Presentation of the destination
Bytom is often overlooked for its neighbour Katowice, although there is no more heavy industry here than there is there. Look further than the steel mills and coal mines and you'll discover a city full of lilac trees and beautiful architecture dating back to the 13th century with a reputation for turning out sporting heroes, as well as plentiful local nature in the Silesian Uplands to explore. With a population of around 180,000, Bytom is one of the oldest cities in Upper Silesia, receiving city rights from Prince Ladislaus of Salzburg in 1254. Locals speak Polish, and the currency is the złoty (pronounced zwo-ti), abbreviated to zł. The climate is temperate and Poland is situated in the Central European time zone.
Points of interests / things to see
Opera Śląska, the Silesian Opera, is situated in an airy mint and white neoclassical building overlooking a leafy park, which was once the city's theatre, seating around 500. The opera company was founded in 1945, although the building was constructed between 1898 and 1901. The venue offers a range of world-class opera, from Bizet’s Carmen to Strauss’s The Gypsy Baron, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly to Verdi’s Don Carlos and Nabucco, along with musicals such as My Fair Lady, ballet such as Romeo and Juliet, and even a tribute show combining the best of the Beatles with Queen’s greatest hits. Established by world-famous musician Adam Didur, the Silesian Opera quickly grew to become one of Poland’s greatest opera venues, as well as a breeding ground for fresh new talent. Welcoming orchestras and opera companies from all over the world, the Silesian Opera has visited over 15,000 cities within the last 10 years alone. Tickets are available online at the website: http://opera-slaska.pl/. Address: Opera Śląska, ul. Moniuszki 21-23, 41-902 Bytom.
This fascinating museum was founded by a group of local history enthusiasts in 1910, and somehow survived the turmoil of the 20th century unscathed by the destruction of the Nazis. It offers exhibits in five key areas: natural history, primitive prehistory, ethnography and city history, ethnology and arts, as well as offering a library of over 50,000 volumes, an housing and office for the protection of archaeological monuments. From local folk culture to 19th-century bourgeois life, as well as the largest collection of archaeological finds in Upper Silesia with some 350,000 objects, there's plenty to hold your interest. Among the museum highlights are the beautiful embroidered folk costumes, decorated with handmade lace and stitched with silk in tiny stitches, as well as many other handmade items such as cribs, masks and harvest wreaths. Opening hours: 9am – 3pm (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays), 10am – 6pm (Wednesdays), 11am – 4pm (Saturdays), 11am – 3pm (Sundays). Admission: adult 10 zł/reduced 8 zł/family 20 zł/free entrance to permanent exhibitions on Sundays. http://www.muzeum.bytom.pl/.
This modern and trendy cultural centre is a hub of activity in Bytom, and does a huge amount to promote up-and-coming artworks of all kinds. With a full auditorium constructed in 2002, the centre now hosts concerts, theatrical performances, film screenings workshops and events for children and young people. You never know what might be on at the cultural centre before you arrive, from free traditional Silesian dance classes to board game clubs, comedy to cabaret. Be sure to call by the office, where you'll discover the centre’s adorable dog, who is always ready for a walk. Bytom Cultural Centre also houses the Galeria Kronika, a vivid and colourful modern art gallery that presents all kinds of artworks, from painting and graphic art to installations and video presentations. Offering an unconventional and sometimes confrontational approach to art, Bytom Cultural Centre is nonetheless the liveliest of Bytom’s cultural attractions. Address: Bytom Cultural Centre ul. Zeromski 27 41-902. Phone: (+48 32) 389 31 09, 389 31 10 Website: www.becek.pl. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BECEKBytomskieCentrumKultury
This gallery is named after a colloquial expression from the Upper Silesian dialect, which translates as “below the line”, and this strong sense of place is what typifies the activities that go on here. Aiming to preserve cultural traditions and save what might otherwise be lost, the gallery is open between 3 pm and 7 pm Monday to Friday, and on Saturdays and Sundays as the staff please. Pod Sztrychem Gallery was founded through an initiative of a local group called the Free Association of Green Artists, who not only masterminded the art on display, but also renovated the building by hand themselves. Like the Bytom Cultural Centre, the gallery aims to function as a meeting place for local artists, both seasoned professionals and young bucks looking to find their place in the art world. There's a new exhibition every month and hot drinks on sale. Pod Sztrychem isn't content with showing visual art however, as the gallery also organises music concerts and speaking events with various interesting figures from art, philosophy and psychology. It's a winner with young people, who are particularly welcome here even if they're not artists themselves. Address: Bytom, 12 Powstańców Warszawskich St. Phone: (0-32) 281 25 08.
Explore this partially protected nature reserve, which covers about 25 hectares of land between Bytom and neighbouring Tarnowskie Góry. This idyllic spot is free to access any time, and there's also an educational trail, well signposted with boards full of information about this beautiful woodland, the flora and fauna that make their homes here, and the interesting history of the area. Now a beautiful deciduous beech forest, you can still see traces of the area's former purpose, as a mining area. The clue is in the name of the hill upon which the Segiet Nature Reserve is located, Silver Mountain, which is one of the highest hills in the area. It's particularly beautiful on a late summer or misty autumn day, when the gorgeous copper and russet of the falling beech leaves contrasts with the ghostly silver of the trunks. Ideal for exploring on foot or by bike, there's plenty of space for kids to run around. Beech forests once covered huge swathes of land in mainland Europe, and this little fragment will give you an idea of what life was like just after the last ice age.
Katowice offers a brilliant mix of gorgeous German Gothic, Art Nouveau and socialist architecture coupled with fantastic cultural offerings including theatres, the Silesian Philharmonic and the famous Spodek concert hall. Visit Poland's largest cathedral, a building that looks like a spaceship, or the candy-cane striped towers of the Wujek Coal Mine, still in operation. Catch bus 120 or 830 from Bytom.
Naturephiles and twitchers will go wild for Żabie Doły, a beautiful lakeside area bordering Bytom. It's one of Silesia’s richest and most valuable areas for avifauna, with 129 species of birds living here, including bitterns, marsh harriers, woodpeckers and grebes – you might even be lucky enough to hear the song of a nightingale, one of nature's most euphonious sounds. Żabie Doły is a 15-minute drive west from Bytom.
Just outside Kraków in the small town of Wieliczka lies the world's most remarkable salt mine. While on the surface it looks like a normal building, 200 metres underground the miners carved a breathtaking chandelier-lit cathedral in the salt, complete with bas-relief sculptures of religious figures. This act of extreme religious devotion, care and love was one of the first Unesco sites, and must be seen to be believed. Website: http://www.kopalnia.pl/o-kopalni
From Bytom the sobering trip to Auschwitz-Bikenau takes under an hour. This notorious concentration camp needs no introduction, as the very name stands as shorthand for the horrors of the Final Solution. Approximately one in six Jews killed in the Holocaust died here. Now the site is home to a museum where visitors can see some of the original facilities, which stand as a permanent reminder of one of the worst atrocities in human history. More details on website: http://en.auschwitz.org/m/.
Vacation rentals in Bytom (Silesian Voivodeship)
How to get there ?
It’s easy to get to Bytom from nearby Katowice, as the two cities now form one conurbation, with buses 820 and 830 taking only 20 minutes. For full-time tables, see http://rozklady.kzkgop.pl/index.php?co=rozklady. The nearest airport is Katowice International Airport, located in Pyrzowice 20 minutes north of Bytom. This two terminal building services a range of passenger and charter flights from all over Europe, including budget airlines Ryanair and Wizzair. The official airport website can be found at http://www.katowice-airport.com/en. U can travel directly to Bytom from the airport on bus 85 for just 4.40 zł. Katowice is also one of Poland's major train stations, so you can arrive directly from Germany, Hungary, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Slovakia or even Russia. Eurolines buses service the nearby International Katowice Bus Station, as well as UNIbus (http://www.uni-bus.com.pl/rozklad_jazdy) and Bus-inter (http://www.bus-inter.pl/) which link with the capital. Bus and tram maps are available from the tourist information centre in Bytom, and there are lots of great spots nearby for walkers and cyclists of all abilities.
Hotels in Bytom (Silesian Voivodeship)