City walk – Biała
This walk starts at the beginning of 11 Listopada Street, which is still in Bielsko, and continues into Biala. The picturesque 11 Listopada promenade that runs through, and joins, Bielsko and Biała is one of the most important and oldest streets in the city. In a way, this street is an obvious sign that these cities, despite historic differences, were always seen as one. As you cross the Biała River, you enter Biała, and you can carry on with your architectural walk.
1. 11 Listopada Street (ul. 11 Listopada)
11 Listopada Street is the main promenade of Bielsko-Biała and traditionally a shopping district and a trade route through the city. Nowadays, most of the shopping is taking place in numerous shopping malls in the city, but in the past, this street was the most popular place to find items of your wants and needs. Despite all the changes, you might still find there some interesting and unusual shops.
The street is 900 meters long, of which only 140 meters lies in Bielsko, while the rest 760 meters is in Biała. The twin cities are divided by the River Biała and connected by the bridge on 11 Listopada Street.
With the exception of the building that stands at the corner of Barlickiego Street, all the buildings in this part of Bielsko were created at the turn of the 19th and 20th century. Their size and decorative richness indicated the wealth of Bielsko over Biała.
The tenements in Biała, just on the other side of the bride, differ from those in Bielsko. The historic build-up dates from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and represents a rather unique so-called Josephine style. These one storey buildings with arched internal gates and subtle rococo decorations were constructed according to designs officially approved by the authorities. However, as you walk further, more and more of the buildings remind of the Vienna style.
2. Barlickiego and Cechowa Streets (ul. Barlickiego, ul. Cechowa)
Barlickiego Street, originally named Railway Street, was a street that connected the centre of the city with the Railway Station. Naturally, many decorative buildings were constructed to impress the travellers and visitors. Many of them were turned into hotels, the rest were owned by merchants and financers.
Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Baroque and Eclectic styles dominated, as most of the buildings come from the end of the 19th century, but there are also a few great examples of the Secession style of the early 20th century. The oldest building stands at the corner with 11 Listopada Street and comes from late 18th century, representing the neo-Classical style that previously dominated the area.
The house at no. 15 was known as the Grand Hotel and still has a characteristic roof entrance. The oldest hotel from 1856 was at no. 20 and it was called the National Hotel. No. 14 hosted the Imperial Hotel and no. 22 the Langer Hotel, a hotel reserved for the Jewish visitors only.
Cechowa Street was originally called Templestrasse, which name comes from the first Jewish house of prayer in the city that was called Tempel and stood there in the years 1839-1881 (ul. Cechowa 22). Together with Barlickiego Street, Cechowa Street was a Jewish district in Bielsko. On the wall of Pizzeria Margerita (ul. Cechowa 8), you can find the only left reminder of the street’s Jewish past – a Jewish sign saying ‘Restaurant’.
3. Biała River and the Bridge
After leaving Barlickiego and Cechowa Streets, continue walking along 11 Listopada Street, and shortly after you will reach the River Biała and the symbolic bridge that connects the twin cities. Now, you are about to enter Biała. Before you go any further, take a look at the last impressive building on your right, still in Bielsko. It’s called the Burda’s Tenement (ul. 11 Listopada 10) and it was built in 1893 for an Imperial adviser Wiktor Burda.
On the other side of the bridge, at a small square on the right, stands a statue of a famous Polish cartoon character – Reksio. Reksio was created in the Animated Movies Studio (Studio Filmów Rysunkowych) located in Bielsko-Biała. You most likely to see some children around this monument, the size of the statue indicate that this attraction is made for them.
If you now turn left from 11 Listopada Street, you will reach a shopping centre called Klimczok (on you right) and an indoor market Wokulski (on your left). A short walk further will take you directly to Galeria Sfera, the largest shopping mall in the city.Klimczok was built in 1989, and at that time, it was the best place to shop. Now it provides a rather interesting shopping experience, so it is worth to take a look inside. Wokulski serves as a closed food market where you can buy fresh vegies, local cheeses, sausages and more. Wokulski and Galeria Sfera are excellent examples of the old factories turned into shopping halls and galleries.
4. Polish Army Square (Plac Wojska Polskiego)
Further up, 11 Listopada Street adjoins a square, which is one of the two old market squares in Biała. The square is surrounded by many beautiful buildings mainly from the turn of the 19th and 20th century. Some served as residential buildings, other as administrative and business offices.
Klimczok is visible in the left corner, while the most interesting building on the square stands in its north-east corner, with a church tower as the background. The building is called the House ‘Under the Frogs’ (Dom Pod Żabami, ul. Targowa 3) and refers to the couple of elegantly dressed, evidently in the party mood frogs that adorn the side elevation. This Secession decoration perfectly capture the original function of this building, because formerly it was a winery.
The church in front of the building is the Martin Luther Lutheran Church from the 18th century with a beautiful alter and organs from the early 19th century.
5. City Hall (Ratusz)
A small street to the right from Polish Army Square and 11 Listopada Street takes you directly to the City Hall. This magnificent building was built to impress. Built in 1897 in the neo-Renaissance style, and designed by a local architect Emanuel Rost. Interestingly, Rost’s design won a competition for the new city hall mainly because his project was the only one that was created in line with the requirements provided by the magistrate – namely he gave them the tower that they desired, while no other architect did.
6. Stojałowskiego Street (ul. Stojałowskiego)
The street that runs parallel to 11 Listopada Street, the one that you cross when walking to and from the City Hall, hides a rather interesting fact. The truth is that this street is in fact a wide bridge that covers a below running river called Niwka. The river was partially covered already in 1916 and the road was completed in 1973.
7. Liberty Square (Plac Wolności)
If you continue your walk along 11 Listopada Street, you should reach the second old market square called Liberty Square. The marketplace activity is long time gone, and now the space of the square, just like at Wojska Polskiego Square, is dominated by parked cars.
The square was laid out in the late 18th century, but the only original buildings left are two one-storey houses – ul. 11 Listopada 56 and pl. Wolności 5.
The most magnificent building adjoining the square and 11 Listopada Street is the Black Eagle Hotel (ul. 11 Listopada 60). This 1905 hotel replaced an 18th century inn. The hotel is a neo-Renaissance building with an Art Nouveau foyer and staircase. The richly decorated ballroom on the first floor is often used for weddings and concerts. However, the rest of the building lost its function and now holds offices and shops.
Just opposite the hotel, on the other side of the square, stands the old guild house of drapers (pl. Wolności 7) built in 1812. Next building, no. 6, hosts a post office that was opened in 1846 and has been continually used since.
*EXTEND YOUR WALK
a) The Church of Divine Providence (Kościół Opatrzności Bożej)
Walk further up the 11 Listopada Street and then take a turn into Szkolna Street. At the end of the street, on your left, you will see the Church of Divine Providence. This neo-Baroque church from the 18th century has many beautiful features. A rococo pulpit in the shape of a boat makes a particular impression.
b) Lutheran Cemetery
Go back to 11 Listopada Street and as you walk down soon you will cross Komorowicka Street. Here, you should turn right. Cross Piłsudskiego Street and then find an entrance hidden behind a restaurant (ul. Piłsudskiego 15a) to the old Lutheran Cemetery in Biała. It is one of the oldest cemeteries in the city from 1783. Many important citizens, mayors, pastors, industrialists and local officials were buried here.
c) Statue of Bolek and Lolek
If you walk further along Piłsudskiego Street, shortly after you will cross the Biala River again and then reach Galeria Sfera. At the square in front of the entrance to the mall, you will find a statue of two boys dreaming about far away travels. These are Bolek and Lolek, who together with Reksio are the beloved cartoon characters known by every Polish child. These characters were created in the Animated Movies Studio located in Bielsko-Biała.