Łódź's Grand Boulevard
Ul Piotrkowska began life in the early 19th century as the road from Łódź to the town of Piotrków Trybunalski (hence its name). By the beginning of the 20th century Piotrkowska had grown into 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 monuments dedicated to the city's most famous sons and daughters.
From north to south, here are some highlights of buildings and public art for a stroll:
Plac Wolności The 20th century in Łódź is embodied in this one square. Monuments honour those who died for the country's 1918 independence, the grungy Soviet-style buildings replaced grander buildings owned by Jews and destroyed in the war, while ornate survivors recall the city's lost wealth.
Nos 11 and 12 At the cross-street with ul Rewolucji 1905 roku, note these two lavishly detailed and now-restored apartment buildings. Both were built by Jewish industrialists in the 19th century and are typical of buildings that once filled Łódź's streets.
No 72 The front of the Grand Hotel features the Avenue of the Stars (Aleja Gwiazd), a series of bronze stars set in the pavement in imitation of Los Angeles' Hollywood Boulevard. Each is dedicated to a well-known name in Polish film.
No 78 The eminent Polish pianist Artur Rubinstein once lived here. Rubinstein's Piano, in front, is a bronze sculpture much loved by Instagram-happy tourists.
No 86 Stop for a moment to take in the over-the-top ornamentation, griffins and all.
No 104 The bronze sculpture is Tuwim's Bench, created in memory of local poet Julian Tuwim. Touch his nose – it's supposed to bring good luck. It sits in front of the 1880 Italian renaissance City Hall.
No 135 The 1924 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Władysław Reymont, sits on a large travel trunk in Reymont's Chest.
Although much of ul Piotrkowska is pedestrianised, you can go for a ride on a riksza (bicycle rickshaw); expect to pay around 6zł per person for a ride from one end to the other (agree the price beforehand).
Łódź is famous for its abundant street art, which grew out of the Urban Forms Festival in 2009; today more than 100 murals and installations add colour and life to the city's rapidly rejuvenating centre. The tourist office will point you to the best-known examples, and many are documented on the Urban Forms (www.urbanforms.org) website. Here are our top six, all within easy reach of Piotrkowska street:
Apus Apus Created by the Portuguese artist Artur Bordalo, this giant image of a common swift (Latin name Apus apus) has been constructed from discarded plastic and metal rubbish.
Narodziny Dnia A courtyard covered in the fantastical imaginings of Polish artist Wojciech Siudmak – imps, harlequins and brightly coloured birds.
Pasaż Róży The work of designer Joanna Rajkowska, a typical Łódź courtyard passage has been completely lined with mirror fragments arranged in swirling floral patterns; truly spectacular.
Rubinstein Mural This colourful 2014 mural captures the impish sense of humour of Łódź's most famous son, the classical pianist Artur Rubinstein (1887–1982).
Untitled A collaboration between Brazilian muralists Osgemeos and Spanish street artist Aryz, this weird and wonderful artwork displays a literal mating of styles.
Weasels A crowd-pleasing gaggle of weasels cavort on the side of a building in this mural by ROA.