5 Must-Visit Historical Sites in Poznań, Poland

Located on the river Warta in western Poland, Poznań has been referred to as the birthplace of the Polish nation due to the city’s deep history. 

Long before the Christianisation of Poland in the 10th century, the Slavic tribe of the Western Polans had a stronghold in the area we know today as Poznań (specifically on the island of Ostrów Tumski). Then, following the baptism of Mieszko I in AD 966, it was in Poznań that Poland’s first cathedral and bishopric were established. 

When visiting Poznań today, you’ll find a vibrant modern city with a unique atmosphere. The city centre is unquestionably one of Poland’s best places for shopping and eating out. And there’s a wonderful range of cultural sites to explore. 

We’ll choose five of our top historical sites in Poznań below, and if we inspire you to come and explore Poland’s rich history for yourself, why not join us on one of our WW2 Tours in Poland

Walk Poznań’s Old Market Square

Begin your exploration of Poznań with a walk around its historic Old Town. 

The Old Market Square is located at the centre of the Old Town (or Stare Miasto in Polish), an area with a history stretching back centuries. 

The river island of Ostrów Tumski was the birthplace of the city, home to settlements dating to the early Middle Ages. The Old Town developed west of Ostrów Tumski and received its town charter in AD 1253. The market space would have been among the town’s very first developments.

The standout building in the Old Market Square is the Old Town Hall, originally built in the late 14th century. Today, it is surrounded by grand tenement buildings mostly occupied by bars and restaurants selling traditional Polish fare. 

Walking the square gives a wonderful introduction to the city and its feel, though the Old Market Square has undergone two major redevelopment phases. 

The first was in the 16th century when architects introduced Renaissance features to the buildings following major fires. The second redevelopment followed the Battle of Poznań (then known as Posen) at the close of WW2 when the Soviet Red Army entered the city and engaged the city’s Nazi garrison. 

Visit the National Museum in Poznań

The National Museum in Poznań has a similar structure to the major government-run museums in other Polish cities, such as Gdańsk and Warsaw. You’ll find several branches dotted around the city, each showcasing particular parts of the museum’s collections. 

We recommend beginning with the museum’s main building, which houses important works from Polish artists, including pieces by Jan Matejko. 

Across the museum’s branches, the exhibitions are dedicated to antiquity, the Middle Ages, Polish art, European Art, and graphic design and poster art (a form in which Poles have long excelled).

The museum’s collections hold almost half a million items. For something truly unique, visit the branch dedicated to musical instruments. 

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Imperial Castle, Poznań

The Imperial Castle in Poznań, popularly called Zamek, “the Castle”, is a Neo-Romanesque palace constructed under German rule for emperor William II. Work began in 1905. 

The emperor took up residence in the palace in 1910, though he didn’t have the keys long. With the First World War and the Wielkopolska Uprising, the city of Poznań was back under Polish control by 1918. 

Within the palace, the Throne Room was particularly beautiful, as were the palace gardens, based on the Alhambra’s Courtyard of the Lions.

During the building’s history, it has often been used to house government offices, with the German government occupying the site during the years of partition and WW2 and the Polish government inhabiting it since 1945. 

Curiously, the Nazi party’s chief architect, Albert Speer, did work on the palace, designed a room for Hitler (though he never visited). 

Today, the Throne Room is a cinema, while other apartments contain art galleries, a puppet theatre, pubs, music clubs, and restaurants. 

The main courtyard is often used for concerts during the summer. Audioguides are available if you want to learn the full story of the building’s past. 

Poznań Cathedral

Originally built in 968, Poznań Cathedral has undergone many transformations over the years. Having been destroyed numerous times by fires and warfare, the sacred building has been reconstructed and remodelled in various architectural styles, including Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, and Neoclassical.

The building, as you see it today, is in the Gothic style. With 65% of the cathedral destroyed during WW2, the individuals charged with restoring the building after 1945 decided that the cathedral’s Gothic period represented it in its heyday. 

The cathedral is most notable today for housing the tomb of Miesko I, the leader who brought Christianity to Poland. 

Wielkopolska Museum of the Fight for Independence

The Wielkopolska Museum of Independence is a museum devoted to telling the story of the Wielkopolska region and its long tradition of standing up against oppressors.

The museum’s exhibits detail the fight of local residents against Germanisation policies and, ultimately, the long, hard fight for an independent Poland. 

Importantly, the museum is also a place of remembrance, an institution that refuses to forget the Polish martyrs who gave their lives in the fight against despotism and imperialist rule. 

But the story told here does not end with the vanquishing of Nazism in 1945. Instead, much time is given to the oppression that Poles suffered under communist rule from Russia. It’s an especially poignant tale today, as a new tyrant has sent his armies on the march in Europe. 

This brings our list of historical sites in Poznań to a close. If you are looking for unique historical tours in Poland, consider joining us on a WW2 Day Tour. If you have any questions, please get in touch

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