Upper Silesia's industrial metropolis attracts lots of business travelers but relatively few tourists. The reasons are obvious once you exit the train station or drive into town. It's an undeniably homely city; the historical center was ravaged by insensitive post-World War II planning that left hulking modernist structures standing next to dilapidated historical buildings. You'll look in vain for that touristic mainstay of Polish towns: a handsome square, ringed with shops and cafes. Katowice (pronounced kaht-oh-veet-seh) was born in the 19th-century Industrial Age and thrived on mining and heavy industry (which continues to this day).

That doesn't mean, however, it's not interesting in its own way, and the local wags at the offices of Katowice, In Your Pocket have even crafted a kind of wacky, anti-tourist image for the city: "If you want pealing cathedral bells and horse-drawn carriages . . . check out Kraków instead. If, however, you want to explore a completely bizarre, unexplored, and some would say unexplainable, corner of Poland, then you've hit the bulls-eye."

Even if you don't choose to come here, there's a good chance you'll pass through anyway. Katowice lies on the main rail line that connects Prague with Kraków, so it sits astride the modern-day Central European equivalent of the Silk Road. It's also on the main A4 superhighway, making it an easy car jog from Kraków or Wrocaw. If you've got a couple hours to kill between trains or need to squeeze in an overnight stop, there's enough to see and do to make a stop here worthwhile.