Gdansk was first mentioned in historical sources in the year 997 and has had a long history of being fought over between Polish and German powers, while at the same time trying to assert its own independence. This port along the Baltic coast was able to grow wealthy as a trading hub and member of the Hanseatic League. The historic city centre is home to a number of beautiful buildings that date not only from the late Middle Ages, but also the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Perhaps the city’s most tumultuous period was in 1308 when the Teutonic Knights conquered Gdansk — some medieval chronicles state that as many ten thousand of the city’s inhabitants were put to the sword but most historians see that as an exaggeration. The Teutonic Knights remained in control of Gdansk for almost another 150 years, but in 1454 the city was returned to Polish rule. Afterward, the city was able to gain a certain level of self-rule and by the 16th century Gdansk had become the largest city on the Baltic seaboard, owing to its large trade with the Netherlands and its handling of most of Poland’s seaborne trade.
Visitors to Gdansk will be impressed just walking around its streets, admiring its buildings and sites. This includes the famous Crane Tower, which dates from the 15th century when it was used to place masts on ships and to load cargo. To this day, ships still sail into Gdansk. The city is also famous in recent times as the home of the Gdansk shipyards where the Solidarity movement was born.
Another landmark of Gdansk is Neptune’s Fountain, which can be be found at the Long Market. This sculpture and water fountain was built by a Dutch architect in the early 17th century.
No visit to the city can be complete without visiting St Mary’s Church, the main cathedral of Gdansk. Dating back to the 14th century, this huge brick building can accommodate up to 25 000 people. If you have the time and can climb steep stairs well, you can go up to the top of church, passing by its giant bells and be able to get a beautiful view of the city.
Gdansk is a beautiful and historic place. I loved visiting this city, its architecture and history. It was a wonderful end to an exciting trip in Poland – Sandra Sadowski