Opole (Polish: [ɔˈpɔlɛ] (listen); German: Oppeln [ˈɔpl̩n]; Silesian: Ôpole)[lower-alpha 1] 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.

Coordinates: 50°40′N 17°56′E
Countycity county
Town rights1217
  MayorArkadiusz Wiśniewski
  City148.99 km2 (57.53 sq mi)
176 m (577 ft)
 (31 December 2019)
  City128,035 (27th)[1]
  Density860/km2 (2,200/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
  Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
45-001 to 45-960
Area code(s)+48 077
Car platesOP

The origins of the first settlement are connected with the town being granted Magdeburg Rights in 1217 by Casimir I of Opole,[6] 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.[7]

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.[8]

Opole is sometimes referred to as "Polish Venice",[9] because of its picturesque Old Town and several canals and bridges connecting parts of the city.