The rapid industrial expansion of Łódź in the 19th century attracted Jews to the city; starting in the 1830s, and as early as the 1840s, Jews accounted for around 20% of the population. Many settled in the northern half of the city, in the area around today's Stary Rynek (Old Town Sq). By the time Germany invaded Poland in 1939, their numbers had grown to 230,000.
In May 1940 the Germans sealed off the northern part of Łódź to create the second-biggest Jewish ghetto in Poland, after the Warsaw ghetto.
The tourist information office hands out a useful free booklet Jewish Landmarks in Łódź, which traces out a 10km-long walking tour of the former ghetto and identifies the main sites, beginning at the Bałucki Rynek, the administrative centre of the ghetto, all the way to Radegast station and the Jewish Cemetery.
To reach this area, take tram 6 in a northerly direction from al Kościuszki to its terminus at Strykowska.
The sprawling Manufaktura shopping, entertainment and office complex deserves to be listed as a tourist attraction in its own right. While most of the enormous (more than 100,000 sq metres) structure is a standard shopping mall, the sheer size and the setting – within a once-abandoned 19th-century textile mill – are extraordinary. In addition to nearly every conceivable retail outlet, there are bowling lanes, a multiplex cinema, a video game arcade and a handful of worthwhile museums. Trams 3 and 11 run from near ul Piotrkowska to Manufaktura.
Ul Piotrkowska began life in the 19th century as the road to Piotrków Trybunalski (hence its name), then the major town of the region. By the beginning of the 20th century Piotrkowska was an elegant boulevard, lined with art nouveau buildings and expensive restaurants, but in the wake of WWII it became a gloomy, grey street of soot-blackened facades and half-empty shops.
Its revival began in the 1990s, when the Piotrkowska Street Foundation was created by a group of local artists and architects with the aim of turning the derelict thoroughfare into a lively European avenue. It has also become a sort of homage to successful locals, hosting statues and stars dedicated to the city's most famous sons and daughters.
In front of the Grand Hotel is the Avenue of the Stars (Aleja Gwiazd), a series of bronze stars set in the pavement in imitation of Los Angeles' Hollywood Boulevard, each dedicated to a well-known name in Polish film.
Further south in front of the house (at No 78) where the eminent Polish pianist Artur Rubinstein once lived, is Rubinstein's Piano, a bronze monument much loved by snap-happy tourists. A few paces down the street (at No 104) is Tuwim's Bench, a monument created in memory of local poet Julian Tuwim. Touch his nose – it's supposed to bring good luck. The last of the series is Reymont's Chest (at No 135), showing the Nobel Prize winner for literature, Władysław Reymont, sitting on a large travel trunk.
Although much of ul Piotrkowska is pedestrianised, public transport is provided by a fleet of riksza (bicycle rickshaws); for around 10zł they will whisk you from one end to the other.