Kłodzko (Czech: Kladsko, German: Glatz, Latin: Glacio) is a town in Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland. Located in the southern Kłodzko Valley, the town is renown for its large former military fortress, its number of ornate monuments, and its historical medieval stone bridge, which has given the town its nickname, "Little Prague." The population of Kłodzko is nearly 28,000.
Situated in the historical border zone between the Bohemian and Polish kingdoms, Kłodzko sits on the ancient northern and central European trade routes. Since its foundation in the 10th century, Kłodzko has changed hands a number of times by various kingdoms, empires and states. In the early Middle Ages, the Polish and Bohemian kingdoms vied for control over the town, resulting in a number of handovers, invasions and sacks during this period. The arrival German Augustinian monks beginning in 1376 began a slow Germanization of Kłodzko, resulting with the town's Slavic influence waning by the 15th century. Kłodzko suffered immense damage and depopulation during the Hussite Wars between 1419 to 1432, yet despite these setbacks, the town was declared an integral outer region of the Kingdom of Bohemia under King George of Poděbrady, who elevated Kłodzko as a county in 1459.
As Bohemia was subsumed under the Austrian Habsburg monarchy in the 16th century, Kłodzko (now under its German name Glatz) expanded greatly as a result of trade and royal investment. Much of its old town was built using Renaissance and later Baroque architecture. During the Thirty Years' War, Kłodzko faced conflict again between the rebellious Bohemian Estates and Austrian-led Imperial troops, who laid siege several times. After the war, the Austrians stripped all municipal and county government functions from Kłodzko.
During the First Silesian War in 1740, the Kingdom of Prussia invaded and successfully annexed the lands around the town, depriving Austria access to the Kłodzko Valley. Twenty years later in 1760 during the Seven Years' War, Austria briefly recaptured Kłodzko after a month-long siege, though the Austrians relinquished control of Kłodzko back to Prussia following the war's conclusion. The town was later captured by French and Bavarian forces during the War of the Fourth Coalition (a part of the Napoleonic Wars) in 1807.
Kłodzko became part of the German Empire in 1871. In the decades that followed, the town and its surrounding region underwent heavy investment due to the blossoming spa, sauna and health industries. Railroads connected the town to the rest of the empire, followed by tourists interested to relax in Kłodzko's sedate charms.
Kłodzko suffered no damage during World War II, yet its fortifications became a center for slave labor and prisoners of war during the Nazi regime. In 1945, the Soviet Red Army occupied Kłodzko, resulting in the expulsion of its German population and its subsequent annexation by Poland. Unfortunately during the communist period, Kłodzko's infrastructure suffered immensely, leaving many of its former tourist facilities to crumble or outright vanish.
Today, Kłodzko is reemerging as a tourist center in southern Lower Silesia, especially for Germans drawn to the region to rediscover ancestral links.
Kłodzko is situated in the Kłodzko Valley, an uneven geographical location traversed by the upper Nysa Kłodzka River. The valley is surrounded by a number of mountain ranges, including the Table and Owl Mountains. The town of Kłodzko itself is hilly, with the old town occupying a mount.
The closest airport to Kłodzko is Wrocław–Copernicus Airport (WRO), around 90 km north, or an eighty minute drive. Copernicus Airport offers routes by several mainstream airlines, including SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Lufthansa, Etihad Regional and Poland's national carrier LOT. Additional low cost airlines flying to and from Wrocław include Germanwings, Ryanair and Wizz Air. Domestic flights operated by LOT (under the Eurolot brand) connect the airport with Gdańsk.
Kłodzko is a major crossroads town between several national roads. The town is intersected from the south by DK33, from the west and northeast by DK8 (E67), and from the east by DK46. There are no motorways or expressways linking Kłodzko, and none are expected or planned for the foreseeable future.
Kłodzko is the regional center for southern Lower Silesia's bus network. From the town's bus station (dworzec autobusowy) near the foot of the old town, travelers can arrive and depart. One of the major companies serving the town and the surrounding county is PKS Kłodzko. Smaller companies serving other routes can be researched through e-podroznik.pl.
The town is serviced by two rail stations, Kłodzko Miasto and Kłodzko Główne. National regional line Przewozy Regionalne and the provincial operator Koleje Dolnośląskie all provide service to the town, largely from Wrocław. For the closest rail station to the historic town center, visitors should use the slightly shabby Kłodzko Miasto station. As Kłodzko is a major transfer point to other lines around the Kłodzko Valley and into the neighboring Czech Republic beyond, visitors should not be surprised if they must transfer in the town while heading to southerly locations. Most transfers occur at Kłodzko Główne, which was beautifully restored in 2013.
Kłodzko can be easily explored by foot, and does not require transport around the town to explore its various sites.
As Kłodzko is a crossroads town, access in or out is relatively easy. Thirty minutes west is the important spa town of Kudowa-Zdrój, which is accessible by car, bus, and train. Also to the west, some thirty minutes, is the holy center of Wambierzyce. To the east, the small yet charming spa town of Lądek-Zdrój is thirty minutes away, accessible by car and bus. To the north, the provincial capital of Wrocław is located two hours away, with frequent bus and rail connections between both locations. Nearly completely surrounded by the Czech Republic, Kłodzko is also an excellent place to begin an exploration of East Bohemia. The Czech regional capital of Hradec Králové is 90 minutes to the west of the city.