I arrived in Poznań, Poland on a rainy Wednesday afternoon in late March. I had just come from a week in Germany in Dusseldorf, Cologne, Hamburg, and Berlin. I found my way to the Old Market Square which would seem as if it was City Center, but it is in fact not. I met up with my good friend Adam who is a native of Poznań. He showed me around the actual City Center as I acted like a typical tourist and took too many pictures during the “tour”.
I saw the beautiful, vibrant colored building in Old Market Square, the elegant Adam Mickiewicz University, the site of the near-riot celebration during the 2012 Euro Championships held in Poland, and even the castle Adolf Hitler was going to move into shortly before he committed suicide at the end of WWII right here in Poznań.
After grabbing a bite to eat, we met up with Adam’s friends, Olga and Ola, and they helped me determine the route I was going to take for the rest of my trip through Poland. It was relieving to finally be in Eastern Europe for a budget backpacker like myself. The overall cost of living and travel is far less than in Western Europe.
That night, we went back out to Old Market Square for a few beers at a good student bar with an excellent vibe called Za Kulisami. After buying several traditional Polish beers, Adam had recommended for each of us and a shot of liquor that was lit on fire for each of us, I had still not spent more than €15.
He said during our conversation something that I took to heart. He told me he was so happy that I was visiting Poznań despite it not exactly being a tourist destination. And so was I. Although it was a bit out of the way, Adam was one of my better friends I met in my semester in Malta and it was so nice to see him again. It’s a blessing that I am fortunate enough to be able to meet up with great friends in cities all over Europe.
For those that do not know much about Poznań, here is an overview:
Poznań is a city on the Warta River in the west-central part of Poland. It is known for its Renaissance old town (Old Market Square) which was destroyed during World War II. It even served as the country capital for a short time in the 13th Century and is therefore known as “The Capital City of Poznań”. The city itself is home to 550,000 people but the surrounding Metropolitan area is home to over 1.1 million people.
In Poland, the currency is Zlaty, which I exchanged at a rate equal to 3.70 zlotych for every dollar. The cost of living is fairly inexpensive in Poznań. For example, while there, I bought lunch out, a dinner for two from the store, beer, snacks, I got a haircut, and a new pair of shoes all for under 45 dollars.
Poznań is a calm and clean city and the people here seem genuinely friendly. I could definitely see how it would be easy to make a life here.
The next morning Adam had class so I was on my own for the first time in Poland. My mission was to find a traditional Poznań pastry to try out based on Adam’s dire recommendation: Rogal Swietomarcinski. It was, in fact, really good- a nutty, brown sugar-filled pastry coated in icing. It is fairly pricey, especially to locals, so it really is a treat when you get one.
Communicating with locals
I was proud of myself because I was able to communicate with what little Polish phrases I memorized quite well while at the hair cut shop and shoe store. However, even before I spoke English, they could tell from my pronunciation that I was not Polish and began speaking what little English they knew.
I met back up with Adam and we went on a hike through Cytadela Park, which was a site of many deaths in WWII. We climbed tanks from the war and guessed that the huge craters in the ground might be from bombs dropped on the site. For lunch, I had a traditional Polish dish – Pierogi, which is cabbage-stuffed dumplings and tasted pretty good.
That night, Adam and I met with more friends from Malta and this time I guided them on a tour of Poznań-based off of what Adam had told me the day prior. It was kind of neat to do and I think I did a decent job of remembering the details of the tour Adam had given me.
After that, we went for a beer at Brovaria in Old Market which was certainly not the most budget-friendly bar we could have chosen in Poznań, but it was classy and gave me a Jay Gatsby-type of vibe.
Non-touristic tour of Poznań
After saying bye to them in the morning, Adam and I decided to take a little journey around a different area of Poznań. We first went to city center- which is actually a huge mall connected to the same building as the Poznan train station and that’s it- and then we took a walk around Lake Malta which is used for several recreational and competitive sports including mostly team Rowing competitions.
It was a beautiful day, and finally a day without rain. After we made it around the huge lake, Adam showed me a place he used to work. It was called Rope Park. It was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. Ropes and obstacles high up in the trees of a nearby wooded area. I really wanted to try the obstacle course out but unfortunately, it opens in May. If in Poznań during this time, I suggest you check it out and let me know how you enjoyed it!
My train was leaving at 3:30 in the morning that night, so I would be sleeping on the train until I arrived in Krakow. However, I wasn’t able to reach the station before having a minor run-in with the police that had Adam and me in the back of a police van for an hour of confusion. I’ll save that story for another time.
- Beer at shop – average $0.75 for 16oz beer
- Tram ticket – $1.25 for 40-minute access
- Pint at a bar – < $2.00 on average
- Rogal Swietomarcinski – $1.75 each
- Haircut – $5
- Shoes – $20 average for a pair of tennis shoes
- Lunch at restaurant – $2-3 average
Other Attractions, Bars, Restaurants in Poznań. . .
- Poznań Town Hall – be there a few minutes before noon to see a surprise from the tower clock
- Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul
- Imperial Castle – was once going to be the home of Adolf Hitler right before suicide took his life
- Cuba Libre – student budget bar/club set in a basement of this Latin venue
- Oberza Pod Dzwonkiem – affordable traditional Polish food
Would I go back to Poznań? Yes, in a heartbeat. Finding great European cities that aren’t touristy is the essence of backpacking Europe in my opinion!