Wroclaw, Poland has been largely ignored by the masses of tourists that have invaded Poland in recent years. This quaint city retains it’s medieval charm while at the same time offering unbeatable food and a cracking nightlife.
Couldn’t get enough of….
Dwarf hunting around the colourful squares and streets
Admiring the city from the top of the Church of St. Elizabeth
Feasting on pierogi morning, noon and night
Splashing the cash…
Pint of Tyskie Beer: 7 Zloty (€1.50)
Local meal for one person with drink: 30Zl (€6.75)
Private 2 bed Hostel Room: 125Zl (€30)
Two scoop Polish Lody Ice Cream: 7Zl (€1.50)
It was one of those late night “OK, where do Ryanair fly for cheap” searches on Google that resulted in a weekend trip to the delightful city of Wroclaw, in western Poland.
Wroclaw is pronounced “Vrots-waff”….what now? Despite repeating this over and over I still had trouble any time someone asked me where I was going. “It’s somewhere in Poland, ok?”
The compact city centre is a visual feast, everything catches your eye – from it’s medieval Gothic architecture to the food on offer, my oh my, the food! It’s home to the one of the largest market squares in Europe and prides itself on its offerings of huge portions of pierogi and Żurek (an amazing breadbowl soup). Drooooool!
Throughout the centuries, Worclaw has been at the heart of numerous wars, and until the end of World War II it was in German hands and known as Breslau. After the war, the Germans were forced out and a mass migration of Poles came from Poland, Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe to occupy the deserted city. Much of the Gothic architecture was restored during Communist times and since the fall of the Communism the city has boomed thanks to Poland’s membership of the European Union, which became official in 2004. Yet, it’s still largely unknown to outsiders.
Exploring the City
The city is compact and easily explored by foot. Wroclaw Rynek is home to not one, but two town halls. The intimidating old town hall dates back to the 12th century and is a Gothic masterpiece that has survived many battles throughout the years. The Rynek is dotted with cafes and restaurants, and continues to be the hub of activity in Wroclaw. Compared to the chronically overcrowded touristy square of Krakow, Wroclaw has more of an authentic city feel to it. Locals sipping coffee, watching their children playing in the fountains – and not a single drunken English stag party stumbling around. Brilliant.
The best views of the Rynek, along with sweeping views of the city are from the bell tower of the Church of St. Elizabeth, just one block northwest of the Rynek. Climbing the 90 metres of 204 claustrophobic, twisting steps is well worth it. The view towards to the square is postcard perfect, so get your camera ready! The views stretch across the city and towards Cathedral Island, the historic religious centre of the city.
Ostrów Tumski (Cathedral Island) is accessed by crossing the steel Tumski Bridge. In recent times it’s become known as the “Lovers Bridge” and today thousands of love locks adorn the entire bridge. Needless I’m not the biggest fan of tacky love locks so wasn’t too impressed to find a lovely bridge covered in cheap rusty locks – I’m such a romantic!
The spacious island is home to the well preserved Wroclaw Cathedral, the Archbishops Palace and a number of smaller churches and schools. Much of the island was left in ruin after World War II and the reconstructed 100m high twin spires of the Cathedral were only completed in 1991.
So where’s the fun at?
The city breathes a new life at night, as locals crowd the square and surrounding streets. Restaurants and bars are packed out with locals and visitors delving into some of the finest food and drink Poland has to offer. On our first night we ate at the superb Kurna Chata. We were treated to two enormous Żurek (breadbowl soup) and a large platter of mixed pierogi. The staff are incredibly helpful in choosing what to eat and they warned us about the massive portions, but we simply couldn’t resist!
Stepping along lit up cobbled streets, gazing at the glimmering reflection of Wroclaw University on the River Odra, you’ll soon come across Pijalnia Wodki i Piwa – the cheapest bar in town. 4Zl will get you a shot of vodka, or a beer. It’s extremely popular and is a nostalgic bar with newspaper wallpaper and photos of ye olde Communist days. Of course the Poles are renowned for their vodka so it’s a simple matter of just closing your eyes and downing the endless shots. Just be prepared for the hangover the following morning….
Banging headache, the distant memory of vodka splashing down your throat? Ah ha, you’re in luck – Cafe Konspira is one of the most well known restaurants in the city and the food will cure any hangover. It’s a throwback to the Polish Resistance to the Communist Regime and even the souvenir menus are in the guise of Resistance Pamplets from the 1980’s. The pierogi is awesome, as is the pork schnitzel – and goes down wonderfully after a night on the vodka. Oh, and ask the waitress if you can visit the “secret room”, a throwback to 1980’s Poland.
You’ve sold me, take me there….
Wroclaw airport is served by two of Europe’s major budget airlines – Ryanair and Wizzair, meaning it’s an ideal choice for a bargain weekend away. Use Skyscanner to find amazingly cheap return flights from countries across Europe.
A one way ticket on bus #106 from the airport to the city centre costs 3ZL. The bus operates every 20 minutes and departs to the right of the arrivals terminal. You may see a bus to your left when you leave the terminal – but as we learnt, that is not the right bus… whoops.
Afraid of flying?
The castle like Wroclaw Glowny (train station) is situated next to the inter-city bus station. Both are just a 15 minute walk from the city centre and are connected by a number of trams. Cafes, restaurants, luggage lockers and currency exchange are all available in the train station. High speed trains are available to Warsaw, Poznan, Krakow nd other European cities. Check schedules and book ahead for big discounts on PKP (in English).
PolskiBus is similar to the growing number of low cost bus services appearing in Europe. Polskibus connects Wroclaw with dozens of cities across Europe. Book in advance for crazy 1Zl fares from Warsaw, Krakow and other Polish cities. International destinations include Budapest (from €12) and Prague (from €3.50). PolskiBus is by far the best option for budget travellers.
Catch some ZZZ’s
The highly rated Grampa’s Hostel (TripAdvisor) is in a quiet area just across the river from the city centre. It’s has a great common area and dorm room beds start at €10. Prices for a two bed private room begin at €28.
Art Hotel, located in the Old Town came recommended from a friend. The knowledgeable staff are extremely welcoming and the colourful hotel is decorated in a wonderful Renaissance style. Prices start at €120 for a standard double room.