Have you heard of Szczecin? I hadn’t either until I became friends with a Polish girl who took me home to meet her family and friends. Szczecin (shcheh-cheen) is a charming, port city located on the Oder River, one hour’s drive from the Baltic Sea, in Northwest Poland. It’s known for its 19th-century Chobry Embankment, the St. James Cathedral with a 14th-century triptych, stained-glass windows and a tower with sweeping city views, and the renovated Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle, which is now a cultural center. Szczecin’s population is a little over 400,000, surprisingly making it one of the largest cities in Poland. The streets of the old town, and the city center are calm and quite, but at its water’s edge Szczecin is a busy port city offering much to do and see!
If you live in Europe you can simply hop on an easy, affordable flight to reach Szczecin. There are short, direct flights from London to Szczecin Airport. If you are flying from the USA you’ll have to make at least one stop so I recommend flying through Warsaw, spending a few days in this bustling capital city and then flying on to Szczecin. The drive from the Szczecin Airport to the city is also easy and beautiful. Make sure to get off your phone and look out your window and enjoy the view of green forests and wide open fields!
2) THE BALTIC TALL SHIPS REGATTA
The most beautiful and most famous ships from around the world meet in Szczecin for the Baltic Tall Ships Regatta. The Tall Ships Races are an annual tall ships regatta, which is organized by Sail Training International. The ultimate goal is “sail training” – educating young people and developing essential life skills on tall ships. The city of Szczecin is surrounded by water making it an ideal location for the event. Szczecin hosted a Regatta in 2003, and was the final port for The Tall Ships Races in 2007, 2013, 2015 and 2017. Each event attracted around two million visitors to the harbor!
There are also many fun events and parties surrounding the Regatta, one of which is the Boom Boat Party. This is basically a booze cruise through the long, winding channels of the river. It starts in the late afternoon and goes until sunrise with a good DJ spinning all night long! If you visit Szczecin during the Tall Ships Regatta and like to dance don’t miss the Boom Boat Party. It is so much fun!
3) THE PEOPLE
When I moved to London in 2013, I didn’t know anyone. As a 30-year-old expat living in a bustling foreign city, I found it intimidating to make friends – until I met an outgoing Polish girl named Kasia. Just two weeks after we met, Kasia organized a lunch with 15 of her closest girlfriends (most of them Polish), and before I knew it, I had met a handful of amazingly kind, fun, real friends who happily welcomed me into their group.
So when Kasia invited me to visit her hometown of Szczecin I jumped at the chance. I was excited to see where she grew up and I couldn’t wait to meet her friends and family. After spending a few days in Szczecin getting to know her parents and her childhood friends, I realized that like Kasia, Polish people, in general, are straightforward and honest, kind and very fun!
4) ENGLISH IS WIDELY SPOKEN
During my visit to Szczecin I found that most people in the city speak English, especially the younger generations, who were taught it as their second language. After visiting Hong Kong for the first time and struggling to speak to people including cab drivers, I will never again take for granted how nice it is to visit a destination where you can communicate with the locals.
5) SZCZECIN IS NOT TOURISTY
These days it is hard to find a beautiful, safe destination that is not touristy. For me one of the most frustrating things about traveling to popular destinations is that it is hard to get a sense of culture and local traditions when everything has become so commercialized to cater to tourists. You won’t find this in Szczecin. During my stay people were surprised and excited a California girl was visiting their town.
6) THE FOOD
Polish food is delicious! They eat a lot of bread, potatoes, cheese, butter and cream so you might go home with a few extra pounds, but your taste buds will be happy! My friend Kasia’s beautiful mom, Halina (who looks like Elizabeth Taylor), happily cooked us most of our meals. My favorite was the Polish pancakes (Nalesniki). She made sweet ones with cottage cheese and strawberries, and savory ones with spinach and feta.
I also loved Clou Winebar. I had a great salad here and I loved their outdoor seating area where we stayed for far too long laughing and drinking wine. The produce is very fresh and tasty in Poland, so between the delicious vegetables and all the cheese, I was in food heaven!
7) THE PARKS & GARDENS
Szczecin is called the “green city” because of its lush vegetation, beautiful parks and gardens, and surrounding forests and rivers. My friend Kasia and I spent hours walking through Park Kasprowicza and Różanka Rose Garden. These green, open spaces are so beautiful – perfect for walking, taking photos, having a picnic or napping in the sunshine. And the best part of all was that tourists were far and few between!
I hope this post has inspired you to visit the beautiful port city of Szczecin. Poland is an awesome country and the people of Szczecin will make you feel very at home and welcome during your visit! Happy travels!
Have you been to Szczecin or another city in Poland? Please share your experience in the comments below!
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