Szczecin – Poland
Szczecin - Poland
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An irresistible flight deal to Szczecin on what would have been otherwise a weekend without any trip planned so far. We only booked those tickets 7 weeks before the actual flight, plus considering this was the last weekend of June, already high season; furthermore the flights at perfect times from Friday evening to Sunday evening. Indeed, a temptation not to let it go. After all, finding an European destination not been before is becoming a challenging task. Of course, there are endless cities and places to visit, but there are not flights to every one of those destinations either.

Right after booking the flight and researching a bit on the city, this is a city that can easily be done and fully visited in a day and even less than that. The good news are the many nice places to the north and northwest, already in German soil. The city lies just few kilometers to the east from the German border that runs north to south. Therefore, the plan for this weekend was postponing the visit of Szczecin itself to the following day, while for today driving towards Swinoujscie, the last city in Poland before the German border through the Szczecin Lagoon, passing the beaches by the Baltic Sea, and continuing to the UNESCO World Heritage Site city of Stralsund in Germany.

Sparing Sunday to be in the city was a good decision. We had plenty of time, were relaxed since there was no need to drive anywhere, and took the time for quite a lazy visit. Why to rush when there is no need! Instead we took the time to get a really nice lunch, some Polish snacks, coffee here, cake there and enjoying a beer at one of the many terraces in the old town watching the live passing by.

Although there is not much to see in Szczecin -it was heavily destroyed during WWII, its reconstruction started to take shape from 1990 and it is still ongoing. Many of the beautiful buildings that once stood are being carefully rebuilt and the old town, what locals now they call the “old new town” is starting to be again a nice place to be, filled with many cafes and restaurants, pubs and overall, thriving nightlife.

A good reminder of its German architecture past can be found along the riverside, the promenade was safeguarded and survived war only with few damages. Today, those imposing buildings have been restored to its former glory and is one of the best places to be in the city especially on summer days. This is a great stroll along the river with many parks making it ideal to both enjoy the architecture and relax. But something more characteristic that majority of people might not know about the city (myself included until I started to do some research in internet) is its unique urban planning. Perfect tree lined avenues interconnected by many roundabout squares. Sounds familiar? Yes, Paris. Here in Szczecin, Georges-Eugène Haussmann designed a similar urban plan after his masterpiece in Paris.

With regards to food subject; once again and the same as for all my blog entries for any city in Poland, this is one of the best countries for really good and fresh food at a great value for money. I cannot deny at this point that food plays a 25% in my decision to come back anywhere in Poland, and if that is during Christmas time when the markets are on, then becomes major reason. The usual here, dumplings pierogi, borsch soup, bigos, the many sausages and lots of cheeses to name a few. Yet although there are plenty of restaurants, watch out for their prices; anywhere around the “old new town” can easily be as much as double if not more than nearby streets for absolutely the same, and it does not even have to mean better quality either. Not because a place looks fancy is always a good choice, majority of times this will end up in being the most expensive choice, and probably the worst value for money and smaller portions.

For more information about Szczecin check the Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Poland’s currency is the Zloty (PLN). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.

What to see and do in Szczecin

  • Old Town Nowadays commonly known as New Old Town, nickname that comes because it just only started to be rebuilt from 1990 and still ongoing. It was almost entirely destroyed during WWII. Unfortunately it is very small so only few minutes is all that takes you to visit.
  • Pomeranian Dukes Castle Housing a museum and exhibitions, is a great architectural work and good example of reconstruction following the original structure after WWII. A nice cafe by the courtyard and for a small fee you can get to the top of the main tower that offers nice views over the city.
  • St. Jacob’s Cathedral Originally built in the 14th century, was destroyed in 1677 during the Scanian War. Rebuilt in baroque style suffered much damage during WWII where the spire collapsed. Restoration was finished in 1974.
  • Wały Chrobrego Is the main promenade along the River Oder and port. Three of the major landmark buildings in the city, the National Museum, Dukes Castle and Cathedral together with the Wały Chrobrego and river can be seen from the road bridge that access the old city, and is probably the most known silhouette of Szczecin. Designed and built between 1902 and 1921 when the city was part of the German Empire, it meant the disappearance of the 18th century fortifications that stood in this place.

-National Museum Designed by Wilhelm Meyer-Schwartau, is a landmark construction from the German era.

-Regional Office Adjacent to the National Museum, this beautiful building completes the apple of impressive buildings by the promenade.

  • Harbor Gate Is the solely survival remain of the former Prussian city fortifications.
  • Parisienne Sub-Urb Since the urban design of the city followed the Haussmann masterplan (the same who designed the urban plan for Paris), this area of the city has nice and elegant avenues and roundabout squares with many classical and art-nouveau constructions. It is best appreciated around Plac Grunwaldzki, Jagiellońska and Wielkopolska streets.
  • Bismark Tower Built in 1922 when the city was part of the German Empire.

Transports

Szczecin-Goleniów airport is quite far from the city center, at 50 kilometers distance. Getting to/from the airport on the most affordable way is by bus. For those flying with polish carrier LOT, there is a special LOT bus shuttle at no extra cost but a valid LOT ticket must be presented to the driver in order to use these buses.

A faster way is by train. This is a pretty new connection available since 2013, but the frequencies are much limited and the timetable is not scheduled according to arrivals/departures.

The nearest major airport (and city) is Berlin. It takes no longer than 2 hours between  Szczecin and Berlin and this option will allow you to get a much wider choice of flights everywhere.

Within Poland you can reach the city by train or bus from everywhere as it is one of the largest and most important cities in the country, but you might need to change along the way.

As for when visiting the city, there is no need of any public transportation since majority of the sights are within walking distance from each others. Furthermore, the city implemented a tourist circuit marked by red lines and spots along the way through all the historic buildings and sites, that start and ends at the train station. In any case should you need to move a bit farther, there is a good network of buses and trams with a ticket system based on time. This is, the cheapest ticket for a single ride, while if you need to interchange, you can do so free but withing the validity of the ticket that goes from 15 minutes costing 2 zł, to 1 hour for 4 zł. A day ticket valid for 25 hours is 12 zł.

Accommodation

There is a great choice of hotels in the city from all ranges and all star ratings, but, as anywhere in the world, high and low season fares are really despair. Being this the last weekend in June and therefore high season, the cost per night was really expensive so we figured out a different strategy on where we stayed, without lowering any quality nor expectations. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.

We stayed at the 4* Noclegi Agape, in ul. Deszczowa 4, Prawobrzeze. Not in the city centre nor too near it, but since we rented a car we booked this place on purpose as everywhere else in the city, if including breakfast as we wanted, was setting the cost really high above our budget. It was a really good choice. Free parking, quiet, clean and modern, and very nice in all senses. Friendly owner, large rooms with all amenities, and a nice breakfast delivered to the room that we enjoyed for the two days we were there. After all, driving from the hotel to the city was just matter of few minutes, so why to over pay?.

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