I first discovered the city of Poznan when I was in the eighth grade. I was given an assignment in my geography class and had to write about a city. I’d always been fascinated by Poland, so I looked at a map of the country and chose Poznan from there. I’m not sure why, maybe I just liked the sound of the name. I enjoyed working on the paper and promised myself to eventually visit the city. This September, I finally got the chance, as I was heading to Poland for the first time.
Poznan, which is the 5th largest city in Poland, is not your typical tourist city and most people that I met in Poland gave me a weird look when I told them where I was going and told me to drop it and go to Wroclaw instead. I want to go to Wroclaw someday, but I decided that it was finally time for me to visit the city that I had become so fond of six years earlier. And I was really glad that I did! Because not only was Poznan an interesting place to visit, the city also blew me away by its unappreciated beauty. And now I will share with you my 11 favourite things about Poznan – and these are 11 great reasons as to why one should not even consider skipping Poznan when travelling in Poland.
1. Poznan is where Poland began
Poznan is one of the oldest cities in Poland and once served as the capital during the 13th century. During the 10th and 11th century, Poznan was an important center in the early Polish state and the first rulers of Poland are in fact buried in the Basilica of St.Peter and St.Paul, the first cathedral in Poland, which is open to visitors. The history is definitely a great reason to visit Poznan and monuments, churches and old buildings help keep the memories of former greatness alive.
2. Beautiful architecture
The old town with the old market square of Stary Rynek and the town hall is the natural centre of the city. This place cannot possibly disappoint. This is where both locals and the few tourists that are there go to hang out, enjoy a coffee at a cozy street café and admire the stunning architecture of the renaissance town hall, which was completely destroyed during the Second World War, but later rebuilt in its former glory. This was where I fell in love with Poznan. This was where I realized that the choice I had made was indeed the right one.
3. Limited tourism
While I believe that Poznan deserves so much better, there are hardly any tourists to be found, even in the city centre. There are no travel companies forcing expensive trips down your throat here. I’ve never been one for large crowds, so coming to Poznan was a pleasant surprise and a much needed break from the rush in the larger cities. I hope that Poznan does get more recognized for its charm than it is today, but at the same time, I don’t want it to change. Do yourself a favor and visit Poznan now, before the city is discovered and becomes yet another tourist magnet. You’ll be the only one for miles around to have ever set foot there.
4. Relaxed atmosphere
In Poznan, you won’t see anyone rushing about. Despite being a big city, the atmosphere here is so much more relaxed than in any other Polish city that I’ve visited. I don’t know if its due to the lack of tourism, but the locals are far more friendly and curious about visitors there and they never seem to be in a hurry to get away when you ask for directions like in the larger cities. Everything is just a bit slower in Poznan and that was really something that I appreciated while being there.
5. Cheap, cheap, cheap!
Everything in Poznan seems to be cheaper than the other large Polish cities. Food is generally very affordable in Poland, but in Poznan it was almost sad. And I didn’t find any attractions where you had to pay for entrance. It’s great place to go when on a very tight budget, that’s for sure!
6. Clean, clean clean!
In Warsaw, I was appalled by the state of the main train station and in Krakow, the streets in the outskirts were covered in rubbish, but that is not something that you’ll find in Poznan. Everywhere I went, I saw clean streets and there were rubbish bins around every corner. It was like being back in Singapore.
7. Free toilets!
It’s a mystery to me why anyone anywhere would ever have to pay to use a toilet. I mean, isn’t it a human right!? Everywhere in Poland, you’ll see women sitting by the public toilets, collecting money before letting anyone in to the extremely dirty toilets. It’s not that I can’t afford a toilet visit now and then and I don’t mind paying if the toilet is actually clean, but it just doesn’t make sense to me. But thankfully, in Poznan, where everything is already so clean and tidy, the toilets are spotless and are even free of charge! At least, the ones I used.
8. No beggars on the streets
After exploring Gdansk, Warsaw and Krakow, it was weird for me to go to Poznan and not see any beggars on the streets – anywhere. Beggars on the streets and even public harassments for money are a very common sights in Poland, but something tells me that Poznan has its economy sorted. It was a refreshing change and something that Poznan can be very proud of.
9. Beautiful green areas
There are plenty of nature areas in and around Poland, which are definitely worth a visit after a day of sightseeing. And just like the city, these areas are all kept nice and tidy as well! What is better than sitting on a bench listening to the birds singing and looking out onto a beautiful park?
10. Stunning churches
Experience a bit of the local culture and daily life in one of the many churches in Poznan that are all open and free of charge to visit. Every church in Poznan is an architectural masterpiece and they each have a fascinating story to tell.
11. Incredible city views
Last, but not least, you must not miss the amazing city views that you can get from some special spots in Poznan. My favourite spot was found while walking from the train station to the old town, where the St. Francis of Assissi Church suddenly appeared out of nowhere at the end of a busy street. The church can be found at ul. Garbary 22 and is my number one must-see in Poznan!
So these are my 11 reasons to visit Poznan. Do you agree with me? When you decide to go to Poland, visit Warsaw and explore Krakow, but don’t forget about Poznan. It’s a perfect little gem hidden from the tourist masses – so see it before everyone else discovers it!