Katowice is one of the fastest-growing Polish cities. It is the capital of voivodeship inhabited by nearly 5 million people, which has a well-developed transport network with other European cities and the world. It is located in the centre of metropolis which underwent a deep transformation in a relatively short period. The young 150-year-old city promotes itself with the slogan ”Katowice for a change” and the logo in the form of a heart, which in a way combines two images of the city – the traditional one with its industrial heritage and the modern one – a creative and economically strong place. New technology services have become the dominant forms of economy. Another strong pillar of the city is culture, which has been confirmed with the prestigious title of the Creative City in the field of music awarded by UNESCO.
THINGS TO SEE
Until 2008, Mariacka Street was just like other typical streets in Polish cities. Its name comes from the Katowice Church of the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary, commonly referred to as the Mariacki Church, which stands at the very end of the street. After 2009, as a result of a complex redevelopment based on a competition design, Mariacka street has become the most popular pedestrian street in Katowice.
Mariacka Street has a life of its own and entices people with unforgettable shows, unique events, exceptional music and pubs. There is always something going on here! Everyone is welcome to participate in concerts, the summer movie theater, theater plays, attractions for children, large format games, Hawaiian parties and many more. Set your course for Mariacka Street because it is the place to go if you want to have fun! Observe how the street comes to life during the various events turning into a colourful cascade of people.
The Zone of Culture
In the vicinity of the Spodek Arena, the new space called „The Zone of Culture” grew on the premises of the former „Katowice” Coal Mine in the recent years. It includes three exceptional buildings: The International Congress Centre, The National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the new seat of the Silesian Museum. The NOSPR concert hall, despite its enormous auditorium (1800 seats) is distinguished by the top-level acoustics and regarded as one of the best worldwide. Its architecture is a unique combination of modern style, tradition and industrial motives.
A similar association arises when one visits The Silesian Museum complex – modern, minimalistic structures are adjacent to the historic building of the former coal mine and majority of the exhibition area is situated underground which corresponds to the previous function of the place. The museum houses art collections (e.g. a rich collection of Polish paintings) as well as etnography and Upper Silesia histoical exhibits.
Nikiszowiec and Giszowiec
Among Katowice’s biggest tourist attractions are the historic Giszowiec and Nikiszowiec mining estates, developed at the beginning of the 20th century by the Georg von Giesche’s Erben concern for the employees of the new mine. In times when the city is dynamically changing, trying to rely on branches of economy other than heavy industry in terms of its growth and development, they remain an interesting memento of the past times as well as a place of meeting with the still living Silesian tradition and culture.
The older of the two estates – Giszowiec – got its name from the Giesche concern and was created between 1906 – 1910 according to the design of two architects from Charlottenburg – Georg and Emil Zillmann. It comprises picturesque, mostly single- and two-family houses with gardens, built in the tradition of Upper Silesian rural cottages. There are also public utility buildings located around the central square of the estate – the Pod Lipami square. There is a school, preschool, inn, concert hall and stores there. As the housing estate alludes to the design of a garden city, there is a lot of greenery here, and the idea behind the entire concept is to provide residents with the best possible living conditions. However, only 1/3 of the original development remains because in the 1970s the majority of the estate was demolished in order to build 11-storey slab block buildings. Today Giszowiec is under the care of a heritage conservator and has become a popular destination for tourists as well as Katowice’s residents themselves.
The second housing estate, Nikiszowiec, whose name derives from the nearby Nikisch shaft, was created in two stages – between 1908 – 1915 and 1920 – 1924. Despite having been designed by the same architects as Giszowiec, it represents a different type of architecture – it is a much bigger municipal estate and comprises compact quarters of 3- and 4-storey buildings. The Zillmanns created an almost self-sufficient city which, apart from residential buildings, also features a church, hospital, schools, preschool, stores, inn, and even an electric laundry and dry cleaner’s facility. The inhabitants of cozy, spacious apartments could enjoy all the achievements of civilization in those times such as electricity, running water or sewage systems; some of the buildings even had central heating. Nikiszowiec was lucky to survive the stormy 20th century without any significant damage, and as a result we can admire its original development in an almost unchanged state.
Interesting architecture is matched by interesting people – it is the residents of the district that make for its unforgettable atmosphere! Until this day, you can hear the Silesian dialect spoken in the streets of Nikiszowiec. A lot of people have been living here for generations, and work in the nearby mine still sets the pace of life for many families. It is a place worth visiting, especially during the fairs in July and December. Other events worth taking part in are the June Industriada – festivities celebrating the Industrial Monuments Route – as well as the Art Naif Festival in August.
A trip to Nikiszowiec may prove to be an interesting meeting with art. The historic interiors of the former Wilson Shaft hold the largest private art gallery in Poland while the museum, arranged in the building of the former mangle, provides an opportunity for people to admire paintings by non-professional artists from the famous Janowska Group or to learn about their original, esoteric ideology.
The Silesian Insurgents’ Monument- the biggest and the heaviest monument in Poland
The Silesian Insurgents’ Monument is one of Katowice’s symbols and is located in the vincity of Gen. Jerzy Ziętek roundabout and Silesian Insurgents’ park. This is a monument to those who took part in the three Silesian Uprosings, which aimed to make the region of Upper Silesia part of the newly independent Polish state.
The monument, founded by inhabitants of Warsaw to inhabitants of Katowice, was unveiled on 1 September 1967, and designed by sculptor Gustaw Zemła and architect Wojciech Zabłocki.
The form of three wings symbolizes the three Silesian Uprisings of 1919, 1920 and 1921 , and the names of places where battles were fought are etched on the vertical slopes.
Green Zone – places to wander around
Katowice ranks first in terms of the forest area in the Silesian province and second in all of Poland. Particularly precious areas include two nature reserves and one nature and landscape complex. Katowice’s forests are predominantly places for relaxation and recreation, especially thanks to numerous walking and bike trails.
Old beech and oak trees protect the Las Murckowski forest reserve. Some of them are over 230 years old. The forest complex also includes the Ochojec floral reserve. Another place worth visiting is the historic Kościuszki park whose character alludes to English parks and classic gardens. The park grounds the wooden Michael Archangel church, a statue of Tadeusz Kościuszko and a legendary parachute tower. One cannot miss the Katowice Forest Park (Katowicki Park Leśny), which en- compasses municipal, park and forest areas in the Muchowiec district. In it, we will find 11 ponds, the largest of which lie in the Valley of Three Ponds (Dolina Trzech Stawów).
The Modernism Trail
Acknowledged architecture is a great showpiece of Katowice. This was the reason behind creating the Modernism Trail which, over time, will become one of the many stages of the Katowice tourist route. Introducing guests as well as the city’s residents to 16 gems of modernist architecture, the route shows the true, inspiring face of the Silesian Province’s capital. The Modernism Trail is an area marked by 16 buildings characterized by a unique, prewar modernist style of architecture, thanks to which Katowice was referred to as “Polish Chicago”.
Modernism in Katowice started with the construction of a significant public facility, namely the monumental Silesian Provincial Office and Parliament building. The structure, built in the modernized neoclassical style, was completed in 1929.
The first entirely modern facility in Katowice, both in terms of structure, as well as expression of functionalist architecture was the 7-storey high-rise at 23 Wojewódzka Street. The building was erected as the House for Professors of the SilesianTechnical Research Facilities. It was the first iron framed structure in Poland, created by the United Royal and Laura Steelworks. This experiment later allowed for the construction of the famous 60-meter “skyscraper” in Katowice. The modern functionalist architecture of Katowice created in subsequent years by Polish architects enjoed a heyday, which was in- comparable with any other region of our country apart from Gdynia. Thanks to this, Katowice can pride itself on the largest and most interesting group of monuments of such remarkable value on a national scale.
In the 1920s and 1930s a housing complex of high-standard tenements and houses was erected in Katowice in the functional modernistic style of architecture, located predominantly in the so-called southern historical district, mainly to the west of Kościuszki Street. Walking through the city, one can still come across numerous examples of this style, like the seat of the Katowice Polish Radio on Ligonia Street.
Works of modernistic architecture from the interwar period, not yet fully discovered nor functioning in the social consciousness as noteworthy, consti- tute a very valuable part of Katowice’s heritage.
Download the leaflet of Katowice – Welcome to Katowice.
More information: http://www.katowice.eu/en