Wrocław is one of Poland’s oldest cities, and it shows. There’s a wealth of old culture and scenic riverside living, set on the idyllic Oder river. Old town charms abound, though Wrocław is no sleeping dame; there’s a buzzing dining and night scene to explore, with a healthy dose of students keeping things fresh and youthful. Discover a slice of Poland of old, with enough vibrant energy to make your escape memorable.
Panorama of Racławice
This heroic painting is the pride and joy of the city, a gargantuan canvas depicting a famous Polish victory from 1794. The scale of the piece is what is arguably most impressive; hidden away post war for depicting a victory over the Russians (the allies and liberators of the time), the panorama was only put on display again in 1985, in a specially constructed rotunda. The building is purpose built for showcasing the impeccable scale and detail of the painting, whose canvas is displayed in full 360* panorama. The building puts you in the centre of the battle, quite literally, picking out all the fine details of the scene.
Speaking of panorama…
Want the best view in town? Peer over the winding streets and Oder islands from the summit of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist’s tower. The climb is, as ever, dizzying; even from the outside the twin towers are nothing short of, well, towering. The views are worth it – from your vantage point on Cathedral Island, the whole of Wrocław unfolds beneath you.
If you really liked that and want to do it again, head over to the Cathedral of St Mary Magdalene – here you can also climb the tower, and more interestingly, walk a lofty bridge between the two towers.
The best way to immerse yourself in the dining scene of Wrocław is on a city food tour. Discover mouthwatering Polish classics at a number of local haunts across the city. It’s a great way to gain a delicious understanding of Polish cuisine, with expert guides that know the city’s best eateries inside and out.
So what goodies can one feast one in the Silesian capital? Aside from all your Polish favs, there’s a selection of authentic Wrocławian dishes unique to the city that you should try. Instead of pierogies, try some Silesian dumplings with sweet sauce, alongside żurek wrocławski, a local sour soup. Another classic is bigos wrocławski, a stew made of red cabbage, apples and raisins. The influence is notably Germanic, a calling card for Silesia’s past.
Dwarves, dwarves everywhere!
One distinctly Wrocławian curiosity is the abundance of gnomic sculptures that dot the city. Most tourists pass them by without a second thought other than a quick photo snap, but their presence in the city is far more intriguing than one would first think. They are a reminder of an outfit called the Orange Alternative, a left-wing, anti-soviet group affiliated with Solidarity whose modus operandi was to undermine the state through absurdity and humour. Dwarf graffiti, dwarf meetings, and absurdist demonstrations were the chosen ways to subvert.
Wrocław’s main market hall is a hive of activity. The interior is notably cathedral-like, with sweeping concrete balustrades and floods of natural light. Fitting really, as markets are a weekend pilgrimage for many; here, it’s easy to see why. Locals stock up on fruits and vegetables, meat and more, but as a visitor, look out for those regional delicacies, from preserves to pickles, cheeses and more that are either great for snacking when exploring the city, or the perfect souvenir to take home.
The Town Hall
Wrocław’s centrepiece is the gothic town hall. There’s an array of architectural styles and myriad details to pick out, not to mention the 16th-century astronomical clock at its front. Inside, you’ll find the Museum of Bourgeois Art, where notable artworks and 15-th century carvings adorn the walls.
Outside the city: Sowie Mountains
In little over half an hour from the city, the mountains start to rise. Now, Poland is generally a land of flat, verdant plains; only at its southern extremities do things get a little vertiginous. And with peaks in such close distance to Wrocław, there’s a fantastic opportunity to head on a trail and discover Lower Silesia’s more dramatic landscapes.
Even better are the cycling opportunities. Lower Silesia is one of Poland’s proudest cycling regions, attracting those ready to tackle some of the more daring inclines. Now you’re under no obligation to cycle the Karkonoska pass (Poland’s most difficult), and luckily there’s a great network of cycleways in the lower valleys that soak up the scenery perfectly. Bike hire is becoming more and more common, so even if you’re choosing a quick day excursion from the city, you’ll easily find two wheels for exploring the countryside with your mountain backdrop.
In partnership with the Polish Tourism Organisation