7 things to see and do in Wrocław, Poland
There are places where everyone wants to go, those cities on the bucket list. And there are cities that appeared instantly on the radar and became, in a second, the hottest spot to travel to. Because that city has a treasure hunt with dwarfs, mural street art, a lesson of compassion and tolerance and a very cool place to learn all about the water. I fell in love with the city of Wrocław and, therefore, here are my favourite 7 things to see and do in Wrocław, Polonia.
1. The city architecture & the houses renovated in colourful ways. Wrocław, Poland, is a city marked by the German occupation (and the World War II) and this kind of influence could be seen in way of seeing things, but also in architecture, especially in the city centre. In the middle of those ginger bread houses in Rynek (Market Square) there is a modern glass fountain, that depicts the Karpatian mountains seen from the city.
The Town Hall is one of the most interesting Gothic buildings. It is one of the few mayors in the world that have a brewery under the offices. The Świdnicka Cellar is considered to be one, if not the oldest restaurant in Europe – there is a secret tunnel which leads to the house where the beer supplying the restaurant was brewed. On the east facade, look for the astronomical clock dating to 1580.
Not to miss: the tiny „Hensel and Gretel“ houses, joined by an arch.
Fun fact: years ago, there was a gas station in the middle of the square.
To eat traditional food here: the restaurant Karczma Lwowska @karczmalwowska; try the piroshki!
2. The Dwarfs – it has been said that are over 600 of them all over the city. Nobody knows for sure, because everyday a new one appears. There is the one marking the first printing machine ever used in Poland, the naked one with an umbrella in front of the University, a prisoner and even one extracting money from a little ATM. They are perfect for a children treasure hunt in the city (you could find an app on your mobile app store).
The official story: in 2001, to commemorate the Orange Alternative (Polish anti-communist movement), a monument of a dwarf (the movement’s symbol) was officially placed on Świdnicka Street, where the group’s gatherings used to take place. In 2003, the Mayor of Wrocław, in an attempt to continue the new tradition, unveiled a small plaque on the door of The Dwarves’ Museum.
3. The river Odra. Everything in the city has to do with the river.
Firstly, the beautiful university is next to the river (I wish I had such a view on my university!) One of the must-sees is the extravagantly decorated Baroque hall, Aula Leopoldina, with a ceiling fresco, gilded stucco, sculpted cherubs and portraits of the university’s founding fathers.
Fan fact: there is a cable cabin over the river intended to be the response of the students pleads that they have to cross the river for classes – students and professors can ride for free in that one.
Secondly, the famous cathedral. Constructed in the Brick Gothic style in the 13th century after the Mongol invasion had destroyed its predecessor, the cathedral is recognised by its sky-scraping towers soaring to almost 100 metres. The Siege of Breslau took its toll on the building, leaving about three quarters in ruins, and the restoration continued through to 1991. There are 21 chapels inside. There’s a lift to carry you to the top of one of the towers for the best vistas of Wrocław.
Thirdly, the green parks and the numerous lounges and restaurants on the shore. To notice: the boats that are crossing the river with tourists are solar panels ones. Super ecological!
To eat with a beautiful night view of the University: restaurant La Maddalena – @lamaddalenarestaurant. Perfect for vegetarians, they have a special menu – de-li-ci-ous!
4. The landmarks not to miss.
Royal Palace, originally a baroque palace of the Prussian monarchy, was heavily damaged during the siege of the city at the end of the Second World War. It now houses the city museum. Next to this palace nowadays stands the postmodern building of National Forum of Music (of course they have, in front, an orchestra of dwarfs).
An important landmark in the city is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Wrocław – holds the largest pipe organ in Poland, built in 1913 and numerous stain glass windows.
I love: the story and the monument to the Angelus Silesius Johannes Scheffler Ossolineum, a Baroque poet, in the garden near the Pontifical Faculty of Theology.
Not to miss: the Centaniall Hall. Raised in 1913 for the 100th anniversary of the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig, the Centennial Hall is a technical marvel from the end of Wrocław’s German era, built by the city architect Max Berg. Next to it: the Museum of Contemporary art and the sculptures of artist Magdalena Abakanowicz.
5. The Four Denominations area – a mix of cool and hipster like cafes, a courtyard with disco bars and a lot of funeral service houses. Yes, I know, kind of ironic, isn’t it?
At the entrance in this area you could find the Crystal Planet sculpture by artist Ewa Rossano – symbolises unity of the world, regardless of religious and cultural differences. The sculpture stands at the entrance to the District of Four Denominations. It is a part of Wrocław, where one can find the temples of Lutherans, Orthodox, Catholics and Jews.
Super cool attraction: the Neon Side Gallery, that functions in the place of the old Reklama enterprise, which produced neon signs & Ruska 46 gallery @recepcja_ruska46.
Not to miss here: the cinema in a very modern building (yes, with a little dwarf at the entrance).
To look for: the artistic quarter Nadodrze, with tiny artisan shops (like Pracownia 17 – https://www.pracownia17.pl) and cool cafes – restaurant Powoli – https://www.facebook.com/powolicafe/- had the best pancake with plums!
Cross the street for: Concordia Design Worclaw (@concordia_design_worclaw) the design centre – an artistic hub with photography exhibition, a very large artistic mural and a super instagramable rooftop & cafe.
6. The street-art and the revival of the city
Nadodrze is the island between the two major forks in the Odra River, which runs through Wrocław. It’s long been a working-class neighborhood, with many pre-war buildings which look like they haven’t been touched since the war. Here, a lot of street mural art found their place – Firda Khalo next to Spong Bob, imitations in graffitti of van Goghn and Munch or Mondrian, dogs and angels…
7. Hydropolis Centre for Ecological Education is a science centre dedicated to water. Is located in a 4600 m² historic neo-Gothic underground reservoir, which had been used for drinking water from the time of its construction in the 1890s. The history of the origin of water, the bathyscape, some unknown stories about water, a snow simulator and a beautiful water printer. Follow the blue line! www.hydropolis.pl.