I just spent 4.5 months in Wrocław, a city in southwest Poland, near the German and Czech borders.
In case you're curious about how to pronounce Wrocław, it sounds kinda like Vr-oats-wahv.
w = v / c = tz / ł = w
By the way, Polish people call it Wrocław. Foreigners call it Wroclaw. Germans call it Breslau.
Now that we've gotten the impromptu Polish language lesson out of the way, let's talk about why Wrocław is a great city to visit.
Wrocław is Under the Radar
Poland isn’t the first place that American tourists think of when we think of Europe, and that held true for me personally also. I made sure to check off all of Western Europe before I even thought about Poland.
Understandably, most tourists that do visit Poland go to Warsaw or Krakow, the two biggest cities by population.
Warsaw is the capital city. Krakow has the famous salt mine and Auschwitz concentration camp.
This is why Wrocław is an under-the-radar city, even though it is the 4th biggest in Poland by population.
And the fact that this former German city's name isn’t exactly easy to pronounce doesn’t help, either. Its name was changed from Breslau after the war, when it was awarded to Poland and German citizens were forced to most West.
What To Do
If and when you do make it to Wrocław, be sure to take the Free Walking Tour. The company offers numerous walking tours that cover old town, museums, dwarfs, food, beer, and more. I took three of them myself.
The tours are free, but do note that the guide will always ask for a tip at the end.
There are also numerous golf-cart tours that take you around the city. You can't miss them, because the tour guides are constantly hounding anyone that looks like a tourist. I did not participate in any of their tours, but do feel free to check them out.
Best Time to Visit Wrocław
I would suggest visiting Wrocław during the height of summer in order to enjoy the slew of outdoor dining and drinking options. Once the weather turns, those outdoor tables disappear.
Another great time to visit is late November through December, when the Christmas markets are alive and well. My favorite holiday drink is the mulled red wine. I could drink that thing all day long.
1. Must See: Rynek or Market Square. You will definitely be here more than once, probably every day. In fact, it will likely be your first and last stop.
2. Favorite Unique Activity: Dwarf Hunting. As a result of the anti-communist movement, there are now several hundred little dwarf statues all over the city, in both public and private domains. You can buy a map in Rynek and go hunting for them all. I found around 30 in a short amount of time.
3. Favorite Sunset Walk: Cathedral Island or Ostrów Tumski. Take a casual stroll along the opposite river bank or walk onto the island itself. Make sure you stop and see Lover's Bridge while you're there.
4. Favorite Birds Eye View: Church of St. Elizabeth. You do have to climb up a bunch of stairs, but the view is worth the effort. And it's cheaper than the more popular but not as nice Sky Tower.
5. Favorite Museum: Wrocław University Museum. I'm a bit biased here because it's my girlfriend's workplace - the reason I was in Wrocław in the first place. But still, if you like museums, you'll like it here.
6. Favorite Old School Market: Hala Targowa, or Market Hall. Shop for fresh fruits, vegetables, meats all at the same place. There are also juices, coffees, souvenir shops, and restaurants. Random fact for guys - if you need to use the bathroom there, it's 1 zł to use the urinal, but 2 zł to use the toilet.
7. Favorite Ice Cream: Lody Naturalne Baroli. There are a lot of differing opinions of ice cream, but I've tried them all and I still think Baroli is the best. The Polish do love their ice cream.
8. Favorite Coffee Shop: FC Caffé. I spent a lot of time there, sitting near the window while sipping on coffee and typing away on my laptop. No other coffee shop offered me the same comfort level at a reasonable price.
9. Favorite Craft Beer: Szynkarnia. There are a few options for craft beer, but I found Szynkarnia to be the best one, just because it also had a very good food selection. You really can't go wrong, wherever you end up.
10. Favorite Burger - Pasibus. If you get tired of Polish food like yours truly and are craving a burger, there is no better option in my opinion. Pasibus offers a variety of burgers ranging from Jack Daniels to Peking to the classic bacon. Their burgers come in 2 sizes, and large ones are offered at a steep discount every Monday.
Final Thoughts on Wroclław
I really enjoyed my stay in Wrocław, and I highly recommend anyone who is in this part of the world to check out this beautiful and historical city!
Until we meet again...