It was established on January 1, 1999, out of the former Szczecin and Koszalin Voivodeships and parts of other neighboring voivodeships, pursuant to the Polish local government reforms adopted in 1998. It is named for the historical region of Pomerania (Polish: Pomorze). In spite of the name ("West Pomeranian"), the voivoideship does not include the most westerly parts of historical Pomerania, which lie in Germany's Vorpommern (see Western Pomerania).
West Pomeranian Voivodeship is the fifth largest voivodeship of Poland in terms of area. Among the largest cities, of the region, are the capital Szczecin, as well as Koszalin, Stargard, and Świnoujście.
This is a picturesque region of the Baltic Sea coast, with many beaches, lakes and woodlands. Szczecin, Świnoujście and Police are important ports. Other major seaside towns include Międzyzdroje, Dziwnów, Kołobrzeg, and Mielno.
West Pomerania is considered one of the greenest regions of Poland, and one of the most attractive for tourists. It is characterized by incredible diversity of the landscape: beaches, hundreds of lakes, and forests full of wildlife (e.g. Wkrzanska Forest), spreading mainly up the hills of the glacial lakes areas. West Pomerania is also rich in various forms and styles of architecture that were built during the Middle Ages as well as the Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance periods. There is a diverse repertoire of theaters, festivals, museums and galleries. During a few-day long annual Sea Festival in Szczecin, a number of free open-air concerts take place. In Świnoujście during the summer, the FAMA Academic Youth Arts Festival takes place – an event with several years of tradition, which attracts not only young people but also older alumni. In Międzyzdroje, there is a Festival Of The Stars, which draws many popular actors. In Wolin, a Viking Festival takes place, which draws "Vikings" from all across Europe.
Another draw to the area is a wide array of health resorts. Brine and peloid, discovered in the 19th century, together with geothermal water resources, are popular attractions in Świnoujście, Kamień Pomorski and Połczyn Zdrój.
The voivodeship contains 64 cities and towns. These are listed below in descending order of population (according to official figures for 2006):
The Polish districts of the historical region Western Pomerania (the 3 westernmost districts of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship) had a population of about 520,000 in 2012 (cities of Szczecin, Świnoujście and Police County combined) – while the German districts had a population of about 470,000 in 2012 (Vorpommern-Rügen and Vorpommern-Greifswald combined). So overall, about 1 million people live in the historical region of Western Pomerania today, while the Szczecin agglomeration reaches even further.
West Pomeranian Voivodeship is divided into 21 counties (powiats): 3 city counties and 18 land counties. These are further divided into 114 gminas.
The counties are listed in the following table (ordering within categories is by decreasing population in 2014) ):
Protected areas in West Pomeranian Voivodeship include two National Parks and seven Landscape Parks. These are listed below.Drawno National Park (partly in Lubusz and Greater Poland Voivodeships)
Wolin National Park
Barlinek-Gorzów Landscape Park (partly in Lubusz Voivodeship)
Cedynia Landscape Park
Drawsko Landscape Park
Ińsko Landscape Park
Lower Odra Valley Landscape Park
Szczecin Landscape Park
Ujście Warty Landscape Park (partly in Lubusz Voivodeship)
Until 1945 the region was part of Germany. After World War II the region was placed under Polish administration by the Potsdam Agreement under territorial changes demanded by the Soviet Union. Most Germans fled or were expelled and replaced with Poles expelled from the Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union.
In 1948 67 percent of the populace originated from Central Poland, Greater Poland and Pomeralia while 25 percent came from the Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union. Another 6 percent returned to Poland from Western Europe. About 50,000 Ukrainians were forcefully resettled to West Pomerania in the Operation Vistula in 1947.University of Szczecin (Polish Uniwersytet Szczeciński) with 35,000 students
Technical University in Koszalin with 14,000 students (Politechnika Koszalińska)
West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin with 15,300 students (Zachodniopomorski Uniwersytet Technologiczny), formed as a result of merger of Szczecin University of Technology (Politechnika Szczecińska) and University of Agriculture in Szczecin (Akademia Rolnicza w Szczecinie)
Pomeranian Medical University with 4,000 students (Pomorski Uniwersytet Medyczny)
The Szczecin Academy of Arts (Akademia Sztuki w Szczecinie)
Maritime University of Szczecin (Akademia Morska w Szczecinie)
The West Pomeranian Business School with 3,000 students (Zachodniopomorska Szkoła Biznesu)
Szczeciński Park Naukowo-Technologiczny (science park in Szczecin)
Goleniowski Park Przemysłowy (industrial park in Goleniów)
Infrapark Police (industrial park in Police, Poland)
Stargardzki Park Przemysłowy (industrial park in Stargard Szczeciński)
Szczeciński Park Naukowo-Technologiczny (science park in Szczecin)
There are two main international road routes that pass through the voivodship: National road 3 (Poland) Świnoujście-Szczecin-Gorzów Wielkopolski-Zielona Góra-Legnica-Czech border (part of European route E65 from Swedish Malmö to Chaniá in Greece) and National road 6 (Poland) Szczecin-Koszalin-Słupsk-Gdańsk (part of European route E28 from Berlin to Minsk). Most of the National road 3 in the voivodship is in a standard of an expressway (Expressway S3 (Poland)). The National road 6 between German border and Rzęśnica is in the standard of autostrada (A6 autostrada (Poland)), whereas part between Rzęścnica and Goleniów and bypasses of Goleniów and Nowogard are in standards of an expressway (Expressway S6 (Poland)). Other important national roads are National road 10 (Poland) (German border-Szczecin-Piła-Bydgoscz-Toruń-Płońsk) and National road 11 (Poland) (Kołobrzeg-Koszalin-Piła-Poznań-Bytom). Apart from the above, some other national roads are located in the voivodship. The voivodship possesses also a well-developed network of regional roads.
Main railways in the province are line no. 351 Szczecin-Poznań, line no. 273 Szczecin-Wrocław (so-called “Odra railway”), line no. 202 Stargard Szczeciński-Gdańsk, line no. 401 Szczecin-Świnoujście and line no. 404 Kołobrzeg-Szczecinek. The main railway stations of the province are Szczecin main station, Stargard Szczeciński and Koszalin. The stations are served by fast PKP Intercity trains which connect them with the capital Warsaw, as well as other major Polish cities. In addition to these fast express services, inter-regional trains and intra-regional trains are operated by the firm Przewozy Regionalne. Szczecin main station possesses international train connections with Berlin, Schwerin and Lübeck (operated by DB Regio). Świnoujście has a direct train connection with Stralsund, which is operated by Usedomer Bäderbahn.
The only domestic and international airport in West Pomeranian Voivodeship is Szczecin-Goleniów "Solidarność" Airport. Also, part of the runway of an abandoned airport in Bagicz (near Kołobrzeg) was converted to an airport licensed to service planes carrying not more than 20 passengers on board.