Silesian Voivodeship

The Silesian Voivodeship (Polish: Województwo śląskie) is the eastern part of the Greater Silesian Region and is located in southern Poland. It borders on the Świętokrzyskie and Lesser Poland Voivodeships to the east, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to the south, the Opole Voivodeship to the west and the Łódź Voivodeship to the north. The voivodeship is divided into three parts from north to south: White Silesia (Karst of the Kraków-Częstochowa Jura), Black Silesia (Upper Silesian industrial area with heavy industry and mining) and Green Silesia (mixed mountain forests of the Beskids):

There are numerous rock formations, caves and castles in the Jura. The karst region is popular with hikers, climbers, horseback riders, water sports enthusiasts and cross-country skiers in winter. The only desert in Central Europe is located here in the Błędów district of Jaworzno.

In the metropolises of Upper Silesia there is a rich cultural offer of museums, galleries and concert performances. Several of today's industrial cities date back to the Middle Ages and have preserved Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque monuments. From the late 18th century, coal mining flourished and numerous buildings were built in the classic, historicism and art nouveau styles. Modernism shaped its architecture in the interwar period and socialism in the early People's Republic. Since the end of the 20th century, numerous post-modern skyscrapers have been built, especially in Katowice.

In the south there are beautiful mountain ranges, among which the highest are the Saybuscher Beskids at approx. 1600m (Pilsko), the Silesian Beskids at approx. 1300m (Skrzyczne) and the Small Beskids at approx. 1000m. To the north are the Silesian foothills and the Auschwitz basin. The Vistula, which is the longest river in Poland at over 1000 km, has its source on the western slope of the Widderberg and is still largely free of commercial shipping today.

Today's Silesian Voivodeship includes the eastern area of Upper Silesia, parts of western Lesser Poland and the so-called Cieszyn Silesia. These areas had a partly different history. Cieszyn is one of the oldest cities in Poland and already existed at the time of the Great Moravian Empire. Lesser Poland and Upper Silesia also belonged to the Great Moravian Empire. From about 990 all these areas belonged to Poland.

In the 14th century, Teschen and parts of Upper Silesia came under Bohemia and in the 16th century under the Habsburg monarchy, while Lesser Poland remained Polish until the first partition of Poland in 1772. After the Silesian Wars, Upper Silesia became Prussian, while Teschen Silesia remained with Austria. After the First World War almost the whole area went to Poland. The West around Gleiwitz became part of the Weimar Republic. After World War II this part also became Polish. Today's Silesian Voivodeship was formed in 1999 from the areas of four old Voivodeships.

Upper Silesia still has strong cultural characteristics that differ from the rest of Poland and many people identify strongly with their region. In the 2011 census, around 700,000 residents stated their ethnicity as "Silesians" (about half of them only Silesian, the rest Silesian and Polish). Another 32,000 identify as German.



The Silesian Voivodeship consists of several regions. In the south are the mountain ranges of the Saybuscher and Silesian Beskids. The Kraków-Częstochowa Jura, which historically belongs to Lesser Poland, joins in the north-east. The middle represents the Silesian plateau. In the vernacular, Silesia is divided into three regions from north to south. The northern part is called White Silesia because of the limestone rocks of the Jura, the middle is called Black Silesia because of the hard coal deposits in the Upper Silesian industrial area and the southern part is called Green Silesia because of the dense forests of the Beskids.

The name possibly comes from the prehistorically important cult mountain Ślęża (Latin: Silensi, German: Zobtenberg), which is located in Lower Silesia. According to other theories, the Slavic Slensanen or the Germanic Silingen gave their name. The term Silesia is confusing at first, because the voivodeship only includes the eastern edge of historical Silesia. It has no share in Lower Silesia and only a part in Upper Silesia. However, the voivodeship is the most populous part of historical Silesia.

Historical Upper Silesia makes up most of the region, the original capital of which was Opole, which today is not in the voivodeship. In the east, larger parts of Lesser Poland also belong to the Silesian Voivodeship. Parts of the north lie in historic Greater Poland. On the other hand, parts of historical Upper Silesia are now in the Voivodeships of Opole and Lesser Poland, and to a small extent also in the Czech Republic.

In the north, the voivodeship has a share in the Kraków-Częstochowa Jura with its chalk cliffs
A large part of the Woischnik-Welun Plateau is located in the Voivodeship.
The voivodeship has a share in the Silesian Plateau in the north and in the middle.
In the southwest, the Upper Oder Valley runs through the Silesian Plain in the Voivodeship.
East of the Oder Valley is the Vistula Valley with the Auschwitz Basin.
The Silesian foothills to the south extend to Lesser Poland.
In the south, the voivodeship shares part of the West Beskids.
The Silesian Beskids are located in the border triangle of Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
The Little Beskids adjoin the Silesian Beskids to the east.
The Saybuscher Beskydy lie in the extreme south on the border with Slovakia.
The Saybuscher basin with its reservoirs lies between the Beskydy mountain ranges.



The official language of the Silesian Voivodeship is Polish, depending on the region with a Silesian, Lesser Polish or Goral dialect.

Most Poles also speak good or very good English. Some also have a second foreign language such as German, Russian, Spanish, French or Italian, which is mainly spoken and understood in the large and touristically relevant cities.


Getting here

By plane
Katowice International Airport (IATA: KTW) is located in Katowice, with connections from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, among others.

There are also connections from Germany to Kraków Airport (IATA: KRK) near Kraków in the Lesser Poland Voivodeship.

By train
The rail network is very good and well developed. It is the densest in Poland.

Three continuous Trilex trains run daily from Dresden via Görlitz and Legnica to Wroclaw and on to Kattowitz.

From Berlin there are connections with a change in Poznań from the EC to other trains to Katowice.

The state railway company PKP has two information offers on the web: travel information and for booking their own long-distance transport offers. Both pages are also available in German, English and Russian.

One operator of local trains in Silesia is Koleje śląskie (kś). The company is 100% owned by the voivodeship. The kś website provides information about local rail transport, timetables and prices. The site is also available in German and English. According to this page, buying tickets on the train is from the conductor. Stationary ticket machines usually also accept credit cards.

By bus
Numerous bus companies offer long-distance connections via Katowice.

In the street
The road conditions are very good and well developed. The road network is one of the densest in Poland. The motorways are very well developed. In Silesia, the A4 usually has three lanes and is illuminated. The A1 is almost complete. There are numerous expressways. In the Upper Silesian industrial area with its almost 5 million inhabitants, there are many national trams and buses.

The journey from Germany is recommended via Dresden on the A4 motorway or via Berlin on the A18 motorway, which meets the A4 east of Bolesławiec.