Crowds got you down? This post is part of a series of 10 European Discoveries for 2019 — off-the-beaten-path gems where you can escape the tourist rut and find a corner of Europe all your own.
For years, Gdańsk has had my vote for Europe’s best-kept secret. But its time has arrived — and I’m determined to let the cat out of the bag.
Gdańsk has always been a historic diamond-in-the-rough. But now it’s also stunning and fun. Glittering gables have been scrubbed clean, the exuberantly colorful streets bustle with hip microbreweries and third-wave coffee shops, and Oslo-style high rises and sleek embankments are sprouting all along the long-deserted, WWII-scarred Granary Island — creating a brand-new waterfront people zone in the heart of the city.
Museum-goers find plenty to do here, from lavish old-time interiors to cutting-edge museums on the Solidarity movement that toppled Soviet rule (which began right here), the Polish experience in World War II (which also began right here), and — in nearby Gdynia — Poland’s definitive Emigration Museum (honoring those soon-to-be Polish Americans whose journey to the New World began right here).
While you’ll rarely spot American visitors in Gdańsk, Scandinavians have discovered the city as an affordable yet rewarding getaway. (And when Scandinavians begin to take notice, you know you’re onto something good.) Today’s Gdańsk is hitting that perfect sweet spot: fascinating and entertaining, but without all of the crowds of more famous places like Kraków and Prague. In short, Gdańsk embodies everything I love about travel.
Want to explore more? Halfway between Kraków and Gdańsk, you’ll find the historic, red-brick town of Toruń. I wrote about both stops in this roundup of my favorite unheralded gems in Central and Eastern Europe. And for nine more suggestions on where to get away from the crowds across Europe, check out my 10 European Discoveries for 2019.