Have you ever heard of Cieszyn? (except if you’ve been around for a while and remember my last year’s post about this place + if you follow me on Facebook and see how often I mention it). This small town divided by Polish-Czech border is my latest discovery, a place I keep returning to, the one that does mircales to my creativity and where I feel extremely good in. Cieszyn is also a perfect stop in your trip from Prague to Krakow or Vienna and Warsaw. You can relax after dealing with crowds in one of these popular destinations and regain energy before heading to another one. This is just one of the many reasons why you should include Cieszyn in your next trip! So what are the others?
When Polish people hear the name of this city they immediately think of the border between Poland and Czech Republic that runs through the town. And that’s not really surprising as Cieszyn used to be a city of smugglers, a getaway to Czech Republic. One of the biggest border crossing between these two countries used to be located right in the center of Cieszyn. I remember it very clearly as that’s where I visited Czech Republic for the very first time, back in 1998.
These days there is no border and the only way to nottice you’re in another country is a line in the middle of the bridge marking the actual border point. People freely move from Cieszyn to Cesky Tesin and the other way around. You feel like grabing a beer and smazeny syr in a typical Czech pub? Or maybe you want to try delicious ice cream in the hip cafe in Cieszyn castle? Nothing easier! After a day of constant border crossing and hopping between these two towns I’m usually confused in which country I am. Different language, different currency yet my Polish mobile phone network still works! Go figure!
Cheapest way to travel between Prague and Kraków
Most of the backpackers visiting Europe have more or less the same route and almost always both Kraków and Prague are on their list. Direct transport between these two cities is very limited and pricy. The best thing one can do is to take a public transport in Poland and Czech Republic and then walk through the border. Bus between Kraków and Cieszyn runs frequently, it takes 3 hours and the price should be around 20pln (~5€). Direct trains from Cesky Tesin to Prague run every 2 hours, take 4.5 hours (it’s 400kms) and cost a little bit over 12€. Overall the journey between Kraków and Prague would cost you around 17€, the price of the direct train is over 70€…
history and architecture
Cieszyn is one of the oldest towns in Poland, with long and rich history. It dates back to 10th century, from the end of 13th century till mid 17th century it used to be the capital of Duchy of Cieszyn. In 1920 the town was divided to what now is Cieszyn and Cesky Tesin. Most of the important, historical buildings stayed on the Polish side, including the 11th century rotunda that can be seen on 20 Polish złoty bill. But while Cieszyn is full of monuments and great examples of Austro-Hungarian architecture the Czech side isn’t boring either. When the city was divided Cesky Tesin was just a suburb and had to develop quickly – it resulted in the amazing 1920s modern architecture that can be found just across Olza river.
Location right at the border and on the trade routes made Cieszyn a multicultural hub of this part of Europe. Besides Poles and Czech the city used to have also German and Jewish inhabitants, for a short time a small Hungarian community was present here as well. This variety is still felt in the atmosphere of the city and that’s what makes this place so special. Some remnants of old inhabitants, such as beautifully located Jewish cemetries, can be found in the city. During the times of Austro-Hungarian Empire the Emperor Franz Josef visited Cieszyn couple of times – the city is still proud of these events and you might hear mentions of these here and there.
cafe culture + some really cool pubs
For a towns of this size (Cieszyn – 35.000 inhabitants, Cesky Tesin – 25.000 inhabitants) there’s an exceptional cafe culture! Each time I’m there I spend a big part of my time enjoying various cafes (like right now, I’m writing this post from Presso – a great design cafe located on Cieszyn castle). The choice is really big – from a fancy, Viennese style Cafe Muzeum, intellectual Kavarna Avion right across the Olza river on the Czech side, tea houses both in Poland and Czech Republic, quirky pubs like Bar Cieszyńska Wenecja or the mentioned Presso. And the best thing about cafes and pubs in Cieszyn? Very affordable prices, half of what you’d have to pay in Kraków or Warsaw for the same beer or coffee!
Cieszyn has become a design capital of Silesia region and an important design center in Poland. Cieszyn castle is where you can find all the cool things. Right now for example there’s a great exhibition of IKEA items – not only you can see quirky yet functional pieces but also read the story of the designers, what inspirred them to create etc. The good news is the design exhibitions are free of charge!
best culinary experience of two countries
Another great advantage of Cieszyn and its location is the mix of Polish and Czech cuisine and beer. You want to eat pierogi or pork chop? There’re plenty of restaurants serving a typical, delicious Polish dishes! Or maybe you’re feeling like trying some amazing smazeny syr? In Cieszyn / Cesky Tesin you can have the best of these two countries! And on top of that there’s great and cheap Czech beer (available on both sides of the border) or a really good one from Cieszyn – Brackie. And again – prices are really affordable! For a two course meal in “Obiady jak u mamy” on the Polish side (highly recommended) you would have to pay 9.90zł (~2,50€ / 3,30$) while smazeny syr + fries + beer in “U Huberta” on the Czech side would cost you around 100czk (less than 4€ / 5$)
I can’t really describe that but each time I’m in Cieszyn I feel some magic in this place. Every sunny afternoon the city is covered in an intense yellow colour I haven’t seen anywhere else. The cobbled street, old houses remembering Austro-Hungary times, crossing the bridge to be in a completely different world, the feeling of the old times – these are just few things that make me fall in love with Cieszyn more and more every time I visit it. During each of my stays there I don’t feel like I’m in Poland, neither in Czech Republic – Cieszyn is just Cieszyn, a town that can’t be easily described, put into frames. The strong feeling of independence and pride is very clearly seen and felt there. It is a truly magical place!
always something going on
I don’t really expect many great events in the city of this size but Cieszyn is a great exception. In the summer time there’s something going on literally every week! Cieszyn is well known for its numerous festivals: Tea Festival (with lots of workshops, concerts or meetings with travellers), Circles of Art (lots of movies, theatres, exhibitions or concerts) or Summer Frames (this year there were movies from countries like Iran, Serbia or Romania). But the most important event is Kino na Granicy / Kino na Hranici – a transborder movie festival that takes place each year at the end of April / beginning of May. It shows mostly movies from Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia but sometimes also works from surrounding countries can be seen. Lately the festival introduced a new way of connecting two countries – the screen is located on the Polish side of Olza river while people sit on the Czech side! I’ve been planning to go to this festival for years and hopefully next year I will finally be able to visit Cieszyn at that time!
One of the reasons why I visit Cieszyn that often is a great 3 Bros’ hostel. Visiting Cieszyn was on my mind for years but after receiving their invitation last summer I finally went and well, the rest is known, I’m crazy about this town right now. Somewhen along the way I became really good friends with owners of the hostel, three crazy guys Marjo, Korni and Adam. We always spent long hours talking about everything and nothing, always over a local beer. They know Cieszyn really well and it’s easy to say they are really passionate about the city and know all the best spots. If you visit Cieszyn staying at 3Bros’ is a must (and the price – 45zł (~11€ / 15$) for a bed + breakfast is unbeatable) – if you’re there say hello to guys from me!
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Do you like visiting small, charming towns? Would you like to go to Cieszyn/Cesky Tesin?
If you think of visiting Czech Republic or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!
If you think of visiting Poland or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!
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Gdzie jechać w 2015 roku? POLSKA | Zależna w podróży | Gdzie jechać w 201507/02/2015 at 20:25
[…] uwielbia Kamila z bloga Kami & the Rest of the World. Jej tekst o nim znajdziecie tutaj. Jej jest też załączone niżej […]
Bloggers' Favorite Small Towns - Forget Someday17/02/2015 at 01:41
[…] Cieszyn (Poland) / Cesky Tesin (Czech Republic) – A Divided City Kami from My Wanderlust […]
W 10 inspiracji dookoła świata10/10/2015 at 09:11
Ech znowu mi umknęło:( jechałabym :(
Cieszyn robi wrażenie10/10/2015 at 09:29
Cieszymy się, że do nas wracacie :D
Kami and the rest of the world16/10/2015 at 18:56
cieszymy się, że nas tam tak lubicie :)
Continental Breakfast Travel Blog10/10/2015 at 14:39
This place looks lovely!
Kami and the rest of the world16/10/2015 at 19:03
it really is!!
John10/10/2015 at 15:43
Cieszyn looks like somewhere I’d really like: I love border towns (I grew up on an island so borders are a real novelty to me) and the atmosphere ooks brilliant. A small town in deepest darkest Central Europe – I like it already! :)
kami17/10/2015 at 21:20
It is awesome, my favourite Polish town! If you happen to be in the area or travel between Prague and Kraków be sure to stop there, you won’t regret it!
eTramping.com10/10/2015 at 16:52
Definitely worth exploring!
Kami and the rest of the world16/10/2015 at 18:55
Ania Szymiec16/10/2015 at 22:21
Zdecydowanie się potwierdziło, ja też zakochałam się w Cieszynie! :) ❤️
Alex Uher15/01/2016 at 14:58
I feel like I really need to make it to Cesky Tesin one of these days now that I live here. Your posts really make me want to visit it!
Kami and the rest of the world20/01/2016 at 08:23
you definitely should! It’s such an interesting place, like two words and best of both countries in one place!! and once you are there you have to stay at 3 Bros’ Hostel Cieszyn/ Český Těšín – you won’t find a better place!
Zenobia03/02/2016 at 10:04
Brilliant : ) Lovely post! I am adding it into my future-road-trip-through-Poland itinerary.
kami15/02/2016 at 15:47
Great! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it once you go there!
Browar Zamkowy w Cieszynie18/02/2016 at 00:53
[…] – między innymi dlatego, że Kamila, jedna z organizatorek, kocha to miasto i jest tak przekonująca, że dziesiątki ludzi dwa razy do roku przemierzają […]
Epepa13/04/2016 at 22:19
Bardzo zaciekawiłaś mnie tym Cieszynem. Ostatni raz byłam tam jako dziecko, gdy była jeszcze granica i ustawiały się na moście długie kolejki “mrówek”. Ledwo pamiętam to miasto, muszę tam koniecznie zajrzeć. Jestem z Gliwic, więc nie mam daleko. Chyba skusiłaś mnie tymi kawiarniami i festiwalami, projekt ‘Kino na granicy’ brzmi wspaniale. Może uda mi się tam wtedy wybrać.
kami14/04/2016 at 06:52
ja własnie też pamiętałam Cieszyn z czasów granicznych i moich dziecięcych i jak pojechałam pierwszy raz tak na spokojnie, pozwiedzać byłam w wielkim szoku jak tam fantastycznie!!! Koniecznie jedź na jakis weekend, tym bardziej że masz tak blisko! A może w ten najbliższy weekend zajrzysz do Cieszyna? mamy spotkanie blogerskie, coś około 100 osób ma być, więc będzie wesoło!
Mario Falzon28/05/2016 at 15:27
I visited Cieszyn twice, in 2011 and 2014. On my first visit, I took the bus from Krakow directly to Cieszyn. It’s a stiff uphill walk from the bus station to Cieszyn’s old centre. The city is small and one can see all in half a day or so but lingering in the city gives one the opportunity to walk along the picturesque banks of the Olza River and the numerous canals that branch out of the Olza. Accomodation in budget hotels (and there are quite a few of these in the city) is dirt cheap, as are restaurant and bar prices. Without doubt, it’s a cosy city; for some reason I can’t really explain, it’s a city that pushes one to return again and again. As a matter of fact, I revisited in 2014, this time taking a bus from Ostrava to Cesky Tesin. Cesky Tesin is not yet well-equipped for visitors and so I moved on again to the Polish side of the city. I stayed for 3 days in an atmosphere of relaxation, peace of mind and…. obviously beer drinking. Shall I visit for a third time? …..Absolutely.
kami03/06/2016 at 22:09
Beautifully written and I couldn’t agree more! Thank you!
Artur08/12/2020 at 12:41
Watch out, Mario … Cieszyn is addictive. Ok. 20% of people who studied in Cieszyn stayed permanently. I was born in Cieszyn and have lived in Norway for 15 years but I have Cieszyn in my DNA… ;-)
Jessica24/04/2022 at 06:09
Moving to cieszyn in a couple months from Ontario, Canada to live with my lesbian girlfriend. It looks so beautiful in Poland. I’ve never been there, but I’m extremely excited to start my next chapter. I just wish Poland was mors labtq friendly, as we’re going to need to hide our relationship. Other than that, living there is a dream come true and the food looks amazing!
kami25/04/2022 at 13:12
Good luck! Fingers crossed things go smoothly for you. Unfortunately, Poland still has a lot to learn in the LGBT rights but I still hope you will enjoy your time here!