After less than 24 hours in Poznan, we were off again and onwards to our next destination – Wrocław. Located in the west of Poland, Wrocław is the country’s fourth biggest city, the capital of Silesia and a major industrial, commerical educational hub for the region. Its geographical location and historical background leaves the city with a unique blend of culture and architecture, visible in the beautiful market square (Rynek) and scattered across the 12 islands that make up the city.
Once we had settled into our hotel, we were ready to explore. Our hotel was situated not far from the main station and so our first job was to navigate our way to the Old Town. Skirting the station concourse, we managed to find our way to Świdnicka, one of the city centre’s major roads, and from there we crossed the Fosa Miejska or city moat which brought us into the Old Town.
Obviously with lots of sights to see, there is plenty to do in Wrocław, but the city provides an additional element of fun by hiding hundreds of small bronze dwarves around the city. We spotted our first one shortly after passing the Opera House, and then, the inevitable search for the others, initially 30 but now over 300, began.
With our eyes peeled for other members of dwarf family, we continued along Świdnicka until we reached the Market Square, where, we were faced with another wonderful reconstruction of medieval majesty. At its centre, standing proud was the Town Hall and, around the square the impressive colourful façades of the many townhouses. Standing in the square admiring all of the lovely buildings, it was hard to believe that they were less than one hundred years old and were in fact rebuilt after WW2.
Making our way around the square, we passed the statue of Alexander Fredro, a comedy playwright and one of Poland’s most distinguished literary figures, sitting majestically in front of the Town Hall. Of course, the dwarfs were not far away, so big statues, little statues, there was something (or somebody) watching us on the circuit of the Sukiennice (cloth-hall).
In the north-west corner of the Square we spotted the St Elisabeth’s Church, also known as the Garrison Church and one of the most iconic structures of the city’s skyline. Whilst I had been told that the viewing platform of its 91 metre high tower provides a great view of the city, I gave the climb a miss and added it to my list of ‘things to visit next time’.
Just in front of the church are the so-called Hänsel and Gretel houses, two small medieval buildings connected by an arcade, plus, of course, yet another dwarf (this one holding his little heart up high!)
Reaching the south-west corner of the Square we found Plac Solny, which was originally the Salt market, but today houses a small, but colourful flower market. Of course I couldn’t resist admiring the vibrant palette of blooms.. every bloggers dream!
As we explored, an archway in the south-west corner appeared to be quite a busy thoroughfare to the square so we decided to see what was on the other side. We emerged into a small open courtyard with a sizeable restaurant/bar to our right and, as it was time for lunch we ventured inside. Little did we know that we were entering not only a fantastic Polish restaurant but also a bit of a museum. Konspira describes itself as a ‘Centre for Historical Education’ and offers its visitors a trip back to the 1980s, with a glimpse into the Soviet era via newspapers, posters, and political cartoons. So, as we gorged ourselves on the food – generous portions of eastern-European cuisine – and quenched our thirst on the local beer, we were able to educate ourselves about the lives of the people in those turbulent times. A unique experience and another must-see stop-off on a trip around Wrocław!
Suitably stuffed we retraced our steps to Market Square for another look around and a closer inspection of St Elisabeth’s church and, it goes without saying, to see if we could spot any more of the dwarves.
We set off through the town in the general direction of the river Oder and the island of Wyspa Piasek and Ostrów Tumski, the ecclesiastical heart of the city. After a stroll along the river and a quick visit to the fourteenth-century church of St Mary, with its majestically vaulted ceiling, we decided to call a temporary halt to our explorations and head back, on the tram, to our hotel for a well-earned rest before another busy day.
Day Two in Wrocław began just as had been forecasted – a bank of cloud had arrived overnight and the day looked grey and overcast as we set out once again to see more of the city. Hopping on to a tram we journeyed north, along Kołłątaja and Piotra Skargi, to the food hall at Hala Targowa (market hall). As always it was fascinating to spend a half hour meandering from stall to stall and observing all the local traders and checking out what interesting things they had to offer.
From there it was just a short walk across the bridge, back to where we had finished off yesterday, Wyspa Piasek. With the morning ahead of us, we had a bit more time (and energy) to look again at the churches on the island, before crossing the Tumski bridge onto cathedral island.
Ahead of us we could see the twin spires of the cathedral, making a statement, high above the surrounding buildings. The pale-blue bridge, also known as the Lovers bridge, was decorated with love locks from end to end, and with St Mary’s Church in the middle ground and the elegant double-spires of the cathedral in the distance, heralded our arrival in a very special place, the gem in Wrocław’s crown.
The cobble-stoned Katedralna led us ever forward and soon we were in front of the main western portico of the cathedral itself. There were already many visitors crowding around the entrance set to go inside and marvel at its wonderful interior.
Unfortunately, it was at this moment that it decided to rain. This brought our plans to explore the rest of the ‘island’ to a close and unprepared for such weather we took shelter in Lwia Brama, one of the few places offering food and drink in this part of the city. After a cup of coffee and a wait of forty five minutes, the rain had eased off, and we emerged into daylight once more. With no break in the cloud we opted to head back towards the city itself and seek cover, so it was back over the Tumski bridge, giving at nod to the statues of St Hedwig and St John the Baptist at the far end, as we passed by.
Back on the tram we travelled the few stops to the shopping mall at Oławska (Galeria Dominikańska) and spent the next hour or so wandering around the shoe shops and various clothing stores. By the time we had exhausted what was on offer, the drizzle had stopped and we were able to explore some more.
Next stop was the Old Town and the Market Square as once again stomachs were rumbling. After wandering around for a while we settled on the Café de France, a small, rather cramped restaurant offering reasonable food for a reasonable price. Nothing special, but it served its purpose!
Recharged, we exited the Market Square via Plac Solny, passing again Konspira, our find of yesterday, and on past the university library, to investigate what from a distance, looked a little like a brick-built castle with pair of turrets. It turned out to be the district courthouse and prison, which is built as a neo-Gothic fortress with sandstone cornices and decorations of yellow bricks.
Our walk followed the promenada Staromiejska, taking us past the National Music Forum, outside of which we found a dwarf orchestra, the Opera House, a memorial to Witold Pilecki, the founder of the Secret Polish Army in WWII 9in the shape of a giant ring) and the equestrian statue of Bolesław I (the Brave) on the corner of Świdnicka and Podwale. A very pleasant stroll after the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
We popped back to our hotel for a cup of tea and a quick bite to eat in the form of picnic food from the nearby supermarket. Whilst dining out on such delights we made up our minds to finish off the evening on some of the islands around Wyspa Piasek and then search out a little of the street art, said to be in the area.
Once on Wyspa Piasek, we strolled across the island to Wyspa Słodowa and from there back onto the mainland via the connecting suspension bridge. Obviously a very popular place for students and other young people, the grassy areas were covered with bodies, sitting in the relative shade of the evening and chilling out. Everybody seemed to have a bottle (or two) in hand, busily chattering to their friends and acquaintances and no doubt looking forward to the weekend.
We had arrived in Dubois, an area that I had identified as having several pieces worth looking at, and the hunt began. We had one or two successes but the standard and size of the artwork found varied considerably.
Once again our time in the city was up and the following day our tour was to continue onwards across the border into Germany. Wrocław had really surprised me with how much was on offer and I would definitely like to return again in the future to spend a little longer in the city.
Have you ever visited Wrocław? Is there anything you would recommend seeing or doing on a return visit? Do let me know in the comments below. Love, V x