Kraków, Warsaw and Gdańsk are the 'big three' of Polish tourism; many travellers never visit any other city in Poland. In the west, however, Poznań beckons with plentiful museums, interesting architecture, and diverse options for dining and nightlife.
In addition, the city is steeped in Poland’s deepest history, having been the nation’s first capital. Here’s how to spend a day there.
Most Polish restaurants don’t open for breakfast, but it’d be a pity to take the first meal of the day at an international fast-food chain. Instead, head for Drukarnia, a cool new breed of eatery with a sleek industrial interior and a breakfast menu. There’s a traditional English breakfast available but, for something less ordinary, order the smoked mackerel.
Hunger sated, head for the city’s Stary Rynek (Old Market Square), the lively heart of its beautiful Old Town. In pride of place is the graceful 16th-century Town Hall, a gleaming white structure reminiscent of a wedding cake.
Inside the Town Hall, the Historical Museum of Poznań is worth a visit, its attractively decorated rooms housing exhibits explaining the city’s complex past. At noon, join the throng of onlookers outside the building to watch two mechanical goats butt horns above the clock, echoing an old legend.
There are several other museums – covering diverse topics – in and around the square, including the Museum of Musical Instruments, the Archaeological Museum and the Wielkopolska Military Museum. The newest institution is the Croissant Museum, devoted to the St Martin’s croissants associated with Poznań.
If you're interested in architecture, stroll west along the length of ul Św Marcin, grabbing a coffee at hip cafe Stragan on the way.
You’ll pass communist-era modernist buildings before arriving at the grand German-era Kaiserhaus, which is now home to the culture hub Centrum Kultury Zamek. Nearby in Plac Mickiewicza is the Monument to the Victims of June 1956, a stark reminder of a protest crushed under communist rule.
Grab lunch in the Old Town, perhaps some Jewish-Polish cuisine at Ludwiku do Rondla or Spanish fare at Tapas Bar. If you’re watching your budget, you can enjoy traditional Polish dishes at absurdly cheap prices at the cafeteria-style milk bar Apetyt.
Then hop on a number 8 tram heading east across the Warta River, to visit the Porta Posnania Interactive Heritage Centre opposite Ostrów Tumski (Cathedral Island). This cutting-edge museum plunges you deep into Poland’s past, explaining Poznań’s earliest days as a fortified settlement.
After that, cross the footbridge to the island, to enter Poznań Cathedral. Dating to the 10th century, it’s been rebuilt several times following war and disaster, and is a symbol of Polish faith and endurance. The interior is packed with reminders of the past, including ancient tombstones.
For dinner, a great choice is Papierówka. This casual restaurant facing a park south of the Old Town serves up a limited number of items each day, generally Polish classics with a contemporary twist. For something fancier, try the French or Italian dishes of Restauracja Delicja.
Poznań has plenty of students along with visiting business people and so its entertainment options cover a wide range of budgets and styles. Live music can range from the raucous live rock of Alligator on the main square, to the smooth tunes of jazz musicians at the Blue Note Jazz Club.
The nightclub scene is similarly varied. The Van Diesel Music Club has DJs offering varied sounds in a premises on the Stary Rynek, while Czekolada is a more upmarket venue serving cocktails beneath chandeliers.
For a drink to finish the evening, sample Poland’s thriving craft beer scene at Chmielnik, or surround yourself with communist nostalgia within the tongue-in-cheek socialist interior of Proletaryat. If beer’s not your thing, La Rambla is a small but atmospheric bar serving dozens of Spanish wines.
Where to sleep
When it’s time for bed, Poznań’s accommodation covers all bases. Two centrally-located budget options near the city’s nightlife are Frolic Goats Hostel and Tey Hostel. For a midrange room in the middle of the action, choose the combined craft brewery and hotel Brovaria on the main square; for a quieter neighbourhood, stay at the elegant Hotel Stare Miasto.
Upmarket accommodation couldn’t be more varied than these two choices: the refined Hotel Royal with its discreet old-world charm; or the wild décor of Blow Up Hall 5050, a hotel with gleaming angular fittings that offers 21st -century style through and through.