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Polish delight: Why Szczecin makes a perfect weekend getaway

Szczecin's small-town coastal charms and this Polish city the perfect weekend getaway from Berlin.

Photo: IMAGO / Hohlfeld

Located right on the border between Germany and Poland, Szczecin is a Polish coastal town that spent 74 years affiliated with the German state.

After World War II, the city changed hands (and names – in German it is known as “Stettin”), but its relative accessibility and coastal small-town energy keeps tourists coming back for a weekend away. And for holders of the Deutschlandticket, the round-trip journey costs less than a tenner.

Photo: IMAGO / Hohlfeld

Where to Stay

For an in-between city, a different kind of stay is in order. Enter Paul’s Fantasia Boutique Suites. Created by husband-and-wife duo Paul and Beata, this quirky bed-and-breakfast on the outskirts of the town is a pleasing jumble of aesthetics from across Europe.

There are the rooms, named for famous Norwegians and featuring huge beds and accents of timber and brick, as well as crackling fires, a candlelit patio and the hotel’s most unusual feature: a recreation of an Italian piazza with stone walls, street lamps and a sleek vintage car all underneath a starry sky.

Photo: Paul’s Fantasia Boutique Suites

The main reason to head to Paul’s, however, is the couple’s hospitality: fresh fruit, champagne and chocolate await in the rooms, a heaving buffet with alcoholic drinks is available every afternoon, and the complimentary breakfast has dishes coming out hot from the kitchen. (The highlight is the Norwegian-style pancakes with thinly-sliced goat cheese and a fruit compote).

If you want to make the indulgence complete, book a massage in their wellness centre.

Photo: Paul’s Fantasia Boutique Suites

On arrival

With an easy 2.5-hour train journey (or a 2-hour car ride), there’s no need to book an extra holiday for this weekend trip – just hit the road when you get off work on Friday.

Once you arrive, head for dinner at Spiżarnia Szczecińska, a cosy spot in the city centre that’s just a 25-minute walk away from the train station, with slightly upscale Polish dishes like sour soup or pork knuckle with fried cabbage. From there, the iconic Karlowicz Philharmonic is right around the corner.

The setting sun, now going down at a glorious 9pm, reflects off the all-white structure, whose icy angles set it apart from the classic red-bricked, red-roofed buildings that surround it.

Try to pop in and check out the interior: a looping, white staircase and striated walls that appear as a kind of optical illusion give the feeling of being trapped inside a particularly expensive piece of technology.

The Next Day

Photo: Grace Henes

Start off your Saturday with a coffee and a cardamom bun at café Alternatywnie, where you can bask in the sun at their outdoor tables.

Loop northeast up through Park Żeromskiego, popping out along the waterfront by the Wały Chrobrego, an elevated promenade with beautiful buildings like the ornate red-and-cream government office and the imposing national museum on the right, and hills of purple crocuses and the Oder river to the left.

Continue south along the water and half an hour later you can peek at Little Venice, an alleyway of buildings that sit directly on the river.

Next, the essentials: pierogi and borscht. You’ll find both at Pierogarnia na Deptaku, a small establishment with living-room kitsch back near the central square.

We recommend a mix of mushroom/yellow cheese and potato/cheese/quark pierogi dumplings, topped with cream and fried onions, and a hot cup of the borscht (a soup) on the side. For dessert, cherry pierogi with plenty of sweet cream.

For an in-between city, a different kind of stay is in order.

Post-lunch, head southwest towards the Central Cemetery. On the way you’ll pass by beautiful streets of pastel-coloured apartments with detailed façades, with an optional detour to the Archcathedral Basilica of St James the Apostle, visible throughout the city due to its teal roof and spiky spire.

A 30-minute walk from the centre of town, the half-park, half-graveyard is reminiscent of Berlin’s Stahnsdorf Cemetery, complete with a stylistic neo-Romanesque chapel at the Eastern edge.

Walk beneath arching tree canopies and check out the ceramic headstone photos that mark many of the graves, giving a glimpse at Szczecin residents from as far back as the 1800s.

Photo: IMAGO / Hohlfeld

After a big day of walking, a restful evening is in order. Stop for dinner at Baraż Restauracja, an expensive-feeling but reasonably-priced restaurant with exceptional fish dishes; the smoked trout and the halibut are standouts.

Before you leave

On your final morning, sneak in a little sightseeing with your farewell brunch. Eat in at Bajgle Króla Jana, a bagel shop with classics, such as the bacon, egg and cheese or the smoked salmon, as well as some creative vegetarian options, like cottage cheese with honey mustard or chickpea salad with coconut syrup.

The shop is right in Hay Market Square, home to some of the most colourful examples of Hanseatic façades in the city. From there, it’s an easy walk back to the train station and on to Berlin.

At a Glance

  • Train: The fastest combination is to take the RE3 to Angermünde, then transfer to the RB66X, for a journey of around 2.5 hours. It costs around €66 round trip, or €7.20 round trip for Deutschlandticket holders.
  • Car: The drive is around two hours, northeast up the A11.
  • Pricing: Rooms at Paul’s Fantasia start at €208 for a two-night stay for two people, including breakfast, afternoon snacks, and fruit, prosecco and chocolate in your room.
  • Currency: Poland uses the złoty (zł), but most places accept cards. The regional buses only accept euros.
  • Getting around: Trams and buses run regularly, and you can buy tickets on several apps, at stations, or (sometimes) onboard. A 15-minute journey is 2 zł (around 50 cents) and a 30-minute journey is 3 zł (around 70 cents).