First off a tip. The entrance to the Citadel is on Wybrzeże Gdyńskie and is not that easy to find. Once you get there you discover a complex built in the wake of the 1830 November Insurrection, and commissioned by Tsar Nicholas I to serve as a fortress for the occupying Russian garrison - and as a political prison and execution ground. Housing as many as 16,000 troops, the main purpose of the citadel was to deter and quash any patriotic movement within the city. Of the 40,000 prisoners who have passed through its gates, familiar names include national hero Józef Piłsudski, communist agitator ‘Red’ Rosa Luxembourg and Feliks Dzierżyński - the monster who would progress to become head of the Russian secret police. As well as being a supreme example of 19th century fortress architecture, the 36 hectare site has several points of interest with the newly opened Katyń Museum in the South wing leading the charge and the modern art Galeria Brama Bielańska in the North wing (open Wed-Sun 10:00 - 17:00). The labyrinth of tunnels and prison cells have been well preserved and contain numerous exhibits, including paintings, prison relics and firearms. A new permanent exhibition entitled The Painting Gallery of Aleksander Sochaczewski has just opened. Outside find a Nazi bunker dating from 1940, a symbolic cemetery, and The Gate of Execution. It’s here on the nearby southern hillsides of the Citadel that Polish heroes like Traugutt were executed in front of a crowd of 30,000 in 1864.
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