Szczecin is in Poland, yet sits only a few miles from the German border. It has been an important trading port through the years. It’s a city with a large harbour which acts as a pivotal link on the overland route from Russia to France. There are no shortage of attractions for the wandering tourist either, here is our top 20 countdown.
Szczecin’s most representative embankment, Wały Chrobrego, named after Poland’s first king Bolesław Chrobry from the Piast Dynasty, is situated alongside the Oder river. It is clearly visible in its full glory for anyone who arrives in the city through the main highway routes that run across the bridges and viaducts here. The embankment comprises a number of classy restaurants and pubs as well as the most beautiful and important buildings in the city. These include the Marine Academy, the Provincial Office, the National Museum of Szczecin and Szczecin’s Contemporary Theater.
Szczecin’s beloved local football team, Pogon Szczecin, represents the city in the Polish Ekstraklasa (top flight). The team plays in blue and red colours at the impressive and old-school stadium Stadion Miejski im. Floriana Krygiera. The club has twice been runner-up in the league and three-times runner-up in the Polish Cup. Tickets are easy to come by for most matches, there is a club shop and you can visit on a non-match day if you just want to see the stadium.
The Symphonic Orchestra of the Szczecin Philharmonic dates back to 1948. The construction of the new Szczecin Philharmonic Hall was completed only recently though. This building, designed by a Catalan architect Alberto Veiga, was awarded the prestigious European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture. This makes it a veritable must-see sight on its own, not to mention the wondrous performances that take place regularly inside.
Trafostacja Sztuki, also known as TRAFO, opened in 2013 and is the youngest center for contemporary art in the country. Its design and ample exhibition space means it is perfect for hosting audio-visual projects and the display of interdisciplinary art and installation projects. The center also conducts workshops for small children and schools. There are also many travelling exhibitions for visitors to enjoy too, focusing on the works of both Polish-born and foreign artists.
Szczecin’s Cathedral Basilica is the biggest church in the West Pomerania Region. Its construction took place between the 12th and 16th centuries. However, the original Romanesque style was compromised when the church was rebuilt in the Baroque style after the Swedish-Danish Scanian War. The spire of the Basilica collapsed during World War II and was fully rebuilt only recently. It is now open to visitors and offers an astonishing view of the city. In 2008, new organs were added to the basilica too.
The Piast Boulevard, rebuilt in 2013 as part of the Szczecin Floating Garden 2050 development project, is situated in the center of Szczecin. It is alongside the Oder river, to the south of Wały Chrobrego. Its name comes from the Piast Dynasty – Poland’s first dynasty that ruled the country between the 10th and the 14th centuries. The boulevard’s design combines modern elements, such as sculptures and lamps, with vintage-looking walls. If you want to have a rest, go for a drink at the elegant Stockholm Kitchen&Bar and admire Szczecin’s old town and the Oder river through its transparent glass walls.
With a whopping 300,000 plus graves and a total area of more than 167 hectares and counting, Szczecin’s Central Cemetery remains the largest in the country. It is the third-largest on the continent overall. It’s also a truly enthralling spot to visit. The place is peppered with monuments like the curious ‘Monument of Brothers in Arms’ work by Sławomir Lewiński and the sobering graves of countless concentration camp victims and unnamed soldiers.
As this cafe’s name suggests, it is located on the 22nd floor. Thanks to this location, it offers the best panoramic view of the center of Szczecin and nearby forests and lakes. The cafe’s rich menu comprises savoury appetisers as well as desserts and cocktails. Every Wednesday at 8 pm, Café 22 hosts various bands which entertain customers with live music, ranging from jazz and swing to rock and pop. This is an evening that’s not to be missed.
A monument of Jan Czekanowski sits at General Władysław Anders Square. Jan was a Polish anthropologist, ethnographer, and linguist who played a part in saving a number of Polish-Lithuania Jews from death during the Holocaust.
Szczecin’s Old Town has many cafes and classy restaurants as well as the historical Town Hall, which now functions as the Historical Museum of Szczecin. The building itself dates back to the 15th century and inside comprises collections on the city’s history and culture, ranging from archaeological discoveries – such as 14th-century mint coins and medieval clothing – to early 20th-century German postcards and Communist-era toys.
The Jasne Błonia square and the Kasprowicz Park, which border each other, together constitute Szczecin’s most famous green area. The park, stretching out to 50 hectares, is home to the Rusałka Lake and a big amphitheater. Its big playground and a mini-golf platform are often visited by families. Jasne Błonia is famous for its beautiful plane trees, protected as a natural monument. It is at Jasne Błonia that the Polish Pope John Paul II conducted a mass for 700,000 of Szczecin’s citizens in 1987. After the Pope’s visit, a big monument of him was erected in the middle of the square.
Nowadays a cultural center and home to exhibitions and seasonal concerts and plays, the Gothic Pomeranian Ducal Castle used to be the seat of the dukes of Pomerania between the 12th and 17th centuries. The building was seriously destroyed in World War II. However, during its reconstruction in 1946, the crypt containing the dukes’ sarcophagi was found. The Tower of Seven Mantles, situated to the east of the Castle and dating back to the 13th century, is the only surviving element of one of the medieval gates which led to the town. Its mysterious name probably alludes to the local tailor guild that used to pay for the tower’s maintenance.
This elaborate rose garden in Szczecin, Różanka covers two-hectares and dates back to 1928. In 1935, the Bird Well was built which includes the quirky sculptures of flying geese by Kurt Schwerdtfeger. The garden has exotic trees and shrubs and makes for a pleasant stroll.
Museum buffs will enjoy the National Museum of Szczecin, which is one of six museums in the city included in the government’s listings. Housed in an elaborate and significant building down near the Wały Chrobrego boulevard, this is mostly a maritime museum dedicated to the city’s shipping importance and history.
The Technology and Transport Museum in Szczecin traces the history of Polish transport. Inside, you can see vintage cars and bicycles. The museum has been in operation since 1919 and also features wartime vehicles. There are some very rare and special vehicles inside and lots of information on the development of Polish public transport through the years.
Bismarck Tower is living proof of the German times in this city. It was built between 1913 and 1921. It can currently only be admired from the outside because the main entry is fully sealed off. Restoration work may be happening soon; it is however an interesting building for history buffs.
Szczecin is a famous city for trade. But it’s not just the train route for freight that is significant here. Szczecin’s port provides an important gateway between Poland and the rest of the world, particularly nearby Scandinavia. The port here is a deep-water harbour where a (now defunct) shipyard once was. These days, between 2,000 and 3,000 ships pass through the port every year. It is jointly managed along with the port of Świnoujście. Tourists can watch the boats come and go.
For a glorious sunset and a sign of nature in such a big, industrial city, head to Dąbie Lake. You can watch boats sail in, local fishermen at work and just escape the big city life here. Boat trips can be arranged and there are numerous nature trails that run alongside this large lake.
Another popular church in Szczecin is the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, (Kościół Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa), which has an unusual shape. It is a brown concrete church with a rectangular tower and a tilted green roof. Regular services are held in this Catholic Church, which dates back to the early 18th century.
Housed in the same building as the Maritime Museum is Szczecin’s Contemporary Theatre (Teatr Współczesny). Inside, regular shows are held, mostly Polish plays and drama. The theatre has a few different-sized rooms depending on the demand or popularity. There is a cafe inside the venue, which is also open to the public for ticket sales when there are no events on (generally, during the day).