Poznań Cathedral
Before
I went to Poznań, a few months ago, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit I didn’t
know much about it other than it was a host city for the 2012 UEFA European Championship.  It’s not like Poznań is not some tiny village in the
middle of nowhere. It’s the capital of Western Poland and situated between
Berlin and Warsaw.

It’s
also well known for its trade fairs and hosts over 25 events in a trade fair
complex that is the largest in Poland. Well known to those who care that
Polagra, Europe’s largest agro-industrial show, is staged at Poznań’s trade
fair complex, that is.

I was
much more interested in the city’s many historical sites and buildings, so I
happily roamed around the walkable and very pretty city to get better
acquainted with it.

Poznań Cathedral

The walk
started at Jordan Bridge. The little red bridge, named for Poland’s first bishop,
Jordan I, connects Ostrow Tumski – the small island in the center of the Warta
River where the Kingdom of Poland began – to the western Srodka district and
spans the Cybina River.
Poznań Cathedral

While
the bridge itself is not especially memorable, the view you get of the Poznan
Cathedral and its distinctive twin spires certainly is. The Gothic cathedral
originally dates from the 10th century, though it has been destroyed,
rebuilt and remodeled numerous times. A visit to the crypt reveal remains of
the pre-Romanesque and Romanesque versions of the Cathedral, a 10th century
baptismal font and tombs where the country’s first rulers are buried.
Poznań's ornate Renaissance Town Hall in Stary Rynek

I
continued walking to the historic center of town and stopped in my tracks when
I reached the Stary Rynek, or Old Market Square and saw the ornate Renaissance
Town Hall. The city’s administrative offices were located there until 1939, but
it is now home to the Poznań Historical Museum. Everyday at noon people gather
in the square to watch the mechanical goats pop out of the clock tower of the
Town Hall and clash horns.
The houses surrounding the Old Market Square in Poznań

Surrounding
the Old Market Square are houses with exquisite Renaissance and Baroque facades.
Once the homes of Poznań’s wealthiest residents, these buildings now house
restaurants, shops and museums, including the Museum of Musical Instruments.
The Parish Church of St. Stanislaus is also known as Fara Church
Not far
from the Old Market Square is the Parish Church of St. Stanislaus, or Fara
Church as it is commonly referred. Created as a Jesuit temple in the 17th
century, St. Stanislaus is known for its magnificent Baroque
ornamentation. The church
also has an organ that dates from 1876, and during the summer concerts are held in the church with the
proceeds going towards the organ’s renovation.
The Emperor's Castle in  Poznań, Poland

Next I
walked to the Emperor’s Castle. This castle – which is technically not a castle
because it’s not fortified but more of a palace – was built in 1910 for William
II and was the last royal castle built in Europe. During the occupation of
WWII, there were plans to turn the castle into a residence for Hitler and while
many buildings and monuments from the many occupations Poznan has endured have
been demolished, the castle was declared a historical monument in 1979 and
today serves as a cultural center.
Freedom Fountain in Poznań, Poland

Finally,
I made my way to Freedom Square, where the Raczyński Library is located. This
public library was founded in the early 19th century by Edward Raczyński and
is, of course, housed in an impressive building, but I was more impressed with
the Fountain of Freedom. The eye-catching sculpture sits in the middle of the
square and seems to be an architectural nod to Pyramide du Louvre. Freedom
Square was also the official fan zone location during UEFA 2012, a major event
that resulted in an increase in tourism to Poznań. Though the fan zone was
removed after the tournament, Freedom Square, and Poznań in general, are
certainly worth a visit.

Disclosure:
I visited Poznań as a guest of the Polish National Tourist Office. As always, all opinions
are my own.