text by Klaudia Chabrzyk
Just a few years ago Katowice was a somewhat sad, gray place, with old steelworks and closed mines as its main landscape. Now it is a vibrant city, full of life, culture, music and colors. It has changed entirely and is now a desirable tourist destination.
Katowice is a city in Silesia. While traveling in this region you can easily feel how different it is from the rest of Poland. The most important thing is, obviously, the dialect. Unfortunately, nowadays young people do not know it that well – therefore, there are two ways to encounter it. The first one is going to the theater. Silesian plays are staged by the Korez Theatre (I heartily recommend the play Cholonek, which will introduce you to the story of Silesia, beautiful and tragic in equal measure). The second option is traveling to Nikiszowiec – the most Silesian of all regions in Katowice. It is a settlement built in 1908 for miners working in the nearby ”Giesche” mine (now called “KWK Wieczorek”, unfortunately, closed to the public). This is where most of the retired miners, who speak the true language of their forefathers, live. Nikiszowiec is also characterized by unique architecture: all tenement houses (or “familoki”, as their tenants call them) are made of red brick, and their window frames are painted red. Also situated there is The Wilson Shaft Gallery, which was built on a site where a mineshaft used to be. This is where the works of many distinguished local artists are shown, including pieces by Karol Wieczorek, Erwin Sówka or the venerable Grupa Janowska.
If you want to see the inside of a mine you should visit “Guido” in Zabrze, where you can find the deepest tourist route in a coal mine in Europe! The lift will take you as deep as 350 meters underground. The impressive mining equipment is also showcased here, and at the depth of 320 meters, you can have a ride in an electrically suspended railway. It is the only suspended railway for tourists of this kind in the world! To understand the rough architecture of Katowice, you must visit The Route of Modernism. It is a 5,5 km long route formed by 16 buildings; nearby info kiosks with multimedia presentations provide information on Katowice’s modernist architecture. When it comes to the history of the region, The Silesian Insurgents’ Monument is definitely worth seeing – it is the biggest and heaviest monument in Poland. Its three wings symbolize the three Silesian uprisings in the years 1919, 1920 and 1921. What is particularly interesting is the fact that the monument was funded by the citizens of Warsaw in 1967.
If you are interested in sacred architecture, it is definitely worth visiting the Cathedral of Christ the King – the biggest religious building in Poland. The Basilica of St. Ludwik the King and the Assumption of Mary are famous for its Christmas crèches. The Church of St. Michael Archangel is the oldest in Katowice, while the Evangelical-Augsburg Church of the Resurrection is a venue for numerous concerts.
And just like that, we proceed smoothly to the modern times, as there is also plenty to charm us here. You cannot leave Katowice without having seen Spodek, where most of the concerts and sporting events take place. It is undoubtedly the most recognizable symbol of Katowice. Not far from here is The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, considered by many as the best concert hall in Poland. The best Polish and international orchestras perform there. A little further from here is The Silesian Museum. Its new building was first opened to visitors in 2015; three of its levels lie underground. Its collection includes works of Polish masters, e.g., Jacek Malczewski, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz or Stanisław Wyspiański. It also encompasses some pieces by world-renowned artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn or Giovanni Battista Piranesi. In the close neighborhood of the museum, The International Conference Centre is located. All of its buildings, characterized by beautiful, extraordinary design, can be admired from the observation deck on the roof of the conference center. It is the best viewing point in the city.
While in Katowice it is also worth visiting the Silesian Park, where many attractions are located, e.g., the Zoological Garden, the Amusement Park, the Planetarium, the Silesian Stadium, the Upper Silesian Ethnographic Park, a rope course and a ropeway. For those who want to party, the place to go is definitely Mariacka Street, the most popular nightlife area in Katowice. Places with the best atmosphere, where you can relax, include the Hipnoza Jazzclub, Old Times Garage, Cafe Kattowitz, or the teahouse Fanaberia. The best way to get to know Katowice, however, is to discover it on your own – try and see how magical it can be; the place, where the black coal of the past meets the modern times.