While most tourists flock to Poland’s historic capital of Warsaw and buzz-worthy Krakow, Poznan is an underrated gem that’s not to be missed. As Poland’s fifth largest city, this historic destination is known for its colourful, Renaissance-style builds and Old-World charm.
Read on to learn more about the best places eat, explore and stay in this underrated Polish destination.
Explore the Old Town
A mid-size and relatively compact city, Poznan is easy to explore on foot, especially if you’re staying in the tourist-friendly Old Town. Take a stroll along the cobblestoned streets of the historic centre until you find your way to the main Market Square (Stary Rynek). This postcard-pretty square is lined with brightly coloured merchant houses, each with their own decorative colours and exterior patterns.
Poznan’s Old Town Hall, first erected in the early 14th century, is the showpiece of the square, boasting with impressive Renaissance-style loggia, attic and towers. The Town Hall is now home to the Historical Museum of Poznan but the main draw for visitors is the fighting goats atop the clocktower. Crowds congregate at midday outside of the clocktower to watch two mechanical goats emerge from the structure to lock horns 12 times as a live trumpeter marks the Noon hour.
The duelling goats have been a tradition in Poznan since 1551 and have become the official symbol for the city itself.
Eat and drink
When in Poland, one must eat pierogies; it’s the rule. These savoury potato dumplings, stuffed with a variety of meat and vegetable combinations, are a regional speciality that can and should be enjoyed as many times as your stomach will allow. Located just off the main square, Wiejskie Jadło specializes in large portions of traditional Polish cuisine – including an impressive assortment of stuffed dumplings – all served in a cozy interior adorned with wooden beams and rustic furnishings with folk music playing softly in the background. Visit for lunch or dinner and order up comforting country-style platters of sausages, pork knuckle, goulash, cabbage rolls and sauerkraut. A meal here feels like eating at your Polish babcia’s house in the best way possible.
Named after a young priest who baked croissants for the poor, St Martin’s croissants (or rogale świętomarcińskie) feature 81 layers of buttery croissant dough folded into a crescent shape and filled with a sweet mixture of white poppy seeds, almonds and raisins. While bakers require an official licence to sell the iconic pastry, you’ll find these regional specialties in bakeries all over the city of Poznan – including at the Poznan Croissant Museum in the Old Town Square. The interactive museum is a tourist hotspot, but locals will point you in the direction of the café at the Hotel Mercure Poznan Centrum as an exceptional spot to try this traditional dessert without the crowds.
If you can’t get enough of the sweet treats, join the queue at Lodziarnia Kolorowa, a legendary local ice cream parlour that’s well worth the wait. Kolorowa serves a variety of contemporary flavours that draw locals and visitors alike, even in inclement weather. Fan favourites include Snickers, mascarpone, and a refreshing raspberry and Port wine sorbet.
With a large student population, Poznan offers a plenty of bars and pubs for those looking to enjoy a little nightlife after the sun goes down. For something a little out of the ordinary, pop into Proletaryat, a kitschy-cool communism themed bar decked out with Cold War iconography (including a larger plaster bust of Lenin in the window). The Eastern Bloc inspired watering hole serves up shareable bar snacks, craft beers from local breweries and artisanal vodka. For a more low key vibe, check out Ministerstwo Browaru in the Old Town. This local favourite boasts a variety of craft beers on tap from some of Poland’s emerging independent brewers.
Just a quick jaunt from the Old Town Market Square, the Parish Church of St. Stanislaus (Fara Church) on Świętosławska Street is a stunning Roman Catholic basilica that’s sure to impress with its grandeur. The stunning Baroque exterior, painterly interior and oversized marble columns will take your breath away.
If you’re hoping to get away from the crowds of the Old Town, seek refuge on Cathedral Island (Ostrów Tumski) where you can visit the striking Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul. The oldest cathedral in Poland, this impressive monument was first constructed in the year 968 and has undergone numerous restorations in its long history. Repeatedly refurbished after natural disasters, fires and World War II damage, the monument now showcases an interesting mix for Gothic, Baroque, Neo-Classical and Renaissance architectural elements.
If you’re tired of exploring, Lake Malta is a great spot to relax on a sunny day to people watch, catch live music, or have a picnic. Surrounded by trees, the park is also home to a zoo, an adventure park and a waterpark in the summer, with an ice-rink in the winter.
Arts, culture and shopping
From May until the end of September, KontenerART pops up along the banks of the Warta River and transforms the desolate area into a creative hub. The collection of stacked shipping containers attracts a young, hip crowd with its retail shops, funky street art installations, food stalls, live-music stage and a rooftop terrace. The entire complex is surrounded by a man-made beach with deck chairs that allow for excellent people watching.
Street art lovers are sure to notice the many unique murals and colourful graffiti lining the streets of the city, with one particular illustration popping up time and time again. The Watcher – a simple stick figure character with an eye for a face – is the creation of infamous Poznan street artist Noriaki and can be found peering out from alleyways all over the city. Look for him everywhere you go!
Opened in 2003 on the site of a former brewery, Stary Browar shopping mall is a red brick multi-storey complex home to numerous cafes and restaurants, a hotel, an art gallery and more than 200 retail shops for women, men and kids. The unique building preserves the original architecture and fixtures of the former Huggerów Brewery—a great spot to spend a rainy afternoon.
Where to stay in Poznan
For a more unique experience, check in to Puro Poznan, a sophisticated boutique hotel located just a five-minute walk from the main Market Square in the Old Town. The Instagram-worthy interior features plush furnishings, an eclectic collection of artwork and a colourful garden terrace. The hotel is also home to NIFTY No. 20, a trendy on-site restaurant and bar helmed by Executive Chef Sergiusz Hieronimczaka, serving contemporary seasonal cuisine alongside local craft local beers and cocktails.
From fighting goats to plates of pierogies and funky street art, Poznan offers the perfect mix of old and new. An affordable and less crowded alternative to many of Europe’s hot spots, this laid-back Polish city is rich in heritage and has a lively spirit that makes it the ideal spot for a weekend getaway.