Wrocław (pronounced vrots-waf) is Poland's fourth-largest city and a bit of a hidden gem. With a fascinating history, photogenic Old Town and large student population, Wrocław is a vibrant mix of old and new. This 8 Best Things to Do in Wroclaw, Poland guide covers some of the activities that contribute to this fun and interesting combination.
Whether you choose to explore the city by following its quirky dwarf statues, by marvelling at the views from its many church towers, or by simply sitting back and watching the world go by from an Old Town cafe, you are sure to be won over by Wrocław's charms.
I was in Wrocław from mid-September to mid-October last year, and the enchanting city stole my heart. Early autumn was a great time to visit as temperatures were still mild and the town was lively without being overrun with tourists.
As long as your accommodation is reasonably close to the Rynek (the Market Square), you will find that the city is very walkable. Wrocław also has a network of trams which are cheap, efficient and easy to use.
The Rynek, Wrocław's stunning market square, is the perfect starting point for your visit. The colourful facades that line the square are architecturally diverse, ranging from a Gothic style to Art Nouveau. Don't forget your camera as you will want to capture the Rynek from every angle, especially after dark when the square is particularly photogenic.
Given that the Rynek is at the centre of the Old Town, it's not surprising that some of the restaurants and bars are tourist traps. Having said that, there are a few that are worth a visit: head to the Literatka for drinks while overlooking the square, the Akropolis for tasty Greek food and the Wok In for incredibly cheap and healthy Asian food.
The dwarf statues that are scattered throughout Wrocław have become one of the city’s main tourist attractions. It all started in 2001 when the “Papa Dwarf” statue was introduced to Wrocław to commemorate the efforts of the Orange Alternative, an underground movement that opposed communism by wearing dwarf hats and painting dwarf graffiti.
In 2005, five smaller dwarf statues were brought in to the city, and since then, over 100 of these cheeky characters have popped up outside various businesses and attractions.
However, if you would like to find out more about the Orange Alternative and communism in Poland, I highly recommend joining the free walking tour offered by Walkative.
Your guide will take you around the Old Town, stopping at various dwarf statues and using them to explain what life was like under communism. The guide for the tour I joined was a child at this time, and hearing him talk about his memories really made the history come alive.
There are three tours a week, and you can book your slot online. The meeting point is in the Rynek, and the tour runs for about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Although these tours are free, tips are very much appreciated, and based on my experience, they are well deserved.
This Gothic church is one of the most iconic buildings in Wrocław, and the views from the 91-metre high tower are spectacular. It's not the easiest of climbs to get to the top though; it consists of 300 steps up a narrow spiral staircase.
If you can handle this climb, you will be rewarded with a 360-degree view of the city, including a bird's-eye view of the colourful Rynek.
Chocolate lovers should not miss out on a visit to Czekoladziarnia. This cosy cafe serves up all kinds of sweet treats, but it’s the hot chocolate that is the real star of the show.
Czekoladziarnia’s hot chocolate is thick, creamy and decadent, served with your choice of cinnamon, ginger, chilli or cardamom. The spices come in little shakers for you to add yourself, ensuring that it is always to your liking.
You can find this chocolatey haven on the corner of Więzienna and Igielna, just off of the Rynek. Sink into one of the comfy red sofas, or grab a table outside and take an indulgent break from sightseeing.
For an unusual souvenir, head to Galeria Polskiego Plakatu (the Polish Poster Gallery) and browse their impressive collection of posters by local artists.
They have lots of original movie posters that depict everything from cult classics to mainstream hits and a wide range of travel posters that celebrate various Polish cities and attractions. I loved how unique and artistic the posters were, and I think they make a great souvenir or gift for the film buff in your life.
If the posters are too big for you to take home, many of the designs are also available on postcards.
Cathedral Island, or Ostrów Tumski in Polish, is the oldest part of the city, and as the name suggests, is home to several churches. The Gothic St. John the Baptist Cathedral is probably the most impressive, and you can also enjoy incredible views from one of its towers. Unlike St. Elizabeth's, you can rest your legs this time as St. John the Baptist has an elevator!
This area is a picturesque part of Wrocław with pretty cobbled streets and a relaxed atmosphere. Cathedral Island is also where you'll find the city's botanical gardens which are open from April to mid-November.
Make sure you stay on Cathedral Island until dusk to see the lamplighter do his daily rounds, lighting the 103 gas lamps by hand.
This fascinating history museum is housed in an old tram depot and focuses on the postwar history of Wrocław and the region of Lower Silesia. The exhibits are well presented, and the use of multi-media makes them particularly engaging.
Through the visual exhibits and detailed explanations in English, you can learn about what life was like for Wrocław's citizens and what they had to deal with after World War II, from food and petrol shortages to poorly-constructed apartment buildings and even martial law.
If the walking tour sparked your interest in the Orange Alternative and other anti-communist movements, you can also learn more about them here. There are Orange Alternative posters, photos of their gatherings and one of the orange dwarf hats on display.
History Centre Zajezdnia is open from Tuesday to Sunday and costs ten złoty to enter. To get here, take tram number 4 from Świdnicka (a few minutes from the Rynek) to Bzowa.
If you like to get off the beaten path when you travel, why not take the tram to Szczytnicki Park and join the locals for a break from the city?
With over 100 hectares of lush greenery, Szczytnicki Park is the largest outdoor recreational space in Wrocław. The main attractions are the Japanese garden (open April to October) and the 16th-century wooden church of St. John of Nepomuk.
The park is also the perfect place to walk, jog or relax with a picnic. Make sure you also listen out for woodpeckers - I was lucky enough to spot two during the afternoon I was here.
Just next to Szczytnicki Park is Centennial Hall, an architecturally-striking building that opened in 1913 and joined the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2006. I didn't go inside, but I did enjoy sitting by the fountain next to the main entrance and walking along the Pergola, a pretty semi-circular collonade.
If you visit between May and the end of September, you will be able to catch one of the impressive Multimedia Fountain shows in which water is projected up to 40 metres high.
The performances can last up to 18 minutes and are accompanied by music, which ranges from the likes of Wagner and Beethoven to more modern pop music. The most breathtaking shows are held after dark on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays when the full capacity of the fountain's 800 lights are on display.
Entrance to Szczytnicki Park and the fountain show are free, but you have to pay to enter the Japanese garden. To get here, take tram number 33 from Świdnicka to Chopina.
I completely fell in love with this little gem of a city! Given its compact size, I think Wrocław is the perfect destination for a weekend break, or you could enjoy the city at a more leisurely pace and use it as a base for a longer stay in Poland.
Wroclaw truly has something for everyone: fascinating free tours for history enthusiasts, a beautiful market square for budding photographers, an expansive park for nature lovers and incredible hot chocolate for those with a sweet tooth.
I hope this list has inspired you to visit Wrocław for yourself and give this lovely city the attention it deserves. Another underrated Polish town worthy of your time is Gdansk, a coastal town north of Wroclaw and Warsaw, and a great place to visit any time of year!
This article was edited by Loredana Elena.
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