“Wrotizlava”, “Sigillum civitatis Wratislavie”, “Breslau”, “Historic Capital of Silesia”
After quite a long time since the last time I’ve visited Poland, exactly 2 years ago with a weekend trip to the Christmas Markets of Warsaw, it was great this time to travel to a new destination never been before plus knowing that one of the largest Christmas Markets in Poland would be already open by the weekend we planned to come. Although rewording this phrase, let’s say better that I checked beforehand when the market would be open and only then booked the flight tickets.
Wroclaw is the 4th largest city in Poland and is packed on every corner with history and sights. It resulted to be in fact, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to in Poland so far with the most sights and things to do; probably coupled with Gdansk, and comparable to Krakow. The Old Market Square is a masterpiece in itself with such vast amount of grand buildings at all sides and the fine Gothic Town Hall in the middle. Basically on every turn there is another nice view of the row of houses and the pictures will not stop coming one after another. Too many to picture!
But what really made a nicer difference is to have those beautiful Christmas Markets and decorations everywhere around the Old Town. At least, coming in December with such freezing temperatures could be justified! Suffering the cold but greatly enjoying the atmosphere was very well paid off. And every now and then a hot mulled wine to keep warm and any of the many nice food and snacks freshly made at the hundreds of stalls all over…yes, I survived knowing how terrible I am with handling any temperature that goes below 0 degrees.
Planning a weekend for the city is the perfect time, any longer and you might end up without further plans on what to see and do, but any shorter as just one day will definitely be not enough. Furthermore if you are planning to enjoy the Christmas Markets this will also take a good bunch of time. After all this was one of the major reasons in my agenda for this trip and was well worth it. Enjoying the sights and enjoying the delicious market food and drinks was as awesome as few years ago when we did the same in Krakow or more recent 2 years ago in Warsaw.
Regarding what to eat and where, well, this is the easiest part as for any other city in Poland. Pretty much every restaurant offers great quality dishes at normal prices, yet still it’s worth to check few places around before making a decision. Some of them as in anywhere in the world can indeed be a tourist trap with unnecessarily higher prices for the same. Some of the food or dishes you must have are the smoked cheese oscypek which is widely available during winter and specially at the Christmas Markets. You will see everywhere small grills where they are grilling it from fresh and served on small plastic plates with a choice of sauces you like, being the most famous apple. Bigos, pierogi (those are the famous dumplings filled either with meets, vegetables or both) or barszcz (beetroot soup) are national dishes.
For more information about Wroclaw check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Poland’s currency is the Zloty (PLN). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Wroclaw:
- Market Square Known in Polish as the Rynek is the largest square in the city and one of the major landmarks, entirely surrounded by historical buildings. It is in fact one of the largest town squares in Europe.
-Town Hall Located right in the middle of the square was built in the 14th century in Gothic style. Nowadays part of it is the City Art Museum which is opened from 11am to 17.00pm every day except Mondays when it is closed. Entrance fee of 4zł.
-Saint Elizabeth’s Church On the north east side of the Rynek is this church, the largest medieval building still standing in Wroclaw. From one of the towers you can get the best views of the entire city, but bear in mind there is no lift and it’s 90 meters high. 5zł.
-Salt Market Although retaining the former name, it is nowadays the flower market. Located right in the front of Saint Elizabeth’s Church.
-Saint Maria Magdalena Church Located to the south of the Rynek is another of the main catholic landmarks in the city. Here you can also climb to the towers, connected by a bridge, also for 5zł, yet still for the best views stick to Saint Elizabeth.
-Barasch Brothers’ Department Store Built in 1904 was back then the most impressive art-nouveau building in the city. Unfortunately severely changed in appearance after the 1935 refurbishment, then again after the damages of WWII.
- Ostrów Tumski Is the oldest part of the city, a group of islands in the middle of the Oder River, although the Cathedral Island is no longer an island.
-Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist Is the centerpiece on Cathedral Island and major catholic symbol in the city. Dating to the 13th century it hosts the largest pipe organ in Poland. One can access it for 4zł admission, Monday to Saturday (Sundays is closed), and for an extra 5zł you can go up the tower where you can get great views of the city and river. The good point is that there is a lift here.
-Metropolitan Seminary Located at the front of the Cathedral, on Cathedral Square dates back to the 1565.
–Pontifical Faculty of Theology Right on the back of the Cathedral.
-Archbishop′s Palace Next building after the Pontifical Faculty. Originally built in the 13th century, the current building dates back to 1791.
-Church of the Holy Cross and Saint Bartholomew In Gothic style is another of the imposing catholic architecture buildings in the city.
-Cathedral Bridge Connects Cathedral Island with Piasek (Sand) Island between the Church of Saint Bartholomew and the University Library.
-Tumski Bridge Is the most iconic bridge connecting Piasek (Sand) Island with Cathedral Island. Specially beautiful at night with the illumination.
-University Library Is the main building in Piasek (Sand) Island.
-Church of Our Lady on the Sand Right next door to the University Library.
-Church of Saint Giles Is the oldest church still standing in the city dating from 1242.
- Opera House A beautiful 1841 classical building, one of the largest opera houses in Poland.
- Wrocław Główny The Central Train Station was built in the 19th century and is considered one of the most beautiful in Poland. Located few streets to the south of Market Square.
- Synagogue Built in the 19th century it miraculously survived the destruction that the war caused.
- Sky Tower Is one of the tallest buildings in Poland and you can visit the viewing platform for 14 zł.
- Centennial Hall Constructed by architect Max Berg between 1911-1913 when the city was still part of the German Empire. A landmark listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site as being one of the earliest reinforced concrete buildings ever built.
-Wrocław Fountain Located next to the Centennial Hall is a multimedia fountain with shows of hundreds of jets and lights, and an ice rink during winter time.
- Szczytnicki Park The largest and oldest park in the city. Inside there is a Japanese garden created for the 1913 World Expo. One of the best entrances to the park is by the Centennial Hall.
- Eastern Park Along the Oława River bank is the most beautiful gardens in the city, newly restored. Walkways with great mix of plants and trees make it for a great walk and relaxing time.
Copernicus Airport is easy and frequently served by buses. Either bus 406 running from 5.00am until 23.00pm or bus 249 from 23.00pm onwards connect with the city center for 3zł single way.
Within the city there is a good network of public buses and trams, all of which cost 3zł for a single ride and you can buy tickets at any kiosk or tram stop. There are different varieties of tickets you can get, depending on time intended of travelling, this is, the minimum fare of 3zł is for a validity of 30 minutes, while for example, a 1 hour ticket costs 4.40zł, giving you flexibility to board the next bus or tram as long as you are within the validation period of 1 hour. But in any case, the chances as a tourist of needing to take public transportation are minimal unless you are staying on the outskirts of the city and depending on a bus or tram to reach the city center.
Being one of the largest cities in Poland, the choice of accommodation is also large and plentiful. Finding a good deal is not difficult, but bear in mind that during high season summer months prices can easily double. In the other hand, during winter months prices can be really low to what we really benefited from. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We stayed at the Qubus Hotel, meters away from the Market Square. Location cannot be better! Plus the hotel overall, great staff and high quality, and what is best, their pool and jacuzzi, it really came handy after such busy and tiring sightseeing. The breakfast has over 100 items and was indeed of a great choice and taste. Definitely will not hesitate in coming back to the same hotel should I return to the city.