Presentation of the destination
The town of Zabrze in Silesia is notable for its historic coal mine, its nightlife and its pretty redbrick architecture. Situated in Southern Poland, close to the Czech border, Zabrze is also close by to the attractions of Katowice, Silesia’s main city. The town was built on coal industries, with a large coal mine built here in 1855. Spend a day smelling the roses at the town’s botanical gardens, a riot of flowering plants and trees from around the world. Explore the world of 18th century miners as you descend into the Guido heritage coal mine for a tour of the machinery, underground corridors and shafts before a meal of traditional Silesian food in the underground Guibald Inn. Car lovers will enjoy spending time at the museum of antique automobiles also located on the Coal Mine Museum site. Zabrze boasts numerous pubs, clubs and music venues where you can while away the evening hours by the fireside or dancing the night away to disco, jazz or the blues. In the surrounding Silesian towns you’ll find heritage architecture, including the Piast Castle, the oldest continuously running narrow-gauge railway, more pubs and a multitude of green parks. There is even a Silesian Amusement Park featuring rollercoasters and family friendly rides just outside Zabrze.
Points of interests / things to see
Visit the historic mine site which was once the centre of Zabrze’s economy. It was named after Count Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck who founded the mine in 1855, and can be found in the center of town by its 25-metre (82-foot) tall blue shaft tower. Don a miner’s helmet and lamp and descend in the historic mine elevator 320-metres (1050-feet) down into the Guido Mine shafts. There are a number of levels to explore, with exhibitions on mining history and the dangers 19th century miners faced, as well as fossils and geological items found during excavations. Mining was made more difficult by the need for horses, which were housed in below ground stables you can visit today. See some of the equipment used in the mine’s early history, such as the steam driven coal extraction machine from 1915 which worked even at a depth of 503 metres (1650 feet). There’s even a bit of local superstition on show: meet the ghost of the mines, Skarbnik, who reveals treasure to good miners and punishes those who are disrespectful. Photographs from the mine’s history give an insight into the difficulties of 19th century mining. Enjoy the tastes of Silesia at the underground restaurant, Guibald Inn. http://www.kopalniaguido.pl/en/
Spend a day exploring the lush landscapes and exotic plant species of the Zabrze Botanical Gardens. Pack a picnic and spread out amidst formal French gardens, by the willow pond or amidst flowering lillies. The 6.4 hectare garden has been growing since the 1920s, but took a beating during World War II. Afterwards, vegetables were grown in the garden to provide food for the city’s people after the deprivations of the war. Wander along paths bordered by English gardens, 64 varieties of fragrant roses, flowering garden beds and greenhouses where 5000 species of plants from warmer continents are grown. Discover cacti and succulents as well as palms from Asia, Australia and Mexico. The gardens are also a chance to meet the local wildlife. Squirrels and birds inhabit the spreading branches, while hedgehogs rustle in the undergrowth and swans glide around the ponds. Kids will love the garden too, with a large playground to keep them occupied. If you’re visiting in June, don’t miss the Festival of Flowers. Concerts and musical events are also held sporadically in the gardens. Between May and September the gardens are open between 11 am and 7 pm on weekdays, with gates opening at 10am on Sundays. Through October the gardens are open between 10am and 6pm on weekdays and 9am to 6pm on Sundays. http://www.mob-zabrze.pl/
Head to this once industrial metropolis for bustling nightlife, German Gothic and Art Nouveau architecture, palaces, museums and art galleries. Wander around the Nikiszowiec suburb to see 19th century red brick housing built for the miners whose work helped built the city with coal profits. Here you’ll find the Katowice Historical Museum which details the lives and urban culture of the working class miners. For a bit of art history visit the Silesian Museum located in a beautiful old red brick hotel, where you’ll see hundreds of works from the 19th and early 20th century by Polish artists. At night the best street for music, clubs, jazz bars and restaurants is ul. Mariacka. The Altus Tower has a bar located on its 27th floor, making it a prime place for a drink with a view of Katowice. Enjoy the city’s green areas. Woodland parks and cycleways make for a great way to enjoy Katowice’s good weather. Hike through ancient stands of beeches in Murckowski Forest or visit the Silesia Park of Culture and Recreation where you’ll find swimming pools, an amusement park, zoo and manicured grounds perfect for running and cycling. Katowice is a 20 minute drive from Zabrze.
North-west of Zabrze in Tarnowskie Gory is the Rennaisance castle complex of the Wrochems, built in the 16th century. The main castle was built by Piotre Wrochem in the early 1500s, and additions were made to the complex by a series of owners up until World War II, after which the castle was taken over by the state. In the 2000s, the castle was lovingly restored and today as you tour you’ll see original Renaissance features and period furniture such as huge banquet tables and collections of ancient keys. Wander through the attached cloisters, which now host a tavern, and see the stunning exhibitions in the Centre of Arts and Old Crafts. Here you’ll learn about the tools and artistry of such crafts as gilded furniture appliques and elaborate door handles. To make your visit all the more special, stay in the hotel located within the castle complex in what was once a barn. The castle is open for tourists between 9am to 4pm Tuesday to Friday and 11am to 7pm between April and September. From October to March you can visit only on the weekends between 11am and 5pm. Guides hold walking tours through the castle on the hour. www.fundacjakomplekszamkowy.pl
Bytom is one of the region’s oldest towns, dating back the 12th century. Art Deco and Gothic buildings line the streets, and there are several historic churches around the town to explore. Check out the 13th century underground passages beneath St Adalbert Church. The lion statues and building decorations that can be seen in Market Square and around the town represent those killed in the Prussian-French war. Catch an opera at the Silesian Opera House located near Zabrze in Bytom. The Opera company is housed within a grand 19th century neo-classical building which was once a theatre. The Silesian Opera is known for being the debut theatre for many young singers who have gone on to be stars. The repertoire includes such international classics as Carmen, The Phantom of the Opera, Don Giovanni and Rigolletto as well as operas by local talent including the first to be staged in Poland after World War II in this theatre, Halka. You can also catch a ballet, enjoy orchestral music and see acclaimed concerts by travelling companies. Discover contemporary art at the Kronika Gallery. Aspiring artists will love the huge range of art books in the gallery’s bookstore. The gallery is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
See an example of a Silesian castle in the nearby town of Gliwice. It was originally built in the 1300s, but today the only remaining part from this time is the tower. It underwent renovations in the 15th century and then again in the 1950s. The castle is run as a location of the Gliwice Museum to show what life was like throughout the ages here in Silesia. Exhibits on pre-history of the area are found on the castle’s bottom level, including the fossilised remnants of a mammoth and stone tools. As you ascend you’ll find antique goblets and pottery dishes, period furnishings, early maps of the region, a Silesian kitchen and traditional costumes. Some of the artifacts on display here have been found in archaeological digs around Gliwice. There are also collections of foreign history here. See samurai weaponry from Japan, as well as swords from around Asia.
Zabrze has a buzzing nightclub and bar scene, but the House of Music and Dance is the place to go for big name music acts and discos. The stark modernist building designed by architects Zygmunt Majerski and Julian Duchowicz has fantastic acoustics and fits a 2000 strong audience in its largest auditorium. Leonard Cohen, Chick Corea, Buena Vista Social Club and the Electric Light Orchestra are among the big names that have played here. There’s plenty of local acts from Poland too, from burlesque and cabaret to emerging punk rock bands and blues artists. Catch some local and international talent on your visit in Zabrze!
South Poland’s narrow gauge railway system was, from the 1850s when it was built, at the centre of Silesia’s industrial economy. These days you can experience the railway on an antique train ride through the Silesian countryside, from Bytom to Tarnowskie Gory to Miasteczko Slaskie. At Bytom you’ll find the railway museum where passionate train lovers restore and repair narrow gauge machinery. There are some great attractions at each stop, from the historic buildings of Bytom, one of Silesia’s oldest cities, to the castle of Tarnowskie Gory and the lake at Miasteczko Slaskie.
Discover the history of the Silesia region and the city of Zabrze as you browse the exhibits of art, historic memorabilia and cultural items. The museum was opened in 1935 in Krakow Square and the collection has been growing ever since. The museum now resides in a historic café on Trzeciego Maja Street and also has an art gallery located on its lower floor. See rotating temporary exhibitions on Nazi occupation, historic coins and tapestries, and learn about the town before it struck rich with coal when it was a small village called Biskupice. The museum is closed on Mondays, and there is a small cost to entry. http://www.muzeum-miejskie-zabrze.pl/
Vacation rentals in Zabrze (Silesian Voivodeship)
How to get there ?
Fly in to John Paul II International Airport in Krakow and take the bus to Katowice. From here you can take a train to Zabrze, and the whole journey takes just under 2 hours. Alternatively you can hire a car at the airport and take the hour drive to Zabrze. Car rental is also available in Zabrze and this can be a good way to get around the region as it is quite spread out and not everything in Zabrze is walking distance. Getting around between the Silesian towns is easy via train. Zabrze is connected to Gliwice, Katowice, Ostrava and Bytom by train among others. The Zabrze train station is located in the downtown area at Plac Dworcowy. Katowice is the region’s hub for busses, so if you’re wishing to travel around the region by bus you’ll need to first catch the train from Zabrze to Katowice. Taxis are also a relatively cheap way to get around. Several taxi companies operate in the region so it shouldn’t be hard to flag one down. The best area of Zabrze to explore on foot is just south of the railway station where you’ll find the Guido Coal Mine and Museum, the lovely forested park Witold Pilecki guarded by huge stone lions and flanked by historic houses, the Botanic Gardens and Ernest Pohl Stadium.
Hotels in Zabrze (Silesian Voivodeship)