What to See
Jump off a tram at the ‘Plac Centralny’ stop, and find yourself at the very nucleus of Nowa Huta. Dating from 1949, the Central Square is a masterpiece of Soviet social planning, and the brainchild of architect Tadeusz Ptaszycki, whose social realist design gives the district its unique character. From 1973 to 1989 an enormous monument of Vladimir Lenin in full stride actually towered over the citizens of Nowa Huta at the north end of Plac Centralny. Dismantling it after the fall of communism in Poland was an important symbolic act (cheered by thousands of spectators), which later turned into almost comic irony when the square he once stood on - and which was named for a time after Joseph Stalin - was officially re-designated ‘Ronald Reagan Square’ in 2004. Speak to any local, however, and you’ll still hear it referred to as Plac Centralny. A walk around its fearsome arcades brings you to several points of interest, including the iconic Markiza neon sign, and Cepelix folk art shop. Also within easy walking distance is the former Świtowid cinema - another social realist stalwart that today houses the Museum of Poland Under the Communist Regime, and the Nowa Cultural Centre - home to a fantastic exhibit of grotesque and apocalyptic paintings by 20th century Polish artist Zdzisław Beksiński. Both are worth visits before wandering back to Plac Centralny and down Roses Avenue to the Nowa Huta District Museum.
Although Plac Centralny and Roses Avenue serve as the focal point for visitors, it’s the Steelworks (ul. Ujasek 1, T-2) that Nowa Huta is famous for, not to mention named after. As with the entire city of Nowa Huta, the reasons for building a steel mill here were mostly ideological, since local demand for steel was small, coal had to be brought in from Silesia, and iron ore had to be impractically transported from the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, work began in April 1950, and by 1954 the first blast furnace was in operation.