‘If you’re travelling to this beautiful northern Polish city, you’ll find so much to see and do. The medieval centre is, undoubtedly, one of the city’s gems. These are six top sights to see in Gdansk Old Town…’
Gdansk is one of the oldest cities in Poland, dating back to the 10th Century. It sits within the tri-cities area, which incorporates the nearby coastal cities of Gydnia and Sopot. Gdansk is the capital of the Pomerania region and is also known as Danzig. If you’re in the city, these are six top sights to see in Gdansk Old Town.
The Crane is one of the most prominent and recognisable symbols of Gdansk Old Town. The former port crane dominates the waterline along Szeroka harbour and dates back to Medieval times. These days, it forms part of a collection of Maritime Museums in Gdansk Old Town that tell the story of the city’s trading past. The Crane is flanked by two huge towers and, as well as being used for loading, it served a dual purpose as a gateway to the city via the Motlawa River. The Crane is the largest Medieval port crane remaining in Europe and the only remaining twin tower gate in Gdansk. It is listed on Poland’s national list of registered monuments.
The Crane is generally open from 10am – 6pm in Spring and Summer and 10am – 4pm in Autumn and Winter. Admission is between 6/10 zl. Holders of the Visit Gdansk tourist cards can enter for free.
Long Market is also known as Dlugi Targ and runs from the end of Long Lane and Green Gate. It’s maybe a 10-15 minute walk from one end to the other, but it’s worth every second. This extensive pedestrianised walkway is the heart of Gdansk Old Town. The beauty and colours of its buildings are a sight to behold are there are so many significant historical buildings located here.
As well as its history, Long Market offers some of the best bars and restaurants in the area. While we were visiting the city, we ate and drank here every night and didn’t visit the same place twice. Long Market is always bustling with locals and tourists and there’s always a busker or two on the go. It’s the perfect spot for sitting at an outside cafe or bar and watching the world go by.
Gdansk Old Town Hall sits at a four-way intersection along Long Market. It was built in the early part of the 1300s and had to be largely reconstructed following major damage during WW2. The Town Hall is the location of the Museum of Gdansk, which details the city’s rich history, from 997 to the present day. One of the best views in Old Town Gdansk comes from the top of the Town Hall, if you have the energy to climb around 250 steps from the street to the top.
The Town Hall is closed Mondays and open 10am-1pm Tuesday, 10am-4pm Wednesday, 10am-6pm Thursday, and Friday – Sunday 10am – 4pm. Admission 12/6zł, with a family ticket costing 20zł. Entry is free on Tuesdays.
Neptune’s Fountain can be found immediately outside the beautiful pale blue building of Artus Court on Long Market. It’s not uncommon to spot it purely due to the number of tourists gathered around, taking photos. Neptune, who is the Roman God of the Sea, is a bronze statue atop a pretty fountain. He’s been standing in place, trident in hand, since 1633. He symbolises the power of the sea and the trade and wealth brought to Gdansk Old Town – and the rest of the city – due to their location.
When Poland was invaded at nearby Westerplatte, starting the Second World War, Neptune’s Fountain was damaged. It was quickly removed and subsequently reinstated in Gdansk Old Town after the war had ended.
Basilica of St Mary’s Assumption
St Mary’s Church is visible from most parts of the Old Town. Although it sits a few streets back from the river, there aren’t many spots you can’t see it from. This is largely due to the tower, sitting at 78 metres high, which dominates the city skyline. When it was first built, St Mary’s was used by Roman Catholics and Lutherans, holding services for each faith. Today, St Mary’s is designated as a Catholic Church.
St Mary’s was severely damaged during the storming of Gdansk by the Red Army in 1945. The church was set alight and temperatures grew so hot, it melted some of the brickwork. After the fire, the graves within the basilica were looted by soldiers and many priceless treasures were lost. Fortunately, St Mary’s was fully reconstructed and was eventually designated as a basilica by Pope Paul VI in 1965.
The Golden Gate
The Golden Gate (Zlota Brama) is located at the western end of Long Market. It was built in 1612-1614 along the Royal Route, used by the King of Poland. When the monarch visited from his home in Warsaw, he entered Gdansk Old Town via the Golden Gate. He would then make his way to the Green Gate at the east end of Long Market, proceeding through the heart of the city centre.
It can be easy to spend time looking at the exterior facade of the Golden Gate but don’t forget to look at the interior walls. Within the middle of the structure are large black and white images of how the city looked after it was destroyed in the Second World War. The photos – one on either side – show the sheer destruction inflicted upon Gdansk Old Town. The images are taken from the exact spot you will stand in, so you can instantly compare them to the current city view. It’s a quite incredible transformation.
What are your favourite sights in Gdansk Old Town?