Most English-speakers can’t help cracking a smirk as they ask for their ticket to Hel. But this relaxed holiday town at the end of its long slender sandbar is far from purgatory. In fact, it’s quite a pleasant getaway and feels a long way from Poland’s post-communist cares. The beach is the obvious main draw when it’s hot; the rest of the year the town shows few vital signs.
Throughout history, Hel benefited from its strategic location at the maritime gateway to Gdańsk. By the 14th century Hel was a prosperous fishing port and trading centre. However, it was constantly threatened by storms and the shifting coastline, and declined in importance in the 18th century before reinventing itself as a popular seaside resort.