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It’s not a place you see listed frequently among Europe’s weekend-break cities. But that’s the charm of Wrocław – it’s as understated as it is beautiful, with charming Hansel-and-Gretel-feel architecture. The once-German city of Breslau is now the largest in western Poland, and capital of the province of Lower Silesia. It’s packed with art, historical sites and – most importantly – plenty of cafes where you can stop for a beer and a bite. Admire the impressive Panorama of the Battle of Racławice and explore the historic Ostrów Tumski quarter. Read up on the other top things to see and do while you’re here, below.
It dates back to the early 13th century, but this medieval market square is no dowdy relic – it remains one of the most vibrant places in the city, and is one of the largest market squares in Europe. The Gothic Old Town Hall is a must-photograph, looking like a hotchpotch of gingerbread homes stuck together (it was built in various stages between the 13th and 16th centuries.) The Market Square is great for fine dining – go for pork, goose or beef at time-honoured Restauracja Pod Fredrą. And if you’re here for New Year’s Eve you’re in luck – there’s always a party going on. In 2018, the Village People, no less, performed here.
Ostrów Tumski is the oldest part of the city, dating back to the 10th century, and developed architecturally in subsequent times. Originally a garden, today it is an unmissable attraction for its striking historical buildings, important monuments, sculptures, gardens and enchanting bridges. Don’t miss the Gothic Cathedral of St John the Baptist, rebuilt after World War II, and the steeple of the Church of the Holy Cross . Perhaps best of all for wandering weekenders, this ancient neighbourhood, birthplace of Wrocław, is surrounded photogenically by the Oder River.
To brighten up an evening, head for Szczytnicki Park, next to the Centennial Hall, and the Wrocławska Fontanna Multimedialna (Wrocław Multimedia Fountain) – created in 2009 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of democratic elections. The secret to its performative powers lies in 300 water jets and 800 lights, which make wonderful displays – geysers, water mists and spurts – all enhanced by music (from classical to Madonna). The shows take place every hour on the hour, and there are longer specials at 10pm until the middle of August (and at 9.30pm after that).
Known locally as krasnale, the dwarves, or goblins, of Wrocław are dotted everywhere around the city – hundreds of them and counting. They are small bronze sculptures of different figures from fairy tales and legends, and keep Wrocław’s tourists happily clicking away with their smartphones and cameras. These curious little apparitions have their origins in an anti-Communist and anti-authoritarianism movement of the 1980s, called the Orange Alternative, which began in Wrocław. Originally graffiti, they have appeared in 3-D since 2005.
Sara Darling contributed additional reporting to this article.