Attractions in Gdansk
We take the chance to list a street as an attraction in itself. For centuries, Ulitsa Mariacka, or Mariagaten, has attracted artists, musicians, and bohemians, and still abounds with galleries and workshops where you can see amber jewelry being made.
We also nominate it as Europe’s most romantic and charming street, with narrow and richly decorated house facades where the city’s wealthy goldsmiths and traders once lived.
Highland Sports (Brama Wyzynna)
Along the so-called Kongeveien, the route through which the city’s powerful and royal guests were led, most of the cultural attractions are located in Gdansk. The Royal Road starts in the west with the so-called Highland Gate, which was completed in 1588. It is built in the Renaissance style and has three coat of arms on the facade, both from Prussia, Poland and Gdansk. The inscription means “Justice and moderation are the cornerstones of all kingdoms”. The gate is located on the street ulitsa Boguslawskiego.
This Gothic / Renaissance style building from the 1400s was originally part of the medieval fortifications surrounding the city. When the Highland Gate was built, the Forport was transformed into a prison, torture chamber and courtroom, which it was until the mid-1800s. Today it is a museum dedicated to amber, the gold of Gdansk.
The Golden Gate (Zlota Brama)
The western main entrance to Gdansk’s parade street Dluga is this two-storey triumphal arch that was built in the early 17th century. The stone statues at the top symbolize the most important characteristics; peace, freedom, wealth, fame, unity, justice, moderation and wisdom.
The old town hall in Gdansk
The most recognizable building on Kongeveien is the old town hall of Gdansk, which was originally erected in the 13th century. It was destroyed in the Great Fire in 1556 and rebuilt in today’s Renaissance style with the 81.5 meter high tower which houses a bell with 37 bells. On the top stands a gilded statue of natural size by the Polish King Sigismund II Augustus. The address is Dluga 47.
Today, the building houses the Gdansk Historical Museum, which is open from 1000 to 1600 Tuesday to Sunday, and to 1800 in the summer. Mondays from 1100 to 1500. The entrance fee costs a few dollars and is also free on Mondays.
For a tier extra you can reach about 50 meters up the tower and get a glorious view of the area.
On the market street Dlugi Targ, just outside the Town Hall stands a mighty fountain depicting the sea god Neptune with his wood forks. This is the oldest non-Christian monument in all of Poland, and was built around 1610. The fountain goes on most postcards and advertising posters from Gdansk, and is probably the most photographed object in the entire region.
The Green Gate (Zielona Brama)
At the end of the royal road and the Dluga / Dlugi Targ parade is the Green Gate, which was built as a royal residence around 1570. Today, the building serves as an exhibition venue under the National Museum, and if you are lucky you may meet Lech Walesa on the way out or in of their offices, which are also located here.
Church of St. Mary (Kosciol Mariacki)
St. Mary’s Church is the world’s largest stone church, and was built in the Gothic style in the period 1343-1502. It covers over 5,000 square meters and should have had plenty of room for the over 25,000 people who sought refuge here during the bombing of World War II.
You get a fabulous view of Gdansk if you ascend the 396 steps to the top of the 82-meter-high bell tower. Also note the enormous 1460s astronomical clock that shows time, month, year and the astronomical position of the planets, sun and moon. At 1200 each day, the apostles, Adam and Eve, the Three Wise Men, and Death appear. According to legend, the designer, Hans Düringer, must have been blinded afterwards for not being able to create something as beautiful elsewhere, but exactly that story may be recognized by many from the Prague Astronomical Clock or St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. St. Mary’s Church is located at the western end of Ulitsa Mariacka Street.
Cranes (Zuraw Gdanski)
The large black crane that stands on the banks of the Motlawa River is one of Gdansk’s foremost and oldest landmarks. It was built in the mid-1400s and was the largest crane of its kind. It was driven by human power; men who stepped inside a wooden treadmill.
The crane was used both to unload boats and get shipmasters in place, and could lift up to two tons, which was quite unique in the Middle Ages. It is mounted over a building that also served as one of the city gates. The crane is still functional, but today it is part of the Gdansk Maritime Museum. The address is ulitsa Szeroka 67/68, entry about 20 kroner. Open from 1000 to 1800, but closes 1600 in winter. Closed Mondays.
Monument of fallen shipyard workers
On pl. Solidarnosci stands three 42-meter-high steel crosses, a memorial to workers who lost their lives in the bloody strikes in 1970. Here, too, the shipyard workers gathered under the leadership of Lech Walesa in the dramatic December days in 1980, when the authorities introduced the state of emergency. The episode turned out to be the beginning of the end of communism in Eastern Europe, and the many memorials on the brick wall behind the crosses can make it go cold down the back of anyone and everyone.
The board with Solidarity’s 21 postulates also hangs here, and is declared part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Nearby is a museum dedicated to the Solidarity movement and its significance.
A few kilometers north of the city center is Westerplatte, the site of World War II at dawn on September 1, 1939, when German soldiers attacked the Polish garrison here, but the 182 Polish soldiers must have resisted the German war machine in a all week, and only 15 of those soldiers must have lost their lives.
Here you can see today the tombs of these Polish war heroes, the remains of some of the buildings and a large stone memorial on top of a green hilltop, and the inscription “Never more war!”
Tourist in Gdansk
Gdansk is located in northern Poland, by the Baltic Sea, and the city has about 460,000 inhabitants, making Gdansk the fourth largest city in Poland by population.
Although Gdansk is a busy port city, the city and the surrounding area have an amazing amount to offer the tourists. And every time we visit Poland, we are surprised that cities like Gdansk, Krakow and Warsaw do not attract more Norwegian tourists than they actually do.
Maybe it is the Norwegians’ prejudices that make them no longer visit Poland? If you still have the impression that Polish cities are made up of sad heavy industry, post-communist tongue and underpaid strawberry pickers, then you should change your mind as soon as possible. Poles are friendly and open, hardworking and service minded.
Norwegians are habitual travelers who regularly travel on weekends to the favorites London, Paris, Copenhagen and Barcelona, but be aware that you get a lot more money in Gdansk than in some of these cities, despite the fact that the private level has increased significantly since Poland’s membership in The EU became a reality in 2004.
The story of Gdansk
The first settlements in the Gdansk area appeared as early as the 600s, but the year 997 is considered the year when the city was founded. In 1361, Gdansk became one of the Hanseatic trading ports, leading to growth in both economy and population. In the 16th century, Gdansk had its golden age and established itself as a trading center and the most important port of the Baltic Sea. The population was already multicultural. Germans, Poles, Dutch and Scots.
When the nation of Poland temporarily ceased to exist as an independent nation in the late 18th century and was divided between Prussia, Russia and Austria, Gdansk fell under Prussian rule. In 1871 the city became part of the German Empire. After World War I, the nation resurrected Poland, but since the majority of Gdansk’s inhabitants were Germans, the city instead became the Free Town of Danzig, with its own parliament and currency. This lasted until World War II, which started with the attack on Westerplatte in Gdansk, and the city was almost leveled with the earth in 1945.
After the end of the war, Danzig again became Gdansk and part of Poland. The city’s many German inhabitants were banished and replaced by Poles who were again banished from parts of eastern Poland that had now come under Soviet control.
Gdansk played an important role during the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. First during the shipyard workers’ strikes for a better standard of living in 1970, when 44 workers were killed, then in 1980 when the trade union Solidarity, led by electrician Lech Walesa, went on strike. Similar strikes spread rapidly throughout Poland. This eventually led to the authorities introducing state of emergency, made Solidarity illegal and mass-arrested members. Lech Walesa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and in 1990 he became Poland’s first democratically elected president.
Tourist areas in Gdansk
Gdansk is the capital of the Polish state of Pomerania, which for many Poles is the ideal summer holiday destination, with its beautiful nature and beautiful sandy beaches. The area is characterized by centuries under German rule, but the influence of Sweden right across the strait is also noticeable. Most of Gdansk’s tourist attractions are relatively easy to get to on foot, as long as you are reasonably fresh and messy. If you are going to use Gdansk’s efficient public transport, you can plan your trip here.
Gdansk must be one of the very few cities where neither the area is called the city center, nor what is called the Old Town, which attracts the most tourists. Here, the tourists take the course directly for the district of Glówne Miasto, which can be translated into the “main city”.
The main city (in Gdansk)
The main town is bounded on the east by the Motlawa River, and on the south by the Dluga parade street, or “Langgaten”, but which is not really long. A stroll here is like a trip 300 years back in time, with old wrought iron lamp posts, colorful narrow Dutch / Italian renaissance style facades and no glowing billboards or neon signs that ruin the idyllic impression. It is almost impossible to believe that just over 60 years ago, all this beauty was just a jumble of ruins after World War II.
The Dluga and the subsequent eastern part of Dlugi Targ (the Long Market) are the most important of the so-called Kongeveien, the route through which the city’s powerful or royal guests once traveled. Here are most of Gdansk’s cultural values. The old city gates of Highland Gate and Green Gate are at each end, with sights such as the Prison Tower, the main city hall and the Neptune fountain along the route.
Don’t miss the extremely charming street ul.Mariacka, which extends from the world’s probably largest stone church, the Church of St. Mary (Kosciól Mariacki), and down to the river. Along this cobbled little street you will find several of the distinctive amber shops, workshops, galleries and outdoor cafes where you can enjoy a kawa (coffee) or a pivo (beer) in the sun while being entertained by street musicians. And by that we mean classic string quartets, not guitar troubadours.
The Old Town of Gdansk
The Old Town (Stare Miasto) is located north of the Main City, but here it is further between the sights. Take with you the city’s oldest church, St. Nicholas Church, (Kosciol Sw. Mikolaja) from the early 1100s, and the Old Town Town Hall. Despite the name, the Old Town is not particularly older than the Capital, and both districts once had their own authorities, and therefore Gdansk has two town halls. The Old Town had a majority of Polish inhabitants, while the wealthier Germans mostly lived in the Capital.
The areas along the Motlawa River are idyllic and can be reminiscent of Aker Brygge in Oslo with its many outdoor restaurants and bars. Here is one of Gdansk’s foremost landmarks, the Crane (read more under Attractions) and the city’s large Maritime Museum.
The area that most of the city’s residents call the city center is located north of the Old Town and Glowny Central Station. This is a more modern area with tall commercial buildings in glass and steel, and of less interest to tourists.
The exception is Solidarity Square (Pl. Solidarnosci), where you will find three steel crosses of 42 meters, a memorial to the workers who lost their lives in the bloody strikes in 1970. Here the shipyard workers gathered under the leadership of Lech Walesa in the dramatic December days in 1980, when the authorities introduced the exception state. The board with Solidarity’s 21 postulates also hangs here, and is declared part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Nearby is also a museum that deals with the Solidarity movement and its significance.
History lovers should join Westerplatte, the peninsula located a few kilometers north of the city center. This is where the Second World War started at dawn on September 1, 1939, when German soldiers attacked the Polish garrison here. The 182 Polish soldiers are said to have stood against the German war machine for a whole week, and only 15 of them reportedly lost their lives in this first battle.
Triple village in Poland
During your stay in Gdansk you will probably come across the term Trippelbyen, or Tri-City. Gdansk is in practice merged with its two neighboring towns of Sopot and Gdynia.
Gdynia is a new and modern city with about 250,000 inhabitants, wide avenues and shopping centers, while Sopot in a man’s age and so it has been Poland’s premier destination for entertainment, relaxation and entertainment, not least because of the long sandy beaches, all the nightlife and casinos. The city has only about 30000 inhabitants, and the population has steadily declined in recent years. Housing prices in Sopot are among Poland’s highest, and more and more residents are selling their homes to wealthy people who use the city as a resort.
Sopot is known for its water sports, and windsurfers and sailors especially enjoy it here. Europe’s longest wooden jetty protrudes 511 meters from the beach at the end of Sopot’s main street Bohaterow Monte Cassino. A bicycle path runs along the entire coastline, making it easy to cycle all the way from Gdansk, via Sopot and to Gdynia. Sopot also has Poland’s largest complex of tennis courts, two indoor swimming pools, trot courts and golf courses, so you are not missing opportunities to be active.