Living in in the shadow of his more popular big brothers Kraków and Warsaw, the city of Wrocław is often overlooked. And that’s a shame! There’s a reason people refer to Wrocław as Poland’s Venice: with its colorful facades, historic bridges and abundance of trendy cafes, Wrocław is truly one of Europe’s hidden treasures and the perfect destination
for a weekend trip.
Below you’ll find some of my favorite things to do in this beautiful city:
1. Neon Side Gallery
Take a ten-minute walk from the Market Square (Rynek), turn left halfway down Ruska Street and at the end of the alleyway you’ll find Galeria Neonów. Lighting up the sky in rainbow colors, the Neon Side Gallery contains retro communist neon signs from all over Poland. The courtyard is tucked away between three old buildings, providing a striking contrast with the beaming color palette. It’s completely free and the best time to visit is, of course, at nighttime!
Address: Ruska 46C, 50-079 Wrocław
2. University Museum & Oratorium Marianum
Wrocław is home to many museums and if you have only a few days to spend here, it might be hard to choose. Many tourists visit the National Museum and are inclined to skip the rest, but the city has so much more to offer!
The University Museum is one of those underrated museums. While the exhibition on the top floor changes every so often, the ground floor houses the university’s private collection, which ranges from artifacts from Ancient Greece to antique items belonging to the university itself, such as robes and scepters, vintage globes and medical equipment. Plus, there is a viewing deck near the bell tower, where you can get a nice panorama view of Wrocław.
The best part, however, is definitely the Oratorium Marianum, which depicts the life of the Virgin Mary. This baroque Chapel was consecrated in November 1733 and formed one of the three principal halls of the University complex. Today, it functions as a representative hall for conferences, concerts and various meetings of the city’s academic community. You can imagine it would be hard to focus being surrounded by all this splendor!
All in all, this museum is definitely worth a visit. Even if you don’t go inside, at least stop by to admire the beautifully decorated entrance!
Address: Plac Uniwersytecki 1, 50-001 Wrocław
(Unfortunately, the Aula Leopoldina is closed due to renovation works till the end of 2020)
3. Hala Targowa
If you feel yourself getting tired from strolling through the city all day, give your feet a break and head to Hala Targowa! As I was walking along the river banks, this big market hall suddenly caught my eye. It’s hard to miss: its large square tower and modern steel construction are just some examples of the building’s striking architecture.
Wrocław’s Hala Targowa was built at the beginning of the 20th century and is not just a tourist attraction like in many other cities in Europe. In this authentic and charming market hall you’ll find mainly Polish restaurants, cafés and food stalls, and many locals still come here to shop for fruit, vegetables and meat.
It’s the perfect place to try some new dishes, so why not treat yourself to a lunch at one of the food stalls? Here you will get traditional Polish pierogi stuffed with spinach and feta, potatoes with sour cream, pancakes and more.
Bonus Tip: For great coffee and vintage living room vibes, visit the café called Herbaciarnia Targowa. From the front, it doesn’t look like it has a big seating area, but this café has another, almost hidden, room in the back with an authentic living room feel. The walls are plastered with black-and-white pictures, kitsch art and retro phones. Just take a seat in one of the comfy fauteuils and sip your coffee by the candle light. It doesn’t get much cozier than this!
Address: Piaskowa 17, 50-359 Wrocław
4. Dwarf Statues
When you visit Wrocław for the first time, you might be surprised to find a legion of gnome statues.
In fact, you will find more than 400 of these little bronze buddies—also known as “Krasnale”—scattered across the city, in every place imaginable. Of course, they each have their own specific theme and props such as umbrellas, knapsacks and canes. Just be careful not to trip over them!
Discovering all these cute gnomes is a fun activity for kids and adults alike. Spot them on the market place, in the alleys, at the bank, the train station—you can even find a tiny gnome professor inside one
of the university buildings.
From a historical perspective, the gnomes are a reference to the movement Pomarańczowa Alternatywa (“Orange Alternative”). Often incorporating gnomes in their surrealist graffiti, this underground movement tried to subvert the repressive communist regime in the 1980s with art and absurd humor. The gnomes first appeared in Wrocław and soon started popping up in other cities in Poland as well.
In the early two thousands, one single gnome sculpture was installed in Wrocław, called the Papa Krasnal, in honor of the Orange Alternative. In the years that followed, more and more statues started to appear around town, and the number of Krasnale is still rising.
Bonus Tip: Get a special Dwarfs Map at the Tourist Office to locate all of them! Alternatively, you can download the app Wrocław Dwarfs to guide you.
Address Tourist Office: Rynek 14, 50-101 Wrocław
5. Wrocław Multimedia Fountain
Fan of water shows, vibrant colors and classical music? Then you’re at the right address! The Wrocław Multimedia Fountain has quite a reputation: not only is it the biggest fountain in Poland, but also one of the biggest in the whole of Europe.
Light shows are held every day at every hour, starting from 10h. The timing of the last show is different every month (I caught the show at 20h when I visited in October). Of course, the best time to visit
the Fountain is after dark, so you can fully appreciate the colorful water lasers.
The show features music from a variety of genres, from Beethoven’s classical masterpieces to the greatest hits of artists like Madonna and Daft Punk. With the Centennial Hall serving as its backdrop—only adding to the majestic atmosphere—this free show is not to be missed during your stay in Wrocław!
Address: Wystawowa 1, 51-618 Wrocław