Szczecin has a rich history as one of the most important cities of old Pomerania. Szczecin impresses visitors with wide parks, great Wilhelminian architecture, a beautiful harbour promenade with one of the best terraces in Europe, interesting museums, cool pubs and delicious food. Szczecin offers you a wonderful short trip to get to know the culture of Poland. Here you can learn all about the city’s eventful past, get to know the most beautiful Szczecin sights and find out what you absolutely have to see and try.
This is Szczecin
Szczecin is the most northwestern major city in Poland and is located at the mouth of the Oder River into the Szczecin Lagoon. It is just 10 km from the center to the German border and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The city experienced a real boom after the Second World War and today has 400,000 inhabitants, which makes it the seventh largest city in the country (behind Gdańsk and ahead of Bydgoszcz). The city is best known for the spectacular Philharmonic Hall, the Castle of the Pomeranian Dukes and the Wały Chrobrego. Economically, the port is of particular importance, and there are three universities in Szczecin. Incidentally, the inhabitants of the city are jokingly called paprykarzy after a dish of herring, rice, tomatoes and onions, which is often available in canned food.
The History of Szczecin
Szczecin’s roots date back to the early Middle Ages, when Slavic tribes settled here. In the 13th century, several local communities were united under the Pomeranian Duke Barnim I. and were granted city rights; the actual city was born. Due to its favorable location at the northern end of the Odra River, Szczecin quickly developed into an important trade center and joined the Hanseatic League as early as 1278. Otto I of the House of the Griffins, the Pomeranian dukes, made the city his residence in 1309.
Szczecin was under Swedish rule for 80 years
In the 16th century, the Reformation was introduced in Szczecin, as in the whole of Pomerania. At that time, the already existing castle was also rebuilt into a Renaissance-style complex, which after the destruction of the Second World War today shines again in its former glory. In 1630 the city was then taken by Swedish troops. It was to remain under Swedish control for over 80 years before falling to Prussia under Frederick William I. Under the ruler known as the Soldier King, Szczecin was then developed into a modern fortress city, which can still be seen in parts of the cityscape today.
In 1815, Szczecin then underwent a significant upgrade, as it was declared the capital of the province of Pomerania within Prussia and thus the administrative seat of an area that reached as far west as just before Rostock and as far east as just before Gdańsk, as well as encompassing large parts of the Baltic hinterland. The following decades were characterized by industrialization, with the port in particular playing an increasingly important role. Due to its location not far from the Baltic Sea, the city was an easy target for air raids during World War II and over 90 percent of the old town was destroyed.
After World War II, it was initially unclear what would happen to Szczecin. After all, the city’s territory extended on both sides of the Odra River, which was to form the border between the newly founded GDR and the People’s Republic of Poland. Initially, therefore, the city west of the Odra was still administered by German communists after the war, before it was handed over to Poland and the German population was expelled.
The years 1970 and 1980 showed how critical the newly settled Polish residents were towards the communist rulers, when there were riots and strikes that were very important for the emergence of Solidarność and thus for the later downfall of communism in Poland. Szczecin has been the capital of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship since 1999. Despite the general decline of shipyards, the city’s economic prospects look very good and its proximity to the Baltic Sea and the German border make Szczecin attractive for investors.
These are the most beautiful Szczecin sights
Szczecin can therefore look back on a rather eventful German-Polish past. And you can still feel it today in many places in the city centre and on the outskirts of the city. So it’s high time we took a closer look at the most beautiful sights in Szczecin!
Castle of the Dukes of Pomerania
When one thinks of Szczecin in Poland, the first thing that comes to mind for many is the Castle of the Pomeranian Dukes, also known as the Griffin Castle. No wonder, it is one of the most magnificent Renaissance castles in the country! The castle is not the first of its kind in the city, because already in the 14th century the representative seat of the Griffin dukes stood here. Due to disputes with the local residents, the construction of the castle dragged on for a long time, and then under the Italian Renaissance specialist Antonio Wilhelmi it was given more or less its present form. In Prussian times, the future King Frederick William IV lived here for a time.
Today, the castle, which was extensively rebuilt after the Second World War, is home to various institutions, such as a registry office and a theatre. It is also home to the excellent Na Kuncu Korytarza restaurant (see restaurant tips). You can easily visit the inner courtyard. Be sure to take a look at the strange 17th-century tower clock. Here you can see a bizarre mask that turns its eyes in the direction of the hand and shows the exact date. Also, don’t miss a climb up the bell tower for a great view of the city! All this makes the Griffin Castle the most historically significant of all Szczecin sights.
Via ulica Grodzka you can walk from the castle directly to St James’ Cathedral. It is dedicated to St. James and is the most important church in the city. Together with the Cammin Cathedral in Kamień Pomorski, the church is the seat of the Archbishop of Szczecin-Cammin and was built in the Gothic style from the 13th century onwards. Also due to the Reformation, only a few of the church’s former 52(!) altars remain, but they are well worth seeing.
The building with its unusually long choir has a great lighting atmosphere and appears bright and open. An interesting detail for music fans: the first performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy took place here in 1735. Two lifts take you comfortably to a viewing platform from where you have a great view of the city! However, the view is less suitable for photos, as everything is glazed and the windows are unfortunately not always clean.
White Eagle Square/Horse Market
Immediately north of the cathedral is a small square dominated by the so-called Globus Palace. The neo-baroque magnificent building was erected in 1890 for the “Allgemeine Versicherungs-Aktiengesellschaft National” and today serves as the seat of the Szczecin Academy of Arts. In front of the building stands the magnificent White Eagle Fountain, which gave the square its name. It was created by Berlin architect Johann Friedrich Grael in the 18th century and was the first part of the city’s modern water supply system. After the Second World War, many German fountains and statues were destroyed. However, the fountain-eagle was fortunate that the bald eagle also adorns the Polish national coat of arms, so it is still allowed to spread its wings today.
The dispute as to which of the many historic Szczecin sights is the most magnificent must be settled between the Wały Chrobrego and the castle. But the long, 500-metre-long complex certainly has good arguments. But anyone who thought that the place that in German is called Hakenterrasse is called that because it has a hook will be disappointed. It was named after the former German mayor Hermann Haken. The street is home to some of the most magnificent buildings from around 1900.
As you can see in the picture, it is in fact a terrace that sits above an artificial grotto. On either side of the magnificent staircase is a stylised lighthouse pavilion. The huge building on the right is the Voivodeship Office and thus the most important administrative building in West Pomerania. On the left, on the other hand, you can see the impressive building of the National Museum, to which the staircase leads directly. Right next to it is the Maritime Academy, which you can see in the photo above. It offers a variety of courses on seafaring, freighters and electrical engineering. From the terrace, you have a great view across the Odra to the city’s modern port.
Speaking of the harbour! The entire promenade along the Odra river is a sight in itself. You can walk along the promenade for several kilometres on either side of the Odra. Ships are anchored at several places. These are not only inland waterway vessels that sail on the Odra and the local canals. There are also ocean-going vessels to be seen here. A special highlight every year is the “Żagle” sailing festival, to which many ships come from all over.
On the eastern side of the harbour, opposite the old town, you will also find the two islands of Łasztownia and Grodzka. Grodzka has a marina where you can hire motorboats without a licence. The beach club next to it hosts many concerts and parties. But you can also chill out on a beach lounger in the sand and drink cocktails.
Maritime Science Centre and Cranosaurs
In Łasztownia you’ll find the super cool Maritime Science Centre. There are interesting exhibitions on all aspects of marine science. The interactive museum is a real highlight, especially for children, as you can touch and try things out everywhere. In the evening, the building is often beautifully illuminated. This looks especially good with the cranosaurs, three decommissioned and painted cargo cranes.
Wheel of Szczecin
In summer, you’ll also find the Wheel of Szczecin Summer Festival in Łasztownia. The Wheel of Szczecin offers a great view of the harbour and is always better than the glass tower of the cathedral. However, the Ferris wheel in Szczecin also costs 40 zloty, almost 10 euros. But you can take better photos from here, the windows are quite clean and if you like, you can hold your camera out without the glass on top.
The National Museum was founded shortly before the outbreak of World War I as the Szczecin City Museum and has been in operation ever since. But those who expect a mere narration of the city’s history here are mistaken. Rather, there is almost nothing in the National Museum that does not exist: medieval Pomeranian art, 16th- and 17th-century paintings, copies of ancient bronze sculptures, and a huge ethnological collection that even includes entire replica African villages! It’s also home to the Modern Theater, where you can see many Polish plays. However, these special performance spaces are eclipsed by another venue, the Modern Philharmonic Hall, located just a stone’s throw from the museum.
Inaugurated in 2014, the building designed by architects Alberto Veiga and Fabrizio Barozzi was even awarded the Mies van der Rohe Prize in 2014, the most important European architecture award. If there is no performance, you can visit the impressive foyer with its curved staircase and have a snack in the museum café. The performances are really worthwhile and are also very inexpensive. You can also find tickets in German on the Philharmonic’s website. There are also guided tours in English once a month on a Friday.
Dialogue Centre “Upheavals”
What might be behind the strange name Umbrüche? During our visit to Szczecin, we didn’t know exactly what to expect either. A spectacular entrance next to the Philharmonic Hall leads into the underground, where a dark, fascinating and varied exhibition is on display that focuses on life after the upheaval that the end of the Second World War marked for Szczecin. Special emphasis is placed on Szczecin’s importance in the context of the workers’ unrest and the emergence of the Solidaność movement. A cool feature of the National Museum’s subsection is that you can make a 3D visit here if the exhibition is currently closed. Just click on the play button and then on “Wejdź do środka”. By the way, the small bistro in the foyer of the centre offers sandwiches with paprykarz – the delicacy from Szczecin (more on that later).
Monument to the insurgents
Above the museum is the Solidaność Square (plac Solidarności). Here stands an impressive bronze angel, weighing almost 10 tons, holding a stylized inscription with the word “December” (Polish: grudzień), which with a little imagination can also be interpreted for a crown of thorns, a symbol of the historical suffering of Poles. The angel commemorates the workers’ strike, which claimed numerous victims and was bloodily put down by the communist rulers. The monument was inaugurated in 2005, just in time for the 25th anniversary of the August Agreements. These were several treaties concluded between the communists and opposition leaders. The Szczecin Agreement was the first of them, and thus the first in the entire Eastern Bloc at that time, in which an opposition movement was recognized by the state power.
Today’s Rynek Sienny (Hay Market) is a good example of how historical buildings were treated in Poland after the Second World War and why Polish restorers enjoy an excellent reputation worldwide. Just like large parts of the rest of the Old Town, the Haymarket was almost completely destroyed by bombing. Here, more than anywhere else, you can feel what life must have been like in the city before the war. In summer, the Haymarket is also a popular meeting place, because in almost every house on the square is a café or restaurant. A special eye-catcher is the Old Town Hall (also rebuilt). The impressive brick building houses, among other things, the brewery restaurant Wyszak in its beautiful vault (see below).
The Kamienica Loitzów is a listed late Gothic building and was built in the 1540s. The building is closely associated with the Loitz merchant family. The collapse of the family’s empire after the Polish rulers failed to repay loans granted to them, the family fled to Krakow. This had long-lasting effects on the economy of Szczecin. Badly damaged in the Second World War, it now houses the city’s art academy. Particularly remarkable about the Kamienica Loitzów is the relief depicting the conversion of Saul.
The Port Gate (Polish: Brama Portowa) is special in several respects. Namely, on the one hand, it is the old city gate that marked the entrance to the Szczecin fortress. On the other hand, somehow it seems to be the only place in the area that has not moved with the times, because around the gate roars traffic and there are numerous modern post-war buildings.
The magnificent baroque facade is intended to remind us that Szczecin, like other parts of Western Pomerania, was acquired by Prussia in 1720. Especially with the buildings in the surrounding area, this makes for an interesting contrast. Today, the gate houses a small theater. There is a second historic city gate in Szczecin, the King’s Gate, located further north, also on a crossroads.
Main post office
Post office buildings are not usually among the places we introduce to you in our blog. But here we are happy to make an exception, because the huge brick building not far from the main station is one of the most beautiful post offices in the country. Externally, it resembles a kind of castle, inside the building presents itself in the style of the Neo-Renaissance filigree, especially the light-flooded hall with its glass roof is a real eye-catcher. If you have come by train, you can not only change money here at better conditions than at the main station, but also buy some of the beautiful Polish stamps as souvenirs.
Hardly any of the sights in Szczecin impressed us as much as the so-called Underground City Trails. To find them, you first have to search a bit, because the entrance is not in a building, but directly on platform 1 of the main station. From here you can embark on an exciting journey of discovery into the Szczecin Underground. The underground facility is the largest civilian air raid shelter in Szczecin. It was built by the Nazis and was one of the reasons why comparatively few residents lost their lives in bombing raids during the Second World War, as it could hold thousands of people.
Here you can also learn about the exciting history of the facility in English. After the war, it continued to be used as an air-raid shelter, which is why information is also provided here about the Cold War, the period of socialism in Poland and everyday life at the time. The varied visit is rounded off by art installations that correspond well with the premises.
Jasne Błonia is an impressive square in the heart of Szczecin, located directly behind the city administration building. With its extensive green spaces and old trees, it is a popular place for locals and tourists to relax and marvel at the fountains and flowerbeds. But the highlight of the park is undoubtedly the Monument to the Deed of the Poles. This monumental memorial was unveiled in 1979 to mark the 40th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland. The sculpture, consisting of three soaring eagles, symbolises the tireless spirit and sacrifice of the Polish people. The eagles stand for the Poles who shaped Poland, for those who shape it now and for those who will shape it in the future.
On the spacious square at the entrance to Kasprowicza Park, another monument also commemorates the Polish Pope John Paul II, who appeared here twice.
There are also some really beautiful Szczecin sights outside the city centre. With an area of almost 179 hectares, the Central Cemetery (Cmentarz Centralny) is the third-largest cemetery in Europe today and yet almost unknown! The area was laid out around 1900 and more than 300,000 people have been buried here. From the very beginning, it was planned to use it as a place for strolling, which is why there are a large number of different trees from different regions of the world, there are said to be over 500 different species. Particularly impressive is the Monument to the Brotherhood of Arms, which you can see above. It was unveiled during the communist era and stands in the centre of the military part of the burial ground.
In addition, there are many other exciting places to discover, literally at every corner surprising perspectives open up. You should therefore take more than two hours to explore the fountains, memorials, graves, chapels and tree species, which are conveniently explained on information boards.
Museum of Technology and Communication
In the north of the city, you will find an exciting museum for technology fans in an old streetcar depot. Here you can see, among other things, numerous exhibits from the field of communication (the term is very broad), but especially many cars in excellent condition. The most significant of them come from the Stoewer factory. The company existed in Szczecin between 1858 and 1945 and produced, among other things, numerous luxury cars. The many exhibits you can admire here make up the largest Stoewer collection in the world! The car bodies are the new star in the Stettin exhibition sky, because until 2019 they were on display in Wald-Michelbach in Hesse.
Recommendations for eating and drinking in Szczecin
After all the sightseeing in Szczecin, you’re bound to get hungry. At any time of day or night, ulica Księcia Bogusława X should be a tip. There’s always a restaurant or bar open for you. But we have put together a few tips for you!
- Na Kuncu Korytarza, in the castle of the Pomeranian Dukes. One of the best restaurants in the city is located in the beautiful rooms of the castle. From Thursday to Saturday, you can enjoy not only the finest Polish jazz, but above all delicious Polish cuisine. The speciality of the house is the herring dishes – after all, the people of Szczecin are not called Paprikarzy for nothing, as mentioned at the beginning.
- Nowy Browar, ul. Partyzantów 2. The “New Brewery” is known far beyond the borders of the city and we have already discovered its products in other parts of Poland. Here you can get good Polish home cooking and pizzas, but above all several beers on tap, of which we found the wheat beers especially excellent.
- Wyszak, ul. Księcia Mściwoja II 8. Similarly beautiful to Na Kuncu Korytarza is the Wyszak Brewery, housed in the vaults of the Old Town Hall on Heumarkt. Here you can get various beers (including a tasting set) and multi-award-winning Polish cuisine of a high standard. And if you want to think of your loved ones at home, why not bring them a beer gift set from here?
- Karczma Polska Pod Kogutem, plac Lotników 3. Set up in the style of a Polish farmhouse, there is really great Polish cuisine here. Everything we ate here was excellent. We especially recommend the Lithuanian-style cold borscht, the pierogi and the black pudding. Smacznego!
- Bar Mleczny Turysta, Edmunda Bałuki 6A. What would a visit to Poland be without a meal in a milk bar? A visit to these canteens of the people is always an experience. All of Poland eats here. In Szczecin, we particularly liked the Turysta milk bar. The food was rich and tasty, the prices reasonable. The queue was short for us, but only a little later it was much longer.
Guided tours of Szczecin
A guided tour in Szczecin allows you to explore some of the city’s hidden treasures, learn more about life in the city and in Poland, and hear the stories behind the historic buildings. A food tour will also introduce you to the authentic flavours of Polish cuisine. Here is a small selection of tours you can book through our partner GetYourGuide.
- Szczecin: Old Town Highlights – Private Tour* Fall in love with the history and culture of Szczecin’s Old Town on this private guided tour. You’ll visit highlights such as St Wojciech’s Church, the Cathedral, the Philharmonic Hall and the Hook Terrace. The tour offers you the opportunity to experience the city’s rich history and impressive architecture up close.
- Szczecin Craft Beer Tour* This craft beer tour in Szczecin is a great way to quickly get to know the best beer pubs in Szczecin. Discover the local beer culture and try different Polish beers in selected pubs and breweries. Experienced guides will tell you interesting facts about beer production and traditions in Poland. The tour also offers the opportunity to try local snacks that go perfectly with the beers.
- Szczecin Underground and Old Town Private City Tour* Dive into the mysterious world of Szczecin’s underground and explore the Old Town on this private guided tour. The tour will take you through the underground bunkers and tunnels built during the Second World War. Your guide will tell you fascinating stories about the history of the city and how these underground structures were used. Afterwards, you will explore the Old Town and learn more about Szczecin’s architecture and culture.
These three tours offer a diverse mix of history, culture and enjoyment that will enrich your stay in Szczecin.
Recommendations for staying in Szczecin
Szczecin has plenty of great hotels and accommodation. To make your search a little easier, we have listed a few recommendations here.
- Radisson Blu Szczecin* The Radisson Blu Szczecin is a modern hotel with elegant rooms and suites, restaurants, a spa and free breakfast. It is located in the heart of the city, close to all major attractions. The Radisson probably has the most comfortable beds in the city. The hotel is not cheap but you get what you pay for.
- Moxy Szczecin City* The Moxy Szczecin City is a relaxed hotel with stylish rooms, a hip bar and good free Wi-Fi. It is located right next to the Brama Portowa, close to bars, restaurants and shops. The hotel is super modern, but always offers reasonable prices. The staff are friendly and the hotel has a lively atmosphere. Great breakfast!
- Kamienica 1899* The small, cosy Aparthotel Kamienica 1899 is located directly in the fin de district around plac Grundwaldski. The rooms are modern, offer all comforts, but exude the charm of the fin de siècle. There is no breakfast, but there are excellent restaurants in the area and in the evening you can also get to all the cool bars in less than ten minutes on foot. We had a great stay here.
- Studencki Dom Marynarza Pasat* The Marynarza Pazat student house offers simple rooms for a small fee. The rooms are clean and well-maintained, and there is a private bathroom. There is no breakfast, but there are many restaurants nearby.
Save money with the Szczecin Tourist Card
Last but not least, we would like to give you a tip on how you can explore the many beautiful sights of Szczecin comfortably and cheaply. Simply buy the Szczecin Tourist Card. It is available for either 24 or 72 hours and costs only 20 or 30 złoty, i.e. less than four or six euros. With it, you can use public transport for free, get a 50% discount in all museums and discounts in numerous other attractions, hotels and restaurants. For the low price, this is definitely an unbeatable offer!
The best place to buy it is at the tourist information office in Szczecin. You can also buy the card in the GoPay app. Unfortunately, the developers didn’t take into account that tourists in particular don’t have a Polish phone number. I couldn’t even register with a German number.
We hope you enjoyed our little trip to West Pomerania to see the Szczecin sights . Feel free to leave a comment and tell us how you like the city.
Szczecin Book Recommendations
There are also several books about the beautiful city of Szczecin and its sights. Here is a selection for you.
- Kissling, Ute (Author)
This article was written thanks to the generous support of the Polish Tourism Office.