Katowice: The City of Esports

It is not just a famous opinion anymore that esports is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. The figures show how it went from a hobby to a minority behind cafes and arcades to become a billion-dollar industry that fills out large stadiums. There are a few major tournaments that made this growth possible and a few cities that made the tournaments possible. Two of the tournaments that brought mainstream attention to the industry are Intel Extreme Masters and ESL One. Both of these iconic tournaments have been homed by a small and beautiful city in Poland, Katowice, which later became an esports hub in Europe.

A brief history of Katowice

Katowice is a city situated in southern Poland and the capital city of the Silesian Region. It is also the eleventh-largest city in Poland homing to around 300,000 people. It was once an industrial city whose base is formed through the coal mines within the region. With the early settlers in the 18th century having their lives established around the rich mines the area bore, Katowice then grew into one of the most economically powerful cities in Europe around the same mines and industries. Currently it is considered as the center of science, culture, industry, business, trade, and transportation in southern Poland. It is also now the home to esports and youth culture.

The first esports event in Katowice was organized in 2013. Prior to this, esports weren’t as recognized as they are now and events only managed to attract around 1000 attendees. With the focus of the development of the city being technological creativity, the city agreed to get on with the esports industry, homing to the 2013 Intel Extreme Masters. IEM Katowice then made history being a full house event with over 11,000 people. The turnout for the event exceeded all expectations, the event was a house-full, and people still outside queueing for tickets. Throughout the years the participation turnover grew rapidly, with the numbers of participants multiplying with each consecutive year. In the present the event spans over two weekends due to the congestion and increasing number of game titles.

As with all business decisions, timing plays an important role in success. This is true to IEM Katowice as well. They were the first to tap into the potential of the European community. Gamers and enthusiasts from Europe were willing to travel to witness the growth of esports. The growth of the event was completely organic. This in turn was also an opportunity for the city. The first IEM Global Challenge Katowice is one of the most viewed eSports events of all time. Held in the Spodek Arena, the venue has been labeled as an iconic landmark for gaming ever since. The first tournament included the games Counter Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, and StarCraft 2. The event introduced legacies of talented players to the world such as xPeke, whose plays are still remembered even after 7 years.

ESL Major Series One Katowice 2014 (EMS) also marks great importance to the city, the CS:GO community and the esports scene as it was the first tournament to feature exclusive in-game Katowice 2014 tournament stickers. The value of those stickers have only increased by the day and now are some of the most expensive and the rarest to get in the market. These stickers usually price from $200 to $15000 per single sticker and that proves the sentimental value they bear.

Why visit Katowice and what to do there?

Despite the importance Katowice bears with esports, the city is genuinely an interesting place to visit. Everything from food to tourist attractions and the scenery is just over the top. Also Katowice has some great weather and atmosphere around July and August so that is the ideal season to visit there. Winter can get a little bit chillier there. So if you decide to visit Katowice for fun or for an event, you must be wondering what you could do there to spend your precious time to the full quality. Worry not; a visit to this precious city is never gone to waste as the city has to offer plenty of fun and interesting stuff just for tourists and visitors.

1. Visit Spodek Esports Arena

If you are an esports fan Spodek arena is somewhere you definitely should visit while you are in Katowice. You might even mistake Spodek to a giant UFO and the name itself confirms this. Spodek means "saucer" in Polish and the design is inspired to look like a UFO. Apart from all esports events the arena is famous for, it is also utilized and famous for various sports events, musical events, and other cultural events. This arena is really famous among the gaming community as it is famous for having world-famous major tournaments being hosted there including the annual Intel Extreme Masters World Championships, ESL One 2015, EMS One 2014, and many more.

One should visit this amazing arena not only for the events and the value it holds but also for the architectural value and the aesthetics it presents. Maciej Gintowt and Maciej Krasiński are the architects of this massive stadium which goes for 29,473 square meters and can hold around 11,500 people. It used to be the largest indoor venue of its kind until it was dethroned by Kraków Arena in 2014. The arena was built and opened in 1971 has gone through some expansions and renovations over the years. What is so special about this is that it is one of the first major structures to integrate the principle of tensegrity to its design. This gives is great architectural value for the visitors to admire. So, if you’re visiting or planning on visiting Katowice, make sure to put the Spodek Arena on the top of your list.

2. Enjoy the polish cuisine

Travelling is only complete with a good set of meals. Luckily Polish cuisine is one of the most enjoyable and hearty ones you can enjoy around the world. This is mainly due to the cuisine being heavily seasoned and being rich in proteins such as meats, butter, cream, etc. If you’re not a local, you will be having a hard time trying to pronounce the name of the meals but in the end, it is all worth it. The best part of Polish cuisine is they believe that good food should not cost you a kidney so with their reasonable pricing they will ensure that your visit was worth it.

Some of the highest-rated and popular picks in Katowice are:

  • Żurownia - 
On a cold day a soup is all you need to get you flowing. Zurownia is a local shop that is a 10-minute walk from the main town square. They serve the traditional tastes with their own twists to them, making them a must-visit for food enthusiasts. The staff is friendly, and the interior design of the restaurant encapsulates the modern twist they serve through their food. The restaurant is also vegetarian friendly and will serve you for all three meals.
  • Pierogi Swiata -
 Pierogi are European dumplings; these dumplings are typically filled with nutritious combinations of local and foreign ingredients. Pierogi Swiata is well-known for its vast range of dumpling combinations that all serve a unique combination of flavors. They also serve soups that will make you want to stay in Katowice longer. Just sit down, relax, and enjoy some dumplings with your tea, wine, or local Raciborskie beer. Unfortunately, they do not serve breakfast.
  • Restaurant Tatiana - 
They say that “you eat with your eyes first”. If you’re visiting Restaurant Tatiana, you will find yourself believing it to be true. The restaurant features a nice atmosphere for visitors and visually stunning dishes to be enjoyed with local Polish wine. They feature Polish, European, Eastern European and Central European cuisine that is traditional as well as modern. The crew and service are highly praised and as with most restaurants the price is reasonable and visitor friendly.

3. Explore the history and culture at the museums

What good is a tour without a bit of educational value? If you are interested in finding out the history of the city you are visiting, you definitely should visit the 2 main museums in the city; the Silesian Museum and the Museum of the History of Katowice.

Silesian Museum, as the name suggests depicts the historical value of Silesia. Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland and expanding into Czech and Germany as well. The museum compound itself alone is interesting enough to gather the attraction of tourists with some unusual, futuristic, and industrial architectural designs. Inside it homes to Polish Art from the 19th and early 20th century, the history of the industrial revolution of the region, literature gems, and the Laboratory of theatrical space.

The other main museum that covers the history of the city, the Museum of the History of Katowice is not exactly a flashy one with amazing architecture like the rest but is in a simple apartment complex. This museum and the choice of its buildings represent the development of the city and the wealth of the residents in those time periods. Also the Museum of the History of Katowice has the largest collection of the eminent artist Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz’s pastel drawings. If you have some extra time on your schedule visits to these 2 museums are not going to be waste at all.

4. Explore the musical value of the city

You might have already realized that the city already marks a lot of importance to Poland. It just doesn’t stop there but it was also named as a City of Music by UNESCO since 2015. If you are also a music enthusiast you are definitely going to enjoy your stay in the city. Guitar History Museum is one of the many places that attract the attention of tourists that are closer to music. It features a fascinating collection of necked plucked chordophones - lutes from the around the world and the place itself is filled with sweet and calming melodies. If you are a Witcher fan you’d know how soothing and relaxing the Polish music are, especially lutes. You can also try out playing some but you might need to make a reservation beforehand by calling them.

5. Katowice Nightlife

Having the best tour experience is all about managing your time to do most stuff as possible while you are on it. Day time can be utilized to visit all the tourist attractions or the event you came all the way for. But what exactly can you do during the nights of your visit? Katowice offers one of the best nightlife experiences you can get in your entire life. The city is built up with a lot of modern buildings that almost touch the sky. The city tends to get more life during the night with the streets illuminating up with colorful lights from the previously mentioned buildings and even a simple walk around the city would satisfy you beyond your expectations. However, you can spice things up a little with the many pubs and bars the city has to offer so you can spend a little quality time with your friends socializing.

Browariat - Craft Beer Zone is somewhere you definitely should visit if you love “cracking open a cold one with the boys.” It offers different beers with different brews for you to enjoy ensuring the saying ‘beer is not just an alcoholic beverage, but a way of life’. Browariat brings top-class beers to Poland featuring the finest from the UK, Holland, and Germany.

6. Shopping in Katowice

A tour planned without a little bit of shopping isn’t exactly well-planned at all. So what are the best places in Katowice for you to shop at? The go-to place for shopping in Katowice is the Silesia City Center. It features some of the best and the cheapest stores you can find in the entire city making the experience all worth it. Shops and brands from around the world and local ones are all present here making your whole shopping experience convenient. Also, it offers various restaurants with traditional polish food and international ones for you to enjoy while shopping.

Next up is the Galeria Katowicka Shopping Center. This is not only famous for a shopping center but it is also an important landmark of Katowice. The modern design of the building and massiveness brings the true vibes of Katowice and makes you feel like you are really traveling. The place is a bit crowded even though it is massive. This is an ideal place to shop at with your friends especially if you love to look at and buy from really classy and luxurious looking stores.

If you are looking for the most Polish and the most traditional experience possible, BioBazar Huta Baildon is a must-visit for you. It is not exactly a massive shopping complex but a simple grocery market in a former factory building. It suits the post-industrial atmosphere of Wola district and is a great place not only to buy stuff for very affordable and cheap prices but also to meet locals. Also, the market features some great healthy and fresh food and this will surely make the unique and different shopping experience you are looking for.

Katowice Hotels for Esports tourists

  • Courtyard by Marriott Katowice City Center - Courtyard by Marriott is a well-known hotel brand around the world and one is also situated in Katowice. This is the ideal place to stay at if you are visiting for an esports event or other event at the Spodek as the hotel is just 4 minutes away from the arena. The hotel has some top-notch luxurious rooms and a great lounge along with great service and food. However, the pricing is also a bit on the luxurious side but it is a good place to stay as you will be closer to most tourist attractions from there.
  • Hotel Monopol Katowice - 
Monopol is another 5-star hotel situated in Katowice. It is also on the luxurious side and comes with 2 restaurants, a wine cellar, an indoor pool, a spa, and a gym. The food there is simply amazing and you also get free breakfast with your stay. Also this hotel is ideal for relaxing also really eyecatching with great rooms and old building architecture.
  • Park Inn by Radisson Katowice -
 In this perfect tour described on this guide, Park Inn is the perfect place to stay at. It is a 4-star hotel situated right on the edge of the Silesia park surrounded by serene views all around. This location makes it an ideal place to shelter when visiting the Silesia Museum, Theatre, or the park. Also, the hotel features some affordable range of rooms to suit you with individual rooms, standard rooms, and superior ones. The services also include a laundry service and that might come handy for anyone who’s staying there.
  • Novotel Katowice Centrum - 
Novotel Katowice Centrum is a great place for you to stay at especially if you are traveling with your partner. The hotel is praised mostly by couples as it features an indoor pool, sauna, and a bar to spend some quality time with your loved one. One perk of staying at this hotel is its internet as customers are provided with wired internet options apart from the free wifi it offers. With all of these features along with a buffet breakfast and being close to the Katowice Główny railway station and Silesia Park, this hotel is ideal for content creators/vloggers.
  • Hostel Kaktus Katowice - 
If you are not really looking for a 5-star hotel experience, a hostel is the way to go. Hostel Kaktus offers you some great rooms with all the necessities. It is also situated 3-4 minutes away from the Spodek arena and is ideal if you are visiting to spectate an esports event. Also if you’re concerned about your budget, Hostel Kaktus is the ideal place for you.
  • Airbnb Apartments Katowice - 
Hotels are all great but how about renting a whole apartment with your friends or even a very special cabin to make your tour even more special? Airbnb offers you exactly that with a range of top-rated single apartments to whole homes and even hotels to rent. You can find a place to crash at for the night or an amazing place to live your tour out for very cheap and affordable prices. Even though the rooms and apartments are cheap, you might have to compromise some things you get with a 4 or 5-star hotel, like complimentary food or laundry.

Getting to Katowice

Now that you are aware of what to do there and most probably planned out your whole trip, you must be wondering how exactly you can get there. There are many means you can get to Katowice with. The main and the most obvious one is through a flight. Katowice International Airport will be your destination and the very first visit. It is a little far from the heart/center of the city which is roughly around 34-42km according to a route you choose. This makes a long ride to the city and from the city to the airport. You can get to the airport and from the airport to the city by bus, a car or by taxi. Also, check with the traffic with the expected times of your arrival. Since the city can get a bit busy and crowded on some days, another great alternative to get to Katowice is by flying to Kraków International Airport and taking a bus or a train from there. This might help you avoid traffic and save several minutes from your journey.

Here are some airlines you can choose for your visit:

  • Lufthansa is one of the largest airlines in Europe which flies to over 215 destinations. The airline also features a variety of one-cabin and four-cabin configurations that can include First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy Class, and Economy Class. This is the recommended airline for you to choose for your trip as it has the best customer feedback comparing to other options. Everything from food to service is rated very positively and this is the go-to airline for your trip.
  • LOT Polish Airlines is the next go-to airline when planning out your trip. It has gathered a good reputation from most passengers but there have been complaints about the crews being rude and food being horrible. These are areas the airline has improved over the years and is an ideal choice for your trip.
  • Ryanair is also a well-known airline in Europe and this has several advantages for your trip. This airline is more on the economy side as it is very affordable. This has made Ryanair famous amongst students who study abroad. This will be a good budget option when planning out your tour, even though you might need to make some compromises such as having low expectations on really good food.

The importance of Katowice to the esports industry is immense. The city is also an interesting place to visit with all the landmarks, parks and other things to do there. Also, a night walk on the streets of Katowice is something you shouldn’t miss while you are there, especially around Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (Kosciol Mariacki). If you are visiting with your family, the theme park, Legendia is a place you shouldn’t miss. With all these places and things to do, mentioned, and not mentioned in this article, Katowice is a great place to visit and marks great value to the esports industry.