The biggest oil fields in Poland are located near Gorzów.
The original German name Landsberg an der Warthe derives from the German words land or 'state' and berg or 'mountain', together with Warthe, the German name for the river Warta. After 1945, the German name was translated roughly into Polish as Gorzów nad Wartą, or literally 'Gorzów on the Warta'. The name 'Gorzów' eventually stuck, beating the alternative name Kobylagora, or 'Mare Mountain', which survives today as the name of a street in the city. 'Gorzów' is said to be connected to the Polish word góra, or mountain, after the hilly landscape of Gorzów's hinterland. The word Wielkopolski or 'Great Poland', after the voivodeship of that name of which Gorzów was a part from 1946-1950, was added later. However, Gorzow itself is not part of historical region of Greater Poland.
Landsberg became part of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701. In 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars, it became part of Prussia's Province of Brandenburg. The city was included in the German Empire in 1871 during the Prussian-led unification of Germany. Before 1945 it had become thoroughly German in population, although in the early 20th century there were also sizable Jewish and Czech minorities.
In early 1945 during World War II Landsberg was heavily damaged by fighting between the Wehrmacht and the Soviet Red Army. The Red Army arrived in the city on 30 January 1945, approaching from the left bank of the river Warta. The Wehrmacht had already evacuated most of the city, and the advancing forces met very little resistance. Over the course of the next few days, most of the city centre was destroyed, reportedly through the accidental spread of a fire started in order to light the outward march of the Red Army towards Küstrin.
The city was placed under Polish administration according to the post-war Potsdam Conference, and the remaining German population was expelled to western Germany. Between February and September 1945, the German population of the city dropped rapidly and was replaced more slowly by Polish settlers. Although they mainly came from central Poland, especially Greater Poland, there were also large numbers of migrants from eastern Polish lands annexed by the Soviet Union. It was at this time that Gorzów's significant Tatar and Romani communities arrived. The last original German inhabitants left in the early 1950s.
Although the centre of Gorzów was heavily damaged during the second world war, there are still many notable tourist attractions in the city. The largest of these is the gothic, red-brick Gorzów Cathedral of the Virgin Mary, dating from the end of the 13th century, situated on the old market square. The city centre is overwhelmingly comprised of Communist-era buildings, although many have been beautified, most notably those around the old market square. Many of the facades of the buildings in the centre were renovated in anticipation of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Gorzów in 1997.
Due to the large number of parks and green spaces, Gorzów has been termed 'the city of parks and gardens'. In addition to the central Park of Roses (Park Róż), there is also a viewing area on the hilltop of Siemiradzki Park which commands impressive views across the plains and woods to the south of the city.
The city also contains the museum of Lubusz Voivodeship, which is divided between two sites. The Spichlerz or 'granary' dates from the 18th century and can be found on the left bank of the Warta. The museum, housed inside, frequently plays host to art exhibitions and has a permanent collection of artifacts and photographs relating to the history of the city. The other part of the museum, on Warszawska street, is housed in the secessionist villa of Gustav Schroeder. This section contains a wide range of artifacts, ranging from 17th century portraits, to weapons, pottery, and the biedermeier interior furnishings of the villa itself.
The Gorzów Jewish cemetery is located on the western edge of the city. Although the cemetery was vandalised in the 1930s, a number of graves still remain intact.
Gorzów is well known for the International Romani Gathering (Międzynarodowe Spotkanie Cygańskie) Romane Dyvesa which is held every summer on the first week of July. The gathering includes a series of concerts held in the outdoor amphitheatre near the centre of the city. The festival is organised by Edward Dębicki, the founder of the Romani music group Terno, which also performs as part of the series of concerts.
Romane Dyvesa continues Gorzów's strong tradition of Romani culture, of which the most widely known member was the poet Bronisława Wajs, often known as Papusza. Wajs's former home on Kosynierów Gdyńskich street is marked with a plaque, as is the main city library on Sikorskiego street. The library itself holds a collection of books about Papusza, as well as the manuscripts of her correspondence with Julian Tuwim.