The question here might be – where do you start with what buildings are the “most” significantly gorgeous in Gdańsk? In a city absolutely brimming in history, buildings with historic relevance clearly amount to more than 100. But life has its limits and the Old Town of Gdańsk is merely the beginning of a journey through the incredible architecture that Gdańsk offers to the world. The only reason to call it quits at 19 is because you ran out of time. Get ready for a diverse list and some seriously important history lessons!
The famous St. Mary’s Basilica in Gdańsk is a vast Roman Catholic church on the famous Ulica Piwna (yes, “Beer Street”). It dates back to 1343 according to the official website. It is officially one of the top three largest brick churches in the world, and is rumoured to have more red bricks than any other church in the world. The interior walls in the main church hall are white as the church has been both Protestant and Catholic during its existence. For tourists not into religion but who enjoy views, walk up the steps to the top for a splendid panorama lookout point over Gdańsk.
For those entering Gdańsk’s famous Ulica Długa (Long Street) from the train station side you will encounter two large “gates” to the city. The first of these stands alone at a distance, however the second gate sits at the very top of Long Street and as you veer in, it will give you a stunning first glimpse of the City Hall. The gate was built in 1612–14 and has been repainted and renovated many times since. Notably the gate has figures on both sides which are meant to represent the qualities of the ideal citizen of the city.
Born in Gdańsk on May 24, 1686, Daniel Fahrenheit invented both the “Mercury-in-glass thermometer” and the “Fahrenheit scale”. As well as a trip to see the house he once lived in, the main town square (Długi Targ or Long Market) also has an original Fahrenheit thermometer.
Those into their European history will be aware of the significant part that Gdańsk played in the “Solidarność” (Solidarity) movement of the 1980s. The Trade Union movement was spearheaded by the legendary Gdańsk resident Lech Wałęsa. It was the first trade union in a Warsaw Pact country that was not controlled by a communist party. The membership of Solidarność peaked in September 1981 to a whopping 10 million. These days, the European Solidarity Centre is a huge building in Gdańsk’s dockyard area which acts as a museum and sits behind a memorial commemorating those who died at the shipyard. Across from it is the building where Lech Wałęsa famously signed the agreement in August 1980 permitting the movement.
An unmissable central point in Gdańsk’s famous Długi Targ (Long Market) is the City Hall, known in Polish as the Ratusz and famous for its distinctive clock tower. The current building you will see has been renovated and reconstructed as sadly this entire street, and most of the city was completely destroyed during World War Two. The building houses a museum and you can climb to the top for wonderful views.
You can go to the house where the famous Lech Wałęsa once lived. You cannot go inside and of course Lech is not there, but what is fantastic is that he used to live in the district of Zaspa, which nowadays has been transformed into one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Europe with its wall murals, one of which is of course – the man himself.
Kubicki markets itself as “The Oldest Restaurant in Gdańsk” and while its a fabulous moniker to share, it’s not entirely true. But wait – it is the oldest restaurant in the city that has been consistently open for a century, dating back to 1918 and serving delicious Polish food in a traditional building which survived the Second World War and Communist times in Poland.
The Post Office in Gdańsk is sadly more than a place for licking a few stamps and posting a few letters. The history of the building is shocking as it was here on September 1, 1939 that the Germans invaded and killed Polish workers on the day the Second World War began, although the attack in Tczew occurred slightly earlier. These days it is still a fully functioning Post Office but also has a museum inside and many memorials within its grounds dedicated to those who lost their lives here.
The Bunker (Walkable Ruin) at Westerplatte is a destroyed building but should be included in any tours that incorporate Gdańsk’s history due to the significance of this peninsula. The German invasion began here in September 1939 with the Battle of Westerplatte. As part of your tour through the outdoor museum and to the peace monument, walk through the remains of this bunker which was used as a shelter during the Second World War.
There are “National Museums” in most major cities in Poland, each with their own unique exhibitions, selling points and quirks. The Muzeum Narodowe w Gdańsku offers free entry every Friday and boasts one of the most stunning paintings in all of Poland – the popular The Last Judgment (“Sąd Ostateczny”). It is a three-part painting, depicting heaven, earth and hell. It was painted by German painter Hans Memling between 1467 and 1471 and sits in a room of its own.
Not to be confused with a Bunker of course, “Bunkier” is a building you have to see. It is a modern day nightclub and one of the best nightclub experiences in all of Europe housed in what is basically an old bomb shelter. Be ready for five floors of mayhem, each with their own bars, themes and style of music. From the outside you wouldn’t even be aware of the madness that goes on behind the ugly concrete exterior.
Down by the waterfront in Gdańsk sits The Crane, which is one of the defining symbols of the city and represents what little remains of the time when the city boasted a great trading era. The crane is no longer used but you can walk through it and read up on its history. The Crane is now linked to and managed by the nearby Polish Maritime Museum.
Artus Court is also in the heart of Gdańsk’s Old Quarter and is a famous building on Długi Targ right in front of the City Hall. The venue attracts thousands of visitors all year round as it used to be the meeting place of merchants and a centre of social life. Though many admire it from the outside from Neptune’s Fountain, you can enter the building which is now yet another museum in this historic city.
The huge Stadion Energa near Nowy Port in Gdańsk was built specifically for the 2012 European football Championships. The stadium is home of Polish Ekstraklasa club Lechia Gdańsk and holds 41,620. The interior is modern and stylish, with seats coloured green, white and amber. The exterior is coloured amber to represent the city’s amber history and it was certainly a significant point in the city’s life as tourism in Gdańsk has flourished ever since.
Oliwa Cathedral, Gdansk, Poland | Diego Delso/Wikimedia Commons
One of the few buildings on the list that is a bit further away from the town centre but definitely worth a trip to is Oliwa Cathedral. The Oliwa area is one of Gdańsk’s oldest districts. This Cathedral is famous for its twin towers and altars, of which there are 23. These are highly valued within the Catholic Church and are mainly Baroque or Rococo, being partly constructed of marble.
The Sala BHP is the building where Lech Wałęsa signed that Solidarność agreement way back in 1980 and it is now a fully functioning museum and centre for the protection of Gdańsk shipyard. The museum is totally impressive, containing all sort of relics, artefacts, pictures and items from the city’s significant ship-building history. Visitors can also go right up to the desk where Lech signed that agreement.
As well as including the main Ratusz in Gdańsk in this list, the Old Town Hall is almost like the neglected older brother as it was here first and sits in what is the real Stare Miasto in Gdańsk, beside one of the rivers. The building is in surprisingly good condition and often neglected by visitors.
Another building on the pretty streets of central Gdańsk is the Great Armoury which was once the house for storing weapons and is now only open occasionally for art exhibitions. Tourists love to admire the external statues and architecture which features a rare lion with his penis on display, the reason for which many locals are still unaware.
To complete the list, the stunning Brama Wyzynna (Upper Gate / Outer Gate) was actually the main gate to the old city, and sits in front of the previously mentioned “Golden Gate”. In between the Amber Museum is also worth a look in a city which offers more historic buildings than most average cities in Europe.