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  • Writer's pictureDamian Brzeski

Wisłoujście Fortress - Do you know what is hidden inside?

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

When you think about Gdańsk, the first thing that comes to your mind is Długi Targ, St. Mary's Basilica or the famous Crane over the Motława River. But did you know that there is a place in this city that not only bears witness to its turbulent history, but also hides many secrets that even the locals are not fully aware of? I am talking about the Wisłoujście Fortress, the real treasure of Gdańsk.

Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, at the mouth of the Martwa Wisła to the Baltic Sea, stands this monumental building. The fort, although somewhat hidden behind the curtain of other attractions of Gdańsk, is like a secret treasure waiting to be discovered. And this is where our adventure begins.

You will ask why this particular place deserves so much attention? Imagine the combination of raw, historical walls with the wild power of the Baltic Sea. Sounds intriguing, right? But this is just the beginning. The history of this fortress is so rich that one reading will not be enough.

Welcome graphic inviting you to read the article about the Wisłoujście Fortress. And on it the text Wisłoujście Fortress - do you know what is hidden inside?

But before we delve into the meanders of the past, I invite you to learn not only the facts, but also the stories and curiosities that make the Wisłoujście Fortress so unique. You might even run into a few ghosts along the way (hopefully not literally!).

History of the Wisłoujście Fortress - from the beginning to today

Have you ever wondered what the Wisłoujście Fortress looked like at the beginning of its existence? If so, congratulations on your curiosity! If not... well, maybe this text will inspire you to search.

So, let's start at the beginning! The fortification guarding the entrance to the former port of Gdańsk is not only an old castle or a military post. The beautiful view from the tower to the sea and the mouth of the dead Vistula used to have a completely different meaning.

Today it is a place full of history. Yes, literally! If these walls could talk, they would tell stories comparable to those in "Game of Thrones". Okay, maybe without dragons and white walkers, but certainly with intrigue and secrets!

A print showing the mouth of the dead Vistula Sept with fortified buildings in the place where it joins the Baltic Sea. You can see the Wisłoujście Fortress with its forts. In the background you can see the panorama of the Gulf of Gdańsk and Zopot in the distance

The Wisłoujście Fortress is one of the most characteristic buildings in Poland, located at the mouth of the Vistula River to the Baltic Sea, near Gdańsk. Its history dates back to the Middle Ages and is inextricably linked with the history of Gdańsk and Poland.

  • The first traces of settlement here date back to the 9th century. However, the real beginning of construction falls on the 13th century, when the Teutonic Knights began to strengthen their positions in this part of Europe. It was then that the first fortifications began to be erected to protect the mouth of the Vistula and access to Gdańsk.

  • The development and changing hands of rulers. Over the following centuries, the stronghold was expanded and modernized. In the 16th century, during the reign of King Zygmunt II August, the fortress was rebuilt into a Renaissance castle. In the 17th century, during the wars with the Swedes, the building played a key role in the defense of Gdańsk. The place has also witnessed many changes of rulers and conflicts. It was in the hands of the Teutonic Knights, Poland, Prussia and Germany. Each of these periods left a mark on its architecture and function.

  • 20th century and present During World War II, the stronghold was seriously damaged . After the war, within the borders of Poland, its reconstruction began. Today, it is a place eagerly visited by tourists who want to learn about its rich history and admire the stunning views of the Vistula estuary.

Contemporary is a combination of medieval walls with modern exhibitions that tell about its rich past. It is also a place that combines the spirit of history with a modern approach to presenting the past.

Certainly, this tourist attraction has a lot to offer to anyone who wants to explore its mysteries.

So, if you're ready for a dose of history, and maybe a little thrill (because who knows what hides in those dark corners?), then I invite you to read on!

View of the modern Wisloujscie fortress

Architecture and construction - what makes the Wisłoujście Fortress unique?

First of all, before delving into the architectural secrets of this defensive structure. Answer the question for yourself: have you ever seen anything similar to the Wisłoujście Fortress in Gdańsk?

Well, I suppose if you're a lover of castles and fortresses, then yes. But for many people, the building is a real pearl in the crown of architecture!

What really sets this stronghold apart is its mix of styles. Like many buildings in Poland, the Wisłoujście Fortress in Gdańsk is like a layered cake - every epoch has left its mark here. Teutonic foundations mix with Renaissance additions, and later Prussian extensions added notes of modernity.

A bit like Picasso decided to paint a picture together with Leonardo da Vinci and Banksy!

It is not only an important point on the historical map of Poland, but also a true masterpiece of construction and defense art.

Its design and stylistic diversity testify to its rich past and changing cultural influences.

The main gate leading to the Wisłoujście fortress with a drawbridge. Photograph from the state before the Second World War. The new dome above the tower is characteristic

Today it is a branch of the museum of the city of Gdańsk, but for centuries the soldiers on the tower guarded access to the city against invaders.

  • Teutonic Roots. The first elements of the building date back to the 13th century. It was then erected by the Teutonic Knights as a stronghold that was to protect the mouth of the Vistula. The original structure was mainly made of stone and red brick, which was characteristic of the Teutonic style. The walls were massive, thick and were designed to resist possible invaders.

  • Renaissance Remodeling. In the 16th century, during the reign of King Zygmunt II August, the fortress underwent a thorough reconstruction. It was then that Renaissance elements that were in vogue throughout Europe were introduced. Bastions and sophisticated details in the walls are characteristic of this period. The main gate is decorated with elements that reflect the artistic and cultural development of that period.

  • Prussian ImprovementsIn the 18th and 19th centuries, during Prussian rule over this area, the fortress was modernized again. The Prussians, known for their attention to detail and precision, strengthened the walls and bastions, adding new fortifications. Neoclassical influences can then be seen, with symmetry and simplicity dominating the design.

colorized photograph with a view of the courtyard of the Wisłoujście fortress in the interwar period

What makes it truly unique is its tower. It is a round, three-story structure that is the heart of the building. Built in the Gothic style, with interesting arrowslits and a detail in the form of a red brick pattern, it gives it a unique character.

To sum up, the Wisłoujście Fortress in Gdańsk is a true architectural pearl that combines centuries of history and various building styles. Its walls are witnesses of changing epochs and cultures, which makes it one of the most important monuments in Poland for every lover of history and architecture.

You know what they say walls have ears? Well, the walls of the Wisłoujście Fortress could write a whole series of books. There is an anecdote (although it is difficult to say how true it is) that a king, during his visit, asked why this stronghold has such uneven walls. The answer was simple: "Because every ruler wanted to add something special from himself." The king is said to have burst out laughing.

But it's not just the stones and bricks that make this place special. There are also people who make sure that history is cherished. When you visit the Fortress, you can feel this passion and commitment in every nook and cranny.

So, if you think you already know everything about Polish architecture, the building near Westerplatte is a place that will surely surprise you. And this is just the beginning of our journey inside it!

Aerial or drone view of the Wisłoujście Fortress

How to visit the Wisłoujście Fortress?

Wondering the best way to visit this pearl of Polish heritage? Don't worry, you're in the right place and I have some tips for you to make exploring this fortification even more fun!

First of all, before you go to the branch of the Gdańsk Museum near Westerplatte. Plan your visit in advance. The first piece of advice that comes to mind is... always have a plan.

I know, spontaneity has its charm, but believe me, the branch of the Gdańsk museum in the Wisłoujście Fortress deserves some preparation. First of all, check the opening hours. Nothing spoils the mood like standing in front of a closed door, right?

Okay, now that you know that this museum is worth a visit, it's time for some specific driving directions. Or maybe, since you are in Gdańsk, it would also be worth seeing the famous Westerplatte? I have some proven advice for you!

  • By bus - eco-friendly and comfortable. If you want to experience the local climate and not worry about parking space, public transport is a great choice. From the center of Gdańsk (e.g. from the Main Railway Station) you can take the bus line 106 or 138, which will take you straight to the Wisłoujście Fortress. Getting off at the "Twierdza Wisłoujście" stop, you are almost there!

After visiting the monument, it is worth taking a short walk towards Westerplatte, where a slightly more recent history awaits you, although also related to defense.

  • Taxi - fast and easy. There are many reliable taxi companies in Gdańsk (how to choose the best I wrote in this article) and smartphone apps make ordering a course a breeze. The cost of a taxi trip from the city center to the Fortress is about 10 km and PLN 30-40, depending on traffic and time of day. And remember, you can always share the cost with your friends!

Combine sightseeing with Westerplatte. Since you are already in the area, it is worth taking advantage of the time and visiting another historical place - Westerplatte

You can get there by bus 106. The Museum of Westerplatte and the War of 1939 reminds you of an important moment in Polish history, so it's a great way to fully experience Gdansk's attractions.

Visiting the Wisłoujście Fortress is a real adventure, full of history, culture and... well, maybe a bit of physical effort. But just think of those steps on the pedometer counter!

A print showing a map of the fortified buildings of the defense complex of the entrance to the port of the free city of Gdańsk. It shows the Wisłoujście fortress and fortified buildings on the side of today's new port

The Wisłoujście Fortress in modern times - Is it just a museum?

Have you ever wondered what a centuries-old fortress has to do with our times? You may think, "Ah, they're just piles of stones from the past!" But are you sure? Let's dive into the atmosphere of the contemporary Wisłoujście Fortress and see what is hidden there.

It is not only a monument of fortification art, but also a place where history lives and breathes. When visiting this extraordinary place, you can not only admire the architecture and landscape, but also feel the atmosphere of old times, when the building played an important role in the defense and trade of Gdańsk. Today, it is also a place of meetings, education and entertainment for people of all ages.

One of the main advantages of this place is its rich educational offer. Numerous events are organized in the fortress, such as staging battles, meetings with historical reenactment groups, old craft workshops, conferences and lectures.

You can learn many interesting facts about the history of Gdańsk and Pomerania here, as well as learn about the everyday life of soldiers and inhabitants of the fortress. It is also an ideal place for children and teenagers, who can take part in educational activities, outdoor games and art workshops, learning old crafts and techniques.

It is also a natural oasis in the city. The fortress is surrounded by greenery and water, which is conducive to relaxation and rest. Here you can admire beautiful views of the Gdańsk Bay and Nowy Port, as well as watch birds and animals.

Did you know that: Wisłoujście Fortress is one of the largest bat wintering grounds in the Pomeranian Voivodeship. In the fortress, you can meet more than 10 species of these fascinating mammals, which are protected by law and by museum employees.

Reconstruction of the battle for the Wisłoujście fortress

And now the real firecracker... Did you know that every year a unique musical event takes place in the fort? Is it the electronic music festival Wisłoujście? Can you imagine something more contemporary than a techno party, trance cy rave in old walls?

Wisłoujscie - the siege of the fortress by lovers of trance and rave music

Now you know that "Wisłoujście" is not only the name of a place of historical significance. Today, it is also a synonym of an innovative electronic music festival, which is the result of cooperation between two giants of the Polish music scene - the Follow The Step agency and the legendary Sopot club Sfinks700. This year was the sixth edition of this iconic event.

The Sfinks700 club, located in Sopot, continues the tradition of the cult Sfinks, which entered the hearts of many music lovers in the 90s and 2000s. It is in this place, where the sounds of those years once resounded, that Sfinks700 pursues its culture-forming mission. It is not only an icon on the musical map of Pomerania, but also one of the most recognizable club brands in Poland.

The combination of the musical vision and experience of Sfinks700 with the innovative approach of the Follow The Step agency has resulted in something truly unique.

The Wisłoujście Festival, which became a platform where numerous talents of the Polish electronic scene saw the light of day. Unique, because it focuses exclusively on Polish artists, the festival attracts the attention of not only the local audience, but also electronics lovers from all over the country and Europe.

Wisłoujście electronic music festival

As you can see, the Wisłoujście Fortress in Gdańsk is a place that has a lot to offer to both history and nature lovers. It is a place that combines the past with the present and invites you to discover its secrets.

So how? see you in these old walls?



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