A Guide to Visiting Katowice, Poland (And Why You Should Go)
Why We Visited Katowice, Poland
The ugliest city in Poland.
Nothing but old coal mines.
It's all grey and industrial.
These are just some of the things we heard from our YouTube audience before visiting Katowice. It was our second visit to Poland and, having already visited the country's more popular cities, we were looking to see what else was in store. Eager to debunk the negative stereotypes, we spent a couple of days in Katowice and were more than pleasantly surprised. While this resource-rich area of Silesia may have been dull and boring ten years ago, the city has been revitalized and there are plenty of fun things to do in Katowice. Those who haven't been in the last decade may not even recognize Katowice anymore...
Even with the recent growth, you'll find a relaxing atmosphere in the main Culture Zone and along the pedestrian streets - especially at the lounge chairs sheltered by palm trees near the square. Industrial tourism has been here for some time but the new reputation Katowice is building for itself will surely gain the attention of international tourists soon. For those looking to explore beyond the main tourist destinations in Poland, our guide to Katowice will help you make the most of your stay in this modern and innovative city. At the end of this post, we've included our Katowice travel video - the one that landed us a spot on the local TVP news channel in Poland!
Things to Know Before You Go
CURRENCY: Polish Zloty (PLN)
GETTING THERE: Katowice is located in the south of Poland, about an hour west of Krakow. Most visitors will arrive at Katowice Dworzec PKP, a recently renovated train station conveniently located in the centre of the city and connected to a large shopping mall. We arrived by bus at the Dworzec Autobusowy Katowice bus station which is more of a large parking lot than an actual terminal but still within walking to distance to most sights in town. Domestic and international flights will land at the Katowice Airport in Pyrzowice, about 30 minutes north of Katowice with shuttle services available through PKM Katowice and local bus routes that take you into town as well.
LOCAL TRANSIT: A well-serviced system of buses and trams runs throughout the city of Katowice. Tickets are affordable and can be purchased from the driver or at local newsstands and grocery stores. Fares vary depending on zones travelled. Uber also operates in Katowice and taxis are readily available. We found Katowice to be a very walkable city, even when visiting in the winter months. We only used Uber to visit the neighbourhood of Nikiszowiec and opted for a local bus on the way back into town.
TOURISM INFO: We popped into the visitor's centre for a map of the city and were greeted by friendly (and English-speaking) staff. Their corner office is located at Rynek 13: Monday to Friday 9:00am to 7:00pm, Saturday 9.00 - 5:00pm, Sunday (summer only) 9:00am to 1:00pm.
Things to do in Katowice, Poland
Katowice might not have the charming old town squares featured in other cities in Poland but there is still plenty to see and do. First-time visitors won't want to miss the buildings in the Culture Zone and the pedestrian streets of Mariacka and 3 Maja. And while there are a lot of city sights, nature lovers won't have to go far to enjoy the outdoors.
SILESIAN MUSEUM: Learn about the region's history at one of the best museums we've ever visited. Admission to the interactive museum and nearby observation tower is free on Tuesdays: Silesian Museum / Muzeum Slaski → Tadeusza Dobrowolskiego 1
NIKISZOWIEC: Walking around the former coal miners' settlement of Nikiszowiec was one of the highlights of our visit. Six large brick buildings blocks make up the neighbourhood with red-trim and flowers adding character to this historical part of Katowice. Wander the streets, stop by Cafe Byfyj for lunch or coffee and find unique coal jewelry at I Coal You. Nikiszowiec → Rymarska 4
SPODEK: Attend a concert or event at the multi-purpose arena that oddly resembles a flying saucer (which is what spodek means in Polish). The venue also has a skating rink, gym and pool in addition to offering guided tours. Spodek Katowice → Aleja W. Korfantego 35
NOSPR: Music lovers will definitely appreciate the acoustics of Katowice's world class concert hall: Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra → plac Wojciecha Kilara 1
SILESIA PARK: This massive city park lies on the north-western edge of Katowice and is full of attractions including a planetarium, plenty of trails and even a gondola for that bird's eye view of the surroundings: Silesia Park → Aleja Rozana 2
THE VALLEY OF THREE PONDS: A popular park in the south end of Katowice that makes for a nice visit, especially during the summer months. There are plenty of trails, ponds and even a small beach area. The Valley of Three Ponds / Dolina Trzech Stawów → Trzech Stawów
CATHEDRAL OF CHRIST THE KING: Visit the largest cathedral in Poland: Cathedral of Christ the King / Katedra Chrystusa Króla → Plebiscytowa 49A
A couple of days gives you enough time to explore the best of what this city has to offer but, should you choose to extend your stay, it's worth exploring more of the region with these nearby day trips from Katowice:
The medieval castle of Bedzin, Poland.
The city of Tychy where you'll find the brewery of Poland's popular beer, Tyskie.
The historic Guido mine in the nearby town of Zabrze.
The charming town of Pszczyna and it's impressive castle.
Where to eat in Katowice, Poland
Because I was really bummed that we couldn't make it to the Polish village of Zalipie, we opted to eat at Chata z Zalipia - a cozy restaurant with a painted floral theme. The borscht we shared to start came with bread and a mystery spread which we later learned was pork lard with onion, or smalec. Wes was more than pleased with his golabki (cabbage rolls) and I ordered a deliciously massive placki ziemniaczane (potato pancake) covered in mushroom sauce. We washed it down with the traditional kompot fruit beverage and would happily eat this meal all over again. And again.
Whatever you're craving, chances are you're going to find it in Katowice. From traditional Polish and Silesian cuisine to international comfort foods and the usual fast food chains you'd expect, there is something for even the pickiest eaters. Mariacka and 3 Maja are the streets you'll want to explore for their high concentration of restaurants, bars and shops. While we were too stuffed to try anything else during our short stay, we have these recommendations for restaurants in Katowice worth trying out:
For traditional Polish food with good service: Chata z Zalipia → Wojewódzka 15
For the vegetarians: Zloty Osiol (Golden Donkey) → Mariacka 1
For cheap drinks and interesting snacks: Ministerstwo Śledzia i Wódki (Ministry of Herring and Vodka) → Mariacka 4
For late night eats featuring the Polish open-faced sub zapiekanka: Todojutra → Mariacka 17
For fresh and authentic doughnuts: Tradycyjna Paczkarnia Slowik with a potential line up → 3 Maja 5
For the best burgers in Katowice: Mad Mick with two locations → Warszawska 13 and Plac Oddzialow Mlodziezy Powstanczej (Pomp) 5
For breakfast, coffee and yummy bagels: 3 Siostry Bajgiel i Kawa (3 Sisters Bagel and Coffee) → Świetego Stanislawa 8
For a special occasion or fancier meal: Stare i Nowe → Chorzowska 7B
From hostels to hotels, you'll find a wide range of accommodations in Katowice especially since the city hosts so many travellers on business trips throughout the year. We stayed at a central, comfortable and affordable Airbnb during our stay which was close to the main train station. I would recommend looking for a place south of the Spodek building and north of Cathedral of Christ the King so that you're within walking distance to almost everything in town. Feel free to use our Airbnb discount code that will save new users up to $40 on your stay in Katowice (and helps us toward our next stay!).
Why You Should Visit Katowice, Poland
We were warned about a dull and grey Katowice and instead enjoyed our stay in a bright and thriving city with a growing food scene, tons of green spaces and modern architecture. While it can't compete with the colourful "old" towns of Poznan and Wroclaw, Katowice has come a long way in a short amount of time. Well-designed public spaces come to life in the summer and the city hosts dozens of cultural events year-round like the popular Intel Extreme Masters and Industriada. Katowice is one of Poland's newer cities and has managed to reinvent itself so quickly, most of the country has yet to notice. More international conventions and meetings are taking place here and it's only a matter of time before travellers start to see the potential that the city's investors have already acknowledged. I hope we'll get a chance to visit again during the summer months and uncover more of what Katowice has to offer.
A couple of months ago, I met a Polish traveller in Mexico at a meditation retreat. As are most Polish people I meet, she was curious to know what cities I had been to and I could tell she wasn't all that interested when hearing the usual Krakow, Warsaw, Poznan, etc. But the second I mentioned Katowice, I had her attention again and she was so glad that we went despite the reputation. "The city is changing so quickly and it's becoming one of the most innovative cities in Poland," she said. "A lot of tourist don't notice it and even Polish people still have the wrong idea about Katowice but I'm glad you went and can at least help change the old notions." This was just another reminder for us to not always believe what we hear about a city because the people talking are usually the ones who have never been.
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