Gotta Go to Gdańsk
Recently, Gdańsk (pronounced "G-dyne-sk" and also known as Danzig), Poland has been in the spotlight as one of the hosts of Euro Cup 2012. But it's not just soccer fans who should be discovering the beauty of this untapped-into city on the Baltic Sea, anyone should add this destination to his list for its rich culture and beauty, shopping and nature. Here's why you gotta go to Gdańsk.
Culture: Founded in the 10th century this city's location and thus access to abundant amounts of amber put it in a power play for serving as a hub of trade for Germany, Russia and Scandinavia. Throughout history it was often fought over by these bordering countries, ruled by just about all of its neighbors at some point. Because of this many landmarks here have names that sound more Swedish or German than they do Polish.
In the 15th and 16th century, Gdańsk was one of Europe's richest cities and lived up its golden age. Trade routes were created specifically to get to Gdańsk in order to get to the "Baltic Gold", the amber that is only found in the southern part of the Baltic Sea — in other words right at Gdańsk. Today the evidence of this period is still there for the eye to see, head to Dluga Street to feast your eyes on buildings covered in pure gold. Don't miss Golden Gate, the Golden House as well as the Uphagen House. As you peruse the streets you'll also notice plenty of mythological Gods adorning buildings, this is because the symbol of the city is Neptune (Poseidon), don't miss the Neptune fountain on in front of Arthur's Court at Dlugi Targ Street. Other stops not to miss, Europe's largest brick church, the Basilica of Saint Mary and of course a stroll around the marina.
By the time night rolls around, you'll hardly notice. Summers in Gdańsk, given its location, don't see much as far as darkness is concerned. Even so, you'll be ready to get your drink on and maybe even dance it out too. To do that head to the local favorite of Soda Cafe which has two large bars and a large dance floor that fills up as the evening hours progress. Also mark Mechanik and Papryka on your list for the latest in electro beats. And for a nightcap, hit up the Gaze Rock Cafe or Absinthe Cafe.
Shopping: One of the biggest benefits of Gdańsk's location on the Baltic Sea and of course the main reason why it came to its height as a powerful city in Europe, is its access to amber, sitting comfortably in the only source spot of the gem. Here nearly all jewelry is drooling with all shades, sizes and styles of amber and you'll be hard pressed not to want to get your hands on your own. Head to Mariacka Street which is lined with jewelers and artists specializing in this "Baltic Gold."
Nature: With the Baltic Sea at your fingertips, taking a cruise is a popular way to enjoy the beauty of this massive sea. Nearby however you'll find great hiking opportunities with amazing vistas of the sea. Nearby towns of Sopot and Gydina are must-stops in order to hit up the largest pier in Europe, the Krzywy Domek or Crooked House and hiking paths that will take your breath away.