Katowice, despite its architectural and cultural renaissance, cannot be described as a top tourist destination like its neighbours Kraków and Wrocław. However, the city, and indeed the entire Silesian Metropolis continues to add interesting museums and attractions to a growing list of eclectic and downright odd sites that make this city absolutely unique. Nope, you won't find a castle, or palaces, uh, no, no ancient ruins. No Old Town per say. But what you will find is a boatload of Industrial Tourism that will literally take you underground, and a host of cultural events in the UNESCO city of music. After years of languishing, Katowice has undergone a massive renovation and revitalization project that resulted in a literal face-lift and a heart transplant of the city centre. Though there is building work still going on here and there, we finally see the dawn of a new and improving Katowice.
Unlike other urban casualties (hello to our friends in Warsaw), the city can't claim to have been beaten by the Ugly Stick during World War II. No, Katowice was born with that heirloom in its hand and the Nazis probably snatched it from here as they rumbled east to the capital. And while the Soviets returned with it after the war, destroying many of the buildings on the Rynek in the 1950s to make room for their modern monuments to concrete, it was predestined that Katowice would never be belle of the ball. A blue collar city to this day, Katowice and its neighbours in Upper Silesia were born into the working class, growing up during the industrial revolution and put to work in sooty mine shafts, factories and railway yards. The area's history is inextricably entwined with the manufacture of coal and steel and the stacks, shafts, slag heaps and massive waves of migrants that followed the discovery of the region's mineral resources. As such, any mention of tourism in the district is usually preceded by the word, 'industrial.' Indeed the derelict factories and foundries, blackened chimneys and abandoned maintenance yards of Silesia's industrial boom represent the bulk of Silesia's tourist offerings, and the region is ripe for renegade tourists eager to explore evidence of a bygone era. Those interested in industrial tourism are advised to get their hands on a copy of Silesia's Industrial Monuments Route,which can be picked up free of charge in any Silesian tourist information office, and while we've covered many of the entailed sites in this very guide, the region has plenty more to offer than we have space to include here.
Katowice, for its part, has become a growing business and cultural centre filled with new venues, cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs to match all tastes. Those seeking more conventional interpretations of the word attraction will find plenty of cleaned up 19th century architecture in the form of handsome townhouses in the city centre, particularly along ulica 3-go Maja between the Rynek and Plac Wolności. If you're looking for something older, such as churches, Christ the King Cathedral is the country's largest, although one should not forego the chance to see the charming St. Mary's church at the end of the pleasant Ul. Mariacka. One of the best museums in southern Poland is the Silesian Museum, on the site of the former Katowice Coal Mine. Conventional charm has obviously never been a strength of Katowice, however, as best evidenced by the bonkers Spodek sport and concert arena. Yes, historically it's always been the shaft (literally) for Katowice, and while being a tourist in this city may once have felt a bit like getting dressed for the theatre and ending up at a Board of Education meeting, things have definitely improved. We hope you enjoy the city for its oddities, and remember, next time you hear negative opinions expressed about Katowice, set the record straight.