For decades Katowice had a serious PR problem and many a visitor used to literally get off on the wrong foot upon arrival. That was undoubtedly the fault of the former central train station – a truly ghastly architectural abomination that sheltered all manner of strange smells and a host of dubious characters. Having ourselves survived many a close encounter with tunnel dwelling riffraff and several existential dilemmas while commiserating in the communist era cafeteria, we are overjoyed to announce that those days are gone for good! A new era has dawned on Katowice and travellers no longer have to live in fear of drawing near to this huge transportation hub. The loooong awaited, fully renovated and totally reconceptualised Katowice train station officially opened in October 2012 and is now fully operational.The finished product is indeed a thing of beauty and although this writer may say it through clenched teeth, it was well worth the wait!
While it may take some time for people to scrub the industrial stain of the old train station from their memory, as soon as you step foot into the gorgeously modern exposed concrete glass and steel main train terminal, you may forget you’re even in Katowice. Around 1,400 workers and subcontractors worked almost around the clock for two years to transform what was one of the biggest eyesores in Poland into a serious sight for sore eyes. Fully equipped with the utmost in modern conveniences including over 50 new cafes, bars, restaurants, mobile phone shops, newsstands, cosmetic dealers, travel agents plus a totally revamped ticket and timetable window. Although it has plenty of flash and sheen, the exposed concrete gives it a modern industrial feel that melds perfectly with Katowice’s history and image. No one would ever have imagined that arriving Katowice by train would be actually be a joy, rather than a pain.
By BusTo call Katowice Bus Station (ul. Skargi 1) a bus station is a bit of a misnomer. In reality travellers will find themselves faced with a small tin shed; give a child ten minutes with some Lego pieces and they are sure to construct something more durable. It’s in here you’ll find a small waiting room, a Eurolines counter and all departures (odjazdy) and arrival times (przyjazdy) noted up on the board (all tickets have to be purchased directly from bus drivers). Outside the few departure lanes offer no shelter from the elements. At least you find yourself in the heart of town: all you have to do is walk forward and take a swift left turn at ul. Mickiewicza and within three minutes you'll find yourself staring at the principal main street, ul. Stawowa. You'll have to go further onto the Rynek to find the nearest tourist information point, however. While it doesn't offer tickets or phone cards, it does offer maps and advice and there is also internet there. If you want to buy a phone card or to connect to the Polish mobile network you'll need to go to one of the many kiosks dotted around. For info on local city buses see Public Transport.
By CarPoland is one of Europe’s leading nations in road fatalities, a statistic that will surprise few who have had the pleasure of using the roads here. A lethal combination of poor road surfaces, networks unsuited to the volume of different traffic and, most of all, frustrated and aggressive driver behavior result in the common sight of mangled wrecks around the country. Be cautious and keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front. The speed limit in Poland is generally 50km/hr in cities (60km/hr between 23:00 and 05:00), 90km/hr outside urban areas, 120km/hr on dual carriageways and 140km/hr on motorways. All cars must have their headlights
switched on at all times and carry a red warning triangle, first aid kit, replacement bulbs, a national identity sticker and proper registration and insurance documents. Poland also has strict drunk-driving laws: 0.2‰ is the maximum blood/alcohol limit, so forget about having even a single beer. You can use your home driving license or an international driving permit for six months from the entry date on your passport. Carry your license and passport at all times when driving.
Katowice is a straight 75km drive west from Kraków along the A4 highway, one of the better stretches of road in the country, but it’s smooth asphalt doesn’t come free. Toll gates can be found at either end at which you will need to pay 18zł if driving a car. This brings you in on Al. Górnośląska (F-5). The other major route in will bring you along route 79 onto ul. Chorzowska (B-1). Driving around Katowice can be a bit hellish for those uninitiated to the complexity of the city’s oneway streets and the constant presence of roadwork, so we recommend you ditch your vehicle at the earliest opportunity. Car crime is not unheard of and you’ll be safest leaving your ride in one of the guarded parking lots listed below. Street parking is also available and generally operates under the control of a local parking warden. He will be wandering along his patch wearing a bib of some colour and will charge you around 2 zł per hour to park.