On a free Gdansk walking tour, the Polish city surprised and delighted me. With beautiful architecture that’s been meticulously restored and an easy-to-maneuver Old Town, Gdansk is fun to experience on your own. There’s nothing like a city walking tour for exploring the nooks and crannies of a place.
Use my walking tour tips for exploring Gdansk when you visit Poland on a land trip. Or create a fun do-it-yourself shore excursion when your Baltic Cruise stops in Gdansk.
What to see and do on a free Gdansk walking tour
On an early September morning, the sun illuminates pastel colored buildings lining Long Market Street in Old Town, the historic center of Gdansk, Poland. Up ahead, the clock tower of the 13th century Town Hall vies for my attention. I stop to marvel at the old world architecture as I get my bearings.
According to Rick Steves, the Polish city “boasts one of the most picturesque old quarters in Europe.” After my colorful start to a day in Gdansk, I agree.
Destroyed during WWII by Soviet and Allied bombings—completely obliterated is a more accurate term—Gdansk, or Danzig as the Germans called it, has a different feel than many of the other European towns I’ve visited that were rebuilt after the war.
Gdansk still wears the patina of history. Perhaps it’s because citizens saved original bricks and architectural elements from the rubble for the meticulous rebuilding efforts that were based upon old photographs and drawings.
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Stroll the Gdansk Esplanade
Walking in the opposite direction of the Town Hall, I leave Long Market Street behind as I exit through the 16th century stone arch of Upland Gate. The Polish king once greeted important guests here with a royal welcome and keys to the city.
My reward for walking through this historical entrance? A lovely view looking back at Old Town Gdansk.
Strolling along the Esplanade next to the Motława River, outdoor cafes beckon. It’s tempting to stop for a cup of coffee and people watch.
Across the river, the ruins of a building catch my camera’s attention. Beyond them, new buildings rise in redevelopment.
A boomer-aged woman rows by on the water, out for a morning of exercise on the Motlawa River. Back on this side of the Motława, The Crane—used to transfer goods in the 1400’s—juts out over the river.
Shop for Amber on Mariacka Street
I walk through St Mary’s Gate that leads into the Old City again to explore Gdansk’s picturesque Mariacka Street. Iron-railed stoops lead down to the cobblestone pavement from buildings decorated with rich architectural details giving Mariacka Street an intimate feeling.
You’d be hard pressed to find evidence on the pedestrian-friendly street that this area of Gdansk was nearly flattened during World War II. The stoops have been faithfully reconstructed with the original stone and engravings of patrician and religious symbols that graced the destroyed medieval buildings.
Racks of amber jewelry—Baltic gold—sit in front of jewelry shops, the sunlight illuminating the amber in a golden glow of shopping temptation. Shop owners have brought their goods outside to lure shoppers like me into their stores.
Tables and stands are heaped with amber jewelry and decorative items of all kinds. The scene is a heady-mix of old-world charm and all things amber.
But I resist, continuing the journey to St. Mary’s Church, the largest brick church in the world.
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Visit the Amber Museum
From St. Mary’s, I walk to the Amber Museum. Winding my way up the spiral staircase of the medieval building, I arrive in a display area showcasing amber objects ranging from precious jewelry to an amber Fedner Stratocaster guitar.
In a nearby shop, the owner offers a lesson in how to tell real amber—fossilized tree resin— from the fake stuff. Hint: REAL amber floats in salt water.
Before ending my independent Gdansk walking tour, I return to Long Street for another look at this beautiful thoroughfare filled with history. Now it’s time for people watching and a cup of coffee at one of the many outdoor cafés.
Where to stay in Gdansk
Staying close to Old Town offers the convenience of exploring most of the area by foot. I enjoyed my stay at the Radisson Blu Gdansk. If you follow my travel footsteps, be sure to view the architectural artifacts that the hotel has preserved.
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Disclosure: Airberlin, VisitBerlin and the City of Gdansk provided this travel experience. As always, the opinions are my own.