Wroclaw, one of the most popular and beautiful cities in Europe (and that is no exaggeration) Once called the Venice of the North due to its location on the river Odre and numerous bridges (in total over 120). Wroclaw is the 5th largest city in Poland it has over 640.000 residents and cover over 293 km. In 2018 Wroclaw won the prestigious contest “European Best Destination”.
I have lived in Wroclaw between 2001-2004, but since then it has changed a lot, its even more beautiful and it is definitely one of the most dinamically developed cities in Poland.
The history of Wroclaw starts at a crossroads in Lower Silesia. It was one of the centers of the Duchy and then Kingdom of Poland, and briefly, in the first half of the 13th century, the center of half of the divided Kingdom of Poland. German settlers arrived in increasing numbers after the 1241 Mongol invasion, and Wroclaw eventually became part of the Kingdom of Bohemia. After the War of Austrian Succession, the city and region were added to Prussia, and later part of the German Empire. After World War II, Wroclaw and most of Silesia were transferred to Poland.
If you love city breaks, this is definitely perfect weekend destination (bear in mind you will need at least 3 nights to see everything without rushing) You will be nicely surprised that polish currency is “zloty” which depending on foreign exchange approximately: 1zl=£4.50 sometime even over £5, it is a great news for your pocket. People mostly speaking polish but as we all know it English is welcome all over the world and you should not have any problems to communicate.
Wroclaw definitely is the cultural center of Lower Silesia, home to many museums, galleries, music festivals and theaters. There is something for everyone. I would like to highlit few places which you muat see while you are there and I highly recomend it to visit.
I’m going to start from Gothic Market Square which is the second largest market square in Poland after Cracow. Each side of the Market square has a name, the eastern frontage was called The Green Well Side, and on that side its worth to take a look at the two outstanding buildings: “Under the Golden Crown” tenement house with a beautiful Renaissance attic and “Feniks” the department store, once belonged to Barasch brothers was the largest and most modern department store in 19th and 20th century (Polish Selfridges’ back then).
My favourite building in beautiful city of Wroclaw is The Hall Town (1), every time when I see it, it simply takes my breath away. It frequently referred to as a pearl of Gothic bourgeois architecture. Its construction commenced in 1270’s in finished as late as the middle of 16th century. Originally the Town Hall was a single story building and fulfilled only commercial functions. As the time went by further rooms were added and another storey was built. It took on its present late Gothic form at the end of the 15th century. I absolutely admire rich ornamentation of the southern facades. Really, it’s a magnificent building to look at.
I’m sure at some point you will be walking through the Swidnicka Street – one of the oldest streets in medieval Wroclaw, one of the most important streets in the city centre to this day.
While you are on the Market Square, and yes stunning architecture will overwhelm you, please try not to miss it: “Under the Golden Jug” brewery and the entrance to famous Swidnicka Cellar (Piwnica Swidnicka) in the Town Hall. It is probably the oldest beer caller in Europe being over 700 year old. Lover Silesia and Wroclaw used to be famous for their numerous breweries which earn them the name of “Medieval Bavaria”.
Walking along the Market Square you will also find a bronze monument of the count comedy writer Aleksander Fredro. The statue was made in 1879, designed by Leonard Marconi, but only in 1956 was transported to Wroclaw from Lvov. Mr Fredro enjoys great respect among Polish citizen, especially high school graduates. Tradition say that 100 days before their high school finials they would dance a “Polonaise for Fredro” at the Market Square to bring them a good luck during exams. How wonderful is that!!
Other place you should see, especially if you love literature is “Pan Tadeusz Museum” (10) – which is dedicated to the most important work in the history of Polish literature, including not only romantic period, but also struggle for freedom and independence, as well as the freedom of speech and post -war Poland.
Walking through the Old Town in the direction of river Oder we come to University of Wroclaw(6). The main building hides the museum, the oldest in the city, the pearl of Wroclaw Baroque – the most precious hall in the main edifice is Aula Leopoldina, called in honour of Austrian Emperor Leopold, the founder of the university, situated on the first floor. It’s also worth seeing the Mathematical Tower which used to be an astronomical observatory.
If you love architecture Wroclaw is exactly the place, just walking around Market Square gives you opportunity to explore the centuries of history. Another place walking distance is The Royal Palace (11) the Municipal Museum of Wroclaw invites for an exhibition “1000 years of Wroclaw”which presents complicated, but interesting history of the capital of Lower Silesia. In the museum you can visit royal apartments and relax in a beautiful Baroque garden. It was here that in 1813 a Prussian king Fredrick Wilhelm III issued his famous proclamation “An mein Volk” calling to enter into a general fight with Napoleon and established an order of the Iron Cross.
To our next destination we will need to take a Tram (Wroclaw has wonderful Tram connection all over the city, get yourself daily travel card witch cost around 11zl = £4. And travel all day long on any tram you wish to! Isn’t that fantastic?! To get to Ostrow Tumski you will need tram no.2, 8, 9,10,11,23 like I said great connected city. Ostrow Tumski (3) is the oldest part of the city. Its name in old Polish meant an “island with a cathedral” I used to live there and I have to say it’s stunning; you can sit down by the river with a book and coffee during summer and nothing seems more rewarding. I have wonderful memories during that time. Ok, back to my tour: there are two very distinctive buildings you have to see, one of them is the cathedral of St. John the Baptist the other is Saint Cross Chrch.
And at last but not least, I left this place last as it is my favourite part of Wroclaw. (From Ostrow Tumski you will need to take tram no. 2 or 10 and you will travel approximately 20 min.)It is Centennial Hall and Szczytnicki Park(5). It’s impossible to miss this monumental exhibition hall whose construction was finished in 1913. Designed by city architect Max Berg himself and the eminent architect Hans Poelzig who was responsible for several elements including the Four-Dome Pavilion. The building is surrounded by beautiful pergola which hides the biggest summer multimedia fountain in Poland build in 2009 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first democratic election in the history of post- war Poland. And in 2006 the Centennial Hall was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Only five minutes walk through pergola on the left, there is a secret garden, created in 1913 so beautifly is Japanese Garden (12), which presents Japanese art of gardening. This is ideal place to relax and listen to nature. This place is very close to my heart, it was desinged by Fritz von Hochberg an expert and lover of Japanese art. Its open from April till end of October, tickets cost 6zl = £2 really recomend it.
Enjoy this beautiful City, and make sure you catch all the dwarves*
*there is almost 400 dwarves to be seen all over the city, you can get a map from the information centre and try to find them all with your kids. Great activity and fun!