Trade and war are two words that are inextricably linked to the Polish city of Gdansk. Since the Potsdam Conference in 1945, the city of Gdansk belongs to Poland. Before that, this city was called Danzig and belonged to Germany. The city has known flourishing periods as a Hanseatic city and because it was on a widely used trade route, it enjoyed great popularity. Especially as the capital of Royal Prussia and during the Golden Age, it prospered.
More than once conflicts have been fought with Germany and the Poles have had to surrender. In the end, it only really succeeded after the Second World War. Much of the city of Gdansk was bombed and destroyed in the process. Nevertheless, the city has managed to put itself back on the map very well. Many old buildings have been restored and/or reconstructed. History, culture and art go hand in hand here. The old harbor and the historic center provide enough sights for a fun city trip. The nightlife in Gdansk is also quite popular. In addition, you can even visit the beach or take a lovely walk in Oliwa Park, Orunski Park or on one of the estates that the city of Gdansk has.
Top 10 sights of Gdansk
#1. long market
According to The Dress Wizard, the Long Market of Gdansk was already a popular place during the thirteenth century, because there was a lot of trade. The most influential and wealthy people moved into a mansion here. But the ‘Długi Targ’, as the market is called in Polish, was also a place where witches were burned and criminals were executed. The square was redesigned around the nineteenth century. Houses were demolished to make way for the emerging retail industry. Gdansk’s characteristic Long Market is located in the most central part of the inner city. Tourists are drawn to sights such as the Neptune fountain, the colorful facades including ‘Dom Schumannów’, the Town Hall, which houses the Historical Museum of the City of Gdansk and the centuries-old Green Gate. Of course, this market is ideal for enjoying a drink and/or a snack in one of the cozy cafes and restaurants.
#2. Oliwa Cathedral
The Polish Church ‘Kościół pod wezwaniem Trójcy Świętej Najświętszej Maryi Panny i Świętego Bernarda’ is a cathedral in the city of Gdansk. The construction period is between the thirteenth and the eighteenth century. As a result, several architectural styles can be recognized in the design. You can discover Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic styles. Only in the year 1925 the title of cathedral was awarded. The facade of the three-aisled Oliwa Cathedral is remarkable to say the least. The more than forty-six meters high towers enclose a baroque portal from the seventeenth century. The tower bells are characteristic of Cistercian construction. The interior of Oliwa Cathedral has no fewer than twenty-three altars. There are also a number of chapels in Rococo style and you will find antique chandeliers and beautiful organs. Concerts are regularly given that are frequently visited. In the museum of the Oliwa Cathedral you can learn more about the religion and the ubiquitous religious art.
#3. Mary’s Church
Around the fourteenth century, construction began in Gdansk on a fairly large church, which we now know as St. Mary’s Church. At the time it was a Lutheran church of the German city of Danzig. Only after the fall of the Teutonic Order did the church become Catholic. And then elevated to a cathedral in 1965. The St. Mary’s Church of Gdansk ‘Bazylika konkatedralna Wniebowzięcia Najświętszej Maryi Panny w Gdańsku’ has become one of the largest churches in Poland. In any case, it is the main church of the city. In the interior of St. Mary’s Church you will find a number of valuable medieval works of art, including the altar of the King of the Virgin, the Gothic sculpture ‘Pietà Gdansk’ of Mary and Jesus in the chapel of St. Reynaldo.
#4. Golden Gate
At the Targ Węglowy in Gdansk you will find the Golden Gate of the city. In the first half of the seventeenth century, this gate was built as a city gate. Via the Gouden Poort you will end up in the Langstraat. The gate was designed by the German architect and sculptor Abraham van den Blocke. This architect was then allowed to start designing the Artushof on the Lange Markt. The Golden Gate ‘Złota Brama’ as we can admire it today is a reconstruction of the original gate. During the Second World War, the original gate was heavily damaged. The allegorical sculptures on top of the gate are also duplicates. The images represent: Peace, Freedom, Happiness, Fame.
#5. Green Gate
Another well-known city gate of Gdansk is the Green Gate. The four passages of this ‘Brama Zielona’ give you access to the famous market square ‘Długi Targ’ the Long Market. The origin of the Groene Poort dates back to the second half of the sixteenth century. It replaced the Koggepoort. The German Hans Kramer was given the honor of designing this entrance gate and was inspired by the town hall of the Belgian city of Antwerp. Here too, we are now looking at a largely restored building, since this building was not spared during the Second World War. The Green Gate of Gdansk has historically often served as a royal residence for members of the royal family passing through. Today, the Green Gate is accessible to everyone, as it houses the National Museum of Gdansk and the Museum of Photography.
The medieval facade of Artushof ‘Dwór Artusa’ on the Lange Markt tells the story of the legend of King Arthur. This King Arthur is a symbol of chivalry and courage. The first Artushof was located on the royal route and was built in the fourteenth century and mainly served as a meeting place for nobles and wealthy merchants. Later it served as a court. It is now a popular party and wedding location, which you can also visit as a museum. The current building is largely from the twentieth century. The restructuring clearly takes into account the original design. On top of the Artus Court is the statue of the goddess of justice, Lady Justice and below that of courage and happiness. In the interior you can clearly see traces of fifteenth and sixteenth century art. Space has been reserved in the hall for ship models, coats of arms and armour. In front of the Artushof is the Neptune Fountain, the god of the sea and seafaring. It symbolizes trade in Gdansk and the city as a meeting place. The Neptune Fountain ‘Fontanna Neptuna’ has therefore served as a symbol for the city of Gdansk since 1633. There are several legends linking the Fountain of Neptune to Gdansk’s local herbal liqueur ‘Danziger Goldwasser’ containing gold particles.
#7. Long Street
From the Golden Gate of Gdansk, the Long Street ‘ulica Długa’ runs into the Long Market ‘Długi Targ’ and ends at the Green Gate. The Langstraat and the market square Lange Markt are together also called the Koningstraat ‘Droga Królewska’. This is a reference to the King’s Route, which used to be a well-known trade route that ran right through the city of Gdansk. This part of the city mainly consisted of stately mansions of which mainly nobles, patricians and wealthy merchants could call themselves the owners. The stately buildings in the Langstraat now mainly consist of structures that were built around the 1950s. Much of the city of Gdansk was bombed during World War II. The most famous buildings in Lang Street are: Kamienica Czirenbergów, Dom Ferberów, Lwi Zamek, Dom Schumannów and Dom Uphagena. Most houses are named after the families who lived there.
The uninhabited Westerplatte peninsula on the Gulf of Gdansk was mainly used by Polish soldiers between 1926 and 1939. Nazi Germany fought here in 1939 during the Battle of Westerplatte. What remained were ruins. In memory of this battlefield, a cubist monument designed by Franciszek Duszenko, Adam Haupt and Henry Kitowski has been made available. The twenty-three meter Westerplatte Monument is located on an artificial hill and symbolizes the struggle for freedom for the people of Gdansk. You will also find a cemetery on the Westerplatte, remains of a barracks and border guard, guard houses, a small beach and the ferry connection.
#9. National Museum
At ul. Toruńska is home to the headquarters of the National Museum of the City of Gdansk. This part of the National Museum of Gdansk ‘Muzeum Narodowe w Gdańsku’ is located in a former monastery of the Franciscans. You will mainly find old art from previous centuries here. Think of Hans Memling’s fifteenth century triptych ‘The Last Judgment’. Other locations of the National Museum of Gdansk are: The Modern Art Museum in ‘Pałac Opatow’, Photography Museum in the Green Gate ‘Brama Zielona’, Museum of Folk Song and Costumes in the eighteenth century estate ‘Wybickich’.
#10. Stutthof Concentration Camp
The first concentration camp outside Germany during World War II was Stutthof. The village of the same name is located about thirty kilometers from Gdansk. Stutthof concentration camp was inaugurated in 1939 to deport Jews there. The first prisoners came from what was then called Danzig, which is now called Gdansk. In the end, more than sixty thousand people were killed or died in appalling conditions. Some were also transferred to other camps. It was not until May of the year 1945 that survivors were liberated. Today you can see part of this gruesome history of World War II with your own eyes. Stutthof Concentration Camp has been opened as a National Museum. You can visit barracks, watch films, visit the library of the museum or walk around the extensive estate. It is advised not to bring children under the age of thirteen.