In this post I will take you to the historic Gdansk by the Baltic Sea.
We went to Gdansk for a weekend, invited by the Polish Tourist Organisation, and were surprised how great history this thousand year old town has. The historic town of Gdansk offers a lot to see and makes a perfect weekend getaway.
In cooperation with: Polish Tourist Organisation
We walked up and down the old streets and also made a couple of trips out from the city. This post is about the main sights of the old town of Gdansk and I also included a map where the sights are marked.
The historic town of Gdansk from the Motlawa River
Our Gdansk walk will start on the Motlawa riverfront where the icon of the city, the Crane, is located, and we will end in Mariacka Street in the Old Town. Welcome to the historic Gdansk!
Walking Map of the Historic Gdansk
Walking itinerary in the historic old town of Gdansk
This walking itinerary through the historic center of Gdansk takes you to most of the city’s sights. The main sights are marked on the map.
We will begin with the Crane:
The Crane of Gdansk
The landmark of Gdansk is the Crane
The Crane is a massive brick tower by the river. It used to be both the city gate and a harbor crane for lifting heavy loads. In its time this crane was the biggest in the world, with a lifting capacity of four tons, and the lifting was all done with muscle power.
There is a walking area between the crane and the river, called Ulica Dlugie Pobrzeze. Click on the photos of the walking area below to open them up in a slide show.
The Dlugie Pobrzeze is a popular strolling and dining street and there are often street musicians playing their instruments, on both sides of the Crane.
Walking along the Motlawa River
Polish Maritime Museum on Motlawa River
This harbor view is from the Crane. The modern house with a glass surface is the main building of the Polish Maritime Museum. In addition there’s another part of the museum in the old granary warehouse that exists on the opposite side of the river.
The white house you can see behind the museum is the Hanza Hotel where we stayed the weekend. The Hanza Hotel has a nice terrace towards the river where locals like to enjoy the afternoon sun.
Here are some more views of the Dlugie Pobrzeze walking area along the river. As you can see there are many restaurants that have outdoor terraces. The whole place probably is a popular evening place in the summer.
We crossed the bridge of Zielony Most to the island behind the Motlawa River. It’s worth taking the bridge to the opposite side as there are splendid views of the old townhouses on Ulica Dlugie Pobrzeze and the riverbank.
The historic Gdansk seen from the island behind the Motlawa River
In the middle picture you can see the thick round towers of the Crane and the last picture shows decorative Green Gate seen from the island.
The Green Gate
The Green Gate of Gdansk
Lech Walesa’s office by the Green Gate, Gdansk
Even when the name says that, the Green Gate is not green at all, it’s brick-colored. The gate closes the Long Market and the historic Gdansk on the river side. The massive brick building has four gates in a row where people can pass to the market square (Dlugi Targ).
The building was meant to be a royal residence but for was some reason used only once for that purpose.
Lech Walesa’s office is in the northern part of the gate. Lech Walesa is an important person in the Polish history and even the president of the country, originally being an electrician in the Gdansk shipyard.
Gdansk central square Dlugi Targ
Dlugi Targ used to be the main marketplace of the city and also formed a part of the Royal Route through the old town of Gdansk. Today nothing has changed from those days, the beautiful square still looks the same, and like in the old days there are a lot of restaurants and cafes on the square. This clearly is the meeting place for the locals.
The narrow guildhouses on Dlugi Targ have been carefully restored after they were totally destroyed in the war. After the war the Polish built everything back and they did it so well that you can’t see that these houses are reconstructions.
Fountain of Neptune
Statue of Neptune on the central square of Gdansk old town
The center of the square, in front of the house called Artus Court, is the statue of the Roman sea God Neptune. The statue is there to symbolize the connection of Gdansk and the sea.
There is a story that it was Neptune who invented the famous Goldwasser liquor of Poland. As he very much disliked all visitors throwing coins into his fountain he decided to smash all coins into pieces. They became small golden flakes.
You can taste the Goldwasser liquor in almost any local bar and restaurant, to see those nice golden flakes fill your glass.
Arturs Court in the historic Gdansk
This light blue building is Artus Court. It used to be the meeting place for the wealthiest Gdansk citizens. They always liked to gather here to discuss and have a glass or two of beer. It was the kind of place for social activity that were common and fashionable in the Hanseatic Europe. Gdansk used to be one of the many important Hanseatic towns around the Baltic Sea.
Like most other houses on the square, Arthus Court was destroyed in the war and afterwards rebuilt with great care.
Artus Court in photos:
The present interior is decorated with huge paintings that are very similar to the originals. The original paintings were scanned from photos using a technique that was created by the Japanese.
In addition there are ship models, wood carvings and a 12 meter high Renaissance stove, the tiles of which are full of fine pictures.
Main Town Hall
The main Town Hall of Gdansk
This red brick building that has a high tower is the Musem of History of Gdansk. Before becoming a museum the building has been a royal residence. Yet it was originally built to be a town hall, in the year 1327. In those days the Gdansk town hall was one of the finest in North Europe.
If you go in, go and see the Red Room which is the highlight of the Old Town Hall.
The pink family house Uphagen House
This is the pink Uphagen House located on Dluga Street that comes after Dluga Targ. The house has belonged to the Flemish Uphagen family and the interior is exactly the same as it was in their time.
The house belongs to the Historical Museum of the City of Gdansk which makes it possible for anyone to see how luxurious old Gdansk houses have been.
At the end of Dluga Street is a building called Golden Gate. It looks like a Roman arch of triumph. This is the end of the old town and passing through the golden gate you will leave the old town of Gdansk.
On the walls inside the gate is a touching collection of pictures that show how total the devastation of the old town of Gdansk was in 1945:
Gdansk Amber Museum in the Prison Tower
Right behind the Golden Gate is the Prison Tower were they kept prisoners that were sentenced to death.
The tower is many stores high and you can see various kinds of prison equipment in its inner court and in the building’s many old prison cells. Yet today this is no more a prison, the main thing here is the Amber Museum.
The Amber Museum of Gdansk
In the Amber Museum you learn a lot about the origins and properties of amber. Amber has been and stillis an important natural resource in Poland and the Baltic states. You can see different shades and forms of amber on the coastline and sometimes there are animal remains inside the amber.
The museum has exhibitions on old and modern art objects , all made of amber. There were many steps to climb to the highest floor of the tower were contemporary amber jewels was on display, but it really was worth the climb!
The next destination is the Great Armory:
Leaving the Amber Museum and heading towards St Mary’s Church you’ll pass by the impressive Great Armory building, this one. The building is pink in color and its facade is exceptionally ornamental.
Look at the details in this fine building that was built in the Dutch style! Currently the building houses the Gdansk Academy of Fine Art.
St. Mary’s Church
Gdansk cathedral: Church of St Mary
The church that took 150 years to complete is the largest brick-built church in all Europe. It’s a pity that St Mary’s Church doesn’t fit in any pictures, I would like to show it to you. But I got some nice photos of the white airy church interior.
St Mary’s Church contains hundreds of pieces of art, some examples of them below in the photos. The church also has two clocks: inside there is a beautiful astronomical clock and from the outside you can see a fine medieval sun watch.
You can climb 400 steps to the tower where you get great views of the historic old town of Gdansk. As there was a holy mass at the time we were visiting, we had to skip the tower.
Grey houses of Ducha Street in the historic Gdansk
Behind the Cathedral you’ll get to more old streets. Altogether there are seven parallel streets running towards the Motlawa River. IN these streets most houses are not painted, despite that they look nice and uniform.
The houses on Ducha Street still have their original big balconies in front. The buildings have two entrances, one down in the basement and another from the big balcony.
In the park that devides the street in two you can see rows of former balconies from the time before the second world war. In this place all the houses were destroyed but not the balconies. But no worries, there is a plan to build the houses back right where they were. The Polish are so good in retaining the old.
The historic Gdansk: Mariacka Street
One more street that has its original balconies left is Mariacka Street. This street runs from the Church of St Mary to Mariacka gate close to the riverfront. This is a spectacular street with rows of houses that originally were owned by merchants selling gold, jewels and amber.
Traditions in Gdansk go on: Mariacka Street still today has many shops selling amber and jewels. And the street also has a concentration of street cafes and nice pubs.
So now we have seen a lot of Gdansk old town and this is the end of our Gdansk walking tour. If you are interested in reading more about Gdansk and its surroundings check out my other posts below..
My trip to Gdansk was made in cooperation with the Polish Tourism Board, but like always all opinions shared in my blog are my own.