Stop number six on our interrail tour was the city of Poznan, in west-central Poland. Having heard a lot about the city growing up, due to the fact it is where my Mum went to university, I was excited to get there and see the place for myself. Poznan is another Polish city that is not really on most tourists’ radars, but having spent 24 hours in Poznan, I think that it is a undiscovered gem and certainly somewhere that more people should visit. It is one of Poland’s largest cities with plenty on offer, from historic sights such as its beautifully looked after renaissance old town and famous Ostrów Tumski Cathedral, to cultural festivals such as the annual Malta film festival with takes place across the city in June and July. So whatever you’re into, your tastes will be covered. Here’s how I spent 24 hours in Poznan..
Our journey from Torun lasted just over and hour and a half, and by ten o’clock we had arrived in Poznan. We had decided to base ourselves in a self catering apartment for the night and after some browsing on Booking.com, we had settled on Apartamenty Towarowa, less than ten minutes from the station. The flat was very modern, airy and very well equipped, with everything you might need for a short or long term stay. I even found some shot glasses tucked away in the cupboard and unlike most places, I’m pretty sure they were there in case you fancied a little tipple of traditional vodka, rather than for hosting any wild parties! Whilst we didn’t make use of the shot glasses, we did enjoy the statutory English cup of tea before we set out to explore our new destination.
As we walked along Towarowa the first sight we spotted was Kaiser’s Castle, now a cultural centre, but originally built for German Emperor William II. The huge neo-Romanesque building is pretty hard to miss on the way into town with its imposing tower soaring high up above the road below.
Before long we entered the Old Market Square, the heart of the city; the centre of entertainment, dining and a popular meeting place for locals and tourists alike. The Square, which covers an area of almost 2 hectares, is home to the City Hall and a colourful row of narrow merchant houses with a characteristic arcade, dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Apparently these pretty buildings replaced wooden herring stalls that used to also sell produce such as salt, candles and torches. I can only imagine what that used to smell like! Don’t worry though, there are no herrings in sight or smell-range anymore!
Passing by the Apollo fountain, we did a circuit of the Square, taking in all it had to offer, but annoyingly were distracted at midday which is when the two goats of Poznan come out of the City Hall’s tower and have a mechanical head butt.
I could have spent a good few hours in just the Square alone, taking hundreds of photos and browsing around the various stalls and market stands offering this, that and the other. Plus with all the restaurants around the edge of the square and the delicious aromas they were giving off, I would have been quite happy just eating my way around them!
To save myself from all the (tasty) calories, we decided to leave the square and instead head out through its south-eastly corner onto Świętosławska. Standing before us at the end of the street was the wonderful frontage of St Stanislaw’s Church, its pink and white Baroque façade glistening in the bright sunshine. We had a quick peep inside, to check out the famous pipe organ, before heading to the former Jesuit College, adjacent to the church. What stands today was built in the first half of the 18th century and is now the seat of Poznan City Council.
After a good look around, we emerged on to Plac Kolegiacki, and found ourselves confronted by two billy goats (in bronze), heads ready to crash together. Having missed the ‘show’ in the main square at midday, we were pleased to see the famous goats of Poznan, albeit not in their usual location.
It was time for a spot of lunch and as we began the search for a restaurant, we stumbled across a pretty little place, Republika Roz, just yards away. The outside was very stylish and bijou with its own well-defined character and the interior very much the same. Of course I couldn’t resist and persuaded my parents that this is where we wanted to eat lunch. Thankfully they agree and so we spent a very pleasant hour or so in the very feminine and floral atmosphere, surrounded by pale-pinks, original window displays and pretty pictures. A little oasis of peace and quiet, just a stone’s throw from the busy centre.
Our next stop was to be Cathedral Island (Ostrów Tumski), so we strolled along Szewska as far as Male Garbary, then crossed the Warta river onto the island. Funnily enough, Ostrów Tumski is part of the city’s former Nowe Miasto (“New Town”) district, although it is actually the oldest part of the city. Back in the day, the rulers of the early Polish state had one of their palaces on the island, although nowadays it is home to Poznan’s cathedral. Arriving onto the island, we headed for the cathedral, a beautiful orange brick building with two coppered dome topped towers to the front.
It later turned out that the building standing today is not the original cathedral, but instead one that was rebuilt on the same spot as the original which suffered much destruction in WW2. However, the cathedral today is home to a number of important artefacts including the gilded altar to the Golden Chapel, containing two sarcophagi and statues of the first Polish rulers Mieszko I and Boleslaw Chroby. Creepy or cool? I’m not sure!
Leaving the cathedral, we walked past the Archbishop’s residence, crossed the river by the bridge, named after Jordan, the first bishop of Poland, and into Śródka, a historical neighbourhood, but which today looked a little run-down but still had plenty of character.
What I was looking for though was not too hard to find – Poland’s largest 3D mural! The mural, which is painted onto the side of a little cake shop was created to commemorate when the settlement Śródka gained its “city rights” in 1231. The style in which it was painted really reminded me of the amazing 3D murals we had seen back in February during our visit to Lyon – it really fascinates me as to how the artists can create such amazing pieces!
After standing in the sun admiring the work for a short while, we headed onwards until we intersected with some tram lines. Unable to face the longish walk back into town, we jumped aboard one of the retro trams and were able to see some more the city from the comfort of our seats.
Our evening was spent finishing off the sightseeing and we intended to head out to Park Sołacki. Annoyingly there were major ‘diversions’ in place for the trams and buses so we gave up those plans and settle on a walk around the Jeżyce district.
Our route took us passed the Adam Mickiewicz Park, part of the Moniuszko Grand Theatre complex, and onwards into the student-y area. Whilst we didn’t spend too long walking around it was evident that this was the up and coming trendy quarter, with hipster bars and cafes on almost every corner. The place still needs a bit of work, but it’s definitely somewhere worth exploring if you’re into trendy food and drink!
All too soon, the sun had gone down and another day had come to a close. We made our way back to our apartment and settled in for the evening, ready for another early morning and resting our feet before another city called for being explored!
Although our stop in Poznan had been brief it had exceeded my expectations and is somewhere I would return to in the future for sure. The combination of the gorgeous architecture, numerous monuments, fountains and colourful facades, could in my opinion, even rival the Old Towns of Krakow and Warsaw. Plus with Poznan’s history as the birthplace of the Polish statehood and the resting place of Poland’s first rulers, a visit to the city offers the visitor a real sense of Poland and its people.
What did you think of my post on Poznan? Have you ever visited before and if so, what did you think of the city? If not, would you consider a trip? Let me know in the comments below! Victoria x