Wroclaw, Poland: the perfect European city break

Rynek, Wroclaw, Poland

We’ve visited several different places in Poland and truly loved them all. Wroclaw has been on our list for a while, and is the type of city break that we imagined we would take once we were living in Europe. So when we saw a super cheap fare to fly there from Eindhoven, we jumped on it. After spending three nights in Wroclaw, we can confirm it makes for an easy, inexpensive European city break. Here’s everything you need to know to enjoy your time there including things to do in Wroclaw, where to eat in Wroclaw, and (we think most importantly) all about the Wroclaw gnomes.

Introduction to Wroclaw, Poland

Wroclaw is one of the bigger cities in Poland, and a growing one. It’s nestled in the southwest part of the country, convenient to Kraków, Poznan, and the mountainous region on the border with the Czech Republic. The currency in Poland is the Polish Zloty. Prices aren’t what they were 15 years ago, but will still be very good value for anyone coming from the US or most EU countries.

Every post on Wroclaw mentions this but, we would be remiss if we didn’t as well… So you’re clear on how to pronounce the name of the city you’re visiting, it’s not “row-claw” – it’s “vrots-waff.”

Getting in and out of Wroclaw

Served by some smaller, budget airlines (we flew on Wizz Air for 15 EUR each) Wroclaw airport (WRO) is small, easy to manage, and well-connected to the city center. There’s a public bus that goes right into the center of Wroclaw in about 45 minutes. You can buy tickets at a machine at the bus stop or on the bus itself.

The Wroclaw train and bus stations are about a 20 minute walk from the center of the Old Town. We walked through the train station and took the bus from the bus station (to Prague!). Both of them seemed very well organized and easy to navigate. And there are supermarkets located in both buildings so you can stock up on supplies before a trip out of the city.

The gnomes of Wroclaw

Wroclaw gnomes

So now that you’ve successfully made it to Wroclaw it’s time to search for gnomes. That’s right. Wroclaw is known for its gnomes (locally called “krasnale”). You can find hundreds of very small sculptures throughout Wroclaw. They started as a peaceful protest to communism. Now they are Wroclaw’s number one tourist attraction (ok… we don’t have a source to back that up, but they were surely one of the main reasons Sarah wanted to visit the city).

Wroclaw gnomes

So where can you find the Wroclaw gnomes? Everywhere! Seriously… they are all throughout the city. You’ll see these diminutive fellas hanging out on street corners, in windows, in front of stores, on the waterfront… you name it! You can take a tour where they’ll point them out to you and tell you some history, or buy a guide from the tourist information office, but we really enjoyed stumbling upon (or into if we weren’t careful) them ourselves.

There is a large congregation of gnomes in the Market Square (Rynek), so that’s a good place to start finding them. But just keep an eye out wherever you’re walking because you never know when one will sneak up on you. Also, taking pictures of the Wroclaw gnomes is good exercise… Sarah did a ton of squats to get down to eye level with these tiny little guys.

Want to see even more Wroclaw gnomes? Head over to our post fully devoted to them! 

Does Wroclaw have the most beautiful market square?

Rynek, Wroclaw, Poland

So we didn’t visit Wroclaw just for the gnomes. We had seen pictures and knew its main market square was thought to be one of the most beautiful in Europe. We’re not sure it can stake the claim as the most beautiful (Sarah still has a soft spot for Brussels) but the Wroclaw Rynek is close.

Old Town Hall, Rynek, Wroclaw, Poland

The ornate medieval Old City Hall building is the centerpiece of the Wroclaw Rynek. But all of the streets and colorful buildings in the Rynek are quite beautiful and impressive.

Rynek, Wroclaw, Poland

We visited in January and the Christmas decorations were still up, which made the square even more festive.

Beyond the Rynek

Wroclaw’s Old Town further encircles the Rynek and is easy and relatively quick to walk through. Don’t worry if you get a little lost walking through its small, winding streets – you’re pretty much guaranteed to always find your way back to the Rynek or to the Oder River.

The Oder River

Wroclaw Cathedral, Poland

The Oder River runs up on the north side of the touristic center of Wroclaw. We suggest walking along it whenever you can. And definitely take a stroll across Most Piaskowy to the small islands.

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is across the way in an area called Ostrów Tumski (Cathedral Island). It’s the oldest part of Wroclaw, with excavations showing people settled there as early as the 10th century. Of course, this name is now confusing since it hasn’t been an island since the 19th century. Regardless, the cathedral is quite impressive and definitely a must-see in Wroclaw.

Most Tumski, Wroclaw Cathedral, Poland

Most Tumski, a popular bridge for photographers given its bright colors and multitude of locks, leads up to Ostrów Tumski. If you want a picture without too many people get there early or use Photoshop.

Wroclaw gnomes

Though Ostrów Tumski is worth exploring, a particularly nice walk along the Oder River can be found back across the way on the banks of the main part of the city. There’s a small park in front of a small hill/site known as Bastion Ceglarski. The walk back in the direction of the Old Town is picturesque and offers great views of the cathedral. And it was there we found our favorite gnome hard at work!

Wroclaw Museums

With its gnomes, Wroclaw itself is like one big open air sculpture museum. But if you want to see even more art or learn some history, there are quite a few real museums in Wroclaw. Here we only discuss two (although full disclosure, we only went to one).

Racławice Panorama

The Racławice Panorama is a very large circular panoramic painting depicting the battle of Racławice. It opened to the public in the late 19th century in Lviv and moved to Wroclaw in WWII. However, due to the communist government, it was not restored and reopened to the public until 1984.

The Historical Museum

We like free attractions and we like learning about the history of a city we’re visiting. It also started snowing really hard one day, so we went to the Historical Museum in Wroclaw. The museum has exhibits you have to actually pay for, so when you ask for tickets, they will tell you the price assuming you are going to pay. Just say you want to go to the free section and they’ll point you in that direction. It’s a pretty impressive three floors about the history of Wroclaw.

The Anonymous Pedestrians

Anonymous Pedestrians, Wroclaw, Poland

So this isn’t a museum, but is a really cool public sculpture (that isn’t shaped like a gnome) in the middle of one of Wroclaw’s busy intersections.

Anonymous Pedestrians, Wroclaw, Poland

You can find the Anonymous Pedestrians sculptures at two corners of two big streets: Piłsudskiego and Świdnicka.

Where to eat in Wroclaw

Pierogarnia Stary Młyn

Pierogarnia Stary Młyn is the most popular restaurant in Wroclaw. As such, it’s a bit touristy and we were hesitant to try it. Thank goodness we did. Yes, the restaurant looks and feels touristy. Yes, you’ll be dining with plenty of other tourists. And yes, the prices are much higher than other pierogi places in Wroclaw. But, it’s worth it. There are two types of pierogis: the standard steamed pierogis are quite good, but the baked pierogis are out-of-this-world delicious. Go hungry so you can try different types.

Jacek and Agatka Milk Bar

We wanted to go to a milk bar in Wroclaw so found a few on Google Maps and Jacek and Agatka was the one we ended up being closest to. We really really enjoyed it. Honestly, after all of our dining experiences in Poland, we don’t think you can go wrong with milk bars! They have solid, inexpensive food and it always feels like you’re eating in a local spot. Because you are. Even if you don’t speak the language (which we don’t), you can get by looking at what’s on offer and pointing and shrugging and smiling (a lot!) and it always seems to work out. Worst case, just order the pierogis. They’re always great.

Targowa Craft Beer and Food

Targowa looks touristy, but it didn’t feel touristy. It feels more like a cool chain beer bar. But it’s not a chain. It’s just a really great beer bar and restaurant. The selection of beer on tap was incredible and the food was quite tasty. We even ordered salads! Granted (as you can see in the picture) it wasn’t the healthiest of salads, but still… we ate fresh vegetables in Poland!

Zupa

If you’re looking for something lighter and not so obscenely carb-heavy, we recommend Zupa, a small soup bar in the center of the city. They have a whole bunch of different soups every day and they’ll happily explain to you (in English) what they are.

Where to drink in Wroclaw

Wroclaw gnomes

We drank a good deal of really good Polish craft beer in Wroclaw. Our favorite spots were the already mentioned Targowa and a smaller, more local feeling bar called Kontynuacja. If you want more recommendations, we actually wrote a whole separate post all about craft beer in Wroclaw.

Read more about where to drink Polish craft beer in Wroclaw here!

Accessibility in Wroclaw

Accessibility in Wroclaw

Wroclaw is a fairly flat city, so it was easy and manageable for Sarah to walk around. However, in the Old Town there are plenty of narrow, cobblestone streets. Public transportation in Wroclaw is plentiful, and the buses are wheelchair-accessible. Unfortunately, the tram system is not fully accessible, although it is currently being updated.

Visiting other destinations in Poland? Read our guides to Kraków and Warsaw next. 

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19 thoughts on “Wroclaw, Poland: the perfect European city break

  1. Diamond @ InkForMiles says:

    Thanks for providing such a in-depth guide. I’ve always wanted to go to Poland but Wroclaw wasn’t on my list until now. I’ll be on the lookout for those gnomes!

  2. Carly | FearlessFemaleTravels.com says:

    I went to Poland back in 2012 and I think I’ll be passing through again this summer – hopefully I’ll get the chance to stop in Wroclaw (and take a hundred selfies with all the statues)!

    • Sarah and Justin says:

      While gnome selfies are tempting, it’s probably impossible! They are SO TINY you’d have to lie down on the ground to get eye-level with them.

  3. Susanna Kelly says:

    This came at a perfect time. I am just looking at trips up to Wroclaw, it looks like such a charming city. I just LOVE those gnomes and architecture I want to head there and get my camera out right away!

  4. Richa says:

    Glad I stumbled upon this guide! We saw a Wroclaw flight at the airport yesterday next to our gate and me and my husband were playing a guessing game of which country is this city in. I won, Poland! Ha, and now after reading this I know what to do there too. Must visit sometime now!

  5. Jordan says:

    Those gnomes are the cutest!!! Can I take one home as a souvenir?! haha. I think I’m heading to Wroclaw this summer so I’m excited to use this as a guide 🙂

  6. Anisa says:

    So glad I found this post since I may be visiting Wroclaw soon. It does look like a lovely city and the gnomes are so cute!

  7. Kate says:

    I’m now dying to visit Wroclaw, which I hadn’t heard of before today! I love the rainbow colored buildings and how they’ve woven art and history into their everyday life with the gnomes and pedestrian sculptures! I would love to go on a gnome hunt!

  8. Bruna says:

    The gnomes are so cute! I had no idea about them! The architecture is so stunning, by the way. Love those colorful houses. One question….Were 3 days enough to explore Wroclaw or could I actually visit most of the places in less time?

    • Sarah and Justin says:

      We had three nights but only two full days in Wroclaw (we arrived in the evening and left early morning). We don’t feel like we missed anything, and depending on what you wanted to see, you could do it in one. We prefer to spend at least two nights in a new place though.

  9. Kelly says:

    The more I see of Poland the more I fall in love. Market square is stunning, i love the gnomes, and that food looks epic. Plus the anonymous pedestrian sculpture looks super cool.

  10. Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad says:

    Aww those gnomes are amazing!! Please tell me you can pick up like a checklist and do a scavenger hunt to find them all!!! I would be all over that! lol. Also how the hell does “Wroclaw” translate to that pronunciation?! Haha, I never knew that. It looks like a really lovely city, Poland is one of those countries that I sort of say “yeah, I’ll probably make it there eventually” but this has sold it to me!

    • Sarah and Justin says:

      I don’t think anyone knows how many gnomes there are in the city, so no- sadly there is no big gnome map, but that’s a great idea for a product! There is a website that has quite a lot of them and their names and stories, though: http://krasnale.pl

    • Sarah and Justin says:

      Good! I’ve truly loved every place we’ve visited in Poland. It’s quite the underrated country, I think!

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