Szczecin, capital of the Westpomeranian Region enraptures all with its star-shaped squares and spacious Paris-style alleys, both of which were laid out here in the 19th Century. Tourists coming to us are also excited about the abundance of green spaces in the city, calling it the „green” Szczecin – as it abounds in parks, greens, magnolias in blossom and plane-tree alleys.
With a history of more than one thousand years, the city has seen the rule of the House of Griffins, the Danish suzerainty and the rule of the Margraves of Brandenburg. Also, it was ruled by the Prussians and the Swedes, and witnessed Napoleon’s troops and the Russian Army being stationed within its area, as well as had suffered through numerous wars, with intermittent periods of economic growth.
Szczecin is one of the largest and oldest cities in Poland. It has the third largest area and seventh largest population. According to the official data, as at 31 December 2010, its population was 405,606.
The history of Szczecin dates back to the turn of the 7th and 8th Century. It was during that time that its castle hill was home to a Slavic village and a stronghold. At the end of the 10th Century, Szczecin became the fee of the Polish Prince Mieszko I, whereas in 1005, the Pomeranians came to be independent. It was during the rule of Bolesław Krzywousty (Bolesław III the Wry-mouthed) that Szczecin was yet again incorporated into the Polish territory. It was also at that time that Otto of Bamberg led Christianity into Pomerania. Poland’s supremacy over Westpomerania and Szczecin lasted for about 60 years.
Szczecin lies only some dozen kilometres from the Polish-German border, closer to Berlin and Copenhagen than to Warsaw. The proximity of Berlin provides Szczecin with a convenient air connection with the entire world. Also, Szczecin has an airport in Goleniów, from where you can get to various European and Polish cities. Cruise-ferries operated by the Polish Baltic Shipping Company, the Unity Line and Polferries provide on a continuous basis, transportation to and from Scandinavia.
Present-day Szczecin is a modern, vibrant city with a range of tourist attractions. It is home to almost 40 bank branches, 14 brokerage companies, 13 insurance companies and a network of exchange offices, with approximately 4000 cabs being at one’s disposal. It also has a modern and efficient municipal transport grid, including trams and buses, with a daily passenger usage of half a million.
Tourists and business people will have no difficulties finding accommodation and entertainment venues. Apart from a network of pensions and boarding houses, there are 12 major hotels offering a total of 3 000 beds.
It is good to start the exploration of Szczecin with visiting its most cherished monuments. One should remember that a large proportion of Szczecin’s monuments was severely affected during World War II. Those which survived, however, were painstakingly restored. In order not to miss anything noteworthy, it is a good idea to use the „City Tourist Route” map and take a walk down the streets of the city using the guidance of red signs spread across its area.
The route originates at the Central Railway Station, which began to operate in 1843 with the first train arriving at its premises from Berlin. As we move along the Oder River, the monumental building of the post office, built in stages since 1772, and several two-hundred-year-old barracks are revealed to our eyes. The next thing to encounter is a fragment of a preserved mediaeval fortification marked with a plaque to commemorate the visit of the General Stefan Czarniecki. Built in the 14th Century by the Franciscans, St. John the Evangelist Church is another place worth seeing. Further down the route, there lies the Gothic-style Old City Town Hall, and as we move along the right side of the route, we cross the Long Bridge, which was built after war in a place which used to serve as a passage over the River Oder as early as in the 13th Century. The building of the Customs Office and the Neogothic-style Church of Gertrude the Great is what awaits us on the opposite side of the river, within the Łasztownia district. Built of brick halfway into the 15th Century, the Old City Town Hall is now home to the Museum of the History of Szczecin.
Moving away from the Oder River, we eventually approach a gem of late Gothic-style architecture – the house of the Loitz family of merchants and bankers, with its characteristic slanting windows. From there, it does not take long to get to the Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle, which was built in the 14th Century within the area of a former Slavic town, on the initiative of Barnim III, the Duke of Pomerania. As World War II approached its end, the castle was torn down following the bombing, to be fully reconstructed by 1982. Some of the highlights of the Castle include exhibition halls in its northern and southern wing, the sarcophagi of the dukes in the western wing, and a Bell Tower with a replica of the statue of Saint Otto of Bamberg. At the top of the tower, there is a viewing platform providing a beautiful panorama view of the city and the flood waters, and a bell which dates back to 1500. In front of the castle, two statues can be admired – Bogusław X and his wife Anna Jagiellonka.
As we descend from the Castle Hill towards the Oder River and follow the 2300 metre new passage (the Castle Route), we approach the last remnants of the mediaeval fortifications: the Maiden Tower (also known as the Tower of Seven Coats). By crossing the Castle Route and walking along the Oder River, there is no way you can overlook the complexes of imposing edifices stretching skyward on a high scarp. These were erected during the first and the second decade of the 20th Century, and are presently home to the Maritime University, the Maritime Museum, the Contemporary Theatre and the Governor’s Office. Behind them, there is the Żeromski Park, which was set up on the grounds of a historic graveyard at the beginning of the 19th Century. The Park features some precious species of trees and shrubs from America, Asia and southern Europe.
As you head towards downtown, it is worth having a look at the Baroque-style Royal Gate, which was built in 1725-27, based on the design by G.C. Wallrawe. Nearby there is the Gothic-style Saints Peter and Paul Church standing in the place that was once home to the first wooden church, built in 1124 after the christening of Szczecin’s inhabitants. Having seen that, the next place to go is the Archcathedral Basilica. On the way there, you pass the Professors’ Houses, which were reconstructed after World War II according to their 17th-Century design, and the 150-year-old building of the St. Mary’s High School (presently functioning as High School No. 9), as well as the house at Farna St., where Zofia Augusta Fryderyka von Anhalt Zerbst was born to later become Catherine II, the Empress of Russia.
Where once stood a church, built in 1187, outside the city’s fortifications by a townsman called Beringer of Bamberg, now there is the Archcathedral of St. Jacob the Apostle with its design dating back the turn of the 15th and 16th Century. In 1983, Pope John Paul II elevated this archcathedral into a Basilica, and paid it a visit four years later.
The Chrobry Embankment is easily the most recognisable landmark of Szczecin. The attractive buildings and spacious terrace overseeing the Oder River were planned and built within the period of 1901-1921. This place and the berths of the Łasztownia district facing it are home to the annual Days of the Sea and to old-timer rallies. Also, it was here that the finals of the Tall Ships’ Races took place in 2007. What is interesting is that 2013 will see the finals being hosted here once again.
To experience Szczecin at its fullest, you have to visit its underground as well. Also, you can go on a tour down two routes set in the 5-storey deep civilian air-raid shelter put up in 1941 by the Germans. It is the largest facility of that type in Poland. Having completed your tour around the city, feel free to choose from a range of cafes and pubs, where you can take some rest and rejuvenate.
Looking for quality entertainment? You’ll find it in our theatres, movie theatres and concert halls. Each year, Szczecin hosts such events as the Small Theatre Forms Festival, the International Festival of Street Art, the Castle Art Summer, the Szczecin Music-Fest festival and the International Jazz Confrontations.
The Cultural and Tourist Information Centre of the Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle
Korsarzy Street 34
tel. +48 91 / 489 16 30
fax. +48 91 / 434 02 86
every day: 10.00 a.m.- 6.00 p.m.
Tourist Information Centre in Szczecin (Grzybek)
Niepodległości Street 1
tel. +48 91 434 04 40
fax. +48 91 433 84 20
Monday – Friday: 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.
Saturday: 10.00 a.m. – 2.00 p.m.
(summer season – Saturday: 9.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.)
The Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle
Korsarzy Street 34
tel. +48 91 / 489 16 30 (tourist information)
fax. +48 91 / 434 79 84
The Castle Opera
Korsarzy Street 34
tel. +48 91 / 489 03 40
The National Museum in Szczecin
Staromłyńska Street 27
tel. +48 91 / 431 52 00
fax. +48 91 / 41 52 04
Saint Jan z Kolna Street (vis a vis Chrobrego Embankment)
tel. +48 91 / 434 57 00 lub 488 47 10