Katowice  (pronounced Kah-toe-veet-sa) is the capital and largest city of Silesian Voivodeship, Poland. The largest urban center in the Silesian Metropolis, Katowice stands with a population of over 300,000 in the city itself, and over 2.1 million in the surrounding metropolitan area. Located in the middle of the province on the banks of the river Rawa, Katowice's historical importance as Poland's main industrial centre has been indisputable for decades. Once synonymous as a crushingly gray industrial city, contemporary Katowice has expanded to become a vibrant cultural and business center, with the Silesian Philharmonic, the Silesian Museum, and its famous flying saucer-shaped concert hall, the Spodek, calling the city home. Intrepid visitors will find an interesting city with charming secessionist architecture from the early 1900s, historic reminders of the German and communist past, stunning modern architecture, hospitable and proud local people, and easy access to the Beskid Mountains and other neighboring communities. One of the hidden gems of Poland, Katowice especially delights the senses in April with its numerous flowering lilac trees.
Katowice sits at the intersection of major road and rail routes connecting Poland to the rest of Europe in all directions, making the city relatively easy to get in and out of. Until recently, the dominant economic sectors in the region were mining, steel, electrical machinery, electronics, and chemicals. Due to economic and political changes in the last three decades, this situation has changed dramatically, with heavy industry giving way to the commerce, tourism, trade fair and service industries.
The origins of Katowice date to 1397 when the settlement of Kuźnica was founded. Katowice was first mentioned as a village surrounded by dense forests in 1598. In the 18th century, numerous work colonies sprang up in the region, and by 1769 and 1770, the Prussian Duke of Pless established an underground coal mine in the area. The next industrial sites were the Hohenlohe steelworks in the village of Wełnowiec, founded in 1805, the Baildon steelworks in 1828 (named after their founder, a Scotsman), and the Wilhelmina zinc works in 1834.
Situated in the Upper Silesian Province of the German Empire, Katowice (then known by its German name, Kattowitz) achieved the status as a county town in 1873. By 1897, Katowice further grew after being crafted into a separate urban district, which also included the suburban municipalities of Bogucice, Zawodzie, Dąb, Wełnowiec and Załęże.
In 1889, one of the largest companies in Upper Silesia, the Kattowitzer Aktien-Gesellschaft, was set up with its headquarters in the city. As a result, major insurance companies and large-cap banks were attracted to Katowice. During the First World War, the steel industry continued to develop at a frenetic pace. Rail connections were also developed during this period, connecting the city throughout the German Empire and with neighboring Austria-Hungary.
In the aftermath of World War I, discontent with Katowice's Polish population with German authorities reached a boiling point. Beginning in 1919, Polish armed insurgents launched a series of uprisings against Weimar Germany, encouraged on by the newly-independent Second Polish Republic. After the Third Silesian Uprising in 1921, the most successful of all the rebellions, Katowice was annexed by Poland as part of Silesian Voivodeship under the terms of a German-Polish peace treaty. The Polish government gave the province considerable autonomy, with Katowice serving as the provincial capital and home of the Silesian Parliament. Between 1922 to 1939, Katowice experienced massive industrial and population growth.
In 1975, the neighbouring municipalities of Piotrowice , Ochojec, Panewniki, Kostuchna , Wełnowiec, Szopienice, Giszowiec, Dąbrówka Mała and Murcki were merged with Katowice. Construction works further commenced within the city center. The main communications artery (al. W. Korfantego) was widened and old industrial buildings to the west of this road were demolished. To the east, the historic Tiele-Winckler Palace was also demolished. In the market place, old buildings were replaced by modern shops, including Zenit, Skarbek, and also the Dom Prasy.
The construction of the flying saucer-like Spodek between 1964 to 1971 had a significant impact on the city. The Millennium Housing Estate on the border of Katowice and Chorzów, along with the Paderewski Estate to the east of the city, the Południe Estate in the suburbs of Kostuchna, Piotrowice, Ligota , and the Roździeński Housing Estate all contributed in shifting the character of Katowice to an ideal, urban socialist workers city. The fall of communism in 1989 and the economic changes that followed would significantly alter the city again towards the end of the 20th century.
Currently, Katowice is going through yet another transformation, complete with a massive refurbishing of the city's historic downtown core, new investments in buildings and transportation, and a large burst of growth in the service and commercial industries.
Travelers by plane can arrive at Katowice International Airport (KTW), known also as Pyrzowice. The airport is 34 km (21 mi) from the city center. Katowice is one of the major hubs for Hungarian low cost airline Wizzair, as well as a major destination for Ryanair. There is also limited service provided by Germanwings. Major airlines, including Polish national carrier LOT and German carrier Lufthansa also operate routes to Katowice. A slew of seasonal charter flights additionally operate out of the airport during the spring and summer months, though mainly to southern Europe, Asia and northern Africa.
Shuttle buses operated by PKM Katowice can be found outside the terminal building, and will take visitors directly to the city center, dropping passengers off near the main railway station (Katowice Dworzec).
A cheaper option is to take local bus (85) and then change at Bytom for either express buses 820 or 830. Bus schedules can be researched by KZK GOP.
Visitors can also arrive via Kraków's John Paul II International Airport (KRK), known to locals as Balice. The airport is centered 68 km (42 mi) east of Katowice, or about a 45 minute drive. Balice is a destination for a large number of European and international airlines, including Aeroflot, Air Berlin, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Eurolot, Finnair, LOT, Lufthansa, and Norwegian. A number of low cost airlines also operate out of Balice, such as EasyJet, Germanwings, Jet2, and Ryanair.
Katowice Dworzec PKP is the city's major railway center, and is a hub for rail transport throughout Silesia and much of southern Poland. The station serves as a hub for national rail operator PKP, regional rail company Przewozy Regionalne, and provincial operator Koleje Śląskie. Completely remodeled between 2010 to 2013, Katowice's railway station is extremely convenient for travelers to use due of its numerous cafes, good signage, modern atmosphere, and its convenient location in the city center. Underneath the station is a central bus depot for travelers arriving and departing by buses, which has modern backlighting and nice colors to invite passengers on its 10 routes. Additionally, the train station is attached to the large and modern Galerie Katowicka shopping mall.
Trains from all parts of the country and elsewhere around Europe serve Katowice. There are fourteen trains per day between Warsaw and Katowice and twenty-eight trains per day between Kraków and Katowice during the day; the journey takes 180 minutes (from Warsaw) and 80 minutes (from Kraków). You can arrive by train directly from Vienna, Budapest, Kiev, Berlin, Ostrava, Prague, Bohumin, Bratislava, Zilina, Český Těšín, Hamburg, Moscow, and Minsk. Luggage lockers are also provided for at the station.
Long-distance bus services will arrive at Dworzec Autobusowy Katowice (sometimes abbreviated as D.A. Katowice or PKS Katowice) at ul. Piotra Skargi 1. One of the station's main operators is Eurolines, providing connections to a number of domestic and European destinations.
Unibus and Bus-Inter travel regularly (both operate twice per hour) throughout the day between Katowice and Kraków. The fare is 20 zł one way (17 zł discounted with student ID or younger than 26), and it is suggested that passengers should book in advance, especially during Polish holidays and during peak commuting hours. Unibus use large modern coaches suitable for passengers with a lot of luggage, while Bus-Inter uses modern minibuses which may struggle to take large luggage during busy periods. On the other hand Bus-Inter is generally more responsive to demand and puts on extra minibuses during peak periods. Both operators state the route Katowice-Kraków route takes approximately 80 minutes depending on traffic.
PolskiBus offers daily routes from Katowice to the following locations and times: Warsaw (near Metro Wilanow) via Częstochowa (6:10, 10:00, 16:45, 23:45); and Vienna via Bratislava (13:15, 23:00). Fares can be as cheap as 1 zł to as much as 60 zł.
There are also a number of smaller private minibuses which operate between to and from Katowice. A listing of companies maintaining lines to the city can be researched by PKS Katowice, or can be researched through an interactive planner via e-podroznik.pl.
Katowice is well-connected to Poland's highway network, and serves as an important crossroads city. Katowice lies on the important A4 motorway (E40), one of the main traffic routes for all of southern Poland. The motorway links city together with Opole and Wrocław from the west and Kraków, Tarnów and Rzeszów to the east. The city is also linked from the south by the A1 motorway, connecting the city to the Czech Republic. The motorway is expected to connect to Łódź in the coming decade.
There are also a number of expressways crisscrossing Katowice and connecting the city to the rest of the province and the country. The Drogowa Trasa Średnicowa, better known as the DTŚ (signed as DK79 and DW902) is a large inner city highway linking Katowice to neighboring cities in the Silesian Metropolis, including Ruda Śląska, Świętochłowice, and soon Gliwice. The S86 expressway links Katowice to neighboring Sosnowiec. National road DK86 connects the city to Tychy.
All public bus and tram transport in Katowice is supervised by KZK GOP, a comprehensive transit system that serves nearly the entirety of the Silesian Metropolis, with one of the largest tram networks in Poland. A twenty-four hour free hotline for the system can be found by dialing: 0 800 16 30 30.
Many bus stations of the Passengers' Municipal Communication are situated in the core center of the city. At each bus-stop there is an information board with bus routes and where they go. The full map with bus routes is usually available in City Information Centre near Rynek (adress: ul. Rynek 13; employees are multilingual).
There are also trams which transport passengers within the city and beyond the limits of the city. The dispatcher's office and information of the Municipal Tramway Enterprise are situated at the tram-stop in Rynek (the market square) in Katowice.
The same ticket type is used in bus and tram. Katowice offers many different tickets. One-zone ticket is suitable for traveling in the city limits. Zone bus stations (overstepping it in a bus or a tram means that one must buy next one-zone ticket or continue traveling with ticket suitable for more zones) usually are placed at the border of cities. Consider, if it is better to use one-ride ticket, week-ticket or monthly ticket. In the bus or the tram only one kind of ticket is available for sell - for three or more zones, for 4,20 PLN (or 2,10 PLN with reduced rate). One-ride tickets could be bought even in grocery stores. Newspaper stands or newsagent's stores sometimes are selling other kinds of tickets. Ticket inspectors and bus/tram drivers often speak only in Polish. When ticket inspector approaches one must show ticket and proper document which allows to use reduced rate tickets.
One ride ticket price:
Taxi-stops are situated in several places in Katowice:
When you take a taxi always ask for the price beforehand unless you are willing to pay anything. Different types of taxis can charge very different prices which can vary up to 5 times the regular fare depending on location and time.
Although Katowice is not blessed with an ancient historical core like Kraków, Wrocław, or Zamość, the city does contain enough attractions to draw in visitors. Thanks to massive revitalization projects in the city center in recent years, Katowice has started to lift its notorious reputation as a industrial gray landscape. Some of finest examples of Modernism (both International Style structures and Bauhaus-inspired buildings) are easily found in the downtown Śródmieście district. The Śródmieście also contains a significant number of Art Nouveau (Secesja) buildings, along with communist giants such as the Spodek or the Superjednostka housing block.
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Katowice is blessed with a lively theatrical scene ranking among one of the best in the country. Unfortunately for non-Polish speakers, the scene is largely restricted to the Polish language, meaning that most productions will be linguistically inaccessible for visiting foreigners. However, there are occasional productions offered in English.
Katowice is one of the epicenters for cultural events in southern Poland. Exhibitions, concerts, a festival are regular occurrences in the city's galleries, clubs and theatres. It is impossible to list all of the events, as many occur without any regular schedule. To get up-to-date information, it is suggested to have a look at internet releases from conventional press organs like Ultramaryna or the cultural pages of Gazeta Wyborcza, bringing cultural news for the entire metropolitan region. Below is a list of events that happen at regular schedule.
As one of the most populated urban areas in the country, Katowice and its surrounding metropolitan area contains a large degree of higher educational institutions to choose from. For non-Polish speakers, consult with the universities first to see if there are courses that are offered in your native language, whether it be English or another.
The Silesia region (particularly Katowice) is a major business center of Poland. As Silesian Voivodeship is the main industrial hub in the country, its economy was primarily focused on coal, metallurgy, energetics, and chemicals in the recent past. Nowadays, it is converting to a more modern profile, including services, information technology, and conventions. Most of the city's iconic industrial works are located outside of the city in the surrounding region, while corporate offices are beginning to populate Katowice's core.
There are several institutions supporting the development and economic growth of the Silesian Metropolis:
There is also a company-organizer for the numerous trade shows and fairs in Katowice: International Katowice Fair 
For those interested in renting office spaces there are various offers. For 19th and 20th century adapted houses and old factories (like B-class old printing house ) to A class skyscrapers. The two most noticable are the Altus and Chorzowska 50.
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Mariacka Street  has the highest density of drinking establishments, among others:
Rather common discos
There is a medium number of hotels and guest houses in the Katowice area.
Wifi Internet access points are on the rise across Katowice. Pronounced in Polish as wee-fee, many businesses will advertise wifi access with a sign on their windows. Some common chain cafes and central locations offering wifi access points are:
Katowice is generally a very safe city to stay in, and should not cause concern for visitors. In previous years, the rail station was a magnet for petty thefts, although since its refurbishment and expansion, this has considerably decreased. As in other European cities, people should keep their wits, particularly in crowded places.
Katowice has not entered the common European tourist lexicon yet, meaning that English is not as universally spoken as in other tourist-heavy areas of Poland like Warsaw or Kraków. However, visitors will be more than able to get around and pantomime to be understood. Thankfully for English speakers, English can be widely understood by many younger Poles below the ages of 30 to 35. Older Poles may potentially have some knowledge of Russian or German. Related Slavic languages, such as Czech and Slovak, are also partially understood, albeit with several humorous differences. The easiest way for tourists to avoid any potential language problems would be to learn a few key Polish words and phrases, a fact that will not be lost with Katowicians.
Because of Katowice's excellent transportation links, major tourist attractions in southern Poland are not far away, making the city a good base to explore (or get away to) other locations in Silesia and the neighboring province of Lesser Poland. Additionally, the border with the Czech Republic is also within easy reach.