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Gdańsk (Danzig in German) is a port city on the Baltic coast of Poland. At the center of its Main Town, reconstructed after WWII, are the colorful facades of Long Market, now home to shops and restaurants. Nearby is Neptune Fountain, a 17th-century symbol of the city topped by a bronze statue of the sea god. Gdańsk is also a center for the world’s amber trade; boutiques throughout the city sell the ossified resin.
Gdańsk (/ɡəˈdænsk/, also US: /ɡəˈdɑːnsk/, Polish: [ɡdaj̃sk] (About this soundlisten); Kashubian: Gduńsk; German: Danzig [ˈdantsɪç] (About this soundlisten)) is a city on the Baltic coast of northern Poland. With a population of 466,631, Gdańsk is the capital and largest city of the Pomeranian Voivodeship and one of the most prominent cities within the cultural and geographical region of Kashubia. It is Poland’s principal seaport and the centre of the country’s fourth-largest metropolitan area.
The city is situated on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay on the Baltic Sea, in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, spa town of Sopot, and suburban communities; these form a metropolitan area called the Tricity (Trójmiasto), with a population approaching 1.4 million. Gdańsk lies at the mouth of the Motława River, connected to the Leniwka, a branch in the delta of the nearby Vistula River, which drains 60 percent of Poland and connects Gdańsk with the Polish capital, Warsaw. Together with the nearby port of Gdynia, Gdańsk is also a notable industrial center.
The city’s history is complex, with periods of Polish, Prussian and German rule, and periods of autonomy or self-rule as a free city state. In the early-modern age Gdańsk was a royal city of Poland. It was considered the wealthiest and the largest city of Poland, prior to the 18th century rapid growth of Warsaw. In the late Middle Ages it was an important seaport and shipbuilding town and, in the 14th and 15th centuries, a member of the Hanseatic League.
In the interwar period, owing to its multi-ethnic make-up and history, Gdańsk lay in a disputed region between Poland and Germany, which became known as the Polish Corridor. The city’s ambiguous political status was exploited, furthering tension between the two countries, which would ultimately culminate in the Invasion of Poland and the first clash of the Second World War just outside the city limits, followed by the flight and expulsion of the majority of the previous population in 1945. In the 1980s it would become the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, which played a major role in bringing an end to Communist rule in Poland and helped precipitate the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Gdańsk is home to the University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk University of Technology, the National Museum, the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre, the Museum of the Second World War, Polish Baltic Philharmonic and the European Solidarity Centre. The city also hosts St. Dominic’s Fair, which dates back to 1260, and is regarded as one of the biggest trade and cultural events in Europe. Gdańsk has also topped rankings for the quality of life, safety and living standards worldwide.