Wroclaw

Old Town

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There’s no shortage of things to see and do in Wrocław, and our tried and true method of discovering them is via aimless wandering around. If there’s room for a little wide-eyed rambling in your schedule, you’ll find no more rewarding experience than meandering around the Old Town. While you’re at it, keep your eyes peeled for Wrocław’s adorable and elusive gnomes; there are over 300 of these little rascals running about the city centre, but you’ll only spot them if you’re paying attention. Kids love them so if you want to keep the little ones engaged as you explore the city, set them to gnome-hunting.

The first port of call in Wrocław, and that which the entire city is laid out around, is the Market Square, or Rynek. This is not only the city’s municipal centre, but also the social and cultural centre of Wrocław: a place of happenings, concerts and performance art, lined with terraced cafes and restaurants. Note that while the Rynek was originally built in the 13th century, much of what you see today is in fact a façade, quite literally. The square was ravaged by fighting in World War II and had to be rebuilt almost entirely in the 1950s. Though strict attention was given to original details, particularly those of the frontage, much of what lies behind them experienced understandable updating (though a medieval cellar never stops being a medieval cellar). Proudly square-shouldered in the square's centre stands the Town Hall - a miraculous survivor from the 13th century and the city centre’s defining landmark. After exploring the three passageways packed with shops and bars that run under the Town Hall you should head for neighbouring Plac Solny, known as the Flower Market and always a bright sight thanks to the scores of flower sellers who are on call here twenty-four hours a day in the event of matrimonial emergency, ready to meet the requirements of empty-fisted Romeos - such is the importance of flower-giving in Polish society.

From Plac Solny you are only a short walk from St. Elizabeth’s Church, the city’s tallest. In the spring and summer, stunning views of the city can be had at the top, but be warned that the climb can be crippling for those who haven’t seen a Stairmaster for some time. Only a block north from there you'll find Wrocław's smallest and most engaging street - Stare Jatki - en route to the stunning University, whose interiors are quite frankly far too plush for grotty students; don’t move on before seeing the University Church (yes, even the university has a church), Aula Leopoldina - the grand Baroque ceremonial hall, or the panoramic city views from the Mathematical Tower.

From Plac Uniwersytecki take a walk east to investigate the Baroque majesty of the Ossolineum palace and gardens - home to one of the most important libraries and national archives in the country (and open to the public) - before dog-legging on to Pl. Bpa Nankiera. This lovely street is lined with churches and leads you straight to Wrocław’s amazing indoor marketplace, Hala Targowa. Here you can pick-up fresh produce and sandwich fixings for a riverside picnic, buy bargain bric-a-brac and satisfy whatever obscure shopping needs you have while getting a colourful look at locals living their colourful lives. And, of course, tasty, dirt cheap pierogi (what, your radar’s not going off?)

From there, locals will not forgive you for missing out on the Racławice Panorama, especially after all the trouble Poland took to get it on display for you. A 140m-long canvas depicting Kościuszko’s legendary (and short-lived) victory over the Russians in 1794, this is one of the only remaining panoramic paintings in the world – a genre that was actually quite popular in the 19th century. If you follow the Fosa Miejska - the remnants of the Old Town’s medieval moat - you’ll end up at Partisan Hill, a spooky windswept ruin that once made up part of Wrocław’s defensive fortifications. Follow it a bit further and you’ll end up just behind the restored Royal Palace - Wrocław’s most modern and essential museum.

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 ul. Piłsudskiego 104 (entrance from ul. Gwarna 23)
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