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Gdansk, Poland’s hidden gem

The Baltic port city of Gdansk boasts centuries-old traditions of European culture

Gdansk, in Poland, recently came in third place in Europe's Best Destinations 2017 competition, with Porto, in Portugal, and Italy's Milan placed first and second respectively.

Lesser known than Warsaw and Krakow, Gdansk is located on the Baltic Sea coastline in north Poland, and is sometimes described as a smaller and more colourful Amsterdam because of its Dutch-designed buildings.

This Baltic port city is one of Poland's oldest towns, and boasts centuries-old traditions of European culture, maritime history and a beautiful harbour.

The international airport is about 30 to 40 minutes from the town centre.

Contemporary Gdansk has a thriving arts and culture scene with a line-up of annual festivals and events, such as the Gdansk Musical Summer from July to August, a series of classical music concerts held at the amphitheatre on the Motława River performed by world-renowned soloists.

Then there's St Dominic's Fair in August, one of Europe's largest outdoor festivals that draws over 6 million visitors, and is sometimes compared to Germany's Oktoberfest.

Originating from the 13th century, different cultural events are held in the Old Town over three weeks.

But if you prefer straightforward sightseeing, some places to visit in the city include the Museum of the Second World War, Gdansk's biggest cultural project that has been in the making since 2008.

It was in Gdansk where the first shots of World War II were fired, when Hitler attacked the Polish garrison at Westerplatte on the morning of Sept 1, 1939.

Also check out Neptune's Fountain, now a symbol of Gdansk and a popular place for photographs.

Built as a bronze statue of the mythical sea god Neptune in 1549 and converted into a fountain in 1633, it was damaged partially during WWII and had to be reconstructed in 1954.

Then there's Mariacka Street, located just off the historic quayside area, which has many shops and workshops selling amber lining both sides.

Gdansk is known as the amber capital of the world, and is one of the major contributors to the city's wealth for centuries.

Visit the National Maritime Museum to learn about Poland's maritime past and its impact on trade and culture and the country's economy.

Built in 1612 to 1614 in the Renaissance style, Gdansk's iconic Golden Gate welcomes pedestrians to Ulica Długa (Long Lane in Polish), a gently-curving street lined with colourful burgher houses that lead to the town hall.

Travel company Trafalgar is currently promoting a Highlights of Poland CostSaver trip, offering travellers an easy and cost-efficient way to travel through the country without having to be bogged down by planning and logistics.