A fairly quiet town in the heart of Silesia, Zabrze is not generally numbered among the most spectacular places in Poland. Nor is it a mecca for tourists any more than its neighbouring towns of Bytom and Gliwice, each of them having a sleepy and dormant appearance. Notwithstanding all this, Zabrze is able to defend itself with its very special air – one of pubs and bars filled in the evening with teenagers enjoying their free time after school, one of slippery cobblestones and hundred year old red brick tenant houses producing smoke from their chimneys and mingling with their more modern counterparts, and finally a memory of the perspiration and hard work from work was undertaken in the old mine.
Zabrze may positively surprise you with one thing, indigenous to this town and unlike anything else, namely the “Queen Luiza” coal mine (“Krolowa Luiza”), established in about 1791. Situated within a short walking distance of the town centre, the mine is open for visitors from Monday to Friday, between 8 am and 2 pm, as well as on every last Sunday of the month from 11 am. Special events, such as a meeting with the legendary lord of the underworld can be organised on request. On site you can also find the Automobile Club’s Old Vehicle Museum, which will be of great interest if you are fascinated by old cars. Down in the mine itself is the Guibald inn, which specializes in traditional Silesian cuisine.
The best way to while away an evening is to spend some time in one of the many pubs, bars, and clubs. Among the most popular pubs are Warka, Heineken, Fama and 13. Also worth mentioning is the Bialy Slon at Cieszynska, where you can watch a football match over a beer while warming your hands at the fireside, and the Kameleon, designed for the less sophisticated customers. Upmarket clients go to the Mozart, a place with an elegant but rather cold interior frequented by people in their thirties and by businessmen. The Esencja and the VIP clubs play an important role in an evening’s entertainment. The former appears to be the most popular club among high school students and graduates, boasting a small dance floor and a location close to the town centre. The latter offers a lot of space, a rich and colourful decor, several billiard tables, and a handful of booths on the first floor. Worth mentioning is the jazz club Iluzja on Gdanska, where you can hear jazz hits from the radio as well as from amateurs singing or playing the saxophone. Rock fans should check the repertoire for the month’s concerts at the Municipal Centre for Sport and Recreation (MOSiR) or at the club CK Wiatrak.
A town of nearly 190 thousand inhabitants, Zabrze is situated in the south-west of Poland in the Silesian Voivodship, lying on the rivers Klodnica and Bytomka. An important industrial area in Silesia, the town enjoys the advantages of being close to Bytom, Gliwice and Ruda Slaska and is a typical industrial town with a power station, glassworks, and food production plants.
The oldest district of the town is Biskupice, a place first mentioned in 1242. A number of small houses in what then was just a small village were situated along the street now known as Staromiejska, which runs towards Gliwice. The inhabitants farmed the land, with the pride of place among the crops being given to hops. Zabrze started to develop towards the close of the 18th century thanks to the opening of the first coal mine in 1791, named after the late Prussian queen, Luiza, in 1811. However, the most important factors in the town’s development were yet to come. In 1823 the Gliwice Canal was built and then in 1846 a railway was opened. The rapid development this produced resulted in Zabrze being granted a town charter in 1922. The history of Zabrze is closely connected with the history of the mine. Mining in the area affected important spheres of people’s lives, from employment to cultural life to education. The mine was one of the most prosperous in Europe until the early 1990s, when the industry began to die a natural death. The final coal was brought to the surface on 31st March 1998. With the closure of the mine, the town seems to have started falling into developmental stagnation.
In 1967, Zabrze was visited by Charles de Gaulle. He is now commemorated by a monument situated in front of the Dom Muzyki i Tanca theatre and on a memorial tablet. On visiting Zabrze, de Gaulle claimed that the town was the most Silesian of all the Silesian towns and the most Polish of all the Polish towns. You may want to verify these words of this famous president of France during your visit to Zabrze.