Gdynia - a sunny, vigorous city
* * *
The best thing of all is to be a Gdynia resident, but this is the privilege enjoyed by few (ca. 250 thousand inhabitants). What we suggest to the remaining 6 billion inhabitants of the globe is that they at least visit our city - it is beautiful, comfortable and, according to scientists, the sunniest Polish city (1,671 hours of sunshine annually).
Negative commentators say that one day is enough to see the whole of Gdynia. This may be true if you try very hard, but for the more ambitious it will certainly take much longer. The city offers such a lot of interesting places and events that it is worth spending at least a whole holiday to get acquainted with them.
When in 1920, following WW1 and the Versailles Treaty, Poland regained access to the sea, it was decided that a modern port and a town be built here - at the site of a small fishing village. In this way Gdynia became a major national investment project, releasing great potential of human energy and entrepreneurship. In a matter of less than two decades preceding the outbreak of WW2, it became the largest seaport in the Baltic, with a population exceeding 100 thousand.
Since the very beginning, Gdynia has been fortunate in getting the right kind of people to come - attracted by the sun and the cheerful and optimistic character of the place. It is the bravest, most unyielding and ingenious people that have been coming - those who would find it difficult to make their dreams and daring ideas come true anywhere else.
To date, Gdynia has remained a symbol of romantic entrepreneurship rooted in Polish tradition, which is blended with patriotism, courage and striving for freedom.
Gdynia is attractive owing to its rapid growth in virtually all areas and the unmatched dynamism of its citizens.
In addition to the traditional industries that gave rise to the city, firms associated with the 21st century disciplines like IT or biotechnology have been booming.
Gdynia has a well-developed business services sector - companies specialising in finance, consultancy, brokerage, R&D and data processing. Gdynia also hosts the Polish Navy HQ and is a NATO naval base.
Gdynia has a history as well as artefacts - for this reason a museum has been built in the heart of the city - at the Waterfront; in the vicinity of the beach, the Marina and the Musical Theatre. It is a real gem - in terms of its architecture and its method of operation. The main goal of the museum is to demonstrate the phenomenon of the city, which was set up in 1926 and developed rapidly throughout the 1920s and 1930s, and has remained vigorous and dynamic until today.
Gdynia architecture of the inter-war period also deserves attention. It is in those years that the Modernism of Gdynia originated. This style, unique on a European scale, is distinguished by its advanced and functional structure and detailed characteristic of naval architecture i.e. porthole-like windows and bridge-like superstructures. The modernist forms can be found in both public buildings and private villas. After many years, the style is recalled by the designers of today - this is what makes Gdynia stylish, despite its young age.
It is here that two splendid vessels, recognised symbols not only for Poles, are moored. The ORP "Błyskawica", the only surviving WW2 destroyer and the "Dar Pomorza" - the white tall ship, a classic beauty, a globetrotter and winner of many races. Both are now used as museums. The retired "Dar Pomorza" was sometimes used as a theatrical stage, yet she more frequently hosts marine writers, as onboard her new books are ceremonially named or launched with a rose dipped in champagne. Is there another place where the birth of a book is so romantic?
Since 1982, the "Dar Młodzieży" has succeeded the "Dar Pomorza" as a training vessel for future seafarers. She is also admired, especially when making a stately entry under full sail into the port after a voyage. Absolutely unforgettable!
It is a real treat, especially for photographers, when five vessels carrying the name of Gdynia on the stern are moored in the Basen Prezydenta in Skwer Kościuszki: tall ships the "Dar Pomorza" and the "Dar Młodzieży", the legendary Scouting Union schooner the "Zawisza Czarny", and the sister barquentines - the "Pogoria" and the "Iskra". For obvious reasons, this does not happen too often.
The gatherings of the largest tall ships are something unique - the latest held in Gdynia in 2011.
The Aquarium of the Sea Fisheries Institute, housing hundreds of exotic specimens of marine wildlife; hydrofoil, boat, or even balloon cruises; the picturesque fountain; the changing of the guards in front of the Naval Headquarters; and, last but not least, large open-air concerts, are among the many attractions of Skwer Kościuszki (Kościuszki Square). You can e-mail your friends about them using the Wi-Fi hotspots installed there as well as in the Marina and in Bulwar Nadmorski (Seaside Boulevard) - mainly for the tourists.
The beauty of the place is completed by the masts of the tall ships, by huge ferries, merchant ships and picturesque fishing trawlers, sailing into or out of the port as well as by the Hel Peninsula just visible on the horizon at sunrise or sunset.
If you are tired, elderly, or just a comfort-seeker, you can take a free ride on a double-decker from the main railway station to the harbour in Skwer Kościuszki. From the harbour, you may travel further on to the lovely towns of Hel and Jastarnia on the Hel Peninsula, using the water shuttle service, which operates from June to September. Golden beaches, cycle paths and all other attractions of a seaside resort are waiting for you there...
The Marina is also worth visiting - serving as a safe haven for the yachts of sailors from Gdynia and elsewhere. It is from here that yachtsmen set sail for races or great oceanic voyages.
It is strongly recommended that a climb up to Kamienna Góra, rising above the city centre is worthwhile. From the top it is possible to see the whole panorama of Gdynia: the wooded hills, the port and the sea - to the boundless horizon and the scythe-like Hel peninsula showing faintly in the distance. It is one of the most beautiful Polish landscapes - a real export commodity.
So it is really worth the effort of climbing the 100 steps, pausing half way up, to a vast terrace 52.5 metres above sea level. You will be rewarded with a beautiful park - a secret garden, a flowery haven of serenity in the city centre. No wonder lovers like coming here; also music lovers are attracted here for the proms every summer Sunday.
It is not the only viewing point our city can boast. Another one is situated at Dąbrowa on top of the highest elevation in Gdynia known as Donas Mountain. There stands a tower with a platform at 232.2 metres above sea level from which you can see Gdynia housing estates virtually submerged in verdant greenery. Equally splendid views spread from yet one more tower in Spółdzielcza Street at Kolibki. There, the viewing platform is at 28 metres.
In Gdynia you do not have to travel beyond the city boundaries to enjoy unspoilt nature. Residential areas are either near the sea, or near the forest, and the air in Gdynia is rich in iodine and filled with the scent of pine resin. One of Poland's oldest nature reserves - Kępa Redłowska, established in 1938, with its steep cliff - is the daily walking route for many of Gdynia's residents, as it is virtually in the middle of the city. Residential areas are frequently visited by hedgehogs and wild boars, which do not seem to be afraid of people.
Swans, cormorants and wild ducks have come to like Gdynia. Their thousands-strong colonies spend the winters here, fed by people.
Another lovely walking and cycling route is along Seaside Boulevard. Its main function is to protect the cliff from erosion caused by wave action, yet at the same time it has been a major attraction of the city for thirty years now.
In the early morning, you can meet healthy lifestyle enthusiasts here - jogging, cycling, walking their dogs, or doing their exercise. The bravest of them are the winter swimmers - bathing in the cold sea in winter.
In 2006, gorgeous Miss World contenders planted more than a hundred paradise apple trees along the promenade. The romantic setting is often chosen for dating. And in the evening, cosy cafés and pubs are yet another attraction. You can listen to jazz or shanties there and have some delicious fish, seafood or something classically Polish.
Anyone who decides to walk or ride across the wooded cliff along the shore is most likely to enjoy a delightful experience as the views are breathtaking. You have to keep fit to climb up the steep paths to the top - 50 metres above sea level. From there, on nearly every summer day, you can see racing yachts while every few years you will admire a tall ship parade (the next one in 2009). The place is accessible from the promenade, from Polana Redłowska, from Orłowo, and from the housing estates at Wzgórze Św. Maksymiliana or Płyta Redłowska.
En route, apart from the beautiful view of the Gulf of Gdańsk, you may see something unique on a European scale - military fortifications and artillery guns dating back to the 1940s and 1950s, then meant to protect the port from seaborne attack. Today, they are but a relic of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain.
A walk on the beach at the foot of the cliff is also romantic. The place is beautiful any time of year. And it is different after every storm as waves swallow up bits of the cliff and seize mighty trees and boulders into the maelstrom.
Amber is not easy to find on Gdynia beaches, but seashells and million-year-old fossils are quite common. With luck and skill, you may come across garnets, turquoises and agates. However, there is some unusual amber in Gdynia - at the Museum of Inclusions run by the University of Gdańsk in the Faculty of Biology, Geography, and Oceanology building in Piłsudskiego Avenue. An impressive collection of lumps of amber containing fossil plants or living creatures, dating back to millions of years ago, can be admired there.
In the district of Orłowo, at the foot of the cliff, there is a unique summer stage at the beach - used by the Witold Gombrowicz City Theatre. The roar of the surf, the cool wind, the presence of seagulls and fishermen create the one and only scenery for the performances which attract large audiences, irrespective of the weather. In fact, summer thunderstorms add to the drama of the plays staged here.
Music also sounds good near the sea, be it shanties, blues, jazz, or symphony. Gdynia has a lot to offer to music lovers. The Musical Theatre, staging classic musicals as well as premieres of contemporary Polish works, is one of the best music stages in Poland - no wonder people come from various corners of Poland booking their tickets well in advance.
The inhabitants of Gdynia like enjoying themselves and are good at it. So visitors from Poland and abroad follow suit. There are concerts accompanied by fireworks displays and laser images projected onto the sky, attracting many thousands of spectators to Skwer Kościuszki; there are shanty festivals, usually taking place onboard sailing boats or tall ships; there are search-and-rescue displays; or you can watch cadets from the Maritime or Naval Academies taking their oath - as part of the traditional Maritime Days.
Gdynia is a city of festivals. A major European musical event - the Open'er Music Festival - has been held at the Gdynia-Kosakowo airport in July for the last few years. More than 100 thousand people from all over the continent come to the three-day event annually. The line-up is always packed with big names of the music industry as well as the best young, rising stars. So far, the festival has staged, among others, artists like Placebo, Massive Attack, Faithless, Snoop Dogg, Pharrell Williams, Manu Chao, Franz Ferdinand, Björk, Beastie Boys, Muse, Sonic Youth, and The Roots.
Gdynia loves jazz. There are many jazz clubs here, known in Poland and abroad, like Ucho, Pokład, Bohema Jazz Club, Jazz Cafe Scena. So it is not without reason that Ladies' Jazz Festival, the only such event in Europe, takes place here. During the festival, always in early July, you may hear the most outstanding jazz singers and musicians, like Ive Mendes, Yvonne Sanchez, Stacey Kent, Saskia Laroo, and Patricia Barber.
The Blues Festival has its devoted audience, too. It is held on Seaside Boulevard in July as an outdoor event - irrespective of the weather. The international Festival of Sacred Music in September has been attended by great artists from all over the globe - symphony orchestras, choirs, and soloists.
Gdynia also hosts Globaltica - the summer World Music Festival. Among its stars were Cesaria Evora, an icon of world music, Goran Bregovic, and the reggae legend Burning Spear. However, the oldest and best known festival held in Gdynia is the Gdynia Film Festival, considered the most important event in Polish cinematography.
A new development is the Science Centre "Experiment" at the Pomeranian Science and Technology Park. It is a hands-on facility, where you are supposed to touch the exhibits to empirically learn the laws of physics governing our world.
Yet another event on offer is the National Meeting of Travellers, Sailors, and Alpinists. The Gemini Leisure Centre always bursts at the seams during the March event - there are so many people who want to listen to the fascinating tales of globetrotters.
Fortunately having such places as well as the Planetarium, the Aquarium, or Gdynia Motor Museum, means that neither children nor adults get bored, even on those few rainy days in our sunny city.
Owing to its location amid seven hills, Gdynia is attractive for cycling - mountain cycling in particular. Swimming pools, tennis courts, playing fields, sports halls, a skating rink, fitness clubs, canoes, forest cycling routes, fitness trails, beach volleyball and most recently a golf driving range - this is what Gdynia can offer to sporty people.
It is, without a shadow of a doubt, sailing that has the longest-standing traditions and most numerous club facilities. Gdynia is, after all, often referred to as the sailing capital of Poland. The conditions offered here are excellent - the spacious and modern marina has all the necessary facilities and a perfect location - in the vicinity of the city centre with all its attractions. Yachting families, who call at Gdynia in growing numbers, find here a hospitable and, above all, safe haven.
The waters of the Gulf surrounding Gdynia provide excellent racing conditions. Thus, the annual Gdynia Sailing Days held in late July and early August attract the best sailors of the world.
The world on a plate, the choice of national cuisines: Polish, Greek, Indian, Mexican, Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese; you can also find vegetarian food, seafood or fast food in Gdynia. In other words, there is food for every palate in the growing number of more and more refined restaurants.
A large proportion of the inhabitants of Gdynia are seafarers, so they look for exotic dishes they with which they became acquainted with in far-off ports.
You can also try Baltic fish - onboard a fishermen's trawler at Skwer Kościuszki or straight from the smokehouse at Orłowo: flounder, herring, cod, eel and grilled sprats - all served with white wine and a gorgeous sea view - delicious!
Gdynia bids farewell to the summer in the last days of September, at the Royal Kolibki Park in Orłowo. For a few days a picnic goes on: the Fruits of the Earth and Europe through its cuisines. The event is accompanied by a fair of fruits of the forests, orchards, gardens and the sea; all this in a colourful folk setting.
Shopping in Gdynia is a pleasant experience as there are shops for every type of customer; prestigious boutiques for the more affluent on the one hand, and well-supplied, inexpensive hypermarkets on the other. The latter can be reached quickly by special free buses. Furthermore, Gdynia is a well-designed city, not too large, with well-organised modern public transport - you can hardly get lost here.
Gdynia's high street is Świętojańska, which has already achieved cult status throughout Poland. It is a shopping avenue with hundreds of smart shops and boutiques, dozens of bars, pubs and cafés, and pavement cafés and cafeterias in the summer. The avenue is designed for pedestrians in the first place and is popular with both residents and visitors. Before Midsummer's Night it becomes a pedestrian precinct, with music sounding from numerous stages erected alongside. The culminating point is a colourful parade with singing and dancing - this is when the summer and the vacation really begin!
Gdynia's great neighbours is another advantage. If you decide on a holiday in Gdynia, you should take the opportunity and see the other parts of the conurbation, visit Swedish Karlskrona - only 9 hours by ferry, or the Russia's Kaliningrad - 1.5 hours by hydrofoil.
Gdynia, Sopot, and Gdańsk are mutually complementary: Gdańsk stands for one thousand years of history, Sopot is a spa city and Gdynia - the youngest of the three - offers a larger share of the sea than any other Polish city, and the greatest number of sunny days during the year. The neighbouring Kashubian Lake District; beautiful, whatever the season, is also easily accessible from Gdynia.
So you are really most welcome.
download Free promotional material published by Gdynia City Hall