By David Armstrong
If location, location, location is the key to success in urban real estate, the Radisson Blu Hotel Gdansk is nicely situated to find success in the hospitality market, too.
Ensconced in a modern building nestled next to the remains of a 14th century home, and located 1 minute by foot from the Polish seaport’s picturesque and thriving Long Market, the Radisson Blu Hotel Gdansk brings smoothly multilingual, professional service to the city center.
The 134-room Radisson Blu Gdansk, operated by Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel Group, is one of the group’s 400-some hotels around the world. Rezidor, majority-owned by Minneapolis-based Carlson, is especially popular in Europe, where the Radisson Blu brand combines functionality and sleekness.
I stayed at the Radisson Blu Gdansk in October 2012 on my first visit to the historic city of 455,000 people (there are 1.1 million people in the metropolitan area). I found Gdansk, the country’s fourth-largest city, to be a good introduction to Poland: friendly, pretty, safe for a mid-sized city, easy and pleasant to get around.
The Radisson Blu, in turn, is an easy and pleasant place to be based. It is located in Old Town, near the city’s modern seaport and about a 10-minute car or tram ride to the famous Gdansk Shipyard.
There, electrician turned president Lech Walesa helped launch the Solidarity labor movement and promote anti-communist activism throughout the former Soviet bloc in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Gdansk Lech Walesa Airport (IATA code GDN) is named for him.
The 3-year-old Radisson Blu Gdansk, fronted by a two-level, atrium lobby, is a favorite of business travelers: notably, Germans, Scandinavians and Russians.
In line with this, the hotel contains 165 square meters (1,776 square feet) of meeting space, encompassing a ballroom and two break-out rooms.
The hotel tries to combat the stress of business travel with its spa. The hotel spa, with both a wet sauna and a dry sauna and an array of aromatherapy treatments, is complemented by a gym with high-tech workout equipment, as well as weights and treadmills.
Promotional materials for the hotel characterize it as a 5-star property. By international standards, it is closer to a 4-star: certainly good but without the pampering and enormous staff-to-guest ratios you find in a Hong Kong, Paris, London or Tokyo luxury hotel.
My room was classified ‘business-class’. This is the third tier up in a four-tier system that starts with single rooms and tops out with deluxe rooms and suites.
My business-class room – 650 Polish zlotys (PLN) or US$208 per night including breakfast – was on an upper floor, facing an eye-pleasing street of stone-clad apartment buildings. The room was spacious and comfortable. It had a good-sized desk and ergonomic desk chair for working and two leather lounging chairs for relaxing.
The room contained two narrow but comfortable beds of the type inexplicably popular in continental Europe. The bathroom was large, with a heated floor, but the shower was crammed into and over the bathtub.
Additionally, my room included free, high-speed Wi-Fi (public areas of the hotel also have this welcome amenity), a Nespresso coffeemaker, mini-bar, daily newspaper, laptop-sized safe and LCD flat-screen TV.
Breakfast in the hotel’s expansive, brasserie-style restaurant, Verres en Vers, featured eggs cooked to order and a groaning board of meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, nuts, pastries and good bread.
Indeed, I found Polish bread equal to that of next door neighbor Germany for flavor and satisfying chewiness. Coffee, tea and juices were of a similar high quality.
In warm weather, Verres en Vers – on the ground floor of a converted Gothic-style residence – opens onto a terrace overlooking the Long Market.
Lined with stone and brick buildings and graced with cafes and shops, this handsome, car-free thoroughfare, six blocks in length, was lovingly and meticulously replicated from photographs after World War II, which leveled Gdansk. After the war, the city became part of Poland. Previously, it was the eastern German city of Danzig.
From the 1990s on, the Long Market, and indeed much of Gdansk, have been admirably restored and modernized, turning a once-devastated and dingy place into an attractive travel destination.
I booked a private city tour with a guide who set out from the Radisson Blu and related Gdansk’s rich history: member of the Hanseatic League of trading cities in the Middle Ages, semi-autonomous ‘free city’ between the world wars, catalyst of the post-Cold War liberation of communist Europe, contemporary Poland’s largest port and lifeline on the Baltic Sea. It was also for many years a hub of Europe’s lucrative trade in amber.
As Gdansk has revived, the area around the Radisson Blu has become an attractive strolling and shopping district. I enjoyed taking early morning walks, heading through and beyond the Long Market, people-watching, window-shopping and eye-balling the central city’s mix of vintage and contemporary architecture.
All this was within a 15-minute walkabout: location, location, location, again.
The Radisson Blu Hotel Gdansk is located at Dlugi Targ 19, Powroznicza, 80-828, Gdansk, Poland. For more information and reservations, call +48 58 325 4444, or visit www.radissonblu.com/hotel-gdansk. Nightly rates are from 320 PLN (US$103).
David Armstrong is a San Francisco Bay Area journalist specializing in features, news and reviews about travel destinations, airports, airlines, hotels and resorts. He is the former tourism, aviation and international trade reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and covered tourism, movies, media and theater for the Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner. He is the author of five books and numerous travel articles for TheStreet.com, Travel + Leisure, Global Traveler, Napa Sonoma Magazine, The Globe and Mail (Toronto), Toronto Star, Chicago Sun-Times, Aviation.com and many others. He blogs at http://davidarmstrongontravel.blogspot.com.