Warsaw is lively and Kraków is beautiful, but Poland’s third-largest city remains a mystery to many travellers. However, Łódź, pronounced 'Woodge', has plenty to offer.
With its industrial heritage and movie-making magic, it’s a city with varied attractions, matched by lively dining and nightlife along its Art Nouveau-styled main street. What’s more, it’s still great value for money.
Łódź's ul Piotrkowska, the longest street in Poland © Avillfoto / Shutterstock
City of the silver screen
The key attraction is the Cinematography Museum, near the National Film School, where acclaimed directors such as Krzysztof Kieślowski and Andrzej Wajda, once studied. This institution combines two elements of the city’s heritage as it’s located within Scheibler Palace, the former mansion of ‘Cotton King’ Karl Scheibler, whose textile factory spun out its products nearby. Some rooms have been maintained in the elegant style of the original mansion, and have been used as filming locations for historical dramas.
The museum’s exhibits include sets, props and technical equipment from various eras. It’s a fascinating cross-section of the film-maker’s craft, including a profile of Polish silent film star Pola Negri, massive old editing desks, and puppets used in a popular 1980s animated TV series about a penguin named Pik-Pok.
A mutoscope (an early motion picture device) on display at Łódź's Cinematography Museum © Tim Richards / Lonely Planet
Stars and statues
Another dose of movie glamour is scattered for free along the footpaths of ul Piotrkowska, Łódź’s attractive main street, which is lined with decorative facades from the city’s 19th century industrial heyday. The Avenue of the Stars is a collection of star-shaped plaques near the Grand Hotel, which honour Poland’s film greats (and if you're interested in actual celestial stars, head to the new high-tech Planetarium in the evolving EC1 cultural complex).
While you’re on Piotrkowska, check out the series of monuments celebrating the city’s other creative geniuses. Outside number 78 is a bronze piano honouring pianist Artur Rubinstein, and at number 104 is Tuwim’s Bench, remembering poet Julian Tuwim. At number 135 you’ll find a statue of Nobel prize winner for literature, Władysław Reymont, seated on a large travel trunk.
This grand statue commemorates one of Lodz's most famous sons, pianist Arthur Rubenstein © Tim Richards / Lonely Planet
To round out this cultural collection, visit the city’s fine collection of art museums. The MS1 Museum of Art exhibits mainly 20th century art, with Polish works lined up alongside the creations of artists such as Picasso and Chagall. Its sister gallery, the MS2 Museum of Art, features edgier contemporary works within a former weaving mill.
Factories on display
The central strand of Łódź’s history, its textile manufacturing era, is easy to follow via the architecture it left behind. Take a stroll through Manufaktura, once a vast factory complex that is now a shopping and entertainment hub. Within its walls you’ll find the Museum of the Factory, which illustrates the lost industrial world that once thrived here.
This massive artwork spells out the name of this factory turned shopping complex © Tim Richards / Lonely Planet
While in the vicinity you might like to visit the City Museum of Łódź, housed in the luxurious former home of textile magnate Izrael Poznański. Admire the elaborate timber panelling, stained-glass windows and ballroom, while learning about the city’s back story. Outdoors, the museum switches glamour for grit with its Dętka Canal Tour, a guided walk through the old brick sewer system beneath the city streets.
Two more examples of industrial-era history and architectural splendour are the Central Museum of Textiles located within the city’s oldest textile mill; and the Herbst Palace. This was once the grand home of the Herbst family, restored and furnished to match its original appearance. It stands within an interesting district known as Księży Młyn, designed as a model 19th-century workers’ town by Karl Scheibler.
The former Radegast railway station, now a memorial commemorating Jews deported and murdered in German Nazi concentration camps © Dejan Gospodarek / Shutterstock
Many of the city’s industrialists and workers were Jewish, and this community was devastated by the German occupation in World War II. That tragic period is marked by the memorial at Radegast Station, a former railway station from which Jews were transported to Nazi Germany's death camps including Auschwitz. It lies near the Jewish Cemetery, the largest such graveyard in Europe.
Food and drink
The dining scene in Łódź seems ideal – the city is big enough to have a range of options, but not so crowded with visitors as to spawn expensive tourist traps. As a result you’ll find yourself eating and drinking affordably alongside locals, often on or near ul Piotrkowska.
Anatewka is a popular central restaurant serving Jewish cuisine, including duck and goose dishes, to the background of live music. Nearby, Ato Sushi creates authentic Japanese food, and Ganesh is renowned for the quality of its Indian cuisine. For classic Polish dishes, visit Galicja within the Manufaktura complex. In addition to tasty eats, it serves a range of regional beers within its rustic-looking interior.
Popular Anatewka serves up delicious Jewish cuisine © Mariola Anna S / Shutterstock
Coffee has come a long way in Poland in recent years, and Łódź has its share of cool new caffeine dispensaries. Przędza is a tiny but accomplished cafe with a range of beans and homemade cakes; and for a more spacious cafe, try the aptly-named Grand Coffee.
When night falls, go bar-hopping. One of the city’s coolest new places is Owoce i Warzywa, a hip joint with retro furniture and obscure craft beers. Meanwhile, as the name suggests OFF Piotrkowska, a collection of boutiques, studios, cafes and bars in the footprint of a former factory, sits just behind ul Piotrkowska, and gets lively after dark. Try a cocktail amidst the industrial stylings of Spaleni Słońcem.
A long-time nightlife favourite is Łódź Kaliska, a club that’s usually packed with locals throughout its industrial-themed interior. It might be just the place to toast the health of this character-packed city and its layered past.
Bar-goers enjoying drinks on deck chairs outside trendy Spaleni Słońcem, a cocktail bar in OFF Piotrkowska © Michal Ludwiczak / Getty Images
Make it happen
Łódź Airport has Ryanair flights to/from London Stansted, East Midlands, Dublin and Athens. There’s also a Lufthansa flight most days between Łódź and Munich.
The city is well connected by rail, particularly to the Polish capital Warsaw. PKP trains run approximately hourly between the two cities, taking 80 to 90 minutes and arriving in Łódź at the gleaming new Łódź Fabryczna station, from which it’s an easy walk to ul Piotrkowska and other sights.
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