For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.
– Robert Louis Stevenson
Szczecin, pronounced “shcheh-cheen”, is a city that I have visited many times and I never cease to feel like a part of me is coming home whenever I return. This relatively unknown Polish city is home to my father’s side of the family therefore it has a special place in my heart.
Well off any track non-German tourists trod, the western port city of Szczecin is a lively city awash with students and a muddle of architecture inherited from wildly different ages. Crumbly German-era Art Nouveau tenements and mansions, some now undergoing renovation, echo a past splendour but historical style is patchy. The authorities seem to have given up on the idea of rebuilding, choosing instead to fill the gaps in the city centre with glass-and-steel malls.
– Lonely Planet
After visiting again this past Easter, I thought I’d share some of my favourite things about the city 🙂
The Central Cemetery
Without a doubt, this is probably my most favourite thing about the city but maybe that’s because I have a weird love for graveyards. It’s one of the biggest in Europe (3rd) and is well-kept so it’s much like walking through a peaceful park. It was first established in 1901 when the city was still in German territory (Stettin) and has over 300 000 graves.
The city park is huge (50 hectares – think of a shit load of football fields), with areas for concerts, long walks with family, cycling, having a beer with your friends or just laying down on the grass and getting tan or just general chilling in urban nature. One of the most beautiful places in Szczecin, especially in summer and early autumn. It has a fountain, a few monuments, a rose garden, a lake, an open air theatre, ice cream shops, a beer garden and more. You’ll find many people just going for a walk through the park just the enjoyment of having a stroll.
The Panoramic Coffee Shop
Located right in the heart of the centre, near to Galaxy Centrum (a big shopping mall) Cafe 22 is an elegant cafe on the 22nd floor of the city’s highest building; it has its own unique atmosphere, created in part by the impressive 360-degree panoramic view over Szczecin. This place is perfect if you want to have a light meal while looking at the vista of the city on a clear, sunny day.
The reservoir is located in the area of Puszcza Wkrzańska forest. There is a popular trail for cyclists and strollers around the lake which is about 6 km long. There are special areas for bonfires and BBQs designated along the path. In the summer you can also find lots of people doing different water sports and kids playing on the sand bank.
The Odra River
Szczecin is a port city with a harbour of the Baltic Sea as well the river, however sitting in an open-air restaurant along the river on a summer’s evening, seeing how the lights reflect on the water is a lovely way to spend the evening with friends.
The Port Gate
One of my favourite monuments of the city is in the centre; Brama Portowa, or Port Gate in English. Someone on Trip Advisor described it perfectly as a “monument between the tram lines”, which is precisely true. It is one of the two gates of the old Prussia fortifications in the city that is directly in the middle of the centre’s hustle and bustle. It has a twin called King’s Gate somewhere in the city as well.
Cathedral Basilica of St. James the Apostle
The cathedral, which was built between the 12th and 16th century, is the biggest church in its region – West Pomerania. I have definitely seen far more striking constructions where architecture is concerned, but if you climb the tower you can see wonderful views of the city.
The Ducal Castle
Nowadays a cultural centre and home to a number of 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 got seriously destroyed during World War II, but 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.
- Szczecin, nowadays the capital of the West Pomerania Province and one of Poland’s biggest cities, changed hands for almost 800 years, and was returned to Poland only after World War II.
- Szczecin is located near the Baltic Sea.
- At Jasne Blonia square (which is next to Kasprowicz Park) was where Polish Pope John Paul II conducted a mass for 700,000 of Polish citizens in 1987. After the Pope’s visit, a big monument of him was erected in the middle of the square.
- The city is very pretty in an subtle way; while walking around the centre, you cannot help but admire the facades of the buildings which remain from when the city was still German.
- The city is home to roughly 400 000 people.
- Szczecin is considered a ‘green city’ as it is so surrounded by vegetation and forest.