The Silesia Voivodeship: one of the Polish Voivodeships with many interesting cities

Silesia Voivodship

Silesian Voivodeship

The mountainous region of the south of the province is the Silesian Beskids. There is a national park of the same name, where no cars are allowed, and the air is unusually fresh and clean.


The Silesia Voivodship is one of the smallest in Poland. But in terms of population it ranks second – after the largest in the country Masovian Province. And by the population density the Silesia Voivodship does not have any equal in Poland. The statistical data from the European Union proves that the Silesia Voivodship is the most urbanised area of the Central and Eastern Europe, with almost 80% of the population living in cities.

The central and north-western part is occupied by the Silesian Upland, which in its turn is the western part of the Silesian-Malopolska Upland. It is an area of 200-300 m high, dissected by river valleys into separate ridges.

In the north-east, there is the Krakow-Czestochowa Foothills, the south-western part of the Małopolska Foothills, which rise to a height of 350 m. It is cut through by deep river valleys with numerous karstic landforms.

In the south, along the border of the Silesia Province, its highest area is the Beskid Mountains, which consist of the Silesian and the Beskid Żywiecki, where the highest point of the province – Mt Pilsko is located. Here is the most popular in Poland and neighboring countries ski resort – with illuminated slopes and artificial snow generators.

On the territory of Silesia province there are also – fully or partly – Auschwitz and Racibor Basins, Tarnogorski Hump and Rybnica Plateau.


Silesia Voivodship is located in the south of the country, in the center of the historical region of Upper Silesia. Despite its name, however, the Silesia Voivodship does not include the majority of historic Silesia, which ended up in the Lubuskie, Lower Silesian and Opolskie Voivodships as well as in Germany and the Czech Republic. In addition, the eastern part of the voivodship and the areas adjacent to the city of Częstochowa are part of the historic Lesser Poland.

The former autonomous region of Poland – the Silesian Voivodship – formed in 1920, became the basis of the present-day Voivodship. The legal basis for its creation in the Second Polish Republic, formed after World War I, was the 1921 plebiscite and the Geneva Conventions. The three consecutive armed uprisings of Poles and Polish Silesians in 1919-1921 in Upper Silesia played a major role. All of them were directed against the German authorities of the Weimar Republic, the aim being the secession of this land from the German state and its unification with the rest of Poland.

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The then autonomous Silesia Voivodeship was the smallest in area of the Voivodeships, but very rich and economically more developed of all the parts of Poland. The economy was based on the mining and metallurgical industry, based on the richest deposits of coal and metal ores.

The mining industry began here a long time ago, as evidenced by the main attraction of the town of Tarnowskie Góry – lead and silver mine of the 16th century, which survived to this day.

More than 90% of the population was Polish. Politically, the voivodship, as its name implied, had far greater rights and autonomy than the other “ordinary” Polish voivodships, particularly in the area of self-government and even legal proceedings.

The Silesia Voivodship is located in the very south of Poland, bordering with Czech Republic and Slovakia, the main trans-European highways pass through its territory: III corridor (Berlin – Wroclaw – Katowice – Krakow – Lviv) and IV corridor (Gdańsk – Katowice – Żylina). Within a radius of about 600 km from the capital of Katowice there are six European capitals: Warsaw, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava and Berlin.

In Jasnogorsk monastery there is an image of Our Lady, which is close to the heart of every Pole, a national symbol of the country.

In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, World War II began. The Silesian Voivodeship was seized within days and immediately incorporated into the Prussian province of Upper Silesia with its center in Breslau (now Wroclaw), which Adolf Hitler called an act of higher justice and the return of the original German lands. Legislatively it was confirmed in the law of the Third Reich “On the administrative division of the Eastern Territories”.

After the end of the war the autonomy lands returned to Poland, but in May 1945 by the decision of the Krajowa Rada Narodowa the autonomy was abolished and in its place the Silesian-Dąbrowskie Voivodeship was created. It existed until 1950, when it was divided into the Katowice and Opole provinces.

The present Silesia Voivodship was officially formed in the course of the administrative and territorial reform of 1998, and in 1999 the lands of the former Katowice, Czestochowa and Bielsko-Bialskie Voivodship were integrated into it.

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The share of the Silesian voivodship in the country’s GDP is over 13%, which places it among the first in terms of economic development and population income. Also the voivodship has the lowest percentage of unemployment in Poland. A large part of the population is employed in tourism and pilgrimage services.

Czestochowa is the second largest city in the province after the capital, a center of mass pilgrimages from all over the world. Believers flock here to visit the Jasna Gora Monastery, which houses the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, revered as the greatest shrine by Catholics and Orthodox. Jasna Gora is the main pilgrimage site in Poland: Every year, more than 4 million people come to worship the miraculous icon. It is also a symbol of national unity of the Polish nation.

After the Czestochowa icon appeared there, the Jasnogorsk monastery was rebuilt as a fortress. It stands on a 300-meter hill, its 106-meter bell tower is visible from 10 km away, it is surrounded by high walls and has powerful bastions in the corners. During its 600-year history, the monastery has been repeatedly attacked and looted, but each time it was restored.

The castle from the Piast times is located in Rybnik. At first it was a wooden fortification erected under Prince Mieszko I Plasony (so he was nicknamed for his curved limbs). The castle often changed hands, kings took it from one vassal and gave it to others, it was repeatedly stormed and burned, so the history of the castle reads like the history of the country. In the 18th century the dilapidated building was completely reconstructed in the Baroque style.

In the center of the Silesia province is one of the oldest in Poland – Piast Castle in the town of Gliwice. The settlement on this site appeared more than 2,000 years ago, and in the middle of the XIII century it received the right to be called a city. The castle was built here in the mid-14th century, for a long time it was the residence of the dukes, but later served as an arsenal, prison, court and even a peasant’s farmstead.

Gliwice itself is known as the place where the German Nazis in the night of August 31 to September 1, 1939 staged a provocation. At the time, the town was on German territory. Posing as the Polish military, the Nazis seized the Gliwice radio station building, which served as a formal pretext for the German army to invade Poland and start World War II.

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Silesia Voivodship on the map

General information

Location : Southern Poland. Administrative division : 19 towns on the rights of the poviat, 17 poviats. Administrative center : Katowice – 298,111 inhabitants (2016). Cities : Częstochowa – 227,270, Sosnowiec – 206,516, Gliwice – 182,969, 3abrze – 175,882, Bytom – 170,059 (2016). Formed : 1999. Language : Polish. Ethnic composition : Poles. Religions: Catholicism, Protestantism. Currency : Polish zloty. River : Odra Airport : International Katowice-Pyrzowice. Neighboring voivodeships and countries: Łódź to the north, Świętokrzyskie to the northeast, Małopolska to the east, Bohemia and Slovakia to the south, Opolskie to the west.


Area : 12 333,09 km2 . Length : 189 km from north to south, 138 km from east to west. Population : 4,564,394 (2016). Population density : 370.1 people/km2 . Urban population : 77,6% (2016). Katowice agglomeration : 3,487,000 people. Highest point : 1557 m, Mt Pilsko (Beskid Żywiecki).

Climate and weather

Moderate, transitional from maritime to continental. Mild winters, warm humid summers. Average January temperature: -1.5°C. Average temperature of July: +18°C. Average annual precipitation: 610 mm. Average annual relative humidity: 80%.


Gross regional product (GRP) : 205 billion PLN (approx. US$ 63 billion), per capita : 44 300 PLN (approx. US$ 13 600, 2012). Minerals : coal, iron ore, sulfur, lead, zinc. Industry: coal mining, metallurgy, electricity, light industry. Agriculture: plant growing (oats, wheat, rye, potatoes, sugar beet, gardening), cattle breeding (dairy and meat, pig breeding). Traditional handicrafts : Konyakuv lace. Sphere of services : tourist, transport, trade, resort (Szczyrk, Brenna, Istebna, Korbielow, Vistula and Ustroń).

We travel in Poland. Route through Upper Silesia

Photo: @greenfriiday, Instagram

Upper Silesia (Region Górny Śląsk) is the historical name of the region. But the modern province is called Śląskie, that is, Silesian. It is important to remember this, because the modern voivodship includes cities from other regions.

The Silesia Voivodeship is located in the southern part of Poland, bordering on the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The capital of the province is Katowice. Silesia used to be a center of Polish industry – already in the 18th century the steel and mining industries developed here. Earlier the region was famous for the production of glassware and deposits of silver and iron. But most often Silesia is associated with coal mining. This mineral, sometimes called black gold in Poland, has been one of the region’s main treasures for decades. The lion’s share of what is now entirely Polish Silesia was part of Germany until 1939. Today the Silesian province is largely a place of closed factories and mines, where time has stood still. We have put together an itinerary of interesting places near Katowice that will help you learn more about the complicated history of the Polish coal-mining region.

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Route: Katowice – Chorzów – Świętochłowice – Gliwice – Zabrze – Bytom – Radzionków

Katowice is a city of hard work, practical and rational. It combines the ancient historical heritage with a modern spirit. From the beginning of the 19th century Katowice grew rapidly, first as a district center and later as the first industrial capital of Poland. The rapid development of Katowice is connected with the coal mining industry, which made the city one of the leading development centres of the Polish state.

Although Katowice is a relatively young city, it has a lot to show, especially to fans of modernist architecture. By the way, you can pick up a free guide to Katowice Modernism in the tourist center (Rynek 13) . And if you like old architecture, you’ll have trouble finding such buildings here, and they’re all mostly on the touristy Storomiejska Street (ul. Staromiejska). There are also museums, cafes and shopping centers.

Here are the places worth visiting in Katowice.

Market (Rynek) – the central market square surrounded by monotonous post-war blocks. It’s a demonstration of the “early Gierek style” – what Poles sarcastically call the architecture of the 1970s, when the communist government of Edward Gierek received substantial loans from the West to turn Poland into a “second Japan.”

St. Mary’s Street (Mariacka, 40-014) . The main artery of nightlife in the center of Srodmiescie, leading to the Church of St. Mary. There are about 20 cafes and even more restaurants, bistros and nightclubs in a stretch of just a few hundred meters.

Kościuszki Park (Kościuszki 40-001) is one of the favorite places of Katowice residents, a 10-15 minute drive from the city center. The real gem of the location is the wooden church of St. Michael the Archangel, built in baroque style back in 1510. If you’re in town in the winter, you can also take advantage of the park’s sledding and skiing slope.

Spodek Sports and Concert Complex (Spodek, aleja Korfantego) . From Polish “spodek” translates as “saucer”. In the 70’s the hall was equipped with one of the biggest movie screens in Poland. Today the most progressive festivals are held there – Tauron New Music and OFF.

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Katowice also boasts the National Radio Symphony Orchestra, the famous Silesian Choir and the Silesian Philharmonic. Besides, more than 30 world music festivals of different genres and directions take place in Katowice. That is why UNESCO awarded Katowice the title of a creative city in the field of music.

Silesian Museum (Dobrowolskiego 1, 40-205) . The first thing you’ll see as you approach the Silesian Museum is a gigantic over-mine tower, which has not been used since the mine in Katowice was closed in 1999 (having been in operation for almost 180 years before that). Now this tower is an observation platform, which is open in the summer. The idea of the museum was to move all the exhibitions to the four horizons of tunnels underground – and so preserve the post-industrial landscape of Silesia. Thus the old mine was transformed into a huge art space with various exhibitions, interesting expositions and restaurants.

The Silesian Center of Freedom and Solidarity (ul. Wincentego Pola 38) is a memorial museum of the Wójek coal mine – a special place in Silesia and Poland. It was at this Katowice coal mine in the first days of martial law that the shooting by the Communist order against the striking miners took place. The workers went on strike to protest martial law and the arrest of their fellow union activists. Contemporary museum curators are participants in the strike and witnesses to those tragic incidents.

The neighborhoods of Nikishovets and Gishovets. If you ask the locals what a must-see spot in Katowice is, they will probably point you to Nikiszowiec and Giszowiec, two working-class neighborhoods located on the eastern edge of the city. They were both built in the early 20th century for the workers of the nearby mines. Nikishovets consists of a complex of houses of 12 apartments each. Not far from Nikisovets is Galeria Szyb Wilson. A few kilometers southeast of the city center is the Giszowiec neighborhood. It was based on Ebenezer Howard’s idea of a garden city. Both districts will appeal to those who are interested in viewing the typical buildings of the last century.

To see the whole city from above one has to find Warszawa II Tower in Katowice and climb up. From there you can even see the Spodek and on a clear day you can see the mountains.

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