Szczecin is the capital of the Zachodniopomorskie Voivodeship, one of the biggest and of the oldest towns in Poland and, at the same time, the centre of the agglomeration of Szczecin, gathering almost 406 thousand residents. The town is located in the north-western part of the country, at the mouth of the Oder river with the access to the Szczecin Lake and the Baltic Sea. It is the main economic centre of the region, where many branches of industry function (a steel mill, fertilizer plants and a shipyard). The sea economy is specific for the town, where, among others, there is a big seaport supporting ship-owners from the entire world.
Szczecin has a multicultural and multi-ethnic history. Its history dates back to VII and VIII century and already at that time, there was a settlement of the Lusatian Culture here: it was in the 9th century that a defensive stronghold surrounded with wooden-earth embankment was established here. In the 10th century Szczecin became a liege estate of the Polish prince Mieszko I. The municipal rights it received in 1243 and from that time it started to play a dominating political role on Pomerania. Since the second half of the 19th century until the outbreak of the World War II the town developed dynamically. In 1939-1945, the damages to the urban building development reached the level of 60-70 %, to the harbour – of 70-80 % and to the industrial buildings – of 90%. Although the former image of the town has changed, it has managed to keep its own, unique character, enchanting with beauty of historic, Art Nouveau architecture. The modern Szczecin is promoted as a floating garden, the town filled up with greenery and water in its centre. On 4 – 7 August 2007, the Final of the Operation Sail took place in Szczecin – The Tall Ships ‘Races of the international races of sailing ships. The organisers claim that 2 million people visited the area of the rally.
It is an important tourist centre with many monuments. It creates a cultural centre with many cultural sites, museums, theatres and others. Moreover, it is a seat of the Roman Catholic Church Archdiocese of Szczecin-Kamień as well as numerous academic and scientific centres like: Maritime Academy, University of Szczecin, West Pomeranian University of Technology, Pomeranian Medical University. The town is surrounded by three forest complexes, Landscape Park of the Valley of the Lower Oder, small fragments of the Szczecin Landscape Park and the north part of the area of the special protection of birds Nature 2000 “Valley of the Lower Oder”. Szczecin with its starry squares is known as Paris of the North. The city centre is characterized by large roundabouts and streets, along which there are eclectic, several-storey tenements. The most architecturally interesting buildings in Szczecin can be found on Wały Chrobrego, which are the representative part of the town, creating observation decks on the Oder of the length of 500 m. It is worthwhile to add that Szczecin is a candidate for the title of the European Capital of Culture in 2016.