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With strikingly huge and colourful wall murals in an everyday residential neighbourhood, could this be the most artistic housing estate in Europe? Once you depart the train, feast your eyes on this completely free outdoor art gallery which gets bigger and better, year on year. These are walls of pure graphic magic. But where is it? What’s it all about?
Welcome to Zaspa! Zaspa is a neighbourhood in the Polish seaside city of Gdańsk. In this estate, artists from Poland and further afield have decorated the walls of ordinary blocks of flats where people live. The craze began in 1997 during a festival organised to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of Gdańsk as a city. At the time, only ten of the walls were painted, but the trend continued…
Now the collection amasses over 60 large murals and around 100 murals in total, some of which are on the doors and entrances to people’s houses. The estate has attracted visitors from far and wide, yet still sits under the radar and is not often considered by most tourists who visit Gdańsk. It’s still very much a hidden gem in what is an iconic Polish city.
Imagine leaving your flat every day and exiting through well-decorated entrances. This is the reality for the neighbourhood’s 31,589 residents. As well as the huge walls being painted, entrances, porches and many other parts of the neighbourhood have now been doused in quirky art…
Zaspa has also had some well-known residents and visitors down the years. This is the housing estate where the famous Lech Wałęsa lived during Solidarity (Solidarność) times. In 1987, Pope John Paul II also visited Zaspa. Nagorskiego Street in Zaspa is named after Jan Nagorski, a heroic Polish pilot dating who undertook some polar expeditions back in the days when planes were not in common use. Finally, the street Ulica Bajana in Zaspa is named after Jerzy Bajan, a valiant Polish army veteran.
As well as admiring the murals, you can actually visit Gdańsk School of Murals. Workshops are led by Rafał Roskowiński and Jacek Zdybel. Their aim is to maintain and restore the original function of murals to the collection and to create a social-political art, reacting to current events and developing a coherent style of art.
So head to the Official Zaspa Murals website, print out the map and plan your trip. Guides can be arranged to give you a historic and informative tour through this wonderful artistic housing estate. New murals are added all the time as Zaspa continues to develop into one of Europe’s most fascinating residential housing estates.
A video from the official Zaspa Murals website shows the murals in all their beauty.