Łódź – the name is a challenge, for starters.
W in Polish is pronounced V. So you pronounce Warsawa Varsharva. Or it’s F.
The O in Kraków has a little hat, which makes it Crackoof.
But what if you actually want a W sound?
The answer here is that you write an L with a little diagonal line through it. So Wrocław is V-rots-waff.
Ł is W
Ó has a little hat on, so it’s OO
D … well, it’s D, and
Ź has another little hat, so it’s sort of DJ
So Łódź is, in fact, Woodj … sort of thing
And after all that, it means “small boat”. You can see one on the city flag. And when you hear the dwellers of Łódź say they’re łodzianin (men), łodzianka (women), or łodzianie (plural), they’re calling themselves “the boat people”.
As a small aside, the first city of India John worked in was Coimbatore (Kovai), the “Manchester of Southern India”, so-called because it had been a major centre for the textile industries. Back in the day, Łódź was the Manchester of Poland.
Quite how the city got its name is not clear – but as you explore Łódź you’ll see many relics of the old textile industry.
Although Łódź is the third-largest Polish city (population about ¾ million), it’s also one of our youngest. It first appears in the records in a 1332 document giving the village of Łodzia to the bishops of Włocławek. In 1423 the village was given city rights, but from then until C18 it remained a small town on the trade route between Masovia and Silesia. By C16 it had less than 800 inhabitants, most of them working on nearby arable farms.
In the second partition, of 1793, Łódź became part of the Kingdom or Prussia, then (1806) the Duchy of Warsaw. By 1810, the population had fallen to 190. In 1815, it came under the control of the Russian Empire.
Under the 1815 treaty, and over the next years, the run-down town was transformed into an industrial centre. The first cotton mill opened in 1825 and in 1839 the first steam-powered factory in Poland and Russia opened for business. Under an 1816 decree by the Czar a number of German immigrants received territory deeds for them to clear the land and to build factories and housing – by 1839, 78% of the population was German, and German schools and churches were established.
Workers, businessmen and craftsmen – especially Poles, Germans and, from 1848, Jews – poured into Łódź and made it the main textile production centre of the Russian Empire.
Until 1850, there had been a customs barrier between Congress Poland, including Łódź, and Russia proper. When it was abolished, the city could trade freely with the huge Russian market. By 1865, the railways had arrived.
The 1913 census put the population of Łódź had grown to 506,000, of which 49.7% were Poles, 34% Jews and only 14.8% German.
By 1914, Łódź was one of the most densely-populated industrial cities in the world. Following a major battle close by, in late 1914, the city was occupied by the German army. Liberates by the local people in 1918, when Poland regained independence, post WW1 Łódź lost as much as 40% of its pre-WW1 population mostly owing to draft, diseases and because a huge part of the German population was forced to move to Germany.
Between the wars
Between the Bolshevik Revolution (1917) and civil war (1915-1922) in Russia, the Great Depression and a customs war with Germany, the markets to the east and west were lost and the city was the scene of huge workers’ protests and riots.
Nevertheless, Lublinek Airport (now Łódź Władysław Reymont Airport) opened in 1925 and the 1931 census reported 604,000 residents – 59% Poles, 32% Jews and 9% Germans. By 1939, the Jewish population stood at over 200,000.
World War II
The Wehrmacht captured Łódź on 8 September 1939. Although the plan had been to attach the city to the General Government, the Nazis respected the wishes of the local governor and of many ethnic Germans living in the area and annexed it to the Reich in November 1939. The city was renamed Litzmannstadt after the German general who captured the city during World War I. Still, many Łódź Germans refused to take German nationality and were deported to the General Government.
The Jewish residents of the city and locale (more than 200,000) were moved into the Łódź Ghetto. As Jews were deported for extermination, more were brought in. Due to the value of the goods that the ghetto population produced for the German military and various civilian contractors it was the last major ghetto to be “liquidated” (destroyed); approximately 900 people survived the liquidation of the ghetto in August 1944.
Among several concentration and extermination camps established in the area for non-Jews was Radogoszcz prison, with several minor camps for Romani and for Polish children.
While the Nazis were successful, thousands of ethnic Germans moved to Łódź from across Eastern Europe, many of whom repatriated from Russia during the time of Hitler’s alliance with the Soviet Union. . In January 1945 most of the German population fled the city for fear of the Soviet army. The city also suffered tremendous losses due to the German policy of requisition of all factories and machines and transporting them to Germany – despite relatively little damage from fighting and bombing, Łódź had lost most of its infrastructure.
By the end of World War II, Łódź had lost approximately 420,000 of its pre-war inhabitants including 300,000 Jews from Łódź and its vicinity and approximately 120,000 other Poles.
The Red Army entered the city on 18 January 1945. According to reports, the Germans retreated so suddenly that they had no time to evacuate or destroy what was left of the Łódź factories.
One relic of the Nazi occupation appreciated by the local residents was the 1,200m long concrete runway they built at the airport, which helped it remain an important hub until the 1950s when Warsaw airport (now Warsaw-Chopin) regained its importance. FYI, Warsaw–Modlin Mazovia Airport, the former airbase which opened in July 2012 and promptly closed due to defects in the construction of the runway, is the one intended for low-cost flights. Chopin, if you have a choice, is much closer to, and more accessible from, the city.
After the War
The population of the city grew from a post-War 300,000. Until 1948 the city served as a de facto capital of Poland, since at least 85% of Warsaw had been destroyed. Under the Polish Communist regime many of the industrialist families lost their wealth when the authorities nationalised private companies. Once again the city became a major centre of industry.
In mid-1981 Łódź became famous for its massive, 50,000 hunger demonstration of local mothers and their children, protesting against the lack of food and goods.
1980 – queueing to buy toilet paper
After the period of economic transition during the 1990s, most enterprises were again privatised.
Piotrkowska street, (Located in the city center).
It is one of the longest commercial streets in Europe and one of the major attractions in the city.
It runs in a straight line from the Liberty Square (Plac Wolności) to the Independence Square (Plac Niepodległości).
A very large number of pubs, bars, restaurants, and, of course, attractions are located on this street.
Księży Młyn, (Next to Źródliska Park). A large complex of 19th century textile factories.
Karol Scheibler’s Palace (Pałac Karola Scheiblera), Plac Zwycięstwa (Next to Księży Młyn). Now a museum.
Karol Scheibler was one of the most important industrialists of Łódź. In 1852 he came to Łódź and with Julius Schwarz together started buying property and building several factories. Scheibler later bought out Schwarz’s share and thus became sole owner of a large business.
After he died in 1881 his widow and other members of the family decided to pay homage to his memory by erecting a chapel, intended as a mausoleum with family crypt, in the Lutheran part of the Łódź cemetery in ulica Ogrodowa (later known as The Old Cemetery). Stary Cmentarz w Łodzi, ul. Ogrodowa 43 (Next to Manufaktura) for the chapel.
Elsewhere in the Old Cemetery:
Jewish cemetery (Cmentarz Żydowski w Łodzi), enter from ul. Zmienna (Bałuty district). Open from Sunday to Friday (except a Jewish Holidays) 1st April – 1st November 09:00 till 17:00. From 2nd November till 31st March, 09:00 till 15:00. This is the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe. 4zl (On every first Sunday in month admission free).
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Sobór św. Aleksandra Newskiego w Łodzi), ul. Kilinskiego 56 (On the intersection with Narutowicza Street, close to Łódź Fabryczna station
Litzmannstadt Ghetto (Getto Łódzkie) aka Litzmannstadt Ghetto, the second largest Jewish ghetto in Poland after the Warsaw Ghetto.
Old Market Square (Rynek Starego Miasta), ul. Kilinskiego 56 (Next to Staromiejski Park),
The Decalogue Memorial (Pomnik Dekalogu w Łodzi), ul. Kilinskiego 56 (In the Staromiejski Park),
Moses holding the tablets containing the Ten Commandments
Manufaktura (Centrum Manufaktura), between Zachodnia, Ogrodowa, Karskiego and Drewnowska streets (The easiest way to get there is from Zachodnia Street which is the extension of Kościuszki Street.
The largest shopping mall in the city and probably one of the most unique shopping malls in the world because it is located in old factory buildings.
White Factory (Biała Fabryka Geyera), ul. Piotrkowska 282. This old factory currently holds the city’s Textile Museum. Located next to a small lake, it is very nicely lit during the evenings. Working machines on display on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays: 9:00 – 17:00, and on Thursdays: 11:00 – 15:00. 10 zł, reduced 6 zł, Saturdays free.
Also in the complex there is the Open-air Museum of the Łódź Wooden Architecture
Poznański Palace (Pałac Poznańskiego), ul. Ogrodowa 15 (Next to Manufaktura complex). A beautiful 19th century building that was built by Izrael Poznański – a textile magnate and a philanthropist.
Today it holds the Museum of the City of Łódź. Monday: Closed, Tuesday: 10.00 – 16.00, Wednesday: 14.00 – 18.00, Thursday: 10.00 – 16.00, Friday: 10.00 – 14.00, Saturday: 10.00 – 14.00, Sunday: 10.00 – 14.00.
Ludwik Geyer’s Mansion (Dworek Ludwika Geyera), ul. Piotrkowska 286 (Near Independence Square). A classicist mansion built in 1833 by Ludwik Geyer – one of the textile magnates and one-time owner of the White Factory. Currently, privately owned.
Kopisch’s bleachery (Bielnik Kopischa), ul. Tymienieckiego 5 (Just east off the Cathedral Square). The oldest (built in 1826) preserved building connected with the city’s textile industry.
Leopold Kindermann’s Villa (Willa Leopolda Kindermanna), ul. Wólczańska 31/33 (Between Zielona and 6 Sierpnia Streets. One of the most important examples of secessionist architecture in Łódź. Built in 1903, it currently houses Łódź’s Art Gallery.
St. Joseph’s Church (Kościół św. Józefa), ul. Ogrodowa 22 (Near the Manufaktura mall), Open during mass only. This is the oldest building in the city – the only one built in the pre-industry period.
Łódź Walk of Fame (Aleja Gwiazd), ul. Piotrkowska (Between 6 Sierpnia Street and Rubinstein Passage). Being the Polish Hollywood, Łódź has its own Walk of Fame. Some of the names are Pola Negri, Roman Polański and Andrzej Wajda.
Muzeum Sztuki, ul. Więckowskiego 36 (Corner. of ul. Gdanska), Monday: closed, Tuesday: 10 – 17, Wednesday: 11 – 17, Thursday: 12 – 19, Friday: 11 – 17, Saturday: 10 – 16, Sunday: 10 – 16. One of the first museums of modern art in Europe.
The building itself belonged to the Poznański family, as DID the palace where Muzeum Historii Miasta Łodzi is located.
Admission: Adults: 7,00 zł, Families: 13,00 zł; Temporary exhibitions: Adults: 4,00 zł, Reduced ticket: 3,00 zł; Free admission on Thursdays.
Tip: after leaving the museum take Gdańska street and go 50 meters up north to see the beautiful building of the Music Academy – previously also one of the houses of Izrael Poznański.
If you are confident enough you can go in (entrance on ul. 1 Maja) to see the elegant stained glass window on the first floor.
Dętka (Museum of Łódź Sewage System), plac Wolności (underground, at Plac Wolności). Summer only. Museum of the old sewage system located in a circular water tank below pl. Wolnosci, built in brick in 1926. Accommodates max. 10 people inside, no big bags allowed, do not go in if you are claustrophobic. Great experience otherwise. 5 zł, reduced 3 zł
Łódź is one of the “greenest” cities in Poland with 34 parks and one of the largest city forests in Europe located within the city borders. The most interesting ones include:
Łódź Hills Landscape Park (Park Krajobrazowy Wzniesień Łódzkich), Between Łódź and Brzeziny (Take the bus from Plac Dąbrowskiego or Academy of Art), . A natural landscape reservation for walks and bike rides. Located 30 minutes by bus line 88 from the Academy of Art.
Łagiewnicki Forest (Las Łagiewnicki), (North-eastern part of the city, bus line 56). One of the largest forest complexes in the world that is located within city boundaries. Arturówek lake is a very well known local attraction during the summer, but there are also numerous bike paths there.
The Botanical Garden (Ogród Botaniczny), ul. Krzemieniecka 36/38 (Get there by bus 6, 76, 80, 99 or tram 9 or 43). May-August (9:00-20:00), April and September (9:00-19:00), October (9:00-17:00). The ticket offices close one hour before the park.. Largest botanical garden in Poland with some very interesting natural architecture and plant exhibitions. Enter from Kusocińskiego or Krzemieniecka Street. Open from 1st April until 31st October. For 30/45 PLN (depending on the ticket type) you can hire an official guide. 4 PLN adult, 2 PLN reduced, 40 PLN season ticket.
The Palm House (Park Źródliska), Plac Zwycięstwa (Right off Piłsudskiego Street). Closed on all Mondays, last week of March and July. One of the most interesting buildings in Łódź. It is located within Źródliska Park. Inside, you will find many unique plants. The total number of plants is estimated to 4500.
Palm House can be visited every day except:
- New Year
- the first day of Christmas and Easter
- the first of November and the last week of March and July (intensive treatments).
- Opening hours:
- from April to September – 10.00 – 18.00 (ticket office open until. 17.30)
- from October to March – 9.00 – 16.00 (ticket office open until 15.30.
admission: 8,00 zł
concessions: 4,00 zł
fee for tour guide 40,00 zł
- annual access card (April – October) Normal 80,00 zł
- annual access card (April – October) Reduced 40,00 zł
- annual integrated ticket, entitling them to admission to the Botanical Garden
(From 1 April to 31 October), the Palm House and the City Zoo:
normal 150.00 zł
reduced 70,00 zł
integrated ticket, valid for two consecutive calendar days, giving access to a single entrance to the Botanical Garden, the Palm House and the City Zoo in the period from April 1 to October 31, in the period from November 1 to March 31 – the Tropical House and City Zoo:
- Normal 12,00 zł
- reduced 6,00 zł
Źródliska Park (Park Źródliska), Plac Zwycięstwa (Right off Piłsudskiego Street). The oldest park in Łódź. In 2007 it was selected the most beautiful city park in Poland and it also ranked 5th in Europe. It is located in the city center on Piłsudskiego Street. Located within is Palmiarnia Łódzka.
Józef Piłsudski Park (More popularly known as Zdrowie Park – Park na Zdrowiu), Polesie district near to City Zoo and the Botanical Garden (The easiest way to get there is by taking the 80 or 99 and dropping off at Krzemieniecka Street.). The largest park in Łódź. It is more a forest than a park with a few lakes and large alleys.
Old City Park (Park Staromiejski (every local knows it by the name Park Śledzia)), Nowomiejska/Północna intersection (Located next to the Old Market Square). The Decalogue Memorial is located within and the park has an excellent view on the Old Market Square. You can play chess there with the locals.
Day (and longer) trips
Arkadia is a village approximately 6 kilometres (4 mi) east of Łowicz and 50 km (31 mi) north-east of Łódź.
The village has an approximate population of 250. The village is famous for its English Garden Park set up in 1779.
To get there, first go to Łowicz and then take a bus (PKS) in the direction of Skierniewice that stops in Arkadia and Nieborów.
In September 1875 the heir to the Russia throne, Tsarevich Alexander took some guests hunting in Spała. In 1884 he built a wooden palace which was also favoured by the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II – pictured here, in Spała, in 1912.
About 40km north of Łódź is The Royal Town of Łęczyca.
It’s about an hour by coach or train from Łódź Kaliska station. It’s one of our oldest cities, and was the site of the first meeting of the Sejm, or parliament, in 1182.
Incidentally, the Royal Castle, originally dating from the 14th century, was rebuilt from scratch after 1964.
Other sights include the Church of St Andrew the Apostle—the current church dates was consecrated in 1425 – and the former Dominican monastery in Ul. Pocztowa, which served as a prison from 1799 until 2006
About 1.5h north-west of Łódź (take a bus or train from Łódź Kaliska) is Łowicz.
The town was a residence of Polish primates in the Commonwealth – they served as regents when the town became temporary capital of Poland between kings.
As a result, Łowicz has its own bishop and a basilica in spite of its small size. The ruins of a former bishop’s castle can be found on the outskirts of town. Napoleon Bonaparte is believed to have stayed in one of the houses on the main square.
In 1940, the Nazis forced the Jewish people of Łowicz into a ghetto. The Łowicz Ghetto was liquidated in March 1941 when all its 8,000–8,200 inhabitants were transported in cattle trucks to the Warsaw Ghetto.
Today, you’ll find Łowicz is known for the colourful regional costumes.
The village of Nieborów is mostly known for a splendid baroque palace with a large park. The village is about 14 kilometres east of Łowicz and 60 km north-east of Łódź.
Finally, there’s Inowłódz – a small village 60km south-east of Łódź.
Inowłódz is most famous for what may be the oldest church in Poland – founded in 1082. It was refurbished in 1938.
Large cities nearby:
- Warsaw the capital of Poland with numerous attractions. The fastest way to get there is to take the train from Łódź Widzew or Łódź Kaliska station. The A2 highway also connects both cities.
- Toruń is one of the oldest Polish towns. Located about 160km north of Łódź.
- Poznań one of the largest cities in Poland with the country’s oldest cathedral. Located about 200km west by highway.