Szczecin

Szczecin, (pronounced Shchetsin, German: Stettin, Latin: Stetinum; is maritime port city and the capital of Zachodniopomorskie in Poland. The city has a population of over 400 000 thousand, with almost 800 000 living its metro area, and is one of the seven largest metropoles in the country. It lies in the northwestern corner of Poland, very close to the German border, and it is in fact easier to get to Szczecin from some parts of Germany, notable from Berlin, than it is from much of the Polish territory. For a significant part of its history, actually, Szczecin was a part of Germany, as well as, in other periods, of Denmark and Sweden.

Szczecin is Poland's third-largest port and much of its industrial base used to be a part of an important shipyard, so it may come as a surprise to the casual tourist that the city does not lay on a seaside, but rather over the river Odra (German: Oder), some 20 kilometres south of the Baltic Sea as the crow flies, and many more by road. Many visitors to Poland are also unaware of Szczecin's architectural attractiveness, as the large parts of the city were designed by Baron Haussmann, the same gentleman who designed the boulevards of Paris.

Understand

The place now known as Szczecin was first mentioned in written history in 1st century when West-Roman historian Tacitus located East Germanic tribe of Rugians somewhere in the area; the Rugians left in 5th Century during the Great Migration. Sometime in the 8th century Western Slavic tribe of Pomeranians built their stronghold here. In 10th century the town was mentioned as "one of major in Pomerania" in Abraham ben Jacob's chronicle. In approximately 1080 its area was incorporated into Poland, but within eight years, the town was controlled by the Dukedom of Pomerania, and five years later, Denmark. In 12th century when its competitor, Wolin (also known as Veneta in medieval chronicles) declined Szczecin began to prosper from trade and became one of the major Baltic sea harbours. Its name was first recorded in 1133 as "Stetin".

In 1181 Pomeranian dukes joined Holy Roman Empire. In 1243 Szczecin got city rights before it became member of the Hanseatic League in 1278. Until early 17th century the city was the capital of Pomeranian Dukedom, then in 1630 when local dukes died out it became part of Sweden, then Kingdom of Prussia, then for a brief period, due to Napoleon's conquests, the Empire of France. Beginning in the 18th century, the city constituted as a part of Germany and served as the "port of Berlin". During World War II the city was hit hard by Allied bombers - city centre, Old Town and industrial areas were totally ruined. After the Soviet forces invaded Nazi Germany in 1945, according to Potsdam Conference agreements Poland annexed all lands up to the Oder river, expelling the native German population and ultimately extending the border to include Stettin. Poland thus gained control of the city.

In more recent history, the city was (together with Tricity) one of the birthplaces of Solidarity movement.

An unusual feature of Szczecin is its urban planning - many roundabouts and wide avenues. Stettin was rebuilt in 1880's using designs by Georges-Eugene Haussmann, who also did the urban planning for Paris. His design style is still being used for newly-built (or modified) city areas.

The maritime industry is still strong with a busy port and repair shipyard, as well as being a center of service industries in Poland. Situated near the border between Germany and Poland, Szczecin is sometimes considered one of most liberal Polish cities.

Get in

By plane

Szczecin-Goleniów airport (SZZ) is located almost 50 km from the city centre, near Goleniów.

You can reach the airport by car (the journey may take up to 1 hour, depending on traffic), by taxi (about 120 PLN), or by minibus - LOT operates a minibus to and from the airport for all LOT's flights (free of charge for passengers), leaving from LOT's office (al. Wyzwolenia 17) about 90 minutes before departure, and Interglobus has minibuses for all international flights. In July 2013, a railway service linking the airport's terminal directly with Szczecin's main railway station and with Kołobrzeg was inaugurated.

Due to Szczecin's proximity to Berlin, you may use the latter's airports to get to Szczecin as well. From there, you can reach Szczecin by minibus (numerous Szczecin-based companies, including Atlastransfer - Berlinia.eu and Interglobus , operate regular services to Tegel and Schoenefeld airports at attractive prices), by car or by train in 2–3 hours.

By train

Polish State Railways (PKP) has connections to and from all major Polish cities. There are several trains daily to and from Warsaw - travel time on express or Intercity trains is less than 6 hours, but minor delays are not uncommon. To Poznań, travel time is about 2.5 hours (from PLN 40), with frequent trains running throughout the day. There are also frequent trains to Świnoujście (2 hours).

German Railways has train connections from Berlin, Amsterdam, Prague and many cities in neighboring Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

The cheapest way to get to Berlin is by joining a group of up to 5 people riding on one Berlin-Brandenburg Ticket, which is valid from 9 am to 3 am the following day for travel on all local and regional German trains and on local public transport systems in all cities and towns, including Berlin and Szczecin. The ticket costs 28 euros, so one person can travel for ca. 5 euros. The groups often form spontaneously before departure or on the train itself. There is also the new Berlin-Stettin-Ticket for 10 Euros per person one way.

Berlin-Stettin-Ticket, Brandenburg-Berlin-Ticket, Brandenburg-Berlin-Ticket Nacht, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern-Ticket, and Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket are valid for routes to and from the city of Szczecin and for the entire public transport system in Szczecin.

You even can get from or to the Danish border via Schleswig-Holstein-Ticket, valid in the regional trains of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein until Padborg or Tonder (DK) with a surcharge of €2,50 for the ride from the Polish border to Szczecin.

By car

You can reach Szczecin by car from major Polish cities, including Warsaw, Poznań, Gdańsk, Wrocław, and also from Berlin. Thanks to its location close to the border and direct link with the German motorway system, Szczecin has the best road connection with Western Europe of all Polish cities.

The main route to Szczecin from Berlin is the E28 (German: A11, Polish: A6). The journey takes about 2 hours, depending on traffic. Note that the German A11 motorway is undergoing continuous improvements, resulting in some disturbances in certain sections.

Travelling by car to and from other parts of Poland can be troublesome - the traffic is pretty heavy, the distances are large and there is a general shortage of motorways. It also takes quite some time - for example, the trip to Gdańsk (350 km) usually takes 4–5 hours, and to Warsaw (520 km along national road no. 10) you need at least 6–7 hours, even if you don't follow the speed limits too strictly.

You can also reach Szczecin from Sweden (Ystad) and Denmark (Copenhagen) using the ferry connections to and from Świnoujście. From there, the journey takes about 1.5 hours, although this road gets completely jammed on summer weekends. To avoid traffic jams in high season, follow the yellow "tourist route" ("Trasa turystyczna") signs. These will take you along B-roads, bypassing the most crowded section of national road no.3.

By bus

Many international and domestic connections (see Poland::By bus).

By boat

Szczecin is situated on the banks of the Oder (Polish: Odra) and Regalica (branch of the Oder) rivers and Lake Dąbie, near the Szczecin Lagoon. There is a number of marinas, most of them situated in the northern districts and on the shores of Lake Dabie.

In April 2008, hydrofoil service was re-established between Szczecin and Świnoujście. Bosman-Express hydrofoil runs twice a day from the Wały Chrobrego embankment, reaching Świnoujście in about 75 minutes. Tickets are a bit overpriced at PLN 50/70 (economy/VIP class - but don't expect any luxury), and there are discounts for children and groups. There is a snack-bar on board, beer is served. There is also a small viewing deck. Along the way you can see some quite interesting industrial sights in the northern part of Szczecin.

Despite being a restored Soviet-made Meteor, now equipped with new engines, the hydrofoil is the quickest way to get to Świnoujście - it moors at the left (western) bank of the Świna, so the passengers avoid the need to use the ferry.

Get around

Szczecin is split in two parts (Lewobrzeże and Prawobrzeże) named after their location on banks of Oder (Lewobrzeże = left bank) and Regalica (Prawobrzeże = right bank) rivers. The port is situated in between. City centre and most of attractions are situated in Lewobrzeże.

Façades in new old town

Public transport

Szczecin has extensive public transport network covered by trams and buses. See the maps (dziennej = by day, nocnej = by night, tramwajowej = trams) and schedules . You can also install the timetables on your mobile phone: for J2ME compatible phones and Symbian: MPK Mobile , Microbus , for Android and Windows Phone: Transportoid .

Tickets

Tickets are randomly checked by plain clothed inspectors; fines are severe and can be a major hassle, so it's better for you to buy them. They are available at all newspaper stands and you can buy them from the driver after 18:00. If you happen to have an account in Polish bank you can also use your mobile phone . Rush hours are 7:00-8:00 and 16:00-17:00, night hours are between 23:00 and 5:00. Tickets for express buses are twice expensive. You can change between lines freely as long you stay within time limit (the exception is changing from "normal" bus or tram to express bus). Prices:

There are also tickets valid for 10 days, a month and a quarter.

Remember to stamp your ticket immediately after you board the tram/bus!

Brandenburg-Berlin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Schleswig-Holstein, Schönes Wochenende and Brandenburg-Berlin Nacht tickets issued by Deutsche Bahn are valid for public transport operated by ZDiTM (trams and buses) in Szczecin. Monthly/quarterly tickets issued by ZDiTM are valid for DB trains within the city (Szczecin Główny-Szczecin Gumieńce) .

Lines

Tourist lines

Railway

If for any reason you want to go to or from the city centre (station name: Szczecin Główny) to districts of Dąbie, Gumieńce, Podjuchy, Zdroje, Zdunowo or Załom (or nearby suburban towns of Goleniów, Gryfino or Stargard), the fastest way might be the train. Check times with PKP ; you have to buy separate ticket (6 zł, one way, no matter how many stops), the exception are trains operated by DB (see above).

By foot

City center can be covered by foot (depending on your fitness, etc.). Look for the red line on the pavements - so called "red walk" which connects nearly all the attractions within the centre. This is by far the best way to discover the centre on foot, as all attractions are marked by a number (there are about 40) on the pavement, so you won't miss one. At each of them there is a sign explaining some details about the sight. The red line starts and ends at the train station. When you exit through the main entrance, turn left on the sidewalk and look for it, some of the paint may have already vanished. Close to the start is also a map showing the route and the attractions. You can get a similar map that also includes the red line at the tourist information center.

Museum at new old town

By car

Streets in Szczecin are (compared to other Polish cities) easy to navigate and not congested.

However: parking within the centre during business hours (8:00 - 17:00, from Monday to Friday - after 17:00 and on weekends it is free) is paid; the pay depends on the zone and parking time. You can buy tickets from vending machines. Most of malls have free parking, and no one will check if you visited the mall or just used free parking opportunity.

DUI is serious criminal offense (up to 3 years in prison) and the police have no mercy for drunk drivers - many of "zero tolerance for drunk drivers" programs ongoing in Poland have started in Szczecin.

Because of major renovation works in the city centre and Niebuszewo district held this year expect detours and/or traffic jams, especially during rush hours. If you stay in the city consider leaving your car on parking and using public transport.

By bicycle

There is network of bicycle paths connecting the city center with the suburbs. You can take your bike on public transport for free (outside rush hours). If you want to see Szczecin from the bicycle but don't have one you can rent it:

If you happen to be present in Szczecin on any last Friday of the month, feel free to join the Critical Mass - the start point is Plac Lotników square, 6:00 pm.

Taxi

Some of taxi companies operating in the city:

See

Castle
Harbour Gate (Brama Portowa)

Do

Events

Learn

Work

English teachers and IT developers/engineers are in high demand.

Buy

Szczecin has many shopping malls:

Eat

Fast Food

You will easily find global favorites like hamburgers, hot dogs, kebabs, pizza etc., but for unique Szczecin twist on fast food try paszteciki (plural, singular is pasztecik) - which are kind of deep fried cake with meat or cheese and mushrooms filling. They taste best hot and combined with a cup of barszcz czerwony (red beetroot soup).

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

The majority of pubs and bars can be found in the old town (Stary Rynek) or around ul. Bogusława in the middle town area. Expect to pay between 6zl and 8zl for a large beer and around 6zl for a 50ml shot of vodka.

Local beer, local vodka

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

Free Wireless Internet

Stay safe

Szczecin used to be infamous in Poland for its organized crime, but these days are long gone - nearly all the gangsters are dead or in prison. Nowadays it is a very safe city. However, you should stay away from some of its "bad" suburbs, like Gocław, especially after dark. As always, use your common sense. Be careful when crossing streets - jaywalking is a crime in Poland and the police often lie in wait for tourists crossing streets when the pedestrian crossing is on red. If stopped, claim that your money and passport are in your hotel and you may get away with it.

Cope

Consulates

Go next

On the mainland:

On the Wolin island:

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, September 12, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.