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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe picturesque city of Gdansk, located on the southern edge of the Baltic Sea, is full of life, culture and history. Along with coastal spa resort of Sopot and the harbour town of Gdynia , Gdansk is one of three Baltic resort cities that form the big metropolitan area called Tricity - or Trojmiasto in Polish.
Founded in the 10th century and later run by the Teutonic Knights order, Gdansk was once Europe's major center for grain trade. Unfortunately, once a famous harbor town was completely devastated during World War II. Nearly 80 percent of the city was destroyed. After the war Gdansk rose to be one of the major shipping and industrial centers of the Communist People’s Republic of Poland. However, the end of World War II was by no means the end of all of the struggles. On August 31, 1980, the Gdansk Shipyard became the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, which eventually played a major role in bringing down Eastern European communism. But there’s so much more to the city than rustic shipyards and Solidarity movement.
The city may not be the top place on everyone's travel bucket list, but with an abundance of sights and activities, it really is worth discovering. Not to be missed are the medieval Gdansk Crane on the waterfront, the city's most famous landmark, the brick St. Mary's Church, the Long Market with its famous Neptune fountain and the European Solidarity Center. To gain perspective on Gdansk's long and interesting history visit the Historical Museum housed in the Town Hall. If you need to rest your feet, the city is dotted with excellent restaurants and lovely cafes. Be sure to visit the interesting Amber Museum and learn everything that you want to know about Baltic Gold.
One of the highlights of a visit to Gdansk is also taking a stroll down the spectacular Royal Way comprising Dlugi Targ and Ulica Dluga, lined with pleasant cafe’s, restaurants and little shops. Stroll along the narrow pebbled streets, lined with beautiful old buildings and feel the old-time atmosphere. As you wander around and marvel at the stunning architecture, you would never imagine that these are replicas of the existing buildings destroyed during the war. You can also take a water taxi from 'Most Zielony' Green Bridge, located between the Long Market and the Motlawa River, which will bring you to Westerplatte, where the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein fired the first shots of the Second World War. There you can visit the ruins of the peninsula’s barracks and blockhouses, one of which has been converted into a museum.
The best time to visit the city is summer. However, if you don’t mind cooler weather, the city is worth a visit at any time of year. Two to three days should be more than enough time to explore this Baltic gem. If time allows take a short train ride to nearby Sopot where you will find the longest wooden pier in Europe.
What to See & Do
St. Mary's ChurchSt. Mary's Church, the largest brick church in the world, is a Roman Catholic church built in stages between 1343 and 1502. The church was severely damaged during the World War II and most of the historic tombs were destroyed and treasures lost. However, many valuable pieces of art were hidden away during the war and some have been retrieved. One of the highlights of a visit to the church is the 15th century astronomical clock which keeps track of solar and lunar progressions and displays the signs of the zodiac. At noon, a procession of figures representing Adam and Eve, the Three Kings, the Apostles and Death appears. Be sure to climb the 400 steps up the tower of St Mary’s Church as the view is truly amazing. Even for the non-religious, the church is certainly worth a visit due to its history and the treasures within.
Neptune's FountainThe iconic Neptune’s Fountain with bronze statue of the Roman God of the sea dates to the early 17th century. Located in the middle of Dlugi Targ, tells a story of how important the ocean has been to Gdansk in the past. Legend has it that this fountain once flowed with Goldwasser, a famous Polish gold-flecked liqueur. Neptune disliked that visitors threw coins into the fountain around him and then smashed all the coins into small golden flakes.
Amber MuseumThe small but very interesting Amber Museum, located in a former prison and torture chamber on Dluga Street, is scattered across several floors. The exhibits cover every aspect of amber production, from its harvesting and trading, to its role in modern art. The highlights include the world’s largest amber sculpture - A Naked Woman After Rodin, and a Fender Stratocaster guitar. There are many steps to the highest floor of the tower, were the wonderful jewellery is shown, but it really is worth the climbing. The part of the museum is dedicated to the building as it was used as a prison and place of torture and execution.
European Solidarity CenterThe recently opened European Solidarity Center, located a short walk from the town center in the Gdansk Shipyards, is well worth a visit if you are interested in the modern history of Poland and how the city and country left the communist-era. Housed in a rusted steel building, the superb multimedia museum is dedicated to the Solidarity movement in Poland and the subsequent collapse of communism in Eastern and Central Europe. Pick up a brochure on your way in, as it has a map that details how you should go through the exhibits to follow the course of the Solidarity movement chronologically from hall A to hall G. A roof terrace allows you to look out over the remains of the former Lenin Shipyards where the Solidarity movement was born in 1980. There are also pleasant cafes on different levels with escalators and lifts making the experience user friendly. Allow at least two hours. Outside, the nearby Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers commemorates the events of December 1970, when the regime opened fire on the striking shipyard workers. More than 1,000 workers were injured and 42 killed.
Gdansk CraneThe Gdansk Crane, built in the 14th century and renovated in the mid-15th century, is one of the city's most iconic buildings. A huge wooden structure, located on the bank of the Motlawa River, is now part of the collection of the National Maritime Museum. Once inside the crane, you’ll find exhibits relating to the history of shipping. You can also get very close to the mechanism during the visit and get a good sense of how it worked. There are a few steps to climb up into the section overlooking the water, but the view from the top is nice.
Shakespeare TheaterThe new Gdansk Shakespeare Theater is located a short walk from the heart of Gdansk’s Old Town. It was built on the site called ‘Fencing School’ where English traveling players performed Shakespeare’s masterpieces in the 17th century. The chic theater, designed by Venetian architect Renato Rizzi, features a dark neo-Gothic style exterior, a retractable roof that can swing open to the sky and a vividly light wooden 680-seat interior. Even if you do not have tickets to a performance it’s worth taking a look at the impressive building.
Food & DrinkThe charming city boasts plenty of drinking and dining options. With the region located on the Baltic Sea coastline, seafood dishes dominate. Many of the city’s restaurants are located around the Old Town area and the city’s riverfront. You can choose between various restaurants that offer traditional Polish food such as 'pierogi' - dumplings stuffed with a whole range of fillings, served fried or boiled and 'bigos' - stewed dish made of sauerkraut or fresh cabbage, meat and mushrooms, or you can let your culinary needs be catered at food places that offer different world cuisines like Greek, Italian, Thai, French, Japanese and many more. If you want to sample something unique, make your way to Bar Mleczny Neptun. A traditional communist-era cafeteria provides simple Polish meals at inexpensive prices. Start your meal with some delicious Barszcz; the traditional beetroot soup with dumplings. Of course, the dishes are always to be washed down with a pint of Polish brew or something a little stronger. The only beer brewed in Gdansk can be tasted in the beer hall located in Hotel Gdansk. If beer is not to your taste, order the local Goldwasser – the famous local gold-flecked liqueur.
ShoppingAmber, beautiful and relatively inexpensive, is part of Gdansk’s heritage. Head to the picturesque Mariacka Street, where you will find an array of small shops and stalls selling the world famous Baltic Amber. Aside from the wonderful little shops selling all sorts of goods, street stalls and art galleries on the waterfront and Ulica Dluga, Gdansk also boast several modern shopping malls - the Madison Shopping Gallery, the Great Mill and the Galeria Bałtycka. Another popular Gdansk take-away is well-known Goldwasser liqueur, which can be bought in the local shops of Gdansk.
Getting aroundThe Old Town is very compact and can be walked easily. Public transport within the city, including bus and tram services, is efficient and cheap. Regular commuter trains SKM, which operate frequently in and out of the Gdansk Glowny railway station, connect Gdansk, Sopot, and Gdynia. Taxis are widely available and are generally considered safe and good value.
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Author: Ayda. Last updated: Mar 08, 2016