Tri-City has an abundance of places ideal for an excursion; there are lots of museums here.
Hel is a very long and very narrow peninsula forming a natural barrage between the Baltic Sea and the Bay of Gdansk. The 34 kilometres long tongue of land has traditionally been settled with small Kashubian fishing hamlets, and because of its strategic position the area has also been home to military units and partly shut off from the public.
Today the place has developed into a holiday resort, with guest houses everywhere along the tongue, where you can walk from one sand beach (towards the Baltic Sea) to the next (towards the Bay of Gdansk) within minutes.
At the very end we find the town of Hel, which is the most charming little fishing village with small, cosy restaurants, sea bathing, marina, fishing museum and a branch of the University of Gdansk, where they do research on seals in a basin with public access. Also the navy is still present in town, which is a popular place for visitors during the summer season. You can get there by car, train or bike, and in the summer period by ferry from Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia.
Malbork is a must if you spend some days in Gdansk. The castle or stronghold was erected in the period from 1309 to 1457 as the headquarters of the Teutonic Knights, which had established a solid power base in the Baltic area and were contemplating Poland with appetite. The order was defeated in a gigantic battle with Poland in 1410; nevertheless it maintained power in the area under Polish sovereignty before it later developed into a Prussian state. The castle has been severely damaged on several occasions, but was re-erected every time.
It is an enormous stronghold dominating the surrounding area and the provincial town next to it. A visit there will give you a genuine feeling of life in a medieval castle and also some fine insight into important parts of European history. An excursion to Malbork is an all-day trip; only the walk around the castle takes three hours, and if you add transport from Gdansk, waiting time and a tour around the nearby town, then you can easily spend 8 hours there. The tickets cost around 40 zloty in the summer period and 30 in the winter period, a bit more expensive if you want a guide in English, German, French or Spanish. There is a discount on family and group tickets.
The ZOO in Oliwa is a place you should visit not because of the huge numbers of animals but because it is a large, wild park with animals, a perfect place to go with the entire family on a day where you have just had enough of beach and culture.
Rewa is one of several idyllic villages and fishing hamlets between Gdynia and the Hel peninsula. Many of them are picturesque, living their own lazy life on the outskirts of the metropolis, even if tourism is developing fast. Rewa is situated around 10 km from Gdynia, and in the summertime the town livens up with small, nice restaurants and everything else you need during an excursion. What is special about Rewa is a natural tongue of land which kind of forms a bay in the bay and makes it ideal for water sports, even for children and people without experience. Along the coastline you may rent different kinds of boats and surfing equipment, and the sand beach is the ideal place for a lazy day.
Kashubia is a cultural region including, among other things, Tri-City, though not many Kashubians are left in Gdansk, Sopot or Gdynia. The Kashubians speak their own language, Kashubian, which is incomprehensible for Poles, but which some people still consider a dialect. All Kashubians are able to turn into Polish if necessary, though.
It is a region of scenic beauty, relatively sparsely inhabited by people making their own costumes and having their own traditions, including architecture that differs from the normal style along the coastline, among other things characterized by half-timbered houses with wooden turrets.
Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian enclave closed in between Poland and Lithuania, just 150 km from Gdansk. The town itself was founded by the Teutonic Knights in 1356 and even after the Order lost its power, it was a partly independent Prussian town. It became entirely independent of Poland in 1657, and after that, it became a recognized part of Prussia. Kaliningrad didn’t become a part of the Soviet empire until 1945, when the area was cleaned up for people of German origin, but the past is well established in the architecture.
A trip to Kaliningrad is an opportunity to visit a historical town, experiencing Russia at the same time. You can do the tour by car in 3-4 hours, but it is also possible to go by bus. Please be aware that travelling to Russia includes bureaucratic trouble like e.g. a visa, and that the rules are changed frequently. Please check up for the latest rules and warnings at your embassy or foreign affairs department.
Stutthof is a museum placed in the former Nazi concentration camp, Stutthof, around 50 km from Gdansk. Part of the original barracks and gas chambers have been preserved, and other elements, such as the crematorium, are reconstructions. It is not the largest, neither the best-preserved concentration camp in Poland, but a visit to any of these camps will leave you with an indelible impression and will remind you of the cruelties taking place during the Second World War.
Trojmiejski Park Krajobrazowy (the Tri-City Landscape Park) starts around Gdansk and stretches through Sopot, Gdynia and a good deal of the way into Kashubia. The 20,000 hectares is a mixture of a nature reserve and unexploited forest, but most of the area grows wild and is characterized by huge differences in level, many different kinds of trees and rich wild life. The forest is a popular place for all-day trips for Polish families, who will often spend their days off looking for mushrooms in the woods.
Open Air Festival is one of Europe’s leading rock festivals, organized every year in Gdynia. The festival goes on for four days and takes place in the beginning of July, just after the Roskilde Festival in Denmark; often the same performers will visit both festivals. The price in 2013 was 189 zloty for a one-day ticket and 470 zloty for a four-day ticket.
Jarmark Dominikanski (St. Dominic’s Fair) takes place every year from July 27th to August 18th. The entire inner city of Gdansk is transformed into a gigantic market where they sell handicrafts, original foodstuff and antiques. It is a unique place for a fantastic experience, and at the same time you learn something about the town and about traditional crafts, richly represented on the stalls.
Shakespeare Festival. Every year at the end of July and beginning of August. The plays are performed at different theatres and in the open air by international troupes, mainly in English.
Mozartiana International Mozart Festival Takes place every year in August. 13 concerts in the Oliwa Cathedral.
Jazz Nights. Concerts in Gdansk in August with participation of local musicians.
Top Trendy Festival. Concerts by leading Polish entertainers every year at the end of July in the Forest Opera in Sopot.
Sopot Opera Festival takes place every year in the Forest Opera between June and September with participation of leading international ballet and opera performances.