The dynamo at the centre of Poland’s Upper Silesian Industrial District, Katowice is one of the fastest-growing and most exciting places in the country. Dismiss it as an industrialised backwater at your peril – today, that jumble of German Gothic, art nouveau and socialist architecture hides a cultural scene that’s developing as rapidly as the city’s powerhouse economy. With Krakow and the strikingly diverse landscapes of southern Poland virtually on the doorstep, there’s also plenty to do when urban life begins to pall.
A short break to Katowice from Glasgow Airport is the perfect chance to catch one of the region’s fabulous festivals. Off Festival (August), the giant independent music fiesta that attracts A-list bands from all over the globe, relocated to the city in 2010, and dozens of smaller events have sprung up in its wake. The best known include the Rawa Blues Festival (October) and the Ars Cameralis (October/November), a celebration of musical and visual arts. The quirky Cult Film Festival (May) and cutting-edge music festival Tauron Nowa Muzyka (August) are also exciting additions to the annual line-up.
Silesian cuisine is famous for being easy on the palette but heavy on the arteries, with dumplings, meat, goulash and cheese all essential staples. Sample regional specialities cooked to perfection at Szynk Old Fashioned (Ligonia 16), a snug little restaurant-cum-bar with a sterling reputation. Looking for something lighter? Katowice’s culinary scene is quite literally a cultural melting pot, with scrumptious sushi at Japanese joint Sushi Do (3 Maja 30), exquisite Italian fare at Via Toscana (Uniwersytecka 13) and intriguing experimental dishes at Patio Park (Kościuszki 101).
From dusk ‘til dawn
From craft breweries to elite cocktail bars and from cosy corner pubs to huge super-clubs, Katowice boasts a full hand of after-hours entertainment. Start by sampling the views – and the killer cocktails – at the Altus Tower’s Sky Bar (Uniwersytecka 13), then head onto a live gig at Hipnoza Jazz Club (Plac Sejmu Śląskiego 2). For an injection of high culture, the Silesian Philharmonic (Sokolska 2) and the Silesian Opera (Moniuszki 21-23) both host regular international-class performances.