For as long as I can remember, whenever I was considering a Polish city break, the #1 recommendation was Wrocław. We were initially planning to go in 2018 to check out the famous Wrocław Christmas market, but we cancelled. Two years later, when we had to put our big travel plans on hold, I thought it’d be the perfect chance to finally explore Wrocław. The city is very aptly nicknamed Wroclove, as I really did fall in love with it during our time there. I feel like we covered a lot of ground in three short days, so here’s a round-up of my 15 favourite things to do in Wrocław…
1. Hunt for dwarfs
A really fun way to explore Wrocław is by following the trail of these tiny adorable creatures that occupy the city. I found it really interesting to learn that this unique tourist attraction started out as an anti-communist initiative! Nowadays, there are a few hundred of them scattered all around Wrocław and the number keeps growing.
If you want to see as many as possible, you can get a paper map or download an app. We just played it by ear, which turned out to be the perfect choice for me. I absolutely loved this wave of excitement whenever we turned a corner to spot yet another dwarf! You might think it would get repetitive after a while, but I just couldn’t resist stopping by every single one. I mean, just look at these little cuties…
2. Wander around the picturesque Old Town Market Square
Although the Market Square may sound like an obvious choice, this list simply wouldn’t be complete without it. Wandering around Wrocław’s Old Town is the perfect starting point not only for your gnome hunting journey, but for any trip in general. With its cobblestone alleys, charming facades, and vibrant terraced restaurants lining the Main Square, it completely won me over.
What you should know is that the Market Square in its current form is an outcome of massive rebuilding efforts. It was essentially turned to ashes during WWII, with the majestic 13th-century Town Hall miraculously escaping devastation.
If you’re after that Instagram shot, head to Jaś i Małgosia – two miniature tenement houses that separate the Market Square from St. Elizabeth’s Church. Jaś i Małgosia is essentially the Polish equivalent of Hansel and Gretel, which, in my opinion, is very fitting. The second you leave the Market Square, it feels as if you went through a portal that transported you smack dab into the middle of a fairytale. I may have gotten a little too snap-happy, but can you really blame me?
3. Look for witches on the Penitent Bridge
If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you might know that wherever I go, I’m always on the lookout for the best place to see the city from above. I initially had my sights set on a different observation spot in Wrocław, but when my boyfriend told me about this little footbridge 45 meters above the ground, I immediately knew it was the one.
The Penitent Bridge, also known as the Bridge of Witches, connects the two towers of the St. Mary Magdalene Church. Legend has it that a young lady was once forced to sweep the bridge until the end of time as a punishment for her vanity. She was eventually released with the help of a kind witch, but the bridge remained as a warning to all lazy women.
What if I told you we actually did see a coven of witches when we were at the top? Don’t worry though, they were just a couple of fans of this legend who dressed up for the occasion 😉 Although this legend frankly has little to do with the truth, the bridge is a must-see for the unparalleled views of the Old Town and the surrounding areas!
4. Walk under the pergola surrounding the Centennial Hall
This early 19th-century hall is a multi-purpose space currently used for various exhibitions, conferences, concerts, and sporting events. It has recently been renovated to feature interactive exhibits, including virtual reality sets. So, if you’ve ever dreamed of being able to fly, now’s your chance!
We chose to stay on the ground, which isn’t half bad when you’re surrounded by so much beauty. The semi-circular pergola covered in ivy makes for a perfect backdrop and leads you onto one of the most magnificent tourist attractions in Wrocław. The Multimedia Fountain is not only the largest fountain in Poland, but also one of the largest in Europe!
If you visit the city between May and September, you can catch one of the free hourly shows. With 300 water jets, 800 lights, and pyrotechnic capabilities, it brings to life some of the most spectacular installations. During the special shows, various animations and videos are even displayed on water screens. There’s also a café where you can cool down with some ice-cream or an iced coffee on a hot summer’s day and engage in a spot of people watching. We sadly missed the show, but it gives us all the more reason to come back in the future!
5. Find a little bit of Japan in the middle of Wrocław
Whilst you’re in the area, I would highly recommend making a stop in the Japanese Garden nestled right behind the Pergola. From April to October, you can briefly transport yourself to the Land of the Rising Sun for a mere 8 PLN (£1.40). With a traditional Japanese bridge, a tea pavilion, and hundreds of different varieties of oriental plants, this tranquil place provides the perfect escape from the city.
6. Spend an afternoon exploring the African fauna
If you’re confused and think I got the locations all mixed up, let me offer you a word of explanation… Wrocław houses the world’s only oceanarium dedicated solely to the African fauna! It’s located within the grounds of the zoo and you can visit both of them with one ticket. The zoo missed the mark for us, as we thought that the enclosures were too small. The africarium, however, looked like it was going to be worth every single penny.
Well, other visitors clearly thought the same. When we got there, the queue went around the building. People observed the situation in slight amusement, snapping photos and videos as they joined the queue. It took us nearly an hour to get in, but what we experienced inside more than made up for the frustratingly long wait. We got to watch mating turtles, gush at the adorable penguins (#1 Pingu fan right here), and admire the majestic sharks from afar. And that’s not even the best part…
Again, if you’ve been reading this blog, you may remember the post about my visit at Malta National Aquarium. I was absolutely gutted when we failed to snap the perfect shot with stingrays swimming right next to us (I just really like stingrays, okay?)… Who would’ve thought my dream would finally come true 3 years later, and much closer to home! I could’ve easily spent an entire afternoon walking around the africarium and the photos we took that day still put a smile on my face.
7. Get closer to nature in the gorgeous Botanical Garden
We almost skipped the next place on this list because we assumed it wouldn’t differ much from the Japanese Garden we’d previously visited. Thank goodness my boyfriend’s sister called him on the last day and said the Botanical Garden was a must-see! We called an Uber shortly after to explore what soon became one of our favourite places in Wrocław.
It’s safe to say the Botanical Garden took my breath away on more than one occasion. We tried to leave no stone unturned, stopping in every alley to marvel at the diverse plant species and flower arrangements. And just when we thought we’d seen it all, we would turn another corner to be met with even more natural wonder. My favourite place was hands-down the little pond with a circular fountain surrounded by luscious bushes with pink flowers.
One of the buildings houses a café so that you can refuel with a cuppa and a slice of cake. Right by the entrance, there’s also a pavilion where you can purchase some award-winning honey to take home with you. It’s the perfect place to escape the city life for a while and embrace nature – and one I don’t think I could tire of!
8. Feel the romance in Ostrów Tumski
If you decide to visit the Botanical Garden, you should take this opportunity to explore the area it’s located in. Ostrów Tumski is the oldest part of Wrocław that actually used to be an island! It’s home to some real architectural gems, including the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and the Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew.
It’s probably most well-known for the Tumski Bridge where many sweethearts would leave padlocks with their names engraved on them, and throw the keys into the Oder River to profess their love for each other. The padlocks have since been removed, but the bridge remains a couple-favourite due to its romantic vibe. Even if you’re not really into the lovey-dovey stuff, I would highly recommend it for a leisurely afternoon walk. You can always stop on nearby Słodowa Island, a popular hangout spot among locals, for a drink or two.
9. Ride the cable car from one river bank to the other
Tired of the omnipresent bridges in Wrocław? Why don’t you use a gondola lift to get across the river for a change? This fun little attraction was initially developed by the Wrocław University of Science and Technology as a way to connect both parts of their campus. Therefore, if you’re expecting a lengthy trip with spectacular views, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.
The journey takes just under three minutes and the surroundings are rather plain, but for only 3.40 PLN (£0.60) each way, it’s an interesting thing to cross off your list nevertheless.
10. Explore a unique artsy backyard on Roosevelta Street
Rows of XIX-century tenement houses that can be found all around Wrocław can sometimes feel dull and characterless. Thankfully, a local artist came up with the perfect way to breathe some life back into one such area on Roosevelta Street. With the collective effort of all its inhabitants, he transformed the backyard into a one-of-its-kind piece of art spanning over 1200 square meters!
I loved that although the place understandably became an instant hit among people visiting Wrocław, it retained its original character. The street is lined with similar-looking buildings and it takes a bit of figuring out to know where to turn. Only the art that covers one of the tenement house gates is a slight giveaway of what’s right past it.
And what a feast for the eyes it is! Once you walk through the gate, there’s a fragment of a paradise garden with tropical animals and prehistoric dinosaurs. There are portraits of the people whose livelihood is contained within these walls alongside their pupils. There are mythical creatures, historical figures, and a section dedicated to the deceased fans of the local football team, WKS Śląsk Wrocław.
This unique art installation combines elements of painting, sculpture and ceramics, with a giant black feline towering over the area. I’m all for such incredible social initiatives – and the best part is that I learned some locals discovered new talents and passions in the process!
11. Book a tour of the local brewery
Now, this activity is something we didn’t technically do… As I mentioned in my post on how I planned my first trip since lockdown, we waited before booking our tour of the 100 Bridges Brewery to avoid losing money in case we were forced to cancel our trip. Sadly, when we finally went to check their website, we saw all tickets had sold out. At the time, they only had one date available for each month, so it left us with no option to search for an alternative time slot.
If you’re in the same boat, you can do what we did – go for a beer tasting at their pub instead! We headed there on a rainy afternoon, and it appears this option is just as popular no matter the weather, as we managed to snag the last table available in the little outdoor beer garden. I’ve read that those lucky enough to be seated inside can observe the brewing process, which sounds like a great pre-taste of the tour experience. There’s also an option to purchase a little something to enjoy in the comfort of your home from their shop – we would’ve definitely taken advantage if it hadn’t closed early!
12. Watch the city light up at the Neon Side Gallery
One thing I noticed when we were in Wrocław was the abundance of neons gracing various buildings around the city. As I later came to learn, a company producing neon signs operated there for several decades. The late 1960s and 70s saw a kind of “neon boom” in Wrocław. Once the sun went down, the city would truly come to life, with dozens of neons breathing charm into the unobtrusive facades. Many of these places, including the neon factory itself, have since closed down, but a local man decided to give the legendary signs a new lease of life.
The exterior of the former factory, tucked away in a courtyard on Ruska Street, is now home to the Neon Side Gallery. It’s a collection of nearly 30 signs from various sources, including former cinemas, shops, and companies. You should definitely go see this unique place in full glory on your evening walk. There’s also a cocktail bar, so you can enjoy a drink or two with friends as you contemplate art. Something for the body and something for the soul!
13. Visit the highest panoramic viewpoint in Poland
My next suggestion is a real treat for the fans of modern-day architecture. Did you know that Wrocław’s Sky Tower used to be the tallest building in Poland in terms of height to roof and height to top floor until mid-2020? The 49th floor also houses the country’s highest panoramic observation deck available all year round. You can probably tell by now I’m not one to say no to an attraction like that!
We booked tickets for our last evening in the city. At only 18 PLN (around £3.20), it seemed like a real no-brainer! (The price has since increased to 23 PLN / £4.) Sadly, it ended up being rainy and foggy for most of the day. When we finally ascended to the top, visibility was virtually zero and we could not see a single thing. We also made the rookie mistake of assuming there would be a cocktail bar at the top. As we came to discover, there was literally nothing, so we couldn’t even have a consolatory drink.
I feel like there’s a lot of wasted potential and I hope they will expand their offer in the nearest future. Adding the option to have lunch or a cocktail with a view would definitely help draw in more visitors. Still, we will definitely be back another time to see what we missed!
14. Explore the vibrant food scene
I knew from the moment I sat down at my laptop to do trip research that food-wise, this trip was going to be something else. Narrowing down my list proved to be an impossible task, so we barely managed to scratch the surface. As we ticked off one restaurant after another, we kept hitting jackpot after jackpot. The pizza we ate in Wrocław was probably the best I’ve ever had, including the ones in Naples, and that says something!
I don’t think we had a single negative experience in Wrocław and I cannot wait to be back for more. I reviewed all the restaurants we visited in a separate blog post, so if you’re in need of some inspiration, head over there!
15. Visit Princess Daisy’s former residence
Finally, if you have more time to spare, I would highly recommend venturing outside of the city to visit the former residence of Princess Daisy.
Książ is the largest castle in Lower Silesia, located an hour away from Wrocław. I personally found it so mesmerising that I ended up ordering Princess Daisy’s diaries shortly after our trip to learn more about its fascinating past. You can even stay inside the castle, so this is definitely next on the agenda! In the meantime, I put together a mini guide on how to organise a day trip from Wrocław to Książ to help you plan a trip of your own.
Did you find any of these attractions surprising? Which of these would you add to your Wrocław itinerary?