Wroc³aw, situated on the Odra river, is the historic capital of Lower Silesia. The city emerged at the intersection of major trade routes linking the West and South with Eastern and Northern Europe. In its 1000-year history the city has undergone many political, economic and cultural changes that have contributed to Wroc³aw's present architectonic and cultural visage.
Wroc³aw experienced historic and political changes similar to the entire area of Lower Silesia belonging to the Polish, Czech, Austrian and Prussian kingdoms. At present Wroc³aw is Poland's fourth largest city with a population of nearly 700,000 and an area of 293 square kilometres.
Being a communication, industrial, academic, scientific and cultural centre, the city is the greatest tourist attraction in south-western Poland. The city has very convenient and fast communications with both Polish towns and other European countries. The International Airport offers regular flights to Frankfurt/Main, Copenhagen, Vienna and Warsaw. Wroc³aw has also direct railway connections with such European cities as: Berlin (5 hrs), Hamburg (9 hrs), Dresden (4 hrs), Prague (4 hrs), Budapest (12 hrs).
Wroclaw is an academic city with venerable tradition, 11 universities are located here:
There are 10 Nobel prize winners that have been associated with Wroclaw:
Wroc³aw is a very picturesque city with a great number of green areas, parks and 115 bridges spanning five rivers cutting across the city. Although Wroc³aw was devastated by World War II and 70% of the city lay in ruins (in 1945 it was transformed into the stronghold of the Nazis "Festung Breslau") it has now been rebuilt. Since the beginning of 90's it has been undergoing modernisation and reconstruction. Not only has the Old Town been renovated but also the void areas of the city are being built over with the new or reconstructed buildings.
The oldest part of the town, situated on the islands on the Odra river, is called Ostrów Tumski. There is a complex of Gothic sacred architecture dating from 13-15th centuries: the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist built on the site of the first cathedral from the year 1000, the Holy Cross Church that served as a mausoleum for the Silesian Piasts, St. Martin's Church adjacent to a castle and St. Giles' Church, the oldest. The heart of the city is Rynek and Solny Square, whose urban plan was drawn up around 1241 when Wroc³aw gained the status of a "civitas". In addition to Renaissance, Baroque and Classicist burgher houses also worth seeing are Sukiennice, the gothic Town Hall and St. Elizabeth's parish church. In the Old Town there is also the Baroque main University building from the 18th century, the academic Church of Jesus Christ, the Church of Our Lady on the Sand and the opera house. Today's tourist attraction of Wroc³aw is The Panorama of the Battle of Rac³awice. It is a monumental painting (120 m x 15 m) created by Jan Styka and Wojciech Kossak depicting the battle of 1794 under the command of Tadeusz Kociuszko. Outside the city centre, attention should be drawn to the exhibition grounds with the People's Hall designed by Max Berg to mark the centenary of the battle of Leipzig.
Owing to its rich traditions, Wroc³aw is regarded as an important and outstanding Polish as well as European cultural centre. Its cultural life takes place in 9 theatres, the Philharmonic Hall, the Opera House, 12 museums, 15 major art galleries, 13 cinemas and several television stations. The largest Polish film studios are located in Wroc³aw as are many important publishing houses, including the Ossolineum, a venerable institution which has a 183-year heritage as an outstanding contribution to Polish culture. Every year Wroc³aw hosts a large number of festivals, symposiums and competitions. The International Festival Wratislavia Cantans has a 30-year tradition, with choirs and singers from distant countries representing the highest level of skill competing every year. One of the Festival's guests was Prince Edward. The International Open Theatre Meetings have been organised for ten seasons. The Festival of Polish Modern Arts has a 30-year tradition. The Festival "Jazz on the Odra" takes place every year. The Festival of Stage Song has developed and "grew up" during the many years of its existence. The International Drawing Triennial started few years ago presents the most interesting phenomena in art. WRO, an annual festival of visual and computer art, has been hold for the last 4 years and has attracted a lot of international attention.
In addition to the many ordinary cultural institutions, there are some very unusual ones. Jerzy Grotowski and his theatre have inspired a large number of followers now working at The Centre of Studies on Jerzy Grotowski's Work and Cultural and Theatrical Research. Henryk Tomaszewski's Pantomime Theatre has been one of the most original art phenomena for 35 years and is very popular not only in Poland but also in Europe.