Despite being the most populated province in Poland, Silesia is also the most industrialized and thus has the smallest number of unemployed citizens. Almost 80 percent of Silesia’s population lives in urban areas. The region’s main industries are metallurgy, mining, power generation, automobile making, textile manufacturing, engineering and construction materials. Producing coal, lead, zinc and iron ore, the province is also one of the richest in Poland.
The Beskidy Mountains are a popular skiing destination, with 200 kilometres of ski trails. It is also known for Częstochowa, location of the Catholic pilgrimage site, the Black Madonna's Jasna Góra Sanctuary, where four million Catholic devotees annually descend.
Unique to Silesia is its technical heritage from its industrial history. It has coal and silver mines with railways, shafts and tools from the past two centuries. Medieval castles dot the area, while the palatial homes of its richest citizens from the 18th and 19th centuries are now used as museums, schools or hotels. After being occupied by the German army in World War II, the ducal castle in Pszczyna was turned into a museum and its interiors were carefully restored. The castle is a regular site for concerts in honor of the composer Georg Philipp Telemann, who spent summers at Pszczyna.
The city of Katowice in the Silesian Highlands is one of the most important cities in southern Poland. It is the region’s centre of business and culture while remaining quite green, with almost half of the area being forested. Although the historical architecture of its Rynek, or old centre, disappeared in the 1950s to give way to Communist-era buildings, many older, Art Nouveau and modernist buildings remain standing. The Rynek is now a prime shopping paradise for pedestrians only.
Cosmopolitan and contemporary Katowice has one of Europe’s earliest skyscrapers, Drapacz Chmur. Its vibrant cultural scene is led by Poland’s premier orchestras, the National Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio, and its avant-garde concert hall and sports centre, the Spodek, is the venue for year-round performances and competitions.