I’ve always had a thing for Poland. I’m not sure why, it’s just been one of those countries that has appealed to me. After flying in to the small town of Poznan, I headed down to this gem of a city, (pronounced Vrotswavph), which was a real treat to spend a night in.
The first glimpse into the magic that lives here is the train/bus station, a grand, vibrant yellow building that for a slight second makes you wonder if you’ve ended up in India.
Moving into the old town the central square is like every picture you’ve seen, it is perfectly Polish in the tall, narrow, and wonder-coloured building fronts that lie within, and form the grand square which is constantly buzzing. Here you find every restaurant you could want, from Polish vegan, to Mexican to fine dining, and of course incorporates the beautiful culture that is European alfresco. There are 2 narrow laneways darting through the central building filled with art shops, the most amazing café/library and houses.
Sat beside the main square is a smaller, but no less colourful square filled with florists and cafes.
As you wander the surrounding streets you’ll find boutiques, cafes (with far too attractive baristas), and if you keep your eyes out, gnomes. There is a back story to these little guys, about 300 of them are hidden on street corners, roofs and windows, each with their own name, age and occupation. They are a mark of the Orange Alternative (a Polish anti-communist movement that started in Wrocław). There is even a little information center here dedicated entirely to these little guys if you want to know more.
Where to Stay
The accommodation in Poland has to be some of the best in Europe. This country is incredibly cheap compared to Western Europe so expect to pay anywhere between $10-$25 AUD per night for a dorm in a decent hostel. I stayed at Kombinut in Wrocław, which is one of the most homely hostels I’ve had the chance to stay at. The staff here are beautiful people that make you feel right at home.
What to eat
Polish cuisine is not something I’ve ever given much though about, and admittedly I didn’t venture into authentic Polish cuisine. This city is what I would liken as the Melbourne of Poland. There coffee is the best I’ve had in Europe, the number of vegan cafes is astounding, with abut 5 in the central area alone and the gelato will rival Italy. I defiantly recommend hitting up Vega in the main square for cheap prices and hearty, fresh vegan goodness. Outside of the square head to the Jewish area for the laneway vibes and local atmosphere.
Make your way to the city market open every day to feast on some amazing produce (it’s currently berry season!) or bargain local dishes.
What to see
Wroclaws’ central square in my opinion is the highlight throughout the country. It is the perfect size, atmosphere, vibrance and isn’t totally overrun by tourists, a hidden gem that is often left of the itinerary for travellers. In 2016 Wrocław is Europe’s ‘City of Culture’, with preparations in full swing presently restoring buildings it looks set to get even better.
The pride and joy of the city is the Panorama Racławicka, a stunning 3-D panorama depicting the Battle of Racławise. It’s a 30-minute presentation which is a good lesson in history and a type of art that’s not so commonly seen.
On the opposite end of the art scale head to the neon laneway for some of Poland’s top street artists works and a collection of the neon signs from communist Poland raising high up the walls of the laneway, a great history throwback best viewed at night. You can find a neat little bar, again filled with neon signs, nestled in here to really enjoy all that fluorescent magic before hitting up the surrounding bars for some great local beers.
The city has 4 central islands which are a throwback to medieval times; Cobblestone pavenments, buildings swathed in climbing plants and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, beautiful in its gothic interior and with the opportunity to view the city from atop its tower.
You should also join a free walking tour. Poland is strict in its guiding policies so you can be assured all guides have had one year of formal education brushing up on their history knowledge. Check out this particular company, I loved their different options of tours available depending on your interests.
Aside from that just pound the pavements. War claw is the perfect size to explore by foot. This place is best enjoyed over a couple of days, although it’s magic might just trick you into staying a bit longer.