Opolskie Voivodeship is one of the 16 voivodeships contributing to the Poland territory. Opolskie is located in the southernmost part of Poland, thus forming part of the Polish state border with the Czech Republic. The voivodeship is bordered by Wielkopolskie and Łódzkie Voivodeships to the north, Śląskie Voivodeship to the east, and by Dolnośląskie Voivodeship to the west. The northern and central parts of the Opolskie territory are of flat and lowland character. The mountains protrude into the territory mainly from the south and east. Opole, the capital city, is located in the central part of the region, on the shores of the biggest river in voivodeship, Oder. Opolskie Voivodeship stretches over an area of 9,412.5 square kilometers. The area is inhabited by approximately 984,345 people, which adds up to a population density of roughly 100 inhabitants per square kilometer.
Opole is the capital city of the Opolskie Voivodeship and is centrally located as well as one of the larger cities in the territory. One of the most popular city attractions is the Zoo Opole, which houses over a thousand animals. In Opole, there is also located an open-air Museum of the Opole Countryside. The museum showcases past inhabitants' architecture, lifestyle, tradition, and day-to-day routine. The collection includes 23 historical buildings, the oldest among them from the 17th century. Among the historical sights in the city belongs the Piast tower, which was used as a lookout tower in the past. The tower is 35 m high and is one of the oldest defense towers in Poland, as it was built in the 13th century. In the historical city is situated the Opole Cathedral, which belongs among significant city landmarks. Part of the old town represents Market Square, in retained medieval style. One of the city's unique museums is the Polish Song Museum, which exhibits Polish music from the 1920s onward. The museum also functions as a cultural venue, which hosts various meet-the-artist sessions, concerts, museum lessons, and classes for children.
In close proximity to Opole city is located the Moszna Castle, one of the most visited sights in the Opolskie Voivodeship. The castle is said to have fairytale architecture and is composed of 99 towers and 365 rooms. Moszna belonged to the Templar Order during the medieval era. However, the possession changed over the years numerous times. Nowadays, the castle and the grounds around it are open for visitors. Moszna is a venue for different business occasions and also features a restaurant, and also has accommodations for people to book overnight.
In the eastern part of the region is located the town of Krasiejów. The town is home to Jurapark, a touristic attraction and educational center concerned with the prehistoric world and dinosaurs. The area features different exhibitions and amusement parks as well. The prehistoric oceanarium, evolution park, and paleontological pavilion are part of the attraction.
An amphitheater and the Monument to the Uprising are situated on the peak of St. Anne Mountain. The stone monument on the top of the mountain showcases the stages of the fight, which led to Silesia's freedom. In the mausoleum, which is partly hidden underground, German soldiers are buried. The mausoleum, which was destroyed during the Second World War, is surrounded by an amphitheater that can hold 7,000 people.
Opolskie Voivodeship is characterized by its flat and lowland landscapes with broad river valleys. Silesian Lowland stretches over the northern parts of the region. Southern and Eastern parts are hilly, as Sudeten Foreland comprises southern parts of the territory, and the Eastern Sudeten mountain range extends to the territory from the east. The territory's highest peak, Biskupia Kopa, at an altitude of 889 meters, is located on the borders of Czechia, in the Opawskie Mountain range.
Rivers flowing through the region include the Neisse, Mała Panew, and Stobrawa rivers. However, the most significant river is the Oder. Touristically popular lakes are Turawskie, Otmuchowskie, and Głębinowskie. Oder valley in this part of Poland is one of the warmest Polish regions, with an average temperature of 9.5°C. The Opolskie territory is relatively highly forested and also is the warmest of Poland's voivodeships.
Several protected areas stretch across the Opolskie region. On the southern part of the region, on the borders with Czechia, is situated the Opawskie Mountains Landscape Park. The park consists of 919 different plant species, from which over 30 are legally protected. The park also consists of high animal species diversity. The Opawskie Mountains have been inhabited since the Stone Age. Nowadays, the mountains offer various hiking and cycling trails for tourists. Other significant protected landscape areas are Góra Świętej Anny (St. Anne Hill) Landscape Park and Stobrawa Landscape Park. St. Anne Hill is a relatively popular touristic destination as it used to be an active volcano. Currently, the figure of St. Anne with the Virgin and Child is located at the peak of the hill, together with the amphitheater and Uprising Monument.
Due to beneficial geographical conditions and relatively warm climate, nearly two-thirds of the Opolskie area is used for agriculture. The main crops are cereals, potatoes, rapeseed, sugar beets, and fodder. In terms of industry, food processing, brewing, and meatpacking are of considerable importance. Other industries include cement and lime production, chemicals and textiles production, metallurgy, automobile manufacturing, and papermaking.
Opolskie Voivodeship is located in the continental climate area and is said to be one of the warmest territories in Poland. The warmest month is July, with an average daily temperature of 26°C. January is the coldest month, with an average temperature of 2°C. The driest month is February, with an average of 32 mm of rainfall. The most precipitation falls during July, with an average of 94 mm. July is the sunniest month, with an average of 240 hours of sunshine.
Opolskie Voivodeship territory has a geographically attractive location due to its fertile soils and mild climate. For these reasons, the oldest settlements can be traced back to 200,000 years ago. Neanderthal sites were found near villages of Owsiszcze, Kornice, and Bieńkowice. Neolithic cultures inhabited the area. The popularization continued throughout the Bronze Age as well. Silesian, Celtic, Germanic and Slavic tribes alternatively lived in the area.
In the early year of 990, the Opolskie territory became part of the Polish state. However, until the 1100s, Bohemians were claiming the territory. Thus, it was the site of fights and wars. In 1173, the historical region of Silesia was divided into Upper and Lower Silesia. Lower Silesia became the Duchy of Wroclaw, and Upper Silesia became the Duchy of Opole-Racibórz, eventually becoming the Opolskie Voivodeship. The territory developed and prospered economically due to Germans settling in the Opole-Racibórz. However, later in the 14th century, the duchy split into smaller departments, which eventually became under the significant influence of Bohemia. Later, together with Bohemia in the 16th century, it became part of the Habsburg Monarchy.
In the 17th century, Silesia became part of Prussia, and with it, the Opolskie territory as well. At that time, industrialization began. Silesia became the center of steel and cement production in the area. After World War I, the region struggled with uprisings, in which it was to be decided if Silesia shall belong to Germany or Poland. The major fights were located in the Opolskie territory, near St. Anne's Hill. The uprisings resulted in Silesia becoming part of Germany. During the Second World War, most of the Polish and Jewish inhabitants were resettled or murdered. In 1945, the Soviet Red Army entered the Opolskie territory and expelled Nazi Germans. However, under USSR rule, murders, rapes, and robberies were frequent and Polish men were sent to work in USSR. Free elections were allowed in Poland after the revolution led by the Solidarity party in 1989.
Today, Opolskie Voivodeship is divided into 11 self-governing counties and one city, Opole, with county rights. Two-thirds of the inhabitants are immigrants who settled in the territory after 1945, most of them of German and Silesian origin. The most common is those affiliated with the Silesian dialect.
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