Gdańsk Shipyard - the cradle of Solidarity

Gdańsk attractions

Gdańsk Shipyard is where it all started. The Solidarity Movement, the Round Table, the eventual fall of communism - all can be traced to this place, which at first glance seems to be more suited for heavy engineering and rather than heavy politics. And yet the Gdańsk Shipyard was the backdrop of some of the most important events of Polish and European recent history.

Gdańsk Shipyard - the cradle of SolidarityGdańsk shipyard

Flickr, Marti

Ships were built in the Gdansk Shipyard since 15th century. Before it became the scene of social and political change, it was the biggest employer in the region - its greatest employee undoubtedly being Lech Wałęsa, the leader of the Solidarity movement, which became the driving force behind the end of communism in Poland.

The shipyard is a vast area, recognisable from afar by its huge cranes, production halls and docks. Scattered around it are places of great symbolism and historical significance: the historical Gate No. 2 - still adorned with flowers and pictures of John Paul II, the wall over which Wałęsa performed his legendary jump to join the strikers, the humble workshop where he worked as an electrician, or the hall where the historical August Agreements were signed. All those symbolic locations can be visited during guided tours of the shipyard while being whizzed around in one of the retro Jelcz buses. One of the main points of the tour is the Roads to Freedom exhibition, which sheds some light on the events that took place at the shipyard, as well as shows what life in Poland was like during communism.

Apart from being a monument of recent history, the shipyard is also a fascinating place to find out about how ships are constructed. The tour takes the visitors through the now seemingly decaying and abandoned production halls, as well as the impressive plant and machinery, also those used for the production of U-bots during World War II.

The shipyard’s atmosphere of history and postindustrial degradation is a rich source of inspiration for artists, whose presence is increasingly visible on its premises. It its a creative space, sprinkled with sculptures and art installations. It houses a gallery of modern art and it is a venue for concerts and artistic events, making the Gdańsk Shipyard as much a site of history and engineering, as art and culture.

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