Read about the city

The old cultural and commercial city of Gdansk is one of the highlights of the Baltic Sea. The interesting history of the city from the time of the Hanseatic League is evident in the cityscape with the many typical merchant houses, city gates and not least the colossal St Mary's Church that overlooks the old town.

The Old Town is the heart of Gdansk and this is where sights are almost everywhere in the cozy streets and alleys. Charming houses and pedestrian streets are side by side and behind the many city gates, you can find lovely squares, fountains and much more.

Gdansk is also characterized by the access to the water. Throughout history, the busy harbor has been the locomotive for the city's development as a port and trade city. Along the quays of the Motława river, you find the largest medieval port crane in Europe. It is a construction from the time of busy activity in the city's inner harbor. Today, the crane is one of Gdansk's landmarks.

Gdansk is also the city of churches. There are countless churches, and in several places they are literally next to each other. The churches are beautiful buildings, and the most impressive of them all is St. Mary's Church. It is one of the largest churches in the Baltic Sea region.

Other attractions

High Gate, Gdansk

  • High Gate/Brama Wyżynna: The High Gate was built in the years 1574-1576 after mainly Willem van der Blocke's design. The gate was Gdansk's main entrance from the land side and formed the western border of the city.
  • The Great Armoury/Wielka Zbrojownia: The Great Armoury was built according to Anton van Obberghen's design in 1602-1609. It is the city's finest example of Flemish Renaissance architecture.

Artus Court, Gdansk

  • Artus Court/Dwór Artusa: This beautiful Renaissance building from 1477 was one of the city's bustling meeting places for the city's patricians. This was reflected in the interior, where you can see, for example, a 12 meter/39 foot high tiled stove from the 1550s.
  • Long Bridge/Długie Pobrzeże: Długie Pobrzeże is the promenade along the quay on the river Motława. The street is the epitome of Gdansk. Here are old gabled houses, museums, activity on the water and a number of the city's so - called water gates.

St John's Church, Gdansk

  • St John's Church/Kościół św. Jana: St John's is one of Gdansk's great old churches. It was built in the 14th century; first as a smaller wooden church in 1353 and then the current brick church from 1377.
  • National Museum & Holy Trinity Church/Mudeum Narodowe w Gdańsku & Kościół pw. św. Trójcy: The National Museum's department in Gdansk has a very fine and significant collection of, among other things, paintings, furniture and other contents. The museum is located in a former Franciscan monastery, which is a beautiful setting for the exhibitions.

Maritime Museum, Gdansk

  • Maritime Museum/Muzeum Morskie: Gdansk's interesting maritime museum is located in the innermost part of the harbor on the island of Ołowianka in rebuilt warehouse buildings. The museum's ships are located in front of the museum in the river Motława.

Brama Stagiewna, Gdansk

  • Milk Can Gate/Brama Stągiewna: The Milk Can Gate is the name of one of Gdansk's city gates. With two round fortress towers, the gate is almost like a small castle. The towers were solidly built in the 15th and 16th centuries with thick walls.
History overview

    [expand title="Read about city history" id="historie2" swaptitle="Hide content"]
    Gdansk's early history
    The first permanent settlement in the area of ​​present-day Gdansk took place in the 600s when a number of small fishing communities were established. The dating comes from archaeological excavations, which furthermore set the starting point for the town to be where the Długa Square leads to the River Motława.

    In 979, Pomerania and thereby Gdansk were conquered by the Polish prince Mieszko I, and he founded a fortress in the city. The very founding of Gdansk is officially considered to have taken place in the year 997, when Prague's Bishop Adelbert came to the region and Christianized the citizens and the area, not least the tribe of Prussians. Gdansk was already an important trading town here because of its strategically good location close to several estuaries in the Baltic Sea.

    In 1025, Gdansk, along with a number of other Polish territories, recognized Boleslav I as the first king. In the 1100s, Dominican monks from Krakow came to the city, which strengthened both the economic and cultural growth of the city. Politically, however, this time was marked by changing rulers, and at one point in the 12th century Poland was divided into several smaller dukes.

    In 1221, King Valdemar II of Denmark conquered Gdansk, but four years later Swantopolk II regained the Polish hands. Gdansk continued to develop primarily through its trade, and in the 1220s came merchants from Lübeck, who, under Swantopolk II, introduced market town rights, which led to a further increase in trade. With many ship calls from England, Sweden and other maritime nations, Gdansk was becoming a significant regional port. During this time Gdansk had 8,000 inhabitants and its German population called the place of Stadt Danzig.

    The Teutonic Order and the Hanseatic League
    From 1226 the influence of the Teutonic Order began with their first entry into the Gdansk region. Poland was then weakened, and from the east came an attack by Tatars in 1241. In 1308, Brandenburg besieged Gdansk, and Władysław Łokietek was assisted by the Teutonic Order. In the aftermath of the ensuing battles, the order occupied Gdansk, thereby conquering power in the city. Order began the construction of the colossal castle in Malbork, which they made to their administrative center; their capital.

    The Germans markedly strengthened Gdansk's trading position, and especially after the membership of the Hanseatic League in 1361, the port and trade with other cities in the Baltic Sea area flourished. However, there were ongoing conflicts with Poland, and Polish-Lithuanian forces overcame the German Order in 1410, and it stopped the order's expansion to the east. After the victory, the Germans were challenged in the Polish territories, and in 1454 Gdansk's citizens revolted and joined New Poland.

    The 16th to 17th centuries
    The 16th century became a long boom period for Gdansk, which had previously achieved a monopoly on the important grain trade. There was now political stability and marked freedom under King Sigismund II. The grain trade created a large export and many warehouse buildings in the port areas, which became known as Europe's grain chamber.

    Gdansk became Poland's largest city and flourished culturally. Science thrived, and results came, for example, Nikolaj Copernicus discovered in Gdansk Earth's rotation about the Sun. The city had also undergone the Reformation as early as 1523.

    In the 1570s, however, it came to an end when Stephan Báthory became the new Polish king. Gdansk would not recognize him and instead targeted the German-Roman Empire, which could provide the city with significant commercial benefits. Báthory died in 1576, but Gdansk still did not recognize the following Polish king, and it came to a siege in 1577. The city defended itself so strongly that the Polish king merely received an apology and a fine of 200,000 florins.

    In the 1600s, Swedish armies ravaged the Polish territory. As one of the only cities, Gdansk expanded exponentially through time, reaching 77,000 inhabitants. However, the long acts of war eventually had an effect; the money box was emptied and the city indebted.

    Stagnation and decline
    The 18th century became a period of decline for the Polish-Lithuanian Empire. Russia's czar, Peter the Great, besieged Gdansk in 1734, and 30 years later Stanislav was crowned the king to become the last in the kingdom. In 1772-1773 the first division of Poland between Russia, Prussia and Austria took place, and here Gdansk was surrounded by Prussia.

    With the split, Gdansk lost its commercial hinterland and thus its central location on the Polish trade routes. This quickly led to a decline in Gdansk's economy and development. In 1793, the second division of Poland was completed, and this time Gdansk came to Prussia as the city of Danzig.

    Napoleon's time onwards
    Prussia occupied Hanover in 1806, and it issued a declaration of war from Sweden and Britain. It went beyond Danzig as a Prussian city; the country's navy was destroyed and the city's port blocked. This happened during the Napoleonic Wars, which brought Danzig and Prussia into several battles.

    During the Napoleonic period, Gdansk was set up as a sanctuary, and French troops were stationed here. Following Napoleon's subsequent defeat, a new division of the Polish territories took place. It was at the Vienna Congress in 1815, and Danzig became part of East Prussia, where the capital was Königsberg; the present Kaliningrad. In a new division the following year, Poland ceased to exist as a country.

    Despite the fact that Danzig was now cut off from former Poland as well as covered with high Prussian taxes, Danzig was an important city and in 1878 it was made the capital of West Prussia. It was a region that had arisen after the division of East Prussia into two areas, which was not least due to military reasons.

    However, the number of citizens increased steadily during these decades; from about 65,000 in 1850 to more than 140,000 in 1900. The trams ran in the streets marked by increasing bustle. The municipal administration also started several major civil engineering works from the 1860s such as sewerage and new waterworks.

    On September 21, 1903, a monument to Emperor Wilhelm was inaugurated in Danzig, and the Emperor was himself present. The monument was seen as a manifest symbol of Danzig being part of the Prussian and thereby German state, which however changed in the following years.

    20th Century World Wars
    Germany was a significant part of World War I, and after the German defeat in the war, Prussian Danzig was established as the Free State Danzig by the League of Nations in 1920. The inhabitants were largely German, and around the city lay the so-called Polish corridor leading up to Gdynia as Poland's only possible major port city. The new Polish Republic built the port of Gdynia in the 1920s, and with the country's limited access to the Baltic Sea, significant growth took place here.

    For Danzig, the city was booming as a free state in the beginning, but the economy was quickly facing severe tariff barriers, a lack of industrialization and a general weakening of the international economy.

    During this time, Poland handled part of Danzig's operations, such as the city's port and international rail links. Poland also had a post office in the city, and the Polish presence created ever-greater opposition at the same time as some were seeking approximations to the neighboring country.

    In 1933 the Nazis came to power, but due in part to international control and governance, their political power was reduced until 1936-1937. After that, Danzig became more dependent on Germany, where Adolf Hitler was the leader.

    Danzig soon re-entered the history books. The Polish military post at Westerplatte near the city was the site where World War II officially started in 1939, and on September 20 of that year, Adolf Hitler could be cheered after his entry into the streets of Danzig.

    Throughout the war and especially in 1945, when there were battles in connection with the Red Army's advance against Berlin, large parts of Danzig were destroyed. World War II also caused a sharp decline in the city's population. In 1939, there were approximately 250,000 living there, and in 1946 the figure was 118,000. Only about 5% of the pre-war population remained in the city after the war.

    Postwar to today
    A large-scale reconstruction of the ruined city center took place after the end of World War II, and the modern Polish metropolis grew around the city core. Even before 1960, the population had exceeded the pre-World War II level, and the number was around 450,000 in 1980. In the decades, many suburbs had been expanded with large residential areas and Polish Gdansk was growing.

    Gdansk became a Polish metropolis, and it again became the center of the world's media and on the political front through the 1970s and 1980s, when the trade union Solidarity with Lech Walesa was formed at the head of the Lenin Shipyard. Walesa and Solidarity were one of the factors that brought about a fall in communist rule over a decade.

    After the system change in Poland around 1990, Gdansk has re-established itself as an attractive place for tourists. Hotels, cultural institutions and other activities have been launched both in the city and throughout Trojmiasto, as the economically important area of ​​Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot is called. Among the many international events in the city in recent years were the European Championships in football in 2012, where Gdansk hosted four matches.
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Gdańsk, Poland

Top attractions

St Mary's Basilica, Gdansk

  • St Mary's Basilica/Basilica Mariacka: The colossal St Mary's Basilica is one of the world's largest brick churches. It measures 105x66 meters/344x216 feet in area, the vaults reach 29 meters/95 feet above the church floor, and it can accommodate 25,000 visitors. The style is the brick gothic of the time.
  • Old Town Hall/Ratusz Głównego Miasta: This is Gdańsk's beautiful Renaissance town hall, built from the 1320s. Some of the leading craftsmen and artists of the time worked on the decoration of the town hall's interior.

Long Street, Gdansk

  • Long Street & Long Square/ul. Długa & Długa Targ: Long Street and Long Square are Gdansk's most famous shopping streets. It was here that many mansions over time were built by the city's leading families. There are therefore notable buildings along the entire street and square.

Crane Gate, Gdansk

  • The Crane Gate/Brama Żuraw: The crane gate is one of Gdansk's city gates, in which there is a crane towards the harbor. The first building of this kind was erected in 1367, and the present one dates from the years 1442-1444. The function as a city gate and harbor crane was practical for combining the entrance to the city with the work on the river port.
Trips in the area

Westerplatte, Poland

  • Westerplatte: Westerplatte is the name of the long peninsula at the mouth of the river Wisła in the Baltic Sea. Historically, it was on this peninsula that World War II started with shootings when Poles were shelled. Today you can see a monument to the event on Westerplatte, where there is also a nice beach.
  • Oliwa: The city of Oliwa is located as one of Gdansk's northern suburbs. It is known for the Battle of Oliwa in 1627 and for its beautiful 16th-century cathedral, which is a major attraction. It is easy to get here from the center of Gdansk, and you should see the cathedral.

Sopot, Poland

  • Sopot: Sopot is a fashionable seaside resort along the coast between Gdansk and Gdynia. The atmosphere is fantastic, and here you should take a walk on the city's famous pier, which is the center of lovely beaches and a rich outdoor life.
  • Gdynia: Gdynia is the northernmost of the three contiguous cities of Trójmiasto, which also includes Gdansk and Sopot. It is one of Poland's major port cities with a number of sights. You can see several museum ships and much more.

Malbork, Poland

  • Malbork: The German Teutonic knight Siegfried von Feuchtwangen established the order here in the 14th century. In the following centuries, the mighty fortress of Malbork Castle/Zamek w Malborku was built, and it was one of Europe's strongest castles.
  • The Wolf's Lair/Wilczy Szaniec: In the forests east of Gdansk you can visit the remains of Hitler's headquarters in the region. It was called the Wolf's Lair and today it is open as a museum area. You can see the place and get information about the time during World War II with the events that took place here.
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