While many foreign visitors to Central Europe may be unfamiliar with Poznań, businesspeople involved in foreign trade are likely to be more than aware of the city. That's because Poznań is Poland's trade fair capital with the title justified by the country's biggest fair grounds, where the biggest and best fairs in Poland take place each year.
Poznań’s rich trading tradition can be traced back as far as 1254 when Duke Przemysł I granted special privileges to traders. That tradition continued over the ages, but the true predecessor of today's fair was the 1911 East German Industrial Exhibition, which showcased Germany's economic, cultural, and social achievements in annexed Polish territories. It was for this event that the iconic Upper Silesian Tower was commissioned and built - an early modernist combination of water tower and exhibition hall, praised by architecture critics and despised by the Polish populace as a symbol of foreign oppression. It gained enough fame to directly inspire the set design of Fritz Lang's film Metropolis, and would remain an integral part of the Poznań Fair until its demise during WWII air raids.
During a 1917 meeting, the Union of Merchant Associations, comprising merchants from Greater Poland and Eastern Pomerania, decided to develop a specialised cyclical expo based on the successful model of the Leipzig Trade Fair (an institution dating back to the twelfth century). This idea reached fruition on May 28, 1921, when the first Poznań Fair took place. Since then, the Fair’s fortunes have risen and fallen according to the political and economic changes that periodically moved through Poland and Europe.