With its origins going back to the 10th century, prewar Gdansk – or Danzig as it was known then – was forged by years of Prussian and Hanseatic domination. The battles to liberate the city in 1945 resulted in almost total destruction.
Gdansk's historic center was rebuilt with great reverence; today it represents one of the richest and most lavish complexes of architectural relics in Poland. Entering the historic quarter is like walking straight into a Hansa merchants' settlement. Huge stone gateways guard both entrances to the main thoroughfare. The well-proportioned tower of the town hall makes a powerful impact and the main square is surrounded by stately mansions. One of the most prominent buildings is Artus Court, formerly the residence of Gdansk's rulers. Gigantic St. Mary's Church reputedly is the largest brick church in the world, able to accommodate 25,000 people. Dominating the waterside is the seven-story Great Mill, once the largest mill in medieval Europe.