Walking around Nowa Huta

Means of transport

We set out on a brisk walk to explore Nowa Huta – Kraków’s youngest district. But that’s only partially true! People have been living here since prehistoric times: the oldest human artefacts discovered by archaeologists date back a whopping twenty-five thousand years, and the earliest tomb of a local woman is almost five thousand years old. The area was once populated by Celts and by mammoth hunters, and, in the centuries that followed, farmers. The rich soil was perfect for growing cereals, and the region soon filled with settlements and villages. After the Second World War, during the hope-filled period of rebuilding the country from the ravages of war, the communist authorities decided to construct a vast metallurgy plant named after Vladimir Lenin on the outskirts of Kraków. A brand new city was soon built to house the workers. The new town was called Nowa Huta, and it was designed as an utopian ideal city. Did you know that, when viewed from above, Nowa Huta is the shape of a fan?

Today, Nowa Huta forms a part of the city of Kraków, but its past makes it stand out from the other districts. To get a better feel for the place, we start our tour from the Administrative Centre which serves as the main gateway to the steelworks. Modelled on Renaissance architecture, the building is sometimes known as Nowa Huta’s Vatican or Doge’s Palace. Beyond the administrative building stretches out Poland’s largest factory, covering an area of almost ten square kilometres!

We board a tram at the Kombinat stop to head into Nowa Huta. Looking out from the carriage gives us a good perspective for seeing just how vast it is! We get off at the next stop and head to the Nowa Huta Reservoir, a favourite leisure spot for local residents. The small island in the middle, known as the Monkey Grove, is a haven for several species of plants and animals. The area around the reservoir holds a playground nearby.

After a break by the Nowa Huta Reservoir, let’s walk or take a tram down Solidarności Avenue towards Centralny (Central) Square – the heart of the district. It is encircled by estates named Centrum (Centres) A, B, C, D and E. A town hall was supposed to be erected on the north side of the square, but the plans were never carried out.

We head north from Centralny Square along the Róż Avenue. The area was once famous for its rose bushes, planted down the length of the entire avenue. Years of neglect turned the boulevard sad and grey, but local residents are trying to revive the tradition of planting and maintaining roses.

We continue along Róż Avenue, past Ratuszowy Park named after the town hall that never was, and past Zgody, Słoneczne, Urocze, Zielone and Górali estates. Have you noticed that the buildings get lower as we get further from Centralny Square? This was a deliberate decision by Nowa Huta’s designers. The district still captivates with its consistent, harmonious architecture. Each housing estate was created as a separate quarter with houses, schools, kindergartens, playgrounds and green spaces – their sheer number has earned Nowa Huta the nickname of a garden city. Take a look at the gates at the entrance to each estate, designed to resemble ancient triumphal arches. Notice how narrow they are? The story goes that this is so that a tank can’t fit through them! If you look hard enough, you’ll spot little huts on tops of some of the buildings, built for snipers…

If you’re legs are up to it, let’s walk towards the Ludowy Theatre. It was built in 1955 to provide entertainment, culture and education for residents of Nowa Huta. During the performance season, it hosts plays for adults and popular spectacles and fairytales for kids. After a long, tiring day exploring Nowa Huta, it’s time for a break at the theatre’s cosy Ludowa Café or its charming garden, and sample delicious drinks, cakes and ice creams – perfect for reviving young, weary explorers!

We finish our tour at the little Wiśniowy Sad Park with a large playground and outdoor gym. The park is decorated with two abstract sculptures made in the 1960s*.

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