Concrete high rise apartment buildings a tourist attraction? Most people would think twice at the thought of it, but the Zaspa neighborhood of Gdansk draws a small trickle of tourists nonetheless. The reason: it’s the biggest urban gallery for street art in Poland.
The district of Gdansk Zaspa mainly consists of 1970s concrete apartment buildings from the time of the Communist Eastern bloc. Although the district definitely has many of the features which are associated with the former Socialist Workers’ paradise – lots of space, many parks and playgrounds –, the inhabitants of Zaspa still found that their environment could use some more cheerfulness.
Hence since 1997 – when Gdansk celebrated its 1.000 year anniversary – many apartment buildings have been covered by impressive wall paintings, up to 40 meters high on the tallest buildings, by artists from Poland and from countries all over the world. Last year artists from Uruguay, Spain, Russia, Greece and Poland added some new pieces, bringing the grand total to 54.
The wall art depicts how Poland and Gdańsk Zaspa in particular have evolved since then. For some years now it’s possible to visit Zaspa on a guided street art tour (as far as we know in both Polish and English), explaining about the meaning of the murals and about their creators. But you can just as easily wander the district by yourself in search of the murals.
It’s a bit of an adventure but great fun. We didn’t count, but we think we saw most of the murals, trying to hunt them down for two hours.
Getting to Zaspa
Zaspa can be reached by bus, tram, local train (our choice and the most straightforward) or even bicycle from Gdansk’s city center. If you want to take a guided tour you can book one at the Cultural Information Point at the Main Square in Gdansk. The tours are only held during the summer months, three times per week and they are free!