Opole (Opolskie) is Poland’s smallest province at just 9,400 square kilometres; however it packs a punch for its size and is a treasure trove of attractions for tourists. The province is rich in culture with famous castles and palaces, lots of historical sites and an abundance of beautiful lakes and rivers. The capital of the region is the city of Opole.
Opole is located in southern Poland and around 15% of the one million inhabitants of the voivodeship are ethnic Germans (that’s 90% of all ethnic Germans in Poland). Ethnic Germans first came to this region during the Late Middle Ages because the area was once part of the Prussian province of Silesia. As a result, the German language is co-official in 28 communes.
Opole province is a green region and has the warmest climate in the country. It has three Landscape Parks, Opawskie Mountains, Góra Świętej Anny and Stobrawa and three large lakes, Turawskie, Nyskie, and Otmuchów. Lake Turawskie can be reached by bicycle from Opole and is an ideal location for boating or kitesurfing, fishing for pikeperch or birdwatching from the lake’s sandbanks or lagoons.
Lake Nyskie, a reservoir on the River Nysa Kłodzka with a view onto the Opawskie Mountains and Czechia’s Rychlebské hory, is the perfect place for sunbathing, camping, angling and boating, particularly during summer season.
Popular tourist attractions in the region include the Silesian castle in Brzeg, built during the reign of the Piast dynasty, the Franciscan monastery on top of Saint Anne Mountain and the medieval defence fortifications in Paczków (referred to as the Upper Silesian Carcassonne).
The Silesian castle in Brzeg was initially a stronghold. Today it is the Museum of the Silesian Piasts, among other exhibits, the museum houses Europe’s largest collection of gravestones of a single dynasty.
Another castle of note is the fairytale castle in Moszna; which was allegedly once inhabited by the Knights Templar.
JuraPark Krasiejów is the world’s only museum standing on an active palaeontological dig and here you can take a journey back in time and view almost 200 models of 70 species of Mesozoic amphibians and reptiles. The Palaeontological Pavilion houses Europe’s biggest fossils from Triassic amphibians and reptiles, viewed through the glass floor.
The Central Museum of Prisoners of War in Łambinowice is a unique place commemorating the prisoners of the three POW camps that operated within the local military training ground. The first camp was set up by the Prussians for French POWs during the Franco-Prussian War. During World War II, one of the biggest Wehrmacht POW camp complexes existed here: Stalag VIII B, Stalag 318/VIII F and Stalag 344. After the war, part of the complex was used by the Polish Security Service (SB) as a labour camp where Germans and Silesians were held before being displaced from Poland and former members of Nazi organisations were imprisoned.
The Wooden Religious Architecture Trail will take you from Opole across Opole Silesia to a total of twelve charming old churches, among them a top-class historical site: St. Anne’s Pilgrimage Church which is based on the outline of a five-petal rose.