European Solidarity Centre
The European Solidarity Centre is situated just outside the Gdansk shipyards and has lofty ambitions – opened in August 2014, it aims to become the ‘World’s centre for the ideas of freedom, democracy and solidarity. to be fostered’. That being said, it does have the heritage, being on the site where the Solidarity movement, headed up by Lech Walensa, was born.
The striking building, designed to look like a ship under construction as a nod to its origins, is clad with large rusty metal plates. But step inside and the first thing that strikes you is the airy and green atrium with its many comfortable seating areas and large array of plants. It is a pleasant place to while away some time and is free to enter.
The museum, however, is not free, but is certainly worth the price of a ticket to view. Occupying over 3000 square metres over two floors, the permanent exhibition takes the visitor on a fascinating journey from the origins and birth of the Solidarity movement, through its key moments, to the far reaching impact it had on the rest of Central and Eastern Europe.
The museum employs a variety of methods for telling the story. Key artefacts such as the boards with 21 demands (part of UNESCO’s World Heritage list) and Lech Walensa’s own membership card can be viewed. Striking exhibits such as the room with the many hard hats fixed to the ceiling and the truck representing that which tore down the gates are on display. There is a great deal of original footage and photographs to be seen and some striking design elements. One such is the room with many boards telling the story, but look up and one will see that the ceiling is a huge mirror and the boards are actually arranged to spell out ‘Solidarity’.
Of particular note are the excellent audio guides available. These take two forms, a shortened version ideal for children and told from the perspective of a shipyard worker, this is available in English and Polish. Also available is a slightly longer adult version, available in nine languages.
There is also an outdoor viewing platform on the top floor which afford excellent views of the shipyard, the Old Town and the rest of Gdansk.
A stand out feature for families visiting with young children is the play department located on the ground floor. Designed for children up to the age of 10 it offers many interactive ways to help them play and learn and at the weekends parents can leave their child in the care of one of the trained staff, leaving them free to explore the exhibition at will.
General accessibility information
The ECS is excellent in terms of access. Entry through the main door is level and there are lifts to all floors. There is hard flooring throughout and plenty of space to manoeuvre in all the exhibits.
There are wheelchairs available to borrow – please ask at the desk.
Discounts are available for disabled patrons and their personal assistants.