Szczecin (or Stettin, in German) is a city with a kaleidoscopic past. Its ever-changing history is at least to some extent due to the fact that this Polish destination is situated within walking distance of the Polish-German border (you’ll likely need a good pair of shoes to walk the 9 miles/15 kilometers, though). It should perhaps come as no surprise that the city has belonged to Germany during parts of its 1,300 years in existence. Szczecin was established in the 8th century (even though traces of human presence have been found from around 4,200 B.C.).
But others, too, have ruled over this Polish city, including Sweden, Denmark and Brandenburg-Prussia. Szczecin has also been a part of the Holy Roman Empire, and for a while was an independent Duchy. The city has also been a part of the Hanseatic League.
With 405,000 inhabitants, Szczecin is nowadays Poland’s seventh largest city, positioned on both sides of the Oder River – and on several islands between the western and eastern branches of the watercourse. Szczecin is known for its many buildings in Art Nouveau architecture, which have remained throughout the 20th century.
The water from the Oder, which is Poland’s second-largest river, eventually empties in the Baltic Sea, some 44 miles/70 kilometres north of Szczecin. Prior to reaching the Baltic, it has first contributed to the water in the Szczecin Lagoon. Any ship with destination Szczecin has to cross the lagoon. It is considered an ideal place for sailing enthusiasts, surrounded by unspoilt nature. Nature is also present in Szczecin itself, in the form of an abundance of parks and tree-lined avenues.
The city is regarded as the capital of the region of Western Pomerania. You will find no fewer than three shipyards in Szczecin, one of which is the biggest yard in Poland: Stocznia Szczecinska. Other important industries include fishing, steel mills, and IT-companies.
Situated north of Szczecin, on the Baltic coast, Swinoujscie is sometimes an alternative for cruise ships visiting the region. Half the size of Szczecin, Swinoujscie is still a respectable city with close to 200,000 inhabitants. Established in the 12th century, the city features Poland’s widest beach and the country’s tallest lighthouse.
Cruise ships berth in the heart of the city. Tourist information and taxis are available quayside.
- Visitors following the red arrows of the Red Tourist Route will be guided around the central attractions in Szczecin. The route takes visitors past 42 of the city’s most well-known landmarks along a 4.5 mile/7 kilometer loop, indicated by a red dotted line painted on the street pavement. It starts and ends in front of the Szczecin Central Railway Station.
- Established already at the beginning of the 12th century and once the center of power in the region, the Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle is nowadays considered one of the main centers of cultural life in Western Pomerania. Cultural exhibitions and concerts are frequent here, often featuring international artists. The Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle is included on the Red Tourist Route, and is also the starting point of a separate route called The Golden Route.
- If your preferred way to experience a city includes a bike, the Bicycle Szczecin Association might be something to look closer at.
- With mediaeval as well as modern works of art on display, the National Museum Szczecin is located in an 18th century Baroque Palace. A separate branch of the National Museum is the Naval Museum, or Muzeum Morskie, where everything shipping related can be experienced – from ship models to real, retired ships.
- The MARE ARTICUM Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the pursuit of European integration through the promotion of international activities and exchanges in the field of Contemporary Visual Art. The Foundation produces thematic exhibitions, conferences, seminars, educational programs and publications.
- The Cathedral Basilica of St. James the Apostle (included on the Red Tourist Route) was founded in 1187. It has been rebuilt several times since then – not least following the Second World War, when the cathedral was seriously damaged. The church bell was cast in 1682.
- Located close to the Oder River, the Waly Chrobrego Embankment is considered one of the most beautiful spots in Szczecin. It is also a great viewing point and a good place for snapping photos.
- Szczecin is an excellent destination for anyone looking for various forms of active leisure activities. 41.8 percent of the city’s total area of 116 square miles/300.8 square kilometers is classified as green areas, whereas 23.8 percent is covered by water. Walking, jogging, Nordic walking, cycling and golf are but some of the possibilities. There’s even an 8 mile/13-kilometer long kayak route for those visitors interested in experiencing the city from the water.
A range of shore excursions can be available in and around Szczecin. Examples include:
- Tours of the city, by coach or private car, can take in many of the highlights mentioned above. Some tours will focus on Szczecin’s illustrious history, including the Second World War and the more recent Communist past.
- The Wolin National Park can be the destination on some shore excursions.
- Excursions to Berlin can also be on offer. Szczecin is the closest seaport to the German capital.
The distance to Warsaw, the Polish capital, is some 351 miles/565 kilometers. Berlin, the German capital is closer: only 90 miles/145 kilometers away.
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