Food, History and Culture, Europe
During my wife’s radiotherapy treatment, I had some time to myself. This gave me a chance to scope out the city and work out what there is to see in Poznań.
Poznań is very close to both my wife’s and my heart, since it’s where most of Ola’s family is based in Poland. Her parents met in Poznan and her father was originally from there and he’s also buried there.
So, before that point I’d seen a lot of the city from a family perspective, but I’d not really had a chance to see it as a traveller.
What I discovered was a city rich in history and culture that, like much of Poland, had its own unique story tell. And it’s a city I’ve seen many times and know that I’ll return to many times in in the future.
Read on to discover what to see in Poznań and why I’d recommend it is part of any Poland itinerary.
Ostrów Tumski (Tumski Island)
If you only have a short time in Poznań, then I recommend you start at Ostrów Tumski, the island that lies between two tributaries of the Warta river. This is the location of Poznań Cathedral (the Archcathedral Basilica of Saint Peter and Saint Paul) with two Verdigris conical towers that you can see jutting out of the landscape from various points in the city.
This stunning cathedral is one of the oldest churches in Poland, dating back, in fact, to the 10th century. It’s suffered serious fire damage many times through history, most recently after the Second World War. Each time it’s been rebuilt anew.
12 chapels surround the cathedral and inside the Golden Chapel you’ll find the sarcophagi of the first Polish king, Bolesław Chrobry, and the founder of Poznan, Mieszko I (also a former monarch).
It’s also worth going into the crypt under the cathedral where the original tombs of these two monarchs were excavated. Here, you’ll find a video display of the tumultuous history of Poznań Cathedral and original construction work from the first cathedral built in 968.
From the cathedral, if you head east towards Most Biskupa Jordana (Bishop Jordan Bridge), you’ll see to your left some brick fortifications. These are the only remaining cathedral walls in the city. You’ll see a glass-covered walkway leading across the east tributary of the river.
This leads to Porta Poznania (Brama Poznania), a museum that details the history of Poznań from its very roots to the present day. If you love museums (like me) this is the kind of place you could spend an entire day in, so be sure to allocate plenty of time. There’s a lookout tower at the top of the museum that offers panoramic views of the city.
Poznań Old Town and Its Odd Tradition
Poznań’s old town is a hip and happening place with coffee shops, vodka bars, stunning tenement-house architecture and a central market square. This makes it an essential item on any list of things to do in Poznań.
The centrepiece of all this is Poznań town hall (Ratusz) which housed the local government until 1939 and now contains a museum.
Locals and travellers alike gather in the cafes or stand around at the base of the town hall to watch two fighting goats. At the call of a bugle, these mechanical iron clockwork wonders glide out from a doorway at the top of the central clock tower and butt heads twelve times to mark the turn of the day.
The story behind this occurred in the 16th century (allegedly) when two goats allegedly escaped a local butcher and ran up to the turret to battle it out. It was such an endearing performance that the mayor pardoned both the butcher and the goats and ordered for the goats to be installed. They remain there to this day.
Poznań’s 13th century Royal Castle also sits on a small hill that rises above the old town. The archaeological museum is also worth checking out in this area which contains the only ancient Egyptian obelisk in Poland, among other treasures.
Saint Martin’s Street and the Imperial Castle
Saint Martin’s Street is one of Poland’s busier high-streets and contains monuments and buildings of historical significance.
You’ll find most of these around Adam Mickiewicz Square (Plac Adama Mickiewicza), dedicated to the Polish poet. There, you’ll find a monument dedicated to the poet, as well as a monument commemorating the massacres committed during the June 1956 protests. Both are major landmarks in Poznan.
There’s also a lot of parks around this square, which are great for the summer months if you want to lie down in the sun.
East of the square is Poznań’s second castle, the Imperial Castle (Zamek), this time built in 1910 for the German Kaiser, Willhelm II. This Neo-Romaneque building is fascinating to explore with a museum, a Byzantine-style chapel, and an ornate throne-room with a marble throne. There’s also a café and bookshop inside.
Not far south of Saint Martin’s street is the Museum of the Greater Poland Uprising, a small establishment with information on the movement that started in 1918 that resulted in Poland gaining independence from Germany, Austria and Russia.
Saint Marcin’s street also has a lot of bakeries and coffee shops on this street as well where you can try Saint Martin’s Croissants (mentioned below).
The Old Botanical Gardens and Wilson’s Palm House
Built in 1910, the old botanical gardens make for a pleasant stroll. But the main attraction of this park is the Palm House at the northern end of it. This is a great place for escaping the winter cold and entering a tropical world.
Inside, you’ll find 17,000 plants, and 700 species from the subtropics and equator, including 170 species of fish. As I set in the humid café surrounded by tropical palm trees, I found myself wanting to get out and travel the world again.
Lake Malta is Poznań’s watersports haven, popular with wakeboarders, kayakers and rowers. The lake also contains Poland’s largest vertical water jet fountain.
If you have kids, Lake Malta is the place to take them. There’s a skating rink, a mini-rollercoaster, mini-golf, an outdoor playground, an artificial ski slope (with tubing in the summer) and a steam train. This train runs along the lake and into a birch forest that surrounds a large zoo.
Between Lake Malta and the Ostrów Tumski, is the city district of Śródka. This upcoming area has some fantastic international and local restaurants and bars. Don’t let your eyes deceive you though, those quaint Italian looking houses are actually part of a mural cleverly painted to look 3-dimensional. This is one of the best pieces of street art we’ve seen.
Look out also for a café in a tram at the local bus stop.
There’s a lot of shopping malls (galerias) around Poznań, but the most famous is probably Stary Browar. This 130,000 square-metre complex is split into two halves, which opens out in the centre into an atrium containing some higher-end restaurants (I recommend Le Targ for their burgers).
Stary Browar is on Półwiejska Street, which has plenty of decent restaurants and cafes and is also wonderful for ice cream in the summer.
The Arkady Fiedler Museum
If the Wilson Palm Museum doesn’t whet your appetite for far and exotic places then the Arkady Fiedler Museum certainly will. It’s not quite in Poznań, but only 20 km away and easily accessible by train. You can read more about this fascinating explorer, who was a famous best-selling travel writer and explorer in Poland, in Ola’s post.
What to Eat in Poznan
Poznań’s local delicacy is the Saint Martin’s Croissant (Rogale Świetomarcińskie), a thick sweet pastry filled with poppy seeds. Most bakeries in the city will serve this, including those at the train station.
Other Polish foods you might want to try in Poznań include:
- Zapiekanka: a street food of a toasted half-baguette topped with cheese and mushrooms
- Any of Poland’s fine soups including sorrel soup and żurek
- Golonka: fried pork knuckle
- Polish dumplings (pierogi), either boiled or fried
- Potato pancakes (placki ziemniaczane)
- Bigos – a Polish stew with different kinds of meat and sauerkraut.
You can find cheap food in one of Poznań’s milk bars – communist themed restaurants which serve basic but good traditional meals.
When to visit Poznań
Poznań is captivating year-round although do note that it gets cold in the winter. But then, if you’re lucky you might see snow. Winters usually start around mid-November and end mid-March. Summers are usually pleasant, although heatwaves do happen.
There’s also various events that take place in Poznań including a parade every 11th November on Saint Martin’s Street outside the Imperial Castle and a festival at Lake Malta in the summer.
Where to Stay in Poznań
Usually, when we don’t stay with family in Poznań , we’d opt for an AirBnB self-catered apartment. Although I don’t doubt there are some bad eggs out there, we’ve never had a bad experience with Polish AirBnB and have found our hosts welcoming and professional.
We also stayed in the HP Park Hotel on Lake Malta one summer which we found pleasant. Lake Malta has a relaxed night life with plenty of bars around the lake and places to sit outdoors in the summer.
If you want to stay central, we know people who’ve stayed in Brovaria and they really liked it.
How to Get to Poznań
Poznań has its own airport and cheap Wizzair and Ryanair flights run from various locations around Europe. Fast trains also run from Warsaw and Krakow to Poznań, and the city is well connected to other major cities via the railway network.
Both the airport and the train station are reasonably central.
Thank you for reading my post on what to see in Poznań, Poland. If you have any questions, please do ask.
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