Looking good, Wroclaw and it’s time to shine…
Wroclaw takes immense pride in preserving its historical charm while embracing the spirit of innovation and development. With its magnificent architecture, pretty pastel-coloured townhouses, cobbled streets and show-stopping Old Town Square, it’s a rather photogenic city and you will find it hard to put your camera away. Even the train station is a beauty!
For many tourists thinking of going to Poland, Wroclaw may not be the first destination that springs to mind but it is of huge historic and cultural significance in Poland’s identity. Nor is it a hidden gem either. Since the increase in affordable budget airline routes, Wroclaw has gradually made it onto the wishlists of discerning holidaymakers. It’s an attractive choice for the city break fan; there’s so many things to see and do here and it’s constantly evolving in its approach to attracting new visitors. From breathtaking historical landmarks to cutting-edge technology, this city is a testament to the possibilities that arise when tradition meets innovation. Being a university city, naturally there’s a youthful, lively vibe yet the history, architecture, and the scenic waterways criss-crossed by pretty bridges attracts people of all ages.
Waterway to go
Speaking of water, did you know that Wroclaw is fondly referred to as ‘the Venice of Poland’? Wroclaw is made up of 12 islands separated by a web of interweaving rivers and connected by more than 100 bridges. The best way to appreciate this magnificent city is to take a boat trip along Wrocław’s many waterways. Seeing it from the water gives visitors a different perspective but it’s also just a lovely, relaxing way to explore.
Rynek – it’s Square you want to be
The Old Town Square, the beating heart of the city, is surrounded by colourful houses, shops, restaurants,and cafes. Visitors to this magical city won’t be able to resist admiring the striking buildings and the magnificent Town Hall – an architectural masterpiece and such an important part of the city’s heritage. Wroclaw’s market square is one of the oldest, biggest and most beautiful in the country.It’s easy to see why so many people hang out here. You could argue it’s less crowded with fewer tourists than say, Krakow or Warsaw but the vibe is chilled nonetheless . It is even home to one of the oldest restaurants in Europe ‘Piwnica Świdnicka’.
And don’t forget to look out for the gnomes dotted around Wroclaw! If it’s your first time, you might be forgiven for thinking you’ve landed in the set of a children’s book. Just think, Snow White only had seven dwarfs to contend with – in Wroclaw there’s over 300 of the little chaps! How many will you spot?
Ironically, one of the most fascinating bridges isn’t on the water but connects the two towers of the majestic Cathedral of St. Mary Magdalene (the inside is also worth a visit). ‘Witches Bridge’ (also known as Penitents Bridge) is the highest in Wroclaw at 45 feet above the ground. If you can bear to climb the 200 or do steps to reach it, you’ll be rewarded with great vows of the city.However, it’s likely to be the dark tales of this bridge that attracts curious visitors. There are many chilling stories surrounding the bridge’s history but according to legend, in medieval times, it was once used to identify witches. The suspects were forced to walk across the bridge and any that lost their balance and fell to their deaths were cleared of the accusation (kind of pointless once you’re dead,really) Whereas those who made it safely across were deemed proper witches and burned at the stake. Either way, their fate was sealed!
Island hop to history
Undoubtedly, one of the main visitor sites in Wroclaw is Cathedral Island (Ostrów Tumski). Exactly as the name suggests, it’s dominated by sacred places of worship. A ‘must-see’ is the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist – it is one of the most iconic symbols of Wroclaw and holds a special place in the heart of the city’s residents. To see another special piece of history, visit the Archdiocese Museum where one of the most important artefacts is housed. The Book of Henryków contains the first ever sentence recorded in Polish (circa 13th century). In 2015, the text was listed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
At one with nature
It’s not all fancy bricks and mortar either; Wroclaw has some impressive green spaces too. There are 44 breathtaking parks, including the beautiful Szczytnicki Park with its famous Japanese Garden. The Botanical Garden of Wroclaw University is another top spot for anyone looking for an oasis of calm in the middle of a bustling city.
Day trip treasures and castle capers
If you can bear to leave the magic of the Old Town, a day trip to Ksiaz Castle is an ideal way to see a bit more of the Lower Silesia region yet not too far from the main hub of the city.
It was once home to nobility but during WWII, it was taken over and occupied by German forces and many of its ancient chambers were destroyed during this time. Today, visitors can see it restored to its original splendour and discover the secrets of this historical place. After dark, don’t miss the Ksiaz by Night Tour with only a lantern to guide your path. Will there be things that go bump in the night and are you brave enough to find out?
What is there for foodies and culture vultures?
What more could anyone ask for but good music, good food and good company? Wroclaw has a magnificent culture scheme and there’s always something going on if you need an excuse to get your gladrags on and get out. There’s plenty of impressive arts and entertainment events take place here including the Festival Wratislavia Cantans Festival – a glorious programme of classical music, and the annual Festival of Good Beer which is always popular!
There’s plenty of bars, restaurants and places to socialise in the famous Four Denominations District . The special atmosphere of this quarter is largely down to its unique character. It houses four different places of worship – Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Jewish and Lutheran – all sitting close to each other. The four different faiths work closely together in creating cultural events in the district and visitors will find some great cafes, bars, music clubs and good places to eat. Above all, it’s a place where mutual respect and tolerance is the order of the day.
Another key landmark site of Wroclaw that everyone should see is the Centennial Hall – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The recreational complex hosts a variety of cultural and sprint events and there’s also an informative visitor centre. It’s a great way of learning more about the Centennial Hall via tour guides, interactive activities and virtual reality headsets. Arguably, one of the highlights of the complex is the multimedia fountain which sits in a huge ornamental pond outside the hall. The fountain bursts into life with dramatic water displays all set to glorious music. It’s truly spectacular – don’t miss it.
Wroclaw is indeed reminiscent of a fairytale and you can start making wonderful memories to write your very own story.
Visitors will find beauty in every corner of Wroclaw – come and take a look for yourself. And don’t forget your camera, she’s ready for her close-up!
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