Two decades ago, Łódź was a post-industrial city, with abandoned and scary factories with a dark aura all over. Communistic decline and lack of consistent vision afterwards was the reason why once-thriving textile manufacturing hub, people started to call a “Polish Manchester” (in a wrong way). Fortunately, that changed in time, Łódź overcomes obstacles and like a phoenix from the ashes, become a sparkling source of youth and energy. With fresh ideas and bold initiatives, the city’s’ landscape is now a mixture of traditional beauty and energetic modernity. Old and dusty factories have been turned into trendy cultural centres and monuments. While ugly, brick buildings became a working space for artists. So let’s explore the 10 must-see things in Łódź!
If you are a fan of history and shopping, you should definitely check out the Manufaktura. The grand industrial brick architecture, built originally in the 1870s, was renovated and reopened in 2006 it is the most massive urban regeneration scheme in Poland. The place is huge (over 27 hectares), and it’s like a small city with all kinds of entertainment you need: there are pubs, restaurants, bakeries, boutiques, beauty spa, hairdressers, a cinema and theatres, but also bowling alley, laser game centre and a fitness centre. Manufaktura is also a home of an interactive museum of science and technology. It details the history of the place and the textile industry in general but most of all: it presents the everyday life of the workers, cloth production techniques. But above all, you can browse therethrough over 240 shops!
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
This incredibly colourful cathedral belonged to the Orthodox church and was built at the end of the 19th century. Financed by the most prominent factory owners at that time, really stands out as the heart of Łódź. It’s also a reminder that for a century, Łódź was under the yoke of the Russian Empire, with around 7,000 Orthodox Christians residents. If not the history of this place won’t amaze you, the kaleidoscope of colour, both outside and inside, will. Definitely a hotspot for Instagrammers.
Museum of Modern Art (Muzeum sztuki nowoczesnej)
Łódź’s Museum of Modern Art – or simply MS2 – holds the biggest collection of world art from last hundred years in Poland, but also belongs to the list of the oldest museums of Modern Art worldwide. The group was founded in the 1920s and includes artwork from different streams of modern art, such as purism, cubism, neoplasticism and constructivism. Exceptional artists, like Max Ernst and Hans Arp, contributed works to the collection. Łódź’s art museum has three locations spread across the city. Temporary exhibitions by contemporary artists in the gallery at Maurycy Poznański’s Palace (ms1), while the main draw, the interior of Edward Herbst’s Villa, (ms2) belong to the Manufaktura complex. This is not a museum, it’s a jewel.
Piatkowski Street is the real heart of Łódź. Five kilometres long is one of the longest commercial streets in the world. Along the road, you can find the city’s best shops, bars, restaurants, nightspots and sights. At number 72, stands the Grand Hotel, where have stayed Josip Broz Tito, Roman Polanski and Heinrich Himmler. And a little further down the road, at number 78, you will find a childhood home of the Polish-American classical pianist, iconic Arthur Rubinstein. He – as well as polish poet Julian Tuwin – is commemorated on the street by a life-size monument. But further down the road, is soon-to-be legendary OFF Piotrkowska.
Piotrkowska street is an excellent example of how development can be not only functional but also trendy. While Manufaktura is known for its stores and shopping marathons, Off Piotrkowska has become its hipster alternative. On the premises of the former Ramisch factory appeared artist studios, independent design, exhibition halls, international eateries, stylish bars and live music venues. Everything designed wisely and tastefully – good cooperation of a century old bricks with steel and glass. Filled with food trucks in the courtyard, energetic spots like club called Dom (house) and a cycle of events such as the Domoffon music festival in late summer. OFF Piotrkowska is right now the hottest places in Łódź.
Central Museum of Textiles (Centralne Muzeum Włókiennictwa)
It makes perfect sense that The Central Museum of Textiles is located in Lodz, a legendary polish city famous for its textile industry. The Museum opened in 1960 in a place people like to call Biała fabryka (White Factory), because white-painted walls of the building, stood apart from the brick buildings of that time. It’s Poland’s first automated multi-department mill. The factory was transformed into a museum shortly after the SWW and to this day preserves cotton processing tools and machines. You will find there also samples of fabrics from all textile mills and an exhibition about fashion through to the 20th century. You can feel the architecture of the site: its boiler house, high chimney and water towers, and later go to the factory’s original steam-powered looms. It is considered one of the most beautiful and unique monuments of industrial architecture in Poland.
Priest’s Mill (Księży Młyn)
If you really want to feel like a time traveller, go and wander completely preserved complex called Księży Młyn. In 1870 Priest’s Mill was turned into a well organized and modern institution. With the largest spinning mill in Łódź (more than 200 metres long). Also the industrial complex retains a large housing estate for workers and palatial residences for the owner’s family. It contains a school, a fire station, a factory shop and a park with a pond. The effort that has been made to preserve the brick architecture is so incredible that it was granted with the site UNESCO status. In 2015, Priest Mill declared a monument to history. On 23 May 2016, as part of the “Discover Poland” series, the National Bank of Poland introduced a coin with a visible fragment of Księży Młyn – as the oldest building and a factory chimney – into circulation.
This amazingly big garden (67 hectares) was planted to built already in 1929, but development started after the war. The garden is a home for over 3,500 types of plants, organized in nine sections. There’s an arboretum 18 hectares long, and medicinal plants like horsetail, evening primrose and St John’s Wort. The Japanese garden is planted with species from the Far East. The Alpinarium was shaped like a mountainous area with coniferous plants and rhododendron. The city’s beloved landmarks are garden’s Palm House from 1956 and have 4,500 Mediterranean, tropical and cactus specimens. The garden seems like a perfect plan to escape from the city and reconnects with nature!
Old Sewage system “Dętka” (Muzeum Kanału “Dętka”)
While most of the attractions and tourist spots are on the ground level, Łódź true insiders will go deeper. Thanks to the Old Sewage system, you can go beneath and walk through a fantastic example of 20th-century engineering. The Dętka is a torus-shaped water reservoir, built in 1926 to service the sewers in the city centre. It’s more than 140 metres long, almost 190 cm high and it can hold 300 cubic metres of water. In those well-lit tunnels, you will also find archive photographs of Łódź’s sewer system. A well as vintage sluice gate mechanisms and 100-year-old tools. In 2008, for the first time ever, the Dętka was opened for the public. That allows you to go down and see things you probably won’t see anywhere else in the world.
Metropolis is fine, but every now and then you need to get out and to the open nature. Parks and gardens are an option, but it quenches your thirst only temporarily. What you really need, at least in Łódź area, is a Łagiewnicki Forest. It’s a 1,200-hectare forest and one of the largest natural reserves within the limits of a European city. Łagiewnicki has a wealth of tree species, such as thick oaks, Scots pines, but also birches. When residents Łódź’s want to go for a bike or longer walking trails, they go right there. Little hidden in the middle of the forest, there is the Arturówek. It’s holiday centre, with a lakeside beach, playgrounds and sports facilities. Seriously, I can’t imagine better options for open-air and close to nature activities. Super-highly recommend!