Often unfairly overlooked for weekend breaks, the city that kickstarted the end of Communist rule deserves our attention for a number of reasons. The port city of Gdansk, on the Baltic coast of Poland, has many historical attributes making it one of the most beautiful towns in the northern region of the country. Forming the Tricity with Sopot and Gdynia, there’s plenty to keep you busy in the world’s biggest centre for amber. Here’s our list for what to do in Gdansk.
Slicing the city down the middle, the Royal Way is the main street in the Old Town. Running east towards the Motlawa River from the two city gates, the walkway features a lot of the city’s highlighted monuments making it incredibly easy to see the sights. The street first got its royal designation in 1457 when the Polish king entered Gdansk and earned its name from the regular parading of kings down its length. Flanked on either side by brightly coloured tall buildings, the street is beautiful and a great place to start your exploration of the city. Stop at Dlugi Targ 44 for a photo of the Artus Court, a renaissance meeting place and stock exchange now part of the Gdansk Historical Museum. This is an essential location to add to your list of what to do in Gdansk.
Standing as an emblem for what’s left of the city’s great trading age, the crane sits on Motlawa’s Long Embankment and was built in the 14th century. Doubling as a waterside city gate, the crane was powered by humans walking around inside giant wooden hamster-like wheels until the 1800s. Nowadays, the structure is maintained by the National Maritime Museum and houses exhibitions on the daily working lives of locals living in the port from the 1500s to the 1700s.
A relatively new attraction, the centre opened in 2014 and celebrates trade unions and their achievements. Giving credit to the Solidarity movement in a series of thought-provoking exhibitions, the building is made of steel, designed to resemble the exterior of a ship. Rent an audio-guide and wander round the seven halls displaying an intriguing blend of multimedia and historical artefacts. A real gem for architecture enthusiasts, this museum in Gdansk’s shipyard is a unique experience not to be missed!
Dominating the centre of the city, the Roman Catholic church was built during the 14th and 15th centuries and is one of the largest brick churches in the world. The massive Gothic building is just as architecturally interesting inside as it is on the outside with its massive 15th century astrological wooden clock and carved stone pieta. Be sure to climb the 400 steps to the top of the tower for spellbinding views across the entire city.
Housed in the medieval Fore-gate building, the multi-story exhibition shows the history of Baltic amber. Displaying collections of amber art from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the museum is in the same building that was once home to the Prison Tower and Torture Chamber. Delve into the history of the city and marvel at the modern contemporary jewellery collection all crafted in the surrounding area. As the centre for the world’s amber trade, this is an experience unique to the city and a must-see when visiting Gdansk’s sights.
Located in Oliwa Park, the Rococo palace is set in the beautiful surroundings of winding paths, an abundance of greenery, relaxing ponds and huge hedges. Built in two parts, the building now contains the Department of Modern Art of the National Museum of Gdansk. The ‘Old Palace’ built in the 15th century and the ‘New Palace’ built in the first half of the 17th century, feature art exhibitions from both local artists and foreign creators such as Picasso. A promotional gallery can also be found inside the palace walls, dedicated to exhibiting the works of young local artists. A great place to escape to if you’re after a quiet afternoon, the Abbot’s Palace is open every day from 5 a.m.
The square surrounded by coloured ornate houses is home to the one of the oldest secular monuments in the country – Neptune’s Fountain. Legend has it the gold statue once spouted Goldwasser, the trademark liqueur of Gdansk, and ever since it has been the pinnacle of the city’s landmarks. The space that used to host the main market, is also the site of Golden House, the 17th century building with a memorable ornately decorated façade featuring twelve carved historical scenes. Famous for its beauty and roots in Polish history, the Long Market is definitely making our list of what to do in Gdansk.
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Flights to Gdansk
- Lucy Norris