Commercial and cultural centre
Katowice is an industrial city situated in the Silesian Region of southern Poland. It is the largest constituent of the Upper Silesian Urban Area, a vast conurbation with a population approaching three million. Due to vast quantities of coal in the area, Katowice grew from being a rural village into a modern centre of industry in the 19th century.
Katowice officially became a city during the period between World War I and II and for a short while after WWII, it was renamed Stalinogród.
Today, Katowice is a major commercial and cultural centre with numerous public companies headquartered in the city. It is also home to a few major universities, with approximately 80,000 students attending.
Unlike most other large Polish cities, Katowice did not originate as a medieval town, therefore it does not have an Old Town. It is not a pretty city by any stretch of the imagination; but its restaurants, museums and urban atmosphere are easily enough to justify a short stay.
Cultural centres of note include the Wyspianski Silesian Theatre, the largest theatre in Silesia, located on the market square. The Silesian Philharmonic, founded in 1945, has a well-established position in the cultural life of the region and is one of the country’s most respected musical institutions. The Silesian Museum was founded in 1929 and has a number of popular permanent exhibitions including, ‘Upper Silesia over the course of history’ which addresses sensitive issues such as the area’s German cultural heritage. The History of Katowice Museum showcases some of the more interesting aspects of the life and times of the city and its people.
Katowice has plenty of green spaces and parks to enjoy, the three big ones are; Silesian Culture and Refreshment Park, Tadeusz Kosciuszko Park, and Zadole Park.
The city displays a good contrast of modern buildings and Modernist and Art Nouveau buildings from the turn of the century. The Cathedral of Christ the King is the largest archcathedral in Poland and was constructed between 1927 and 1955. Other historic buildings worth seeing include St. Stephen's Church, Silesian Insurgents Monument, the Silesian Library, and the Goldstein Palace.
Katowice’s main high street is Ul. Mariacka, a handy 5 minute walk from the main market square. On this street and in the immediate area you’ll find the city’s bars, clubs and restaurants and during the summer months, there are plenty of beer gardens.
Katowice isn’t really a city for tourists, there’s not very much to see there; however it is a good place to socialise and spend a day or two. It is also a good base for visiting some of the attractions in the region such as the UNESCO listed Tarnowskie Góry Silver Mine, just 30km north-west of Katowice. See – Things to Do.
The mine is usually open for tourists with guided tours in several languages. The tour begins in a museum and then goes underground to visit corridors from the 18th and 19th centuries. The underground tourist route is 1,740m long, including 270m travelled in a boat through the flooded corridor. The route includes audio effects such as the sounds of miners working, running carts and blasting works.
Just 22km from Katowice is the Guido Coal Mine, a historic deep coal mine and museum in Zabrze. Two levels of Guido Coal Mine are open to visitors with depths of 170m and 320m below ground level, which makes it the deepest visitor mine in Europe.
Visit the biggest complex of concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau and take a private tour of Old Town Krakow on a full-day excursion.