I saw an ad on the London Underground yesterday about Wroclaw, Capital of Culture 2016 (also known as City of Culture). Wroclaw? I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of this city before, so I thought I’d put together a Quirky Guide to Wroclaw, a town following in the illustrious footsteps of Stockholm, Athens and Prague as Capitals of Culture.
Wroclaw in southwest Poland was the ancient capital of Silesia (there are parts of Silesia in Germany and the Czech republic although most of it is situated in Poland) and has in its time been Bohemian, Prussian, Austrian and German – not an uncommon story in this part of the world. Interestingly, in German it’s called Breslau (and that name I have heard before) and Bratislav in Czech.
It’s Poland’s fourth largest city with a population of around 630,000 and is the largest town on the banks of the River Oder which runs from the Czech republic and forms part of the border between Poland and Germany.
Things to see in Wroclaw
This is a beautiful old city, lying alongside the magnificent Oder (Odra is it’s it Germanic name) river. It boasts over 100 bridges and 12 islands and some call it Venice of the North. The colourful market square is large and busy with lots of little streets branching off.
The cathedral of St John the Baptist can be climbed to view the oldest part of Wroclaw, Ostrow Tumski which dates from 10th century. The town hall is especially interesting and over the top – see the photo at the top of this post.
Things to do in Wroclaw
Wroclaw is a city of music festivals, including the biggest one, the Wratislavia Cantans. Opera and jazz festivals as well as an American film festival are also held in the city. Wroclaw-life.com has a list of 36 cultural things to do, including the National Musem and the Fine Art Academy Museum.
Have a look at the lovely list of things to do in Wroclaw on Poland’s tourism website.
The best thing of all, from Quirky Travel’s point of view, are the Wroclaw gnomes. The origins of these little bronze creatures come from the Orange Alternative Movement in the 80’s who drew gnomes as a protest in areas where communist police had erased anti-communist propaganda. There are said to be at least 15 of of the little bronze creatures around the city.
Hotels in Wroclaw
The Art Hotel consists of two connected tenement houses in Wroclaw’s main square. Breakfasts are said to be great, and the interiors look plush. An example price is £138 per room per night in May 2012.
Also centrally located just off Rynek square, these are spacious apartments with kitchen facilities and free wi-fi. And the pub downstairs (according to the Academus) sells “the best beer in Poland.”
Pubs and restaurants in Wroclaw
A microbrewery which does pub food as well as more restaurant quality food, this place is situated in a cellar on Rynek (number 9). Try the sausage, sauerkraut or soup in a bowl and a honey-infused beer.
Bernard Piwiarnia Restauracja
A large pub/restaurant spread over three floors and to be found at 35 Rynek Square, this place is often busy and could easily be a tourist trap but doesn’t appear to be be so. It serves proper Eastern European food including dumplings, pork knuckle and pasta and has live music at the weekends. Good beer also served.
Getting around Wroclaw
Buses and trams are “cheap like borscht” (nicked from wrocklaw.co) and there are over 100km of cycle paths to choose from. It isn’t an enormous city, so walking is also a nice, healthy option.
Travel to Wroclaw
If you’re driving round Europe on your way there, don’t forget to take out European Breakdown Cover A short-term policy’s the thing if you’re looking for something more flexible.
Or Skyscanner has a list of airlines who fly to Wroclaw The list includes cheap airlines such as Ryanair and Wizzair.