Poland has never been so popular and Gdansk is a refreshingly different city-break destination.
Gdansk lies on Poland’s Baltic Coast and offers visitors a wealth of history, architecture and culture. The attractive gabled townhouses and pavement cafés of the old town make this a perfect choice for anyone wanting to get to discover one of the lesser-known European cities.
Formerly known as the German port of Danzig, Gdansk is one of Poland’s oldest cities with a history going back a thousand years. Together with neighbouring Gdynia and Sopot, Gdansk forms a large metropolitan area called Trójmiasto (Tricity) with each area having its own very specific history.
Two of its main claims to fame are that the opening battle of World War II took place here, at Westerplatte, and that Gdansk is where the fall of Communism in Central Europe began. This is where the Solidarity movement was made famous by the shipyard strikes of 1980 and the leader of the protests, Lech Walesa. To gain an insight into the Solidarity Movement and its far-reaching influence on Poland and on Europe as a whole, it’s well worth visiting the European Solidarity Centre next to the entrance of the shipyards.
The city has managed to shed the stigma of being mainly a shipyard and is becoming better known for far more attractive features. The Maritime Museum illustrates Poland’s great trading age through a number of exhibitions and features The Crane (Zuraw) as one of its defining symbols. The current structure dates back to the 15th Century and was at one time the biggest working crane in the world. It also served as one of the gates to the city.
The Old Town has been scrubbed clean and now has a wealth of hotels, restaurants, cafés, clubs, bars and amber shops amidst the picturesque houses that line its streets.
St. Mary’s Basilica dominates the heart of the Old Town and is believed to be the largest brick church in the world. If you can climb the 405 steps to the top of the tower you’ll have a wonderful view of old Gdansk to reward you for your efforts.
The impressive Main Town Hall is home to the Gdansk History Museum which features an exhibition on the city’s silversmithing era. It also has a complete floor dedicated to life in Gdansk just before the Second World War. This period came to a dramatic end, as is so clearly illustrated by photographs showing the complete levelling of the city at the hands of the Red Army.
There are direct flights from a number of regional airports to Gdansk, including Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol and Edinburgh, so there’s every reason to give this fascinating city a try…