Category: Destination

Gdynia – a blend of tradition and modernity

Gdynia. A city of young, ambitious, and successful people. It was granted city rights only in 1926, which makes it one of the youngest Polish cities. Gdynia was founded so that a new port could be established, which was intended as an alternative to autonomous Free City of Danzig.
The port of Gdynia isn’t only a big player on the maritime market, but also a historical place. Polish emigrants would set off on their journey from there, in pursuit of a better world and perspectives. The former Maritime Station, from where ocean liners left for decades, now houses the Emigration Museum – the only establishment in Poland dedicated to emigration and lives of Poles abroad. The exhibitions are arranged in a modern and accessible way.

Blending tradition and modernity is the domain of Gdynia, a city inhabited by young and active people always ready for something new to come. It is not without reason that Gdynia hosts Open’er, one of the biggest music festivals in Europe, and the Polish Film Festival, one of the oldest film events in Europe. Thus, modern Gdynia, historical Gdańsk and Sopot resort perfectly complement each other.
Shopping is another strong point of Gdynia. Suffice to have a walk down one of its main streets – Świętojańska Street – to find plenty of boutiques of local designers. But it’s shopping centres with international brands and top Polish producers that are a true paradise for shopping buffs. The Klif shopping centre in Orłowo offers primarily luxury brands, and Riviera houses over 250 popular chain stores as well as original Polish fashion and beauty stores.
Those who are after peace and quiet will find it in Orłowo, a less commercial part of the city, which is definitely worth visiting. Its name is said to have its origins in an inn Adlershorst, which literally means eagle’s eyrie (Orle Gniazdo in Polish), set up by Hans Adler, a fisherman, at the beginning of the 19th century. However, the name was officially changed into ‘Orłowo’ only in 1920. The fishing district still cherishes the tradition of a 1920s resort, combining it with modern architectural forms. Its highlights include a cliff covered in shrubs and trees, separating wild nature from the calm grandeur of the sea. Orłowo also boasts a beautiful beach, which is a hundred metres wide. It’s one of the cleanest and least crowded bathing spots in the area.

The district has also been popular with artists. For example, in the interwar period, it was often visited by Stefan Żeromski, a Polish novelist also known as ‘the conscience of the nation’. The place he used to stay in has been turned into a museum and a café. Another artist who fell in love with Gdynia was Antoni Suchanek. The painter was commemorated by a statue on one of benches in Orłowo.

Sopot – a city of two faces

Sopot is the subject of legends in Poland. On one hand, it’s a resort and spa, boasting the famous Grand Hotel, being one of its architectural highlights, which has been visited by great personages such as, for example, Charles de Gaulle, Alfonso XIII of Spain, or a Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner – Czesław Miłosz. On the other hand, it’s a vibrant, popular holiday destination.
The most famous street in Sopot is Bohaterów Monte Cassino Street, commonly known as ‘Monciak’, which leads to the longest wooden pier in Europe, stretching over half a kilometre into the Gdańsk Bay. Along the street, there are plenty of clubs and restaurants, the famous Crooked House, the Wybrzeże Theatre Chamber Stage and auction houses, where you can buy artistic memorabilia. In the vicinity, there is also famous SPATiF, the original Society of Polish Theatre and Film Artists, a meeting place of Polish artists in the times of the Polish People’s Republic as well as now. A lot of famous artists have drunk and engaged in discussions there, including Faye Dunaway, Jerzy Skolimowski and Roman Polański. A must for contemporary art buffs as well as those who prefer more classical art is the National Art Gallery, located at the end of the street, in the Zdrojowy Square.

But cultural life in Sopot isn’t limited to Monciak. Suffice to mention the famous Forest Opera, which has housed concerts of top international artists, such as Elton John, Sting and Whitney Houston, for years. Another popular concert venue is Ergo Arena, located in between Gdańsk and Sopot, famous for classical music concerts of artists like Hans Zimmer and Andrea Bocelli as well as giants of pop music stage, such as Lady Gaga or Armin van Buuren.
Near Ergo Arena in Sopot Wyścigi, there is another venue worth visiting – the Hippodrome. The history of this horse racing track began in the 1870s, when so-called Black Hussars held hunting races there. Over time, its character has changed, and today you can admire and ride various kinds of horses there. It also holds the prestigious International Jumping Competition CSIO 5*.

But there is also another side of Sopot waiting to be discovered. Apart from cultural attractions, parties and concerts, Sopot is also a place where you can relax and restore your health. The resort is famous for its beneficial health effects and climate, first mentioned about 1770, when the first dressing room for the baths was opened there. The foundation stone for the future infrastructure was laid by the godfather of the city, Jean Haffner. At first, the healing power of Sopot was put down to cold baths in the sea. Over time, however, the city has developed in terms of ideology and technology, and it has become a modern and effective resort. Other highlights of Sopot include the Balneological Centre near the famous Sopot pier. This facility, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, offers saline baths, cryotherapy, hydrotherapy, balneotherapy and a variety of other rehabilitation treatments. Such treatments are particularly recommended for patients suffering from chronic respiratory diseases or rheumatic disorders.

New culture and fun zones in Gdańsk

Gdańsk is a city where a concrete jungle and broadly understood crème de la crème of business blend with culture, mutually enriching each other. One of the recent trends in this aesthetics is arranging post‑industrial public spaces in such a way to preserve their ‘rusty’ character and highlight their potential at the same time. It’s no coincidence that most of them concentrate around the historical Gdańsk Shipyard, which is often regarded by the young as a cradle of the new city with a brand new character.
Elektryków Street, located within the Shipyard, has initiated this movement in the city to some extent. It covers two hundred metres of all-night parties in the surroundings of bricks, pipes and concrete, illuminated with yellow lights, which create a dark, damp and intriguing atmosphere around the place. Especially with all those post‑industrial buildings guarding the street from each side. What’s more, just like in American Block Party, those who gather on Elektryków Street form a kind of community, sharing the banner of culture and freedom.

There’s a lot going on here from Friday to Sunday. The attractions include outdoor morning breakfasts, food trucks serving diverse dishes, and evening concerts of Polish and foreign artists, performances, street theatre, and a mini skatepark.
Another must‑see is 100‑cznia* located nearby. It can be said that the idea for the project has its origins in recycling. The building is made of welded metal containers, which house bars, various art galleries and food spots. The organisers bet on diversity – apart from the concerts and dance parties, there are also film screenings on the containers, tattoo studios and even spots for designer shopping. Like Elektryków Street, 100‑cznia is bustling with life mostly at the weekends, both in the morning and in the evening.
An alternative to these spots is Garnizon, open all year round, located near the Galeria Bałtycka shopping centre. This historical building used to house barracks and now it has become a vibrant town within the city.

The space has been restored and gained a new, charming look thanks to the combination of modern designer elements and the historical context of the place. Garnizon meets all conscious and unconscious needs of its potential customers. The spots you can’t pass up include, among others, Sztuka Wyboru, a café and bookshop popular with the locals, Stary Maneż, a music club holding concerts of top artists of Polish alternative music, and Noce i Dnie – for those who are after clubbing. After a nourishing meal in one of numerous restaurants, you can burn calories on a climbing wall located nearby or in a dance studio. What’s more, there are a slew of hair salons and beauty parlours in Garnizon, in case you get a sudden craving for manicure. There are also a lot of alternative entertainment options, for example, an escape room in Enigmat Escape and Fantomatyka – a pub where you may try out Virtual Reality technology, as well as play console and board games.

*- The name of the place is a word play. The word ‘Stocznia’ [the Shipyard] is written as ‘100’ [read in Polish as ‘sto’] and the ending ‘-cznia’.