city in Silesian Voivodeship, Poland

Bielsko-Biała is a city in the Silesian Voivodeship of southwest Poland, with a population of 170,000 in 2020. It's post-industrial but has many interesting old buildings and museums, and sits at the foot of the Beskidy mountains.

Understand

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House of Frogs

Bielsko is on the west bank of the Biała River and Biała on the east: they only merged administratively in 1951. These names mean "white", indicating clear water. Bielsko was founded in the 13th century, with its hilltop castle, and Biała in the 16th. Both were textile towns, processing wool, but when Poland was partitioned the river became the border: Bielsko as part of Silesia was ruled by Bohemia then Austria, while Biała as part of Lesser Poland lay within the Hapsburg Empire, until Austria annexed it in 1772. Both cities had a large German population but joined reborn Poland in 1918. During World War II the Nazis seized the cities and sent its Jewish population to extermination at Auschwitz. The Red Army liberated the cities in 1945 and its German residents were expelled, to be replaced by ethnic Poles leaving areas that had become part of the USSR.

Traditional industries of textiles, metal-working and car manufacture collapsed in the late 20th century, with social unrest that helped bring down Poland's communist government. Service and education-related industries have partly filled the void, and Bielsko-Biała has become a tourist centre for its proximity to the mountains.

City Tourist Information Centre (Miejskie Centrum Informacji Turystycznej) is at Plac Ratuszowy 4 next to City Hall, open M-F 08:00-18:00, Sa Su 09:00-15:00.

Get in

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By plane

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Katowice Airport (KTW IATA) is in Pyrzowice 80 km north of Bielsko-Biała, and John Paul II Kraków Airport (KRK IATA) is in Balice 65 km east. Both have a wide range of budget flights across Europe but are far side of their cities for reaching Bielsko-Biała, so take their airport bus downtown and change. With a group (and especially young children) you might do better with a taxi direct transfer.

By train

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Four trains a day are direct from Warsaw, taking 4 hr 30 min via Piotrków Trybunalski, Częstochowa and Katowice.

Hourly regional trains from Katowice take 70 min via Tychy, Pszczyna and Czechowice-Dziedzice. They continue south to Zywiec and Zwardon.

Three trains a day are direct from Kraków, taking 2 hr 30 min via 40 little places you've never heard of, but it's quicker to take the train to Katowice and change.

From Berlin and Wrocław, change at Katowice. From Vienna, Budapest, Prague and Ostrava, change at Czechowice-Dziedzice.

1 Bielsko-Biała Główna is the main railway station, in city centre. It's a charming building of 1890, mostly clean, with the standard facilities. There are seven small outlying stations served by the regional trains which you're unlikely to use.

By bus

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Flixbus runs once a day from Gdańsk, taking 8 hr 30 min via Toruń, Łódź and Katowice airport and city. Two buses from Warsaw take 7 hours via Kielce and Kraków.

Lajkonik Bus runs hourly from Kraków, taking 2 hours via Tychy. Most of these continue to Cieszyn on the Czech border but three per day are for Skoczów, Ustroń and Wisła.

The bus station is across the street from the main railway station.

By road

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The main approaches to Bielsko-Biała are:

  • from Katowice go south on S1 motorway.
  • from Kraków either take A4 to Katowice then S1 (110 km), or cut through Wadowice (70 km) on Highway 52.
  • from Wrocław take A4 to Katowice, then S1 south.
  • from Warsaw follow S1 / E67 southwest, 350 km.
  • from the Czech Republic head for Cieszyn then stay on S52 east.

Get around

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There's an extensive bus network, operated by MZK Bus Company. In 2024 a single ride is 4 zł, a one-hour ticket is 5 zł and a 24-hour ticket is 14 zł. Buy them from kiosks and validate them immediately on first entry.

Taxis wait at the bus and railway station. Firms include Taxi Bielsko-Biała (+48 608 209 722) and Lider (+44 33 300 3020).

 
The castle is now the Historical Museum
  • 1 Rynek is the historic market square, now pedestrianised. The buildings are from about 1840, when the town was restored after fires. Picturesque streets running off are Podcienie east and Schodowa south.
  • Cathedral of St Nicholas (Katedra świętego Mikołaja), Plac Świętego Mikołaja 16 (block south of Rynek), +48 33 829 2600. A city landmark with its 61 m tower, this dates from the 1440s but was rebuilt in 1912. There's mass 7 times a day so you should find it open.    
  • Church of the Saviour is on Plac Marcina Lutra (which translates as Martin Luther Square) 200 m north of Rynek. The church is from 1782 but much modified in the 1880s; it and its neighbourhood of Bielski Syjon are Lutheran.
  • 2 Bielsko-Biała Historical Museum (Bielsko Castle), Wzgórze 16, +48 33 811 1035, . Tu W F Sa 09:00-16:00, Th 11:00-18:00, Su 10:00-17:00. The castle dates from the 14th century but was entirely re-modelled circa 1860, and now houses the main branch of the town museum. It displays several furnished castle rooms and art, plus temporary exhibitions. Adult 20 zł.    
  • BWA Gallery (Galeria Bielska BWA), 3 Maja 11 (200 m north of Historical Museum), +48 33 812 5861. Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. This displays modern and contemporary art. Adult 2 zł.
  • 3 City Hall   (Ratusz) the seat of local government is a neo-Renaissance building from the 1890s, on Plac Ratuszowy.
  • 4 House of Frogs (Kamienica Pod Żabami) is a fine Art Nouveau building at Łukowa 12 / Plac Wojska Polskiego, built in 1903. One frog over the entrance plays a mandolin while another lounges with a pipe, and beetles skitter about the walls. It's private apartments so you only see the exterior.
  • Museum of Technology and Textile Industry (Stara Fabryka), Żwirki i Wigury 8 (just east of cathedral), +48 33 812 2367. Tu W F Sa 09:00-16:00, Th 11:00-18:00, Su 10:00-17:00. Housed in a former cloth factory and principally exhibiting wool processing, this branch of the town museum broadened in 1995 to include other local industries. Adult 14 zł.  
  • 5 Church of Divine Providence (Kościół Opatrzności Bożej) is a baroque church of 1793, richly decorated. It's at the corner of Stojałowskiego and Żywiecka, open most daytime hours.
 
Within the Weaver's House
  • 6 Weaver’s House (Dom Tkacza), Jana III Sobieskiego 51, +48 33 811 7406. Tu W F Sa 09:00-16:00, Th 11:00-18:00. 18th century weaver's wooden house, a branch of the town museum furnished as at 1900, by which time power looms had swept away this style of "cottage industry". Adult 10 zł.    
  • 7 Julian Fałat's Villa, Juliana Fałata 34, Bystra (Bus 57), +48 33 810 5325. Tu W F Sa 09:00-16:00, Th 11:00-18:00, Su 10:00-17:00. Julian Fałat (1853-1929) was a notable water-colourist, part of the impressionist movement. He was Director of the Kraków School of Fine Art then spent his last 20 years here. It's now a branch of the town museum. Adult 14 zł.
 
Within Church of Divine Providence
  • Oskar Kawiarnia, Rynek 16, +48 338 107100. Su-Th 10:00-22:00, F Sa 10:00-23:00. Chic cafe on Rynek in retro 1930s style.
  • Paparazzi is at Rynek 30.
  • Browar Miejski is a brewery and restaurant at Piwowarska 2.
  • Karczma Rogata is trad Silesian fare at Leszczyńska 40.
  • Lunita is a Georgian restaurant at Jana III Sobieskiego 50 by the Weaver's House.
  • Nowy Świat is modern European fare at 11 Listopada 25.
  • Ebisu Sushi[dead link] is at Stojałowskiego 8a.

Drink

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  • Rynek has Celna 10, Craft Bar, Chmielowe Podcienia, Grawitacja, Azyl and Shot Bar Szybka Lufa. Several more towards the station.
  • Rumoteka, Podcienie 13B (100 m east of Rynek), +48 791 941057. W Th Su 12:00-22:00, F Sa 12:00-00:00. Just what Silesia needs, a bar specialising in rum.
  • Chinski Market is at 1 Maja 12a south of Rynek, open M-F 09:00-15:00, Sa 10:00-14:00.
  • Galeria Sfera is 100 m east of the railway station on Mostowa, open M-Sa 09:00-21:00.

Sleep

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Julian Fałat self-portrait
  • Hello Hostel, Mickiewicza 40 (100 m SW of station), +48 790 323680. Clean friendly hostel near the station and downtown. B&B double 170 zł.
  • Dom Turysty PTTK is another budget place 200 m west of the station at Krasińskiego 38.
  • 1 Qubus Hotel, Mostowa 2, +48 33 470 2100. Boxy chain hotel by the station, most rooms spacious and clean but some dingy. Some street noise. B&B double 500 zł.
  • Hotel Marczewski, 1 Maja 4A (100 m east of Rynek), +48 33 815 1692. Very basic but central. B&B double 250 zł.
  • Rynek has three former hotels which nowadays operate as self-catering apartments: By Bogunia, Ventus Rosa and Rynek 7.
  • 2 Ibis Styles, Żywiecka 93, +48 33 819 9199. Reliable Accor chain hotel 1 km south of centre. B&B double 350 zł.
  • 3 Hotel Passione, Kryształowa 74, +48 33 810 7874. North by the ring road, convenient for motorists. B&B double 250 zł.
  • 4 Sahara Hotel, Falista 13, +48 505 699963. Pleasant hotel in a quiet neighbourhood near the ski lifts. B&B double 400 zł.
  • 5 Papuga Park Hotel, Zapora 3, +48 33 818 5860. Smart spa hotel west edge of town, with good restaurant. B&B double 500 zł.

Connect

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Szyndzielnia Cable Car

As of May 2024, Bielsko-Biała and its approach roads have 4G from Orange, and 5G from Play, Plus and T-Mobile.

Go next

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  • Cieszyn is an interesting old town on the Czech border.
  • Szczyrk is a winter sports resort in the Silesian Beskids.
  • Żywiec is another mountain resort with a small but pretty old town.
  • Katowice is far from scenic but has a rich industrial heritage.


This city travel guide to Bielsko-Biała is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.