Updated: Oct 17, 2022
In this blog I visit Opole, this may be the capital of Poland's smallest region, however it is still a great place to visit, full of culture, history and nature I was very glad that I visited this city and look forward to returning to the Region one day to really experience this portion of Poland!
I opted to spend two nights here...and am I glad I did! I only just managed to see everything on my list with minutes to spare, so let's help you make the most of this city and see all the important spots ;)
I travelled by train from Warsaw, which in fairness only took about 3 and a half hours (though the train was late by a good 45 minutes...).
The city itself is easy to walk around and is very tourist friendly, I was also impressed by the level of English speaking I found here, much better than other areas of Poland I have visited!
It is certainly one of the more cultural cities in Poland and you will find much in the way of Music, art and architecture to enjoy, almost every street had a little place of magic to visit!
Old Town - Stare Miasto
For most tourists, this will be the main area which you explore during your trip, with museums, churches and beautiful architecture...it is definitely good to explore the different streets for random little views, hidden murals and dots of culture laid out everywhere!
The Town Hall (Ratusz)
This stunning piece of neo-renaissance architecture was originally built in 1864. It has a 65 metre tower, where the city anthem is played every day. Though you don't have any particular sight inside this building for tourists, the town hall is right in the centre of the market square, here you will find plenty of bars, restaurants and shops. The market square, rebuilt after the war is modelled on an 18th century Baroque style, and like most impressive squares of Poland features colourful buildings.
You will also find the "Polish song walk of fame", much like the Hollywood stars walk of fame, you will find bronze plaques commemorating Polish song artists and is being continually added to every year! With artists such as Maryla Rodowicz, Edyta Geppert, Ewa Demarczyk and many more, at night you will see stars shining along this walk way!
Opole Silesian Museum
Heading down Wojciecha street off the market square takes you to some of the main sights of culture. A must visit is the Silesian museum Established in 1900 it is the ultimate place to learn about Opole. Inside the museum you will first be greeted with rooms dedicated to Silesian ceramic crafts, followed by Doll's house recreations of traditional shops and trades, next you will be taken to a room full of paintings from the 19th and early 20th Century.
Going downstairs you get a rich collection of archaeological finds from the region, with the upstairs containing the proper history museum detailing the rich history of the city and the region, as well as a temporary exhibition, which for me was some modern photography and artwork.
The museum isn't expensive and you could easily spend a good two hours seeing everything!
Next door to the Silesian museum you will find an old preserved tenement house, showing you what peoples rooms were like between 1890 and 1965, there is a guide there who will take you from floor to floor, while you see decor, furniture and appliances from these periods, a great way to get a feel for what life used to be like before the modern age!
Tickets for this can be obtained from the Silesian museum, entry is generally allowed on the hour, the rest of the time you will find this locked.
The Church on the hill
At the top of this street, you can't miss the Lady of Sorrows and St. Aldalbert's church, it stands out trust me! It dates back to the 10th century (though was rebuilt in 1739), you can take a peak inside (Though try not to interrupt worshippers!), you will find a 17th Century painting as well as the classic Polish architecture!
To the right and behind the church you will find sculpture gardens that are well worth a look and take some selfies ;)
Other churches of note in the centre are the Opole Cathedral (currently being renovated), the Saint Cross dates back to the 15th Century and is characteristic for it's two 76m tall towers.
You also have the Franciscan church dating back to the 14th Century in the Gothic style, Piasts remains can be found here, as well as the oldest Gothic fresco preserved in this region!
The Hilltop castle
Opole's second castle, erected between 1382 and 1387 by order of Prince Vladislaus II, is a mystery as no record of it's construction can be found, taking the tour will take you into the walkways beneath the castle, as well as taking you up to the top floor, with a lot of history and some interactive exhibits allowing you to dress in the period, sit on a throne or wield a sword!
Again you have timed entry here, so likely you will have to buy tickets in advance...and expect the tour to be given in Polish, though the information boards have English you can read.
The Opole Philharmonic
Originally formed in 1972, the building is witness to world class performances by conductors, composers and soloists from around the globe, part of the cultural backdrop of the city, outside are some fountains and statues of note (Though this is better seen in summer when the fountains are switched on!)
Retro computer museum
This little spot was not on any tourist map and I found it by chance, it was free to enter as well...though I couldn't help but leave a small donation!
It is run by Marek and houses a collection of old computers from mainly the 80's and early 90's, these are all set up with classic games which you can play, a lovely little find on my tour...though it is only open certain hours of the day
However the Old Town is not the only area to explore, so let's continue...
The Polish Venice
On Młynówka channel just heading out of the old city is a lovely canal with beautiful tenement buildings along it's edge which are lit up at night and is built on the foundations of the old city wall, though this is rather small compared to venice and I don't believe you will find any gondola boats here, it's a nice area to walk and you will find many couples strolling along here on romantic evenings, definitely a place to check out during your stay!
Grosz Bridge - Little Green Bridge
This is one of the most beautiful pedestrian bridges in Poland, which gets its name as it used to cost one Grosz to cross, built in 1858 it is also known as the Lovers bridge...with characteristic padlocks with initials of lovers locked to the framework, it's small and cute and well worth a visit to get some pictures!
Across the water on a small island you also have a couple of other important places to see!
Polish Song Museum
Some would argue this is the most significant attraction in Opole (As long as you are a music lover of course!) The museum itself was opened from 2016, on entry you will be given a set of headphones...as in this museum you will use the many interactive screens to listen to Polish music dating back to the 1920's with videos of the performances to accompany the music.
It is part of the wider Amphitheatre that from 1963 has been home to Opole's greatest song concerts and is a strong backbone of it's cultural scene!
Entry is timed to limit the number of people in the museum at any one time, so be prepared to buy a ticket in advance or have a bit of a wait to be let inside (I slipped to a bar while waiting).
The Piast Tower
The only remaining part of Opole's first castle, home to a dungeon, an armory and the royal quarters...it also gives you the best aerial view of the city from the top. I personally enjoyed this attraction the most out of all the places I saw, normally the tour is in Polish, though I was lucky that the lovely Zuzanna who was guiding us also gave me some translation into English.
The tower itself dates back to the mid 14th Century, the wider castle being demolished by Germany, the Tower itself only survived because the locals tricked the German occupiers into believing it had been constructed with German architectural principles ;)
Again you can expect timed entry, so best to get tickets in advance!
Near these sights is Staw Zamkowy (castle pond) which is the remnant of the old castle moat, in the summer it is home to a musical fountain (Though this was not working in 2022 I hear)...definitely a place you will only find alive in the summer at any rate!
In terms of tourist attractions the last place I will take you is the Island of Bolko in the south of the city, easily reachable on foot if you don't mind a bit of a walk (maybe some 20-30 minutes from the centre), this is a preserved area of nature and ideal for walks and escaping the city life.
Built in 1930, though only open to the public from 1936 this is a great place to spend a couple of hours, here you will find over 3800 animals in total in what I would consider spacious environments compared to some zoos. At about 35zl it is maybe the pricier attraction, though you will see Lions, Tigers, Giraffes, Zebras and much more, as well as finding cafe's and tropical plant houses.
A terrific place for nature lovers for sure!
I will give a shout to a few last places of note from my journey, though feel free to check out the Youtube video for more information and sights :)
Mały rynek (small square)
- this is where the locals recommend to go drinking, with about 4 or 5 bars you can get great cocktails or a nice beer with plenty of seating and a friendly atmosphere, I did my best to try as many bars as I could...
Some other bars I noted:
Quchnia - This was a cafe just outside of the centre that the tourist office recommended, I went here for breakfast and left feeling very satisfied!
Red bike hostel bar - good atmosphere and a nice cocktail menu
Kill Bill bar - Colourful shots and cocktails
One main attraction I didn't have time to visit was the Opole rural museum to the north of the city, I've been to a few of these museums in Poland and you can expect to find reconstructions of wooden houses and windmills from the Polish countryside, normally dating back to the 18th Century. You could take a bus to get here and if I'd had a few more hours for sure I would have stopped by to check it out!
The History of Opole - Key dates:
Populated from the 8th Century on the island of Ostrówek, Opole is the capital of the region of the same name.
992 - By the end of the 10th Century it became part of Poland as it was conquered by Duke Mieszko I
1217 - It received the first town rights by Duke Casimir I
During the rule of Bolko I the city really started to develop and it's castle completed, along with the Holy Cross Church and city walls.
1327 - Came under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Bohemia
14th Century - second castle founded (Though may have originally been a wooden castle from the 12th c)
1532 - Came under the sovereighty of the Hasburg monarchy of Austria who would pawn this to different rulers
1655 - King of Poland stayed here during the Swedish invasion and issued the decree for Poles to fight back
1668 - went back to the Hasburgs
1740 - Conquered by King Frederick II of Prussia
1816 - Railway connection between Opole, Brzeg and Wrocław was opened
1849 - Polish Newspaper Gazeta Wiejska dla Górnego Śląska was published
1859 - First manufacturing plants opened
1871 - became part of the German Empire
1928 - 1931 - Germans demolished the Piast castle (except the tower which was saved)
1937 - persecution of Polish citizens began and campaign by the Gestapo launched to spy and terrorize, strong anti-Polish propoganda began
1939 - Mass arrests of Polish citizens began the day before WWII broke out, Polish organisations closed down, assets of the bank confiscated
- 13 forced Labour subcamps were run from this city
1945 - after the war Germans were expelled from the city and Poles from Lviv were moved here after this became part of Ukraine