Gdańsk Bike Tour
Gdańsk History in a nutshell
The Millennium Tree in Gdansk is one of the many attractions of the city. Built here in 1997, built by artists from around the world, it tells the great story of Gdansk. But how to see the city when we have little time? How to feel 1000 years of history? Preferably by a bike. My name is Sebastian, I am a guide in Gdansk, mainly a bicycle guide, and today I want to take you on a wonderful cycling adventure around my city, Gdansk.
How to start cycling in Gdańsk
We will start our bicycle tour in Gdansk from the Golden Gate, in fact from the beginning of Długa Street, the beginning of the Royal Road. And for some it will be shocking because in the Gate, the Golden Gate, we will find 3 photos that show how bad the city was destroyed in 1945. Interestingly, Gdansk truly was destroyed, we may say it was demolished within seven days, at the end of March 1945. The entire network of streets of the Main Town, also Dluga Street, is available to cyclists, but remember that during the season, it is pedestrians who rule here. We, as cyclists, must adapt to this traffic. Sometimes there are so many people here that it is better to choose alternative detour roads.
With the bike through the Main Town in Gdańsk
Dluga Street and the Long Market, i.e. the place where we are now, is the heart of Gdansk. Everything was happening here and it has been happening since the 14th and 15th centuries. We have beautiful monuments here, we have the Main Town Hall, we have the Neptune Fountain, we have the Artus Court. Despite the damage, Gdansk pleases our eye. It was rebuilt, rose like a phoenix from the ashes. After 1945, a full reconstruction of the Main Town began, which was not easy, for financial, personnel, and political reasons, of course. Although a lot of time has passed since the end of the war, Gdansk is still under construction. It is still taking on this form, a form that was being shaped for a thousand years and was destroyed by the Second World War, basically because of the fight for Gdansk between the great powers. Gdansk, despite the great sacrifice, put itself back together and today the city pleases our eye. It does please our eye and we will continue exploring its charms. Let’s go!
Although Gdansk’s authorities remained, virtually the heart of Gdansk was razed to the ground. Almost 90 percent of the buildings ceased to exist. Some of them have survived in their unchanged form. One of them is the Basilica. St. Mary’s Basilica, whose construction took 167 years, completed in 1502. It is definitely an object worth visiting, visiting from the inside and climbing to the top of the 82 meter tower to get the view from above. We are slowly approaching one of the biggest attractions in Gdansk, the unique, beautiful Mariacka street. It’s quite crowded and there are very valuable things here, so it’s better to get off the bike and go on foot. Mariacka Street is the place that everyone visiting the city of Gdansk should see. Of course, the ubiquitous amber is what attracts tourists here.
Every door, every entrance is a beautiful amber jewelry store, but Mariacka Street is not only the amber, it is not only the history associated with the Baltic gold. Mariacka Street is lovely, just lovely. This is one of the most beautiful streets in Gdansk, the most beautiful streets of the Main Town. Details such as beautiful frontiers are also important here. You have to imagine that once all of Gdansk looked just like Mariacka Street. Another beautiful element that also attracts photo enthusiasts are the gargoyles that stick out here from the frontiers. Of course, their function was not only the aesthetics, but the main function of the gargoyles was to drain water away from the facades of the buildings, of the beautiful Gdansk tenement houses. We’’ll continue exploring the city.
Old Port and Polish Post Office
From Mariacka Street we’re heading to cross one of the water gates. So we’re going towards the Old Port. We’re going to Motlawa. Driving on the Long Wharf in Gdansk, we can admire the beautiful panorama of the Old Port. We have to imagine, sometime in the past, in the Middle Ages, in the 15th and 16th centuries, hundreds of ships came here to unload goods from around the world. The Soldek ship, this ship was the first ore collier, the first steamship built in the Gdansk Shipyard after World War II. The name Soldek didn’t come from an admiral, nor from a war hero. It was the name of an udarnik (a shock worker) who achieved 209 percent of expected efficiency in the Gdansk Shipyard.
We’re passing between the buildings to the courtyard of the Polish Post Office in Gdansk. I chose the path behind the Communications School Complex for you because it’s the perfect shortcut to discover an amazing installation. Here, at the back of the Polish Post Office in Gdansk, I would like to tell you a story, not of a monument, but the story of people, the heroes who resisted German aggression on September 1, 1939. 55 postal workers. The janitor, his wife, and a little someone, a little girl, 11-year-old Erwina, who shouldn’t have been here at all, and who was the first child victim of World War II. Here, behind me, is also a photo. A photo taken by the Germans shortly after the surrender. When after thirteen hours, the postal crew, the Defenders of the Polish Post Office were forced to leave the building. The post office workers were taken here. They were held against the wall in the back of the building, and this is when the picture was taken. What happened next? They disappeared and it was really an unsolved mystery because no one could determine where their grave was located, the grave of our local heroes, our patriots. The grave was accidentally discovered in 1991, when workers in Gdansk Zaspa began earthworks and found human corpses along with postal emblems. How does the building look from the front? Let’s go, let’s see. The building of the Polish Post Office in Gdansk, the post office number 1, was the arena of heavy fighting on September 1, 1939. Together with the Battle of Westerplatte, these were the first two battles of World War II. From here the conflict spread to Europe and the whole world. But you can learn more about it in the Polish Post Office Museum and also in the building that I will present to you in a moment. Let’s move on.
Lead Island – The best view in Gdańsk
A little further, we can already see between the trees, a very odd shaped building appears. The red facade, beautiful glazing… This is the new, very modern museum of the Second World War. When planning a trip around Gdansk, remember that the draw footbridge to the Olowianka Island opens every half-hour. You can find the exact schedule here. I think we’ll have to wait a bit, so it’s coffee time. The signal, the footbridge is going down, it’s time to go. The Roads and Greenery Management Authority in Gdansk allows cycling across the footbridge, however, remember that the more people, the greater the danger, and sometimes it is worth to get off the bike and walk. If you have time, it’s worth taking a look at the Maritime Museum to learn the history of Gdansk, the maritime scene of Gdansk’s history. After all, for centuries Gdansk was the only port of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a rich, beautiful city on the Motlawa River, by the Baltic Sea. This is my favorite place in Gdansk. There are no crowds here. We have a beautiful view of the Gdansk crane, the largest port crane in medieval Europe. Of course, it was also destroyed during World War II, demolished by ubiquitous fires, and then faithfully restored in its original form. It stands here on the Long Wharf in Gdansk. We’re leaving this most historical, most well-known part of the city, the Main Town, and are now heading towards the Lower Town.
Lower Town in Gdańsk
We’ re now riding along the new Motlawa towards the Lower Town, we have a bit to go. We’ll meet on the spot. And here we are. Welcome to the Lower Town of Gdansk. A place that changes, changes all the time. See, for example, these tenement houses, after renovation, before renovation. We’ll show you the dynamic changes here in the Lower Town. Come take a look. We’ll ride through the beautiful streets and visit the Lower Town by a bicycle. Let’s go. The Lower Town is the part of Gdansk that developed a little later, around the 17th and 18th centuries. Of course, it developed very dynamically in the 19th century, when this place was referred to as the factory district. This was the industrial region of Gdansk. The streets we’re riding on now used to be canals. This place once looked a bit like Amsterdam – canals, bridges. Everything changed when the area was finally drained and the canals transformed into streets. Now we can ride on them and explore this beautiful part of the city, the Lower Town. The architecture of the Lower Town is quite unique, it is relatively preserved. This part of the city wasn’t as affected by the bombing as the Main Town which was the major war zone for the Soviet army, the Polish army and the German army. That is why this beautiful architecture attracts more and more new tourists. I think that the Lower Town has permanently landed on the list of the most visited parts of Gdansk, especially for those who come here on bicycles, because cycling is the most enjoyable here!
Low traffic, beautiful, beautiful tenements, unique tenements, but also something else. Something I will show you in a minute. The Main Town is the historic part of Gdansk, but it lacks greenery, and you can find this greenery, the recreation site, here in the Lower Town. It’s only 15 minutes on a bike, so it’s very easy to get here. And why is this place so special? We’ll see it in a second. The route we’re riding on used to be a canal system in the 17th century. These were the modern fortifications, the new fortifications of Gdansk. Gdansk was preparing for war.
Tactics changed, warfare changed, and old brick fortifications were no longer enough. Therefore, at the beginning of the 17th century they decided to modernize the defense system of Gdansk. The Stone Sluice, so the place we’re currently at, comes from the early 17th century. It regulated the inflow of the river to the Main Town. What about the flow around the river? The flow around Motlawa, i.e. the one we were just riding along, was this tactical move that was supposed to defend the city from the South. How did it work? I will tell you about it at the top of the hill. Well, we can’t get everywhere by a bike, unless you have very strong legs. We’re climbing to the hill I’ve shown you earlier. But what is this hill? This is one of the bastions, one of the 14 bastions, the Bison Bastion. An excellent place to relax and admire the beautiful view, the beautiful panorama of the city from the South side. So how did it all work? Thanks to the flow of the river, thanks to the sluice, and thanks to these bastions on which we are now, Gdansk was virtually impossible to seize. Why? By blocking the sluice, water was accumulated on the Motlawa river. The water flooded the entire Southern districts on the South of Gdansk, swamps and bogs were formed that no army could pass. And really, as it was in Gdansk, in this whole complicated history, more or less every hundred years someone decided to attack Gdansk, demolish and rebuild it on their own terms, however, there was no army that would decide to attack Gdansk from the South side. Everyone was afraid of these fortifications because they knew that these would fulfill their function, which is why most armies attacked Gdansk from the West or from the current Wrzeszcz.
Best View Points in Gdańsk
Heading from the Lower Town towards Biskupia Gorka we can see a huge church, i.e. the church at Rzeznicka Street. The Holy Trinity Church. Very interesting object with a monumental shape, dominating here in the Lower Town, but in its immediate surroundings we still have something interesting. The National Museum in Gdansk, where art lovers will find the unique painting “The Last Judgment” by Hans Memling, a must see on our route. To feel the history, the passing of time, we can enter the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Trinity. An amazing place where time is reflected, where centuries of history are reflected. From the Church of the Holy Trinity we’re heading to the path of St. Wojciech, under which we’ll pass. We have a new infrastructure here, fresh, just made.
We’re turning down and crossing the street. We’re approaching Biskupia Gorka. We can see a monumental structure, at its top is the former Paul Beneke Youth Hostel, the largest youth hostel in former Germany, before the Second World War. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to reach the former Paul Beneke Hostel. Not that we don’t want to, but it is closed. It now belongs to the police and it’s a Department of Criminal Investigation. But what we can do on Biskupia Gorka is to go up Biskupia Street and get a beautiful view of the city. There is a new vantage point there. And by the way, we’re burning a lot of calories. It is not without reason called Biskupia Gorka. Climbing is not easy, but believe me, it’s worth it, and it’s also worth feeling the atmosphere of Biskupia Gorka. I will show you other interesting places here later, but first we’re going to the vantage point. We made it, we almost reached the top. It’s enough for us. Look at this beautiful view, the panorama of the city, the beautiful red roofs. But this is not the last viewpoint on our route. We will also visit a more well-known one. Here, near the vantage point, we can still find the old fortifications of Gdansk. By bike, we can explore places that would be quite difficult to reach on foot. Of course we could come here on foot, but it would take us more time. And now what Tiggers do best – riding downhill! We’re turning into Na Stoku Street just for a moment because I want to show you why Biskupia Gorka is so special. This place was not destroyed during the tragedy of World War II, during March 1945. And here we feel as if time has stopped, as if we moved to the old days and we can discover this real, unique Gdansk. Come and see how it looks. I love exploring the city by bike, it gives you freedom and in general, thanks to the bike, we can see a lot more in less time. Pure fun! Biskupia Gorka is truly an exceptional and unique place. We have to remember that before 1939, Gdansk was really a German city. It’s true that Poles lived here, but it was a Polish minority,10 percent. Most, because about 90 percent, of the population was of German descent. Therefore, here on Biskupia Gorka, which is still waiting for revitalization as a district, we can find old German inscriptions. Like here eine Bäckerei, for example, which is a former bakery. Gdansk can be easily explored by bike because we have an excellent cycling infrastructure, one of the best in Poland. The overall cycle path network is over 700 kilometers, about 730 kilometers. Of course, there are different paths. For us, the most important are the separated ones, such as this one, that allow us to move quickly around the city. We have about 120, 124 kilometers to be exact.
Discover Gdańsk Shipyard By Bike
Riding along Trzeciego Maja Street, we have this beautiful path.It’s virtually a bike freeway. But we also have a beautiful view of Gdansk and a beautiful view of the Main Town Station, the Gdansk Glowny Station. This station survived, avoided the tragedy of March 1945. It pleases our eye and we will enjoy it even more after the renovation. Let’s move on. Come on! This section of our route is truly mountainous. Now we’re conquering another mountain, just after Biskupia Gorka, we have the Gradaowa Mountain. Many travelers who went on a bike trip in Gdansk were surprised that the terrain is not as flat as it would seem to be, and how it should be in a city located by the sea. The settlement on the Gradowa Mountain are the fortifications. Expanded by several armies in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Currently in these fortifications, in the buildings of the former fortifications, is the Hevelianum. A very interesting place to visit when you go on a bike trip with children. Regardless of what age the children are, this is a must-see place where both you and the kids can play and discover the world of science. I will climb the last part to the Gradowa Mountain on foot. It’s quite a steeply path and we still have a bit of cycling so it makes no sense to push so much, and more so, the views are already beautiful. And we’ve reached the top of the Gradowa Mountain. Soon, we’ll see a beautiful view of the city and the Millennium Cross in front of us. The cross is over 16 meters high and 46 meters high is the Gradowa Mountain. The most beautiful vantage point here in the center of Gdansk, from where the best panorama extends, actually, to the entire downtown and the Gdansk Shipyard, which is our program’s next point.
I said before that the bike path on the Trzeciego Maja Street is a bike freeway. No. This is the real bike freeway. This bike path leads us straight to Gdynia through Sopot, it is about 25 kilometers. It would take us about an hour to get to the center of Gdynia. However, we’re not going to the center of Gdynia, we’re turning right. We’ll show you a path that is a little more difficult, but with a beautiful view of the shipyard. We’re going to the platform, the Gdansk Shipyard. We have chosen the harder option for you. Why? Because from this footbridge, which we will unfortunately have to climb, is one of the most beautiful views of these famous cranes of the Gdansk Shipyard.
Well, unfortunately, we’re getting off and going up on foot. This is also one of my favorite places in Gdansk. You can feel history here. Also, we have a beautiful view of the Gdansk cranes. Imagine that in the 1970s and 1980s thousands of people, thousands of employees of the Gdansk Shipyard went to work crossing this footbridge. We’re approaching the European Solidarity Center and the Three Crosses Square. This is a symbolic place.
A memorial to the Victims of December 1970. You can see that in front of me is the famous Gate number 2, the main gate where the employees entered the Gdansk Shipyard. It used to be named the Lenin Shipyard, which is why this gate was called the Lenin Gate. We’re going next to the enormous monument of the Three Crosses. And when it comes to the history of 1980, you can find out more about the August strikes and about the Gdansk Agreement at the European Solidarity Center, at the permanent exhibition. The Museum is sensational. Via multimedia it tells the story of strikes, the history of people who finally stood up to the Communist regime. It tells the story of Lech Walesa, the Nobel laureate, the first president of the free and democratic Poland after 1989. You will find it all inside the European Solidarity Center. We will cross the Gate number 2 and find ourselves at the Gdansk Shipyard, in this former Gdansk Shipyard because the shipyard is changing. We will show you how it has changed, but first let’s look at that. These are not the original boards, these yellow boards, but this is how the postulates of Gdansk workers of the Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee that were presented to the Communist Party looked like. That’s what Poles demanded, changes. Of course, the original boards can be found at the permanent exhibition in ECS.
And we move on to see how the Gdansk Shipyard used to look like and how it looks like now. We’ll park the bike in front of the Health and Safety room and get inside for a second, come on. See how powerful the Gdansk Shipyard was, 17,000 people worked here. It was a city within a city, fenced off with a wall. A great history, and we can still feel this history in some places here, e.g. in the Health and Safety room. Look at this. It’s amazing
From the Health and Safety room, we’re setting off to discover the oldest part of the Gdansk Shipyard, i.e. the Imperial Shipyard.
A space recreated in 2018 after 175 years. Today, we also can explore it. It’s open. We’re going to go on the main road. You have to be very careful because there are rails and quite large holes here on the trail, but it’s worth passing through the middle of the Imperial Shipyard yo feel the history. The Imperial Shipyard trail is very well marked and will not let you get lost here. And, by the way, you can learn interesting things about the life of the shipyard workers, the strikes, and the Imperial Shipyard. We can see a huge building on my left side. During the Second World War, parts for German super submarines were assembled here. But the Shipyard is not only about history. It’s changing. And you can see these changes best here, at 100cznia (shipyard). Come see what else the Gdansk Shipyard is.
The Shipyard is also a place of culture, a place of cultural events, it’s also a place off the beaten track that attracts people who are hungry for experiences. Hungry? I think it’s time to eat something, so thank you very much and I invite you all for a cycling adventure in Gdansk. Come and experience it yourself!
If you prefer watching instead of reading, we invite you to a bicycle trip through Gdańsk in the film version 🙂