula. Additionally there are two interesting historical cities: Elblag is near, but Torun offers more.
This post combines Sopot and Malbork, the best of both worlds: nature and architecture.
Of course Poland isn’t famous for its beaches; you won’t find el Nido or Railay here. However, Sopot is beautiful and unique in itself. Although there is proof the place was inhabited for centuries, the town came into prominence as a Spa Town for the citizens of Gdansk in the 16th Century. The noblest families from Gdansk built their large manor houses in Sopot. In fact, several emperors lived in Sopot at different times. Unfortunately, most of the houses were burnt in the 18th Century, during the Polish War of Succession. Fortunately, the Przebendowski Family rebuilt several bringing the whole place to its past glory.
It’s very easy to reach Sopot from Gdansk. We went there for a day. The train from Gdansk departs from Gdańsk Główny railway station and takes approximately 15 minutes. Unlike the lavish neoclassical Gdansk Station the Sopot station is modern and simple. We traveled in summer, so there were plenty of beach goers. Once you get off at the station, walk through the pedestrian Bohaterów Monte Cassino Street, full of coffee houses, restaurants and street performers. Don’t forget to check out the fairy tale alike Krzywy Domek (Crooked House), designed by Szotyńscy & Zaleski architects.
The street ends at Kuracyjny Skwer (Health Square) surrounded by three magnificent buildings: the Dom Zdrojowy (Spa Salon) now part of the Hotel Sheraton, The Balneotherapy Center and the Historic Lighthouse. At the top of the square you’ll find Europe’s longest Pier, where many events take place. To the left lies one of Sopot’s landmarks: the Sofitel Grand Sopot hotel. The beach is long and wide, perfect to walk. We spent some time on the beach and walked around the leafy neighborhoods adjacent to the coast. You get to see lovely trees and gorgeous wooden houses. Since there are several trains a day there is no need to rush. You can take your time, sip some coffee, walk about, lie on the white sand and relax till pretty late.
Where to Stay in Sopot
Since Sopot is Poland’s main beach destination, there are many first-class hotels. The city’s most famous hotel is the Sofitel Grand Hotel. Built in 1927 as the most sophisticated hotel in the region, it has hosted kings, queens, presidents, actors, musicians, and other celebrities. Another interesting historic hotel located on the beach is the Zhong Hua Hotel, a gorgeous building from 1907. It used to be the Southern Baths and was thoroughly updated in 1995 to include premier facilities. If Sopot is your base for discovering the area, stay near the train station in the Modern Sopot Hotel. On the other hand, if you are looking for a quiet getaway, the lovely Hotel Opera is in a forest, 15 minutes from the center.
Another place on the ‘best day trips from Gdansk’ route is Malbork Castle: the world’s largest medieval castle. It is an Ordensburg Castle and Fortress dedicated to Mary, Mother of Jesus. Just like Torun, the Teutonic Order built it in 13Th Century. The castle was expanded through the years to accommodate the growing number of Knights. Therefore, many layers of defensive walls can be seen. The castle is ideally located next to the River Nogat, providing an easy access for the trading ships coming from the Baltic Sea or the Vistula River. It served as one of the Polish Royal Residences for years and is now a museum open to the public.
It is also pretty easy to reach Malbork from Gdansk. The train departs from the same station (Gdańsk Główny) and takes 30 minutes (60 minutes by a cheaper regional train). Be sure to grab a window seat; the journey through green fields is really nice. After arriving to the beautiful Malbork Train Station we stopped at the Malbork town near the castle. From the station it’s a 20 minute walk through un-crowded streets. The walk takes you through Tadeusza Kościuszki Street and the Kazimierza Jagiellończyka Square. From there on you’ll walk through a nice green area full of good restaurants to stop by.
The Castle is massive, so you will need time to explore it. Having been reconstructed brilliantly in 2016 the Castle is in perfect shape. Thus, after some time there my mind was transported directly to the middle ages. Life must have been very difficult then, with so many battles and the need for humongous castles! You walk through different courtyards and interior spaces like private chambers, kitchen, dining rooms and a chapel. In fact, you can even walk all the way up the towers for 360º of breathtaking views. We wanted to enjoy great unobstructed views of the castle from the wooden bridge over the Nogat River. Therefore we took the train at Malbork Kałdowo. To go there, exit the castle through the main gate, turn left and walk for 15 minutes.
Where to Stay in Malbork
Malbork is a popular destination for day trips. Most tourists come here to visit the castle during the day and head back in the afternoon. As you can imagine, there are not many tourists at night. So, it’s a perfect place to explore in peace. Unlike Sopot, Malbork is home to only a handful of hotels, but some of them are quite nice. Located in the city center, next to the main square, Hotel Centrum is Malbork’s best hotel. If you want to be closer to the castle, stay in the pretty Piast Hotel. They offer a delicious restaurant and castle views from the roof. If you rather enjoy the castle view directly from your room, stay across the river in the EdMar Hotel.
How to get from Sopot to Malbork (and vice versa)
The best way of organizing your day trips from Gdansk is by train. Trains are frequent, on time and a great way to enjoy the landscape. Some of the trains are quite old, lending an additional charm to the experience. There are plenty of direct trains from Sopot to Malbork (approximately 2 every hour) and the journey takes from 45 to 60 minutes depending on the type of train. For train schedules and tickets log onto the official site of the Polish State Railways. Trains are so efficient in this part of Poland that there are actually no bus connections between the two cities. So book your train ticket and enjoy the ride!