‘Polish Manchester’, ‘HollyWoodge’, ‘Promised Land’, ‘City of Four Cultures’, ‘Bad City’, ‘Bagdad of the North', ‘Chimney-Stack Town’, ‘The Red City’ – if there was a contest for the town with the biggest collection of nicknames, Łódź – pronounced as ‘woodge’ - would surely finish in the top three. Poland’s third largest city is anything but predictable…Here are 7 good reasons you need to visit…
One nickname we forgot to mention is ‘City of Palaces’. This European city boasts over one hundred different kinds of villas or palaces. Historically, if you were the owner of a factory, you needed to have your own palace. Or villa, if you were just the main director.
The biggest palace – resembling the Louvre – belonged to Israel Kalmanowicz Poznanski, the owner of a vast empire of spinning mills, bleacher houses and weaving mills, now transformed into a centre of culture and entertainment, Manufaktura. Today Poznanski’s Palace hosts the City Museum, where you can visit – aside from the fabulous family rooms, an exhibition about culture in Łódź.
Maybe we should have started with this one. Other towns have their Main Squares, Łódź has Piotrkowska Street – over 4 km of pubs, restaurants, coffee houses and ice-cream shops. Instagram at the ready for the beautifully detailed houses, each more spectacular than the other, filled with statues, plaster-crafted ornaments and even dragons on the façades.
Walk from the Freedom Square (former New Square, the centre of New City) up to the Independence Square and you’ll see how Łódź transformed from a small town into an impressive, industrial place. These days it’s a popular meeting place, with regular street concerts taking place around the area. It’s also a place filled with secrets…venture to the backyards: one is full of mirrors, the other transports you to a Mexican soap opera, and another one invites you to a crazy gallery. Piotrkowska is full of surprises.
Do you love good films and good food? Then you need to visit Hotel Stare Kino – The Old Cinema Hotel. Just imagine – 42 rooms inspired by films – not only from Polish Cinema, but also the classics like Gone with the Wind or Godfather. What’s more – it’s situated in the space where the Krzeminscy brothers, Polish innovators, founded the first permanent cinema in Poland. You might call it a kind of homage to the film history of the city (HollyWoodge). The hotel's restaurant also provides an adventure for your taste-buds. On Sundays you can enjoy a delicious brunch with Charlie Chaplin watching you from a mural on the wall.
You’re standing on Freedom Square, next to the monument of national Polish hero, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, feeling a bit confused by the range of different styles of Łódź architecture – from 1820s to 2000s. And then you descend the winding metal stairs to find the Museum of the Sewer. A sewage system may not be top of your must-see list, but the ambience of the place and the workers’ equipment on display fires your imagination in such a way that it makes you want to continue your walk through the tube-shaped tunnel (hence the name of Museum). Apart from the Parisian one (currently closed) this is the only Sewer Museum in Europe.
When you read up on the history of Łódź, it’s hard to believe that the former ‘Chimney – Stack Town’ is now one of the greenest cities in Poland. The biggest forest in the city is home to lots of parks in the centre but also outside it – and if that’s not enough, the biggest Botanical Garden in Poland (67 ha!). Just leave the noisy and crowded centre of the city and go by the small stream called Łódka where the Botanical Garden is situated and you can spend a relaxing time amidst the vegetation and woodland. Japanese Garden, Rock Garden, Polish plants, Arboretum, a rural farmstead and cottage from the beginning of the 20th century, too! Sound awesome? It is.
In Berlin there’s Kreuzberg, in Prague there’s Żiżkov, a former workers district, now transformed into a centre of culture. But they pale when compared to Księży Młyn. The area often referred to as a “city within the city” (or “town within the city”) was an industrial complex consisting of factories, workers houses, hospitals, railway, fire station, school, shop and, of course, residences of the factory owners, established by the top-notch of all the manufacturers in Łódź – Karl Wilhelm Scheibler – “king of the cotton”. However, now this post-industrial place welcomes all artistic souls. New life is breathed into old buildings, which is typical for Łódź. A former spinning mill transformed into luxury loft apartments (the first ones in Poland!), a former shop is now a pub, restaurant and local brewery or even… acclaimed publishing company (Księży Młyn, named just like the whole district). There is also the tourist centre, where you can attend workshops (not only for children). Walking through this green area of both wide and narrow alleys, you’ll discover 19th century cobblestones, reminding you of days gone by.
Film-makers love this spot. This is where Księży Młyn doubled up as Belgium Aalst in Academy Award-nominated movie Daens.
At the end of the day, when you want to reward yourself with a cold and refreshing drink, Łódź is a perfect place to sample craft beers. Lots of pubs, especially on Piotrkowska Street offer a variety of different beers. But some of the most atmospheric locals are hidden away, waiting to be discovered in a backyard. This is certainly the case in terms of Eclipse Inn – the most British pub in Łódź. Not only will you find beer, but also a selection of fun board games and quizzes.
- Krzysztof Olkusz