Description and history of Gdansk Poland

Gdansk is one of the finest cities in northern Europe, distinguished by beautiful buildings and the 1000 year old history.

Starting as a fishing village in the 9th century, Gdansk developed into a seaport, and was ruled during the next few centuries by a local Slav dynasty of the East Pomeranian dukes. With the arrival of the Teutonic Knights, who seized Gdansk in 1308, Gdansk grew into a fully-fledged medieval town. The town was redesigned on a pattern, which has survived unchanged to this day. In the following century, revolts broke out, caused by discontent between knights and the inhabitants of Gdansk, in 1454, the townspeople pleaded their loyalty to the Polish monarch. In return, Gdansk was rewarded a monopoly on the grain trade.

In the mid 16th century, Gdansk had come to control three-quarters of Poland's foreign trade. It was the largest Polish city, the greatest Baltic port, and also the most important trading center in Central and Eastern Europe, attracting international traders who settled in Gdansk. The Reformation in 16th century left a strong mark on the multinational community: initiated construction of Gdansk Academy, splendid public buildings, burgher's houses and an outer ring of fortifications, making Gdansk reminiscent of inland Polish towns. After the 16th century, a period of decline followed; during Poland's partition period, Prussia annexed Gdansk, which had weakened, with the population 36000, half of that a century earlier. In 1807, Napoleon, strengthened by Polish regiments, took the city and declared Gdansk a Free City under the supervision of a French governor. In 1815, however, the Congress of Vienna gave Gdansk back to Prussia.

In the following decades the Polish minorities was systematically Germanized. After the WWI the city was declared once again the Free City of Danzig. During WWII, Gdansk was almost totally destroyed.
The destruction of the historic quarters was comparable to that of Warsaw's Old Town. After the war the social structure changed drastically and Polish newcomers retook the city. The German majority perished, fled, or was expelled in 1946. Post -War-rebuilding program has restored many of the city finest buildings and much of its historic atmosphere. The reconstruction took over 20 years, though work on some interiors continued well into the 1990s. Nowhere in Europe was such a large area of historical city reconstructed from the ground up.

The Main Town is the largest of three historical quarters. It was always the richest architecturally, and after the WWII was the most carefully restored. Now it looks much as it did 400 years ago during the times of its greatest prosperity. The town was laid out in the mid 14th century along a central axis consisting of ul: Dluga (Long Street) and Dlugi Targ (Long Market). The latter was designed for trading.

The most important and spectacular places to see are:

The Upland Gate built at the Western end of the Royal Way in 1586 by a Flemish artist. The Upland Gate was ornamented with the three coats of arms: of Prussia (with unicorns), Poland (with angels) and Gdansk (with lions).
The heraldic lions you can find on countless public buildings in Gdansk.
The Forgate ( Przed Brama) consists of Torture House and the High Prison Tower.
Golden Gate (Zloty Brama) had a symbolic function rather than a defensive one.
Town Hall is a very fine piece of architecture with Gothic and Renaissance elements, which today houses the Historical Museum of Gdansk.
Neptune Fountain (Fontanna Neptuna) is dominated by the Greek sea god, trident in hand.

There are many splendid churches in Gdansk including:

Church of St. Mary, Royal Chapel, Church of St Catherine, and many others.

Just behind the Green Gate is the Motlava River. There was once a busy quay along here, crowded with hundreds of sailing ships, and men loading and unloading cargo, which was stored either in the cellars of the burgher's houses in town or in the granaries on the other side of the river, Granary Island. Today it's a popular tourist promenade with cafes and restaurants. Mary's street It is the one of the most charming and unique of all the streets in Poland. It was reconstructed after the war almost from the ground up on the basis of old documents and illustrations and every element found in the rubble was incorporated. This is the only street with a complete row of terraces, which gives it enormous charm and it is a trendy place lined with shops selling amber jewelery.