I once chose to visit Katowice basically due to finding a cheap flight back to the UK! It had honestly never really been on my radar. Yet it was an interesting place, with somewhat a different vibe to Krakow – it felt more authentically Polish in many ways. I often get asked ‘Is Katowice worth visiting?’ and I would say yes. It has some nice monuments and museums that are worth visiting, and good bars and restaurants to enjoy on Mariacka Street.
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Is Katowice worth visiting?
Katowice is a city in Poland that’s not so well known in comparison to Warsaw and Krakow. But, it will give you an authentic Polish experience and has several buildings and monuments that are worth visiting. You will also find it excellent value for money, with cheap food and accommodation. I really enjoyed my time in Katowice. The only thing that I would say is that one or two days is more than enough, and I wouldn’t choose Katowice OVER other Polish destinations such as Wroclaw, Poznan, Gdansk, Warsaw or Krakow. However, if you have plenty of time to explore Poland, Katowice is worth a visit. Also, if you happen to find a cheap flight into or out of Katowice then stop off for a day to explore.
The Pros of visiting Katowice
Katowice is an authentic city with a variety of student and working residents. As it’s not as touristy as Warsaw, Gdansk and Krakow, you will find it more relaxing to walk around. I really enjoyed Katowice and found some cool things to explore. There are some interesting buildings and museums worth checking out.
Good nightlife and student atmosphere
I really enjoyed the student atmosphere in Katowice, especially enjoying the bars along Mariacka Street. People were friendly and there’s a very chilled out vibe compared to neighbouring Krakow.
Accessible from UK
There are direct flights from Liverpool to Katowice with Wizz Air, with pricing starting from just £18. You can also fly from Manchester to Katowice with Ryanair – prices start around £40. Many people choose Katowice over Krakow as the flights and accommodation can both be substantially cheaper, but it’s only around an hour out of Krakow.
English widely spoken
English is widely spoken by people in Katowice. I didn’t have any issues conversing in bars, hotels and restaurants. The students that I met on Mariacka Street were eager to practice their English.
Interesting Architecture and Monuments
There were a few things that I enjoyed visiting or found really interesting in Katowice…
- Christ the King Cathedral – It was still being built in 1955 when it was still part of Stalingrad – the communists finished building the dome half of the size that it was originally intended to be.
- Immaculate Conception Church (Kosciol Mariacka) – A Neo-Gothic Church of Prussian influence.
- The Old Jewish School – This was built in the same style as the Synagogue which was sadly destroyed during WW2.
- Communist blocks – Check out Hotel Katowice and the ‘Super Building’ opposite to get a feel for life in the communist era.
- Silesian Insurgents’ Monument – A monument to the insurgents of the three Silesian uprisings against Germany from 1919-1921 (one of which took place on this spot).
- Silesian Scouts monument – In 1939 the city was left in the hands of the Polish boy and girl scouts who defended the city for two full days before they died as Martyrs.
- The Spodek – A disc shaped sporting arena that was built in 1971 (pictured below)
Suitable as a base for good Day Trips
Katowice is well positioned making it worth it as a base to explore other areas of Poland and Czech Republic. Here are some of the top day trips from Katowice…
- Krakow – Kraków is just over an hour away from Katowice and it’s possible to experience most main sites of Krakow on a day trip. The train is 1h05.
- Auschwitz-Birkenau – Auschwitz is a tough day trip, but I feel that it is an essential journey that everyone should make to fully understand the massive scale of the Nazi death camps during the Holocaust and racism at its extreme. There are two parts – Auchwitz 1 (the work camp) and Auschwitz 2 (the death camp). I would recommend booking as a tour or going with a guide to fully understand what went on here during WW2.
- Ostrava – Ostrava is an interesting industrial city in the East of Czech Republic. It has an interesting contrast of almost steampunk style architecture (check out the Gong centre) and a traditionally historical old town square.
- Gliwice – Slightly to the West of Katowice is Gliwice, which has a lovely old town Market Square (Rynek) with a Neptune fountain, a palm house, a radio tower and plenty of museums.
- Moszna Castle – This is just outside of Katowice and makes a great day trip especially if you love castles. History of the castle dates back to the 18th Century and it has been reported to be used as a Templar stronghold. You can book a private tour with Get Your Guide here.
Excellent Value and great Food and Drink – Cheaper than Krakow
I found Katowice to be excellent value – you can get a meal for just a few pounds and also very cheap Polish dumplings. Beers can be as cheap as just one or two pounds (go to the student areas on Mariacke). I found it to be much better value than Krakow which is now rather overpriced due to the massive influx of tourists.
The Cons of Katowice
One of the main downsides to Katowice is that it is a bit industrial. The architecture in some areas (such as Mariacka street) is nice, but there are still a few ugly tower blocks from the communist period
Not as beautiful architecture as other Polish cities
Polish cities are well-known for their beautiful old tow architecture, but in all honesty, Katowice is a bit of a hotch-potch! The old communist blocks are still there for all to see, and although they tell us something about the history, it’s a bit strange seeing it just a stones throw from more historical buildings and monuments!
Not much more to see after a day or two
I spent one full day in Katowice and didn’t really feel that I was missing out on anything when I flew out the very next day. If I had stayed an extra day I would have probably visited the Silesian Museum and the Nikiszowiec Industrial District. There probably isn’t much more to do as a tourist in Katowice after two full days.
Temperature and climate – too cold in winter
Personally, I would recommend avoiding Katowice in the winter months from October to February, when temperatures can drop to -4°C. You will be almost too cold to do anything and certainly won’t want to go out! The best time to visit is between April and September when the weather is mild or even sunny (August is the hottest month).
Most important Katowice Travel Tips
- Dowload the Uber app – it works well in Poland and you can use your UK account. Ubers are very reasonable priced in Katowice and I used Uber to get to and from Katowice airport.
- Train is also a good way to arrive in Katowice as the station is walkable from the main square.
- You don’t need to learn Polish, but if you wanted to it would be appreciated. I would recommend downloading Duolingo, which makes it easy to learn Polish on your mobile phone.
- Remember to take Zloty, not Euros! Although Poland is in the EU, it is in the non-Euro zone and they continue to use their own currency.
- Your UK credit or Debit card will work in Poland if it its a VISA or MASTERCARD so make sure that you take it.
- For drinks with the students head to Mariacke street, one of my favourite parts of the city where you can grab cheap food and a cheap beer.
- It is possible to take a day trip to Auschwitz from Katowice or Krakow – whichever way you do it I would recommend that you don’t miss this historical tour – although it is very disturbing so prepare yourself mentally.
What to pack for Katowice
- Jeans and jumpers and lots of layers for winter or T-shirts and shorts or leggings for summer.
- Conservative clothing for visiting churches.
- Camera, smartphone, tablet (or laptop) and chargers. If you can get roaming on your smartphone then I would recommend it (mine is just £5 more a month and I use it all the time when travelling).
- A refillable water bottle – mine is a SIGG and I used it all over Europe.
- The Lonely Planet Poland Guide – buy it here.
- A pair of good walking boots or sturdy and comfortable trainers (mine are Karrimor Weatherlite) – good for exploring the city and also hiking in the highlands or to see Moszna castle.
- Cash – Zlotys (Poland doesn’t use the € EURO!)plus bank cards.
- Plug converter(types C and E) – you can get a pack of 2 with prices starting from £4.99 on Amazon.
- Sun hat and sun cream for the summer months.
Where to stay in Katowice
- Budget – Yellow Hostel
- Mid Range – Park Inn by Radisson Katowice
- High end – Mercure Katowice Centrum
Overall Verdict – Is Katowice worth visiting?
Overall, I would not forego Krakow, Warsaw or Wroclaw in favour of Katowice. However, if you are flying out of Poland via Katowice, then it is worthier exploring for a day or two while you are there. Katowice is a very authentic Polish experience.
Further Reading on Travelling in Poland
If you are interested in travelling in Poland, you might also like to read the following articles…
- Is Poland worth visiting?
- Things to do in Poznan Poland
- My 7 best cities in Poland
- Solo female travel in Poland – The Ultimate Guide