Gdańsk has a buzzing harbour-side location and is fast becoming one of Poland's most exciting destinations, with an active student population making it popular with young Poles. Making up part of the Baltic coast's Tri-city area along with Sopot and Gdynia, the city has elegant buildings, river cruises and local brews on tap at waterside beer gardens. Most of it was rebuilt after World War II, and its historic architecture has been carefully restored to reflect its mercantile past.
There are hostels in Gdańsk throughout the old and new towns, with most being within walking distance of the city's major sites. Lodge in a traditional tenement house by the river, or choose a hostel where the rooms are themed around major cities of the world. And if you like the idea of somewhere with veggie credentials, there's a Gdańsk hostel that is 100% vegan. Breakfast is often free, and many hostels have shared kitchens. Some Gdańsk hostels have a bar where you can taste local brews.
The old town is the bustling heart of Gdańsk. Taking a stroll from your hostel to Długi Targ (Long Market) takes you to medieval merchants' guilds or the marina, lined with cafés and shops. Around Ulica Mariacka, the pre-war terraces have been converted into artisan shops. In the summer, stay a night or two in Sopot, where locals flock to swim. Oliwa is known for its grand old villas and relaxed public park.
Few people leave without a visit to Żuraw (the Gdańsk Crane). Once the largest human-powered crane in the world, it still dominates the skyline. If history's your thing, don't miss a trip to the architecturally controversial European Solidarity Centre, too. Here, you'll learn about the strikes that ultimately led to the fall of communism. In the residential district of Zaspa, the communist-era facades are colourfully decorated with street art. Gdynia, a 30-minute train ride north, is a good place to try the local cuisine, including freshly caught cod.
The SKM, or commuter train, is the ideal way to get around the Tri-city area. Within Gdańsk, the tram and bus networks are easy to use. The compact old town is walkable, and in the summer you can take a leisurely cruise from the marina. Gdańsk Główny train station is in the city centre and connects to many European countries. Trains and buses run from here, taking around 40 minutes to reach Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport.