Gdańsk is the port town in the North of Poland. Its long merchants’ traditions and fascinating history make it a perfect place not only for food lovers.
The city, with over a thousand years of history, from 1308 to 1454, was under the rule of the Teutonic Knights. During their regime, a crucial thing happened – Gdańsk became a part of the Hanseatic League, a confederation of merchant guilds and market towns. It had a significant impact on the development of the region. The goods, also culinary ones, were arriving at the port. The citizens of Gdańsk had easier access to expensive spices and other products from overseas. Successful merchants from Germany, Netherlands, and other countries settled there. They brought with them their way of making and eating food. Thanks to Mennonites (groups of Anabaptist Christian churches), who first came to Poland at the end of the XVI century, the Dutch-style cheese culture started to develop in the Pomerania region. They also brought recipes for alcohol.
One of the most famous liqueurs from Gdańsk is called Goldwasser – gold water. This elegant, spiced alcohol has tiny flakes of gold suspended in it. Its origin relates to the God of the Sea. In the middle of Gdańsk’s Old Town stands a fountain with the statue of Neptun. According to legends, in former times, the people coming to the city were throwing gold coins into the fountain for luck. Time passed, and the number of coins was so enormous that they blocked the water supply. Thanks to the presence of gold, the water turned into alcohol, while at the stroke of Neptune’s trident, the coins disintegrated into small flakes. A less epic story tells that the recipe for Goldwasser was brought to Gdańsk by Ambrosius Vermöllen from Flanders. He started producing the liquor at the end of the XVI century.
Catch of the day
The Baltic Sea gives access to fresh fish. In former times, sea fish was treated like poor man’s food in Poland. The nobleman cuisine was based on sweet water fish dishes. Today, in Pomeranian cuisine, food lovers may find many tasty herring, salmon, flounder, or cod dishes. The elegant and spacious interiors of Mercato restaurant suit well to modern cuisine. The menu is short and seasonal. At the end of summer, it includes crayfish soup, herring, and a steak tartare. To feel the atmosphere of a port town from old times, one should go to Gdański Bowke. The restaurant is located on the bank of the Motława River. They serve crayfish, fish soup, herring, and pâté. Meat lovers also will find something interesting on the menu. Gdański Bowke has a selection of local alcohols, including the famous Goldwasser. BonŻur serves both fish and meat. The żurek – sour rye soup is also worth trying. This rich-in umami teste soup has a very long tradition in Poland. A modern interpretation of classical Polish and Pomeranian dishes and some food inspired by fusion cuisine is available in Tygle Gdańskie. The restaurant also serves breakfasts. The other interesting places to have a morning meal are Marmolada Chleb i Kawa and Tu Można Marzyć. Both locations have sweet and savory dishes, which go well with a glass of sparkling wine.
Taste of the past
In the middle of the XIX century, Marie Rosnack published her ”Danziger Kochbuch” (Gdańsk’s Cookbook). In this comprehensive cookbook, she collected over 400 recipes for different kinds of meat and fish dishes and even desserts. Nowadays, food culture is a trendy topic. Chefs and restaurateurs bring to life the forgotten recipes and serve a taste of the past with a modern twist. Marie Rosnack’s book, reprinted in Polish in a modernized and shortened edition, inspired the culinary route ”Tastes of Gdansk”. It is an initiative started by Visit Gdańsk in cooperation with several restaurants in the town’s historical part. Culinary tourists can order packages for one, two, or four people and try food inspired by ”Danziger Kochbuch”. The tasting menu consists of a starter, main dish, and dessert. It is the best way to feel the culinary atmosphere of the Gdańsk in the XIX century.
After dinner, it is nice to eat some good dessert. Almost every restaurant has something sweet on its menu. It is often a cheesecake, chocolate cake, or apple pie. Those looking for something special may visit patisseries, craft bakeries, and ice cream shops. You can get traditional cookies, pączki (Polish doughnuts), and cream rolls in many old-fashioned places. On the other hand, in Umam, modern-style monoportions await the foodie. The small desserts are very appealing to the eye. Umam also sells macarons, ice cream, and coffee. KAISER Patisserie has two locations in Gdańsk. The pastry shops are charming, elegant cafes where you can spend a long, lazy morning or afternoon. The wide variety of mono portions and viennoiserie is presented on stone counters. If you are craving for an eclair, the best spot is Eklerownia, a small place with accents in powder pink. It offers eclairs made of puff pastry and shortcrust pastry. You can also drink coffee there or order drinks based on Japanese matcha tea. Last but not least. Ice cream is a big deal in Poland, especially craft made from selected ingredients. Lodziarnia Miś is a place where modern ice-making meets with a little bit of nostalgia. The third generation of owners cares about the product and the atmosphere.
Food hall – culinary diversity
In the last few years, the concept of food halls has developed rapidly in Poland. You can find them in Warsaw, Wrocław, Poznań and of course in Gdańsk. Places containing multiple restaurants are good spots for people who like to discover new tastes or groups of individuals with a demand for different food (e.g., vegetarian, vegan). Słony Spichlerz is located on the bank of the Motława River. You can get from it to major Old Town’s monuments and attractions in a few minutes. It offers Polish, Tex-Mex, Italian, and Greek food. Stacja Food Hall is more focused on street food from around the world. Food Hall Montownia is the newest spot on the culinary map of Gdańsk, which was opened at the end of June 2023. It is located in a completely renovated industrial building from the Second World War. It is the largest food hall in Gdańsk. There are restaurants, a pastry shop, a tap bar, and a wine bar inside. Food halls are not only places to eat; they often organize culinary and cultural events.
A sip of a craft okowita
Those who would like to run away from the bustle of the city may choose to visit a craft distillery. Podole Wielkie is in calm countryside. The family-run business focuses on the philosophy ”from fields to bottle” because everything is grown, harvested, and distilled in Pomerania. They specialize in producing okowita (a strong distilled alcohol; its name comes from the Latin term ’aqua vitae’ – water of life) and vodkas. Podole Wielkie organizes the distillery tours for individuals and groups (some of them are also combined with transportation from and to Gdańsk), okowita’s and vodka tastings, and culinary experiences with the pairing of food with craft alcohols.
ul. Długie Pobrzeże 11, Gdańsk
ul. Piwna 36/39, Gdańsk
ul. Chmielna 10, Gdańsk
ul. Targ Rybny 1, Gdańsk
Marmolada Chleb i Kawa
ul. Antoniego Słonimskiego 5, Gdańsk
Tu Można Marzyć
ul. Opata Jacka Rybińskiego 25, Gdańsk
Słony Spichlerz Food Hall
ul. Chmielna 10, Gdańsk
Stacja Food Hall
ul. Jana Kilińskiego 4, Gdańsk
Food Hall Montownia
ul. Lisia Grobla 7, Gdańsk
ul. Grobla II 12/14/C1, Gdańsk
ul. gen. Andersa 22/U8, Gdańsk
ul. Norwida 8, Gdańsk
ul. Długie Pobrzeże 13, Gdańsk
Straganiarska 53/54, Gdańsk
ul. Podwale Staromiejskie 62/68, Gdańsk
Podole Wielkie 22, Główczyce
Tastes of Gdansk
Text: Magdalena Tomaszewska-Bolałek