Gdansk and the Baltic Coast don't have to do much to attract visitors; they come without bidding. The region is a treasure trove of historical gems, and the backdrop of sandy beaches is never far away. An affluent Baltic port for centuries, Gdansk has an enchantingly rich architectural heritage that lends itself to endless discoveries. Then there's the jolting experience of walking on Westerplatte, the spot where the first shots of World War II were fired. As the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, the city also makes you aware of how far Poland has come since the anti-Communist struggle in the 1980s. But it's not all about reflecting on the past. As Gdansk gets ready for the Euro Cup 2012 football championship, new venues and rejuvenation programs are creating more cultural options. Moreover, Gdansk, Sopot, and Gdynia form the Tri-City (Trójmiasto), a coastal trio with beach life, affordable restaurants, first-rate accommodation, and cosmopolitan nightlife.
Don't leave the region without making a stop at Malbork Castle, the largest brick fortress in the world and the medieval stronghold of the Teutonic Knights. If your appetite for Middle Ages matters is still unsated after your visit, there are still other smaller Gothic castles to choose from in the vicinity.
For winding down, options abound. Within the Tri-City, you can ramble on the white-sand beaches of Sopot. A quick boat cruise lands you on endless stretches of pristine shores and the sleepy fishing villages of the Hel Peninsula, the nation's summertime playground by the Baltic Sea. Mingle with the locals on the slow, sandy lanes or get an adrenaline rush from deep-sea fishing or diving excursions to World War II shipwrecks. Idyllic seashore living can be also found in Leba. From Leba, you're a just a hop away from the famous "moving dunes" of Sowinski National Park. Another form of slowing down is on the Elblag-Ostróda Canal. The canal, singled out by Poles as one of the nation's Seven Wonders, is the only one of its kind in Europe, where waterways are linked with rail tracks giving you the sensation of a boat cruise and a San Francisco cable-car ride packaged into one.
Though the region is most popular in summer, the autumn hues are spectacular, and in winter, snow-white beaches reward hardy souls with breathtaking sights. Speaking of hardy, a note on keeping warm: Even in summer, sea gusts dip the mercury, especially after sunset. So be sure to pack some warm layers with you.