Katowice – the most underrated city in Poland

Visit Katowice Poland
(Last Updated On: 22/06/2019)

For years I haven’t considered Katowice as an interesting tourist destination and a perfect weekend getaway in Poland. During my university years, it was often a must stop on the way to Czech Republic or a place to go for interesting events (concerts, volleyball games etc). I’ve spent hours at Katowice train station, waiting for my next connection yet never going much beyond it.

Together with most people in Poland I fell for the stereotypes of Katowice, I’ve thought it’s just a dull and grey city where the industry took over and where I could find absolutely nothing interesting for me. Passing through this city was always an obligation, never a pleasure.

Now when I think about my prejudice towards Katowice I feel simply silly and stupid.

Visit Katowice Poland

Industriada – an unique event in Silesia

My first eye-opening contact with Katowice was last year during Industriada – an annual festival of technical landmarks in Silesia. It was mind-blowing!

In one day the industrial spaces, usually closed for public, welcomed visitors. I could go on top of the mineshaft, see the century-old steam engine working, walk through the power plant or admire the art exhibition in the former rolling mill. It was one of the best festivals I’ve ever attended, so interesting and so unusual.

This one day in Silesia made me itch to go back, visit Katowice and get to know this misunderstood region better. I’ve realized all my life I was so wrong about Katowice and it was about the time for me to change my perception of the city.

Katowice – best place to live in Poland?

I was somehow mesmerized by Katowice and Silesia. Some of my friends and family members live there and each of them says how good place to settle down it is, how they wouldn’t trade it for anywhere else. How come the place with such a bad reputation could be so good after all?

Well, it didn’t take me long to figure it out. I was lucky as when I finally decided to visit Katowice the weather was on my side, it was a hot and sunny day and the city presented itself at its best, making me fall for it a little bit too.

Silesian Museum – one of the top Polish museums

My first stop in Katowice was the Silesian Museum and I couldn’t have asked for the better start.

The museum was founded in 1929 but only last year it got its new location in the grounds of the former coal mine “Katowice”. For the person who doesn’t know much about the region, it’s a perfect introduction to the history of the city and Silesia.

Katowice was first mentioned at the end of the 16th century but the real boom came in the 19th century when the railway line connecting Mysłowice with Wrocław was led through Katowice. This brought the industry to the city, especially steel and mining.

For years Katowice and the whole Silesia region was the driving force of the Polish economy, with all the ups and downs. I don’t want to get too much into the historical details here as it’s been all rather complicated, complex and well, confusing at times for someone not local. We didn’t learn all that much about Silesia region at history lessons which now I really regret.

But that’s when the Silesian Museum comes in very handy as you can get into the details at the exhibition showing the history of the city and region over years. Of all the museums I’ve visited in Poland, this one is in the top, being interactive, interesting and educational. I don’t dare to say I know a lot about the history of Silesia, even now, but the visit to this particular museum helped me to understand what a unique and complex region it is.

To make things even better Silesian Museum can offer much more than just the amazing history lesson! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I admired the paintings by some of the best Polish artists, those I’ve learn about at school (Matejko, Wyspiański, Malczewski just to name few). And to my utter joy, there was also a part dedicated to art naif which happens to be one of my favorite art styles ever, it’s way too cute to describe!

A grand final of the visit at the Silesian Museum is a viewing platform located on the top of the mineshaft, offering amazing views of the city. Already there you can notice that Katowice is so much more than the rumors say!

Culture Zone – probably the best place in Katowice

Silesian Museum is part of so-called Culture Zone, spreading in the center of Katowice and being a perfect example of the revitalization of the urban grounds. I remember not so long time ago, after the Katowice mine shut down, this part of the city was just a waste, a blank space on the map.

Other cities in Poland and beyond should learn from Katowice, they certainly did this project right! Besides the Museum grounds the Culture Zone consists of headquarters of NOSPR (Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra), the International Conference Center and Spodek – the spaceship.

Only the last one, a fine example of my favorite brutalism architecture, has been the part of Katowice cityscape for years – 45 to be exact – is the symbol of the city and the region, known all over the country. Remaining buildings are new, designed in a modern way, referring to the city’s best features such as Nikiszowiec (more about it later).

Altogether Culture Zone makes a perfect place to spend free time at and relax, either at one of the numerous cultural events or just hanging out, sitting on the rooftop of ICC and enjoying the place.

-> During my visit to Katowice I stayed at Novotel Hotel, just across the street from the Culture Zone and it was the best location I could ask for! Click here for the current rates and availability! <-

Surprising, laid-back Katowice

If you think (like I used to) that cool places in Katowice are only in the Zone of Culture you are so wrong.

Shortly before my visit, a new leisure spot was opened in the very center of the city, with palm trees (borrowed from the palm house in nearby Gliwice), sun beds and a small pond. It looked beautiful! On a hot day like the one I had it was very busy: youngsters were playing in the water, older people were sunbathing, reading, spending times with friends and just enjoying the beautiful weather.

It was then that I realized Katowice must be a great place to live, I finally understood all my friends and family recommending Silesia. No one was in hurry, everyone seemed to be in a good mood, local people hang out in the very center and relaxed. I could sense this good, laid-back and creative vibe in the air.

From now on I was surprised more and more with Katowice! A random neon sign, a pedestrian street with countless pubs and cafes, amazing street art here and there. I was exploring the center of Katowice with my jaw dropped, not recognizing the city I used to visit years ago.

Another interesting museum in Katowice

Even if I’ve visited Katowice a couple of times before I never really ventured in the part of the center behind the railway line. I don’t have a good explanation for that but since Katowice has never been a tourist destination for me guess I’ve never really had any errands there.

Crossing this virtual border was like stepping into the new world for me – while I knew the other side of the center of Katowice fairly well here I needed to look at the map and around every now and then.

I first stopped in the Historical Museum of Katowice – it was different than the Silesian Museum but also very interesting. Located in the beautiful townhouse it showed how the different social classes used to live and how developed everyday life already at the turnout of the 19th and 20th century was.

Modernism in Katowice

This part of the city is also a pure heaven for every fan of modernism architecture. Since Katowice is a fairly young city, gaining the city rights in 1865, the fair share of its development happened at the beginning of the 20th century when modernism was at its peak.

I know for many this style of architecture is nothing that special, it took me a while to understand and eventually fall in love with it. But if you share my affection let me tell you-you’re in for a treat in Katowice! After Gdynia this must be the best place in Poland to admire modernist architecture!

Fortunately, the city realizes how much value this architecture has and published a really good guide book showing the best of Katowice modernism, it was irreplaceable when getting to know this part of the center! You can get it for free in the tourist information center at Rynek 13 as well as at the dedicated website.

Nikiszowiec and Giszowiec – real gems of Katowice

If you ask local people which place you cannot miss when you visit Katowice they will most likely point you to Nikiszowiec and Giszowiec, two workers’ quarters located at the eastern outskirts. They were both built at the beginning of the 20th century, for workers of the nearby mines and they couldn’t be any more different!

While Nikiszowiec is all made of the red brick and full of tenant houses Giszowiec was created as a garden city with small, different houses, each designed for two families. Both settlements are beautiful and charming but it was Nikiszowiec that stole my heart (or maybe I just have a soft spot for the red brick).

It felt like it’s a city on its own like it has everything a resident might need: a church, a shop, numerous workshops, a tavern or a cafe. Even if all the houses look the same at first after a while you realize they are not. A tiny detail that differs houses from each other are front doors – they were designed like that on purpose so men, after a night at the tavern, would find their home easily. Clever, huh?

Wilson Shaft Gallery – where industrial past meets cultural future

Not far from Nikiszowiec was my last stop and a perfect end of my time in Katowice – the Wilson Shaft Gallery. I’ve already been there during Industriada but back then it was packed with people and I couldn’t properly see and enjoy it. This time however it was blissfully empty and again I was lucky to admire art naif paintings there.

It was actually at Wilson Shaft Gallery where I first saw this colorful movement and fell for it! This is actually the largest private gallery in Poland and its motto, “What industry took away, culture must regain”, is the best definition of whole Katowice for me.

It’s amazing how much this city has changed in such a short time, how it could redefine itself and find its own path in the new reality. Weeks have passed since I had a chance to properly visit Katowice and now I’m certain this is the direction cities in Poland (and Central Europe) should aim for.

I wish every country had their own Katowice, where culture and creativity define (hopefully) bright future!

Katowice – the biggest surprise of my travels this year

I had plans for the evening out in Katowice as well (checking out the nightlife on famous Mariacka street or go for one of the cultural events that were taking place) but the terrible storm forced me to change my plans. Which was good in a way as I could have a calm evening in the hotel, rethinking my whole day.

As for the city that was supposed to have not much to offer I had a really busy time exploring and discovering Katowice. And I know that one day was not enough to see and fully understand the place. Together with Lodz this really must be the most underrated and misunderstood city in Poland but I feel it’s about to change soon.

I can see more and more people tend to visit Katowice and rave about it awesomeness afterward. I happily join this trend and I’m looking forward to the next chance to visit Katowice and get to know it even better! So far I can just say it was the most surprising place I’ve visited this year!

If you would like to learn more about Katowice and Silesia I recommend you visiting Silesia.travel website – a mine of information about the region!


With over 15 years of independent traveling, I’ve learned which websites and services are the best when planning a trip. I always use and trust the following websites:

Flights – I search for the best deals on either Momondo or SkyScanner. Both search numerous sites to find the best offers. I also really like the “everywhere” option when searching for the flights as it often gives me the inspiration, if not for this trip then for the next time.

Accommodation – I always book my accommodation through Booking.com. They have really good deals (especially with their “Genius” program that you become a member of after few reservations) and in most of the cases, if your plans change, you can cancel the reservation without any extra costs. I also value them for a really good customer service that I had to use a few times. Check the best deals on accommodation in Katowice here!

Insurance – I never travel without the insurance as you never know what might happen on the road (I’ve learnt my lesson). I can recommend World Nomads that offer the insurance dedicated to travelers just like you and me. Check the insurance options for your trip here!

Guide books – I do like reading a guide book before and during the trip. Depending on the destination I usually buy either Lonely Planet or Bradt. You can get your guidebooks for Poland here (only Lonely Planet available)

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Visit Katowice, Poland     Visit Katowice Poland

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  • Reply
    Wojciech Wein
    23/10/2016 at 18:31

    Coś w tym jest. Byłem tam tylko chwilę w środku września, parę godzin czekania na przesiadkę dalej. Samo kręcenie się wokół Spodka i Muzeum Śląskiego robi już mega dobre wrażenie. Przy okazji: zdjęcia Culture Zone są tak sterylnie czyste i puste, robią piorunujące wrażenie!

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      24/10/2016 at 18:41

      dzięki! przez te upały za wiele osób tam się nie kręciło – do zdjęć idealnie ;) niesamowite jak bardzo się Katowice zmieniły w tak naprawdę dość krótkim czasie

  • Reply
    Piotrek Czubaszek
    23/10/2016 at 18:36

    I don’t know the city well. I know there are some very interesting modern buildings for culture but besides that it’s one of places with depressing feeling that I don’t enjoying spending much time in. But you like alternative spots so you could like it

  • Reply
    Igor Lenivtsev
    23/10/2016 at 18:37

    Hmmm, we have direct flights to Katowice with WizzAir….

  • Reply
    Piotrek Czubaszek
    23/10/2016 at 18:41

    It’s two and half hour away from Warsaw by train so you can always come to me of you’re disappointed! Or in summer you can continue further south to the mountains.

  • Reply
    Magdalena Bodnari
    23/10/2016 at 20:41

    Kato dają radę! Tylko jedzenie wciąż słabe.

    • Reply
      Basia Salamon-Szympruch
      24/10/2016 at 05:54

      na szczęście już nie wszędzie

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      24/10/2016 at 18:53

      ja na (bezmięsne) w sumie nie narzekałam :)

  • Reply
    Stephanie Pelser
    23/10/2016 at 23:42

    It was the first place I visited in Poland, and the last I would get back to. Had racist slurs directed at my partner on the street and our hotel (the biggest in town I think) insisted we didn’t pay although we could show them the receipt that showed we paid at check in. Would not recommend to anyone who is not both white and fluent in Polish.

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      24/10/2016 at 18:47

      I’m sorry you had such a bad time in Katowice. When were you there? The city really has changed recently and even I was surprised how cool it is now. Of course it’s nowhere close to being top destination in Poland (yet) so they still need to learn how to deal with tourists. As for the hotel: it happened to me couple of times in numerous places so I wouldn’t blame the city for this

  • Reply
    Zuzanna Chmielewska
    24/10/2016 at 08:02

    Ostatni raz w Katowicach byłam wiele lat temu, na koncercie Rammstein. Ale mnie teraz zachęciłaś do powrotu! Super :)

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      24/10/2016 at 18:48

      ooo, miałam jechac na ten koncert, ale się z biletami zgapiłam ;) powrót jak najbardziej wskazany :)

  • Reply
    Anita Skowera
    24/10/2016 at 10:19

    Coś modne ostatnio te Katowice :-) Chyba muszę się przełamać i ruszyć w tamte strony. Wyglądają zachęcająco:-)

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      24/10/2016 at 18:48

      zdecydowanie musisz! Naprawdę tam fajnie!

  • Reply
    Joanna Ejsmont Lisowska
    24/10/2016 at 11:11

    Tak, ja musowo byłam tam w styczniu i również doznałam pozytywnego szoku!

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      24/10/2016 at 18:51

      pozytywny szok to najlepsze określenie Katowic teraz :)

  • Reply
    Diana Demi Marszewska
    24/10/2016 at 12:49

    Katowice coraz modniejsze! :) Pięknie się to miasto rozwija!

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      24/10/2016 at 18:48

      bardzo! inne miasta powinny przykład brać!

  • Reply
    Ania Szymiec
    24/10/2016 at 13:51

    Najpierw Wojażer, teraz Ty Kami – oj kusicie tymi Katowicami! ;) Dla mnie to wciąż miejsce nieodkryte, a widać po Waszych wpisach, że warte uwagi :) Trzeba je odwiedzić!

  • Reply
    Kami and the rest of the world
    24/10/2016 at 18:55

    as for depressing – I have to disagree. I was there in summer, the weather was beautiful and it wasn’t depressing at all. You definitely should give Katowice a try and if you don’t like it there’re lots of interesting cities nearby, including my favorite Cieszyn :)

  • Reply
    01/11/2016 at 11:35

    Ostatnio widziałam u Gonciarza i stwierdziłam, że muszę w końcu odwiedzić Kato i zobaczyć familoki. :)

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      01/11/2016 at 21:34

      polecam bardzo!

  • Reply
    13/02/2017 at 01:27

    I like Katowice (and Lodz^^) a lot. I dig cities with industrial feel. For example i love Berlin while other people call it ugly. There is atmosphere to those cities that the conveniently beautiful cities just don’t have.

    • Reply
      21/02/2017 at 22:05

      Yes, both Katowice and Łódź are amazing! And so is Ostrava in Czech Republic – have you been? I think you’d enjoy it as well!

  • Reply
    25/03/2017 at 16:13

    So weird – Even my Polish friends tell me get out of Katowice – I went here once on a train and sadly didn’t get the chance to explore before we headed out. Thanks for inspiring me to go back and actually visit it!

    • Reply
      29/03/2017 at 15:08

      I know, people in Poland still don’t really know the potential of the city. But it has gone through some major changes recently and now it’s really awesome! you definitely should go back!

  • Reply
    David Trombetta
    25/07/2017 at 19:44

    I have been to Katowice my first time in 2002. As my fathers wife was making the prawo jazdy there, we went there several times. Unfortunately I had not enough time to discover this city because I was to young. But I could remember the Zoo, Spodek, Teatr, Uniwersytet Slaski and the Dworzec (the old one). Last year I visited this city again and I could discover also the night life of the city. It has changed a lot in a positive way, it has its relaxing atmosphere which I liked really much. In comparison to other cities in PL it is even a very cheap place for food, beer and nightlife. My apartment there was also very cheap not far away from the zoo and really modern next to the “Osiedle Tysiaclecia” I don’t know why but this city is poor but sexy (like Berlin :D)-

    • Reply
      21/08/2017 at 20:30

      Katowice in 2002 was soooo different than now and these days it’s really a great place to visit, for all the reasons you’ve listed above. And the comparison to Berlin actually makes some sense :)

  • Reply
    John Campbell
    09/10/2017 at 23:07

    Kami, I was interested in Katowice even before reading this article. So many things about it appealed to me. The immigration process is not easy for Poland from the U.S., but I it is still one of my top picks to retire. My question about Katowice; is living there doable for the short term using mostly English, while learning Polish? Or, should I go to a larger city with more tourists, at least until my Polish gets better? I love your site, as you cover areas that I find most interesting, and better than anyone else! Thanks! John

    • Reply
      11/10/2017 at 09:30

      Thank you for your comment John. I think it would be possible to live in Katowice with limited Polish skills, these days most of the young people can speak English. But in case it gets overwhelming Kraków is just an hour away and there you can easily go with English!

  • Reply
    S K
    03/11/2017 at 17:40

    I hope to be in Katowice on the 6th of November (2 days from now) for a day. I am looking to see the Jerzy Kukuczka graffiti/mural. Do you suppose you know the location? Which street or locality?


    • Reply
      22/12/2017 at 21:55

      I’m so sorry for my terribly late answer. Hope you had a good time in Katowice! Did you manage to find the mural?

  • Reply
    09/11/2018 at 17:52

    Katowice są coraz ładniejsze to prawda ale dojazd z lotniska do centrum wcale nie jest takie takie…odbiega od europejskich standardów…i to jest odstraszające

    • Reply
      12/11/2018 at 13:52

      niestety. ale liczę, że się to w końcu kiedyś zmieni…

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