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Coordinates: 50°40′N17°56′E / 50.667°N 17.933°E / 50.667; 17.933
Country Poland
Voivodeship Opole
County city county
Town rights1217
  MayorArkadiusz Wiśniewski
  City148.99 km2 (57.53 sq mi)
176 m (577 ft)
 (31 December 2019)
  City128,035 Decrease2.svg (27th) [1]
  Density860/km2 (2,200/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
45-001 to 45-960
Area code(s) +48 077
Car plates OP
Website https://www.opole.pl

Opole (Polish:  [ɔˈpɔlɛ] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); German : Oppeln [ˈɔpl̩n] ; Silesian : Ôpole; see below ) is a city located in southern Poland on the Oder River and the historical capital of Upper Silesia. With a population of approximately 128,035 (December 2019), [1] it is the capital of Opole Voivodeship (province) and the seat of Opole County. Its history dates to the 8th century, and Opole is one of the oldest cities in today's Poland. It is also the smallest city in Poland to be the largest city in its province.


The origins of the first settlement are connected with the town being granted Magdeburg Rights in 1217 by Casimir I of Opole, [2] the great-grandson of Polish Duke Bolesław III Wrymouth. During the Medieval Period and the Renaissance, the city was known as a centre of commerce; several main trade routes intersected here, which helped to generate steady profits from transit trade. The rapid development of the town was also caused by the establishment of a seat of regency in Opole in 1816. The first railway connection between Oppeln, Brieg and Breslau was opened in 1843 and the first manufacturing plants were constructed in 1859, which greatly contributed to the city's regional significance. [3]

The city's extensive heritage entails almost all cultures of Central Europe, as it was under decades of Polish, Bohemian, Prussian, and German rule. Opole formally became part of Poland again in 1945 after the end of World War II. Many German Upper Silesians and Poles of ethnic German ancestry still reside in the Opole region; but, following the 1945–6 expulsions, in the city of the 21st century, ethnic Germans make up less than 3% of the population.

There are four higher education establishments in the city: The Opole University, Opole University of Technology, a Medical College and the private Higher College of Management and Administration. The National Festival of Polish Song has been held here annually since 1963. Each year new regular events, fairs, shows and competitions take place. [4]

Opole is sometimes referred to as "Polish Venice", [5] because of its picturesque Old Town and several canals and bridges connecting parts of the city.

Names and etymology

The name Opole likely originated from the medieval Slavic term for a group of settlements. [6]

Names for the city in other relevant languages include Lower Silesian : Uppeln, Czech : Opolí, Latin : Oppelia, Oppolia or Opulia.


In Medieval Poland

The oldest known view of Opole seen from southeast, circa 1535 Oppeln 1535.jpg
The oldest known view of Opole seen from southeast, circa 1535
A fragment of medieval defensive walls that once surrounded Opole Opole 0011 - mury przy Katedrze Swietego Krzyza.jpg
A fragment of medieval defensive walls that once surrounded Opole

Opole's history begins in the 8th century. At this time, according to the archeological excavations, [7] the first settlement was founded on the Ostrówek – the northern part of the Pasieka Island in the middle of the Oder river. In the early 10th century it developed into one of the main "gords" of the West Slavic Opolans tribe.

At the end of the century Silesia became part of Poland and was ruled by the Piast dynasty; the land of the pagan Opolanie was conquered by Duke Mieszko I in 992. From the 11th–12th centuries it was also a castellany. After the death of Duke Władysław II the Exile, Silesia was divided in 1163 between two Piast lines – the Wrocław line in Lower Silesia and the Opole-Racibórz of Upper Silesia. Opole would become a duchy in 1172 and would share much in common with the Duchy of Racibórz, with which it was often combined. In 1281 Upper Silesia was divided further between the heirs of the dukes. The Duchy of Opole was temporarily reestablished in 1290.

In the early 13th century, Duke Casimir I of Opole decided to move the settlement from the Pasieka Island into the right shore of the Oder river (since the 17th century it is the old stream bed of Oder known as Młynówka). All of the inhabitants had to be moved in order to make place for the castle that was eventually built in the place of the old city. [8] Former inhabitants of Ostrówek together with German merchants that immigrated here from the West, received first town rights probably as early as around 1217, although this date is disputed. [9] Opole received German town law in 1254, which was expanded with Neumarkt law in 1327. Opole developed during the rule of duke Bolko I of Opole. In this time the castle was finally completed and new buildings, including the city walls and the Holy Cross Church, were constructed.

General view of the Old Town, one of the oldest city ensembles in Poland Opole - widok na Stare Miasto.jpg
General view of the Old Town, one of the oldest city ensembles in Poland

Along with most of Silesia, in 1327 the Duchy of Opole came under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Bohemia, itself part of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1521 the Duchy of Racibórz (Ratibor) was inherited by the Duchy of Opole, by then also known by its German equivalent – Oppeln. The second castle of Opole was probably founded in the 14th century by duke Vladislaus II, though some sources claim that it was originally a wooden stronghold of Opole's castellan dating into 12th century. [10]

Austrian Habsburgs and Polish Vasas rule

With the death of King Ludvík II of Bohemia at the Battle of Mohács, Silesia was inherited by Ferdinand I, placing Opole under the sovereignty of the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria. The Habsburgs took control of the region in 1532 after the last Piast duke of Opole – Jan II the Good died. In those days the city was still mainly Polish-speaking (around 63%), with other nationalities represented mainly by Germans, Czechs and Jews. The last two dukes of Opole, Nicholas II and Janusz II the Good, did not master the German language. [11]

Beginning in 1532 the Habsburgs pawned the duchy to different rulers including several monarchs of Poland (see Dukes of Opole). After the Swedish invasion of Poland, in 1655 the King of Poland, John II Casimir Vasa, stayed with the entire court in Opole. In Opole in November 1655, the Universal of Opole (Uniwersał opolski) was issued by the King, calling for Poles to rise against the Swedes, who at that time occupied a large part of Poland.

18th-century view of Opole Oppeln F.B. Werner.png
18th-century view of Opole

With the abdication of King John II Casimir of Poland as the last Duke of Opole in 1668, the region passed to the direct control of the Habsburgs. At the beginning of the 18th century the German population of Opole was estimated at around 20%. [12]

In Prussian Silesia

King Frederick II of Prussia conquered most of Silesia from Austria in 1740 during the Silesian Wars; Prussian control was confirmed in the Peace of Breslau in 1742. During the Prussian rule the ethnic structure of the city began to change. In the early 20th century the number of Polish and bilingual citizens of Opole, according to the official German statistics, varied from only 25% to 31%. [13] Nonetheless, Opole remained an important cultural, social and political center for the Poles of Upper Silesia. From 1849 the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wiejska dla Górnego Śląska was published in Opole. Polish reporter and opponent of Germanisation Bronisław Koraszewski founded the newspaper Gazeta Opolska in 1890 and the People's Bank in Opole (Opolski Bank Ludowy) in 1897. [14] Another Polish newspaper, the Nowiny was founded by Franciszek Kurpierz in 1911.

From 1816–1945 Opole was the capital of Regierungsbezirk Oppeln within Prussia. The city became part of the German Empire during the unification of Germany in 1871.

Jesuit College, now a museum Opole - Kolegium jezuickie 01.jpg
Jesuit College, now a museum

After World War I

Stamps after the plebiscite in August 1921 featured the German name of Oppeln 1921 UpperSilesia 15 25Pfg Oppeln Opole Poland.jpg
Stamps after the plebiscite in August 1921 featured the German name of Oppeln

After the defeat of Imperial Germany in World War I, a plebiscite was held on 20 March 1921 in Oppeln to determine if the city would be in the Weimar Republic or become part of the Second Polish Republic. 20,816 (94.7%) votes were cast for Germany, 1,098 (5.0%) for Poland, and 70 (0.3%) votes were declared invalid. Voter participation was 95.9%. Results of the plebiscite in the Oppeln-Land county were different, with 30% of the population voting for Poland.

The Piast Castle, prior to its demolition by the German authorities Piastenschloss und Schlossteich in Oppeln.jpg
The Piast Castle, prior to its demolition by the German authorities

Oppeln was the administrative seat of the Province of Upper Silesia from 1919–1939. In the years 1928–1931, by the decision of the German regional administration, the Piast Castle was demolished. Thanks to the strong opposition of the local Polish community and protests of the Union of Poles in Germany, at least the castle tower was saved from demolition. [15] Nowadays called the Piast Tower it is one of the city's landmarks. In 1929, a Polish theatre from Katowice came to Opole for a performance of the opera Halka by Stanisław Moniuszko. After the performance, the actors were brutally beaten by a German militia with the silent consent of the German police. [16]

World War II

Germany invaded Poland to begin World War II in September 1939. With the defeat of Poland in the invasion of Poland, formerly Polish Eastern Upper Silesia was re-added to the Province of Upper Silesia and Oppeln lost its status as provincial capital to Katowice (renamed Kattowitz).

Architecture of the Main Marketplace Opole - Rynek 11.jpg
Architecture of the Main Marketplace
Piast Bridge and Opole Cathedral in the background with its two iconic Gothic towers Opole - katedra i Most Piastowski.jpg
Piast Bridge and Opole Cathedral in the background with its two iconic Gothic towers

In modern Poland

After the end of the Second World War in 1945, Oppeln was transferred from Germany to Poland according to the Potsdam Conference, and given its original Slavic name of Opole. Opole became part of the Katowice Voivodeship from 1946–1950, after which it became part of the Opole Voivodeship. Unlike other parts of the so-called Recovered Territories, Opole and the surrounding region's indigenous population remained and was not forcibly expelled as elsewhere. Over 1 million Silesians who considered themselves Poles or were treated as such by the authorities due to their language and customs were allowed to stay after they were verified as Poles in a special verification process. It involved declaring Polish nationality and an oath of allegiance to the Polish nation. [17]

In the later years however many of them left to West Germany to flee the communist Eastern Bloc (see Emigration from Poland to Germany after World War II). Today Opole, along with the surrounding region, is known as a centre of the German minority in Poland that recruits mainly from the descendants of the positively verified autochthons. In the city itself however only 2.46% of the inhabitants declared German nationality according to the last national census of 2002. [18]

On January 1, 2017, Borki, Chmielowice, Czarnowąsy, Krzanowice, Sławice, Świerkle, Winów, Wrzoski, Żerkowice as well as parts of Brzezie, Dobrzeń Mały and Karczów became a part of Opole, enlargening its population by about 9,500, and its area by over 5,300 ha, despite the protests of inhabitants. [19] [20]

Historical population

In the early 20th century the number of Polish and bilingual citizens of Opole, according to the official German statistics, varied from 25 to 31%. [13]

City hall on the Main Market Square Opole - Ratusz.jpg
City hall on the Main Market Square
Water canal along the Old Town Opolska Wenecja noca1.jpg
Water canal along the Old Town
1533 ¹1,420
1858 ²8,877
1910 ³33,907
17 May 193950,540
24 March 1945170
July 194513,000
31 December 1989127,653
Census 1992129,552
Census 2002129,946
30 June 2004125,992

¹ First census of the city

² 8,320 German nationality (93.7%) and 557 Polish nationality (6.3%)

³ 80% German-speaking, 16% Polish-speaking, and 4% bilingual Polish-German-speaking

Opole - a view of the city centre Uopole - panorama z opisem.jpg
Opole - a view of the city centre

German minority

General view of Opole PL Opole NCentrum.jpg
General view of Opole

Alongside German and Polish, many citizens of Opole-Oppeln before 1945 used a strongly German-influenced Silesian dialect (sometimes called wasserpolnisch or wasserpolak). Because of this, the post-war Polish state administration after the annexation of Silesia in 1945 did not initiate a general expulsion of all former inhabitants of Opole, as was done in Lower Silesia, for instance, where the population almost exclusively spoke the German language. Because they were considered "autochthonous" (Polish), the Wasserpolak-speakers instead received the right to remain in their homeland after declaring themselves as Poles. Some German speakers took advantage of this decision, allowing them to remain in their Oppeln, even when they considered themselves to be of German nationality. The city surroundings currently contain the largest German and Upper Silesian minorities in Poland. However, Opole itself is only 2.46% German. [18] (See also Germans of Poland.)

Main sights

Piast tower, built under Bolko I of Opole, circa 1300 Opole - Wieza Piastowska 01.jpg
Piast tower, built under Bolko I of Opole, circa 1300

Opole hosts the annual National Festival of Polish Song. The city is also known for its 10th-century Church of St. Adalbert and the 14th-century Church of the Holy Cross. There is a zoo, the Ogród Zoologiczny w Opolu.

Structures and buildings




Opole is one of the warmest cities in Poland. The national all-time heat record was measured in Prószków, near Opole. The climate is oceanic with sizeable continental influences.

Climate data for Opole
Record high °C (°F)15.8
Average high °C (°F)1.9
Daily mean °C (°F)−0.5
Average low °C (°F)−2.9
Record low °C (°F)−25.2
Average precipitation mm (inches)34
Average precipitation days16131411131213911111315151
Average relative humidity (%)83817671727372747879838477
Mean monthly sunshine hours 487012719122522423822115110856411,698
Source 1:
Source 2: http://climatebase.ru/station/12530/?lang=en


The building of Collegium Maius of Opole University PL Opole collegiummaius.jpg
The building of Collegium Maius of Opole University


Opole Glowne Railway Station Opole - Gmach Dworca Glownego 01.jpg
Opole Główne Railway Station

Members of Parliament (Sejm) elected from Opole constituency


Opole city budget income sources as of 2015. Opole city budget income sources 2015.png
Opole city budget income sources as of 2015.

Opole is the Opole Voivodeship's centre for commerce, banking, industrial complexes and other major service sector industries. [24] [25] [26]

Prior to World War II, due to major limestone deposits in Opole's vicinity, the city developed as a centre for cement production in Germany, with the Cementownia "Odra" being active till this day. The French building materials company Lafarge is also active in the area, having its roofing division, Lafarge Roofing, together with its German subsidiary Schiedel (chimney manufacturing) based in Opole. [27]

Solaris Centre Mall Solaris Center - main entrance.jpg
Solaris Centre Mall

Other companies in the city include: the German valve manufacturer Kludi; the German men's fashion manufacturer Ahlers and the American automotive manufacturer Tower Automative. As is the case with the entire Opole Voivodeship, there is a strong presence of food industry services in the city. The largest companies in the food sector include: Zott, the Dutch baby food and nutrition company Nutricia, part of the Danone food-products corporation.

Opole has branches of all major banks, including: PKO, Pekao, Deutsche Bank and Raiffeisen Zentralbank.

The retail sector in Opole includes major Metro AG brand stores: Metro Cash and Carry and Media-Saturn-Holding, as well as Real. The city has a plethora of other major supermarket chains, namely: the Polish supermarket chains Biedronka, Lidl, Aldi and Netto. [28] Other major brand stores include the shoe retailer Deichmann and Rossmann drugstores. [29]

Furthermore, the city has three major shopping centres. The Solaris Center, with a total of 86 shops, opened in May 2009 and is located in the centre of Mikołaj Kopernik Square. In the city's suburbs, by Wrocławska Street (ul. Wrocławska) is the location of Karolinka Shopping Centre (Centrum Handlowe Karolinka). The shopping centre, which opened in September 2008, has a total area of 38,000 m², with a total of 99 stores, including fashion, hardware and electronics stores. To the east of the city, by the National Road 46, is the smallest of the three shopping centres, Turawa Park, with a total of 50 stores. Other shopping centres include Galeria Opolanin, built between 1974 and 1981 and upon its completion, was the largest shopping centre in Poland. [30]


Among the city's most popular sports team are:

Notable people

Jan Kasprowicz JanKasprowicz1901 (cropped).jpg
Jan Kasprowicz
Miroslav Klose 2016209185719 2016-07-27 Champions for Charity - Sven - 1D X - 0149 - DV3P4742 mod.jpg
Miroslav Klose
Remigiusz Mroz Remigiusz Mroz.jpg
Remigiusz Mróz

Twin towns – sister cities

Opole is twinned with: [31]

Related Research Articles

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Coordinates: 50°40′N17°56′E / 50.667°N 17.933°E / 50.667; 17.933