Gdansk has always been a harbour city and its power derives from its location on the Baltic Sea. Due to the City’s wealth and importance it became a key member of the Hanseatic League – the alliance of harbour cities which affected the sea economy of the medieval Europe.
The golden age in Gdansk history was the 16th century and the beginning of 17th century when it was the wealthiest city in the Republic of Poland and one of the wealthiest in Europe. The city’s authorities could afford the development of streets, houses and churches. One of the most representative streets of the Main Town is the Long (Długa) Street which becomes the Long Market (Długi Targ), also referred to as the Royal Route (Trakt Królewski). At both of its ends there are especially-decorated gates: the Golden and the Green Gates. The most important buildings of old Gdańsk are located in this street including the City Hall and the Arthus Court. Within a short walk from the Royal Route there are the most important monuments of the city – the Great Armoury, the Crane, and St. Mary’s Church, the biggest brick church in the world.
The dynamic growth of the city was broken by wars which occurred in Poland in the 16th and 17th Centuries and caused the collapse of the country and the city. Gdansk lost its significance after being taken over by Prussia. Before WWII it had the status of a Free City which was meant to help in the growing conflicts between Polish and German residents. On 1 September 1939 the city witnessed the outbreak of WWII and was heavily devastasted during the war. 90% of the city centre, including its most precious part – the Main Town, was ruined.
After the war the slow process of Gdansk’s reconstruction started. The most important monuments were rebuilt with much effort. The country was run by communists at the time. The harbours of Gdańsk and Gdynia hosted the strikes against the communist regime. In December 1970 riots started and more than ten Gdańsk residents were killed. Ten years later in August 1980 Solidarity was created in the Gdańsk Shipyard, led by Lech Wałęsa, the future Nobel Prize laureate and president of Poland. Soon the famous August Treaty was signed, which legalised the Solidarity. The introduction of martial law did not stop the “snowballing mechanism” of Solidarity. In 1989 the Round Table talks took place and in the next year the opposition had its victory as a result of a democratic election.
Nowadays Gdańsk is one of the main cities in Poland, dynamically growing and remembering its past. It is a place for those who want to feel the history, those who want to explore the past in perspective. Also those who like spending their holiday in the city and enjoy sunbathing on the beach should find Gdansk a perfect destination.