Updated: Feb 27, 2020
Łódź (pronounced 'Woodge') is a city for which the words 'gritty', 'down-to-earth' and 'unpretentious' barely do justice. It's Poland's industrial heartland, and is a million miles away from the bright tourist lights of the likes of Kraków. Long known as the Manchester of Poland, an ex-cotton and textiles industrial city which grew exponentially during the mid- 19th century industrial boom until it became Poland's second city with around 900,000 inhabitants in the late 20th century, its population has decreased to about 700,000 today, and it has been overtaken by Kraków as Poland's number two city. It's lagged behind all Poland's other major cities in the past twenty years too - namely, Warsaw, Gdansk, Poznan and Wrocław, in terms of investment, redevelopment, tourism and business opportunities. Only in the past five years or so, with recognition for its considerable influence as a centre of film-making and cinematic activity (David Lynch has long feted the city and its film studios), and renewed interest in the industrial heritage of the city, have parts of the city started to see investment and renewal, and parts of the run-down centre been transformed. The famously hip 'Off Piotrkowska' area of bars and restaurants has appeared in a disused industrial area, along with several other clusters of trendy drinking areas, eateries and cafes, whilst Manufaktura shopping mall has been fabulously created from another ex-factory, its previously drab red-brick building now proudly gleaming and acting as the centrepiece of a city that seems to be looking, finally, confidently to the future. Museums and attractions such as the fascinating Museum of Cinematography are beginning to abound, parks and lakes have been spruced up. The longest shopping street in Poland, Piotrkowska, has been tarted up too, and many of its impressive Art Nouveau buildings are proudly gleaming, as its restaurants and bars get ever-more sophisticated and cosmpolitan. Meanwhile, other parts of the city are developing outside the immediate centre. Księży Młyn (Priest's Mill) has been converted from yet another red-brick factory complex into a state of the art community featuring some high class 'loft' conversions and luxury apartments, and other places are following suit, with thousands of metres of office and flat space going spare at a fraction of the price of the capital and some other more 'glamorous' locations. Could it be that Poland's ugly duckling is finally about to turn into a swan?