Already in the Middle Ages Szczecin started to build its own position and importance in the region on the Baltic Sea. The status of a major port city has driven development and grew wealthy from trade and transport. In the first half of the 20th century, Szczecin becomes capital of West Pomerania. Due to its close distance and political dependencies with Germany, Szczecin culture and architecture become more and more “western”. Nowadays, except a complex history, the city is a tourist hot spot, with a large number of monuments, but also an academic and cultural centre. Without further ado, let’s check-up 10 most exciting things in Szczecin!
You don’t need to be a fan of classical music or educated architect to enjoy the Szczecin Philharmonic concert hall. The building won the prestigious award of the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture in 2015. Designed by a Catalan architect Alberto Veiga, has made the room truly quite a unique cultural venue in the world. Transparent, white glass building has a mass of jagged peaks that look a little like townhouse gables. At night building has an icy glow and quickly has become a modern symbol for Szczecin and a significant attraction attracting thousands of tourist. Not to mention the fantastic performances that take place inside.
Chobry Embankment (Wały Chrobrego)
Every big river running through the city can be used in a significant way. And what better way is than a tourist attraction! But from the beginning. Just before the First World War, the promenade laid out follows the Oder riverside course of Szczecin Medieval fortifications. Chobry Embankment stays around 20 metres over the Oder River. It’s also more than half a kilometre long! Named after the first king of Poland, Bolesław Chrobry, Wały is Szczecin’s most representative place. The dam comprises a variety of classy restaurants and pubs, as well as the most important and beautiful buildings in Szczecin, such as the Provincial Office, the Marine Academy, the National Museum of Szczecin and Szczecin’s Contemporary Theater. In the summertime, Chobry Embankment hosts the most popular events in the city: The Tall Ships Races and the Days of the Sea.
Old Town (Stare Miasto)
The oldest quarter in Szczecin was severely destroyed during the SWW, but unlike in Warsaw or Poznań, there was no immediate reconstruction. Even though the Old Town was rebuilt much later, the final result is impressive. The project of Stare Miasto was built according to their original plans from before the war. Out there, among cafes and classy restaurants, travellers can find the historic Town Hall. The building itself dates back to the 15th century, but today functions as the Historical Museum of Szczecin. Worth trying out!
Except beautiful and engaging overground, Szczecin also has rich… underground! The subterranean complex of 19th-century catacombs was adapted as a refuge during the SWW for Szczecin’s German residents while bombing raids. Tunnels are descending 17 metres underground, have five levels and a total area of 2,500 square metres. Right after the war, the shelter was changed into a nuclear bunker. Closer to 21-century, underground become a tourist attraction. You can take two separate routes, each themed differently, through a thrilling and enigmatic network of tunnels. The first one is focused on the war period and has reconstructed living quarters, photos and artefacts from the time. The other route is dealing post-SWW chapter of history, known as a Cold War. Detailing how the shelter was reinforced against a nuclear attack. Both tours last around an hour, but the level of entertainment is much higher.
Museum of Technology and Transport
We live in olden times of retro-nostalgia. For everyone who loves to keep watching old vehicles from 50 years ago, the Museum of Technology and Transport will be a perfect spot! Opened in 2006 in a former tram depot, the Museum is one of the largest museums of its kind in the country. You can read, see and touch Polish-built cars, trams, motorcycles and buses, find out how people got around in the post-war years. Among the cars and trucks are models like the FDO Warszawa, ZSD Nysa, FSC Żuk, Syrena, Star 25 and Mikrus. As well as legendary Polski Fiat 125p and 126p, which were manufactured during communist times under a licence agreement from the Italian brand. There’s also a tram driving simulator, which will put you behind the big wheel. I sincerely recommend to every car nerd out there!
Jasne błonia square
Szczecin’s most famous green area is The Jasne Błonia square and bordering with it, the Kasprowicz Park. It stretches out to 50 hectares, and it’s a home of the Rusałka Lake and a serious amphitheatre. Jasne Błonia is very popular between families because it’s a big playground and a mini-golf platform. As well as the beautiful plane trees, protected as a natural monument. Jasne Błonia is also famous because a mass for 700,000 of Szczecin’s citizens that the Polish Pope John Paul II conducted in 1987. Pope’s visit is the reason why in the middle of the square, there is a significant monument to him.
If you ask any person on the street, about Café 22, probably everyone will just put his to the sky and say “up there”. Yes, as the cafe’s name suggests, it means its location on the 22nd floor. And because of that, café’s main offer – aside delicious savoury appetizers, desserts and coffee, obviously – is the best panoramic view of the centre of Szczecin, nearby forests and lakes. Also, on every Wednesday, Café 22 hosts various bands who entertain customers with live music.
Bukowe Hills (Puszcza Bukowa)
Every once in a while, you need to escape the city. It that field, Szczecin is more than privileged. Without leaving city’s boundaries, just by making 10-minute drive southeast, across the West Oder you will get to the Bukowe Hills. Better keep your phone or camera charged and ready to use, because these woods, with high slender beeches and the mossy forest floor, are magical. At the very centre of it, is the Emerald Lake (Jezioro Szmaragdowe). It’s name reflect the vivid green colour of its water. Truth is, the lake is a flooded chalk mine that dates back to the 1860s. By the lake, there are the remnants of German bunkers from the SWW and an artificial cave, designed to make the entrance to the chalk mine look more natural. Today, on the water’s edge stays a lovely cafe.
Rose Garden (Różanka)
In 1928, the rose Garden Różanka was planted for the World Gardening Exhibition. Planted in area of two hectares, in the western corner of Park Kasprowicza came through the SWW unharmed. Unfortunately, an absence of funding at the end of the Communist period caused a decline of the garden. In the second half of the 2000s, with the help of photographs from the 1930s, the landscape was brought back to life, when architect Małgorzata Haas-Nogal recaptured the garden’s former beauty. Różanka has more than 9,000 roses from 99 varieties and plenty of trees, such as hornbeam, apple, maple, chestnut and Serbian spruce. Szczecin’s famous rose garden is also organizing a summertime classical concerts. Better, don’t wait up!
Tram Line “0”
Museums, old market squares, castles – all of that is important and obligatory, to understand history in the bigger context. But what about the regular life that happens on the streets? How winds of history change the city’s shape and landscape? Wise people of Szczecin know that very good and they organized a ride through the centre of Szczecin on a vintage tram. Departing twice a day, at 14:35 and 15:59 from the Dworzec Główny stop at the central train station. The tram rides past sights you probably missed during the “main” sightseeing such. The Anchor Monument, Harbour Gate, Diet’s Palace, Grunwaldzki Square and famous Pomorzany (a 1970s housing estate from the communist era). That’s the only peak of the list. Go and get all of the pictures of Szczecin, not only more significant parts!