Difference between revisions of "Katowice"
Revision as of 10:01, 17 March 2013
Katowice  is the largest city in Upper Silesia in Poland with a population of about 320,000 in the city itself and over 2.1 million if the surrounding cities of the Upper-Silesian Metropolitan Union are taken into account. Located in the middle of Silesia on the banks of the river Rawa, Katowice's historical importance as Poland's main industrial centre has been indisputable in recent decades. Nowadays Katowice has also a rich cultural life with theatres, the Silesian Philharmonic, the Silesian Museum and famous concert hall known as the Spodek. Visitors will find an interesting city with charming secessionist architecture from the early 1900s, several historic relics, stunning modern architecture, hospitable and proud local people, and easy access to the Beskidy Mountains and other Silesian Cities. One of the hidden gems of Poland, Katowice especially delights the senses in April with its numerous flowering lilac trees.
The city is at the intersection of major road and rail routes connecting Poland to the rest of Europe in all directions, with Katowice International Airport in nearby Pyrzowice. Until recently, the dominant economic sectors in the Katowice region were mining, steel, electrical machinery, electronics, and chemicals. Due to economic changes in Poland, this situation is changing, and heavy industry has given way to commerce and services.
The origins of Katowice go back to 1397 when the settlement of Kuźnica was founded. Katowice was first mentioned as a village in the middle of dense forests in 1598. In the 18th century numerous work colonies sprang up here and around 1769-70 the Duke of Pless established an underground coal mine. 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.
In 1873 Katowice achieved the status of county town. In 1897 Katowice was formed 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 Katowice. As a result, major insurance companies and large-cap banks were attracted to the city. During the First World War, the steel industry continued to develop at a frenetic pace. Rail connections were also developed.
After Third Silesian Uprising Polish Government had decided to give Silesia considerable Autonomy with Katowice as a capital and home of the Silesian Parliament. It was the time of city most intense growth (1922-1939).
In 1975 the neighbouring municipalities of Piotrowice , Ochojec, Panewniki, Kostuchna , Wełnowiec, Szopienice, Giszowiec, Dąbrówka Mała and Murcki were merged with Katowice. Construction works were still continuing in the city centre. The main communications artery (al. W. Korfantego) was widened, old industrial buildings to the west of this road were demolished. To the east the historic Tiele-Winckler Palace was also demolished. On the market place, old buildings were replaced by modern shops: "Zenit" and "Skarbek", and also the "Dom Prasy".
The construction of the Roundabout and the "Flying Saucer" (Spodek) Sports Hall (1962 -71) had a significant impact. The Millennium Housing Estate on the border of Katowice and Chorzów, the Paderewski Estate to the east of the city, the Południe Estate covering the suburbs of Kostuchna, Piotrowice, Ligota , and the Roździeński Housing Estate should also be mentioned.
In first decades of 21st century Katowice is going through another development phase. New main train station is being built and several competitions regarding redevelopment of strategic spaces (like Rynek, al. Korfantego and area behind Spodek) finished and are awaiting construction.
The Katowice-Pyrzowice Airport (KTW)  in Pyrzowice (34 km from Katowice) is an airport for both domestic and European flights. Operating airlines include:
WizzAir - Barcelona, Beauvais, Bergamo, Bergen, Bourgas, Cologne/Bonn, Cork, Dortmund, Doncaster/Sheffield, Eindhoven, Hahn, Kiev-Zhuliany, Liverpool, London-Luton, Madrid, Malmö, Pisa, Rome-Ciampino, Stockholm-Skavsta, Stavanger, Torp.
RyanAir - Alicante, Birmingham, Bristol, Crete-Chania, Dublin, Girona-Barcelona, Edinburgh, London-Stansted, Manchester.
Cheaper option is to take the local bus (85) and then change at Bytom for an express bus numbered 820 or 830. You can use this website to check connections rozklady.kzkgop.pl . It will cost 8,80 zł (you need to buy two tickets, 4,40 zł each).
There is also possibility to fly from and to nearby Kraków-Balice airport.
Katowice Main Railway Station has been recently remodeled and is very convenient for travelers because of its numerous cafes, good sineage, modern color scheme of white, blue, and occasional yellow, and bright lighting. It is located in the city center. The newly renovated train station has underneath it the bus depot, which has modern backlighting and nice colors to invite passengers on its 10 routes.
Trains from all parts of Poland and other countries arrive at Central Station. There are fourteen trains per day between Warsaw and Katowice and twenty-eight trains per day between Krakow and Katowice during the day; the journey takes 180 minutes (from Warsaw) and 80 minutes (from Krakow). You can arrive by train directly from Vienna, Budapest, Kiev, Berlin, Ostrava, Praha, Bohumin, Bratislava, Zilina, Český Těšín, Hamburg, Moscow, Minsk. The Main Station has left luggage lockers. The station is an easy two minute walk apart main Bus Station.
The trains within Poland are run by Polskie Koleje Państwowe (see PKP ).
Getting to Wrocław by train takes about 3-4 hours, the ticket prices vary from 35 to even 100 zł, so be careful while choosing the train.
Long-distance bus services arrive at International Katowice Bus Station (in the city centre, close to Sadowa Street). The main operator is Eurolines. There are regular buses between Katowice and Krakow:
UNIBUS  and Bus-Inter  travel regularly (both operate twice per hour) throughout the day. The fare is 14zl one way, and it is suggested that passengers 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 takes approximately 80 minutes dependent 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, Austria via Bratislava, Slovakia [13:15, 23:00]. Fares can be as cheap as 1 Zl ($.30).
Buses are also operated by PKS Katowice, running something like once per each two hours: it takes ca. 2.5 hours to get to Krakow, costs 16 zł one way, but if you go round trip, it costs just 22zl (6zl less than UNIBUS or Bus-Inter). Note though that these are normal service buses which pretty much stop at every village on route between the cities.
There are also a number of private minibuses which operate between Krakow and Katowice. These though are difficult for non Polish speakers to find and use. Prices are comparable to the large companies listed above, so are only recommended when in the area with a local.
Buses between Katowice and Wrocław:
Buses operated by PKS Katowice run on different times, but there are at least 3 each day, some of them start in the night. It takes about 4 hours and the tickets cost about 25 zł.
The main approaches to Katowice are:
All routes converge on the main crossroads (the A-4 and E-75) which lies near the city centre. Katowice has no big car parks system but there are many small car parks along the roads in the city center.
All public bus and tram transport is supervised by KZK GOP. 24h free phone information: 0 800 16 30 30. KZK GOP Website .
Buses & Trams
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.
The finest examples of Modernism (International Style and Bauhaus inspired architecture) could be easily found in the city downtown. Central Katowice also contain a significant number of Art Nouveau (Secesja) buildings along with the Communist Era giants such as Spodek multipurpose arena complex  or Superjednostka housing block.
There are a lot of cultural events in Katowice. Exhibitions, concerts, festivals, spectacles and so on - thay all happen in galleries, clubs and theatres. It is impossible to mention here all of them as they appear without any regular schedule. To get information 'whats on' it is suggested to have a look at up-to-date internet releases of conventional press like Ultramaryna  or Gazeta Wyborcza: Co jest grane  bringing cultural news for whole agglomeration. Below there is a list of events that happen at regular schedule.
Silesia and especially Katowice is one of major business centres of Poland. Silesia is the main industrial centre in Poland, its economy used to be based on coal, metallurgy, energetics, and chemical industry. Nowadays it is converting to more modern profile - services and information technology. The most of industrial works are located outside the city in the surrounding locations meanwhile offices remain in Katowice. There are institutions supporting development and economic growth of the region:
There is also company-organizer of numerous trade shows and fairs in Katowice: International Katowice Fair 
For those interested in renting office spaces there are variuos offers. From XIX/XX century adapted houses and old factories (like B-class old printing house ) to A class skyscarpers - two mostly noticable are ALTUS  and Chorzowska 50 .
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.
Katowice is a generally very safe city to stay in. Beware of the usual nuisance of petty theft (especially at Railway Station).