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The charming Polish city of Poznań is situated along the Warta River in Western Poland and was definitely one of my favourite cities to wander around during my visit to Poland.
Poznań is Poland’s fifth largest city and is the capital of the Wielkopolska province, but still manages to keep that small town feel with its spectacular Old Market Square (Stary Rynek), cobblestone streets and numerous colourful cathedrals that seem to be dotted all throughout the city centre.
Like most Polish cities, there was a complicated past filled with wars, fires and control by the opposition and sadly, Poznań did not escape damage during those times.
Poznań was the site of the first polish cathedral back in 968 and in the 12th century, the area that is now Old Town was established. Poznań received municipal rights back in 1253, which gave the city duty free privileges that made Poznań a major player within the European trade sector and made the city reach an economic and trade peak in the 15th and 16th century. After many fires and wars, Poznań started to decline in the 17th century and in the late 18th century, Poznań was annexed to Prussia, which made the Germanization of the city intensify with the arrival of German immigrants during this time. In 1886, Poznań was under a commission of colonization to purchase land and property for German colonists, but at the time, the Polish people established credit organizations, which enabled the Poles to continue to defeat the Prussian rule of Poznań.
Following WWI, Poznań defeated the Prussians, but when the Germans returned during WWII in 1939, Poznań was destroyed, its citizens were either deported, or exterminated and after the Russians defeated the Germans during the siege of 1945, Poznań was left in absolute ruins. After WWII, Poznań was rebuilt and thrived economically and has become one of the major tourist destinations in Western Poland, as well as becoming a major economic, cultural, scientific and largest tourism hub in Western Poland.
Although the city is dubbed as the top tourist destination in Western Poland, Poznań is still not well known to many visitors from outside of Europe, but I can tell you that it is worth a visit if you’re travelling through Poland.
I arrived in Poznań early in the morning and made my way from the train station to the city centre where I was staying for one night. I arrived well before my allowed check-in time, so I dropped my bags off to store them until 3pm and made my way to grab a much needed coffee and snack before exploring the inviting streets of Poznań.
After a little coffee break and conversation with a local motorcyclist on the street, I made my way into the Old Town and could feel myself falling in love with Poznań the more I aimlessly wandered its beautiful streets. From a distance, I could see that I was making my way towards the Stary Rynek, which was filled with colourful Renaissance merchant houses, a spectacular Town Hall and a plethora of restaurants to enjoy around each corner.
If you’re thinking of travelling to Poland and are looking for a city to visit that is virtually tourist free, full of vibrant architecture, has a fascinating history and restaurants filled with delicious foods to try, then make sure you do yourself a favour and make your way to Poznań. Here is a list of how you can spend a day visiting Poland’s best kept secret
Getting To Poznań
Arriving in Poznań is easy and accessible by rail, bus or plane from all over Poland. Poznań–Ławica Henryk Wieniawski Airport, built in 1913, is one of the oldest airports in Poland. It is located five kilometres west of Poznań’s city centre. The best way to get to Poznań is by rail in my opinion. It’s relatively quick, comfortable and efficient. If you are coming from Warsaw, it will take just under three hours to arrive in Poznań. The main rail station is Poznań Główny and is a short walk from the city centre. To buy train tickets, you can buy them in the station at machines, at kiosks run by salespeople, or even online at PKP Intercity’s website.
The colourful Stary Rynek, or Old Town Square in Poznań is usually a bustling hub of all kinds of activities such as, lively restaurant patios, music performances and plenty of tourists gathering to take photos. The Stary Rynek in Poznań is surrounded by pastel coloured 16th century Renaissance styled townhouses. You’d never know that most of them were replicas though, since 60% of the city was destroyed during WWII. Shortly after the war, the Rynek was restored to the original style, which was Baroque and Renaissance. Every house around the square is unique and has its own colour, details and shape and some of the houses even have their own stories.
The famous and colourful Merchant Houses in Poznań’s Stary Rynek are one of the main attractions of the city and make for a great backdrop to photos with their vibrant colours and quirky details. They are unique relics of early commercial architecture and date back as far as the 13th century. The Merchant Houses used to be wooden herring stalls that also sold salt, candles and torches, as well as everyday items. In the late 15th and 16th centuries, the wooden sheds were replaced with narrow, often single window brick houses with shops downstairs and living quarters on the higher floors. The people that used to live there paid taxes based on how many windows were on their homes, as well as how wide their houses were, hence the narrowness.
The Town Hall, or Ratusz in Poznań has to be one of the most magnificent Renaissance buildings in Wielkopolska and one of the most beautiful in Poland. It has incredible features and baby blue and turquoise colourings. The Ratusz used to serve as the seat of the local government until 1939 and now houses a museum. The display of mechanical fighting goats (yes, goats) that come out at noon everyday out of a door above the main clock on the front wall of the building, is a major tourist attraction in the city. I missed the headbutting goats by just a few minutes, but I’m sure it was a fantastic spectacle. 😉
Poznań’s architecture is something to marvel at. The majority of city is built with Baroque and Renaissance styled buildings that are colourful and filled with details and the downtown area is constructed with newer buildings, hotel chains and apartment buildings. The Stary Rynek’s buildings have to be the prettiest within the city with their painted facades, porches filled with flowers and inviting patios that spill out into the square. As you walk through the diverse city streets, surrounded by impressive architecture, you’ll feel as though you’ve gone back in time.
Poznań‘s Stary Rynek is home to four mythological Romanesque fountains and depending on which corner you enter the square from, you’ll be immediately greeted by one of the four works of art. The four fountains are: Fountain of Mars, Fountain of Proserpiny, Fountain of Neptune and the Fountain of Apollo. Each of the mythological fountains depict something different and are an attraction that is a must see while wandering around the Stary Rynek.
This pink and white Baroque church cannot be missed as you make your way down Ulica Świętosławska. Simply known as Fara Poznańska (Parish Church), or just Fara, its long and formal name is Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Mary Magdalene and St. Stanislaus. Notably one of the most impressive buildings within the Old Town, Fara Poznańska is a showstopping beauty when it comes to cathedrals. Built between 1651 and 1701, Fara Poznańska is the undoubtedly one of the best examples of Baroque architecture is Poland.
St. Anthony Of Padua Church
The construction of the bright yellow Baroque Franciscan Church, or St. Anthony of Padua’s Church, began in 1674 and was completed in 1728. Situated on the slope of Przemysł Hill and west of the Stare Miasto (Old Town) walls, it suffered extreme damage back in 1704 during the Siege of Poznan. The church was eventually completed in 1757 and the adjacent monastery was erected at the end of the 18th century. Back in 1875, the street was lowered and stairs were built leading to the church. The interior of St. Anthony of Padua’s boasts some of the most opulent Baroque details and richly decorative stucco.
When I first heard that Poznań’s claim to fame was a pastry named the St. Martin’s Croissant (Rogal świętomarciński) that is protected by EU law, I knew I had to get my hands on one. I visited Rogalowe Muzeum Poznania, which is a museum completely dedicated to the tradition of baking these beauties that are over 15o years old and aims to promote Poznań’s culture and history. Visiting the museum is interactive and during the show, visitors can learn how to produce a croissant according to the original recipe. Now, unlike the flaky French croissants we all know, Rogal świętomarciński is folded 81 times and is very, very dense. Between each fold, the trained and licensed bakers layer a paste-like mixture of poppy seeds, nuts, raisins, almonds, sugar and butter. It is then glazed and sprinkled with sugar and nuts. To be a true Rogal świętomarciński, it must weigh between 150 to 250 grams. If you’re on a diet, or a diabetic, you might want to think twice about indulging in this decadent treat all by yourself. The Rogal świętomarciński sits at about 1200 calories, but it is oh-so-good! 😛
Where To Eat
Whether you’re looking to indulge in some decadent desserts, drink craft beer, or dive into a smoothie bowl, Poznań‘s restaurant scene has got you covered. While walking around the city, you’re sure to work up an appetite and since Poznań has many great places to choose from, you’ll have a hard time deciding which place to go to. The Stary Rynek, although usually full of tourists and inflated prices, have some incredible restaurants with delicious food and because I travelled during Corona, the restaurants were only locals and honestly, even for a touristic part of the city, the prices were fantastic and definitely worth the cost for the amount of food you receive. Some of my favourite places to curb my hunger were:
Stragan Kawiarnia: Serving up an incredibly satisfying flat white and to die for piece of carrot cake all in a very intimate setting, this café is outside of the Old Town, but worth the visit. Luckily my hotel was right around the corner. 😉
Warzelnia: Located right on the Rynek, this place is dishing up some solid traditional dishes. Do yourself a favour and order the Kotlet Schabowy with a cold Lech beer. You can thank me later.
Da Vinci Caffe Bar: The perfect place to cozy up on a cold night while sipping a delightful mocha. This café oozes charm and romance with its dim lighting, soft jazz music, warm interior, Da Vinci style paintings and drawings on the walls, oh and the most beautiful bathroom I’ve been in. 🙂
Where To Stay
Like most cities in Poland, Poznań is filled with accommodations that range from cheap and frugal, to luxurious and expensive. You can stay in an old townhouse in the Stary Rynek, or in a modern hotel just outside of the Old Town area. I opted to rest my head at Hotel Altus Poznań Old Town and was pleasantly surprised with this place. The staff at the front desk were absolute gems, the rooms were bright, modern, exceptionally clean, amazing large windows, free WiFi and for a few extra PLN, you could even grab breakfast in the morning.
I’m really glad that I decided to visit Poznań during my trip through Poland. Exploring the quiet, colourful city streets while indulging in a croissant that is truly a national treasure and being constantly impressed with my surroundings, is the part of travelling I adore. Photos of Poznań don’t do the city justice and it’s a place I think should be on all of your Polish itineraries if you end up coming to Poland.
Have you guys ever heard of Poznań, or have you ever been here? Let me know in the comments below. xo