Perhaps you caught my post a few weeks ago where I introduced you to a rather unknown Polish city, Poznan. I sung the praises of the city which is rich in culture, old architecture and great food. Today I’m about to do the same for yet another Polish city you may never of heard of, this time Wroclaw!

Located just over 4 hours away from Berlin in the South West of Poland, Wroclaw is a little bigger than Poznan, but equally as charming. It’s got more of a buzz and a night life scene, and many more museums and things to do. Once again, it was a pleasure to be in Poland, where I found the people to be incredibly friendly and helpful, costs are cheap and there’s a ton of great things to eat, see and do. If you’re stuck between which of my two Polish recommendations to visit, I say, head to both! But otherwise, perhaps this guide can help you decide!

Where to Stay

Art Hotel 

Located just outside the main square on a quiet side street, Art Hotel is the perfect place to stay when visiting Wroclaw. It’s comfortable, clean and small thoughtful touches make it a wonderful stay. Our room was light and airy with views over the city and the nearby St. Elizabeth’s Church. We arrived to a delicious plate of fresh berries, fig biscuits and chocolate twirls.

The next morning we awoke and headed to the large and light breakfast hall where a buffet breakfast is on offer from 7-10am. You can choose from a cooked breakfast, cheeses, vegetables, fresh fruits, cakes and juices. The display is vast and delicious. I particularly liked the touches of traditional Polish foods, such as the apple, raisin and nutty porridge.

Location-wise, the hotel couldn’t be in a better position. Set in the old city in a beautiful historic building, you are a 2 minute walk from the bustling market square and surrounded by restaurants, shops and cafes. A 5 minute walk will take you to the river where you can stroll along at sunset. Rooms at Art Hotel start from €85; you can book here.

What to Do

Explore the Market Square and Old City

Wroclaw‘s medieval market square is one of the largest in Europe. It is the center of a pedestrian area, and a vibrant hub of eating, shopping and sightseeing. The square is incredibly pretty and very well preserved, with its pastel-colored buildings and water features. Grab a spot at one of the many restaurants in the square and watch the world go by.

Wander around the islands

The city is built around the River Oder and her many islands, each which have unique personality. We loved exploring the Słodowa Island, or student island, an island which is essentially a big green park surrounded by floating bars. We grabbed a tasty fresh lemonade in a bag from the most hipster truck ever and strolled around the island in the sun as locals lounged around and cooked BBQ’s.

From Słodowa Island you can hop around the various bridges (Wroclaw has 120 of them in total!) and see different parts of the city. Life by the water gives the city a special laid-back feel. Perhaps the ‘Venice of Poland’ is not a bad comparison!

Stroll around the quiet Cathedral Island

Yet another island we loved exploring was the quiet and quaint Cathedral Island, otherwise known as Ostrow Tumski. The island is the oldest part of the city, and features a rather impressive collection of Catholic churches, nunneries and other buildings. It’s an incredibly peaceful place to stroll around, through the cobbled streets, past buskers and ice cream stands.

At dusk, see if you can spot the city’s famous lamplighter who strolls around the island lighting Ostów Tumski’s gas lamps by hand. Unfortunately we never caught him! But we did manage to find some very Instagram friendly walls.

Shop in the Hala Targowa

One of my favorite places in Wroclaw is the huge and stunning Hala Targowa, or market hall. Built between 1906 and 1908, the interior is an unusual concrete cathedral shape. On the ground floor, the colors of the fruits and vegetables contrast vibrantly amongst the building, making it a great spot for photography. Grab some fresh berries and get a coffee at the trendy, award-winning Cafe Targowa. They do some of the best coffee in the city and even have iced tea on tap!

Head upstairs and there’s a number of quirky stores selling wicker baskets, traditional Polish pottery, minimalist clothing and vintage homewares. It’s a great place to pick up some authentic and unusual souvenirs.

Climb the stairs at St. Elizabeth’s and see the city from above

Just outside the main square is the grand St. Elizabeth’s church. It costs a small fee to enter the church’s tower, and then you are walking up a very steep winding 200+ steps to the top. But the view is worth it! Because from here you can capture the true scale of Wroclaw’s old city, with its pastel main square below and the snaking river Ober in the distance. Entrance costs 5zł and the tower is open from 10am to 7pm – although it is closed in bad weather.

Immerse yourself in the city’s cultural program

If you have heard of Wroclaw before, it might be because it was one of the 2016 European Capitals of Culture. Heading to some of the city’s cultural institutions, it’s easy to see why. The WRO Art Gallery is one of the most unusual; housed in an old coffee roastery, it showcases contemporary art and new media. The MWW is another unique institution – in an old air raid shelter, the center is a hub for contemporary art, sometimes controversial.

We visited the FOTO-GEN Gallery in the old city, which showcases unique photography by Polish artists. I also enjoyed finding the neon communist signs placed around the city.

Visit the Japanese Gardens

A short tram ride from the city center is the Hala Stulecia (Centennial Hall) and Wroclawska Fontanna, two popular tourist attractions set in a large green area. Also in the same area is the Japanese Gardens, a slightly more off-the-beaten-track sight but one worth a visit non the less. As someone fascinated with all things Japanese since my recent visit to Tokyo, I loved walking around the gardens, which were designed at the beginning of the 20th century. Entrance costs 4zł.

Where to Eat and Drink

Pierogarnia Stary Młyn

I didn’t know very much about Polish food before I headed into the country – it’s certainly not a cuisine you find routinely around the rest of the world. But I found that pierogis were really quite delicious! Similar to dumplings or gyoza, they are essentially a mixture of fillings covered in a dumpling dough and served with sauces. If you are looking for a traditional and cheap spot to try some, head to Pierogarnia Stary Młyn in the main square

As a vegetarian, I tried the sauerkraut and mushroom ones, and courgette herbs and local cheese, served with a mushroom dip. For desert we had baked pierogis filled with apple and cinnamon, which were delicious!

Bema Cafe

As I mentioned in my Poznan guide, Poland seems to really hit the mark with great coffee shops. My favorite in Wroclaw was Bema Cafe. This light and airy cafe is located just North of the Oder River in the trendy Nadodrze district of the city, although it is an easy walk from the old city. I grabbed an ice tea and a Pastel de Nata. They also do cheap lunches and have deck chairs outside.

Karavan Bar

Just south of the old city is the very cool street of Swietego Antoniego. Walk down the cobbled road and you’ll find a big selection of coffee shops, lunch joints and bars. We choose Karavan for lunch as they had an English menu and a big vegetarian selection. The food was fresh, healthy and delicious. I particularly recommend the Vegan Meze which came with warm bread and a selection of dips and roasted veggies. It also looks like it would be a very cool place to come and grab a few drinks in the evening.

River Bars on Słodowa Island

On a summer’s evening in Wroclaw there’s no better place to grab a Polish craft beer than the river bars on Slodowa Island. We choose one with deck chairs by the water and a great selection of fruit beers. As the sun set, there was no place more idyllic to end our time in Wroclaw.

Information

Getting There & Away 

Wroclaw is just over 4 hours away by bus or train from Berlin. We caught the cheap Polski Bus which costs around €13 one way. Wroclaw is also easily accessible by bus and train from Polish cities like Krakow, Warsaw, Poznan, Gdansk and also from Prague. Wroclaw also has an international airport which is served by budget airlines for those a little further away.

Costs

Wroclaw is a cheap city and a usual meal wouldn’t cost us more than €10 per person including alcoholic drinks. Tram tickets are under a euro for a journey and entrance tickets are usually under €2.

More Information

Check out the Wroclaw Tourism website for more information about the city and events happening. I found the What Should I Eat for Breakfast Wroclaw Food Guide very helpful for food and drink recommendations.

All photographs by Annapurna Mellor