We start the trip on what is known locally as ‘Little Monciak’, the upper part of the main promenade Bohaterow Monte Cassino, which you will find located between the railway tracks and Aleja Niepodległości. This part is much less frequented by tourists, but it is well worth visiting. Beautiful old trees grow here, where you can relax on unusual golden benches. There are also charming tenement buildings with restaurants and shops.
To the rear of one of these tenement buildings is the Escape Room (1). It is a place that provides entertainment for everyone and is a great place to spend time with friends or family. What is the game about? You have 60 minutes to get out of a locked room using the cleverly hidden clues.
Next, pass through the tunnel under the railway tracks where you will find yourself on the main part of Bohaterow Monte Cassino. The street is known throughout Poland by its shortened name – Monciak. On either side are picturesque tenement buildings, boutiques, pubs, cafes and restaurants. This is one of the most recognised places in Sopot, the heart of the city and the main meeting point for fun and relaxation.
Turn next into the first street on the left – Obrońców Westerplatte (Defenders of Westerplatte street). A cobbled road, surrounded by beautiful tenement buildings, which leads to a narrow footbridge. Next to the bridge, on the right, is a building of the City Public Library (2), in which Miniteka is situated. This is a place which was created for the youngest of booklovers. In addition to literature, there are also board games, computer games, audiobooks and an Xbox console. Miniteka also hosts creative workshops on various topics, book readings, performances of fairy tales, theatre and many special and educational events.
Turn right at the library and head onto Czyżewskiego street. This will lead you on a gently winding road back towards Monciak. Before you reach Monciak though you’ll pass, on your left, a children’s playground next to which is a beautiful historic building.
This is Dworek Sierakowskich (3), which is one of the oldest buildings in Sopot. Its history dates back to the 18th century when it was the home of a Polish nobleman. These days the Dworek, or Manor House, hosts concerts, poetry evenings, performances, film nights and meetings with writers and artists. It is also home to a small café and bar.
As you continue onwards back towards Monciak you will find a small, sweet manufacturers, where all sorts of sweets and lollipops are made by hand. If you want to, you too can take part in the production process and make sweets.
As you step back onto Monciak turn left and head downhill towards the sea. Your next point of interest is just past the intersection of Bohaterów Monte Cassino Street and Haffnera Street on the left.
Here, take a moment to admire a unique building, and one which is featured in almost every guide about Sopot. This is the Crooked House (4) (Krzywy Domek), which was built in 2003 and has become one of the best-known symbols of the city. Established in 2003, the building references the fairytale drawings of Sopot residents Jan Marcin Szancer and Per Dahlberg. It is one of the most photographed objects in Poland.
From there continue walking down Monciak. As you reach the end of the street you’ll see the famous SPATiF club in the upstairs of the last building on your right. This has been the favourite meeting place for Polish artists since it opened in the post-war years. The name is made from the initials of the organisation that created it – Stowarzyszenia Polskich Artystów Teatru i Filmu (SPATiF) or Association of Polish Theatre and Film Artists.
Behind the club is a square with a fountain of Jasia Rybak (5) or John the Fisherman – a young man with a basket full of fish on his head. The square is ringed by quaint fishermen’s houses which now host cafes and restaurants.
From Monciak, you walk out onto the wide expanse of the Plac Przyjaciół Sopotu (6) (Friends of Sopot Square), the largest square in Sopot. The square plays hosts to numerous events throughoutt the year such as the annual Sopot Literary Festival, which presents the culture and literature of a featured country each year. Plac Przyjaciół Sopotu is a unique place and acts as a kind of connection between the paths of tourists and residents.
The square is adorned by trees, benches and a fountain and dominated by the Haffner Center, where, as well as cafes, restaurants and clubs, there is also a cinema and wax museum. In the museum of wax figures in Sopot, you’ll see figures of such famous people as Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Bill Gates, Tom Hanks and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The other impressive building at Plac Przyjaciół Sopotu, is the Dom Kuracyjny or Spa House (7). This is home to the State Art Gallery (8), the Salt Water Pump House, the Tourist Information Office and restaurants and cafes. The art gallery covers over one thousand square meters and is considered one of the best exhibition venues in Poland. Among others, paintings by Jacek Malczewski from the collection of the Lviv National Gallery, works by Georges Braque and works by Ivan Aivazovsky have been displayed here.
As you pass the Spa House on your left you are met by the iconic ‘MOLO’ sign, which signifies the entrance to the famous pier and gardens. To its right is a historic building, decorated with sculptures and erected in 1903 – the Balneological Department. Treatments continue here to this day and among others you will find procedures for the rehabilitation of motor organs, natural spa water baths, cryotherapy, hydrotherapy or inhalation. In front of the main entrance, among the rose flower beds, there is a stylish fountain from which Sopot natural spring water flows direct from the spring under the city.
On the north-eastern side of the building, there is a 30-metre tower, which now acts a viewing point, as well as the chimney of the hospital’s boiler room. In the years 1975-1999, the tower served as a lighthouse (9) and is still referred to as the lighthouse today.
Entering the pier gardens you reach what is called Skwer Kuracyjny or Spa Square (10). This is a very iconic part of the city covering an area of about 20,000 m2 and featuring a beautiful antique fountain, a concert stage, food outlets and beautifully kept gardens. A beautifully restored rotunda overlooks the square from the Spa House. In winter, you’ll find an artificial ice rink here, the only one in Poland with a view of the sea. Sport, music and special events also take place here.
One of the most eye-catching parts of the gardens are the carefully groomed Dutch lindens. Every year, their branches are pruned, so that the trees grow upwards and arch outwards to resemble candlesticks. These lindens have been growing and shaped here for nearly a hundred years.
The next point on our trail is the one that has been making Sopot famous since the beginning of the spa. This is the Sopot pier (11). The longest wooden pier in Europe, with a length of 511.5 m, the pier is the calling card of the city.
The pier began as a jetty for boats to dock. In time it became a recreational facility and a place where events were organised. During the summer holidays, there is a summer cinema on the pier, where deckchairs replace traditional cinema seats. Also in the summer boats moor at the end of the pier offering cruises to Gdansk, Hel or around the bay. Since 2011, a modern marina has offered mooring for more than 100 vessels. The marina (12) offers sailing courses for children. Of particular note for you as you walk the pier is the fact that at its end, the iodine concentration is twice as high as on land. This is proven to offer health benefits and many visit Sopot to enjoy the iodine-rich air.
As you leave the pier head back towards the lighthouse and leave the gardens by the other exit which takes you along the sea promenade and into the Southern Park.
This is the oldest park in the city, and its covers 3 hectares. It was created in 1823 by Jan Jerzy Haffner, the man recognized as the founder of modern Sopot. In the Southern Park, keep an eye for the impressive Evangelical Augsburg Church of the Saviour on the Skwer Otto Bowiena (Otto Bowien square) named after a pastor of the interwar period. In the park you will also see another of the stylish inhalation ‘mushrooms’ from which flows more of Sopot’s natural spring water. Finally you see what were originally built as the Łazienki Południowe or Southern Bathing Rooms (13), built on the edge of the park in 1907. These days the old changing rooms have been adapted to a Chinese-style hotel and restaurant.
As you continue along the seaside promenade with the beach to your left, you’ll come to the intersection with Chrobrego Street, found opposite beach entrance #26. Walk all the way up Chrobrego street, crossing ul. Grunwaldzka as you do. You’ll be passing through peaceful streets with some great examples of the architectural style Sopot is famous for.
As you reach the end and the intersection with Sobieskiego Street you’ll see an escarpment in front of you that stretches almost entirely through Sopot from its northern to southern borders. The escarpment is densely covered with beech, oak, elm and hornbeam trees and is a picturesque green corridor running through the city. Of particular value here are the huge veteran oaks which, thanks to their girth of at least 3m, are officially classified as ‘Monumental Trees’. The crowns of the trees create a dense canopy which shades the earth below from the sun and creates a truly magical atmosphere.
Cross over Sobieskiego street and walk apart the steps and follow the path that follows a bustling stream. This stream is called the Eliza stream (14) and it flows down the escarpment and onto the sea. The exact source of the stream is unknown, but it is believed to flow from three ponds located in the upper part of Sopot. For the most part the stream runs underground but the area here was revitalized in 2011 and its surroundings have been adapted for walking and recreational functions. At the Eliza creek, there is a plaque with a legend about dwarfs, called Sopot Ludki or the Sopot Folk.
Follow the path upstream where you’ll find yourself in the 2.6 hectare, Herbst Park. On either side of the park you will see interesting buildings. On the right is the city’s town hall, which has served as the seat of the Sopot Council since 1958.
On the left you will see Willa Herbstów, the former residence of a German manufacturer from Łódź.
Turn right out of the park, passing in front of the town hall and you’ll find yourself in a small cobbled square which a large monument of an EAGLE?? This monument commemorates all of the inhabitants of Sopot who were killed during WWII and the square itself, in which the monument stands, is named in honour or Father Władysław Szymański, a Polish priest who worked in the city before the war and who was arrested on the morning of September 1, 1939 and murdered by the Nazis at Stutthof camp in January 1940. A few feet further on, is a statue honouring the man considered to be Poland’s greatest composter, Fryderyk Chopin.
On the other side of the street, the modern building of the main train station emerges. The Sopot station (15) is not just a ticket office and waiting room. Inside the Sopot Centrum are shops, service points, pubs, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and a gym. There is also a modern multimedia library, called Sopotek. This combines a classic library with professional equipment, which can also be used by children. There is a variety of literature, magazines, board games, a play corner, computers and game consoles at their disposal. Meetings with artists, workshops, reading books and exhibitions are also held here.