The junior partner in the Tri-City set-up (along with Gdańsk and Gdynia), Sopot is a kind of Schizophrenia-on-Sea, a mix of elegant villas and marauding clubbers, an overdeveloped 21st-century seafront just streets away from typically Polish soot-cracked facades. Like the British seaside towns of Brighton and Eastbourne rolled into one, Sopot is about moneyed Poles flashing their cash in ritzy eateries standing alongside old Polish literary-themed cafes, a strutting club scene illuminating pensioners taking the waters while kids on the beach build sandcastles. Whatever Sopot has become, it certainly remains popular, with international visitors mingling with the Slavic waffle-and-ice-cream crowds on hot summer days then getting down at the beachside clubs of a balmy Baltic eve.
Sopot’s incarnation as a fashionable resort arose in 1823 when Jean Georges Haffner, a former doctor in Napoleon’s army, popularised sea-bathing here. The settlement, originally established in the 13th century as a fishing village, rapidly became the beach destination of the rich and famous, particularly after WWI when it was included in the territory of the Free City of Danzig. Since 1990 it’s once again become the playground of wealthy entrepreneurs and A-Z-list celebrities, and remains unrivalled among the Baltic’s resorts for glitz and pretentiousness.