Gdańsk, a historic city located on Poland’s Baltic, coast, is one of the prettiest in the country. Narrow, three-story, Dutch-looking houses line cobblestoned streets in the picturesque Old Town. Every building is panted in subtle and subline shades of ochre, russet, periwinkle, celadon green and rose gold. During World War II, the city was 90 percent destroyed. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, it was painstakingly rebuilt — brick by brick.
In the early 1980s Gdańsk became the birthplace of Solidarity — Solidarność — a pro-democracy movement that started in the Gdańsk Shipyards. Helmed by Lech Wałęsa, who went on to become president of Poland, the nonviolent protests swept the country and led to the demise of the Communist regime in Poland.
Gdańsk’s coastal position determined the economy of both the city and the region, dating back to the times of the Hanseatic League (1358–1669), when its strategic location made it a wealthy and powerful trading city.
Traditional industries in Gdańsk are still associated with the sea, but software startups and petrochemical, pharmaceutical and biotech companies now bring in foreign investors — from nearby Denmark and Sweden and from other EU countries as well as Great Britain, Asia and the United States. Poland is a member of the European Union but still uses the złoty; however, euros, U.S. dollars and U.K. pounds are widely accepted.
In 2018 more than 1,000 business events (trade shows, expos and conferences) took place in the city. Although still under the radar as a leisure destination, Gdańsk offers 15 museums; seven theaters (everything from puppets to Shakespeare); dozens of after-hours clubs; wide, sandy beaches; and more than 100 miles of scenic bike paths.
Numerous carriers fly to Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport. From JFK and Newark Liberty International airports, Lufthansa, LOT Polish Airlines and KLM offer one-stop 12- to 14-hour flights. From Los Angeles International Airport, the one-stop flights take 13 to 18 hours. Once in Gdańsk, a taxi or Uber gets you to the city center in about 20 minutes. (At press time, Poland’s pandemic- related border restrictions for U.S. citizens remain unchanged. U.S. citizens who do not meet one of the existing exemptions are not allowed to enter the country.)
When it comes to lodging, you’ll find a variety of options. Nearly 20 upscale, 4- and 5-star hotels (including traditional, condo and design-driven boutique hotels) opened in the city since 2017. Most feature sophisticated conference facilities and offer secretarial and translation services, although Gdańsk is a young city and almost everyone speaks English.
Stay in or near the Old Town, if possible. This magical part of the city boasts several business-friendly hotels within walking distance of nearly everything. Consider the Radisson Blu (142 tasteful rooms and suites, fast WiFi and underground parking), Hotel Gdańsk Boutique (in a restored 19th-century granary, with 2,153 square feet of meeting space), Puro Gdańsk Stare Miasto (six design-forward conference rooms with state-of-the-art technology and catering by the hotel’s award-winning restaurant), or Deo Gdańsk Old Town (354 guestrooms and nine meeting rooms). Last summer, InterContinental Hotels Group opened a 240-room Holiday Inn on historic Granary Island in Old Town. Catering to business travelers, it offers high-tech meeting rooms for 10 or 100.
For old-world elegance with comfortable beds, big marble baths and the latest-generation technology, reserve a room at Hotel Podewils. A restaurant terrace overlooks the Motława River, perfect for alfresco lunch meetings with a million-dollar view.
All hotels offer in-room workspaces with all the modern conveniences and over-the-top breakfast buffets. They can arrange crowd-pleasing business lunches with classic Polish dishes reinterpreted by young chefs using fresh and local ingredients.
For informal breakfast or lunch meetings, choose Sztuka Wyboru, set in a historic 19th-century building, now a sleek white-gray bookshop and art gallery with glass stairs connecting the two levels. Sit at a table, at the counter or in a sink-into armchair. Have espresso and sweet fritters while admiring eye-catching contemporary art.
If you’re having a quick bite between meetings, stop at one of the milk bars (cafeteria-style restaurants that serve high-quality traditional Polish food and beer at low prices). Two excellent options: Stągiewna Bar Mleczny (a cute eatery on the water), or grab a seat outside at Neptun Milky Bar.
To impress your clients, take them to Restauracja KOS for grilled Baltic salmon or succulent ribs in a deliciously boozy sauce (infused with Żubrówka vodka). Goldwasser Restaurant — with four intimate rooms, a terrace and a 25-seat banquet room — is one of the oldest restaurants in the city. Locals come here for perfectly grilled, gold flake-topped steaks washed down with the iconic Goldwasser vodka. Kubicki, opened in 1918, was one of the most popular restaurants of the time and still is. The décor pleases with antiques mixed with contemporary pieces and oversized, plush chairs. Order the fish of the day or roast duck with red cabbage.
If you can stay a few extra days, jump on a tram to Sopot, a charming seaside town just 15 minutes away. Stay at the Sofitel Grand, a venerable spa hotel with its own private beach, exclusive restaurant and handsome Art Nouveau architecture. Stroll along Bohaterów Monte Cassino (Heroes of Monte Cassino), lined with shops and restaurants and leading, ultimately, to the sea
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I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
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