One could call Poznań a typical Polish city: a beautiful historic centre, a river flowing through it, plenty of parks and green areas, and vast suburbs full of apartment blocks.

Poznań is arguably a touch less beautiful than a Krakow or Wrocław, it lacks the spectacular high-rise and dynamic life of a Warsaw, and hasn’t got the nearby nature and beaches as Gdańsk does. But it does have a definite charm. And a very nice nightlife.

It’s beautiful market square, the Stary Rynek, is the heart of the city. The old town, comprised of small streets and colourful facades, stretches out three to four blocks on each side of the square. The rest of the city centre lies mainly on the old town’s western and southern side.

The city centre is bordered on the east by the Warta river and on the west by the railroad tracks. Toward the south the centre runs more or less until the large Królowej Jadwigi avenue.

The official Fan Zone will be located on Plac Wolności, a square a few blocks west of the Stary Rynek, which is expected to accommodate up to 30,000 people.

The stadium

Stadion Miejski – 43,269 seats

Stadion Miejski is the only Polish playing venue that was not built from scratch, but instead arose from an existing stadium.

Until the mid-2000s Stadion Miejski was the typical bowl-shaped uncovered Eastern-European stadium with massive characteristic floodlights. In 2005 works started to gradually convert the stadium into a modern arena, which were completed by the end of the summer of 2010.

The stadium is the home of Lech Poznań, one of Poland’s more successful clubs and known for its loyal support. The stadium also hosts the home matches of Warta Poznań, the second club of the city, but who achieved considerable successes in the early part of the 20th century. Warta currently resides in Poland’s second division

Stadion Miejski got presented to the world when in 2010 Manchester City visited for a Europa League match and the Polish fans introduced the what later got dubbed as “the Poznan”.

The stadium is probably not the most spectacular of the Euro 2012 venues, but there is also not much to criticise either as all seats are covered, the stands are close to the pitch, and you will generally have a perfectly fine view.

The one major drawback though is that the stadium is located rather far away from the city centre, about 5 kilometres south-west. This means that a public transport ride will be necessary to get to the stadium (see further for details).

Who’s coming

The citizens of Poznań will undoubtedly be pleased to receive the large Irish support for two matches. On top of that they can also welcome the Italians and Croatians.

The stadium kicks off with the match between the Republic of Ireland and Croatia. The Croatians will then stay in the city while the Irish move to Gdańsk. The Italians go the other way to play the Croatians, and will then wait for the Irish to come back. The Croatians will then move to Gdańsk to play the Spanish.

The only team that has made Poznań its base is… Portugal. Yes, Portugal, who play all of their matches in the Ukraine. Actually, they have based themselves in the small town of Opalenica, which lies about 40 kilometres west of Poznań.

The Republic of Ireland has instead chosen for the seaside of Gdańsk, Italy will base themselves in historic Krakow, and Croatia close to Warsaw.

How to get in and around

The biggest advantage of Poznań is that it is probably the easiest of all cities to get in to, by land as well as air.

Poznań  has its own international airport called Poznań-Ławica airport. Most of the service is by low-cost airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air, though there are a few domestic LOT flights too.

Ryanair has connections from various Western-European destinations including Dublin, Milan, Bologna, and Rome. Wizz Air’s destinations include Cork and again Rome. If fares get too high you might want to look at flights to airports such as Bydgoszcz, Wrocław, Łodz, Warsaw, or even Berlin, which all lie a 2.5 to 3.5 hour train ride away from Poznań.

Poznań-Ławica airport is located west outside the city, but not too far from the city centre either, only about 6 kilometres. The L shuttle bus takes you in less than 20 minutes to Poznań’s main railway station. Buses run every half an hour. For the old town get off one stop earlier (Rondo Kaponiera), cross the railway tracks, and follow Święty Marcin street straight into town.

The city’s central location means that it is easy to reach by train. The journey from many Polish cities takes less than 3 hours, as does the international service from Berlin.

Unfortunately for the Irish, Italians, and Croatians, the quickest connection to Gdańsk takes just under 4.5 hours.  Those who choose to travel between the cities may be advised not to leave it to the last minute to arrive as the Polish railways are notorious for having delays. Before booking a train ticket first check the LOT fares as domestic flights tend to be competitively priced.

Poznań’s main railway station (Poznań Główny) is located just south-west outside the city centre. The walk from the main railway station to the Stary Rynek should take no more than 30 minutes and is not unpleasant (apart from the first part around the railroad tracks).

Those who like to avoid walking in the sometimes unbearable heat can take tram 8 from the station. It will bring you in 10 minutes to within a few blocks (north) of the Rynek.

As the city centre is very compact there is likely not much need to use public transport. Still, the city has a good network of buses and trams, and to find your way the online journey planner jakdojade.pl will be your best friend (it comes in English and works better than any journey planner you’ve tried before).

Due to recent works around Poznań’s main railway station public transport connections have recently been subject to several changes. It seems that in the new timetable tram 6, 13, and 15 to Węgorka are the trams passing directly by the stadium. Tram 13 can be taken from Plac Wolności in the city centre whereas tram 6 and 15 can be taken from the western edge of the centre at Roosevelta or Rondo Kaponiera.

It seems that the Euro 2012 organisers are trying to divert the crowd by leading them to tram stops Górczyn (tram 5, 8, 14, and 32) or Ogrody (tram 2, 17, and 31), from which shuttle buses (E3 and E5) run to the stadium. There are also trains that run from the main railway station to stop Górczyn.

Where to eat and drink

Poznań may not have the nightlife fame of a Krakow or Warsaw, but that does not mean that it is any less. A large student population guarantees that there are plenty of bars of all kinds, and the city has a reputation in Poland when it comes to clubs with electronic music. There are also quite a few good few jazz bars.

Nightlife centers around the Stary Rynek. The square itself is packed with bars and restaurants, but there are also loads of small cafés in the small streets surrounding the square (such as Zydowska and Mokra).

You can find bars and clubs further up the centre too, for example around Plac Wolności and Nowowiejskiego street. And the famous SQ Klub is located in Stary Browar shopping centre toward the south of the centre. Poznań is most of all a city of just walking around and popping into a random place to grab a beer.

The same goes for food, with many restaurants located on or around the Stary Rynek. Just by walking around you are sure to find something of your liking. As with most Polish cities there is little reason to venture outside of the city centre as you’ll be lucky to even find a sole local bar.

What else to see and do

Start with walking around the old town, and then cross the river to visit Ostrów Tumski, and island in the river Warta filled with religious buildings.

A short walk further lies Lake Malta, an artificial reservoir surrounded by parks and various entertainment options such as a zoo, ski-slope, mini golf, shopping mall, and a cinema. It is a great place to escape the city life and relax.

Another place to quiet down is Citadel Park, which lies just north of the centre. It is a very fine park that also holds various monuments, two war museums, and a war cemetery.

Visiting Starey Browar shopping centre is a must, even if you are not into shopping. It is located in an old beer brewery, a magnificent red-brick building, and its interior is just as spectacular as its exterior. The street next to Stary Browar, Półwieska, is also good for shopping and has several of the typical high street retail chains. Further north up Półwieska lies Kupiec Poznańskie, another shopping centre.

Due to the city’s central location there are various possibilities to take day trips outside the city. Both Warsaw and Wrocław can (just) be visited on a day trip, though you may want to spend (at least ) a night there to make it more worthwhile. The same goes for Berlin.

There are various small towns around the city that may be worth a visit such as Kórnik (for its castle), Rogalin (its palace), or Gniezno (a historic village). There are also a few nice lakes and forests around the city, but you will have to like the outdoors to enjoy them as they are nothing out of the ordinary.

Not the cultural type? In that case you may want to pay a visit to the Lech brewery. Lech counts as one of Poland’s most popular beers, but is – obviously – owned by SAB Miller. They offer tours around the brewery in several languages, though you do have to book two days in advance. The brewery lies on the western outskirts of the city. From the Ostrów Tumski and Lake Malta area you can catch bus 84, from around Stary Browar bus A.

Finally, if you’ve always dreamt of visiting Rio de Janeiro, but have lacked the money, you could visit the little town of Swiebodzin, which has a similar Jesus Christ statue that is even larger than the one in Rio, though not as beautifully situated. The train ride to the town takes an hour and the statue is at walking distance from the station.