I’ve been meaning to visit Lodz for years as I always felt there’s so much more to the city than it seems at first sight. Years have gone by, I was passing the city on numerous occasions but never really saw it.
Finally this summer, after finding out about the unusual, movie-themed hotel, I set off for the weekend in Lodz. A reason good like any other but it was a final push for me that it’s really about the time I should visit the city and check myself what to do in Lodz.
And well, now I can’t explain why I’ve waited so long! There were so many great things to do in Lodz and the place turned out to be one of the most interesting and unique cities in Poland!
Table of contents
- 1 Short history of Lodz, Poland
- 2 Lodz tourist information – where you should start your visit
- 3 Where to stay in Lodz
- 4 Piotrkowska street – the heart of Lodz
- 5 Off Piotrkowska – the creative hub of Lodz
- 6 Hidden wonders on Piotrkowska
- 7 Industrial past, promising future
- 8 Incredible Lodz street art
- 9 Beautiful architecture of Lodz
- 10 Is Lodz worth visiting?
Short history of Lodz, Poland
The train journey from Warsaw to Lodz takes a little bit less than 2 hours but these two cities couldn’t be any more different. While Warsaw used to be sophisticated and elegant, known as Paris of the East (and now is a “Phoenix city” and a mix of just about everything), Lodz is full of its industrial heritage.
The settlement, conveniently located in the middle of Poland, at the crossroads of trading routes, has been a sleepy place for centuries. This has changed at the beginning of 1800s when Lodz became a “Promised Land”, attracting people from all over Europe (even as far as England or Portugal). The first factories opened changing the city forever.
Lodz was once the biggest textile production center in the former Russian Empire, the city was also known for its multicultural character, being home to the big Polish, German, Russian and Jewish population. Even if the city was dealing with numerous industrial and workers issues it was doing rather good, the peak of the prosperity of the city happened just before the First World War.
The troublesome history of Europe, especially the occupation by Nazi Germany, had a big impact on Lodz and its inhabitants. The city lost half of its population in the WW2 but it was quickly regained due to the migration movements. Lodz was yet again the main textile center of Poland and the second biggest city in the country.
After the communism collapsed the industry in Lodz slowly faded away, leaving the city with numerous problems to deal with. These days Lodz tries to redefine itself, drawing inspiration from its industrial past and becoming the alternative hub of Poland. Lodz tourism is blooming!
Lodz tourist information – where you should start your visit
I started my weekend in Lodz by visiting the local tourist info center, conveniently located in the middle of Piotrkowska street – the most important street in the city. And it was the best decision as the guy working there was very passionate about his hometown and happily shared all his knowledge and recommendations for the places to visit in Lodz. He quickly passed on his enthusiasm and despite the rather terrible weather I was even more excited and couldn’t wait to explore all the amazing Lodz attractions!
He said that the majority of people who visit Lodz come there just for a couple of hours which might be enough to see only Piotrkowska street and its surroundings. Even the weekend might be not enough to discover all Lodz has to offer. And he was right…
Where to stay in Lodz
Before setting off to exploring Lodz I went to my hotel – Stare Kino Cinema Residence. I adore unusual places and well, it was love at first sight.
The hotel is located in one of the yards on Piotrkowska street, not far from Off Piotrkowska (the best place in the city). Since the film industry is very strong in Lodz (the biggest film studio and the best film school are located there) it’s not surprising that the hotel drew inspiration from movies.
The interior is carefully designed, every minor detail is connected to the movies and altogether they create a perfect atmosphere. As soon as you step inside you can smell freshly made popcorn and you just know you’re in a very special place!
There are 42 apartments in Stare Kino Cinema Residence, half of them inspired by Polish movies and half by international. I don’t think I’d be able to decide which apartment I want to stay at, all of them look unique and so interesting.
The faith put me at “Rebel without a cause” and it was beautiful and so comfortable (a small kitchen and a tea in the morning always win my heart)! I immediately fell for a big comfy armchair and could have spent hours sitting in it. And I did, planning my weekend in Lodz or resting after a busy day exploring the city.
Piotrkowska street – the heart of Lodz
Most cities have market squares in old towns as the main venue but Lodz has Piotrkowska street. It is the second longest street in the city and one of the longest commercial streets in Europe, spreading for almost 5 km in the heart of the city.
The most beautiful part, from Plac Woloności to Piłsudskiego street, is pedestrian however you need to look out for numerous bikes speeding around (especially now that Lodz has its own city bikes system and stations are located around every corner). Even if Piotrkowska is such a long street it doesn’t get boring to walk it all the way.
The key to fully appreciate it is to look up and around to admire all the beautiful buildings you pass (many of them built in the eclectic and modernism style, reminding of the wealth times) and peek inside the gates to find some of the most charming yards. That was actually one of my favorite things to do in Lodz. The street is lined with endless cafes, pubs, and restaurants so it’s very easy to get distracted there, but every time it is a pure pleasure!
Off Piotrkowska – the creative hub of Lodz
The most famous yard can be found at Piotrkowska 138/140. That’s where Off Piotrkowska is located – a cultural and creative center of Lodz.
A former spinning and weaving factory was transformed in 2011 to serve people. Right now there’re around 50 small businesses operating: designers, architects, restaurants, clubs, galleries or concept stores (just to name few).
Off Piotrkowska was a unique project in the country and started the new trend of transforming former industrial spaces into cultural hubs all over Poland. In 2014 it even won the title of the new wonder of Poland in the contest organized by National Geographic.
During my trip to Lodz I visited the place a couple of times and always, no matter what time of the day, it was full of people enjoying the place. And I can’t blame them as it was simply amazing, probably the best contemporary space I’ve seen in Poland so far! The creativity was floating in the air and I could easily picture myself spending hours in Off Piotrkowska, catching up on writing. It just felt so good to be there!
Hidden wonders on Piotrkowska
But even if Off Piotrkowska is the best spot in Lodz there’re a couple of similar places along the main street.
At number 217, in the former iron foundry, a culinary scene of Lodz is blooming. That’s where the street food festival and food market take place but also where some really nice cafes and restaurants are located. Apparently Lodz needs this kind of places, they somehow define the present of the city.
But even random yards along Piotrkowska hide some wonders: beautiful tiles, interesting architecture and even more great cafes and restaurants. The best one was Lavash restaurant serving Armenian food – rumors say it is the best Armenian restaurant in Poland and I can gladly confirm it (or maybe I’m just biased as I like Armenia so much?).
From all the yards the most spectacular one is located at number 3. It’s Rosa’s Passage and is decorated with uncountable pieces of mirror. When the sun shines the effect is mind-blowing! The whole place is glittering and looks like from a fairy tale!
Industrial past, promising future
With such a rich industrial past I was expecting to see numerous factories in Lodz. But I didn’t expect that many of them! I can’t really recall the number of factories I’ve admired in these 2 days of Lodz!
In recent years they’ve been going through the major restoration process, giving them the splendid look and charm. I was over excited to see them all, I have a soft spot for industrial places and so when visiting all the former factories I felt like a duck in the water!
But there’re so many other old factories worth visiting in Lodz! White Factory (currently serving as Central Museum of Textiles), Księży Młyn (together with rows of houses for workers) or power station EC1 (where, among other institutions, film studio of David Lynch is located).
Still, so many of industrial buildings are decaying, waiting for the better times. But looking at the recent boom in Lodz I believe they will be taken care of too, sooner or later, turning them into yet another amazing landmark in Lodz. Right now they’re perfect for urban exploring anyway.
Incredible Lodz street art
The main reason, however, why I came to Lodz was the amazing street art. It was the first Polish city that I recall where big murals were introduced and promoted.
Back in 2009 the local foundation Urban Forms started promoting the street art, inviting international artists like ROA from Belgium (known from Berlin street art) or Inti from Chile (you can find his works in Kosice, Slovakia too) as well as promoting local – and now world famous – artists, like ETAM cru. Best way to discover Lodz street art is to download the map from the website of the foundation – over 30 works are listed there.
Of course that’s not everything you can find in Lodz. Just keep your eyes open and you will stumble across numerous Lodz murals all over the city, including old grand format advertisements. I was literally in awe when looking at all the great street art I’ve managed to find. Even if there are so many works they are spread all over the city and you don’t feel overwhelmed like in Gdansk. Big murals are just part of the local outdoor scene, they simply blend in.
There’re also numerous sculptures (including big objects that we used to use everyday decades ago, like old washing machine or flask) or a beautiful rainbow tram stop known as the stable of unicorns. Even two local football teams have a funny yet creative war on the walls of Lodz, writing sentences like “RKS doesn’t read books” and “ŁKS sleeps in socks”. I really love how Poland becomes one of the best street art countries in Europe and Lodz is a great example of how this form of art should fit into the cityscape.
Beautiful architecture of Lodz
It’s not that Lodz is only about creative and post-industrial places. You can find truly beautiful architecture there too. As a rather new city, there isn’t a typical old town but a wealthy past resulted in many jaw-dropping mansions and palaces that used to belong to the most prominent citizens.
The most stunning one is Izrael Poznański Palace – a neo-baroque residence known also as the “Louvre of Lodz”. And it definitely deserves this title! These days the museum of Lodz history is located there but you can easily wander around the garden to fall in love with the place.
Most of these spectacular buildings can be found on Piotrkowska street but when wandering around the center you never know when you might stumble across some architectural beauties. I really enjoyed old wooden houses form Lodz region, located next to the White Factory. The summer villa looked exactly like from a fairy tale or childhood American movies!
Is Lodz worth visiting?
If you ask random people in Poland if they would go for a city break to Lodz most of them will probably tell you there’s nothing interesting there. Huge mistake! Two days I’ve spent there were not enough to see all I wanted to – i.e. I missed all the museums or grand cemeteries, some of the most beautiful ones in Poland.
Before visiting Lodz I didn’t expect the city to be so amazing, now I’m thinking of returning there even if just to soak up the creative and alternative atmosphere again. Lodz is different than most of the cities in Poland but that’s what makes it so interesting and unique. I can’t really compare it to any other city (maybe Zyrardow as it had a similar past but that’s about it).
If you’re looking for an unusual place to visit in Poland Lodz is your answer!
What’s the most creative and alternative city you’ve been to? Would you like to visit Lodz, Poland?
Practical information if you want to visit Lodz, Poland:
- You can easily get by train from Warsaw to Lodz, they run frequently, take a little bit less than 2 hours and the ticket costs around 24-26PLN (~6€/7$). Other parts of Poland have decent connections with Lodz as well. Lodz airport serves couple of cities across Europe.
- Best place to stay in Lodz is Stare Kino Cinema Residence. Room prices start at 99PLN (~23€/26$) for a night.
- Start you visit in Lodz in the tourist information to get maps and brochures that will help you get to know the city
- Best restaurants, cafes and pubs can be found along Piotrkowska, at Off Piotrkowska, Piotrkowska 217 and at Manufaktura
- Learn how to pronounce the name of the city because it’s definitely what you think it is ;) Try “woodge” :)
If you think of visiting Poland or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
Disclaimer: My trip was in partnership with Stare Kino Cinema Residence but as always all opinions are 100% mine.
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