Tossed for centuries back and forth between the Poles, Germans and Czechs, Poland’s southwestern province of Silesia is a fascinating blend of cultures, languages and architectural styles. Its main city, Wrocław, is the focus of Poland’s new economic dynamism. Vibrant Poznań to the north, the heart of the original Polish nation, is one of the country’s oldest cities and a key commercial link to Western Europe.
Top image: Main square, Poznan © sashk0/Shutterstock
Thanks to its position on the Berlin–Warsaw rail line, POZNAŃ is many visitors’ first taste of Poland. It’s a city of great diversity, encompassing tranquil medieval quarters, a fine main square, dynamic business districts and an arty-bohemian subculture.
The sixteenth-century town hall that dominates the Old Town Square (Stary Rynek) has a striking eastern facade, which frames a frieze of notable Polish monarchs. Inside is the Poznań Historical Museum (mid-June to mid-Sept: Tues–Thurs 11am–5pm, Fri noon–9pm, Sat & Sun 11am–6pm; mid-Sept to mid-June: Tues–Thurs 9am–3pm, Fri noon–9pm, Sat & Sun 11am–6pm; 7zł, Sat free), worth visiting for the Renaissance Great Hall on the first floor. East of the Old Town Square, a bridge crosses to the quiet holy island of Ostrów Tumski, dominated by Poland’s oldest cathedral, the Cathedral of St John the Bapist. Most of the structure was reconstructed after the war, and Poland’s first two monarchs are buried in the crypt. Anyone with even a passing interest in architecture should also take a look at the wonderfully renovated Stary Browar southwest of the centre at Półwiejska 32 (Mon–Sat 9am–9pm, Sun 10am–8pm; starybrowar5050.com), a nineteenth-century brewery impressively transformed into cultural centre and shopping mall.
The city’s trade fairs, which take place throughout the year (July & Aug excepted), can cause hotel prices to double, so always book ahead.