Wrocław is one of the oldest and the most beautiful Polish cities. It is situated at the foot of the Sudetes, on the River Oder and cut by the river’s numerous tributaries and channels. What is more, it is a unique city of 12 islands and over one hundred bridges. This is the city abounding in greenery and parks. Wrocław is one of the leading centres of Polish education and culture as well as entertainment and leisure. Numerous parks and river tourism resorts. The beginnings of Wrocław go back to the 10th century. The first records can be found in the papal bull which established the episcopate. The most spectacular growth took place in the 19th and 20th century. Wrocław, which was largely destroyed during the war, regained its former splendour relatively fast and was not only built up but also developed in many aspects. With regard to population, Wrocław is the 4th most populated city in Poland – over 600 thousand inhabitants. Moreover, it has an area of 293 km² – 5th place in the country. Wrocław is divided into 5 administrative districts: Stare Miasto, Śródmieście, Fabryczna, Psie Pole and Krzyki. It is an important industrial, commercial and cultural center. In addition to that, it is a main hub and a capital of Wrocław metropolis.
The city is one of the major centres of education. There are many universities, theological universities, public and private colleges. One of the most known academies is the Polish Army Academy. The division of the Polish Academy of Sciences located in Wrocław conducts many researches; numerous libraries make large book collection available to the public; theatres offer frequent play premieres and museums have impressive art collections. There are many cultural events in Wrocław: music, theatrical and movie ones. On the 21st of June, 2011 Wrocław was selected as a European Capital of Culture for 2016.
The beginnings of Wrocław are connected with the year 1000 when the episcopate was established; however, 150 years earlier some Slavic tribes were settling here creating first settlements. The most crucial and the oldest district of the city is Ostrów Tumski. Initially, the Polish Piast dynasty remained in control of this region. In 1241 the inhabitants burnt the town and left it due to the Mongol invasion. Only the castle survived. After the town’s rebuilding, Czech kings were in power and then The Habsburg Dynasty. The history of Wrocław, a Silesian city, is closely connected with transformations in Silesia region – being passed from Czech hand to Prussian and Polish hand. The city did not avoid Napoleonic siege as well. During the course of XVIII-XIX centuries, Wrocław was the center for Enlightenment period thought. After the year 1812, the rapid growth of Jewish community took place – synagogues were built and the Jewish Theological Seminary was established. It is worth pointing out that in 1933, 20 thousand Jews were residents of Wrocław who were killed or escaped after the outbreak of the II World War (due to being persecuted). Since the middle of the XIX century, the city became the important industrial center (the cigars factory, textile industry, the carriage factory). The railway and the river navigation had developed, the gasworks started to operate (1847) and the power station as well (1893), the population increased from about 100 thousand in the year 1840 to 500 thousand in 1909. Since the middle of the XIX century and during the interwar period, Polish organizations and institutions operated in Wrocław despite of its affiliation to Germany – they were liquidated in September, 1939.
The period of war was very characteristic for the city. Due to the fact of being a part of Silesia region and then in consequence a part of Prussia, Germans named the city Festung Breslau. Breslau as a fortress was a place of residence for important German officials and exposed to Soviet bombing in 1945. 750 bombers took part in the bombing. As a result of fighting, 70 % of the town was destroyed and some districts were levelled with the ground. Within the area of Wrocław, 4 sub-camps of the Gross-Rossen concentration camp were set up during the war. There was a prison, a detention facility and a temporary camp. Silesia along with Wrocław became a part of Poland under the terms of the Potsdam Conference on the 2nd of August, 1945. As a consequence of that decision, German population was resettled and the refugees from the East settled this region. After the war, Wrocław was not only rebuilt but also built up. Its borders were widened and surrounding villages like Zgorzelisko, Zakrzów, Wójtów and Sołtyskowice became a part of the city. In November, 1945, Wrocław University were established, the theatre conducted by T. Trzciński and Wrocław Scientific Society started to operate.
The architecture of Wrocław was severely affected by the war; however, some buildings managed to survive and many of them were renovated. Thanks to that, Wrocław has many architectural monuments from the Piast dynasty times. The most interesting places are Gothic churches and baroque secular buildings. The most valuable monuments are mostly located in Ostrów Tumski: the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the St. Mary Magdalene Polish National Catholic Church, the Basilica of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, the Church of the Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew, the SS Stanislaus, Dorothy, and Wenceslas Church, the neo-Gothic St. Michael Archangel Church; the baroque complex of main buildings of the Wrocław University; the neo-Gothic building of the Main Station, the Oper Wrocław, the building of Piast Brewery, the palace of the family von Spätgen, the palace of the family von Schaffgotsch, the Post Office and water towers. In addition to that, there are over 8 thousand historic tenement houses in the city.
Wrocław is the leader in electromechanical industry (the second place after Warsaw). What is more, there are lots of factories which produce machines used in agriculture, food industry and construction; the truck factory as well as chemical, clothing , wood, textile and building industries. Economic transformations during the 90s caused the liquidation of some factories and redundancy. At the same time, non-productive sectors experienced a rapid growth – there were set up numerous institutions supporting the entrepreneurship growth, the city promotion and international cooperation. Wrocław is also a crucial financial and insurance center with well-developed service infrastructure and one of the biggest railway junctions in Poland (11 lines converge here). Moreover, Wrocław is an important road junction and airport.