5 tips for Gdansk

Gdansk Harbour
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Gdansk is not only one of the most historic, but also one of the most beautiful cities in Poland. Together with the other two cities, Sopot and Gdynia, Gdansk forms the so-called Tri-City. In earlier times, the former hanseatic city was one of the most important German trading metropolises and celebrated its 1000th anniversary in 1997. It has long since developed into an important economic, cultural and tourist center of the country.

Gdansk is located in the south of the Gdansk Bay, west of the mouth of the Vistula River, which flows into the Baltic Sea a little further north. The Motława River, a tributary of the Vistula, meanders through the oldest part of the city. Gdansk is surrounded by a hilly landscape with densely grown pine forests. The region around Gdansk is also known for its large amber deposits, which were discovered thousands of years ago.

Today, the city has about 460,000 inhabitants, who can be proud of the architectural legacies of their ancestors. The history of the city is extremely eventful, playing a decisive role in world affairs not least in the 20th century. During the 2nd World War, most of the historical buildings were razed to the ground. Fortunately, with the help of precise drawings and descriptions, it was possible to reconstruct the buildings true to the original.

Tip 1: Długi Targ

Continuing along Ulica Długa (Long Street), one inevitably reaches Długi Targ (Long Market Square), which is basically just a slightly wider street as an extension of Long Street. Given the numerous gorgeous houses and facades, here you have arrived in the heart of Gdansk. The square is not without reason the most popular place for visitors in Gdansk.

The Long Market Square is home to a number of first-class cafes and restaurants, and you will also often run into merchandise sellers and street artists. Just like the Long Street, it is surrounded by magnificent palaces and merchants’ houses.

Długi Targ (Long Market Square) in Gdansk
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On the northern side of the square is the Arthur Court, the former seat of the merchant brotherhoods. The historic beer bar inside has been preserved to this day, and the tiled stove from the 16th century is also worth seeing. In the same row with the Arthur Court stands the Golden House, which is no less magnificent. It is in reference to the then mayor it is also known as the Speymann House.

The most striking building on the market is without a doubt the Gdansk Town Hall. Originally a Gothic building made of red brick, it was rebuilt after a fire in the 16th century. One of the highlights of the town hall is the Red Hall, which is one of the most beautiful modern town hall rooms thanks to magnificent paintings and decorations. Also worthy of note is the gilded statue of Sigismund II. August on the tower spire.

From the 82 meters high tower you can enjoy a brilliant view over the roofs of Gdansk. Near the Town Hall and in front of the Arthur Court, the Neptune Fountain has been standing since 1633, rounding off the beauty of the Long Market Square. The impressive Green Gate from 1571, designed by the Dresden architect Hans Kramer, forms the end of the Long Market Square.

Tip 2: Mariacka

Translated, “Mariacka” means Mary, which is why it is also called the “Woman’s Street”. Mariacka Street is a real eye-catcher. There are many colorful, narrow row houses here as well. Many of the old steps at the entrances are decorated with small gargoyles or stone engravings. So the medieval feel remains somewhat in the narrow street, even though the street was only rebuilt in the 1950s and 1960s.

 Mariacka Street in Gdansk
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What makes this narrowness along the old houses even more interesting are the many small stores and cafes. Everywhere there are small stalls in front of the stores, which offer a wide variety of goods. However, the street is not called the “Amber Alley” for nothing. Because the amber consisting of fossil resin can be bought here in all possible forms and processing types.

Maybe you would like to buy a little souvenir. If you are looking for a souvenir for family or friends, you will surely find it here as well.

Tip 3: St. Mary’s Church

St. Mary’s Church is the third largest brick church in the world and a truly impressive place of worship. The construction of the medieval church began as early as 1343. The well-known master builder Heinrich Ungeradin is said to have been responsible for the planning and construction of the church. The church was completed in 1502 and was initially used for Catholic and Protestant services. However, after some time, St. Mary’s Church in Gdansk was used exclusively by the members of the Lutheran Church. Only since 1945 the church has been a Catholic place of worship. St. Mary’s Church in Gdansk, just like the Crane Gate, belongs to the brick Gothic style.

Gdansk Cathedral
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The church impresses with several ornaments made of molded bricks. The highlight of the decorated church facade is the famous rectangular frieze on the west portal of the building. But also the side portals, as well as the central window of the gable ends of the transept can boast of beautiful molded stone ornamentation. Political changes did not leave the Church of St. Mary in Gdansk untouched. During the Second World War, the church was almost destroyed by the Red Army and almost forty percent of the art treasures stored in St. Mary’s Church were also destroyed. But fortunately, the church still preserved many art – and historical treasures such as a large collection of liturgical vestments and many sculptures and murals. Anyone visiting the Polish city of Gdansk should definitely pay a visit to St. Mary’s Church.

Tip 4: World War II Museum

The “Museum of World War II” in Gdansk documents not only the military resistance, but above all the suffering of the Polish population under the German (and Soviet) occupation until 1945. The Eastern European upheavals during the war years are also recalled and placed in an international context. In addition to the defense of Poland in 1939, the exhibition also shows the resistance to the terror of the German occupiers, the Polish Home Army and its secret school system. However, riots by Poles against their Jewish neighbors are not concealed, nor are the food situation and the destroyed homes. The museum concept is controversial in Poland, as the PiS party would have liked to see a more heroic portrayal.

Museum of World War II in Gdansk
©Tomasz Warszewski/stock.adobe.com

The museum is housed in a spectacular building. The design consists of a four-sided cube 40 meters high. And this cube does not rise vertically from the ground, but at an angle of 58 degrees. It looks like a bunker. Only one of the four sides and the sloping roof are glazed. Nothing should be “beautiful” in the classical sense.

Tip 5: Crane Gate

One of the most popular sights of the city of Gdansk is its famous Crane Gate. Already in the second half of the 14th century, a predecessor of today’s Crane Gate was built and almost completely burned down in 1442. In the following two years it was rebuilt and at that time it got its typical shape. The crane gate is made of brick and wood and also has a six-story double lift that towers above the two towers on its side.

Crane Gate in Gdansk
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The Gdansk Crane Gate is one of the oldest structures in the German-speaking world that has this special type of crane construction. The construction of the crane gate can be attributed to the brick Gothic style. It is a double semicircular tower gate with steep roof slopes. The crane gate stands at the Motlawa Harbor and is the landmark of the city of Gdansk.