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Cieszyn

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Cieszyn (pronounced Che-shin; Czech: Těšín; German: Teschen) is a historic town in southern Silesian Voivodeship, Poland. One of the principal border crossing points between Poland and the Czech Republic, the town is often considered one of the oldest in Silesia, home to early medieval buildings and Viennese-inspired architecture from the 19th century. With the Olza River acting as the border, Cieszyn is the larger neighbor of its Czech sister city, Český Těšín. Both towns were once unified as a single city until their division by Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1920 following a short border war. Today, both towns compliment each other, and in recent years, Cieszyn has grown to become a tourist destination, thanks to its historical buildings, town charm, and unbeatable prices.

Understand[edit]

Market Square.

Populated by Slavic tribes since the 7th century, the town's birth stems from the legend of the Slavic brothers Bolko, Leszko and Cieszko, sons of a local king, who discovered a spring in the modern-day town after a long pilgrimage in 810. Thankful and happy, the three brothers decided to create a settlement, named from the Polish verb of "to be happy" (cieszyć się). A fortification was established on a high point (gród), which grew to become an administrative and religious center. By the 1000s, a castle and Romanesque chapel had been built on the site. While the castle no longer stands today, the chapel has since become one of the oldest standing structures in all of Poland, immortalized today on the 20 złoty note. The first written recorded reference to Cieszyn is in a letter from Pope Adrian IV in 1158.

Following the Polish kingdom's political fragmentation in the 12th century, Cieszyn was ruled by the Piast dukes of Silesia, becoming a duchy in its own right. In 1327, the Duchy of Cieszyn joined the Bohemian kingdom after its Piast duke swore allegiance to the Czech king John of Luxembourg. The town quickly developed during the 14th and 15th centuries, gaining city rights in 1374. Cieszyn was widely known throughout the region as an arms and jewelry manufacturer, as well as a significant trade route stop. In the 16th century, Cieszyn was a Protestant Reformation center. Heavily damaged during the Thirty Years' War, the town reverted to Austrian Habsburg rule after the Cieszyn Piast line died out in 1653.

Under the Austrian Habsburgs, Cieszyn was slowly Germanized. Increasingly called by its German name Teschen by the 1700s, the town's Slavic influence declined in favor of increasing numbers of German-speaking inhabitants. However, with the rise of ethnic nationalism in the wake of the 1848 Revolutions, Cieszyn became an important center for Polish intellectual thought and resistance to Austrian rule. Despite this tension, the ruling Habsburg family built a large palace in the town in the 19th century. On the eve of World War I, Cieszyn contained a mix of ethnic Germans and Poles, with smaller Czech, Jewish, and Hungarian minorities.

Ulica Głęboka.

After Austria-Hungary's collapse in 1918, the new states of the Second Polish Republic and Czechoslovakia sought to establish rule over the Cieszyn region, particularly over its strong infrastructure and coal reserves. A short war between the two states in 1919 led to the city's division by the Olza River in 1920, with the historical east bank of the town going to Poland while the newer west bank went to Czechoslovakia, now called Český Těšín. During the interwar period, Cieszyn was a constant thorn of ethnic and political tensions between the two states; Poland claimed Czechoslovakia ruled a substantial and unwilling Polish majority on their side of the Olza, while the Czechs argued their national security interests were at stake. During the 1938 Sudetenland Crisis, Polish forces seized on Czechoslovakia's dismemberment by Nazi Germany, and militarily annexed the entire region for Poland.

After the end of World War II, with Czechoslovakia and Poland both under Soviet-influenced leadership, the 1920 border was restored and reaffirmed, and ethnopolitical tensions quickly subsided. Cieszyn became a major smuggling center during communism and the immediate post-1989 years, as cheap and badly-needed goods in both states were silently pushed across the border.

With both the Czech Republic and Poland now in the Schengen Zone, the division between Cieszyn and Český Těšín exists only on maps. Citizens of both nations pass freely back and forth each day, taking advantage of a borderless Europe. Contemporary Cieszyn is one of the centers of Poland's design industry, and is an emerging tourist draw thanks to its charming steep streets, architecture, prices and border location. Cieszyn is an ideal pit stop for visitors trekking between Kraków and Prague.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

The closest air gateway to Cieszyn is Leoš Janáček Airport Ostrava (IATA: OSR), located 47 km (29 mi) west in the Czech Republic outside of Ostrava. The airport is served is by ČSA Czech Airlines, KLM, SmartWings, and Ryanair.

Another option is Katowice Airport (IATA: KTW) in Katowice, located 116 km (72 mi) north. Known by locals as Pyrzowice Airport, Katowice has direct connections with over 30 destinations across Europe and Asia, with numerous discount, charter, and normal flights in operation. Pyrzowice is a major hub for Wizzair, with additional services provided by Aegean Airlines, Bulgaria Air, El Al, Eurowings, Lufthansa, Ryanair, and TUIfly.

By train[edit]

A local Koleje Śląskie train.

Cieszyn's small (and sadly dilapidated) rail station is located just north of the old town at ul. Feliksa Hajduka 8, and it often labeled as Dworzec PKP on street maps and signs. It is served by national carrier PKP Intercity, regional carrier PolRegio, provincial carrier Koleje Śląskie, and Czech national carrier České dráhy (ČD). Train service can be sometimes slow to the station.

Just across the river on the Czech side in Český Těšín, the town's railway station is larger and has better, more frequent connections, particularly with nearby Ostrava. It is served by Czech state carrier České dráhy (ČD), PKP Intercity, as well as LEO Express and RegioJet. The station is located at Nádražní 15, and is directly next to the town center and a few minutes walk to the border. Trains also go across the border between both towns, although due to their close proximity, walking is preferred.

General Polish rail timetables can be researched by PKP-Rozklad Planner, while Czech timetables can be researched via Idos.

By bus[edit]

The town's nondescript bus station Dworzec PKS is located directly next to the rail station. There are buses between Kraków, Tychy and Bielsko-Biała to Cieszyn, operated by Lajkonik. A number of smaller bus companies provide service to the town, and their timetables can be researched by e-podroznik.

There are also bus connections to Český Těšín, with its station directly adjacent to the train station. Czech bus connections can be researched with Idos.

By car[edit]

The S52 expressway (E75) connects Cieszyn to Bielsko-Biała to the east. On the Czech side, highway I/48 (E462 and E75) connects the town to Frýdek-Místek. I/48 intersects the D56 motorway (from Ostrava) and the D1 motorway (from Olomouc).

Between Cieszyn and Český Těšín, a number of bridges cross the Olza to connect the towns. The most used connection between the two is the Przyjaźni Bridge (Most Przyjaźni).

Get around[edit]

Due to the compactness of Cieszyn, the town is completely navigable by foot. It's advisable to bring a good pair of walking shoes, as many of the town's streets can be steep.

See[edit][add listing]

Piast Tower (left) and the Rotunda of St. Nicholas (right).
Cieszyn Venice.
Habsburg Hunting Palace.
  • Rotunda of St. Nicholas (Rotunda p.w. św. Mikołaja), ul. Zamkowa, +48 33 851 08 21, [1]. Mon-Sun; Jan, Feb, Nov, Dec, 9:00-16.00; Mar, Apr, Oct, 9:00-17:00; May, Sep, 9:00-18:00; Jun-Aug, 9:00-19:00. This downright ancient Romanesque chapel is speculated to have been built between 1000 to 1180, making it one of the oldest standing structures in Poland. Originally housed within Cieszyn's medieval castle that no longer stands today on Castle Hill (Góra Zamkowa), the rotunda is an impressive reminder of the town's deep medieval heritage. Tourists looking at their money may recognize the chapel, as it is depicted on the 10 złoty banknote. 3/15PLN.  edit
  • Piast Tower (Wieża Piastowska), ul. Zamkowa 3B (behind the Habsburg Palace), +48 33 851 08 21, [2]. Mon-Sun; Jan, Feb, Nov, Dec, 9:00-16.00; Mar, Apr, Oct, 9:00-17:00; May, Sep, 9:00-18:00; Jun-Aug, 9:00-19:00. Built in the first half of the 1300s also on Castle Hill as one of the four defensive towers that protected Cieszyn, this ancient Gothic tower remains adorned with the Piast family's eagle crests. Visitors can ascend up 29 m (95 ft) to its observational lookout to see fantastic views of the town and the surrounding region. 3/15PLN.  edit
  • Cieszyn Venice (Cieszyńska Wenecja), ul. Przykopa. A thoroughly charming neighborhood running along the narrow and cobblestone ul. Przykopa, where a small medieval water canal divides a long row of 17th century-era buildings from the street (all connected by small bridges), many of which are former tanneries, blacksmiths and clothiers, now residences, restaurants, cafes, and galleries.  edit
  • Market Square (Rynek). Cieszyn's picturesque and colorful Market Square dates back to the 1550s, surrounded by colorful buildings built in the last 200 yeas. Today, the square is the perfect place to unwind on a warm spring and summer day. Thanks to the Austrian past and their love of coffee, Market Square is an excellent spot to sit at a cafe or restaurant to people watch and catch the sun. St. Florian's Fountain adorns the square's middle point.  edit
  • Habsburg Hunting Palace (Pałac Myśliwski Habsburgów), ul. Zamkowa 1, +48 33 851 08 21, [3]. Mon-Sun, 09:00-17:00. Built between 1838-1840 for Archduke Charles, one of the Austrian Army's commanders against Napoleon, this large complex was the royal residence of the Habsburgs in the town, and from here the region was administered by Austrian authorities. Today, the palace is home to a lush English garden, the National Music School, and Zamek Cieszyn, a major design center.  edit
  • Ulica Głęboka. A street running from the Hunting Palace to Market Square, this is the commercial and cultural heart of the city, often alive on the weekends.  edit
  • Three Brothers Well (Studnia Trzech Braci), ul. Trzech Braci. Tucked away on a narrow, steep cobblestone street, the Three Brothers Well is the legendary spot where the Slavic brothers Bolko, Leszko and Cieszko met in 810 to found the town. The well itself likely dates back to the Middle Ages, and the contemporary iron gazebo covering the spot dates to 1868.  edit

Religious buildings and sites[edit]

  • St. Mary Magdalene's Church (Kościół św. Marii Magdaleny), ul. Plac Dominikański 2, +48 33 852 13 52, [4]. An old Catholic Church dating to 1263, with numerous reconstructions in the 17th and 18th centuries. The church is notable as the resting place of the remains of the Cieszyn Piasts, a local noble family who ruled the region from 1280 to 1653.  edit

Museums[edit]

  • Museum of Cieszyn Silesia (Muzeum Śląska Cieszyńskiego), ul. Tadeusza Regera 6, +48 33 851 29 33, [5]. Mon, closed; Tue, 10:00-14:00; Wed, 12:00-16:00; Thu, 10:00-14:00; Fri 12:00-16:00; Sat-Sun, 10:00-14:00. A small and stately museum in the city center, housing the artistic and historical heritage of the Cieszyn region.  edit
  • Printing Museum (Muzeum Drukarstwa), ul. Głęboka 50, +48 338 511 630, [6]. Mon, closed; Tue-Fri, 10:00-17:00; May-Sept: Sat-Sun, 14:00-18:00. This fascinating museum contains one of the best collections of ancient print making machines in the country, and hosts workshops regarding bookbinding and graphic art preservation. 5/25PLN.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Get lost on one of the many steep, narrow alleys that dot the town.
  • Fall into a cozy pub or cafe for a drink.
  • Check out the Zamek Cieszyn and take a look at modern Polish design.
  • Take in a view of the entire town from Piast Tower.
  • Try out a kayak on the Olza.
  • Crisscross the Czech-Polish border on the Przyjaźni Bridge, and forget which country you're in.

Events[edit]

Cieszyn punches above its weight for its size with a number of festivals year round.

  • Cinema on the Border (Kino na Granicy) - a film and music showcase for Central European artists, hosted by both Cieszyn and Český Těšín, where participants are asked to routinely cross the border to see events. This annual festival occurs in the middle of May.
  • Wakacyjne Kadry - annual international film festival, held in July.
  • Cieszanów Rock Festival - annual rock festival, hosting Polish and international rock bands, and one of the largest in the country, held in the middle to end of August.
  • International Vocal Musical Festival "Viva il canto" (Międzynarodowy Festiwal Muzyki Wokalnej „Viva il canto") - annual international music festival, celebrating young classical vocalists, held towards the end of September.
  • International Theater Festival Without Borders (Międzynarodowy Festiwal Teatralny Bez Granic) - biannual theatrical performance hosted on both sides on the Czech-Polish border, held in early October
  • International Prof. Joseph Swider's Festival of Music (Międzynarodowy Festiwal Muzyki im. Józefa Świdra) - a choral music festival celebrating the life and work of Silesian composer Józef Świder, held in early December.

Buy[edit][add listing]

There are numerous small boutiques and art galleries dotting Cieszyn, but no major shopping malls are currently in the town. Larger shopping malls exist outside of the city, such as the Forum Nová Karolina in Ostrava, and Sfera in Bielsko-Biała.

Eat[edit][add listing]

The Three Brothers Well.

Budget[edit]

  • Bar Mleczny Zapiecek, ul. ks. I. Świeżego 8, +48 33 851 05 88, [7]. Mon-Fri, 10:00-18:00; Sat, 10:00-16:00; Sun, closed. A cozy and intimate "milk bar" (a cultural left over from the communist era) that serves simple Polish cuisine at fantastic prices. 3-12PLN.  edit
  • Babci Milki, ul. ks. I. Świeżego 8, +48 33 852 35 65, [8]. Mon-Sun, 11:00-17:00. A small location serving family-style Silesian and Polish food at affordable prices. 2-12PLN.  edit
  • Cihlovy Bistro, ul. Mennicza 48, +48 570 530 575. Sun-Thu, 09:00-22:00; Fri-Sat, 08:00-00:00. A highly popular restaurant, serving simple American and Italian cuisine. 3-25PLN.  edit

Mid-range[edit]

  • Dworek Cieszyński, ul. Przykopa 14, +48 33 858 11 78, [9]. Sun-Thu, 09:00-22:00; Fri-Sat, 08:00-00:00. A traditional restaurant in the Cieszyn Venice neighborhood, offering Silesian, Polish, Czech, and Central European food. 5-40PLN.  edit
  • Winiarnia u Czecha, ul. Sejmowa 4, +48 33 858 36 36, [10]. Mon-Thu, 15:00-23:00; Fri, 15:00-00:00; Sat, 13:00-00:00; 13:00-20:00. As the name suggests, a Czech-themed wine bar, also offering an array of Czech and Polish cuisine. 7-30PLN.  edit
  • Pizzeria Barti, ul. Mennicza 30, +48 33 858 08 90, [11]. Sun-Thu, 12:00-22:00; Fri-Sat, 12:00-11:00. An Italian pizzeria, offering scrumptious pizzas, pastas, lasagne, and kebab. 7-25PLN.  edit

Splurge[edit]

  • Pod Merkurym, ul. Rynek 9, +48 33 858 32 88, [12]. Mon-Thu, 09:00-22:00; Fri-Sat, 09:00-23:00; Sun, 10:00-22:00. A Polish and Italian restaurant on the Market Square. 7-60PLN.  edit
  • Kamienica Konczakowskich, ul. Rynek 19, +48 33 852 18 96, [13]. Mon-Thu, 10:00-22:00; Fri, 10:00-00:00; Sat, 10:00-02:00; Sun, 10:00-22:00. A stately restaurant on Market Square, with Central European cuisine. 6-65PLN.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

Cieszyn has no shortage of cozy pubs and cafes. A healthy cafe culture (influenced from Austria) exists in the town, as well as a strong brewing tradition.

Cafes[edit]

The Museum of Cieszyn Silesia.
  • Cafe Museum, ul. Tadeusza Regera 6, +48 502 315 875 (), [14]. A stately and refined cafe. 5-30zł.  edit
  • Cafe Arkady, ul. Rynek 4 (on Market Square), +48 33 852 43 59 (), [15]. Sun-Thu, 09:00-20:00; Fri-Sat, 09:00-21:00. Stylish cafe and dessert place in the town center. 5-30PLN.  edit
  • Herbowa, ul. Rynek 18 (on Market Square), +48 33 852 58 36 (). Small tea and coffeehouse on the Market Square, with dessert and food options.  edit
  • Laja Tea Room (Herbaciarnia Laja), ul. Zamkowa 3b, +48 662 883 434 (). Mon-Sun, 14:00-22:00. A cozy tea house located within the former Habsburg Palace grounds.  edit
  • Kornel i Przyjaciele, ul. Sejmowa 1, +48 798 996 655, [16]. Mon-Thu, 10:00-21:00; Fri-Sat, 10:00-22:00; Sun, 10:00-20:00. A cafe-bookstore, often rated as one of the best in Cieszyn, named after enigmatic Polish writer Kornel Filipowicz. A place to lose hours in.  edit
  • Mont Blanc, ul. Rynek 3, +48 12 661 00 80 (), [17]. Mon-Sun, 10:00-21:00. A Belgian-inspired cafe with a rich selection of chocolates to nibble on. 6-35PLN.  edit

Pubs and bars[edit]

  • Browar Zamkowy Cieszyn, ul. Dojazdowa 2, +48 33 851 64 02, [18]. Brewed originally for the Habsburgs in their Hunting Palace beginning in 1846, the Cieszyn Brewery (Browar Cieszyn) is a staple of Cieszyn life. Tours are available of the brewery over the weekend. Within the brewery itself, visitors can go to the tasting room and try the finished product. 5-30zł.  edit
  • Pub Metro, ul. Szeroka 1, +48 33 851 46 50, [19]. A pub and local disco.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Budget[edit]

  • 3 Bros' Hostel, ul. Mennicza 14 (access from ul. Bóżnicza), +48 539 064 539, [20]. checkin: 12:00; checkout: 11:00. A thoroughly cozy and friendly hostel just next to Market Square. Free breakfast, wi-fi, linen, 24 hour coffee and tea service, towels and more are also included. From 45PLN.  edit

Mid-range[edit]

  • Hotel Wyższa Brama, ul. Wyższa Brama 19, +48 33 851 22 99, [21]. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. A three-star hotel located just a few hundred meters east of the city center, with a cafe downstairs. 85-115PLN.  edit
  • 8pokoi OFKA, ul. Zamkowa 3C, +48 732 994 451, [22]. checkin: 15:00-19:00; checkout: 09:00-11:00. A stylish, small hotel with just 8 rooms, but located within the Hunting Palace grounds. 140-270PLN.  edit
  • 8pokoi OFKA, ul. Zamkowa 3C, +48 732 994 451, [23]. checkin: 15:00-19:00; checkout: 09:00-11:00. A stylish, small hotel with just 8 rooms, but located within the Hunting Palace grounds. 140-270PLN.  edit
  • Apartament ST1, ul.Stary Targ 1/5, [24]. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. A cozy and modern apartment located directly in the town center. 150-230PLN.  edit

Splurge[edit]

  • Hotel Cieszyński, ul. Srebrna 7, +48 33 851 85 22, [25]. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 12:00. Another three-star establishment next to Market Square, complete with atmospheric rooms and terraces, with a restaurant downstairs. 110-360PLN.  edit
  • Apartament Cesarski, ul. Rynek 20, +48 502 585 777, [26]. checkin: 15:00-20:00; checkout: 10:00-11:00. A self-catering, fully furnished modern apartment, overlooking Market Square below. 400-500PLN.  edit
Summer tourists and locals.

Get out[edit]

  • Český Těšín — Cieszyn's quieter, slower Czech neighbor, located just a walk away on the other side of the Olza.
  • Ostrava — the industrial heartland of Czech Silesia 36 km (22 mi) west, home to a blunt and direct people, many museums, and an active nightlife.
  • Bielsko-Biała — a city 36 km (22 mi) east on the S52 expressway, home to a lovely Austro-Hungarian influenced city center, and a gateway to the scenic Beskid Mountains.
  • Pszczyna — a charming Silesian town 44 km (27 mi) northeast, home to Pszczyna Castle.
  • Auschwitz — the infamous Nazi death camp located 50 km (31 mi) northeast just outside of the town of Oświęcim. A site of remembrance and contemplation, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Żywiec — a southern Silesian town in the Beskid Mountains 62 km (38 mi) east, known for its famous beer.
  • Kraków — the provincial capital of neighboring Lesser Poland and Poland's second largest city, considered as the cultural heart of the nation, located 131 km (81 mi) east.
  • Katowice — the industrial heart of the country with a growing cultural pull, 72 km (45 mi) north.
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