If you ever want to visit a Polish city off-the-beaten-track, check out Wroclaw. This university city is full of colourful buildings, fascinating history, delicious food, buzzing bars and great people.
1. Learn how to pronounce the name of the town
The language is extremely tricky, largely because the letters and sounds in English do not correspond in any way to the Polish pronunciation. From what I gather (and after hearing a lot of Polish people say it) the correct pronunciation is Vrots-lav, though please correct me if I’m wrong!
2. Take a free walking tour of the Old Town
These leave every day from 10 am outside the Town Hall and are great value – basically you choose how much you feel the tour was worth at the end, and pay according to your budget. We had a great guide who walked us around all the important monuments and gave us a brief overview of the fascinating history of this city. Did you know, it has been ruled by the Prussians, Austrians, Germans and Polish? The history of Europe continues to astound me!
3. Explore the town hall
Inside the town hall, you can discover the history of this old building and see where all the important decisions took place. Don’t miss the colourful views through the stained-glass windows. Outside, street performers blow bubbles for everyone to enjoy. Underneath, you can dine in what is said to be the oldest restaurant in Europe!
4. Climb the tower of St. Elizabeth Church for amazing views
At a low cost, you can climb the narrow, spiral staircase all the way to the top of the Saint Elizabeth church tower. From here, the 360 degree views over the old town square are spectacular. For an alternative view point, check out Saint John’s Cathedral on Cathedral Island.
5. Wander around Ostrow Tumski (Cathedral Island)
Take a walk through town, across the bridge of padlocks and onto this island full of cathedrals. It is the oldest part of the city, where the first inhabitants settled as early as the 9th century AD. From just over the bridge, you can also take a boat tour along the river – something to add to my list for next time!
6. Explore the Royal Palace Museum
If you are a bit confused about the history of this city, spend some time exploring the free exhibits in the Royal Palace History Museum. It is extremely organised and takes you step-by-step through the history of Wroclaw, from 1000AD through to present day. Not surprisingly, King Frederick the Great bought this palace in 1750 and you can see his lavish style in some of the upper rooms! Good work Frederick!
7. Check out the Pan Tadeusz Museum
Located right in the centre of town, this museum is dedicated to Mickiewicz’s epic poem Pan Tadeusz and gives a great insight into the romantic period in Poland at this time. The museum has some fantastic multimedia displays, which create a really interesting atmosphere. At night time, if you stand in the town square facing the building, you will see silhouettes of people in old-fashioned clothes moving on the windows. On Tuesdays, you can enter the museum for 1 złoty – a great bargain for travellers on a budget!
8. Count the dwarves
There are over 400 statues of dwarves to be found around the city, all unique in their own special way! There is even a nano dwarf designed by scientists, which is so tiny you would only find it if you knew where to look. This dwarf phenomenon stems from the communist time and represent the growing movement of freedom of speech at the time. If you really want to get serious, you can download the app and collect the dwarves as you see them! I haven’t used it, but here’s the link.
9. Sample Polish cuisine
There are several specialities in Wroclaw. Pierogi are the obvious first choice – dumplings filled with meat or potato and cheese. Other specialities include Zureck, a sour soup with sausage and egg and served in a bread bowl, along with Barszcz, a beetroot soup. If you prefer something a bit greasy, try the Placki, which are fried potato pancakes with goulash. Or to warm up, Bigos is hearty stew that should keep you going for hours. If you are after something a little less meaty, there are some excellent Vegan restaurants around town. Vega has some particularly tasty dishes and is located in the old town centre.
10. Visit a local beach bar and check out the fountain display
Whilst it’s nothing like Australia, Za Zoo will have you believing you are at the beach! Located on the bank of a river and with sand underfoot, you can order a cocktail, lounge around in the deckchairs and enjoy the sunshine. An alternative deckchair bar on the river is Forma Plynna, where you can even relax in a hammock if the mood takes you. Nearby, you can wander to Szczytnicki Park, where the Wroclaw Multimedia Fountain displays unique shows of water, colour and music every hour.
What else would you recommend doing in Wroclaw? Have you been to any other cities in Poland? Tell me all about them in the comments below!