Wroclaw is full of surprises: it has one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, it’s inhabited by a legion of gnomes, and it boasts a number of fantastic restaurants doling out delicious and traditional Polish food. Plus, your money will go far here – it’s an extremely affordable and budget-friendly city.
There are so many reasons to add Wroclaw, Poland to your European travel itinerary, and the following are a few things to see, eat, and do while you’re there.
Wander around Market Square. At the heart of Wroclaw’s Old Town is Market Square, a charming and colourful square dating back to the 13th century. The entire area was restored after World War II and is now a hub of activity, with a number of restaurants, bars, shops, and historic sites. The beautiful facades of the townhouses lining the square are worth the visit alone – the architectural styles range from Medieval to Art Nouveau in a spectrum of colours.
Explore Cathedral Island. Cathedral Island (Ostrow Tumski) is the site of the city’s earliest settlements, and is now mainly an area of worship. Surrounded by the River Odra, it’s separated from the main part of the city and is characterized by cobbled streets, a serene atmosphere, and church spires. Here you can visit several churches, including the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the Archbishop’s palace, and the Church of the Holy Cross.
Visit the Town hall. The striking Gothic Town Hall was built at the end of the 13th century and was once the most important building in the city – the city council, municipal authorities, and even royalty frequented the Old Town Hall. Today the building houses the Museum of Bourgeois Art and Piwnica Świdnicka – the oldest restaurant in the city – occupies its basement.
Eat & Drink
Sample the local cuisine. A few must-try dishes are sour rye soup, pork knuckle, and pierogi – dumplings filled with everything from meat to potatoes & cheese, sauerkraut or fruit. Pod Fredra is located next to the Old Town Hall and is a great spot for traditional Polish food.
The food stalls within the main square offer a multitude of inexpensive takeaway meals, like kielbasa (Polish sausage), golabki (stuffed cabbage rolls), or szaszłyk (grilled skewers of meat and vegetables).
Grab a Pint. Poland is one of the largest producers of beer in Europe, and there are a number of great bars and breweries in Wroclaw. Spiz is one of the most popular bars in Market Square, known for their unpasturized dark and bronze beers produced on-site; Zloty Pies is a microbrewery and restaurant offering 5 types of beer and beer-infused cocktails, and Zakład Usług Piwnych boasts one of the largest local and international beer selections.
Feast on Pierogi. Pierogi is arguably the most well-known Polish food, and one of the most delicious! Pierogarnia Stary Młyn is located in Market Square, and has an extensive menu of various types of savoury and sweet pierogi. You can try them boiled, baked, or fried, and choose from dozens of traditional or inventive fillings like potato, cottage cheese & onion, beef & cranberry, or milk chocolate. Pierożek is another great restaurant to sample pierogi, located away from the hustle and bustle of Wroclaw’s Old Town.
Spot the Gnomes. Wroclaw’s gnomes originated in the 1980s from an anti-communist group called the Orange Alternative. At the time, police were quick to cover up any anti-government graffiti on city walls, so members of the movement began painting gnomes over the same freshly painted surfaces. It was their way of peacefully (and gleefully) protesting the authoritarian regime. Gnomes soon became the calling card of the Orange Alternative, and the bronze statues began appearing in the city in the early 2000s. There are now over 300 gnomes scattered throughout the city, and you can find them with gnome maps from the local tourism office to spot them on your own, or take a guided gnome walking tour.
Take a vodka tasting tour. Vodka is an inherent part of celebration and everyday life in Poland, and a vodka tour delves into the culture and tradition of the country’s favourite spirit. You’ll visit several local bars and restaurants, taste of various types of vodka, and sample traditional food along the way.
Learn about the city’s complex history. From political conflict to communism, destruction and devastation, Wroclaw’s history is lengthy and tumultuous. There are various free walking tours to help you get a better understanding of the major events that shaped the city, including the Old Town Tour and the World War II & Jewish Wroclaw Tour.
Have you been to Wroclaw?