Boleslawiec is so famous for its pottery that pottery-making and art are some of the most popular occupations in the area. It is therefore not surprising that many of the things to do in Boleslawiec revolve around the famous Polish Pottery. If you are visiting Boleslawiec, be sure to walk around the old town too! It’s really charming.
Here are the best things to do in Bolesławiec. Later in this post, I will explain how the famous pottery is produced, step by step.
Table of Contents
1. Learn About Pottery At Live Museum of Pottery
Visiting the Live Museum of Pottery is one of the fun things to do in Boleslawiec. It gives you a chance to see how pottery is made. The people who work here train for 3 months before becoming artists.
The museum is a great place to take kids to. You do have to keep an eye on younger kids because there are a lot of breakables and you don’t want them running around or touching things.
Live Museum of Pottery also provides factory tours and workshops which is pretty cool because it allows you to see how the pottery is made.
2. Admire St Mary’s Basilica
One of the most iconic buildings in Boleslawiec is the St. Mary’s Basilica. It is also called Bazylika Maryjna which is really the Polish translation. This amazing building was built way back in the 1200s. It was unfortunately destroyed and rebuilt many times including during the Hussite wars. In the early 1700s, the Basilica was given a baroque style which we still can see today.
The basilica is beautiful. It has lots of sculptures on the outer facade but it is the interiors of the church that really take your breath away. The most striking feature is a carved altar that holds a person’s focus of attention as soon as you enter. This altar was designed by Georg Webr.
Did I mention that it is free to enter the church? Just remember to be quiet and respectful because it is a place of worship.
3. Explore The City Walls
Another one of the cool things to do in Boleslawiec is to take a walk along the medieval walls of the city. It is a peaceful walk through the city and it is really scenic. The history of the city walls is also pretty interesting.
In order to defend the city, wooden ramparts were built all around the city. These were reinforced with mud. Over time it became apparent that they needed more sturdy barriers. These ramparts were then replaced with stone walls and a moat.
The walls lasted till the French stormed the city and blew up sections of the fortification in 1813. There are still sections of the wall that are standing in the city. These form such a beautiful backdrop for photographs.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to comb the whole city to find these spots. A. Mickiewicza Street, B. Kubika Street, or Partyzantów Avenue have sections of the wall still standing and you can just head there directly.
4. Visit The Market Square
The Boleslawiec market square is very pretty. It is surrounded by beautiful multicolored houses on all sides. Right in the center of the square is an imposing building with a huge tower. This is the town hall.
The market square is one of the most Instagrammable places in the city. It also is a hub of activity with lots of restaurants in the area. If you’ve spent your time wandering around the numerous sights of Boleslawiec, come here for a break. The view is scenic, the food is good and it is a great place to just sit and enjoy the surroundings.
5. Photograph One Of The Longest Railway Viaducts In Europe
The river Bóbr has one of the most interesting structures in the city. A railway viaduct crosses over the river and at 490m, this is one of the longest railway viaducts in the whole of Europe.
An interesting thing to note about the viaduct is that it is really old. It was built in 1846. They used sandstone to do this. The old viaduct forms a very pretty backdrop for photographs. Another great thing to do is take a picnic lunch and visit. There are a couple of great spots where you can sit back and enjoy the area.
If you want to get one of the iconic photographs of the bridge, check the train timings. That way you can catch the train crossing the bridge!
6. Admire The Old Buildings In Boleslawiec
There are loads of different old buildings that are still standing in the city. They are very pretty and you will catch sight of them as you wander around exploring. A couple of great examples are Teatr Saty and Sąd Rejonowy.
You will also find a couple of old houses and buildings if you walk down the streets near the market square. These streets are pretty convenient if you don’t have a lot of time on your hand and just want to hit the highlights of the city.
How The Polish Pottery Is Made?
Now, let’s talk about the Polish pottery production process!
If you don’t want to read, watch the video I made during my visit to the factory.
You will be surprised by the sheer number of factories in Boleslawiec that produce the famous Polish pottery!
I’ve visited the only Polish pottery factory in the area that is still government-owned. All the others are privately owned. The factory that I visited is called Zaklady Ceramiczne Boleslawiec. They currently hire about 400 people which is pretty impressive.
Let’s start from the beginning. Why has Boleslawiec become popular as the Town of Ceramics? The answer is really quite simple! Bolesławiec is rich in natural clay deposits! The quality of the clay that is mined from the area is really high. It is the perfect material to form ceramics. Easy access to good quality clay is the reason why so many pottery factories were set up here over the years.
How Do They Produce The Famous Pottery In Zaklady Ceramiczne Boleslawiec?
Production of the famous pottery all starts in the basement where the clay and some other materials are mixed with water using a unique recipe.
The basement has a number of different chambers. Each chamber stores different materials. These materials are then loaded and transported by wheelbarrows. They are then put onto a special machine with natural silicon rotors which make the clay mixture used for making tableware.
If you watch my video, you will see my host, the main production manager Agnieszka Lipinska showing the size of a natural silicon rotor. It is large and pretty impressive. The mixing of the ingredients is one of the most crucial steps in the whole process of making the Boleslawiec pottery.
How Is Boleslawiec Pottery Made?
Boleslawiec pottery is made using two techniques: by slip casting or by forming individual shapes from clay by means of hand-driven or mechanical potter’s wheels.
The Slip Casting Technique
The Slip Casting technique is used to form mugs, cups, teapots, and similar products. The technique involves a clay body slip that is poured into plaster moulds and allowed to form a layer on the internal walls of the mould.
A bowl that I saw being made was formed for 4 minutes. The amount of time spent however differs based on the product that is being formed. Vessels with small elements that are more delicate require manual molding. Here things like handles are manually added on by employees.
Forming Individual Shapes Of Clay
This is the second technique that is used to form simple tableware such as plates. One worker can produce up to 1200 plates during one working day which is so impressive!
Once the ceramics are formed, the raw ceramics are left for one day to dry out. Some of the ceramics are pre-painted the next day. There is a reason for this. Boleslawiec pottery has a very strong color and the upper layer needs to be placed before. If this is not done, the artists’ hands will get dirty fast.
The next step in making Boleslawiec pottery is preliminary firing at 800°C or 1472°F. When this is done the products shrink slightly. They also become hard and pale pink in color. At this point, they are called ‘biscuits’.
Decorating Polish Pottery
Next, the biscuits are dusted and then moved to the decoration department. Here they are all hand-covered with elaborate patterns using underglaze paints. Some items are decorated using stamps made of sponge or rubber. Other items are uniquely hand-painted using floral patterns, Christmas themes, and other different motifs.
It is interesting that painting pottery is almost an exclusively female occupation. There are only 3 male painters working in the factory right now!
Each employee is equipped with a tablet with step-by-step guides on how to make each pattern. Despite the guides, hand painting the pottery is not an easy job. One mistake and the entire dish has to be thrown away because you can’t erase the painting. I imagine that this makes the painting process a very stressful profession.
So what happens when there is a small pattern missing on the pottery? This pottery is then sold as a second or third sort in an Outlet store that’s located right next to the factory. If you are not a professional, you can’t really notice the difference.
I bought some second sort pottery for myself and I still don’t see what’s wrong with my mugs. So you can see what attention to detail goes into making the iconic Boleslawiec pottery.
Two final steps of producing the pottery from Boleslawiec are glazing and final firing.
Glazing The Boleslawiec Pottery
Glazing is performed by submerging vessels in a vat filled with a liquid glazing compound or by applying the glaze using a spray gun. Before the final firing, the decoration is invisible under the glazing applied.
The glaze is then removed manually from the bottom of the dish otherwise it would stick to the oven when firing.
The Final Firing Of Boleslawiec Pottery
Painted and glazed products are then fired in special-purpose stoves that reach temperatures over 1200 Celsius or 2200 Fahrenheit degrees, for a total of around 14 hours.
During this final firing, pottery becomes resistant to damage. In the last stage of the process, the glazing is transformed into a thin transparent coat that reveals the decoration. The final Boleslawiec pottery is beautiful and is nothing short of a work of art.
Quality Control Of Boleslawiec Pottery
As I mentioned before, there is a lot of attention to detail that goes into making the famous Polish pottery. The pottery is checked at every step of the production process by quality control. This is a laboratory where the entire process of production is checked, measured, and verified. That way you can be sure that whatever you buy is perfect, authentic, and beautiful.
So that’s the entire production process! You will find that right next to the factory, there is a shop and outlet where you can buy the pottery from Boleslawiec. I must admit this place feels like heaven to me! There are so many beautiful patterns and colors to choose from! They are too hard to resist!
History Of Boleslawiec Pottery
I want to end this post by telling you a little bit more about Boleslawiec and the history of producing ceramics in the town.
The town is located in the southwestern part of Poland, close to the border with Germany and Czechia. Even though Boleslawiec is a small Polish town, you can hear foreign languages anywhere you go. This is because the American military base is nearby and there are also many Ukrainian refugees living in the town right now.
It’s not sure for how long the pottery in Boleslawiec was produced but it probably started in the Middle Ages. Some people theorize that it started even earlier.
In the 18th century, Johann Gottlieb Joppe made a huge vessel called the “Large Pot” in Boleslawiec. It was more than 2 meters: 6,5ft high which made it the biggest in the world.
The total population of Boleslawiec is less than 40,000 people. Nowadays you will find that almost every family living in Boleslawiec has someone that works in the pottery industry. That should not be a surprise because it is one of the major sources of income for the city.