A gate to the Wawel castle in Krakow

Find out the names of the greenest Polish cities

Find out the names of the greenest Polish cities

And which ones offer the smallest share of greenery to their inhabitants

In order to identify which Polish cities offer the largest quality green areas, the Urban Policy Observatory of the Institute of Urban and Regional Development (IRMiR) conducted an extensive research, the results of which were shared on 16 March 2021. Using satellite images, they analysed the state of green areas in cities with over 100,000 inhabitants and ranked them according to their area, fragmentation and accessibility.

Measuring the availability and the access to green spaces in Polish cities

Greenery is essential for the proper functioning of urban ecosystems, the authors of the research explained, as it is a natural filter of pollutants, including suspended dust, while it also reduces the excessive amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And that is why it is essential to preserve it in good condition.

Precisely the well-kept green areas in big cities were the focus of attention of the Urban Policy Observatory. They used Sentinel 2 images to determine the areas covered with vegetation in good condition (understood through the level chlorophyll content). To make their conclusions, they analysed the following:

  • the share of green areas in the total area of ​​the city
  • the fragmentation of green areas
  • the availability of green areas as a share of people with access to green areas within 5 minutes’ walk.

So, the first indicator showed the following data: Koszalin has the greatest share of greenery with 70% followed by Zielona Góra (67.5%), Kielce (66.8%), Dąbrowa Górnicza (63.4%) and Bielsko-Biała (62.9%). The lowest values ​​were observed in Opole (25.2%), Kalisz (28.1%), Białystok (35.1%), Lublin (36%), Gdańsk (40.1%) and Wrocław (40.9%). The two largest cities – Warsaw and Krakow, have above national average shares.

It is interesting to observe how compact city greenery is, where it is distributed among larger patches. Thus, cities with the highest degree of fragmentation were: Kalisz (0.55), Opole (0.4), Wrocław (0.39), Lublin (0.39), Łódź (0.34) and Gorzów Wielkopolski (0.34). On the other side of the spectrum, with the most consistent structures of greenery were: Gdynia (0.12), Kalisz (0.12), Zielona Góra (0.13), Katowice (0.15), Elbląg (0.15) and Dąbrowa Górnicza (0.16).

However, it should be mentioned that Gdynia has large forest areas within the city, covering almost 45% of its area and this counted towards its result. So, for a future report on the topic of environmental and climate change adaptation, the authors will take into account only urbanised areas. On the other hand, a fragmented structure of green spaces might be a signal of mixed-use spatial development policies.

Finally, the authors discovered that on average, half of the city populations have access to large green areas within 5 minutes on foot. However, the highest accessibility was observed in Rzeszów (77.9%), Ruda Śląska (75.7%), Olsztyn (72.6%), Koszalin (70.3%), Kraków (65.7%) and Wałbrzych (65.4%). On the contrary, least accessible were the green areas in Opole (3%), Elbląg (14.5%), Kalisz (20.2%), Białystok (23.9%), Chorzów (28.1%) and Tychy (33, 9%).

The details on the research and its methodology are available on the website of IRMiR (in Polish).

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