We have visited many cities in Poland for our blog and many of you have probably been to Krakow, Warsaw or Gdansk. But Lodz? Although it is the third largest city in Poland, it is often left out by tourists, long considered unsafe, boring and dirty. In recent years, however, a lot has happened and today Lodz is one of the most exciting cities in Poland. In this article we want to dispel the prejudices about Lodz and show you the most exciting Lodz sights.
This is Lodz
Lodz (Polish Łódź, pronounced Woodsh) is located in the heart of Poland and is the capital of the voivodeship of the same name. Around 20 years ago, it was still the country’s second-largest city after Warsaw, but then had to contend with a massive population decline. This is mainly due to the decline of traditional industries such as textiles, but also to the proximity to the capital Warsaw, which is booming like hardly any other in Central or Eastern Europe and attracting young, well-educated people from Lodz with higher wages.
Away with the gray veil and off into the green!
While Lodz was still relatively gray a few years ago, things are now changing. Construction, restoration and greening are taking place on every corner, making the city almost unrecognizable. Contrary to preconceptions, Lodz is very green. Among the most beautiful sights of Lodz are the numerous parks in the city, 34 in total. The city also boasts two nature reserves, a botanical garden and Las Łagiewnicki (1200 hectares!), one of the largest urban forests in Europe. So if you want to take a break during your tour, you have plenty of opportunities to do so.
The history of Lodz
But before we take you to the Lodz sights, we want to show you the history of the city, because without knowing it, you can hardly understand why Lodz is the way it is today.
The history of Lodz goes far back into the Middle Ages, and in 2023 the city will celebrate its 600th birthday. Repeatedly slowed down by fires and outbreaks of plague, Lodz was, however, for a long time an inconspicuous little place.
At the beginning of the 19th century, there were not even 500 people living in Lodz. But when, after the Congress of Vienna, the city became part of the Kingdom of Poland, which was in personal union with the Russian Tsarist Empire, this was to change abruptly. The tsar was looking for a place to create an economic zone for textile production. Uniforms in particular were needed. Because of the many rivers (around 20) in the city area and the forests in the surrounding countryside, Lodz was ideal for this. However, since the local population lived off agriculture and lacked know-how, textile workers were recruited from Saxony (Chemnitz was considered the textile capital of Germany), Brandenburg and Bohemia and lured with numerous tax and economic incentives.
Thus, Lodz quickly grew into the “Polish Manchester” and the population literally exploded within a few decades. Initially German settlers dominated, but later more and more Poles moved into the city, where Jews were also allowed to settle from 1840 onwards. In addition, many Russians were sent to the city from faraway St. Petersburg, mainly to work in the administration. Therefore, Lodz is also referred to as the “city of four cultures”. The city grew and grew and wool and cotton were produced everywhere, huge factories were built, which resembled small towns in the city.
If you want to feel the special spirit that characterized Lodz at the end of the 19th century, you should definitely read the book “The Promised Land” (Polish: “Ziemia Obiecana”) by the Polish winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature Władysław Reymont, who drew a unique portrait of those years and describes the story of a Polish, a Jewish and a German industrialist. The book was also made into a film by Andrzej Wajda, among others.
World War I and crisis years
The First World War and the accompanying German occupation marked a drastic event. At that time, many factories had to make their machines available for armament purposes, others were simply dismantled and melted down. After the war, many manufacturers went into decline and some had to merge in order to stay afloat.
World War II – Litzmannstadt and the Ghetto
But things were to get even worse. The Second World War had less of an impact on the fabric of the buildings, but had catastrophic consequences, especially for the Jewish population, which at that time made up about a third of the city, which had by then grown to 700,000 inhabitants. The city was annexed to the Warthegau and the Nazis quickly established a reign of terror. As early as November 1939, almost all of the city’s 200 or so synagogues were destroyed, with only one remaining (no longer accessible today). In 1940, the Nazis renamed Łódź Litzmannstadt in honor of a World War I general.
Between February and April 1940, Jews were given the choice of leaving the city or moving to the newly created ghetto. It existed until August 1944 and was thus the longest existing ghetto in the Nazi-occupied territories. At the same time, it was the largest after the Warsaw Ghetto. Jews from other parts of Europe were also deported here, including from Luxembourg and Trier. In addition, Poles and Roma from Burgenland also lived here in a separate section of the ghetto. In total, it is estimated that about 200,000 people passed through the Litzmannstadt ghetto.
The ghetto was divided into two parts, which were connected by bridges. The living conditions were terrible, hunger and typhoid fever were common. The ghetto also included the Jewish Cemetery, which we will introduce to you below. Approximately 40,000 people met their death in the ghetto, most of the others were taken to extermination camps like Kulmhof. The German reign of terror ended with the liberation of the city by the Red Army.
Lodz under socialism
Fortunately, the city was hardly destroyed during World War II. Since Warsaw lay completely in ruins, Lodz served as the Polish capital for a short time, and there were even thoughts of abandoning Warsaw altogether and moving the capital here permanently. However, this idea was quickly dropped. The textile companies were nationalized and Lodz became Poland’s most important textile location, as it had been before the First World War, producing primarily for the Soviet and domestic markets.
Decline and resurrection
With the fall of communism, the most important market for textiles for decades suddenly collapsed. There were some failed privatisations, bankruptcies and mass layoffs. At times, about 25 percent of the inhabitants of Lodz were unemployed. It was not until the turn of the millennium that hope slowly returned. In the meantime, there is no longer any sign of the dreariness of the turnaround period. Young startups are setting up shop in old factory buildings, renovations and construction are taking place everywhere, and Lodz has made a name for itself internationally as a fashion and creative city. Anyone who was here a few years ago will hardly recognize Lodz, so exciting and versatile it presents itself today.
These are the most beautiful Lodz sights
But enough of the preface, you are probably already curious about the most interesting places in the city. Here we present you our personal highlights of the Lodz sights!
There is really no way around it. Piotrkowska Street (Polish: ulica Piotrkowska) is over four kilometers long and was once the longest shopping street in Europe. It runs from Plac Wolności (Freedom Square) to Plac Niepodległości (Independence Square) and used to mark the way to Piotrków (German: Petrikau), today’s Piotrków Trybunalski. Walking along what is perhaps the most important of all Lodz sights, one does not know at first where to look, so beautifully does Piotrkowska present itself. This is mainly due to the countless palaces and stately bourgeois and business houses that were built here from the middle of the 19th century. Not all of them have been restored yet, but the street, some of which are beautifully planted with plane trees, has regained its former splendor from the turn of the 19th to the 20th century.
The buildings on Piotrkowska Street are now occupied by countless bars, pubs (there are supposed to be around 100!) and cafés. However, it no longer serves as a shopping street with luxury brands as it did in 1900; under socialism, there were mainly simple stores here, and today Italian fashion brands dominate.
Besides the many beautiful buildings, the street is also known for the “Walk of Fame” (Aleja Gwiazd) initiated by Polish actor and director Jan Machulski, which honors famous Polish actors on one side and directors, cinematographers and other filmmakers on the other – Lodz was and is a film city, as you will see later.
Also, a total of six monuments commemorate famous daughters and sons of the city, including Artur Rubinstein, who performs one of his works here at the grand piano.
But you should definitely also take a look at the many beautiful side streets. We particularly liked two of them, Romualda Traugutta Street and Stanisława Moniuszki Street with its many classicist buildings. The latter once belonged to factory owner Ludwig Meyer, who created an ensemble of buildings here for eternity. He also had the Grand Hotel built at 72 Piotrkowska Street, the oldest hotel still in existence in the city. In the meantime, an investor has been found and the building is being renovated, so that you will soon be able to stay here again.
In Off Piotrkowska, on the other hand (number 138), you will find a small creative area with numerous fashion boutiques and cool restaurants. There are also two large street art paintings here.
The Rose Passage (Pasaż Róży) is also a real eye-catcher. It was created in 2013/2014 by Joana Rajkowska, and anyone who has ever been to Warsaw will certainly be familiar with her best-known work, the giant palm tree in the city center. Her daughter Róża (meaning “rose”) suffered from eye cancer, which could be cured. Inspired by this, Rajkowska created an entire street of small mirrors to symbolize the transition from blindness to sight and is one of the coolest photo motifs in the city.
No other of Lodz’s landmarks is so emblematic of the incredible transformation the city has undergone in the last two decades. The Manufaktura used to be a 27-hectare factory site where Jewish entrepreneur Izrael Poznański created the foundation for his vast cotton empire, building one of the largest factories in the world at the time. A brick-dominated plant was built, where thousands of people worked at the same time. Poznański had his own cotton plantations in Asia and Russia and was thus able to control almost the entire production process. However, after his death in 1900, the decline of his company occurred quickly.
At the time of socialism, the factory was then nationalized, and since 2006 it has been home to a modern leisure area that serves a similar function to market squares in other Polish cities. There are countless restaurants, cafes, movie screens and stores to discover, plus several museums. In summer, a small beach is also built here, where you can relax.
One of the buildings of the Manufaktura is now home to the Factory Museum. Here you can learn about the history of the plant. The exhibition is not particularly large, but well done. We found it really cool that the old mechanical looms can still be put into operation and that the weaving shuttle can be shot back and forth with a deafening noise. In addition, you can learn here how exactly cotton is actually produced and how versatile this material can be used. In the same building, one floor below, you can race across the entire factory area on a zipline. Only for those with a head for heights, but a unique experience.
If you are interested in modern art, you should not miss the branch of the Art Museum in Manufaktura. Here you can see some of the most famous Polish representatives of the 20th and 21st centuries. In the exhibitions, which are arranged according to themes, you get a good insight into the development of Polish art in recent decades, whereby not only paintings, but also installations, sculptures and videos can be seen. But foreign artists are also represented here with works, for example, there are several works by Joseph Beuys to marvel at. Changing exhibitions on the first floor bring you closer to other artists.
Poznański Palace and Museum of the City of Lodz
Right next to the Manufaktura stands a magnificent palace that is hard to get enough of. It belonged to Izrael Poznański, one of the “cotton kings” of Lodz. Allegedly, when the building was being constructed, the architect had asked him which style he would prefer, to which Poznański replied, “all of them, after all, I can afford it.” The beautiful eclectic building was directly connected to the factory via a wing, so Poznański could go to work without leaving the house.
The palace is perhaps the most beautiful building in Lodz (see cover picture) and is now home to the city museum. Here you can get a lot of information about the Jewish textile manufacturer Poznański, there are temporary exhibitions to see, but above all the representative rooms of the Poznański family are interesting. One feels a bit like in a royal castle, where the factory owner held court, there is even a hall of mirrors. No wonder that numerous films have already been shot here.
Also of interest are the rooms dedicated to famous citizens of the city. Among them is the world-famous pianist Artur Rubinstein, who once lived on Piotrkowska Street and whose widow bequeathed the objects shown here to the city. The leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Marek Edelmann, who lived in Lodz after the war, is also honored. In the two basements, on the other hand, you will learn a lot about everyday life in the “City of Four Cultures” and the changes that Lodz has undergone over time.
The area around the Łódź Fabryczna train station has changed radically in recent years. EC 1, the Łódź City of Culture, was created here in a former coal-fired power plant. The huge power plant was commissioned in 1907 and reliably supplied the city with energy until 2001. Part of the gigantic complex is designed in Art Nouveau style, events are always taking place, but a spectacular music video was also shot here, which became one of the biggest hits in Poland in 2021 and shows Lodz from an aerial perspective.
The complex is constantly being expanded. One part, for example, which dates back to the 1920s, now houses the Centrum Nauki i Techniki. Right next to it, the Narodowe Centrum Kultury Filmowej, the National Center of Film Culture, is currently being built.
Centrum Nauki i Techniki
The Science and Technology Center, which was named Tourism Project of the Year by the Polish Tourist Board in 2019, makes the most of the old power plant premises. On five levels, young and old alike can let off steam at numerous hands-on stations, learn all about energy production, and even walk around one of the old, 30-meter-high coal furnaces and take a look at the 20-ton turbines. Especially cool: You can take the elevator to the top of the cooling tower for a spectacular view of the entire city.
Centralne Muzeum Włókiennictwa
One of the first and at the same time most beautiful production plants in Lodz was built in the 1820s by the Saxon industrialist Ludwig Geyer. Due to its white plaster (most other factories are made of brick), it quickly got the name “White Factory” (Polish: Biała Fabryka), which it still bears today. Today, the former factory premises are home to two exhibitions that could hardly be more different.
Miasto – Moda – Maszyna
City – Fashion – Machine is the name of the three-part show in the main building of the white factory. In the first part, you can see historic looms, some of which are still in working order, and everything still looks as if the workers had just gone out for a lunch break. One floor above you can see how closely the history of the city was linked to the textile industry. You can learn a lot about industrial Lodz from old photos, postcards and maps. But part of the exhibition is also dedicated to the workers’ strikes of 1981 and the decline of the industry after the fall of communism.
We particularly liked the fashion section. Here you are taken on a short journey through time and can see how the tastes and the textiles produced in Lodz have changed over time – including appropriate background music.
Łódzki Park Kultury Miejskiej
Right next to the White Factory is the second museum in the complex, the Municipal Culture Park. And we particularly liked it. After all the exciting industrial buildings, it feels a bit like a Scandinavian village. The wooden houses standing here used to be located elsewhere in the city and were moved here along with a summer palace and a wooden church. The buildings show the living conditions in Lodz apartments during the 20th century, always contrasting a simpler and a more luxurious way of life.
Everything is so realistically presented that you really feel taken back to those years. The church in the Culture Park used to be Protestant and was located in Nowo Solna (German: Neu Salzfeld) near Lodz and is made almost entirely of wood inside. Church services (now Catholic) are still held here. The magnificent villa next to it once stood in Ruda, now incorporated, a favorite summer resort of wealthy Lodz factory owners.
Some of the factories in Lodz are huge. But Ksieży Młyn, which bears the beautiful German name Pfaffendorf, puts everything in the shade. Starting in 1870, Karl Scheibler, a factory owner from the Eifel region in Western Germany, built a town within a town here that had everything the workers needed to live. Manchester in England served as a model. There was its own power plant, schools, cultural facilities, hospitals, countless residential buildings for the workers and, of course, a huge factory.
The concept was so ingenious that it was awarded the gold medal at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1878. Today you can walk through the huge area, where there are several pubs and parks, and where events such as small sales markets are held from time to time. Today, part of the complex is also home to the famous Lodz Film School.
Polish cinema has an excellent international reputation and you have probably heard names like Roman Polański, Andrzej Wajda, Agnieszka Holland or Krzysztof Kieślowski. They all studied at the famous film school in Lodz. So what could be more obvious than to set up a cinematography museum here, of all places? Of all the Lodz sights, this was one of the ones we liked the most. Because it is not simply housed in a modern museum building, but in the magnificent neo-Renaissance villa of the Scheibler family in Księży Młyn.
And it was not chosen by chance, as it has served as a filming location for top national and international productions on several occasions. The exhibition first takes you into the world of the precursors of cinema and film production up to the Second World War. Here you can see a cinematoscope, a magic lantern and a Fotoplastikon from the Fuhrmann company in Berlin, which still works and is one of only six left in the world. Also cool is the Oko apparatus, a Polish invention that is both a camera and a projector and is built like a typewriter.
The tour then continues through the representative rooms of the palace with their ornate ceiling paintings, fireplaces, stucco decorations and wood inlays. It is hard to believe that no “real” king lived here, but “only” the cotton king Scheibler and his family. If you have seen the movie “Ziemia Obiecana” (“The Promised Land”) by Andrzej Wajda, the premises will certainly look familiar to you.
The third and last part of the museum is dedicated to Polish cinema after 1945 and shows how Lodz developed into an internationally known film mecca. Here you can learn about film studios such as Wytwórnia Filmów Fabularnych or Wytwórnia Filmów OPUS, marvel at costumes, scripts and other items from famous Polish productions, and browse through movie posters, which early on developed into an art form of their own in Poland. And if you’ve always wanted to take a photo with an original Oscar statue, you can do that here, too. It was donated to the museum by the producer of the film “Ida,” which sensationally won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2015.
Numerous wool and cotton factories in Lodz were converted into leisure and office areas. But you can see for yourself at Monopolis that not only textiles were produced here, but also luxury vodka. A small exhibition, accessible free of charge, informs about the history of the former vodka factory, and there are also some restaurants like Arteria (see below), an art gallery, a concert stage and much more to discover. A place typical of Lodz – young, hip and always reinventing itself.
Zoo and Orientarium
Okay, maybe there’s a zoo at home, too. So why should you go to a zoo on vacation? Quite simply because the Orientariun, which opened in 2022, makes the zoo the most modern of its kind in Europe. More than 2,000 animals live here on around 16 hectares, distributed among almost 700 species.
At the zoo, you can watch elephants bathe, walk through a tunnel under an aquarium with sharks, monkeys romp through a replica temple ruin, giraffes come within a few meters of you, tigers prance around an airplane wreck – plus, plus, plus. You can easily spend a whole day here without getting bored. This is particularly true if you are traveling with children. Especially nice: The zoo cares about the preservation of endangered species and all animals have plenty of space.
By the way, the children’s favorite and star of the zoo is Aleksander. The 40-year-old elephant used to live in Münster in Germany, where he unfortunately broke off a tusk and now acts as a mentor for young “only child” elephants.
With an area of 44 hectares, the Lodz Jewish Cemetery is one of the largest Jewish burial grounds in all of Europe. Up to 200,000 people (the exact number is not known) found their final resting place here. Directly at the entrance is the large funeral hall, then you go directly to the area with its many, partly wildly overgrown gravestones with their Hebrew, Polish and German inscriptions. Some tombs, like the mausoloeum of Izrael Poznański and his wife, resemble small temples. Here, for example, more than 2 million mosaic tiles were processed. Burials still take place in the cemetery, even though the Lodz Jewish community now has only about 100 members.
Impressive and at the same time terrifying is the so-called Ghetto Field, where the more than 40,000 Jews were buried who perished here during the Nazi rule. As you walk along the wall, you will surely notice the pits. These were dug by the last survivors of the ghetto, who literally had to dig their own graves, but then fortunately escaped. The ghetto field is to be redesigned and provided with a memorial by 2024, the anniversary of the ghetto’s dissolution.
Important: Men must be sure to wear head coverings when visiting, and the area is also closed on Friday afternoons and Saturdays for the Sabbath.
Street Art in Lodz
You will quickly notice it when walking through Lodz: You’ll find street art everywhere. For years, well-known Polish and international artists have flocked to the city and embellished it with their works. About 200 works have been created in the meantime. At the tourist information (see below) you can get a free map that will guide you to the artworks. And on this website you can get more information about the paintings and their artists.
Going out in Lodz
Visiting the many Lodz sights can be quite exhausting and make you hungry and thirsty. Therefore, here are our tips for eating, drinking and going out.
Restaurants and cafes
- Arteria, ul. Dr. Stefana Kopcińskiego 62a. Chic restaurant with modern Polish cuisine in Monopolis. You have to pay a little bit more, but the food is really good. The speciality of the house is duck.
- Lodziarnia Cukiernia Wasiakowie, ul. Traugutta 2. The small café, which is even listed in Gault & Millau, spoils its guests with heavenly cakes, homemade ice cream and coffee specialties prepared to perfection.
- Klub Spadkobierców, ul. Piotrkowska 77. Welcome to the 19th century! In the former Goldfeder residence, time has stood still for a while. The food here is not quite cheap, but it is excellently prepared and the unique ambience of a carefully restored city palace is guaranteed to make the evening an experience.
- Restauracja Bułgarska 69, ul. Piotrkowska 69. In the middle of the Piotrkowska Street there is a restaurant, which according to a waitress is the only Bulgarian restaurant in the country. The menu is huge and includes many classics of Bulgarian cuisine, plus there’s beer from Bulgaria and a great view of the hustle and bustle on the boulevard.
Pubs and bars
- El Cubano, ul. Traugutta 3/11. You like Latin music? On Fridays and Saturdays you can dance to delicious rum cocktails at El Cubano.
- Klubopiwiarnia, ul. Prezydenta Gabriela Narutowicza 7/9. Here you can find delicious home-brewed beer under the name Warkot, great pub food and always cool events and concerts. When we were there, for example, the Thriller video by Michael Jackson was being replayed.
- Rademenes, ul. Piotrkowska 63. You have to search a bit to find the pub in a backyard (look for the sign with the cat). It is one of the most unusual pubs in the city. The warm-hearted owner rescues street cats from time to time, which then live in the pub. He himself used to live in the Czech Republic, so in addition to Polish craft beers, there are also many beers from Bohemia.
Overnight stay in Lodz
- Puro Łódź, ul. Ogrodowa 16. How cool is that? Puro, right next to Manufaktura, is not only one of the fanciest hotels in town, but it even has its own movie theater, which guests can use for free every Friday and Saturday at 7pm. In addition to chicly styled rooms, there is also a restaurant, a bar with great cocktails and a terrace from which you have the best view of the Poznański Palace.
Tips and info
The staff at the tourist information office, which is located at 28 Piotrkowska Street, is very helpful and friendly. Here you will not only learn everything about the Lodz sights, but also get many other practical Lodz tips and can stock up on nice souvenirs. If you want to explore the city, we recommend the tourist ticket “Bilet Turystyczny”. It costs only 16 złoty, is valid for three days and you can use all streetcars and buses in the city.
We would like to thank the Polish Tourist Office in Berlin and the Łódzka Organizacja Turystyczna for their support. A special thanks goes to Anastasiia and Ania for their many tips and varied forays through the city.
How did you like the article? Feel free to leave us a comment. Do you know any other Lodz sights? Then let us know, so that we can visit them next time.