02 Jan Wrocław, Poland – Travel Guide
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The first thing any visitor will want to do when arriving in Wrocław is to learn how to pronounce its
name. If like us you mistakenly kept saying you were visiting ‘Rok-claw’, you will quickly find out that
this south eastern Polish city is actually pronounced more like ‘Vrots-waff’! With that confusion
safely out of the way, we soon realised what a gem of a city this was. Similar to the more famous
Krakow, the city of Wrocław is home to stunning architecture and fascinating history and well worth
at least a long weekend to take in its many attractions.
5 Unmissable Attractions:
Market Square (Rynek) – Wrocław Market Square was hit badly by the Second World War and had to be totally rebuilt. The architects and builders need to be commended, as the square is a delight to the eye, with its colourful buildings and architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Art Nouveau. The rebuild has stuck religiously to the original urban grid pattern laid out in 1241. We easily spent a couple of hours wandering around the city centre taking in its beauty – the camera batteries died long before we were finished with our little tour!
Address: Rynek 1, Wrocław, Poland
Wrocław Town Hall (Ratusz Wrocław ski) – The highlight of Wrocław Market Square for us was the stunning Gothic-style Town Hall, which looks like it came straight out of a fairy-tale. Before entering the hall, take note of the replica of the stone pillory – it was used to flog people from 1492 right up into the 18th century. Inside the hall, where construction was started in the 13th century, you can visit the Great Hall, the Room of the Elders and the Civil Hall.Address: Rynek, 50-996 Wrocław, Poland
Panorama of the Battle of Raclawice – The Panorama of the Battle of Raclawice is a massive 19th century painting (15x114m) which transports the visitor into the middle of the battle. The painting celebrated the 100th anniversary of one of the most important battles for Polish independence during the Kościuszko Insurrection. The Poles are a patriotic nation and very proud of their history, ensuring that this attraction is always busy – so much so that we were unable to gain entry due to the crowds of Polish school children. Always plan to visit the panorama early to avoid the disappointment that we felt.
Address: Jana Ewangelisty Purkyniego 11, 50-155 Wrocław, Poland
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (Katedra sw. Jana Chrzciciela) – The Cathedral was actually the first brick building in Poland, with construction beginning in 1244. The beautiful interiors are well worth seeing, but we found that the highlight of the church is the stunning view of Wrocław from the top of one of its towers. Thankfully there is an elevator that takes you most of the way (although you have to walk back down). Make sure you get your tickets for the observation platform before you take the elevator, because, if like us you mistakenly overlook the ticket booth and head straight up, you will be sent straight back down to get your ticket!
Address: plac Katedralny 18, 50-329 Wrocław, Poland
Wrocław Multimedia Fountain (Wrocławska Fontanna Multimedialna) – The Wrocław Multimedia Fountain is the biggest fountain in Poland and one of the biggest in Europe. An afternoon can easily be spent wandering around the fountain and gardens or having a coffee (or beer) sat outside the Pergola restaurant. With over 300 water jets and the music playing, the fountain display is impressive in its size, even more so at night when the it is synchronised with lights.
Address: Wystawowa 1, Wrocław, Poland
10 Hidden Gems:
The dwarfs of Wrocław are, in some instances, quite literally hidden around the city. Hunting these little bronze gnomes has become quite a fun activity for visitors, and we had an amusing time playing this treasure hunt, trying to find as many of the 350-plus dwarfs as possible. As we toured the city, we were very interested to learn of the origin of the dwarfs. The Orange Alternative, which was a protest group based in Wrocław during the time of the oppressive Communist regime, had the dwarf as its symbol, and the city honoured the freedom movement by placing a bronze dwarf in the city centre in 2001. Since then, the dwarfs have multiplied and can often be found in hilarious poses.
St. Mary Magdalene Church (Kościół pw. św. Marii Magdaleny) – St. Mary Magdalene Church was built between 1342 and 1362, with its towers being completed around a hundred years later. The most interesting part to a visit is the chance to walk between the towers across the intriguingly named ‘Witches’ Bridge’. Legend has it that the bridge is haunted by the voice of Tekla the witch, who was condemned to clean the bridge for eternity because of her laziness during life. We didn’t hear her voice, but we did get a good view over part of the city centre.
Address: ul. Szewska 10, Wrocław 50-122, Poland
Market Hall (Hala Targowa) – The reinforced concrete structure of the Market Hall was built between 1906 and 1908. The architecture is stark, but strangely pleasing, and we found that by walking around the market you experience a slice of non-touristy Wrocław. If you are at the market at lunchtime, make sure that you try one of its pierogi bars!
Address: ul. Piaskowa 17, Wrocław 50-158, Poland
Memorial to Slaughtered Animals (Pomnik Ku Czci Zwierzat Rzeznych) – Wrocław loves its memorials and statues, and perhaps one of the most bizarre ones is the Memorial to Slaughtered Animals. These are barnyard animal statues in what used to be a medieval row of abattoirs! Hop on and get your photo taken!
Address: Stare Jatki, Wrocław , Poland
Red Army Cemetary – Wedged between two busy roads going into the city centre, the Red Army Cemetary was established after the war for Red Army officers. It is a peaceful and respectful area, guarded by T-34 tanks and artillery at all three entrance gates. The cemetery numbers some 2,000 graves (of an estimated 6,000 Soviet casualties), including several large monuments and the graves of six ‘Heroes of the Soviet Union.
Address: Aleja Karkonoska, Wrocław , Poland
Japanese Garden – Szczytnicki Park – Created for the World Exhibition of 1913, the Japanese Gardens are a delight to wander through and only a couple of minutes’ walk from the Multimedia Fountain. The gardens are an ideal place to come with the family, especially if you bring a picnic!
Address: Adama Mickiewicza 1, 51-618 Wrocław, Poland
The Old Jewish Cemetery – The Old Jewish Cemetery was established in 1856 and remained in comparatively good condition throughout the Second World War. Many cemeteries were destroyed during this war, but this one has a beautiful mix of grave stones and large monuments. The cemetery was the scene of some fierce fighting in 1945, and if you look closely enough, you will see the bullet holes knocked out of the monuments. There are around 12,000 tombstones and we found it a very peaceful place to walk around.
Address: Ul. Slezna 37/39, Wrocław 53-301, Poland
Pavilion of the Four Domes – When visiting the attractions around the Centennial Hall, like the Multimedia Fountain or the Japanese Gardens, most travellers seem to miss the modern art gallery housed in the Pavilion of the Four Domes, and this is a great shame. We weren’t familiar with the works of the Polish artists such as Magdalena Abakanowicz, Władysław Hasior, Tadeusz Kantor and Alina Szapocznikow, but by the time we had viewed their art, we were highly impressed.
Address: Pawilon Czterech Kopuł, Wystawowa 1, Wrocław, Poland
Wrocław Royal Palace – Completed in 1717, this compact, but magnificent building, was held in such high regard, that it became a royal palace of the Prussian King Frederick the Great in 1750. Today, it houses an interesting museum displaying the history of the city. One of the displays that caught our eye as we walked round was regarding the Iron Cross military medal – it turns out the palace was the birthplace of this medal in 1813 during the Napoleonic Wars.
Address: Kazimierza Wielkiego 35, 50-077 Wrocław, Poland
History Centre – Zajezdnia (Centrum Historii Zajezdnia) – Housed in an old tram depot, this museum gives a valuable insight into the postwar history of Wrocław. The city had been the German city of Breslau, but following the Second World War, the borders were changed, and this area became part of Poland. The Germans were removed from the city and Poles who were displaced from Ukrainian lands that had traditionally been part of Poland, moved in and rebuilt the shattered city, naming it Wrocław. Such a tumultuous time and we found that this story was told perfectly by the museum. The Communist era, as well as the time of the Solidarity Movement is also retold in an excellent manner.
Address: Grabiszyńska 184, 53-235 Wrocław, Poland
Where to Eat:
Pergola Restaurant – An ideal restaurant to dine at when visiting the attractions round the Centennial Hall. Sit back, relax and enjoy your meal as you watch the Multimedia Fountain performing.
Address: Wystawowa 1, 51-618 Wrocław, Poland
Restauracja Alyki – Restauracja Alyki is a Polish and contemporary restaurant. Part of the Sky Tower shopping centre and an ideal stop following a visit to the Sky Tower observation deck – Wrocław’s tallest building.
Śląskich 95, 53-332 Wrocław, Poland
Cafe Konspira – Cafe Konspira cooks traditional meals, in an 80’s surroundings, inspired by the Solidarity movement. A meal here is like eating in a 1960s flat, or maybe even a museum.
Address: Plac Solny 11, 50-029 Wrocław, Poland
Where to Stay:
Hotel Premiere Classes Wrocław Centrum – Budget Price – With tram stops directly
outside, this hotel is a perfect base for exploring the city centre. Also, it is only a ten-minute walk
from the railway station.
Address: Ślężna 28, 53-302 Wrocław, Poland
Radisson Blu Hotel, Wrocław – Moderate Price – Ideally situated just a stone’s throw from
the town centre, on the banks of the beautiful Oder River
Address: 10 Purkyniego St, 50-156 Wrocław, Poland
Apartamenty Sky Tower – Luxury – For the perfect view over the city during your stay.
Address: Powstańców Śląskich 95, 53-323 Wrocław, Poland
Hints, Tips and Useful Information:
Respect: Shaking hands is the normal form of greeting; an older man will often kiss a woman’s hand. Roman Catholicism plays an important role in daily life and criticism or jokes about religion are not appreciated, despite the general good humour of the people.
Electricity: Electricity is 230 volts AC, 50Hz and the power plugs and sockets are of type E.
Currency: Złoty (PLN; symbol zł) = 100 groszy. Notes are in denominations of zł200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. The coins are in denominations of zł5, 2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 groszy. Poland is required under the terms of its accession to the European Union in 2004 to adopt the Euro as its national currency sometime in the future.
Thank you – Dziękuję Ci
Please – Proszę
Good morning – Dzień dobry
Good evening – Dobry wieczór
Yes – Tak
No – Nie
Telephone dialing code: +48
Emergency numbers: The 112 emergency number is an all-service number.
Payphones: You can buy telephone cards from post offices, newspaper kiosks and hotel receptions for both domestic and international calls.
Mobile Telephones: Roaming agreements for mobile phones exist with most international mobile phone companies.
Internet: The municipal wireless network is available in over 130 points in the Old Town and other tourist areas. Wi-Fi is also available in hotels, hostels and cafes.
Transport – Taxis: There are standard taxi rates throughout the city, and the taxis are metered. Licensed taxis will have a roof light.
Public Transport: There are over 60 bus services and 20 tram services, which operate between 05:00 and 23:00. There is also a limited amount of night bus services. Note that your tickets should be validated immediately on entering the bus or tram.
Climate: Being in the south west of the country, Wrocław tends to be warmer that the rest of Poland, having warm summers during the months of June, July and August, however, its location does mean that it tends receive a significant amount of rainfall throughout the year. The coldest month is January, and snow can be quite common during winter.
Water: Mains water is normally chlorinated, and while relatively safe may cause mild abdominal upsets. Bottled water is available everywhere.
Shopping: What to buy in Wrocław:
- Amber jewelry
- Beer tankards
- Wrocław dwarf souvenirs
- Żubrówka – bison grass vodka
Cuisine: What to try in Wrocław:
- Borscht – beetroot soup
- Zurek – soup which includes sausage and egg
- Smalec – lard, served with bread
- Kielbasa – sausage
- Gołąbki – minced meat, onions and rice wrapped in a cabbage leaf
- Pierogis – sweet or savoury dumplings
- Golonka Pieczona – roasted pork knuckle
- Bigos (Hunter’s Stew) – cabbage, sauerkraut, tomatoes, onions and meat
- Kartacze – dumplings with various fillings
Smoking: Smoking is banned in public places, including railway stations, restaurants and bars.
Alcohol Consumption: Buyers or persons being served must be at least 18. Drinking in public places, with the exception of designated drinking zones, is illegal regardless of age.
Tipping: Tipping is expected for good service in restaurants. The norm is to tip around 10% of the bill. The tipping etiquette when taking a taxi is to tip 10%.
Safety: Wrocław is a safe city where violent crime almost doesn’t exist. There is a small risk of being pickpocketed.